Thursday, January 31, 2019

Lean Roundup #116 – January 2019



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of January, 2019.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Toyota as a “People Development Company” – Mark Graban discusses the importance of developing people within the company.

Avoid the Arbitrary Constraints of Time – Kevin Meyer asks what we would do differently if we did not have the arbitrary constraint of the end of the year, month, etc.

Not Recognizing Problems Exist is a BIG Problem – Jeff Hajek explains how to get aggressive in looking for problems.

What is a system? - Keith Sparkjoy talks about the human aspect of systems in terms of selfishness and sacrifice.

Creating Resistance As You Go (Don’t) – Mark Rosenthal explains what doesn’t work and what does work in change management.

Are You Building High-Performing Teams? – Jim Morgan describes the characteristics of teams learned from his experience at Ford Motor Company.

Take Baby Steps Towards Improvement – Mark Graban talks about the taking baby steps toward your resolutions to accomplish more.

Ask Art: How is Lean A Time-Based Strategy? – Art Byrne explains why lean is not about cost reduction but rather the best approach for competing on time.

Small Improvements Instead of Resolutions for the New Year – Steve Kane says taking on too much–too grand a resolution–is too big a mountain to climb.


The 10 Commandments for a Lean Journey  - Jon Miller shares 10 Commandments for a Lean Journey, as seen through Raymond Chandler’s (novelist of detective fiction) filter.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Monday, January 28, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #135 (#2221 - 2235)

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 #2221 – Get Your Team to Show Appreciation for Each Other
One easy and rewarding thing you can do to create a positive working environment is to actively show appreciation for your team, and encourage them to show appreciation for each other. This can be done in an unstructured way, by just encouraging your employees to be thankful to each other.

Lean Tip #2222 – Celebrate Team Wins
A team that celebrates together, stays together. You will discover that most successes you have in your work are not down to one person, but a whole team. Be sure to celebrate wins in the workplace, no matter how big or small. This will not only help people to feel appreciated but also make them understand that they are having an important impact on the organization too! Get your team to decide on how they would like to celebrate their next win. This will help them feel more invested in their goal.

Lean Tip #2223 – Spend Time Together Not Working
Your employees are human, not resources or man-hours. Take some time to do a non-work related activity together. This can help to rejuvenate the team and also help them to see each other beyond their job title. If your team feels relaxed and comfortable in each other’s presence, this will create a positive and safe working environment.

Lean Tip #2224 – Set Boundaries and Expectations Together
Create a positive and safe environment together by conducting a workshop where your team can set boundaries and expectations together. By creating these commitments together you will avoid team members from feeling that something has been ‘imposed’ on them, and instead they will feel more committed to the team's boundaries and expectations as this is something they have created together.

Lean Tip #2225 – Trust Your Team
As a leader, it is essential that you trust your team. Avoid micromanagement, or taking over tasks that others should be responsible for as this will cause your team to harbor negative feelings. Instead, nurture an environment of trust and give your team freedom (with responsibility, of course) and this will spread positivity throughout your employees.

Lean Tip #2226 – Encourage Your Employees to Chat Face-to-Face
While sending a quick email or chat message to a coworker might seem like a more efficient way of getting an answer, oftentimes it can have the opposite effect, as the subsequent back-and-forth can take longer than a quick face-to-face. Face-to-face interaction really speeds up the process of solving a problem, answering a question, or getting something important clarified.

Lean Tip #2227 – Hold a Daily, 10-Minute Company Meeting
While meetings are generally considered a necessity, they can carry on to the point where they eat away at the work day. Each day gather as a company for a 10-minute meeting called the Daily Huddle. The meeting serves as a firehose of information that keeps everyone in the loop, including a roundup of key performance indicators, the celebration of accomplishments, and the identification of opportunities to improve.

Not only is it a good way to keep all employees up to speed on any new developments within the company, keeping meetings short and sweet forces a streamlined meeting process, and reduces time wasted.

