Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Lean Roundup #122 – July 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.

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

Lean Fighting Blind – Bob Emiliani explains the adversary that Lean people face is classical management and the institution of business leadership.

The Guessing Game of Lean Leadership – Jon Miller says advancing as a Lean leader requires that you become a better guesser in at least three broad thinking areas.

If You Aren’t Being Heard, Then Listen – Mark Rosenthal says when you say something, and the other person responds by reiterating what they have already said, this is a Big Red Flag for you.

Back to Basics – Employee Engagement – Al Norval explores the basic lean concept of employee engagement.

Leadership with a Capital ‘Lee’ – Jamie Flinchbaugh talks about the leadership qualities of Lee Iacocca.

More Ways to Dig Deeper Using Five Questions  - Kevin Meyer explains that you can dive deeper by asking the same questions 5 times without allowing the same answers.

Reflections on a Lean Futuring Discussion – Steve Kane shares thoughts from group understanding where we’re headed as both individuals and as a community in terms of Lean

Ask Art: Where Will the Biggest Resistance to Lean Come From? – Art Byrne says knowing where the biggest resistance will come from, however should help you focus your early efforts and smooth your Lean turnaround.

Lean Leaders Impede the Advancement of Lean – Bob Emiliani adds to Art’s analysis on resistance the missing sources and causes of resistance to Lean.

Profit and Cost At Toyota – Jean Cunningham shares thoughts and urges others to learn the language of financial outcomes.

Leadership as Defined and Depicted so Well by a Normandy War Memorial – Mark Graban explains leadership from his recent trip to the Normandy War Memorial.



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Monday, July 29, 2019

5 Ways to Enhance Employee Development

There are a seemingly infinite number of initiatives that can lead to success at your company. You can pull levers on product development, QA, sales, marketing, customer success…etc… but prioritizing what will have the greatest impact is tough. It’s no wonder that employee development often ends up at the bottom of a very long list.

Employee development is a long-term initiative, but it also leads to short-term benefits like increased loyalty and improved performance and engagement. Let’s look at 5 ways to improve development at your company:

1. Ignite managers’ passion to coach their employees. Historically, managers passed on knowledge, skills, and insights through coaching and mentoring. But in our more global, complex, and competitive world, the role of the manager has eroded. Managers are now overburdened with responsibilities. They can barely handle what they’re directly measured on, let alone offer coaching and mentoring. Organizations need to support and incentivize managers to perform this work.

2. Deal with the short-shelf life of learning and development needs. It used to be that what you learned was valuable for years, but now, knowledge and skills can become obsolete within months. This makes the need to learn rapidly and regularly more important than ever. This requires organizations to rethink how learning and development happens from a once-in-a-while activity, to a more continuous, ongoing campaign. 

3. Teach employees to own their career development. Highly-structured, one-size-fits-all learning programs don’t work anymore. Individuals must own, self-direct, and control their learning futures. Yet they can’t do it alone, nor do you want them to. The development and growth of your talent is vital to your ongoing success, ability to innovate, and overall productivity.

4. Provide flexible learning options. Telling employees they need to engage in more learning and development activities with their already heavy workload often leaves them feeling overwhelmed and consumed by the question, “When and how will I find the time?” Companies must respond by adopting on-demand and mobile solutions that make learning opportunities more readily accessible for your people.

5. Build trust in organizational leadership. People crave transparency, openness, and honesty from their leaders. Unfortunately, business leaders continue to face issues of trust. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, one in four workers say they don’t trust their employer, and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them. If leaders disengage or refuse to share their own ongoing learning journeys, how can they expect their people to enthusiastically pursue theirs? It’s the old adage of “lead by example.” If managers want employees to engage in learning and development, then they need to show that they are actively pursuing their own personal learning journeys as well.

As leaders, we know the value our learning and development programs bring to our organizations. But we also want to ensure we’re receiving a high return on investment. By clearly understanding the trends emerging in our learning and development programs, we’ll better position our companies to select the right targeted solutions to drive results, increase employee engagement, and increase innovation and productivity.

Notable Update: Employee efficiency is an important objective for companies and not easily achieved. When your team members are efficient, you will likely have a great work environment, increased employee engagement, optimized resource management, and ultimately, increased profits. Here is some practical advice on how to improve employee efficiency that you'll find helpful.


