Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Lean Roundup #125 – October 2019



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

Lean Thinking and the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences – Jon Miller revisits two authors who won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences and some of their basic thinking on effective approaches to address the problem of poverty and the parallels with Lean efforts to increase wealth.

How We Can Easily Miss Signals in Our Metrics When We Rely on Red / Green Analysis – Mark Graban explains why the he red / green mindset is simple, but maybe it's too simple to be helpful.

Want to know what to do when your boss doesn’t get Lean? – Paul Akers answers the popular question often asked about what to do when my boss doesn’t get lean with practical advice.

Tours R Us – Bruce Hamilton reminds of the importance of sharing best practicing within our own companies for our employees learning and recognition.

Why Leaders Must Be “ON” All The Time – Marci Reynolds says leaders must operate as if he or she are living in a fish bowl because everyone can look in and watch you.

Is Inventory a waste or a cover-up of deeper waste? – Al Norval explains that inventory always hides a deeper source of waste and we need to be able to learn to see that and understand the root cause to take the next step.

he fine line of effective 5S in lean manufacturing – Tim Heston says you need to find that fine line between over-control and under-control, between insufficient management and micromanagement, and all five S’s, including “sustain,” will thrive.

Winning With Lean – Bob Emiliani discusses why many CEOs don’t think lean tools are necessary to get an advantage over the competition.

How to Get the Most Out of Your NFL Franchise with TPM – Jon Miller shared a fun creative article explaining the concepts of TPM using NFL teams as the machines.

The Wisdom of Humility – Kevin Meyer reflects on the impact of mistakes on leadership, and how important humility becomes to learning from those mistakes.

Jess Orr on What She Learned by Leaving Toyota – Mark Graban talked to Jess Orr, a former Toyota engineer who shared perspectives on what it was like to now lead continuous improvement in another company.

Ask Art: At What Pace Should A Lean Turnaround Be Implemented?” – Art Byrne shares advice on how to do a turnaround and how fast a turnaround can and should be done.


Why Doesn't Lean Have a Seat at the Table? – Steven Spear talks about why Lean is still not a prominent strategy for C-level leaders.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Recap From the 15th Annual Northeast Lean Conference - Total Employee Involvement

Learn more about NE Lean Conference below

This past week I was able to spend a wonderful time at the 15th Annual Northeast Lean Conference. I always look forward to these opportunities to connect with friends, learn best practices from others, and get re-energized around continuous improvement.

The theme of this conference is one that everyone relates to and tries to create in the Lean community “Total Employee Involvement”. I want a share a couple of key takeaways and thoughts from interesting presentations during this conference.

Jamie Bonini from TSSC talked about the lessons learned from 25 years of spreading, teaching, and implementing The Toyota Production System (TPS or Lean) outside of Toyota:
  1. Be Clear: TPS is an organizational culture of highly engaged people solving problems to drive performance. The philosophy underlies the technical tools that require the managerial role to build and sustain the TPS culture.
  2. Model lines: Learn by doing by building the culture through model lines to 1) develop leaders to then guide spreading where, how, and who and 2) expose real challenges to address in spreading.
  3. TPS must be an organization (not operations) strategy with strong leadership.
  4. Build a strong, small, full time, internal TPS team to support spreading.
  5. Company values must fit the TPS philosophy (the 4 points).
  6. TPS is difficult. Expect successes and setbacks. Learn mostly by doing.
  7. Stability is a must. If low, build it first and practice problem solving.
  8. Main challenge: Building the managerial role, behaviors, and problem solving.

