Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #139 (#2296 - #2310)

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 #2296 – Make Consistent Eye Contact When Listening
Learning how to listen isn’t just about what you say to others. Body language also has a major role to play.

Although it’s off-putting if you stare at your interlocutor and refuse to blink until they’ve stopped speaking, it is important to hold their gaze at least most of the time. It is an encouraging way to communicate interest, understanding, and focus.

Be sure to tailor your eye contact to the needs of others, too. If you’re dealing with someone anxious, cut back on direct stares and focus on other active listening skills that are less confronting to shy people.

Lean Tip #2297 – Ask Open Questions To Engage In Conversation
Closed questions are one that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”, while open questions are designed to promote longer, more thoughtful responses.

When you ask closed questions it can seem like you just want to get specific information from the other person. Or, that you only have limited time for them. On the other hand, open questions show your desire to engage in a proper discussion and your interest in getting into the speaker’s mindset.

Lean Tip #2298 – Put Yourself In Their Shoes
Whether you agree with the speaker or even have an interest in what they have to say, what they are saying is important to them. Imagine yourself in their situation, wanting only to have someone listen to them. When they are speaking, make an effort to think of where they are coming from and why. Imagine what their life is like and what struggles they might be facing. People will appreciate that you made the effort to understand and really hear them.

Lean Tip #2299 – Listen to the Entire Message Without Judging or Refuting
Suppress the urge to let biases and prejudices prevent you from listening fully.  We can only do one thing effectively at a time: listen, judge, or respond.  Go in that order.  You have to begin with listening to the entire message, then you can weigh your thoughts against what has been said, and finally respond.  Allow each role to run its course in turn.  When you are the listener, you cannot simultaneously be the judge.  Our minds do not work in categories quite so neatly, but when we make this effort to suppress or postpone our desire to make premature judgments we become better listeners.

Lean Tip #2300 – Be Respectful, Listen 75%, Speak 25% of the Time.
This is a powerful tip unless you are giving a speech. Try to allow the other person to speak more than you and listen to them. Let them know you take their views and ideas seriously. Be willing to communicate with others at their level of understanding and attitude by adjusting your tone of voice, the rate of speech and choice of words to show that you are empathetic and trying to imagine being where they are at the moment.

Lean Tip #2301 – Leaders Establish an Impeccable Standard of Excellence.
Set high expectations at the outset and raise the bar on any crucial factors. The best way to establish a standard is by modeling the expected behavior yourself. Showcase excellence. When your actions have the potential to affect everyone around you and the bottom line, don't dabble in mediocrity. Reflecting excellence is critical to exercising effective leadership. This is ground zero for establishing influence.

Lean Tip #2302 – Value People and Nurture Relationships. 
Top-notch people skills are vital to sound leadership. Develop premium listening, communication and decision-making skill sets. Demonstrate integrity by being open, honest and fair.

Your transparency will reap clear rewards. If you treat people well, most will be encouraged to return the favor. By elevating the importance of people and relationships, you enhance your ability to relate to others in an authentic and meaningful way.

Lean Tip #2303 – Listen to your Team Members.
Your team is your most valuable asset, and ignoring their brilliance is a huge mistake. Model to your team what it looks like to care: ask them questions, try to understand, and encourage an open door policy. You’ll receive far more than you give, and model healthy dialogue.

Lean Tip #2304 – Value Your Employees
Appreciating the contribution of other people in an organization helps strengthen the relationship between the leader and the followers. The leader should exhibit good communication and listening skills such that no employees will feel inferior to other persons within the organization. Also, the leader should be honest, fair, and open to discussions that touch on the welfare of the employee. Valuing the contribution of employees in the organization enhances the leader’s ability to interact with people in a meaningful way.

Lean Tip #2305 – Praise Improvement, Even Minor Improvements.
Psychologists discovered long ago that when you positively reinforce a desired behavior, people are far more likely to repeat that behavior. Most people want to do the right thing, which means you will find far more success in leading a team if you focus on using positive reinforcement rather than negative actions like threats and fear tactics.

Lean Tip #2306 – Conduct Meetings Only When They Are Productive
One of the things that can really worsen the relationship between the management and the employees is non-productive, untimely and overly frequent meetings.

