Friday, March 22, 2019

Lean Quote: Zeal Will Do More Than Knowledge

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Zeal will do more than knowledge." — William Hazlitt

Without a sense of zeal, life sometimes can become pretty boring. Everything then seems to be done with a big sigh and a have-to. Going through the motions without a genuine want-to, turns everything into a must-do.

Nothing can take the place of being zealous or passionate. Opportunity can’t. Opportunity may open the door, but without zeal you won’t make the most of it. A lack of zeal, may cause you to miss a door meant to lead you toward your destiny.

Knowledge can’t replace zeal. Knowledge can be taught, and experience is earned in time, but it’s very hard to make someone passionate about something. And if someone is passionate about something, they’re more willing to take the extra steps and make the sacrifices to gain the necessary knowledge and collect the valuable experience.

Having a passion promotes a sense of creativity. All of the sudden, you'll find yourself connecting two aspects of your life together that you never thought could coexist. You may be inspired to start a blog to share your ideas with the world, or you may be more compelled to show your talents in a more hands-on environment.

Without passion, there isn't much motivation to work. Yes, there are material motivations such as a large bank account, the biggest house or a new car. When those things are put into perspective, though, one learns that these wants will only satisfy you for a certain amount of time before you want something else. Following your dreams suppresses all of these desires because you're striving for knowledge rather than money. Knowledge is a motivation in itself because it is infinite. You could never have too much, but you'll never have it all.

Finally, having good connections isn’t a substitute for personal zeal. You will never be successful without others, but merely surrounding yourself with the right people doesn’t guarantee success either. A team with no heart, passion, and vision won’t succeed.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

7 Key Factors of Successful Teams

We all know that teams have the potential to achieve great things for organizations. At the same time, this is by no means guaranteed. So what are the seven key factors in any successful team?

Factor 1: Selflessness
This is my No. 1 factor for a successful team. It should never be “me, me, me” or “I, I, I” but instead always be “we” or “us.” Every employee should be asking, “What can I bring to my team?” as opposed to “What can the team bring me?”

If we’re focused on individual goals all the time, we're not going to achieve anything as a whole. Instead, focus on team-oriented goals, even if one of those goals is that we all get better individually.

Factor 2: Communication
Effective communication is vital to team success. They communicate openly with each other, sharing their thoughts, opinions and ideas with members of their team; as well as taking into consideration what others have to say. Communication is essential for keeping track of progress and working together efficiently on tasks. Poor communication can lead to crossed wires, that can mean work is left incomplete/incorrect or conflicts can arise.

Factor 3: High Levels of Trust
A team without trust will never achieve anything. At the same time, it is important to recognize that having high levels of trust does not happen overnight. In my experience, one of the easiest ways of creating trust is to let each other know that you can be counted on by delivering consistently on what you have agreed to do.

Factor 4: Mutual Accountability
When individuals on teams need to account to each other for what they have done to progress what they agreed to do, things happen much quicker. In truth, most of us, once we have committed to something, are more likely to do it if we know we are going to have to report back to the team.

Factor 5: Results Focus
At the end of the day, a team exists to deliver results and it is key to keep the focus of the team on the end result. It is easy, especially when the going gets tough, to lose sight of the results and get lost in activities that distract.

Factor 6: Optimism
When a team is faced with a challenge, it is easy to fall into a downward spiral. Successful teams on the other hand will generally be optimistic and recognize that, even if the way forward is not immediately obvious, there is a way forward at the end of the day.

Factor 7: Proactive
Successful teams make things happen and don’t sit back waiting for others to do something before they get started. They grab the bull by the horns and start to make things happen.

The Bottom Line: While all of the above factors really matter, I have also noticed that you need to underpin them with appropriate rewards and a culture that recognizes and values team working.

Teams have basic needs that must be acknowledged and fulfilled if you expect your teams to experience their greatest success. No team will succeed if these basics do not exist.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

10 Tips to a Better Value Stream Map

Business is growing more competitive every day. In order to keep up with customer demand and expectations, companies are having to work faster and be more efficient than ever before. A VSM activity can help to identify and better coordinate operational teams and process segments that are integral to the overall process.

To understand value stream mapping, we need to first understand what a “value stream” is. Simply put, a value stream is a series of steps that occur to provide the product or service that their customers want or need. In order to provide the product or service that the customers desire, every company has a set of steps that are required. Value stream mapping enables us to better understand what these steps are, where the value is added, where it’s not, and more importantly, how to improve upon the collective process. Value stream mapping (VSM) provides us with a structured visualization of the key steps and corresponding data needed to understand and intelligently make improvements that optimize the entire process, not just one section at the expense of another.