Alan Robinson, UMASS Professor, took on the task of answering whether Lean is still relevant in a post-industrial economy. Lean has made significant contributions in manufacturing, entrepreneurships (The Lean Startup), Software development (Agile), Project management (Scrum), Agriculture (Lean Farm). However, Lean has not readily caught on in Healthcare, Education, Government, Military, and Financial Services. There are a couple reasons for this: 1) Lean pushes us to dramatically raise the quality of our leadership, thinking, problem-solving, and problem-finding 2) It is one thing to know what full-blown lean looks like but completely different to know how to make it happen in ordinary organizations. Shingo Institute reports that less than 4% of CEOs are serious about lean. As leaders we need to understand that we don’t have all the answers, actually, much less than that. Taiichi Ohno said “Even the best managers are wrong 50% of the time.” Shingo tells us the real driver for TPS is made by significant front-line engagement, “The goal of TPS is to unleash mass creativity.” This requires humility from leaders, Lean is not for you if you have to be the smartest person in the room. Most of an organization’s improvement potential lies in front-line ideas. Roughly 80 percent of an organization’s performance improvement potential lies in front-line ideas, and 20 percent in management-driven initiatives. Our mainstream management tools do not allow us to see the waste.

Lean is a proven methodology for striving for operational excellence, but:
As it works on human beings’ weakest points, it will seem hard to do, without a lot of deep education and discipline; and its real power is not unleashed with full involvement of the front-lines, which given our history is perhaps the hardest thing of all to do.

Marianna Magnusdottir, Chief Happiness Officer (great title) at Manino had powerful presentation about the human side of improvement. Companies who are tools focused and not people focused are often fraught with failure. As many of us know successful lean implementations are 80% people development and 20% tools learning. Using the analogy of rowing a boat where one oar is relationships and one is results in the wavy sea of reality. If you focus only on processes and results you can go in circles. If you only focus on people development you too will find yourself rowing in circles. However, if you are rowing both oars (relationships and results) you navigate through the waves (ups and downs) of business and transform your organization. Your daily management process should include elements of process/results and relationships/people. These should be daily communication boards that build trust and mutual respect by getting to know and learning from each other.

I had the chance to talk about using daily management to engage employees in the gemba. Lean organizations make use of Daily Management systems, a structured process to focus employee’s actions to continuously improve their day-to-day work. Daily Management empowers employees to identify potential process concerns, recommend potential solutions, and learn by implementing process changes. Daily Management, if done right, can be a critical tool in any organization’s toolbox to engage frontline staff in problem-solving and to deliver customer value.

Art Smalley ended the conference with a presentation on the 4 Types of Problems, a book he recently wrote. If you’re in business then it is inevitable there are problems that need to be solved. Not all problems are the same and can’t be solved the same old way. He demonstratesdthat most business problems fall into four main categories, each requiring different thought processes, improvement methods, and management cadences:

Type 1: Troubleshooting - A reactive process of rapidly fixing abnormal conditions by returning things to immediately known standards.
Type 2: Gap-from-standard - A structured problem-solving process that aims more at the root cause through problem definition, goal setting, analysis, countermeasure implementation, checks, standards, and follow-up activities.
Type 3: Target-state - Continuous improvement (kaizen) that goes beyond existing levels of performance to achieve new and better standards or conditions.
Type 4: Open-ended and Innovation - Unrestricted pursuit through creativity and synthesis of a vision or ideal condition that entail radical improvements and unexpected products, processes, systems, or value for the customer beyond current levels. 

As Art beautifully said “Not Every Problem Is a “Nail” But Companies Typically Reach for the Same Old “Hammer”.”


There were a number of great presentations from many great practitioners of Lean. I am already looking forward to next year’s conference which will be around the theme “Lean in 21st Century”.


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Friday, October 25, 2019

Lean Quote: Six Essential Management Functions to Accelerate Lean Transformation

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 essence of management is not techniques and procedures. The essence of management is to make knowledge productive." — Peter Drucker

The Lean principles of continuous improvement, respect for people, and a relentless focus on delivering customer value are making organizations rethink the practices that might have guided them for decades. This new approach to working requires a transformation in leadership, as well. For Lean to be truly effective, it needs effective Lean management — to champion Lean principles, offer guidance, and ensure that Lean is being used to optimize the entire organizational system for value delivery.

Practicing Lean management principles requires a shift in mindset: from that of a supervisor, to that of a teacher and coach. Lean leaders must lead gently, by example, ensuring that Lean principles are being applied with the right goal in mind: To sustainably maximize the delivery of value to the customer.

