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Friday, November 29, 2019

Lean Quote: Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier

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.

"Feeling gratitude, and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it. — William Arthur Ward

November kicks off the holiday season with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year. However, for many this time of year is tinged with sadness, anxiety, or depression. Research (and common sense) suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it's built right into the holiday — expressing gratitude.

According to research reported by Robert A. Emmons and Anjali Mishra, there are several scientifically supported ways gratitude helps us flourish. Here are four I found especially compelling:

1.     Gratitude reduces our stress. Thankfulness redirects our attention from our difficulties to the benefits we enjoy. It’s like creating a stockpile of good thoughts for when times are tough. It also helps us reframe our losses and stay connected emotionally to friends and family.

2.     Gratitude inoculates us from negative emotions. When we focus on what we don’t have or how our decisions could have turned out better, we leave room for resentment, envy, and regret to build. Gratitude can keep these feelings at bay.

3.     Gratitude sustains our relationships. Let me just ask, Do you like hanging out with people that gripe and complain? Me neither. It’s gratitude that draws people together, builds trust, and strengthens ties. That’s true in the workplace, among friends, in families, and between husbands and wives.

4.     Gratitude improves our health. Grateful people visit their doctors less often and live longer than others. The research shows that thankfulness helps us sleep better, control our blood pressure, and generally reduce physical complaints.

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Given these four ways gratitude can benefit us, I’d say we have some very good reasons to return thanks more than once a year. Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have – rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve. Cultivating gratitude makes each day worth living and might even give us more days.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lean Roundup #126 – November 2019

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

KAIZEN – Small Changes vs. Monster Projects – Al Norval explains why small changes add up to big improvements.

10 Behaviors to Practice Respect for People – Jon Miller shares 10 foundational behaviors that promote mutual respect from Virginia Mason.

You’ll NEVER “Find” Time for Continuous Improvement – Jeff Hajek answers the common question making time for continuous improvement.

The Psychology of Lean Methods – Maja Majewski says Ultimately, what differentiates Lean from other business methodologies is its emphasis on people and process over profit.

The Manga Style In The Japanese Literature On Manufacturing – Michel Baudin looks at the unique characteristic of the Japanese literature on manufacturing is its use of comic strips — or manga — to communicate with readers.

Please, Not Another Argument for MBWA – Dan Markovitz explains why we need to do away with unstructured visits to the shop floor if you want to really know what is going on.

Creating a Lean Culture – Bob Emiliani talks about leaders no wanting to do the hard work of creating a Lean culture.

Are Younger Employees the Only Ones Who Want Fair, Real-Time Feedback? – Mark Graban shows why more frequent feedback teaches us how to react less and lead more effectively, so we can improve more.

You’re Not the Hero – Ron Pereira explains that for true and lasting continuous improvement success we must rise above the need for hero status and realize our main purpose is to guide, mentor, and serve.

How to Measure the M in SQDCM – Jon Miller says a healthy business needs a work environment that is pleasant, motivating, and hopeful.

Leading Lean from the Middle of the Organization – Steve Kane discusses creating demand for continuous improvement.

The Wisdom of Humility – Kevin Meyer says recognizing and accepting that we don’t know everything and exposing our vulnerability to mistakes to others is critical for effective leadership.

Overcoming a Fear Of Failure Culture – Andrew Quibell shares 10 steps to avoid temporary solutions, band-aids, and get to root cause.

Failure is a Requirement for Innovation – Al Norval says it’s only a thin line that separates success from failure.

Why Lean is a Time-based Strategy – Orry Fiume explains why lean uses time to gain a competitive advantage.

Ask Art: Why is Takt Time So Important in a Lean Turnaround? – Art Byrne says the lean fundamental of “work to takt time” is the driving force that ties everything together.

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Lean Tips Edition #147 (#2416 - 2430)

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 #2416 - Create a Workplace Environment Free of Fear.
So many business and companies tend to operate in a performance-based environment. This sort of atmosphere is a favorable environment for fear and uncertainty to grow in, so keeping employee engagement steady is especially important. Allowing your employees to make choices without having to run everything up to the chain of command, allows them great moments within their career. Coincidentally, these performance-based environments can also lead to the fear of getting reprimanded if their decision falls flat. Managing a business where employees are punished for mistakes or a wrong choice is a sure-fire strategy for staff to become disengaged and unwilling to take the risks sometimes necessary for success. This is another opportunity to choose a kinder, more positive approach with your staff that can still be effective, without diminishing their levels of engagement.