Meetings are great even if your employees don’t like them a bit. However, the one thing that must always be constant in all meetings is “time is money”. Make your meetings productive and conduct them only when there is a real need. If an issue is minor, but needs some stern mentioning, keep the meeting short.

Lean Tip #2307 – Make Good Relations with Employees the Top Priority
It is all too natural for new managers to get in that “performance mode”. They want to prove that they deserved the position and start overly focusing productivity and performance. While these are great aspects of a manager, they are not the first things you focus on. Your top priority should be to have happy relations with your employees.

How can you make people work when they are not happy to work under you? Not to mention, they can never be impressively productive unless they are working happily.

Lean Tip #2308 – Always Appreciate and Recognize
When there is no appreciation and recognition at an organization, self-motivation can become a fairy tale.

You can’t expect people to keep on doing a great job without getting recognized for their work. When people don’t receive recognition for their work, they come to your workplace just to “do their job”.

Your appreciation, recognition and the practice of rewarding them for their efforts can change their mentality, and convince them to go the extra mile.

Lean Tip #2309 – Make the Team Feel Safe.
Management and leadership are different disciplines.You cannot manage a team into combat. They must be led. It is hard to think that anyone would feel safe in a combat situation. It is all about trust and loyalty. When you trust the leadership and the team members to your right, left and rear, you have an overwhelming sense of comfort. When bullets start flying, politics go out the window. You are fighting to protect your teammates and nothing more.

Lean Tip #2310 – Don’t Criticize or Complain About People.

The surest way to demotivate people is to constantly criticize them or complain about them. If they make a mistake, put it in perspective with the things they constantly do well. Accentuate the positive and utilize mistakes as opportunities for continued improvement.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

10 Years Blogging! Happy Anniversary A Lean Journey Blog


I can't even believe it, but May 19th marked ten years I've been blogging. TEN YEARS! That is crazy. I had no idea then what I was getting into or that I'd still be doing this 10 years later.  Frankly, I wasn't sure anyone would read what I wrote never mind find value in it. It truly has been a wonderful experience and full of opportunities.

So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned about blogging in 10 years is that blogging is about connections. The thing is, it didn’t really take me 10 years to grasp this. In fact, I blogged about that from the beginning. This labor of love has been a tremendous learning process both from the great fans and other colleagues online that I exchange with and from the process of distilling my own learning with you. I've been fortunate to meet so many great people from experts to layman (like myself) along the way who've taught me so much.

If you’re not blogging to connect with people, you’re not doing it right.

After 10 years I'd like to think this simple blog has been a success. It has been a valued contribution in the Lean Community with over a million visitors.  Many articles are frequently shared and many key word searches lead to A Lean Journey Blog. Less then 10% of the blogs I read 10 years ago (which got me started) are still publishing articles. The number of returning visitors has increased every year for the last 5 years. I get great feedback from many of you which motivates me to continue.

Some may be asking how do you define success for a blog?  I think like most publications it is basically about audience.  Are you growing followers? Are people reading your posts? So like in previous years we can look at the number visitors, Facebook fan, tweeps on Twitter, and LinkedIn members as an indication of growth.

I love statistics, so with this milestone, here are some numbers from the blog:

Total Posts: 1773

Most read post:  The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process with over 29,750 views

followed by DOWNTIME and the Eight Wastes with over 28,100 views

and by What Do We Mean By True Northwith over 20,700 views

Number of countries/territories who have visited this blog:  226

Top 5 Countries with the most views:
U.S.A. – 48%
United Kingdom – 7%
Canada – 5%
India – 5%
Australia – 3%


Total views:  Over 1,478,361 and climbing

Unique visits: Over 1,172,050

Total comments:  Over 1,500

Total Facebook Fans: Over 2,230

Total Twitter Followers: Over 3,634

LinkedIn Members: Over 1,213

Total Tips Shared: Over 2,310


Top 5 posts this past year:


Five Guidelines on Effective 5 Why Analysis

10 Tips for Being a Better Leader

Think and Lead Like a Coach Not a Boss

Top 10 Lean Leadership Quotes From 2018

5 Ways to Improve Your Kaizens

I would like to thank all the visitors and contributors to A Lean Journey Blog this year and every year.  It has been a successful journey. Please, share your feedback so that A Lean Journey can be even more successful in the future.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Lean Quote: If You Want Passion, Commitment, Dedication, and Motivation, You Go First

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.