My friends at GBMP have identified six essential functions of the management process to support and accelerate a Lean conversion:

  1. Volition – Unwavering management commitment to and articulation of the need for everybody everyday.
  2. Policy – Codification of what we do, how we do it, and how it is measured. 
  3. Planning and deployment – Developing, managing, and communicating a plan to redirect the organization in a “True North” direction, balancing improvement time and daily management time.
  4. Control and monitoring – Creation of measurements that accurately align daily management practices and performance with organizational strategy.
  5. Satisfaction – Fostering the organization and people development through reflection on wins and lessons learned. Feeds back to volition.
  6. Idea Systems – Developing a robust system to stimulate, capture, implement, recognize, and share improvement ideas.

Together, these create the infrastructure and shared understanding that run the business, both daily and long-term.

Management’s role in transforming the management system is analogous to every employee’s role in Lean: many small improvements that come from the common sense and experience of the people who do the work.

Just as a Lean transformation cannot happen overnight, a Lean management transformation is not something that can be turned on with a switch. For many leaders, this requires abandoning many of the principles that have gotten them to where they are.

But the purpose of Lean management, and the goal of Lean as a whole, justifies the effort: Making this shift allows leaders to build sustainable, healthy companies built on a foundation of respect, learning, and continuous improvement. A Lean management approach allows leaders to leave a legacy they can be proud of: in careers spent learning, growing, and empowering people to do their best work, in companies that create products and service offerings that provide genuine value to their customers.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

How to Motivate Employees to Adopt Safety-Consciousness in the Workplace

Ensuring a workplace’s safety is also essential for productivity. However, any measure you put in place is useless without your employees’ support.

Fortunately, there are several ways to encourage their cooperation.

1. Establish safety goals
You first need to set the company’s safety goals before setting any programs into action. There’s also a need to include appropriate messages that will motivate your employees and obtain their feedback. In turn, your EHS officer can convert those sentiments to a company motto or slogan.

Remember, your company’s vision will serve as a blueprint for its safety plans. Also, once you’ve set up the long-term strategies, you can use it to come up with the short-term tactics.
Furthermore, everyone must agree on a particular process. This will make it easier to implement a system that provides employees with duties and responsibilities for their behavior.    

2. Adopt a uniform safety standard
A commitment to adopt and follow more than one safetystandard is not a good idea. It can confuse your employees, especially if they have to report to several people whose procedures and checklist are not compatible with each other.

Implementing only one safety standard is the better choice. To ensure that the compliance rate is high, consider setting up a safety checklist that requires little bureaucracy. This will help employees better understand what is expected of them, and they will behave accordingly.

Companies should also include first aid kits in their healthand safety standards. Such kits are mandated by law. It should have enough supplies to immediately provide aid to injured or sick employees. Also, all personnel should know about it and someone should be in charge of the kit. 

3. Encourage learning and development of a safety culture
Providing employees with one-time information and paying lip service about the importance of safety isn’t enough. Your EHS officer could come up with plans on how to encourage employees to learn about workplacesafety. Successful companies can promote safety culture via:
       Training programs – provide employees with the opportunity to apply and practice what they learned about workplace safety and how to use it in their decision-making
       Real-time coaching – Treat every incident as an occasion to learn. The resulting feedback will help employees improved their safety awareness.

Companies that practiced safety learning culture encouraged employees to adhere to their:
       commitment
       responsibility
       accountability

Positively motivating employees to embrace safety awareness is better than forcing them to comply.

4. Listen and respect your employees’ input
Imposing rules even if it’s for their good can be met with resistance. Fortunately, you can inspire them by asking for their input about the safety initiatives. You can encourage them by:
       Asking for their opinion regarding the safety program and mode of accountability
       Looking for ways to convince them to bring up any safety concerns

Remember, employees, do care about their health and personal safety. You only need to reassure them and, they will not fail you.