There are some tips to creating a VSM for your organization.

       1. Define a value stream.
Include all the activities required to bring a product from “raw materials” into the customer’s hands or provide service to a target audience.

2. Base the value stream map process on customer requirements.
You must understand what the customer values, and use that as your starting point. If you don’t, you risk, in the words of my favorite band The Fall, paying “the highest attention to the wrong detail.”

3. Capture the process as it operates now, not how it’s supposed to operate.
A process that worked well when you had 20 employees may not perform as efficiently now that the business is a 200-person company. Be sure you map the process as it happens now, not the way it used to work—or how you wish it worked!

4. Assign a value stream map manager to lead the mapping effort. 
Input from team members and stakeholders is important, but appoint (or elect) one team member to draw the entire value stream map. This ensures that the manager understands the material and information flows.

5. Walk through the process to ensure that the flow of materials and information is accurate.
Make sure your map reflects the reality of the process—verifying this by following the process from start to finish can reveal crucial details you might have missed.

6. Focus on one small step at a time.
Make sure you capture each step accurately. For example, don’t trust the clock on the wall to measure cycle times—use a stopwatch.

7. Identify critical paths and bottlenecks.
Your map may reveal a number of potential areas for improvement. Which ones will make the biggest difference in meeting customer requirements?

8. Create a future state map from the current state map.
Your current-state map suggests where to focus your efforts, so you can draft a map that shows how value will flow through an improved process.

9. Limit the improvement plan to achieve the future state to a one-page document, if possible.
List the actions that need to happen to improve the process. Use simple, clearly-defined steps.

10. To implement the improvement plan quickly, focus on individual areas.
Take a step-by-step approach to putting your plan in action, then update your future state map as you implement each step.

Value stream mapping provides a great way to make changes and improvements to the process without doing so at the expense of other processes. Creating a value stream map of the current state of your process helps you focus on areas of waste such as excess inventory, non-value-added time, and multiple operators. If we don’t understand the current process, we can’t really make intelligent decisions about how the future current state might or should look.

At the end of the day, the goal is to develop a corporate culture that provides the best possible product to meet or exceed customer needs and expectations. This is ultimately done by making continual improvements to the value stream. As our customers’ needs and expectations evolve, so also will our value streams need to change and constantly evolve.

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Friday, March 15, 2019

Lean Quote: Standing Still is Falling Behind

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still." — Franklin D. Roosevelt

I have said this before, in a world that constantly moves forward, if we choose to stand still, we will eventually fall behind.

Organizations develop a status quo for many reasons. Those reasons range from leaders feeling pressured for time and the need to prioritize, all the way to a culture that has a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

Status quo can be comfortable because it’s easy. It doesn’t require us to challenge ourselves or each other. It doesn’t require us to take risks or change what we’ve gotten so used to. Yet, over time, following the status quo will become uncomfortable. Individuals, teams, leaders, and companies will miss out on opportunities for growth, and stagnation becomes the mode of operation. This is when it’s time to challenge the way it’s been and think about how it could be.

Challenging (and changing) the status quo can be scary. It often requires courage and a willingness to go against the grain, while potentially butting heads with others who are less open to new ideas.

It's leadership’s responsibility to create the kind of culture where challenging the status quo is encouraged. Leaders need to have a forward-thinking mindset—a mindset that doesn’t settle for an attitude of the bare minimum and instead looks to their teams for insight on how things can be improved. The most successful leaders set out to support them with new values, policies, and ideas that are important to them.

Challenging the status quo is critical if we are to prosper in our businesses and set ourselves apart from the competition. The world of commerce is cruel, fast paced, and change is happening by the day and by the hour.

Simply put, challenging the status quo actually means challenging it. In business, it often isn’t even our competitors getting in our way, it is ourselves and our inability to face our fears and get out of our comfort zone.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Visual Management Boards: Manual vs Digital

When it comes to visual boards in the workplace the most common line of questioning is related to manual visuals versus computerized/digital visuals.  Many people prefer the look of a more sophisticated information technology solution over a simple hand written solution.  There are several things to consider when deciding which visual method to use.

Manual Visual
Digital Visual
Manual visuals are current as of the last recording and reviewed by frequency of the pitch.
Computerized visuals are current as of the last data entry and last time the report was run.
Hand written visuals are usually close to the process whose performance they reflect.  This also makes it difficult to disperse the information to other locations.
Computerized systems encourage managing the production process from a computer screen in an office somewhere removed from the actual production area.  A computer aided solution is definitely advantageous for computational accuracy as well as ease of distributing information.
Manual visuals are usually near or at the Gemba and can be physically verified but humans do make mistakes.

