Monday, September 30, 2019

Lean Roundup #124 – September 2019



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

How to Be an Effective Change Leader – Jon Miller describes 4 key points that make Lean leaders more effective.

The Problem of Profit as a Purpose – Kevin Meyer explains that a primary focus on profit can create short term rewards, but can also create tremendous if not deadly long term reputation and financial damage and, most importantly, hurt people and society. 

8 Tips For More Meaningful Team Building Experiences – Marci Reynolds shares 8 tips for more meaningful team building experiences for our employees.

The Cancer of Fear – Mark Rosenthal discusses how fear based leadership systematically breaks down trust, which chokes off the truth from every conversation.

Management Improvement System Flavors – John Hunter says Agile is not the new Lean rather they are similar but start with Lean first.

What is a Thinker-Doer? – Bruce Hamilton discusses the transformative power of many small improvements converging from all points transforming your organization to a thinker-doer culture. 

What Does Leader as a Teacher Really Mean? – Al Norval talks about the need for leaders to build the capability of their people in order to achieve the desired results.

Your Lean Six Sigma Belt Program Is the Problem – Dan Markovitz discusses the issues with organizations that focus on the acquisition of colored belts instead of daily kaizen.

Data-Driven Delays – Bob Emiliani explains the reasons data bias causes delays in taking action or results in maintaining the status quo.

The Best Indicator of Success with Lean – Jon Miller says a well functioning andon system  is a good indicator of management commitment to Lean management.

Oh, the Mistakes I’ve Made… Kevin Meyer explains the importance of reflecting on mistakes is  to learn, then move forward, change and improve, and perhaps even teach.

Lean Lesson: Don’t Get Crushed Because of Bad Standardized Work – Mark Graban says if kaizen-based improvement is truly a “change for the better,” why would people go back to their old ways.


Ask Art: What Foundational Items Must I Be A Zealot About? – Art Byrne shares 3 foundational areas that you must focus on to make the lean fundamentals work.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Lean Quote: Those Who Cannot Change Their Minds Cannot Change Anything

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.


"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." — George Bernard Shaw

This quote is about the one certain thing in life; change. Change will happen. The question is will you allow your mind to change as the new facts are revealed?

To move beyond where you are requires change. Progress is what we call that motion when it is in a desired direction (or at least desired to the person calling it progress).

To change means wading into the unknown. That scares some people. But progress demands you let down your need for control and do something new.

Change doesn’t come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek and now would be a pretty good moment to shift gear.

In my life, I often heard that the reason many of us resist change is that we are afraid of losing something. The reasons are plenty. It may be the fear of losing the familiar, fear of losing control, or merely the distress of losing someone and find ourselves alone.


On the other hand, when moving beyond where you are, you might see new possibilities or things you have to gain. You have to realize that change is a constant. Rather than running away from it, you should entirely and intentionally embrace it because you might live a more satisfying and full life.

Change and growth are a mark of success. It does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one next time. Accept failure as a part of success also. When you fail, you learn from your mistakes, and you can then identify what you did and not repeat them.

Basically, you should not fear to make a change to grow and develop but rather be afraid of stagnating and not learning anything new.


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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

5 Managerial Optimization Practices Your Business Needs


If you currently hold a management position or oversee multiple divisions of employees within a company, you may find yourself constantly looking for new ways to be more efficient in order to optimize your time and efforts. As “Lean” manufacturing describes, companies should always be engaged in a relentless pursuit to improve current operational and production processes. Finding new ways within the office, as well as external implementations that can improve output and employee morale can go a long way. Regardless of the industry you work in, the size of the business, or the current organizational structure of the company, workforce optimization can be reached.

Whether it is something as simple as productivity or operational day-to-day changes, or the adaptation of a new technology that can make processes less complex, there are answers to your current output challenges. Here are some great options you can use to not only make management easier but align the entirety of the business more closely with the Lean system.

