Friday, June 28, 2019

Lean Quote: You Manage Things; You Lead People

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.


"You manage things; you lead people." — Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

While a leader can be a manager, not every manager is a leader. The distinction between being a manager and being a leader may seem small, but it means the world to the people who work for you.

A leader coach’s employees, depends on goodwill, generates enthusiasm, says “we”, fixes the breakdown, shows how it is done, develops people, gives credit, asks questions, and says “let’s go”.

A manager drives employees, depends on authority, inspires fear (the beatings will continue until morale improves…), says “I”, places blame for any breakdown, knows how it is done, uses people, takes credit, commands and says “go”.

The definition of leadership is “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” That is why it is my belief that if you are a good leader for your organization, then you really don’t need to worry about being The Manager. You will gain more influence and have more positive impact on your organization if your team feels valued and respected and has an understanding of where you expect them to be headed.

Great leaders don’t subscribe to a “Do-It-For-You” methodology of talent management, rather they lead, mentor, coach and develop team members by getting them to buy-into a “Do-It-Yourself” work ethic. Great leaders view each interaction, question or even conflict as a coaching opportunity. Don’t answer questions or solve problems just because you can, rather teach your employees how to do it for themselves. If you make it a habit of solving problems for people, you simply teach them to come to you for solutions at the first sign of a challenge.

Nobody wants a manager, but everybody wants a leader.


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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Lean Roundup #121 – June 2019



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

The Worst Lean Advice - Bob Emiliani explains from experience typical poor advice to starting a Lean journey.

How to Choose a Continuous Improvement Approach – Jon Miller provides a brief summary of TQM, BPM, Lean and Six Sigma methods of continuous improvement.

What is Courage & How does it relate to True North? – Pascal Dennis says achieving True North requires all the cardinal virtues and none more than courage.

Back to Basics – Customer Value – Al Norval explains Lean as engagement of all people in driving continuous improvement through the elimination of waste to improve Customer Value.

Observe with Purpose – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains why direct observation at the gemba needs to be purposeful.

Why Checklists are Important – Anthony Manos explains the importance of using a simple tool like a checklist to avoid factory machine breakdowns, not just for productivity purposes, but also safety reasons.

Creating Continuous Improvement with Lean Metrics - Leyna O'Quinn shares Lean metrics that are instrumental in helping teams deliver continuous improvement.

3 Tips for Overcoming Confirmation Bias – Ron Pereira says an excellent way to counter the need to seek out confirmation bias is to stop worrying about what you, or others, think and run your own experiments in order to see what can be learned.

Lean: A Combination of “Why?” and “Why Not?” – Mark Graban says while we can ask “why?” we can also ask, “Why not?” in a way that triggers and encourages improvement, innovation, and a break from “the way we've always done it.”

Cost Saving is Tired--Value Creation is Hot! – Jean Cunningham says Lean affects financial outcomes, don’t fixate on cost reduction or product cost, look at the real numbers.

Go and See: Where The Magic Is - Nicolas Chartier explains why the magic happens at the gemba where you will discover unexpected opportunities for growth.

Ask Art: How Can I Engage All Our Leaders to Learn and Teach Lean? – Art Byrne says that  kaizen will get you  a lot of “learn by doing” gains among the people who you need to drive lean forward and will not only build great teamwork but start to build the learning environment necessary to become a lean enterprise.


Lean Graft Incompatibility – Bob Emiliani shares a practical way to understand how Lean management usually fails to take hold in brownfield organizations that have for years been governed by classical management thinking and practice.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

7 Benefits of Kaizen


Kaizen is a Lean manufacturing tool that improves quality, productivity, safety, and workplace culture. Kaizen focuses on applying small, daily changes that result in major improvements over time. Although improvements under Kaizen are small and incremental, the process brings about dramatic results over time.

Beyond the obvious benefit of improving processes, holding a Kaizen event can foster problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills and allow employees to demonstrate leadership. 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. Finally, holding a Kaizen event is one way to reinforce a robust culture of continuous improvement within your organization, after all, the best way to sustain the principles that you want to guide your company is to put them into practice.

If you are considering implementing Kaizen methodologies, you are undoubtedly curious about what the Kaizen benefits may be. The following are some of the most significant benefits that you will see using Kaizen in your facility:

Kaizen simplifies the job. By having employees, management, and other important stakeholders constantly suggesting improvements, it simplifies everyone’s jobs – improvements should streamline all processes.