Lean Tip #2417 - Motivate, Inspire and Coach Your Employees.
Not only should your employees understand the scope of their work, but as their manager, so should you. Creating a positive workplace environment starts with happy employees, but doesn’t end there. The tone is set by the managerial staff from the beginning, and a good way to achieve a positive tone is to be more than their boss; be the best coach they could have. If you see an employee struggling with a task, approach them to see if you can help in any way. Whether it is a pat on the back and words of encouragement urging them to keep trying or offering guidance on policy and procedure, they will see your willingness to help as a concern for their state of mind, as well as the company’s success. Many individuals throughout history who’ve been praised for outstanding accomplishments have had a good coach or mentor standing behind them. Be that coach for your employees.

Lean Tip #2418 - Build the Team Spirit
Bridging the gap between management and plant workers involves getting rid of some outdated mindsets especially the one where factory workers continuously think in terms of “us versus them.” In this case, “us” refers to the plant workers while “them” refers to management.

To overcome this hurdle, encourage a culture where workers buy-in on the goals and future direction of the company. Plant employees need to know that they are not merely resources or factors of production but that everyone is an important part of the team. This is one the most important elements to answer How To Motivate Employees Working On The Plant Floor.

Whatever continuous improvements the management wants to see, it is noteworthy that strong leadership and committed management support is critical for the success of any idea in an organization.

Also, the leaders need to embody and demonstrate positive change in the plant. For instance, if a critical asset breaks down and the maintenance team needs to put in overtime, instead of giving instructions and going home, a top-level manager can stay back to encourage them. This gesture, plus the knowledge that they will be properly compensated for their work, will keep the team motivated.

Lean Tip #2419 - Allow Autonomy
It’s not fulfilling enough for people to report to work and take instructions like robots every day. Workers should be empowered through self-determination. This means that they have some freedom to choose how to complete tasks without constant micromanaging.

Let’s take the example of machine operators. Giving them a sense of ownership and control over the equipment that they operate daily shows that the management trusts their abilities. In turn, this encourages them to take accountability and develop a sense of pride in the assets and equipment under their care.

One tried and trusted methodology for improving operators’ involvement in machine care is Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). This is a proactive all-hand-on-deck maintenance strategy that involves everyone in equipment upkeep. All staff are responsible for the basic maintenance of the machines they operate. The benefits of adopting TPM include minimal wastage and close to zero accidents, defects, and downtime.

Lean Tip #2420 - Break Up the Routine.
Even “fun” tasks are monotonous when you have to do them over and over again, for hours and hours on end.

You should encourage your employees to shake things up and include more variety in their day; perhaps they could spend the morning on one thing and afternoon on another.

Or if (like in a factory) you have a variety of different, highly repetitive roles, get an hourly staff rotation going so no one spends too long on one thing and everyone gets multi-skilled in the process.

Whatever it is, breaking up the routine even just a little bit could help your staff to feel a little more refreshed and revitalized.

Lean Tip #2421 – Make Respectful Communication The Norm
Communication is open, honest, and respectful. People feel free to express their thoughts, opinions, and potential solutions to problems. People feel as if they are heard out and listened to by team members who are attempting to understand. Team members ask questions for clarity and spend their thought time listening deeply rather than forming rebuttals while their co-worker is speaking.

They do this by formulating questions that will lead them to more deeply understand their teammate's point of view.

Lean Tip #2422 – Focus on Team Member Strengths
Focusing on the weaknesses of your team members can seriously affect engagement and consequently lower the team’s productivity. According to Gallup research, employees who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.

Everyone is different - we have different strengths, passions, and weaknesses. One of the cornerstones of a good team leader is focusing on individuals’ strengths, and bringing together a team of people that has a combined skillset to get the job done. As long as everyone contributes by bringing a strong skill to the team, their weakness should not be dwelt on. 

Lean Tip #2423 – Reward Excellent Teamwork
One of the best ways to build camaraderie in the workplace is to give formal recognition for employee achievements. One of the best things to praise your employees for is excellent teamwork.

If an individual goes above and beyond their role to help the organization as a whole, ensure that they feel appreciated for their efforts. Also remember to appreciate employees who go out of their way to help others in need, even if this doesn’t correlate with business goals.

