Friday, April 12, 2019

Lean Quote: Show Your Team Members That You Support Them And Are Committed To Helping Them Realize Their Goals.

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.

"Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals." — Author Unknown

The importance of demonstrating to team members that you truly care about them as individuals, that you want to help them improve their professional skills, and that you support them being architects of personally satisfying careers simply cannot be overstated.

Leaders who ask for their employees’ input when constructing development plans will gain commitment, loyalty, and respect from their team members. Leaders who treat their employees as extra bodies, on the other hand, will not manage to retain talented people for very long.

It’s crucial for leaders to listen, and listen well, to what employees really want from their jobs and their perception of how they can contribute to the organization.

Although it seems like a small gesture, leaders who ask employees to be actively involved in the creation of their personal development plans show these employees that their opinions matter and that they are at least partially responsible for ensuring that their careers are challenging and meaningful.
Sharing responsibility with employees in this way also frees leaders up from acting as enforcers who drag unwilling employees down career paths that they had no hand in designing.

Professional development is an ongoing responsibility for both parties, not a “once and done” task. As such, it’s important for leaders to remain available to employees once a mutually acceptable, challenging development plan has been developed and put into place. Providing guidance and genuine support all the way through the plan increases the likelihood that employees will achieve success with their development goals. 

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Guest Post: The Balance Between Productivity and Employee Safety

According to, a total of 4.5 million employees get injured every year. This is an alarming rate because now, around $60 billion are being spent in direct injury compensation costs of workers annually. Reasons for physical injuries may vary from falling on a certain height, over-exertion, and concussions from falling equipment and structure.

Based on an ILO training module with the title Introduction to Health and Safety at Work (ILO, 2013), work-related accidents cost employers a very large amount. These costs include; compulsory payment despite no performance, medical bills and compensations, equipment repair/replacement, reduction of quality work, replacement of an injured employee, wasted time obligatory investigations, reports, and paperwork, training for a new employee, negative work morale, and possible occurrence of poor public relations.

If one’s health and safety have been jeopardized, it’s not only the company who suffers. It’s also the worker and its family considering that the worker cannot have another way of living due to the accident especially if the injury had a tremendous effect on the person’s health and well-being such as paralysis and amputation.

Injuries from unwanted circumstances such as accidents might cost the employer not just money from insurance that the workers need, they might also lose time and labor that might affect the productivity of the company. Because of this, companies should invest in safety equipment, proper training, and commitment of skilled employees to reduce costs.

However, a study concluded that 32% of employees they surveyed are afraid of telling their bosses that there are issues in the workplace regarding safety. 39% of the respondents, however, tell that their employer did only the minimum of workplace safety precautions that the law required, and 30% of them stated that it is the employee themselves who resisted against workplace safety procedures. When it comes to safety orientation, an astounding 71% of the respondents told that safety training is a part of their orientation and 68% are adequately trained for emergency procedures.

According to another study, productivity and employee safety have a significant connection with each other. The study concluded that investment to proper health and safety practices at the workplace leads to reduced sickness and absenteeism, reduction of staff turnover, increase in productivity, the improved image presented to customers, and most importantly, it makes qualified employees stay in the company in the long run. Besides the reasons given, another reason why companies are investing in a safe and healthy workspace is that they do not want to lose their credibility among customers and other companies.

 Having proper safety procedures and programs that focus on the employees are linked to productivity based on the studies. Keeping them healthy and uplifting their morale increases their performance as a worker. Goals should be set in encouraging companies to have occupational health and safety procedure. This goes sane for employees. The data earlier revealed that some workers refuse to take precautionary measures. This problem should be eradicated as safety is not only for the company but for them as well.

If the programs are well-designed and well-participated by everyone, there are huge chances that productivity would increase. Despite the measures the company has done to prevent accidents, there are still moments where injuries occur. Especially in fields that demand physical labor such as construction, accidents are inevitable, but with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) programs that secure their safety, this decreased the chances of being seriously harmed. It also provides the employees with a sense of being taken care of which will gain their trust on the company making them stay for decades reducing your costs in training newly hired employees.