Lean Tip #2228 – Promote a Culture of Open Communication
Encourage your employees to communicate openly. But, that goes beyond the idea of communicating face-to-face to solve problems; do your employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns, or giving feedback on how your company is run?

The best way to improve business efficiency is to encourage feedback, ideas, and communication between departments. You can’t be everywhere at once, nor will you see everything. Your employees may be able to spot an area of your company that could be made more efficient, or a process that could be streamlined. Make sure they feel comfortable voicing their opinions, and offering feedback, especially when it comes to improving efficiency.

Lean Tip #2229 – Communication is King
There's one simple thing that every business can do that, if implemented, would change their business dramatically. That is the communication process between management and employees. Nothing is more effective than creating an efficient system whereby people can easily communicate with anyone in one's company and someone actually responds. More time and energy is wasted by people getting lost in a bureaucracy where employee needs and questions are not met in a timely manner. Fix this and productivity soars!

Lean Tip #2230 – Inspire Employees
Employees are the eyes and ears of your business operations. If there are weak spots in your system, it’s likely employees know about them. It’s also likely they want a better process for completing tasks. But when your staff thinks you’re a “my way or the highway” leader, they usually aren’t motivated to come up with solutions.

Involve your employees in improving business operations. Ask your staff where improvements can be made. Take notes of the flaws that are pointed out and solutions offered. Make sure your employees know their opinions matter and you are open to suggestions. In addition to accelerating your business process improvement, showing your employees that they add value to your small business can take the stress off of your staffing management plan by keeping employee turnover at a minimum. 

Lean Tip #2231 - Don’t Resist Change.
While your gut reaction to change is often refusal, such a response is not productive. Change is inevitable, and you must learn to accept it. The quicker you do, the smoother your transition.

Lean Tip #2232 - Find the Positive in Change.
Even the most difficult changes can produce positive results. Don’t waste time dwelling on what you don’t like. Focus instead on the potential benefits and new opportunities the changes may bring, and your spirits will remain lighter throughout the transition.

Lean Tip #2233 - Focus on One Change at a Time.
While we can learn to accept and manage change, piling numerous changes up all at once can become too overwhelming, even for the most flexible of us. If there are many changes going on in your work life, this is probably not the best time to also start those home renovations. Managing change in one area of your life is easier when you have other areas that remain familiar and comforting.

Lean Tip #2234 - Encourage Flexibility
To transition through workplace change successfully, workers need to be flexible. Encourage employees to embrace change by engaging in new job responsibilities and facing challenges head on. Be a role model to workers in your organization by getting out of your own comfort zone.

Lean Tip #2235 - Involve Employees in the Change Process.

Employees are not so much against change as they are against being changed. Any time managers are going to implement organizational change, there is always a lag between the time the change has been discussed at the management level and the time the change is going to be implemented. Managers like to play like an ostrich and believe that they are the only ones who know about the changes that are going to take place. Unfortunately, while their heads are stuck in the sand believing that no one else knows, employees are effectively undermining the future changes with negative informal communication…the company grapevine. The sooner you involve employees in the process, the better off you will be implementing the change. A formal communication channel is more effective at implementing change than a negative informal one.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel

Friday, January 25, 2019

Lean Quote: The Sweetest of All Sounds is Praise.

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 sweetest of all sounds is praise." — Xenophon

Praise is one of the most powerful things a leader can offer their team. When delivered well (and well-deserved), praise gives people the drive and motivation to continue doing the caliber of work you want to see.

Offering praise to your employees is all about recognition. Most workers thrive on feeling appreciated. As an employee, knowing that what you are doing means something to your boss and to the entire business gives you a feeling of worth and it can motivate you to continue to get better at what you do.

The happier your employees are working for you, the more engaged and productive they will be. Receiving praise is empowering. It doesn’t cost you anything to congratulate and praise your staff. However, not giving them credit when and where credit is deserved can cost you big time.

It’s not always easy to know when or how to praise people on your team. You only want to reward great performance, and it’s easy for routines to make you blind to steady, reliable work.

The best formula for recognizing an individual for their efforts is:

Thank the person by name.