Showing gratitude for altruistic behavior is an excellent way to create an awesome, friendly culture. When you have a workplace where people are rewarded for helping one another, teamwork will naturally improve.

Recognition can come in the form of kind words from a direct manager, or perhaps a photo in the company’s internal newsletter with a description of the achievement.

Lean Tip #2424 – Don’t Micro-Manage Employees
If you treat your employees like children who can’t be expected to work like unsupervised adults, don’t expect them to work together like an effective team! In order for teamwork to flourish, respect is required.

It’s important to specify goals, set deadlines and give employees all the tools they need to perform to the best of their abilities, but when you micro manage, employees will be less inclined to work effectively and more inclined to do what’s required to please their direct manager.

Even if an employee is fully committed to the organization, they will never perform to the best of their abilities if they have someone breathing down their neck.

As an alternative to micromanaging, build a culture of trust, respect and honesty. If you create a wonderful culture, teamwork will naturally flourish.

Lean Tip #2425 - Be Present and Attentive
Teamwork is impossible when people think you don't care about them.

Rather than being that person who tears around the office, constantly absorbed in the next meeting, the next quarter, the next campaign, blind to the human beings in your midst, be that team member who takes time to give their full attention to each conversation.

When team members see you listening to them, they will be more likely to buy into your teamwork-building efforts. As old-fashioned as it may sound, teamwork is the result of a group of people who care enough about each other to work together.

Lean Tip #2426 – Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem
Neuroscientists have proven that your brain cannot find solutions if you focus on the problem. This is because when you focus on the problem, you’re effectively feeding ‘negativity,’ which in turn activates negative emotions in the brain. These emotions block potential solutions.

I’m not saying you should ‘ignore the problem,’ instead, try to remain calm. It helps to first, acknowledge the problem; and then, move your focus to a solution-oriented mindset where you keep fixed on what the ‘answer’ could be, rather than lingering on ‘what went wrong’ and ‘who’s fault it is’.

Lean Tip #2427 – Visualize the problem
Try and document a picture of the process depending on the problem. This may or may not be relevant, but we all know pictorial representations often help. Draw a simple diagram without worrying about technical conventions, specific constraints etc. A simple picture diagram can help visualize the most complex of problems in any area. Use any simple tool like PowerPoint, white boards, sheets, and papers and never shy away from starting to draw these on the fly if understanding a problem is becoming a challenge.

Lean Tip #2428 – List Out as Many Solutions as Possible
Perhaps the best advice on problem-solving is never to dismiss an idea. Write down every possible solution to a problem you can think of, even if it seems silly. It may lead to a better idea or be something that could be adapted to become a great idea.

Lean Tip #2429 – Seek Your Team’s Input
When faced with a problem at the workplace, as a decision maker you can assess and come up with a solution, but it helps to include the input of your immediate team members. Sometimes, the people who are actually involved in the operational aspects will be in a better position to suggest ways to overcome a certain crisis.

By being a leader that listens, it will help you earn your team’s trust while also improving your problem solving capabilities.

Lean Tip #2430 - Break Down Silos.

You don't have to be in a big company to suffer from poor communication. Even two people in a department or company can be personally productive yet totally oblivious to the activities of each other. Great problem solvers are also great facilitators. They use their communication skills to help others share information so all bases are covered. They then encourage people to work together outside their respective roles so the sum is greater than the parts.

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Friday, November 22, 2019

Lean Quote: Ideas are Important

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.

"What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit what you can do with your business and your life.. — Harvey Firestone

Ideas are important.  Without ideas, progress isn’t made, change doesn’t happen, much of human development stops.But ideas can’t go anywhere unless they are realized and actioned.

When you put your mind to work — whatever the focus — don’t be afraid of what you think.  You may stumble upon something brilliant.  Your education is an opportunity to discover and let your mind wander.  Will your ideas fit in with what has already been, with what is to come, or with nothing at all?

You’ll probably discard the majority of your ideas.  That’s no bad thing.  The more ideas you have, the more you should expect to pass by.  Luckily, you should hold on to more ideas too.

Creativity is crucial for businesses today, especially when the market is dependent on innovative, breaking technology. The collaboration of creative minds has the ability to push creative business ideas into reality. Once your business brain is able to think outside the box, the possibilities are endless.