With this, we can say that the balance between employee safety and productivity lies in the hands of the employers. The balance is measured by the higher prioritizing safety and health programs, the higher productivity in the workspace and the decrease of expenses and losses.

About the Author: Jason Wan is a safety equipment specialist for ten years and has been creating marketing content for Progressive Safety Equipment, a company which specializes in sales, installation, servicing, maintenance and rental of Fire, Safety, and Environmental Equipment. During his early years of writing, he launched different websites which promote modern book fiction reviews. He is now situated at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with his wife and two sons.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

6 Steps to Better Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving is at the core of human evolution. It is the methods we use to understand what is happening in our environment, identify things we want to change and then figure out the things that need to be done to create the desired outcome. Problem solving is the source of all new inventions, social and cultural evolution, and the basis for market based economies. It is the basis for continuous improvement, communication and learning.

The following steps are critical aspects of an effective problem solving approach:

1. Define the problem clearly.
Before beginning, make sure you completely understand exactly what the problem is. Sometimes it looks like there’s a lot of problems, but it’s actually just one with a lot of symptoms. Try to find the root cause of a problem instead of looking at a myriad of symptomatic issues. Ask questions like these:

–  What is the real problem?

–  What assumptions am I making that could be biased or inaccurate?

–  Where’s the latest information/research/data on this subject?

–  How long do I have before this becomes a bigger issue?

–  Can I ignore this problem?

–  Who and what can help solve this?

2. Gather as many facts as possible.
Collect information based on evidence… not on feelings. It’s easier to come up with problem-solving strategies when you’re not emotionally charged. An informed mind is much more capable of resolution than an uninformed one. Observe what is going right, or the positive aspects of the subject at hand, and to see if it gives ideas of how to fix what’s going wrong. Then, do the same with the negative aspects. Write them down.

3. Identify causes… especially the root cause.
Consider how and why it happened. Look at the problem from different perspectives. Play the devil’s advocate. It wouldn’t be considered a ‘problem’ if you knew how to solve it. This is why it’s imperative to consider other views and opinions. Others may see it differently.

4. Brainstorm solutions.
Before brainstorming, make sure you’ve clearly defined the problem and gathered solid facts. Ask others for input. Often how others view something is completely different than how you viewed it because you might be too close, tunnel-visioned, or too emotionally charged to make distinctions between the facts and exaggerations.

5. Take actions that are focused on a solution.
Select your solution and begin making a step-by-step plan of action to solve the problem. By making a plan, this promotes implementation of the solution. Remember to remain focused on one thing at a time.

6. If you can’t find a solution, go back and define what the problem is.
When problems cannot be solved, it is usually because they weren’t clearly identified. Anytime you hear someone say they’ve been dealing with a problem for quite some time, often the reason is because they haven’t slowed down long enough to carefully define the actual problem.

Problem solving skills and the problem-solving process are a critical part of daily life both as individuals and organizations. Developing and refining these skills through training, practice and learning can provide the ability to solve problems more effectively and over time address problems with a greater degree of complexity and difficulty.

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Lean Quote: Rules to Reduce Inefficiencies of Email

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.

"Email is having an increasingly pernicious effect. Not only is it having a perceptible effect on productivity, it's skewing what it is we focus on. The immediate increasingly crowds out the important." — Noreena Hertz

Email has become a huge part of our work lives. It's easy, it's fast, and people can read their emails (or not) when they have the time. Email has become the medium of choice for many business communications.

Email was not designed to be a collaboration tool, yet so many people use it that way. From managing projects to troubleshooting a problem, neverending email threads become inefficient, confusing, and bad for productivity. With many collaboration and project management products now available, email should never be the place you turn in order to stay on top of tasks and projects.