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Friday, July 26, 2019

Lean Quote: Life is a Long Lesson in Humility

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 is a long lesson in humility." — James M. Barrie

Humility is a hall mark of great men. The greater the position one climbs, humbler one generally becomes. Really great men rarely need the crutches of instant recognition and adulation. 

Leaders sometimes get too caught up in their success to a point where they are showboating their accomplishments or trying to convince people of their greatness. The fact is, no one is inspired by showboats. Bragging about your accomplishments and greatness will result in dissociation and disconnect with your team. Instead, leaders with exceptional character earn a lot more respect and admiration. Humble leaders will use their skills, experience and knowledge to attract and inspire followers, bring people together and contribute to their community. Such leaders inspire people and align them to their vision. And humility is the core ingredient that every leader should possess and strive for.

Being humble means being aware of, and admitting, what you don’t know. It means being ok making mistakes and asking for help. When you are humble you open yourself up to continuous growth and learning, and you prime yourself to handle the inevitable lows of business with grace and dignity.

Humility is genuine concern for others. Humility means being a better listener, being more patient with others, being helpful to utter strangers when help is sought for and letting others have their glory. Humility is in doing great and small acts of kindness without letting others know. Humility is in making peace with other’s imperfections and being more tolerant.

Being humble as a leader makes you more relatable and approachable. In turn, it creates a more humanistic work environment where your employees will feel more comfortable being open, taking risks and showing vulnerability.

Humility also enriches our lives and the lives of those around us, making us mindful of our own limitations. It’s an indispensable ingredient to living an abundant life and an essential virtue that forces one to live counter to acceptable norms, requiring a daily decision to let go of one’s ego.

Humility is like underwear, essential, but indecent if it shows.


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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

5 Myths of Standard Work


Standardizing the work adds discipline to the culture, an element that is frequently neglected but essential for Lean to take root. Standardized work is also a learning tool that supports audits, promotes problem solving, and involves team members in developing poka-yokes. While standard work can be an effective foundation for continuous improvement it is important to recognize that it is not a one-stop shop for all that ails you.

Unfortunately, there are many myths regarding standardized work that if followed create a flawed system. Some common myths about standard work is that it is...

Something You Create Your Own Standard Work
Some think employees develop their own standardized work. The initial work standard should be developed by engineers (process owners) working with operators who are part of a team. Group leaders and team leaders then have responsibility for training employees on the standard work and soliciting their input. Once the process is operating at some level of stability, employees are challenged to develop better methods, but the methods are always reviewed by others, including management.

Standard Work Is Permanent
A common misconception is that ‘standardized’ is assumed to be permanent. This is not the case. It’s just the best way we know how to do the work today. Continuous improvement is always encouraged, once the current best method is understood and practiced in order to establish a stable foundation for further improvement. Operators are part of the creation of the work standard and then are challenged to improve these methods. The standard creates a baseline by which improvement can be measured. Ideas should be discussed with group leaders and considered depending upon the consensus and buy-in from other members and shifts. Once consensus is reached then experimentation can be done to determine the effectiveness of the improvement. If it is deemed an effective change then the standardized work can modified and everyone trained in the new method.

Skip Training With Standard Work
It is also believed that with standard work you will know everything about the job and therefore be able to train anyone to do the job. Standardized work is the process used by operators to define their work method through documentation and visual postings. This is often misinterpreted as a fully detailed description of the work and associated standards. Anyone who has read the standard work sheets would see that the work description explains the work elements in basic terms - not nearly enough information to read and fully understand the job. Job Instruction Training (JIT) is the method commonly used in Lean to transfer complete knowledge of a job to a team member. In my experience anyone who believes that a job is simple enough to distill down to a few sheets of paper underestimates the competency level necessary of their employees.

Results in No Deviations
Another myth is that with standard work and visual postings employees will not deviate from the standard. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is nothing in standardized work that will prevent deviation by the operator except the visual awareness of others. The visual reference is utilized by management for monitoring adherence to the standard which is done through periodic and regular audits of the standardized work. To ensure compliance to the standard, it’s necessary to poka-yoke or mistake proof the process to prevent deviation and make excursions highly visible.

Only For Shop Floor
There are those that believe standard work is only for the shop floor. Standard work has been proven effective in many industries from the military to healthcare and everything in between. In particular, I think this is a technique that management teams must adopt. How we run the business should not be any different than how we do business. In my experience, those organizations that use standard work at the management level are more productive and effective.

A lot of things are ridiculous when taken to the extreme and Standard Work can certainly be one of them, but that doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. Documenting the best practices for each task ensures consistent, predictable, outcomes. It brings new employees up to speed quickly and sets the baseline for improvement. This way, your team isn't constantly reinventing the wheel.


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Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: Be a Frontline H.E.R.O.


Do you know someone who was very good at their job, and as a result was promoted into management without any people training? Maybe you’ve promoted an employee into management assuming they could hack it. Despite our best intentions, truth of the matter is most managers are not equipped to handle the people piece. Dr. Cyndi Laurin, author of Be a Frontline HERO: A Parable to Propel your Job and Life, a new book providing simple and accessible frontline management tools, tells a story we can all relate to that managers can incorporate in the same day and see immediate results.

“Emily” is a conscientious but frustrated server who is on the brink of quitting her job at a local pizzeria when she is suddenly promoted to manager. It will come as no surprise to readers who have been promoted into management that she gets no training and little support in her new role. You will immediately identify with her troubles because they are exactly the kinds of struggles many frontline managers face. Being “one of them” gives Emily complete credibility. That credibility extends to the ideas shared by “Anne”, an expert training leader who befriends and mentors her. 

Anne teaches Emily five, simple tools to start using immediately and quickly sees change in herself and her team. Emily learns how to provide meaningful feedback, how to get her team on the same page in under 10 minutes, and how to prioritize which issues to tackle and which ones to block. By the end of the story, the staff have evolved into self-motivated pros who love their jobs as the pizza joint enjoys great reviews, soaring revenue and very low employee turnover.

Transform yourself from frontline manager to frontline H.E.R.O.:
Huddles – everyday!
Engage in being in a Position to Notice for Keep it Ups and Adjusts!
Remember 3 Keep it Ups for every 1 Adjust.
Only Tackle issues that have a deadline associated with them.

Written as a narrative, the book is a quick and easy yet powerful read, and the content can be implemented immediately. It’s not only a highly effective for new frontline leaders but can serve as a valuable model for experienced leaders as well. It’s an interesting and fun read about a scenario that anyone can relate to.

Be a Frontline H.E.R.O. is a great resource for frontline teams to develop important skills that produce better outcomes for customers and the company. Everybody wins!



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Friday, July 12, 2019

Lean Quote: 5 Qualities of a Great 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.


"The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly." — Jim Rohn

If you want to be a great leader who attracts quality people, the key is to become a person of quality yourself. Leadership is the ability to attract someone to the gifts, skills and opportunities you offer as an owner, as a manager, as a parent. Leadership is the great challenge of life.

What’s important in leadership is refining your skills. All great leaders keep working on themselves until they become effective. Here’s how:

1. Learn to be strong but not impolite.
It is an extra step you must take to become a powerful, capable leader with a wide range of reach. Some people mistake rudeness for strength. It’s not even a good substitute.

2. Learn to be kind but not weak.
We must not mistake weakness for kindness. Kindness isn’t weak. Kindness is a certain type of strength. We must be kind enough to tell someone the truth. We must be kind enough and considerate enough to lay it on the line. We must be kind enough to tell it like it is and not deal in delusion.

3. Learn to be bold but not a bully.
It takes boldness to win the day. To build your influence, you’ve got to walk in front of your group. You’ve got to be willing to take the first arrow, tackle the first problem, discover the first sign of trouble. Like the farmer, if you want any rewards at harvest time, you have got to be bold and face the weeds and the rain and the bugs straight on. You’ve got to seize the moment.

4. Learn to be humble but not timid.
You can’t get to the high life by being timid. Some people mistake timidity for humility. But humility is a virtue; timidity is a disease. It’s an affliction. It can be cured, but it is a problem. Humility is almost a God-like word—a sense of awe, a sense of wonder, an awareness of the human soul and spirit, an understanding that there is something unique about the human drama versus the rest of life. Humility is a grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we’re part of the stars.

5. Learn to be proud but not arrogant.
It takes pride to build your ambitions. It takes pride in your community. It takes pride in a cause, in accomplishment. But the key to becoming a good leader is to be proud without being arrogant. Do you know the worst kind of arrogance? Arrogance from ignorance. It’s intolerable. If someone is smart and arrogant, we can tolerate that. But if someone is ignorant and arrogant, that’s just too much to take.


Life is unique. Leadership is unique. The skills that work well for one leader may not work at all for another. However, the fundamental skills of leadership can be adopted to work well for just about everyone: at work, in the community and at home.


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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #141 (#2326-#2340)

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 #2326 – Invest in Your Employees
Another way to inspire and motivate your employees is by investing in them. Offering things like tuition reimbursement, a mentoring program, one-on-one coaching, and job shadowing with people in higher positions sends a clear message: you care about their career and their future. Some companies, in fact, have periodic meetings with their employees to discuss their career paths and make sure they stay on track.

Aside from improving skills and increasing staff knowledge, this kind of investment in employee career pathing gives them a reason to stay with the company for the long haul rather than be on the lookout for a better offer.

Invest in your employees, and you’ll give them a reason to stick around. When your employees grow and improve, so does the company.

Lean Tip #2327 – Give Employees a Purpose
No matter what your job is, whether it’s packing orders at a distribution warehouse, or managing a Fortune 500 company at the executive level, we all want to know that our jobs matter. Show your employees why they matter to the company, and what the results of their work are, and they’ll feel rewarded and motivated to keep at it. Emphasizing the importance of employee contributions (and giving people credit for good work) bolsters a sense of confidence and achievement, which can motivate people to keep working hard.

Lean Tip #2328 – Show Your Trust
A surefire way to motivate and inspire your employees is to demonstrate that you have faith in their abilities to get the job done. You can do this by assigning them more responsibilities and giving them the chance to rise to the challenge. Doing so shows that you trust them, which has a way of motivating people to keep doing their best.

Micromanaging your employees and hovering over their shoulders at every step is counterproductive because it makes them nervous. If your employees are too afraid to try new things, they won’t be giving you their best. Give them greater autonomy and responsibility and they will rise to the occasion.

Lean Tip #2329 – Be Transparent
Every relationship, including work relationships, is built on trust. Defaulting to transparency is one of the best ways to encourage an atmosphere of trust amongst you and your team, and a team that trusts you will be more motivated and engaged with their work.

Transparency also helps ensure that everyone is working with the same information. That in itself can benefit the team.

Lean Tip #2330 – Cultivate a Fun Workplace
Managers should keep in mind that employees spend quite a lot of time at work, which means that the workplace can't be solemn and somber all the time. While productivity and performance are of utmost importance, people also need to work in a pleasant environment where they sometimes have fun. Look for ways to productively encourage laughter and enjoyment into your organization in ways that are appropriate. Encourage friendly chatter and banter, as well as create shared experiences such as potluck employee lunches, special occasion celebrations and more.

Lean Tip #2331 – Create Regular Thinking Time
Operations and manufacturing managers are time poor. They’re often so involved in the responsive day-to-day that very few create space in their diary to think. They often have KPIs for continuous improvement, but are limited in their capacity to point their curiosity in new and potentially impactful directions.

Make the habit: To allow yourself this ‘space’, book an hour of time a fortnight to read industry news, or analyse your shop floor data in a new way.

Consider different perspectives and possibilities and visualize how you’d do things differently. Then pick up these ideas in your next scheduled slot, and share the well-formed ones with your team or manager,  so they can be actioned or developed further.

Lean Tip #2332 – Connect to the Customer
The production cycle is a continuous loop with no end: meeting KPIs; solving production issues; managing staff; maintaining plant equipment. There’s rarely time for internal collaboration, let alone consulting with the customer.

Connecting with the customer will help you understand their pain points, desires, new focus areas, future plans, and company updates. This information can be used to improve production.

For example, if new traceability regulations are top-of-mind for your downstream customers you’ll be able to re-focus your efforts in quality checks, training for staff, or product and materials tracking technologies and even suggest new business initiatives. 

Make the habit: Attend industry forums, organize informal client lunches, and talk to customer-facing employees in your organization. Aim to do at least one of these per week. Understand customer pain points so you can prioritize improvement activities around these.

Lean Tip #2333 – Create Opportunities to Maximize Efforts
In any task, project or strategy, it’s possible to hit multiple outcomes with a deliberate approach. It's more time efficient and effective. Rather than just following the structure of a done-to-death process, look at it and ask, ‘what multiple objectives can we achieve if we tackle them together?’ 

For example, implementing a continuous improvement process like 5S might aim to achieve ‘less waste in production’, but if you deliberately aim to achieve ‘greater engagement with the team’ and ‘staff training and empowerment’ as outcomes you might go about it differently.
You might create a goal, and delegate key staff to take ownership of the program, do some lean improvement training or take turns in reviewing its success. This would also increase the chances of program success through staff engagement.

Make the habit: Whenever you begin a new initiative, think about how you can use it to achieve more than one objective. Involve your team in strategy sessions for better collaboration and to gain support for new initiatives.

Lean Tip #2334 – Create Opportunities for Everyone to Contribute
Getting bogged down in urgent tasks can stop the important things like incremental improvements, from being addressed. That's where your staff can come in.

Many of the best ideas come from employees, and higher levels of staff involvement will get the greatest buy-in for change. What’s more, it can also boost company performance.

But how do their ideas get through?

Make the habit: Make it easy for improvement suggestions to be fed back into the system through an improvement suggestion program:

·        Use the intranet, a social forum or a suggestions box
·        Recognize all suggestions publicly via official written communication or at monthly catch ups
·        Verbally encourage ideas from all staff levels
·        Provide a framework: outline how improvement ideas should be tied to businesses goals
·        Publicly reward any actioned suggestions, provide rewards for the best idea
·        Ensure the business is actively assessing and implementing suggestions, to keep staff motivated to contribute
·        Showcase or demonstrate ideas that were successfully implemented and executed.
·        Importantly, make work a safe place to contribute by regularly encouraging suggestions, giving feedback and admitting your own mistakes.

Lean Tip #2335 – Empower Staff to be Innovators
Employee’s performance and enthusiasm for change will determine the company’s success. And, as the baby boomers start to retire, manufacturers face a key challenge in educating and developing the next generation of skilled workers in digital manufacturing.

Spend some time developing your production staff to offload some of the day-to-day burden and save the business time and money. Empowered staff are more proactive, make the right decisions independently, problem-solve and champion change programs.

Make the habit: Some actionable ways to empower employees are to allow paths to promotion, provide relevant training, facilitate peer-to-peer training, involve employees’ in decision-making and strategy, and design job roles for autonomy and play.

Lean Tip #2336 – Your Arrival at Work Sets the Tone for the Day
Picture Mr. Stressed-Out and Grumpy. He arrives at work with a frown on his face. His body language telegraphs overworked and unhappy. He moves slowly and treats the first person who approaches him abruptly. It takes only a few minutes for the entire workplace to get the word. Stay away from Mr. Stressed-Out and Grumpy if you know what's good for you this morning.

Your arrival and the first moments you spend with staff each day have an immeasurable impact on positive employee motivation and morale. Start the day right. Smile. Walk tall and confidently. Walk around your workplace and greet people. Share the goals and expectations for the day. Let the staff know that today is going to be a great day.

Lean Tip #2337 – Make Time for People for Employee Motivation
Spend time daily with each person you supervise. Managers might aim for an hour a week with each of their direct reports. Many studies indicate that a key employee work motivation factor is spending positive interaction time with the supervisor.

Schedule quarterly performance development meetings on a public calendar so people can see when they can expect some quality time and attention from you. You can make their year, not just their day.

Lean Tip #2338 – Focus on the Development of People for Employee Motivation
Most people want to learn and grow their skills at work. No matter their reason: a promotion, different work, a new position or a leadership role, employees appreciate your help. Talk about changes they want to make in their jobs to better serve their customers.

Encourage experimentation and taking a 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. Make a performance development plan with each person and make sure you help them carry out the plan. The quarterly performance development meeting is your opportunity to formalize plans for people. You can make their career.

Lean Tip #2339 – Share the Goals and the Context: Communicate for Employee Motivation
People expect you to know the goals and share the direction in which your workgroup is heading. The more you can tell them about why an event is happening, the better.

Prepare staff in advance if visitors or customers will come to your workplace. Hold regular meetings to share information, gain ideas for improvement, and train new policies. Hold focus groups to gather input before implementing policies that affect employees. Promote problem-solving and process improvement teams.

Lean Tip #2340 – Say Thank You to Your Staff Regularly
Motivating staff doesn't have to be complicated, and isn't much harder than saying thank you to staff and encouraging your managers to do the same. Yes, a Mckinsey study showed that praise from the immediate manager was deemed to be the most effective staff motivator, (cited by 67% of respondents). So, start from the top by thanking and praising your direct reports and encouraging them to pay-it-forward by praising and thanking their subordinates regularly. Staff motivation should soar as a result.



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