5. Recognize their contribution
You have to be careful with incentive programs. Rewarding a worker with the least safety violations may send the wrong message. Instead, you should provide the incentive when they carry out a safety procedure.

How should you reward them?
You could thank them ‘face-to-face’. Such small gestures have a more positive effect than you can imagine. You can have their manager or EHS officer give recognition for their effort. Aside from the attention, you could add a:
       Letter of thanks or commendation
       Bonus
       Gift

Such a tactic is an effective way to use incentives as a motivation tool.

6. Keep them updated and listen for feedbacks
Your EHS officer should conduct a review with all the department heads to see if the safety rules are correctly implemented. Also, consider taking the opportunity to announce new regulations and information concerning workplace safety. Furthermore, you’ll likely receive some feedback regarding which procedures are most effective. 

These kinds of meetings can demonstrate the effectiveness of your safety program. When people see workplace injuries falling, they will eagerly join your initiative. 

7. Don’t find faults when a safety issue arises
Taking the blame and the prospects of punishment can discourage employees from reporting safety issues in the company. You should instead, foster an atmosphere where people are rewarded for bringing safety issues to the company’s attention.

Also, consider reviewing safety issues each week and seek a suitable resolution.

8. Make it fun!
Health and safety in the workplace is a serious concern. However, you can lighten things up by using creativity to encourage people to join the program. Introducing some game elements will bring some excitement to a serious topic.

Frequent safety programs that don’t work
  1. Disciplinary actions require constant observation. It doesn’t work and could encourage hostility among the employees.
  2. Incentives focused on the number of accidents may backfire. It may discourage employees from reporting safety issues for fearing of losing their incentives.
  3. Slogans and posters are only useful if you’re taking safety in the workplace seriously. Otherwise, all that you’re doing is paying lip service and people won’t take it seriously.
Conclusion
The success of your safety program will depend on the receptiveness of your employees. So by motivating and empowering your employees, they will readily assume ownership of the company’s safety program. However, you should also avoid adopting programs that will discourage them from reporting the actual safety issues.

Author Bio:

Simon Bliss is the Managing Director of Principal People, a recruitment consultancy specializing in Health, Safety, and Environment. The company is successful in providing clients with candidates who are fit a variety of positions, including senior and leadership roles. He’s also the COO of the Juhler Group of Companies which operates in 40 locations across Europe and Asia.


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Monday, October 21, 2019

Lean Tips #145 (#2386-#2400)

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 #2386 - Pilot the Solutions First
A pilot is a test of a proposed solution and is usually performed on a small scale. It's like learning to fish from the shore before you go out on a boat in the ocean with a 4-foot swell. It is used to evaluate both the solution and the implementation of the solution to ensure the full-scale implementation is more effective. A pilot provides data about expected results and exposes issues with the implementation plan. The pilot should test both if the process meets your specifications and the customer expectations. First impressions can make or break your process improvement solution. Test the solution with a small group to work out any kinks. A smooth implementation will help the workers accept the solution at the formal rollout.

Lean Tip #2387 - Implement Standard Work
Standard work is one of the most powerful but least used lean tools to maintain improved process performance. By documenting the current best practice, standardized work forms the baseline for further continuous improvement. As the standard is improved, the new standard becomes the baseline for further improvements, and so on.

Use a Standard Work Combination Chart to show the manual, machine, and walking time associated with each work element. The output graphically displays the cumulative time as manual (operator controlled) time, machine time, and walk time. Looking at the combined data helps to identify the waste of excess motion and the waste of waiting.

Lean Tip #2388 - Make the Improvement Real
Employees aren’t idiots.  When senior management seeks to drive change in the organization, they like to have a “quick win” that can be used as an example to the entire organization.  But sometimes, in their haste to have a trophy win, senior managers choose a change that yields very little result and does little to improve quality, lead times or other key performance indicators.  Employees realize this and see the program as one more in a series -- the “flavor of the month” -- for performance improvement.  Instead, work with employees to get a substantial win -- something that is indisputable and will lead the team to believe in the program.