I thought I would shares some rules that can help you reduce the inefficiencies that email can cause. 

Some “Organizational Rules” to Reduce E-mail Waste 

Rule 1 – Limit “CC’s” to only those that are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. Make a rule that employees can choose to BLOCK all CC e-mails. 

Rule 2 – No more than two “cycles” back and forth between correspondents. If the issue is not resolved by that point, USE THE TELEPHONE! 

Rule 3 – No unnecessary forwarding of attachments; use a hyperlink instead. 

Rule 4 – Always include the POINT and URGENCY of the e-mail in both the subject line and the first few lines of the text. 

Rule 5 – Consider using the first few sentences of an e-mail as an ABSTRACT that summarizes the remainder of the communication. Below the abstract, add additional detail with the comment, “More detail follows…”. 

Rule 6 – KEEP IT BRIEF! No e-mail should be more than 20 lines in length (consider using a network filter to block any that are longer). 

Rule 7 – Start the subject line with “ACTION” whenever immediate action is required by the addressee. Actions should be identified at the beginning of the e-mail. 

Rule 8 – Try using the SUBJECT LINE to communicate the ENTIRE message, followed by “EOM” which stands for “End of Message”. 

Rule 9 – Limit the number of times during the day that you cleanup or respond to e-mails. Turn off the e-mail alarm, so YOU control when you deal with e-mail. 

Fewer interruptions means more time spent at work on value added activities. Using these rules can help email from becoming a wasteful distraction that can cost companies and you lost productivity.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #137 (#2266-2280)

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 #2266 - Communicate a Clear Mission, Vision and Goals.
Employees not only need to know how the business is performing but also where it's headed. All employees should understand the goals of the company and how their individual jobs support them. This is essential for employee engagement. Also, by asking for regular feedback about how employees are tracking toward meeting their goals, leadership can get a good idea of the organization’s progress.

Lean Tip #2267 - Promote Learning and Growth at Every Opportunity.
For everyone in a company, from the CEO to the entry-level employee, continuous learning is essential to growing and adapting to dynamic market conditions. Encourage employees to constantly improve their skills and market knowledge. Support employees who want to go back to school, attend training sessions or expand their market knowledge. This can provide tremendous long-term value to a company.

Lean Tip #2268 - Do Not Limit Yourself.
Don’t be afraid to try every single thing that might take you to your goal. In fact, be more concerned about the potential opportunities you might be missing out on when you don’t try something. Opening yourself up to possibilities will enable you to pick up on things which might be fundamental to your success.

Lean Tip #2269 - Go All Out; Work Really Hard.
With every success, comes hard work. Without hard work, you cannot achieve results. People who try to find the easy way out are kidding themselves if they think they can achieve excellence without putting in hard work. If you observe around you, the people who seek out ‘get-rich-quick’ methods are also the very people who don’t achieve much in their lives. Hard work is the universal quality that will pay off in the long-term. Once you invest the due time and effort, the results will start coming in.

Lean Tip #2270 - Never Give Up.
Don’t ever give up. Remember that defeat never occurs unless you accept it as defeat. If a certain problem is too big for you to handle, break it down into smaller pieces so it’s easier for you to tackle them. As long as you keep trying, you will eventually achieve your goal.

Lean Tip #2271 – Don’t Try a Solution before You Really Understand the Problem
You might start out believing you know where the problem is in your processes. You might already have a solution in mind. However, if you start out by changing processes without analyzing the problem, you may find that the problem isn’t what you thought it was. You may even make it worse.

Bring together people with different perspectives on the problem in your process. Talk about what everyone thinks is going wrong and listen to their ideas about solutions. It’s likely you’ll get insight you didn’t anticipate so you can make better solutions.

Lean Tip #2272 – Mapping Can Be an Effective Tool
Mapping your business processes is a formal way to bring together everyone’s insight on the problem. It creates a consensus view of what’s going on in your organization, and allows you to model the impact of solutions on the entire process, not just the problematic step or steps.