Specifically state what they did that is being recognized. It is vital to be specific because it identifies and reinforces the desired behavior.

Explain how the behavior made you feel (assuming you felt some pride or respect for their accomplishment!).

Point out the value added to the team or organization by the behavior.

Thank the person again by name for their contribution.

It might seem like a lot, but really praising others and saying "thank you" probably won’t take you much more energy in the day. Regularly putting a few minutes toward making sure others feel properly acknowledged for their efforts will go a long way to building the positive workplace you envision.

There's little doubt that praising and recognizing the efforts and achievements of others can bring about some very positive results in the workplace. Being praised makes the recipient feel good about themselves and this can help to boost their performance. Praise provides the kind of positive experience or 'uplift' that can increase employees' morale, motivation and engagement, and renew their commitment to their manager and the organization. 

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

7 Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills and Your Business


Communication is the foundation of every single relationship you have in your personal life; it's no different in business. Without effective communication, there can be misunderstandings, problems and conflicts among your staff, your clients and everyone else you come into contact. Poor communication can make effective delegation, increased productivity and an enjoyable work environment virtually impossible.

Here are the 7 Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills:

  1. Make communication a priority. Checking in with employees is essential. Meet with them regularly either in-person, inviting them to discuss their thoughts on their projects, tasks, and the organization as a whole. They want to be heard, and they want to share their thoughts and opinions. This will improve internal communication throughout your entire organization, as well as empower your employees and keep them comfortable in their positions.
  2. Simplify and stay on message. Use simple, straightforward language. The truth is that everybody cannot be on same page when it comes to vocabulary. Therefore, to be effective in your communications with your team members, use words that can be easily understood. When ambiguous words are used, you can be misunderstood and/or waste precious time having to explain yourself.
  3. Engage and encourage feedback. Don’t just talk and walk away. Draw your listeners and readers into the conversation. Ask questions and invite opinions. Solicit their feedback. It will also afford you the privilege of knowing if your message was well understood. Look for ways to clarify or rephrase what you are trying to say so it can be understood.
  4. Listen to your team members. Communication is intended to be a two way street. Don’t just talk because you are the leader without listening to anyone else. Encourage them to open up so you can be well guided when communicating in the future with them. You have two ears and one mouth –so you must listen more than you speak.
  5. Respect your team. Recognize your message is not just about you or what you want. You should sincerely care about the needs and the unique perspectives of those to whom you are communicating. One of the best ways to show your respect is simply by paying attention to what they say.
  6. Develop trust. Trust is the product of open and honest communications. So it is important that good communication channels exist. Also, trust is an essential ingredient of teamwork. If trust exists among business associates, teamwork and cooperation are much easier to achieve.
  7. Inform and Inspire. Communication is a form of information exchange. Explaining and clarifying your thoughts and ideas is important in a leadership role. But passing on information to your team is only half of the equation. As a leader, it's vital to your business that your communication efforts inspire your team as much as they educate them. Plan ahead for meetings and conversations so you can effectively mix information and inspiration.
Ultimately, effective communication can be one of the most important skills you use in your business. If your communication skills can use some fine-tuning, take time to analyze how you communicate, and the results of your communication. Then focus on ways you can improve it over time. You may be surprised how much that changes your relationships with staff, clients and colleagues for the better.

The ways in which your employees communicate with each other and with you is entirely dependent on the example you set and the atmosphere you deliberately create. Whether workplace communication is poor or outstanding, it can have a big impact on revenue, productivity, and employee satisfaction. So value your employees, set a good example, and above all, don’t just talk… listen.


When you communicate more effectively in the workplace, work gets done more efficiently. You foster a good environment where employees feel trusted and co-workers get along. Eliminate miscommunication and boost your business by implementing these tips now.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Monday, January 21, 2019

Taking a Leap of Faith


Today we celebrate and recognize the life and achievement of Martin Luther King Jr. MLK as they say was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs. His quote below has always struck me as paramount to change.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase."

Making a change requires a leap of faith. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction.  Making a change takes lots of leaps of faith.