Uncover Any and All Inefficiencies

Although some lag and waste are expected in any business, large or small, there are several places within the operations process that a manager can find ways to cut back or save time. It may be as simple as a lack of optimal communications and knowledge transfer between departments. However, more complicated problems could consist of machine error, inconsistencies in supply chain management, or misallocation of company resources. No matter how big or small, these issues fall back on to the executive and managerial teams. Find and record all inefficiencies that could be fixed before making any decisions that could improve workflow.

Save Money On Hardware

One way companies are saving money is by eliminating the need to buy certain hardware such as laptops and company mobile phones by adopting “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD policies. Having employees supply their own devices while only having to incur the expense of the wireless network connectivity would save thousands of dollars each year. These funds can be allocated elsewhere to fix production issues, buy new software, or upgrade other equipment for a more efficient process. All of these examples can make Lean manufacturing possible within almost all business models.

Improve Communication Within and Between Departments

Trying to improve the cross-departmental insufficiencies of a business can be a difficult challenge. But taking the time to re-evaluate and rearrange the way interactions occur within departments, as well as the business as a whole, can seriously impact the bottom line. Poor communication can prevent progress in operations and productivity, while at the same time cause a hostile and adversarial environment which hinders collaboration. Picking the right employees to lead each focus area of the business is crucial, along with aligning experienced individuals to work beneath them to ensure that all communication can flow down the chain-of-command effectively. Employee development will surely become a higher focal point if they are coached correctly and inspired to do their best work. Team cohesion can mean the difference between minimal and significant lag. Without it, the concept of Lean manufacturing is rendered useless. 

Consider Automating Certain Practices

Adopting automation software to certain aspects of the business can save time, money and hassle for management. This automated programming has the ability to do a variety of things, from assisting in inventory management to simplifying order processing. This can also help cut back on waste by expediting several different product development and product assembly tasks. Robotic process automation has become a standard for large, diverse companies with a variety of different departments and an array of processes to make back-end tasks simple. Consider the advantages of automating your business can have both financially and strategically.

Implement Employee Recognition Programs


Exploring options like employee recognition programs may be extremely beneficial for not only company morale, but overall productivity as well. Although it’s difficult to measure the ROI on these programs, showing gratitude toward your staff for their good deeds and accomplishments will keep their work ethic at a consistently high rate while simultaneously incorporating friendly competition into the workspace. If your employees know what they are working toward in terms of personal accomplishment, they will feel a sense of urgency and pride in their work. While at the same time, the business will benefit in the long-run through sustained teamwork among divisions and consistency in meeting company-wide quarterly, and annual goals. Cash bonuses, additional vacation time, and employee of the month awards are all great ways to keep your business in the black.


About the Author: Chandler Coleman is a contributing author focused on the tech sector and discusses topics such as business-related software and automation processes.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #144 (Tip # 2371 - 2385)

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 #2371 - Identify the Results that you Expect.
KPIs should be directly related to your major goals. If you don’t have your goals written out, you should start there.

Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. In other words, stay away from measuring everything that moves. The secret sauce is to focus your effort and resources on collecting and reporting the data that really moves the needle – data that leads to action and drives positive results.

Lean Tip #2372 - Understand the Differences in Lead and Lag Measurements.
According to the book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, the idea behind the lead measurement is that in order to get the result you want, you first have to create the measure of a strategic action that, when planned and taken, will have the most impact on your goals. In contrast, lag measurements show you the outcome of past actions.

Lag measures are metrics, while lead measures are actions. Always think in terms of actions. For example, if you want to drive overall sales, you first have to measure the number of leads generated and how well you close sales.

Lean Tip #2373 - Focus on Quantitative, Not Qualitative Measurements.
Focus on quantitative measurements, or hard data that attempts to answer “how much.” Though qualitative key performance indicators (KPIs) help you understand why something has happened, the problem is they tend to be vanity metrics that are not only hard to track, but also too subjective. In fact, qualitative performance measures don’t truly exist.

Lean Tip #2374 - Don’t Measure More than 10 KPIs.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are powerful, yet they come with a cost. That said, it’s critical to keep the list short and sweet so you can invest your time and resources efficiently. The more priorities you have, the fewer of them (if any) you will do justice. When you can’t yet do something well, trying to focus on dozens of things is like trying to learn to swim in a giant washing machine.