Lean Tip #2389 - Translate and Communicate the Benefits of the Change
Workers on the factory floor don’t work with balance sheets on a daily basis.  Their primary concern is not whether your net return on assets has improved by 0.1%.  Translate the improvement to terms that are real to them: number of defective parts eliminated per shift, hours of rework eliminated, additional number of units produced per shift.  Compare this to competitive information for the sake of the staff, if possible.  Let the production team members know how they stack up -- give them an adversary outside the plant.  Make sure the information is provided to them in a clear way.  Dashboards and project kaizen one-page reports can work wonders.  When done properly, it’s amazing how much break time is spent discussing the latest change and its effect on the competitive landscape.  This leads to buy-in and everlasting change.

Lean Tip #2390 - Celebrate Real Victories – Even the Small Ones
So long as a success is real, translatable, and well communicated, regardless of the size, it’s worthy of celebration.  Avoid programs like “employee of the month” and recognize specific achievement in performance improvement, whenever they occur.  Don’t wait until month-end of year-end.  Every celebration, if done properly and if celebrating real improvements, has the potential to spawn additional performance improvements and to solidify the changes that have already been made.

Lean Tip #2391 – Communicate Daily
Commit to a daily 10-minute company or team sync every morning. During the meeting, have team members share their top five priorities for the day, as well as any issues or problems they are facing. This brief meeting keeps your whole staff informed, fostering collaboration and communication about any issues or problems. A quick meeting also reduces extraneous emails to project managers during the day.

Remember: You aren’t saving time if the meeting regularly goes past the 10-minute mark. If you have trouble keeping to time, ask everyone to stand during the meeting. When employees can’t sit, everyone works together to finish the meeting quickly.

Lean Tip #2392 – Get Your Teams Clear on the Processes
Producing tangible benefits for the organization means new ways of working must genuinely be put into practice – they can’t be left buried in process manuals saved somewhere on the shared drive. That means working with a system that makes it easy for your teams to build small, incremental process improvements into their day-to-day work. That system must be easy to review and update, and must be also be accessible and simple enough so that teams refer to it every day.

Lean Tip #2393 – Management Must Model the New Rules
This should go without saying, but nothing will undermine the effectiveness of but nothing will undermine a new business process faster than management not following the new rules. The rules are either there for everyone, or they’re there for no one.

Once management starts to “cheat” on the new process, people take it as a sign that the process is no good, and everyone will look for ways to cheat. Chaos will result as everyone is looking for shortcuts and doing things the way they want them done (often the way that sloughs the most work off their desk and onto someone else’s).

Lean Tip #2394 – Make Reverting Back Hurt
Usually, when individuals desire to revert to a previous behavior, it’s because the previous behavior took less time or effort than “the new way.”  Be certain to elevate the personal cost to perform tasks the old way.  You can do this by eliminating the tools that were used or automation that made the old methods easier than the new ones.  Make investments in automation and tools for the new methods.  Make it easy for your staff to succeed.

Lean Tip #2395 - Review the Process Regularly
Part of ensuring that the process lasts over time is ensuring that it remains relevant. Periodic review can support a culture of continuous process improvement and also provide an opportunity to reflect. If people aren’t following the process, conduct root-cause analysis to understand why. Maybe there’s a need for training. Maybe the process is no longer effective. Maybe turnover has left a gap. Adding the rigidity of automation to a murky process can result in workarounds, frustration, delays and a loss of credibility.

Lean Tip #2396 – Take Time to Watch and Listen When Change is Looming
If you know changes are looming--and they are for most organizations--take time to watch and listen carefully to your employees. Whether it's a major restructuring or a modification to a well-established procedure, change (or even the anxiety over impending change) can unsettle your employees and negatively impact the workplace. Sometimes employees will express their anxiety directly to you, but other times their anxiety becomes apparent through changes in their behavior or performance. This is especially the case when change threatens their comfortable and stabile  routines. Take time to observe and listen to the pulse of your organization, and then take steps to deal with the anxiety that you may detect.