Leaders may make bold and often unpopular decisions. Effective leaders require courage - to stand up for what is right, for what they believe in, and to take the necessary risks to be innovative and creative.

You can’t move forward if you don’t grow and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone. When possible, challenge employees to grow. Help them prepare by providing them a safe environment to learn from the mistakes that they are bound to make.

Moving beyond our comfort zones is how we can best learn and grow. The challenge is to resist our normal human instinct to seek comfort rather that discomfort. The key is to continually push beyond the comfort zone and drive continuous improvement to develop and strengthen your Lean thinking.

It takes courage to be a change agent, to rise up and lead the way when others are filled with fear. It takes courage to walk in a different direction when others walk along a contrasting path. Most important, it takes courage to drive persistence to overcome resistance…to find comfort outside your comfort zone when the promise of reward is ambiguous.

When things are difficult, unknown, and perhaps unattainable we may turn the other direction. We must find the inner strength to overcome these perceived barriers. History has proven time after time that the power of a thought is the beginning for actions that will alter the future positively. Understanding this, and having the courage to keep going even in the face of all obstacles, allows us to accomplish anything we want.

The courage of true leadership is revealed while still standing in the midst of controversy and challenging circumstances. It is relatively easy and requires little effort to stay in your comfort zone or to do what is convenient. Courage is not required to stay comfortable. Leaders need essential people skills to get people to work together smoothly even if some compromise may be needed. However, it also takes courage to make a stand on what you believe to be right.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified what being a true leader of change is all about. His actions made him one of the great leaders of the 20th century, Time Magazine's "Man Of The Year" in 1963 and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Friday, January 18, 2019

Lean Quote: What are You Doing for Others?

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.


"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing for others?"" — Martin Lurther King Jr.

As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., his legacy includes this challenge to us: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” This quote is the essence of servant leadership.

 A servant leader is one who offers an inclusive vision; listens carefully to others; persuades through reason; and heals divisions while building community.

It is easy to spot servant leaders. In a room where others are jockeying for attention, they are the ones listening to someone others might consider unimportant. When faced with a problem, they look for solutions that benefit everyone. When something goes wrong, they take the blame. When things go well, they share the credit. They tell everyone the same story, even when it is inconvenient or difficult. They know that they don’t have all the answers, so they seek advice from others. They work hard and inspire others to do the same.

Asking “What are you doing for others?” is the key to servant leadership. In these six words that MLK made famous, you can determine and deliver the actions that make a difference to those on your team. You will affect lives far beyond what you can imagine. It really is that persistent, urgent—and powerful.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is an example of a servant leader. His life shows the extraordinary power of servant leadership to radically transform a nation. 

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

10 Changes for 2019 That Can Transform Your Culture


It’s that time of year again when many are making personal resolutions for change. But as I said the other day I recommend forgetting the whole concept of resolutions and concentrating on setting goals instead. For most managers the beginning of New Year means establishing a new set of objectives. This is a good time to reflect on your progress over the past year and plan how you want improve in the coming year. 

It is our role as leaders to reinforce cultural transformation in the workers perception of their work roles, to create structures for empowered workers to be accountable and successful, to communicate, support, reward and model this culture of engaged workers, helping to identify and resolve defects and eliminate waste. 

As we head into a New Year I wanted to share ten changes that Lean leaders should consider to transform your culture. These changes must have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; a process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation. 

1. Get Energized About Work. 
Getting energized about work usually results from a couple things. Primarily if a work culture is fun to be in, it’s a place you look forward to going because the people (and leadership) are authentic, caring and fun. And teams that are energized with what they are doing get excited by the opportunities that a day may bring. 

2. Planning is the Basic Step for Success. 
You won’t know where you are going unless you know where you want to go. Confusing? Well that’s exactly how your business would be, if you do not keep things simple and organized. Planning is the basic step to succeed in business and planning accurately and developing strategies will lead you to a healthy and growing business. That means reframing the top down objectives in your organization. Don’t just work with only the large goal in mind. Set immediate and short term goals that fire up your team. Celebrate achieving those goals and adjust as the culture and needs change… We live in a very fluid business world where things change fast. Create a team that is able to change along with it. 