Kaizen changes things up. Do you like doing the same old same old every day? If not, Kaizen is a great way to keep you on your toes and remove the boring tasks from the radar.

Kaizen keeps things from being a total pain in your rear. If something’s not working, why continue to do it? Instead, it is far better to suggest improvements to solve problems before costly defects occur. Kaizen keeps your work from becoming a huge burden.

Kaizen improves job safety records. By constantly improving processes, you will be abreast of important new safety standards, the latest in advances in equipment and technology, and the safest way to do things.

Kaizen improves everyone’s productivity. If you eliminate wasteful tasks, then you save time. For example, is it necessary to create a report of reports every month? Are there less wasteful ways to do things? Is everyone making the best use of their time? Look into the answers to these questions to meet this Kaizen process goal.

Kaizen improves the quality of your products. By following the Kaizen process steps, you can improve product quality. It is important to have quality products because this will increase your customer base, and ultimately, it will increase your bottom line.

Kaizen saves you money and it saves you valuable time. By having high quality products, few accidents, few burdons, and highly productive employees, you will save time. When you save time, you save money. It’s a win-win situation, all around.

As you can see, there are many great Kaizen benefits that you will enjoy when implementing Kaizen in your facility. One of the biggest perks of Kaizen, however, is that the benefits never really end. Kaizen by its very nature is an ongoing strategy that is always looking for ways to improve your facility.


The initial benefits that are implemented will lead to further improvement opportunities down the road. When done properly, Kaizen just keeps going through the cycle of identifying improvement opportunities, coming up with solutions to those opportunities, implementing the solutions and finally testing them. If the solutions are positive, the cycle starts over with new improvement opportunities. This will continue forever, leading to an optimized facility that is never satisfied with the status quo.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Lean Quote: Be a Visionary Leader

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.


"A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see." — Leroy Eimes

Effective leaders are known for being “visionaries”. They are comfortable exploring the unknown, thinking of what the future will become rather than being content with things they see now or be troubled about things in the past.

Visionary leaders are the builders of a new dawn, working with imagination, insight, and boldness. They present a challenge that calls forth the best in people and brings them together around a shared sense of purpose. They work with the power of intentionality and alignment with a higher purpose. Their eyes are on the horizon, not just on the near at hand.

The best visionary leaders move energy to a higher level by offering a clear vision of what is possible. They inspire people to be better than they already are and help them identify with what Lincoln called “the angels of their better nature.”  This was the power of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. The creative power of lighted, inspired words can sound a certain inner note that people recognize and respond to.  This then creates dramatic social change.

Visionary leaders have a knack for inspiring others to action in order to create a better future and solve problems in new ways. Their leadership style creates excitement, positive momentum and longevity in an organization. People enjoy working for visionary leaders who truly want them to reach their full potential and find meaning in their work.


Cultivate your characteristics of being a visionary leader. It will help you to become an excellent leader and it will also inspire your team to work towards success.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

10 Steps For Executing a Successful Kaizen

An essential element in Lean thinking is Kaizen.  Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement or change for the better. It’s a tool to make work easier, safer, and more productive by studying a process, identifying waste, and applying small incremental improvements that ensure the highest quality. As no process can ever be declared perfect, there is always room for improvement.  Kaizen involves building on gains by continuing experimentation and innovation.

1. Find Problem. First look at your business and find an opportunity for improvement. Start by analyzing the productivity of each department within the company. Look for departments that struggle with missed deadlines, inferior quality or production bottlenecks. Once you decide on a department, try to find specific processes where small improvements can add the most value. Start out with something small that can be changed easily.

2. Find a Sponsor. Executive leaders aren’t always directly involved in the Kaizen event, but they should be enthusiastic supporters who understand the process and objectives. Their support is important because it makes it more likely that employees will fully engage. Leaders are often involved in removing roadblocks and providing necessary resources for the event.

3. Pick a Leader. Appoint a team leader to manage the Kaizen event. You should ensure that your team leader is positive about creating change and is fully aware of the business case for making improvements, a team leader that is unconvinced or feels threatened can restrict the improvements being made.

4. Select Your Team. Typically, team members should comprise of people that work within the area in which the event takes place plus various people from other support areas such as maintenance, administration, sales, etc. It may also be worth adding a few people from the next area in which a kaizen event is planned so that they have some experience for the next event.