Lean Tip #2375 - Measure KPIs Weekly or Monthly.
Depending on the characteristics of each KPI, the measurement frequency can vary. Update and measure your KPIs on a regular basis, either weekly or monthly. Though higher consistency is better for decision-making, choose the frequency that makes senses for your business. In addition, since the ease of data collection is very important, it’s a good idea to start automating your collection process.


Lean Tip #2376 – Follow Through on Established Standards
Part of successful goal alignment is staying true to company values and standards when planning and implementing goals on any level. Lacking consistency on the standards and expectations employees are held to in their day-to-day tasks and especially when carrying out projects, leads goals down the wrong path and contradicts company guidelines. Things like chain of command, standards of quality and amount of workload expected to be completed must be clarified and consistent. 70% of employees who lack confidence in their leadership are disengaged. You’ve established trust with your teams, don’t break that trust with inconsistent standards.

When setting goals, establish standards first, not last, and make sure employees are educated on them before they are assigned goals. Avoid making significant changes once they have been implemented. If change is necessary, for example if key members of the team are leaving the company, carefully outline why the change is happening, how it impacts each person’s job and what will change in the goal process moving forward.

Lean Tip #2377 – Support Employees in Achieving Goals
Upwards of 50% of employees don’t feel their manager helps remove obstacles to doing their job better? For organizational goal alignment to be successful, employees need the right resources, guidance and plan to help them realistically meet goals.

Managers have to be extremely well-versed on the capabilities of their team members, making sure goals are appropriate and, if needed, supported with tools to facilitate success.

Lean Tip #2378 – Assign Accountability Measures
While your performance management system should have a goals dashboard to keep each person accountable for their own responsibilities in the goal alignment process, ensuring those individual goals and deadlines are appropriate is the key to success. Did you know employees are seven times more likely to be engaged when they report that their managers are aware of the tasks and projects that they are working on? In case you skimmed over that, I said seven times more likely.

Avoid keeping your thoughts about the goal setting process to yourself. Share them with colleagues and discuss them with each team member during the goal-setting stage so that everyone is in agreement on the parameters of objectives and deadlines.

Lean Tip #2379 – Encourage Continuous Communication
Often, organizations go through a big, ambitious goal-setting process but then don’t discuss those goals again for a quarter or even a year. Consider leveraging one of the growing numbers of technology solutions available to prevent this from happening in your organization. There are many solutions that automatically send reminders to managers and employees when it is time to update progress toward goals. By systematically checking in on employees, teams, and departments and measuring their progress towards their goals and objectives, you will foster a responsive, engaged work environment and instill a culture of goal-setting and achievement.

Lean Tip #2380 – Learn from Your Mistakes
Not all goals are going to be met. Some may have been set too high on purpose, some may not have been realistic (in hindsight), and some may suffer from unpredictable changes throughout the quarter. That's just the reality of work and the unknowns you have to contend with.

Make sure the team understands it's ok to fail; the goal shouldn't be the be all and end all, it's a way of guiding people's work. Being open to the possibility of failure doesn't mean accepting mediocrity; or that goals don't matter. It simply means no one can guarantee things will succeed. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes: what will we do differently next time? Is there a way this could have been prevented? And move on to do better things.

Lean Tip #2381 – Be a Motivating Coach, Not a Managing Boss
Ditch the boss mentality. Your employees want more than just an order — they want to be advised, coached, and nurtured. We've found that manager coaching can drastically impact employee engagement and performance. This study shows 85 percent of highly disengaged employees think they don't receive enough coaching from their manager. And organizations with employees who receive frequent and effective coaching improve business results by 21 percent.

Lean Tip #2382 – Ask Employees for Advice 
Each of your employees has unique strengths that can help you as a manager. When you ask your team for help, you are acknowledging their strengths and showing your appreciation for them in a way that can't be matched. Consulting your employees will show you respect their opinions and help you make crowd-pleasing decisions. Talk about a win-win employee engagement idea. Make sure you follow up on feedback so employees see their ideas in action and know their voice is truly being heard.