Lean Tip #2273 – Tie Process Improvement To Key Objectives
Your employees need to see the connection between their efforts to improve processes and your company’s mission. By linking process improvement strategies to organizational goals, you will be more apt to earn the support of employees across the board.

Lean Tip #2274 – Request Employee Feedback
Your front-line employees are the best embodiment of your company’s processes. They perform the same tasks every day and often have firsthand information regarding procedural strengths and weaknesses. Suggestions and feedback from front-line employees can play an incredibly vital role in improving your processes.

Lean Tip #2275 – Optimize Everyday Operations
Many companies are never able to grow because they spend all of their energy fixing broken processes. While addressing bottlenecks and other problems is an important part of process improvement, a more productive approach is to evaluate procedures that are not broken. Sometimes this can be achieved by making an adjustment that is as small as a minor tweak to the order entry process.

Lean Tip #2276 – Empower Employees With Improvement
By delegating key process improvement responsibilities to your managers and supervisors, you help ensure that key employees remain actively involved. Additionally, managers and supervisors are aware of key problem areas that require sustained attention. Some strategies to empower employees to manage process improvement include the following:

Assign a team of employees to conduct an internal process improvement audit
Establish regular reporting procedures to track results
Delegate responsibility to employees who consistently model process improvement behaviors

Lean Tip #2277 – Focus on Long-Term Success
The most successful process improvement initiatives value future solutions over short-term fixes. You should expect to encounter obstacles as you focus on process improvement and strive to maintain a positive attitude towards process improvement.  Success requires patience and a long-term commitment to documenting strategies and outcomes from start to finish. This allows you to review your execution in detail to determine when and where a process faltered.

Lean Tip #2278 – Share More, Not Less. 
Even in a small company, silos emerge. A policy of more sharing will help everyone stay in touch with what others are doing, and create a collective expectation. Keeping everyone pointed in the same direction is hard; sharing more about what’s going on, how you’re doing things, reasoning behind decisions, etc. will help.

Lean Tip #2279 – 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 business can take the stress off of your staffing management plan by keeping employee turnover at a minimum.

Lean Tip #2280 – Set Time Aside to Reflect
It’s hard not to get caught up in the daily hustle of running a business. But if you forget to stop and look at your business operations, you’ll never know if they’re effective. Take a step back to review your business plan and processes. Schedule time as a part of your workweek to follow through on your evaluation.

As you reflect on the success of your operating efforts, decide which processes work and which need to go. Continue to try new practices to push your business forward.

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Monday, April 1, 2019

Lean Roundup #118 – March 2019

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

Toyota Kata and Culture Change – Mark Rosenthal talks about using Toyota Kata as the mechanism for altering the culture of the organization.

Neither Too Rigid, Nor Too Loose – Pascal Dennis talks about the need from principles over countermeasures which are temporary if you want to transform an organization or industry.

The Limits of Learning From Failure – Kevin Meyer discusses the balance of the learning experience of failure and the consequences of the failure itself.

Lean is *Not* a Training and Development Activity - Dan Markovitz explains why your likely to fail if you think Lean is a training and development activity you need to implement.

What Meetings Reveal About a Leader’s Beliefs – Jon Miller says meetings reveal what the leaders really think about how people should spend their time.

What’s the Follow Up Plan? – Steve Kane says teaching needs to be followed up with skilled coaching until proficiency in sustaining the new practice has taken hold.

Ask Art: Aren’t You a Little “Old School” in Your Kaizen Approach To Implementing Lean Thinking? – Art Byrne explains why kaizen is not old school and why it is so necessary for companies.

Designed In Quality – Jim Morgan talks about how Toyota’s principles and practices might help you design-in better quality in your products and processes.

But TPS Doesn't Apply to Us.... – Mark Graban says while you may be different a better use of time, perhaps, is to think about how TPS concepts and high-level Lean management principles can be adapted to your own setting.

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