5. Create a Charter. Clearly define goals and expectations of the Kaizen event. The main focus of the event should be an area or process in which it has been determined that an inefficiency is reducing value to the customer. The focus can be narrowed by analyzing KPIs, root causes, and other Lean metrics. Keep in mind that the end goal is to promote continuous improvement and reduce waste.

6. Perform Training. If your team has had lots of practice with Kaizen events, pre-event training might not be necessary. Otherwise, it is essential to take the time to provide guidance on what to expect during a Kaizen event and which improvement tools will be used. The team should be training on your improvement management technology and know how it will be used before, during, and after the event to support the effort and capture the knowledge generated. Everyone should be clear about their role and know how their performance will be measured.

7. Understand the Situation. Start by analyzing the productivity of each department within the company. Look for departments that struggle with missed deadlines, inferior quality or production bottlenecks. Once you decide on a department, try to find specific processes where small improvements can add the most value.

8. Implement Solutions. Now that you have figured out the problem it is time to analyze it. Try to figure out what different options you have available to solve this problem. Once you have figured out what solutions are available, decide which one is going to be the best for your particular situation. Then start putting your solution into action.

9. Check Your Improvement. Once the event is complete and the desired improvements are in place, it is essential to make a follow-up plan to measure results and ensure the improvement is sustained. Make sure that you monitor the progress of the improvements being implemented and review whether the implementations are truly improvements. You may find that additional adjustments to new processes are necessary or that some of the changes have not been fully applied

10. Repeat. Kaizen doesn’t stop when you’ve successfully completed your Kaizen event. You should see this Kaizen event as just in an ongoing series of efforts and improvements. The true spirit of Kaizen is in “continuous improvement” and “slow and gradual change”.


Kaizen keeps you reaching, stretching to outdo yesterday. The continuous improvements may come bit by bit. But, enough of these small, incremental gains will eventually add up to a significant, valuable competitive advantage. Also, if every employee constantly keeps an eye out for improvements, major innovations are likely to occur. Higher levels sometimes lose perception of what’s going on in the “trenches” because they aren’t in them every day. Good companies realize that and encourage feedback from staff. The spirit of Kaizen can trigger dramatic breakthroughs, whether it be redesigning a simple form or developing new company protocols.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

10 Ways to Be a Successful Change Leader


This month's ASQ's Influential Voices topic is about change leadership. In today’s current climate transformation is a common term and transformative efforts are a regular occurrence. Although these efforts are common, according to Harvard Business Review two-thirds of large-scale transformation efforts fail. Research has proven that effective leadership is crucial for a change initiative to be successful. 


Building a continuous improvement (CI) culture is not an easy task. A CI culture starts with managers who understand and believe the implications of the systems view and know the necessity of serving customers in order to succeed. The result of that understanding is a culture where a positive internal environment and the creation of delighted customers go together. It is a culture that naturally emphasizes continuous improvement of processes, one that results in a healthy workplace, satisfied customers, and a growing, profitable company.

The best leaders understand the present is nothing more than a platform for the envisioning of, and positioning for, the future. If you want to lead more effectively, shorten the distance between the future and present. Inspiring innovation and leading change call for more than process– they require the adoption of a cultural mindset.

Implementing CI thinking is a cultural change that requires leadership…because in the end it’s all about people. Here are 10 ways you can lead the culture change in your organization:

  1. Challenge People to Think
If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing – and over time becoming irrelevant in your work. The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more.

  1. Lead by Example
Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.

  1. Take Lots of Leaps of Faith
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.

  1. Create an Environment Where it is Ok to Fail
Failure should be encouraged! That’s right. If you don’t try, you can’t grow; and if growth is what you seek, failing is inevitable. There must be encouragement to try and it’s ok if you try and it doesn’t work. An environment where you can’t fail creates fear.

  1. Eliminate Concrete Heads
“Concrete Heads” is the Japanese term for someone who does not accept that the organization must be focused on the elimination of waste. People feel threatened by the changes brought about by lean. As waste and bureaucracy are eliminated, some will find that little of what they have been doing is adding value. The anxiety they feel is normal and expected. To counteract this, it is critical that people are shown how the concept of work needs to change.

  1. Be a Great Teacher
Successful leaders take the time to mentor their colleagues and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance. They never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves.

  1. Show Respect to Everyone
Everyone desires respect. Everyone. Regardless of your position or power, ensure you show everyone respect. Everyone wants to be treated fairly.