Lean Tip #2383 – Make Your Employees Part of the Bigger Picture
Informing the team is key to running a successful business. In order to have great communication and trust, it’s great to talk about the company’s future and goals for the upcoming months or years. This will make them feel valued and demonstrate to them that their hard work is going towards something great for the company.

Lean Tip #2384 – Support Innovation, Whether Or Not It Works Out
A great way to include your staff in making an impact towards the company as a whole is to allow them to innovate. Try new methods and test run them together. By allowing this, the whole team can learn what works and what doesn’t. It helps them understand their challenges and encourages growth.

Instead of giving strict guidelines, try to allow problem-solving come into play. Create safe environments for employees to express their thoughts and ideas for the company.

Lean Tip #2385 – Celebrate Achievements
You might have heard some pretty inspiring ideas around the office. What about that project that came together so well and had some amazing improvements that no one initially thought of? Find out who came up with that idea. Give them a friendly “Good job!” or recognize them publicly for going the extra mile.

Big or small, they are the solid proof that the work people are putting in has meaning. No one can go through tasks and assignments for months, or even years without burning out. Refill their energy tanks with some recognition and celebrate their hard work. This is also a great way to glue together teams.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Lean Quote: Change is Inevitable...Except From a Vending Machine

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.


"Change is inevitable… except from a vending machine." — Author Unknown

Change is inevitable. Adaptation to change is a necessary and critical component to survival. But mostly, change is a constant in business. And business seems to be where the adaptation to change -- or lack thereof -- seems to have some of the most significant impact.

In business, we must continually change, evolution is not an option. If we stand still in our businesses we go backwards. The day that we think we have our business model perfected is not the day to stop changing. The issue comes about when we try to make changes. With the evidence in existence related to the necessity of change in business, you would think every business would constantly be revising their model. But that is not the case.

Change is most often a difficult thing. The sooner we learn to embrace it and work within it, the easier it will be to begin the next challenge that comes along. We naturally gravitate toward the things that make us feel fulfilled, safe and happy. Therefore as we embrace change more often and see the good in it… the more we will gravitate toward it with enthusiasm!

If we accept change is inevitable, you will need a means to continually drive change throughout your business. You should have a change management process that involves every single employee in an organization. Change should be ongoing and employees should be a critical part of that process so there is not fear of change but a willingness to embrace it because it’s a part of the everyday process in the organization.

Change is necessary, resistance is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Guest Post: 5 Ways To Boost Team Morale


Your team feeling deflated and unmotivated? Not as enthusiastic and motivated as they used to be? You could be experiencing low team morale, and if morale suffers, your business could take a hit too. In this article, we highlight 5 ways to boost team morale to improve team spirit and boost company performance.

1. Give Recognition and Show Appreciation
One of the easiest ways you can boost team morale is to give recognition and show appreciation to your employees. Recognise and appreciate the hard work and effort your team puts into their work every day.

Morale is boosted when employees feel appreciated and valued and that they are making a difference through their work and contributing to the company’s success. Congratulate your employees personally and publicly in front of the whole team and celebrate their successes. Tell everyone when your employees are doing a great job and call out top performers at meetings.

Recognise achievements, tell them when you are impressed and show that you appreciate their work. This will raise morale and motivation and encourage employees to work even harder and go above and beyond for your business to continue to receive praise.

2. Encourage Learning and Personal Growth
Encouraging learning and personal growth will raise team morale and, in turn, benefit your business too. As your employees learn and grow, so too will your business.

Mastering new skills and advancing knowledge keeps employees engaged as they are always learning new things. Help them progress through investing in training and education, running courses, and attending conferences.

Develop the skills and talents that your business needs and help employees move towards their own career goals too. This constant growth, improvement, and achievement will keep your team motivated and improve morale.

3. Offer Rewards, Benefits, Perks, Incentives
Offering rewards, benefits, perks, and incentives is a highly effective way to boost morale.

You could offer extra holidays or give employees their birthday off to spend however they want. Or how about providing wage bonuses or a discount scheme. Or try subsidizing employee’s lunch, transport costs, and gym membership. You could even introduce a sabbatical programme that gives your team a year off to pursue their out-of-work passions.