"One of the most important actions, things a leader can do, is to lead by example. If you want everyone else to be passionate, committed, dedicated, and motivated, you go first!" — Marshall Goldsmith

Many people define leadership in different ways. I believe that leadership is simply influence. Through your actions, which are aligned with what you say, you become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing but do another, they erode trust, a critical element of effective leadership. Good leaders must lead by example. Here are 10 ways to lead by example:

Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps people on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth.

Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really IS the best policy.

Be courageous. Walk through fire (a crisis) first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to a larger purpose.

Acknowledge failure. Failure is part of the process of becoming extraordinary. When you acknowledge that you have failures from time to time, it becomes OK for others.

Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define you.

Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your for more ideas.

Listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.

Delegate liberally. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their core strengths.

Take care of yourself. Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break. Mental and spiritual balance grows success. Model it, encourage it, support it!


Roll up your sleeves. Like Alexander the Great leading his men into battle, you’ll inspire greatness.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Formula for Successful Change


For virtually everyone change means hard work, risk, and the need to learn new ways for unproven benefits. Change is one of the most difficult things for humans to readily accept. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change” which holds true for culture change.

Fortunately, there is a formula that provides insight into how to successfully facilitate change:

L x V x K x AP x A > R = Change

Where:

L = Lever: Find a sense of urgency by identifying a crisis in which action is the only choice. It is necessary to overcome inertia.

V = Vision: How you would like things to be in the future, this is the “True North” thinking.

K = Knowledge: Learn the skills necessary to facilitate the change. Find a change agent. Understand and disseminate the lean knowledge.

AP = Action Plan: Actions and strategies needed to move the organization toward the vision. It is important to begin as soon as possible with visible activity. Often, a great start is to identify and map your value streams.

A = Alignment: Communicate the why and how of the vision to inspire people to want to try to achieve it. As you gain momentum you need to expand your scope. Apply strategy deployment (Hoshin Kanri) to facilitate horizontal and vertical alignment.

R = Resistance: People tend to naturally resist change. Reduce resistance by making the change known, easy, beneficial, and popular. 

All these elements are needed for a successful change. If an element is missing you won’t get change but rather something short of that as shown below:

Lever x Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Change
               Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Status Quo
Lever x                 Knowledge x Action Plan x Alignment = Confusion
Lever x Vision x                          Action Plan x Alignment = Frustration
Lever x Vision x Knowledge x                          Alignment = False Starts
Lever x Vision x Knowledge x Action Plan                        = Resistance


To ensure a successful change it is necessary to use influence and strategic thinking in order to create vision and identify those crucial, early steps towards it. In addition, the organization must recognize and accept the dissatisfaction that exists by listening to the employee voice while sharing industry trends, leadership ideas, best practices and competitor analysis to identify the necessity for change.

There is no quick solution for creating a lean culture. Successful initial implementation and ongoing maintenance of process improvements, among other things, requires overcoming the resistance to change. 

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Watch The Baton Not the Runners


Lean as a way of thinking and acting in business operations has been around for over 40 years. At its very core, the goal of lean is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. For me Lean is a thinking methodology for running your business.  The of goal of which is to grow the business by adding value to the customer, being efficient by eliminating waste, and engaging all employees in this process.  Lean is about learning to seeing opportunities and continually improving them. 

A metaphor we use to convey a key thinking mistake–and opportunity–is the sport of relay racing.

Consider a relay race. The racers are standing around waiting for the baton from their colleague. The accountant in the finance department, looking aghast at this terrible under-utilization ‘waste,’ would probably mandate a policy goal of “95% utilization of resources” to ensure all the racers are busy and “productive.” Maybe—he would suggest—the runners could run three races at the same time to increase “resource utilization,” or they could run up a mountain while waiting for the baton.

Funny… But this kind of thinking lies behind much of traditional management and product development processes. In contrast, here is a central idea in lean thinking: Watch the baton, not the runners.

In business, the runners are your workforce, and the baton is the unique value you offer to your customers. Business flow describes how well the work — i.e., the baton — is moving through your business system. It’s not about effective resource utilization (how busy people are); it’s about how much value is actually being produced, and how often.