  1. Motivate Your Followers
Transformational leaders provide inspirational motivation to encourage their followers to get into action. Of course, being inspirational isn't always easy. Some ideas for leadership inspiration include being genuinely passionate about ideas or goals, helping followers feel included in the process and offering recognition, praise and rewards for people's accomplishments.

  1. Develop a True Team Environment
Create an environment where working as a team is valued and encouraged; where individuals work together to solve problems and help move the organization forward. Individuals who will challenge each other and support each other make teams more successful.

  1. Encourage People to Make Contributions
Let the members of your team know that you welcome their ideas. Leaders who encourage involvement from group members has shown to lead to greater commitment, more creative problem-solving and improved productivity.

Constant change is a business reality and organizations must continually adapt to their environments to stay competitive or risk losing relevance and becoming obsolete. For each change, leaders must define it, create a vision of the post-change world, and mobilize their teams to make it.

Fundamentally, a change of culture occurs when people start behaving differently as a result of a change in the climate of the organization. There are many different models of how an organizational culture is shaped by the prevailing climate and how it can be assessed.

Leaders who protect the status quo through control must surrender to change in order to secure the future for their organization. Don’t be the leader who rewards herd mentality, and me too thinking. Don’t be the leader who encourages people not to fail or not to take risks. Be the leader who both models and gives permission to do the exact opposite of the aforementioned – be a leader who leads.

The culture of an organization is learnt over time. It can be taught to new employees through formal training programs but is more generally absorbed through stories, myths, rituals, and shared behaviors within teams. Organizational culture will impact positively or negatively on everything you try to do whether you want it to or not.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Lean Quote: 10 Leadership Lessons from My Father

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.


"By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong." — Charles Wadsworth

We are shaped by the people around us and our societies are a reflection of the individuals who are part of it. Our fathers are the first leaders in our life. Looking back, I realize now it is not an easy job to be a dad just like it is a tough job to be a leader. I learned a great deal from my Dad about leadership principles.

Today in honor of my hero, I’ll share ten of those leadership lessons:

“Leaders are not defined by positions.” One of the things that I learned from my father was that the power to make a difference lies within all. We can all make a difference and must do our bit. We all need to work for the right change.

“Be a person of integrity.” My dad taught me that once we lose our character we can never ever earn it back. Our honor and self-respect rest on our integrity. He taught me that whatever I do in life trust and transparency is important. Integrity of means we tell the truth. This also means being open and giving feedback to one another. This fosters true collaboration.   

“Leaders never give up.” No matter whatever the odds, one should never back down or give up on one’s passion and values. We need to continuously strive towards our goal. We need to remember tough time do not last forever.

“Leaders help others learn to do what they didn’t think they could do” My dad was the first mentor that I had, it’s because of his support and inspiration that I could do so many new things in life and work. He was a great coach who helped me realize my potential. 

“Develop others” Every leader can only give the best his people can produce. Focus on developing people who are interested to learn and help them develop themselves. Mentor or Coach those people who in turn can help others. If we develop people around, we also grow. Leadership is about developing people to enable them to reach their potential.

“Respect People” It’s important to learn to respect others especially elders before we can demand respect from others. I learned from him that one gets back what he or she gives to others in terms of behavior. Always treat people with respect at all times.

“Don’t be afraid to fail.” My father was the one who encouraged me to take part in a wide range of sporting and co-curricular activities. This gave me the experience of situation and people, lessons on success and failure. He never reprimanded me for failing. He taught me it’s not a crime to fail but not learning from failure is a crime.  

“Be dependable and build confidence.“ Capability and Knowledge breed confidence. Incompetence and ignorance breed insecurity and conflict. Be genuine to people. Our credibility is key our success.   

“Create an identity for yourself outside of work.” I learned from him that one needs to make contribution beyond work. What I do for a living and what I do are the key to happiness. Any sports or any hobby can do wonders in our life. I had great fun in playing a lot of outdoor sports with my dad. I learned a community or family that plays together stays together.

“Nothing can substitute persistence and determination.” “Every dog has its day” for someone to reach his destination or goal he must stick to the aim. If you go to the gym you can’t transform yourself in a short span. You need to stick to your training and make an enormous sacrifice to reach your target. The same is true for work and life.


Dads are not around all the time with us, but they make a profound impact with the little time they get to spend with their children. Life is more about our contribution to help people around us. There are people, who watch things happening, and there are people who wonder what’s happening and then there are people who make things happen. The ones who talk less and do more, are the ones who are leaders.

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