There are a great number of rewards and perks that you can offer to your employees to help improve their working and home life and show that they are valued by your organisation, all of which help boost morale.

4. Have Fun
Injecting a bit of fun into the workplace is highly effective at improving company morale. Your team works hard, so they should be allowed to play hard too.

This could be as simple as a ping-pong table or games console in the break room. Or getting out of the office regularly for a team lunch or night out. Team building activities can be fun too, such as Cluego, which is an action-packed team treasure hunt experience. Throw a summer or Christmas party to celebrate together or take a yearly retreat with the whole team to explore a new place and try a new experience.

Anything that allows your team to blow off some steam and have fun will boost morale as well as build stronger team relationships.


5. Listen to Employee Feedback
Listening to employee feedback and implementing their suggestions boosts morale as it shows that your employees’ voices are being heard and respected and that you listen to and value their opinion.

Let employees have their say on how their job and the business in which they work can be improved. Let them contribute to the decision making process and direction that the company is heading in.

Employees have first-hand experience of working in your company and the way that it operates so their insights can be some of the most valuable. Listen to and act on these ideas - they may even be able to suggest why morale is so low.

Try implementing some of these methods to improve morale in your business today. They are all based on caring, recognition, rewards, appreciation and showing employees that they are a valuable and indispensable part of your organisation. If morale is low and your employees are unhappy, your business will suffer. The higher the morale and happier your employees are, the greater your business will benefit.

About the Author: This post was written by James Carruthers, a team-building expert who runs ClueGo, an events company providing exciting, action-packed team treasure hunt experiences for corporate groups in the UK and beyond.



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Monday, September 16, 2019

Top Four Reasons Organizations Fail at Kaizen


An essential element in Lean thinking is Kaizen.  Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement or change for the better.  As no process can ever be declared perfect, there is always room for improvement.  Kaizen involves building on gains by continuing experimentation and innovation.

For businesses, the concept works to improve the performance of managers and employees, the interaction within a team, and the pursuit of better productivity. Since inception, Kaizen has been proven to help various organizations and has been long lauded as a success. However, certain conditions are needed in the corporate culture for this strategy to take effect in an organization. 

Here are four top reasons why organizations fail when implementing the concept of Kaizen.

Equates to Improved KPIs 
The over emphasis on the effect of Kaizen on KPIs would often overshadow the fact that improvements take time and are often incremental, and not revolutionary. Many cases, management write this strategy off as a failure when they do not see immediate results. Without a genuine desire to improve, the concept can not thrive within an organization. While it is crucial to tying Kaizen to KPIs, management has to understand that Kaizen is not magic, it is in fact like a snowball rolling down a gentle slope, gathering momentum and size as it comes down.

Missing Training
Kaizen will never work if people do not implement its full suite of tools and concepts, with sufficient training given to take advantage of them. All the tools, especially the 5-why analysis and the mindset that everything can be improved, is an essential part. Remember to always provide the training people need so you can not only help them become more engaged, but also improve the chances of a successful kaizen.

Lack of Management Support
The importance of support cannot be over emphasized: it is essential that management isn’t just fully on board, but essential that they want to fully embrace the long-term commitment of kaizen to the organization. They need to pass on their enthusiasm and demonstrate that even they are continually looking for new and better ways of doing things.

It’s Not Continuous
My sensei once told me: “Tim-san, improvement cannot be sustained, improvement should be non-stop”. Continuous improvement should be continuous. Never consider yourself to be finished. There will always be something new that you can learn or a skill that you can improve. There is an area for improvement in all businesses, no matter how successful they are. Improvement has no limits, and can be continued on an infinite level.

Kaizen is all about making things better in the long run, and improving your KPIs and processes gradually. It is a strategy that needs to be implemented now, for the future. However, before implementing this concept to any organization, one must evaluate and understand the organizational structure and processes, to implement Kaizen or any management strategies effectively. As I always say, there are no cookie-cutter solutions that can solve all problems.


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