Lean Tip #2397 – Demonstrate Your Genuine Concern For Employees
Great bosses realize that they can't achieve their goals if their people aren't performing at their very best. Employees, especially in times of stress and challenge, look to management for solutions. They seek guidance when they feel uncertain and isolated from organizational decisions that are out of their control. As a first step, be an example of transparency and honesty. Open the lines of communication between management and employees. Talk openly and regularly about what you know, and encourage input. Show you truly care about your people's welfare by understanding their concerns and by doing whatever you can to help them. This not only helps you solve any problems you have direct influence over, but also helps them by allowing them to talk freely about what is troubling them.

Lean Tip #2398 – Address Their Concerns About The Change
After hearing concerns and gathering input, fix the things that you have control over. Often, uncertainty results from miscommunication or misunderstandings. If, after listening to your employees, you discover an easy solution to dispel their angst, take the initiative to fix whatever you can as quickly as you can. A reassuring word or guidance from management can have a profoundly positive impact on employees in times of uncertainty. If you find the problems caused by change are beyond your scope, avoid promising your employees things you cannot deliver or have no business promising them in the first place.

Lean Tip #2399 – Be Positive and Look for Opportunity
Remain positive. Challenge your employees to take initiative and seek out solutions, new ideas, or cost savings. Look at standard procedures and policies and rework them, or propose alternatives with the bottom line in mind. When times are unsettled, it may appear to employees their efforts are not appreciated by management. By encouraging them to take the initiative you help them to keep moving forward, focused on what can or might be done, rather than fixating on events over which they have no control. As a group, come up with creative solutions to the new challenges created by change.

Lean Tip #2400 – Train and Prepare Your Employees for Change

If you have the opportunity and the resources, make time available to your employees to learn new skills. Give them an opportunity to prepare for change with more skills or experience. Preparation and training can help them transition more easily into new roles, or look for work in another areas or organizations, should it become a necessity.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Lean Quote: Nine Reasons Why Leaders Should Be Doing Gemba Walks

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.


"…there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path." — Morpheus

A Gemba walk should be a daily, scheduled time where the manager in a facility is out on the “shop” floor and publicly reviews the shop’s performance as displayed on the visual management boards. Although I use “shop” here, it is a term that describes where the value creation occurs. The shop could be places like the warehouse, the accounting office, and the shipping office or anywhere work is done.

While conducting structured Gemba walks have many benefits, here are nine reasons why leaders should be doing Gemba walks:

  • Gemba walks build relationships with those that do the work and create value in the organization.
  • Interacting with employees at the Gemba enables leaders to uncover problems and eliminate them quickly.
  • Gemba walks provide leaders with the opportunity to praise people for the good work that they do.
  • Management can be sure that the work that needs to be done is getting done.
  • Goals and objectives can clearly be communicated face-to-face.
  • A visible leader can increase employee engagement.
  • Gemba walks can help develop people through coaching and mentoring.
  • Gemba walks can help the leader validate data, emails and spreadsheets with their own eyes.
  • Gemba walks can enable accountability to occur since the leader is not disconnected from the actions or results. When they “see it” they “own it”.

Remember, as the leader engages the people and processes, he or she should always show respect and understand if something is amiss, it is not the individual’s fault, rather the process and the leader are the guilty parties.

As leaders, we should spend the majority of our time on the Gemba engaged with both the people and process. This time should be structured and not what I call “Industrial Tourism” where all the leader does is walk around and shake hands and kiss babies. This is superficial and actively works to disengage employees.

A former President of Toyota once said he spent more than 80% of his time at the Gemba helping solve problems and removing the burden from the workforce. By doing so, he is helping develop those that he encounters and this creates a more engaged workforce.


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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Using Daily Management to Engage Employees in the Gemba

Learn more about NE Lean Conference below

In today’s active world we are hearing more about getting employees within the organization engaged at work. This is not only for the leadership team, but also for the hourly workforce.

For the sake of this discussion let’s define engaged employees as those that work with passion and feel a profound connection with their company. These individuals drive innovation, continuous improvement, and move the organization forward each and every day.