Digital visuals are usually a long way from the source, often require judgment and execution of data, which can make accuracy difficult to assess.
Manual methods are not always precise, notes sometimes vague, and reporting periods can occasionally be missed.
Digital visuals are highly precise regardless of accuracy.

Questions prompted by manual visuals can be addressed at least initially where it is posted and can be easily modified or new visuals created.
Computerized solutions are powerful analytical tools, but usually only designed to address the questions programmed and not easily changed or customized.
Manual visuals require little to no expense to implement and maintain.
Computers and network equipment are expensive to purchase, require continuing maintenance costs, and technical expertise.
Manual visuals are easy to use, owned by production floor, and draws people to the information whom helped create it.
Computers can be intimidating; the data is removed from shop floor to be transformed into impersonal computer-generated report.

Manual boards work best for local teams and smaller teams, for whom the manual updates won’t waste time or cause communication breakdowns. You have to make sure that you have firm communication strategies in place so that no task gets overlooked, and that task status is always up to date. Manual boards tend to promote face-to-face conversation. Manual boards are often more intuitive than digital boards for new employees, because a physical, hand-written board can be easier to visualize and understand. Ultimately, manual boards engrain task status and other project information by forcing team members to make manual updates.

You can also create a digital board to manage your business. The benefits of a digital board include live updates, customization, and more flexibility (this is helpful in the event of changing deliverables or deadlines). Additionally, many online tools make it easy to aggregate information by letting you attach documentation directly to the board. Digital boards tend to work well for software/technology teams, fast-paced teams, teams with remote workers, or instances where external stakeholders (management, clients) need insight into progress. Although digital boards can ease some of the hurdles felt by physical board users, a digital board will not automatically solve all your team’s communication problems. Rather, maintaining the daily management and prioritizing communication among workers is the best way to ensure that everything gets completed.

Visual boards are a means connect people to their processes.  They also reflect the adherence to the process and are the basis for comparing actual versus expected performance. Visual controls help transform the abstract concept of discipline in lean management into directly observable, concrete practices.  It is important to choose the right visual format for each process. 

Neither option is objectively better suited to Lean methodology. Instead, your board will be most effective if you choose the version that best fits the needs of your team. For instance, if your team is new to Lean and is all in one location, a physical board might be best to help ease into the workflow and promote conversation among workers. On the other hand, if you’re working with a large, remote team, an online tool will work better. Therefore, the first step in implementing visual management is isolating the unique needs, strengths, and weaknesses of your team before selecting how you will organize and track the work being done.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Lean Tips #136 (2251 - 2265)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #2251 - Communicate Results. 
It’s critical that results are communicated, especially with lean initiatives. Communication is so much more than just a component of internal controls or a soft skill! Communication allows you to stop operating in secret. Poor communication is often a hallmark of a fear-based culture: we’re afraid we’re going to fail or look silly. But an important part of building a lean and innovative culture is failure because it tells you what needs to change.

Lean Tip #2252 - Empower your Employees
Employees who are closest to the problems on your shop floor are the best-equipped to solve them. They are your greatest assets in your kaizen efforts, so give them the support they need to implement improvements. Developing your team’s abilities through training and support should be as much a part of your continuous improvement program as making improvements to manufacturing processes.

Additionally, engaging team members to identify problems and suggest improvements in their work areas encourages a sense of ownership over their work, which can improve overall motivation, morale, and productivity.

Lean Tip #2253 - Focus on Small Changes
Approach change in small, incremental steps; if you improve by just 1% every day for a year, you’ll be 37 times better than when you started. Test and implement small changes. This increases the speed to improvement and reduces the pressures and risks of implementing a major change.

To this end, focus your improvements on solving the root causes of issues. This allows employees to catch and contain small issues before they become larger and costlier to eliminate, and it prevents the same problems from reoccurring.

Lean Tip #2254 - Standardize Work
In order for improvements to last, they must be standardized and repeatable. Standardizing work is crucial to kaizen because it creates a baseline for improvement. When you make improvements to a process, it’s essential to document the new standard work in order to sustain the improvements and create a new baseline. Standard work also reduces variability in processes and promotes discipline, which is essential for continuous improvement efforts to take root.