3. Strive to Learn Something New Every Single Day.
It is easy to get bogged down in the same old, same old. In order to fully realize potential, you’ll have to add knowledge, skills, and experience. Don’t expect your potential to spring forth in a final draft; it takes time to hone your skills and build your confidence. This could come from formal schooling, from the school of hard knocks, or from both. Either way, your education is the house your realized potential will live in. The opportunities for learning are multiplying every day in this information/technology age. Learn at least one new thing every day. Improve your mind and enhance your skills. Never stop learning. 

4. Work Smarter Not Harder. 
Productivity comes from working smarter, not harder. That is the difference between effectiveness and efficiency. You can be effective without being efficient, but, the key to productivity is to do both. Sometimes, those job inefficiencies are not very obvious. However, if you can specifically identify them, then those inefficiencies can be eliminated and staff can become more productive. By distributing the tasks and responsibilities around, you not only become more flexible and able to respond to changes more quickly, but you involve more people in the improvement process. This can increase work satisfaction as well. 

5. Devote Time Each Month to Employee Development. 
 Most people want to learn and grow their skills at work. Encourage experimentation and taking reasonable risk to develop employee skills. Get to know them personally. Ask what motivates them. Ask what career objectives they have and are aiming to achieve. You can make their career. In order to get the most from your employees, you need to invest time and resources in their development. Annual performance reviews simply aren’t enough. Make a point to sit down with each employee on a monthly basis (or more frequently, if possible) and provide them with specific feedback and areas of improvement. 

6. Learn More from Reading.  
Far too may business executives believe leadership skills stem from some sort of wondrous epiphany or other such flash of insight. Sure, great ideas can come to any of us, but being a bona fide leader also means study. Read books, attend seminars, and pick the brains of colleagues to see what works for them. Read an article; discuss a new approach with a colleague; research what other organizations are doing on the Web. It can be a long education, but one with rewards that multiply with the more knowledge you have under your belt. 

7. Try Something New. 
The world is moving forward, swiftly and consistently. As industry leaders, if you stop taking a breath, you will be left far behind others, competing in the race. Change is inevitable as so is it a scary concept. To overcome this fear, try doing something new. Take risks, explore ways to overcome the disabilities and move ahead. It might sound easy, but it is no less challenging. 

8. Get Out of Your Office.
When you get bogged down, distracted, or even discouraged rediscover the power of going to see. There is no better way to experience the flow of value (or lack thereof) than taking the same journey that an order, new product, patient or other takes through your processes. Spend as much time as possible with employees and customers. Learn the issues first hand. Expand your focus. Many look primarily at the steps in the value stream and ask how to remove the waste. Reflect first on the purpose of the process. You must ask about the support processes to get the right people to the right place in the value stream at the right time with the right knowledge, materials, and equipment. Work to solve problems when and where they occur. Pay special attention to the way people are engaged in the operation and its improvement. 

9. Focus Feedback on the Future. 
You want people to improve. In almost every case, people want to improve and do great work. Yet most workplace feedback is focused on something that can’t be changed -- the past. If you want to be a more effective coach to your team and help them make improvements in their skills and results, give them feedback, and about what they can do next time. 

10. Follow Up and Follow Through. 
The primary criticism of leaders is that they do not follow up or follow through on promised actions and information. How well a manager follows up or follows through on promises is part of the test to determine if they will be a quality leader. Another reason follow up is so important is that old saying “out of sight, out of mind”; leaders need to remind employees that their interested in improvement. 

Change can only be successful if it’s truly desired. Change isn’t easy but positive changes are always worth the effort. It can be motivating to add up and consolidate all the gains that have been made so far and to acknowledge how far you have come. Lasting changes require continued commitment. Keeping your commitment isn't easy but, following the PDCA cycle will yield better results and sustained improvements. Taking the time to plan, check, and act will pay dividends. 

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare