Friday, August 30, 2019

Lean Quote: Leaders Aren't Always Out Front

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 man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd." — Max Lucado, Christian author and preacher

Most people think that leaders are the people who are out in front, the most visible and the loudest.

The most effective leaders I know, though, are the ones who are nearly invisible. They don’t have to be present to have a strong presence. They don’t need or want center stage. They may send subtle cues and coordinate from behind-the-scenes. But then they get out of the way and let others be at the forefront.

Highly esteemed leaders don’t spend all their time on stage. They spend time listening to other people. They are open to hearing the ideas of people at all socioeconomic or workplace levels. They seek diverse opinions. They challenge what isn’t working. They aren’t so enamored with their own ideas that they tune out what others have to say.

I more respect the leaders I’ve know who are humble enough to continually learn and strong enough to stand alone when the crowd is not with them. They listen and learn and take in new information – not because they will be carried along by popular opinion but because they care enough to understand the perspectives of others. If they do not agree after listening to and considering others’ opinions, they take a stand on their own position. They don’t do it secretly, behind closed doors when they think no one is listening. They stand tall and proud outwardly. They don’t try to play both sides.

A leader needs to know when to lead, when to follow, and when to turn his or her back to the crowd. In order to have the discernment it takes to know when and how to do all three is what makes an extraordinary leader. That discernment comes from a strong moral compass, from openness and humility, and from an intent to truly serve the people being led.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lean Roundup #123 – August 2019



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

Four Types of Lean People - Bob Emiliani provides some useful information, past and present, to reflect upon as you move forward in your quest for Lean transformation, improvement, or whatever your goal happens to be.

Final Lessons from the Road: Know Thyself, Improve Thyself [Lessons from the Road] -  Jamie Flinchbaugh says it is difficult to appreciate what you’re asking of others if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

How Do Adults Learn? – Al Norval explains adult learning focuses on solving problems, more concretely, realistic problems that people have right now.

6 Steps to Become a Lean Organization - Emily Peterson explores the necessary steps to becoming a Lean organization.

Start small. Move fast. - Dan Markovitz shares advice on how to get started with Toyota Kata.

How Do You Know They Know? – Mark Rosenthal talks about having the learner teach back to the instructor.

Four Types of Lean People - Bob Emiliani provides some useful information, past and present, to reflect upon as you move forward in your quest for Lean transformation, improvement, or whatever your goal happens to be.

Toyota’s Free Riders – Bob Emiliani points out how the mindset, thinking, and spirit that created TPS is missing in these (Lean, Agile, Six Sigma) management practices.

The Soul of a Company – Ron Pereira explains having a mission and vision isn’t sufficient companies need to have a soul.

The Divergent Paths of Old Lean Dudes – Kevin Meyer talks his experience over many years and says our legacy is the success we help create in future generations.

Why Can’t We See the Financial Impact of Continuous Improvement? – Jon Miller shares five common mistakes that prevent us from seeing the financial impact of Lean efforts.

An A3 Approach to Explaining the Case for Process Behavior Charts – Mark Graban discusses the use of Process Behavior Charts for improvement by creating and A3 to explain it.


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Monday, August 26, 2019

The Difference Between Management and Leadership


Adapted from “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray, published by Harper Business.

Leadership and management must go hand in hand. They are not the same thing. But they are necessarily linked, and complementary. Any effort to separate the two is likely to cause more problems than it solves.

Still, much ink has been spent delineating the differences. The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate. In his 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,” Warren Bennis composed a list of the differences:

— The manager administers; the leader innovates.

— The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.

— The manager maintains; the leader develops.

— The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.

— The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.

— The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

— The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

— The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.

— The manager imitates; the leader originates.

— The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

— The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.

— The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.



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Friday, August 16, 2019

Lean Quote: Leadership is About Effective Communication

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.


"Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want." — Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator

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.

Effective communication is all about conveying your messages to other people clearly and unambiguously. It's also about receiving information that others are sending to you, with as little distortion as possible. Doing this involves effort from both the sender of the message and the receiver.

To be an effective communicator remember The “Be List”.

  • Be A Teacher
  • Be Enthusiastic
  • Be Positive
  • Be Consistent
  • Be Demanding but Considerate
  • Be Courteous

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.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #142 (#2341-2355)

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 #2341 – Empowering Staff – Eliminate Micro-Management
Staff who feel they are being watched too closely and micromanaged feel less motivated and perform at a lower level, according to a Franklin Covey Study. As well as this, the Mckinsey study cited above showed that staff empowerment and giving them the opportunities to lead projects or task forces was one of the top three non-financial motivators, being cited as an effective motivator by 62% of respondents.

So, build a culture of delegation, empowerment and broad-based job descriptions, allowing employees to fill in the gaps. Encourage employees to work to overall goals rather than daily instruction to give them the freedom and scope to be creative and work in the best way they deem possible to reach their goals. It's a much more rewarding and motivational way to work.

Lean Tip #2342 – Remove Blame Culture – Make Failure Acceptable
Innovation is one of the key ingredients in business success and if you want to create an innovative organization you'll need to motivate your staff to show initiative, think creatively and even take some risks. But, they won't do this in a blame culture environment where employees are castigated for failure and for trying something new; they will become afraid to think creatively and won't be motivated to innovate. Research cited in the Harvard Business Review shows that companies with a blame culture are disadvantaged in relation to creativity, learning, innovation and productive risk-taking. Replace a blame culture with one of learning from mistakes. Encourage workers to own up to mistakes but with a focus on what has been learned from it. Senior managers should lead the way by owning up to mistakes to show that it is OK to fail.

Lean Tip #2343 – Always Be Honest and Transparent
Employees are always going to work harder for a boss that they really respect, and a simple way to gain the respect of your workforce is to be as honest and transparent in every aspect of your business. Strive to answer their questions as best you can and never keep secrets from them they might dampen their enthusiasm for their chosen career.

Lean Tip #2344 – Provide Meaning, Purpose, and Sense of Belonging
People often ask me how to get employees excited to work on your projects, products, or business? My only answer to them is to share the mission, purpose, and goals with them. It would not only instill their belief in the company’s vision but would also give them a sense of belonging and an idea of the bigger picture.

Trust me, professionals look forward to work with companies or startups who have their values and work ethics in place. Plus, working on something that employees can relate to would give them a sense of contribution which is much higher than higher salaries or other factors.

Lean Tip #2345 – Foster Interpersonal and Organizational Trust.
Effective leaders keep their word, inspire trust, and build confidence among team members. Interpersonal and organizational trust must be earned, and both stem from an intentional effort to follow through and align one’s behavior and values with the institutional vision, mission, and shared  values. Great leaders cultivate a work culture where each employee is treated with respect and civility and trusted to fulfill the organization’s strategic goals. They promote an environment where meaningful, frequent, and open communication prevails. These factors help to create an environment where employees feel appreciated and thus become highly motivated to accomplish their work.

Lean Tip #2346 - Cultivate Employee Engagement.
Employee engagement doesn’t happen overnight—or by itself, for that matter. In order to improve company culture, you need to help cultivate employee engagement by organizing team-building activities. These activities help build a sense of community and encourage employees to form relationships with their teammates. According to Gallup, research has repeatedly shown that there is a concrete link between having a best friend at work and how much effort employees expend.

Lean Tip #2347 - Communicate Clearly and Consistently.
Poor communication is one of the main factors contributing to employee disengagement. Too often, organizations lack transparency and fail to communicate with employees on a regular basis. You can improve this considerably by holding regular company meetings to update employees on performance, answer questions, and reiterate the company’s vision and goals. Leadership should also encourage managers to hold department meetings and frequent one-on-one meetings with each direct report. This helps keep the communication lines open and gives employees the opportunity to ask questions.

Lean Tip #2348 - Make Employees Feel Confident with Learning and Development.
As part of the onboarding process, employees need to be given the tools to be successful. Some of that comes in the form of policies and procedures. Employees need to know how the company gets things done. But employees also need to get training and development opportunities, so they can feel confident in their current role, as well as future ones. Even the best, most talented employees should update and refine their skills.

Lean Tip #2349 - Remove Barriers For Learning
Many organizations are rigid in their organizational structure and processes, which can make it challenging to implement some cross-functional development and facilitate dynamic growth and high-performance training. It’s up to leadership to bridge silos, knock down walls, and design a system that encourages a fluid approach to learning and working. Today’s generation of workers are used to change and enjoy open work environments that let them explore. Take the barriers away and watch people flourish.

Lean Tip #2350 - Set the Example When It Comes to Learning
An employee will see the value of the development process when they see their current leadership continue to develop personally and professionally. By modeling this behavior, leaders build credibility and the trust necessary to encourage employees to participate in development-building activities. It shows employees that development is part of the organization’s culture. It sends the message that it’s important for, and expected from, everyone in the organization to be part of a continual improvement process that nurtures from within.

Lean Tip #2351 – Communicate the Need for Change
One of the most common yet most avoidable obstacles to change is a lack of understanding within the organization for the need to change. Leverage your senior leadership and management teams to deliver a targeted communications plan that outlines the current landscape and why your organization needs to make the move to modern learning. Leadership involvement will not only help you to answer pending questions but also build confidence and develop buy-in among employees.

Lean Tip #2352 – Address Employee Fears
With the business world changing at an increasingly rapid pace, employees are expecting employers to be more open and honest than ever.  One of the most common reasons for employee resistance to change during a period of transition is fear of the unknown.  As the culture of the organization changes, both new and seasoned employees can feel pressure to understand where they fit into the larger vision. It’s important for leadership to be transparent and openly address their teams’ fears, even in situations where the answer is “we don’t know yet.” That kind of honesty will make the leader more relatable and help them to build trust within their team.

Lean Tip #2353 – Connect the Dots for Change
Human beings are extremely curious individuals, especially when certain decisions and action plans affect them directly.  Leaving your employees to their own devices when it comes to understanding how an organizational change will impact them and what will be expected of them in the future will leave your entire workforce in chaos. Help them to connect the dots by frequently addressing how making the move to a modern learning culture will impact their particular roles.

Lean Tip #2354 – Engage the Entire Team
Everyone has something to contribute during times of change.  However, when making a significant shift that will impact how an organization operates going forward, employees who are close to the end of their careers can slip through the cracks.  Although Millennials will make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025,  the remaining 25% has something to offer as well.  Engage those employees by allowing them to share their expertise and institutional knowledge to help facilitate your organization’s move to modern learning. This will not only make them feel valuable as your learning culture modernizes, but it will also increase collaboration and creativity among the entire organization, and ensure that you’re capturing critical organizational knowledge.

Lean Tip #2355 – Learn From Your People

Discovering what is not working and why allows you to address challenges in a more timely fashion. The challenge is often to fail quicker so that you can discover what needs to be fixed or improved. Your people know what is not working and it frustrates them. Learn to recognize their frustrations, talk to them about why they are upset, and work together to resolve their concerns.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

5 Ways to Cultivate a Problem Solving Culture


Organizations cannot improve unless they consistently seek out and solve their problems. For most, that means undertaking a profound cultural change— which must begin from the top. So how can leaders unlock their organization’s problem-solving capacity? From my experience with many companies, there are 5 ways to cultivate a problem solving culture.

Teach problem solving skills in ALL areas! Problem solving skills do not necessarily develop naturally; they need to be explicitly taught in a way that can be transferred across multiple settings and contexts. This skill can be applied in everything we do. Let your employees see this and understand that problem solving is a life long skill. It is something that they will continue to use at work in their professional lives and at home their personal lives.

Model… Model… Model! Problem solving is not an easy task. It is challenging, can be time consuming, requires employees to be flexible and to persevere. {It is not for the faint of heart… LOL} In your daily classroom routines show your students that you can be patient when solving problems. Share your thinking aloud with them so that they are able to make connections between your actions and each of the 5 steps previously mentioned.

Help employees verbalize and record their problems. Make sure that their ideas are clear and concise and that they have listed some sort of goal that they have in mind. In order for employees to be able to solve problems, they first must be able to identify what the problem is. And although this sounds easy, it is actually a difficult task. You can begin by asking employees “What?” and “Why?” questions. Have them work through their own problem and come up with possible solutions. Encouraging employees to take an active role in the decision making process can be quite empowering.

Take your time! This is not something that will happen overnight! Employees are going to need ample time to think, collaborate, come up with and test solutions, correct mistakes, and reflect. Begin with whole company discussions where you model the steps of problem solving. Then you can move on to small groups, peers, and eventually independent problem solving.  Don’t give up! Start small…

Don’t do it for them. Ask questions and make suggestions, but be careful NOT TO TAKE CONTROL! Whenever an employee comes up to you with a problem don’t give them the answer. (Trust me this is going to be hard at first! Instead try “What do you think?”, “Do you have any suggestions?”, “Tell me about this…”) Try encouraging them to ask other before you. Have employees ask their peers when they have a question. This will promote collaboration and problem solving. 

Our role as leaders is to support our employees and to encourage questioning and deep thinking. We must demonstrate to them that it is okay to make mistakes and that we believe that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.  Mistakes are useful and should not be discouraged! We should also aim to create a culture in our company in which everyone’s ideas are valued and respected. We are to foster collaboration and open discussions in which employees feel comfortable enough to share their ideas and opinions freely.

Now it’s time for you to put all of this into practice…


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Friday, August 9, 2019

Lean Quote: People Aren't Your Problem...It's Your Work Systems and Processes

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.


"People aren’t your problem. Your problem is that your work systems and processes don’t allow people to shine." — Karen Martin

When results don’t meet the targets set forth by management, organizations typically concentrate on placing blame by asking what people should do better or wanting to know who didn’t do what needed to be done to achieve better results. Focusing on what people can do better and how they can enhance performance or efficiency often results in short-term improvement, but with diminishing returns. Eventually, people run out of ideas, and repeated discussion about failed targets can demoralize even the most loyal employee.

Quality experts like Drs. Joseph M. Juran and W. Edwards Deming stress that the vast majority (85 to 94 percent) of the time, the answer is that it’s management's fault. They find the processes or systems in place are not up to the task of handling all the variations that exist in today's business climate, and as a result, managers have not enabled the organization to continuously improve its processes.

If an organization really wants a continuous improvement effort focused on improving its business, it must celebrate the mistakes and errors that result from inadequate processes or systems so they can be analyzed and corrected. Enlightened organizations don't look for someone to blame; they identify the problems that inevitably arise and encourage their people to expose these issues, rather than cover them up.

Organizations need to have a culture that encourages people to elevate process issues when they arise, rather than trying to hide them to protect themselves from blame. Managers must treat variances from expected results as valuable pearls of opportunity that allow the organization to improve, instead of costly errors that "somebody" made. Managers have to ask themselves, "Do I want a culture of blame and cover-up, or one of problem identification and resolution?" Leading organizations take the latter path and constantly work to identify problems. At the same time, they encourage their organizations to use continuous-improvement tools and techniques to make their processes more robust and prevent future recurrences.

Instead of asking employees what they can do better, managers should ask how the organization can make the process better so the outcome is more predictable. The focus should be on the process, not on the people. If a process works well and makes sense in the context of people’s work, employees will function well within it.



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