Why is having an engaged workforce so important? Gallup reported in their 2013 “State of the American Workforce Survey” the following key statistics:

Organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged workers for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147% higher earnings per share (EPS) compared with their competition in 2011-2012.

In contrast, those with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2% lower EPS compared with their competition during that same period.

Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

Work units in the top 25% of Gallup’s database have significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%.

While there are many things that affect employee engagement, getting leadership to the place where work is done (the “GEMBA”) and actively engaging with the workforce, seeing with their own eyes the problems that occur, listening to associates and giving advice and direction (coaching) to the team is a critical factor in increasing overall engagement.

Lean organizations make use of Daily Management systems, a structured process to focus employee’s actions to continuously improve their day-to-day work. Daily Management empowers employees to identify potential process concerns, recommend potential solutions, and learn by implementing process changes. Daily Management, if done right, can be a critical tool in any organization’s toolbox to engage frontline staff in problem-solving and to deliver customer value.

Lean Daily Management includes three components: (1) alignment of goals and effort; (2) visual data management, daily huddles, and problem-solving; and (3) leader standard work.

Alignment of Goals and Efforts
When we launched our Daily Management program, we noticed that frontline staff often were not aware of the goals and targets set by senior leaders. Therefore, we emphasized the cascading nature of system goals and the importance of alignment between system and hospital goals during training.

Our goals fall under the pillars of Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, and People/Culture, Each department utilizing Daily Management set its own goals and targets in each of these pillars in alignment with system and facility goals. We found this exercise of aligned goal-setting to be incredibly valuable in that it not only improved awareness of goals among frontline staff, but it also helped them to see how their work contributes to the success of the system.

Visual Data Management, Daily Huddles, and Problem-Solving
Visual data management: Each department utilizes a visual board to display its goals, targets, and performance metrics. The look and feel of the visual board is standard across our system, with each board including the standard pillars mentioned above as well as a designated space for discussion and prioritization of improvement ideas. The visual board in each department is located in an accessible area in the Gemba so that the data and metrics stay in front of everyone.

Daily huddles: Daily huddles take place at the department level and last for about 10 to 15 minutes. Huddles are led by the staff and are attended by all members of the department Huddles take place directly in front of the visual board so that the metrics that are displayed on the board can be discussed and updated as needed.

Problem-solving: A unique aspect of our problem-solving process is the systematic feedback loop from senior leaders back to the department. We recognize that staff cannot implement all solutions or process improvement ideas alone and that process changes often involve other departments or functions. For this reason, part of the daily huddle is dedicated to problem-solving. This portion of the huddle includes a review of improvement ideas submitted by staff, a progress update on ideas that have been selected for implementation, and feedback received from senior leaders on ideas that have been submitted to senior levels for implementation and/or resourcing. Accountability is achieved through review of progress on implemented ideas with use of a simple WWW (What, Who, and When) form. This process of problem-solving (idea generation), reviewing progress, and providing feedback is key to sustaining team engagement.

Leader Standard Work
The third component of our program relates to the role of leadership. For the Daily Management program to be successful, it is critical for leaders at all levels of the organization  to be committed to the program and visibly present at huddles. The role of these leaders at huddles is to encourage teamwork and collaboration, help remove barriers, mentor and coach frontline staff (who often do not have enough exposure to the big picture), and foster systems thinking (that is, an understanding of the interactions between the work and processes from one team to another).


Lean Daily Management is a powerful and peerless method for engagement. The technical approach is simple enough to understand. But it is not a “plug and play” technique. To make it work requires a level of leadership understanding and commitment that is often missing. If you approach daily management as a stand-alone installation for the workers, it will fail. Daily Management, if done right, can be a critical tool in any organization’s toolbox to engage frontline staff in problem-solving and in bringing value for customers, employees, and the organization.

Note: If you would like to learn more consider attending the Northeast Lean Conference October 22-23, 2019 in Hartford, CT where I will be presenting about this topic.


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