Does your organization measure “productivity” or “efficiency” in terms of how busy people are, or how much time is spent watching the runners? Or does it measure “productivity” in terms of fast delivery of value to the real customer, thereby “watching the baton”? What is the value-to-waste ratio in your work? What are the impediments to the flow of value and how can people feel inspired to continuously strive to improve that flow? Lean thinking addresses these questions.

As an executive, watching the baton is your top priority. The baton is the value. This helps you stay focused on keeping the work moving, not on keeping the workers busy.

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Friday, May 10, 2019

Lean Quote: Waste of Skills, Talent, and Abilities

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 greatest waste … is failure to use the abilities of people…to learn about their frustrations and about the contributions that they are eager to make." — W. Edwards Deming

The waste of skills, talent, creativity or your people is an addition to the seven wastes of lean manufacturing (Muda), it is the failure to make good use of your employees; all of them. Your employees are your most valuable resources when it comes to ensuring that the business runs smoothly and continuously improves.

When companies fail to recognize or utilize people’s talents, skills or special knowledge, not only are they missing the benefit of these resources, the underutilized are likely to become dissatisfied and may begin to perform poorly, or leave. This waste of talent happens when management is not responsive, does not assign tasks appropriately or does not train properly.

Without the involvement and loyalty of all of your employees your company will fail to compete as effectively as it could do with their help. In today’s global marketplace we need every advantage that we can get to maintain and improve our businesses.

Examples of wastes of Talent
Problem solving conducted only by experts, ignoring the input from other employees.

Improvement ideas that are forced upon different sections of the company rather than invented within them.

A workforce that feels that there is no point in making suggestions for improvement.

The main cost of the waste of talent within your organization is in time wasted to make improvements and meet changing customer requirements. You will be far slower at making improvements and solving problems if you rely only on your “experts” to come up with the ideas, whilst your engineers, supervisors and managers may be highly skilled they are small in number compared to your other employees.


This failure to make improvements at a good pace will eventually mean that your competitors will move ahead of you and will lead the way within your industry whilst you lag far behind. They will win the business from you as they are able to offer enhanced service and lower costs.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Stand-Up for Productivity


I’m a huge fan of Stand-Up Meetings because they are an effective way to get everyone up to date and to identify potential roadblocks ahead. Less emails, less unfocused hour-long meetings, less interruptions, more flow time. Usually they take around 15 minutes and are held standing up (surprise!). The idea is to keep the meeting short and to the point.

Therefore, focus the meeting using the following format:
         • Start the meeting early in the day.
         • Should last no more than 15 minutes.
         • The entire team should attend (use a delegate or liaison
            for support).
         • The meeting leader (facilitator) should ask these simple
           questions:
                   o What did I accomplish yesterday?
                   o What will I do today?
                   o What obstacles are impeding my progress?

The frequency of stand-up meetings depends on the criticality of items discussed or the urgency of the project. More critical, more urgent items like customer complaints or high level projects may be daily to twice daily while other activities could meet less often. This doesn’t replace necessary team meeting to accomplish the project milestones.

Stand-up meeting provide a number of powerful benefits for teams:
          • Creates a shared language among team members
          • Allows for real-time reallocation of resources
          • Enables a focus on value-creating activities
          • Established a clear work plan for each day
          • Provides a mechanism for cultural change
          • Builds team identity and emotional commitment

From experience I have learned the following tips can help improve the effectiveness of your stand-up meetings:
         • Consider the use of a kitchen timer to ensure your
           meetings won’t last more 15 minutes.
         • A speaker phone can be used to include team members
           that are off-site.
         • Keep the attendance limited to those team members
           who actually create deliverables and perform actions.
         • Include “extended team” members only when their
           activity level on the project is high.
         • Pass a talking stick around so there is less cross-talk.
           (A strong facilitator is beneficial.)
         • Stand around the story/task board so you can focus and
           keep the board up to date as well.
         • Highlight issues but solve them later, this meeting is not
           for extended conversations.

Stand-ups, like software or machines, are tools. They don’t solve problems by themselves. But they do require careful deployment and close attention to the human element to ensure that you’re creating an environment that’s open and vocal, where teams work together to get the job done.


To sum it up: an effective daily stand-up meetings can help your team to be more productive, more effective, and ultimately, more impactful.

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