Lean Tip #2255 - Enforce Improvements
It’s easy for employees to regress to their old ways. Enforcing the changes you’ve made to your processes is important for the improvements you’ve made to last, and it’s key to sustaining continuous improvement in the long term.

Documenting improvements, making sure standard work is up-to-date, and training employees on new procedures can help sustain the progress you’ve made in your continuous improvement efforts.

Lean Tip #2256 – Leaders Constantly Learn
Great leaders constantly read in order to improve the thoughts and ideas that are produced in their mind. Reading helps to expand your mind and think quickly when forced to make tough decisions. You also will want to take any classes that can help you improve your individual performance and leadership capabilities. Once you stop learning, you not only fail yourself but you also fail your team.

Lean Tip #2257 – Leaders Never Give Up
As a leader, things will get tough. You will have to deal with so many different factors in order to keep your business operating and to provide for your team. It can be a challenge to keep going when no one truly knows what you are dealing with as one person who has to provide for many others. You must remember your vision when you are faced with these tough times, and keep pushing forward despite what you are dealing with.

Lean Tip #2258 - Transform Your Methods When Necessary
Do not be stubborn when your strategy is not working. Know when to pivot and try something different. If you try to push your methods through that are not working, you are hurting both you and your team. Great leaders understand that sometimes you have to try something different from the initial plan in order to produce the successful results.

Lean Tip #2259 – Leaders Learn From Mistakes
Mistakes are opportunities to learn how to lead and operate better. If you are making the same mistakes over and over again, that means you are not learning from them. After a mistake is made, find out why it occurred so that you can know how to avoid making it again when the same situations come back around.

Lean Tip #2260 – Leaders are Accountable
A leader holds themselves accountable for their own actions. This helps their team know what is expected of themselves. When you operate with high standards, your team knows they have to follow your example or risk being seeing as incompetent, which would lead to their dismissal from your team. If you operate without standards, you will find that you have a team who has no discipline or values.

Lean Tip #2261 - Get Out of Your Office.
Come in early to get your work done while things are peaceful. Then, when everyone else arrives, get out of your office and connect with people. It's an efficient way to balance the demands of a leadership role, and people feel good about their team when they can see a leader not only working hard but also being available and accessible. It's a win-win.

Lean Tip #2262 - Encourage Employee Contributions. 
Some of the best ideas can come from employees. They interact with clients and customers every day and have an intimate knowledge of how well practices and procedures are working. Hear them out about ways to make improvements. Make changes that will improve their ability to do their job.

Lean Tip #2263 - Lead by Action and Example
An effective leader never orders anyone to do anything he wouldn’t be willing to do himself. If you’re going to expect certain things of your followers, then it’s imperative that you lead by action and example. You don’t actually have to do everything on your own, but if you occasionally reach down and contribute to mundane tasks and entry-level work, you’ll gain the respect of your employees and possibly even learn a thing or two in the process.

Lean Tip #2264 - Motivate Others
A good leader motivates others. There are many different types of leadership styles-driven, supportive, energetic and low-key, among others. Whatever their management style, good leaders find creative ways to motivate their team members.

One way to motivate people for the long-term is to set up data-driven systems that allow team members to excel in their performance. The right systems help staff members to operate at their maximum potential.

Lean Tip #2265 - Promote Excellence
You should have high expectations and challenge your team to reach their potential. Think about your own experience. Have you ever been to a course or seminar when the teacher or speaker really motivated you? You knew that when you walked out of that program that you were going to be a little bit better in some way. A spark had been ignited, and you were ready to raise the bar on your performance. As the practice leader, you have to provide that spark.

Provide small and large challenges for your team. This allows those individuals to think through problems, grow and mature, and begin to excel in their jobs. Your team will be better for it-and so will your practice.

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Friday, March 8, 2019

Lean Quote: Art of Communication is Language of Leadership

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The art of communication is the language of leadership." — James Humes

When you’re leading a group of people, communication is everything.

When it comes to working together, communication is the most important skill that any leader can have.

Communication is the key aspect that brings your message to the masses and allows an organization to move towards a shared vision. 

Having a vision that drives us towards building a company is one thing. The other is the ability to communicate with your employees. There are tons of reasons why leaders should do it.

For example, if leaders want their employees to be engaged, they need to find a way to build a relationship that will allow them to share their vision, so employees can execute it.

Without it, there are just employees who work and leaders who want to conquer the world. Nobody wants that, so if you’re a leader, find a common language with your workers and practice it on a daily basis.

It’s simple. When you talk, you just repeat what you already know. When you listen, you might learn something new.

Without good communication skills, your leadership is void.

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