Creativity and innovation are often the reason that businesses flourish in today’s world—setting the bar higher for the next ‘big’ idea. Creative thinking leads to the implementation of innovative ideas in the workplace.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Guest Post: 10 Ways To Build Stronger Leadership Skills

Business organizations are complex entities that strongly depend on internal procedures and new technologies, but the truth is that people make the essence of every system. After all, your employees are those who need to understand and execute business ideas in order to make the company function properly.

But if you want to achieve this level of professional productivity, you need to become a genuine leader who inspires people and encourages them to give their best for the benefit of the entire organization. By definition, leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.

Although it sounds fairly simple, becoming a great business leader is everything but easy. It’s a long and challenging process, but it gets easier when you follow a set of proven techniques. In this post, we will show you 10 ways to build stronger leadership skills.

1.    Build a Superior Communicator

A leader can never be a person with poor communication skills. If you want to manage the entire organization successfully, you need to learn how to interact with the members of your team.

This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication as your messages always have to be direct and concise. The goal is, of course, to prevent potential misunderstandings and to ensure effortless execution of business activities on all levels of the hierarchy.

2.    Get to Know Your Employees

The second tip on our list can be considered a natural extension of the first one. Namely, high-quality leaders are eager to find out more about their workers and get to know them privately as well as professionally. It’s a good way to break the barrier between a manager and his/her employees, thus strengthening the bonds within your working community.

Jake Gardner, a recruiter at the bestessay writing service called AustralianWritings, explains how to do it: “Start by taking some time to talk with your staff. Be ready to listen to them and learn about their private and business aspirations.” 

3.    Set Goals and Clarify Duties

Goal setting is yet another very important aspect of leadership that you need to take into account. While you are not supposed to do all the work single-handedly, you are expected to give instructions and clarify duties. Generally speaking, a leader should follow an old journalistic rule and answer the 5W+H questions:

-          Who does what, where, when, why, and how?

If you answer all of these questions properly, each worker will know exactly what to do.

4.    Delegate Tasks and Hire Experts

The best leaders understand that they don’t need to do everything on their own. On the contrary, they are ready to invest in human resources and hire experts to perform certain tasks. Therefore, you should give employees the authority to control their fields of work and hold them accountable for the results they make.

5.    Keep Learning

By definition, leaders are hard workers who don’t accept the status quo. They know that other professionals are progressing, too, and so they understand the importance of long-term personal development. Besides that, the entire world is changing year after year, which is why you need to follow the latest business trends.

For example, sales, marketing, and customer service tools did not exist only a decade ago, but now they play a major role in everyday business. No leader could neglect such developments and fail to use modern platforms to make the company more efficient. Without lifelong learning, you cannot keep the leadership status in the long run.

6.    Give Employees the Chance to Learn

This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one because business leaders are not the only ones who need and want to keep learning. According to the report, 94% of employees claim that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn. The job of a leader is obvious – give your staff the opportunity to keep learning and you will make a great team.

7.    Reward Productive Workers

People hate when managers don’t show empathy and appreciation for work well done. As a leader, you must learn how to reward productive employees and acknowledge their results. You can do it in many different ways, but these are the usual suspects:

-          Promotions
-          Financial bonuses
-          Small perks and incentives
-          Simple “Thank You” notes

8.    Make Employees Respect Your for Professional Authority

Another critical lesson is to stop playing the superiority card and start proving professional authority. The sheer fact that you are a business owner or senior manager won’t force people to respect you. On the contrary, you have to earn their respect by building professional authority. As soon as employees notice that you are working hard and doing your best, they will show respect and be ready to give their 100% for the company.

9.    Don’t Forget to Network

Networking is a business feature that often separates top-performing leaders from their less agile colleagues. How come?

First of all, a wide network of professional acquaintances will help you to make better deals and find more clients. Secondly, you will often find the most talented job candidates through networking.

This is exactly what recruiters at uk-dissertation.com do – they constantly grow the network of professional contacts and use it to identify and hire the best writers from all over the world.

10.  Ask for Feedback

The last tip on our list is fairly simple – ask other people to tell you what they think about your leadership skills. They can give you valuable and unbiased comments, thus helping you to improve. One option is to conduct face-to-face interviews with employees, but the second solution is simpler as all it takes is to organize an anonymous online survey. That way, people will tell you openly the pros and cons of your leadership style.


You can hardly run a profitable company without some serious leadership skills, but becoming a genuine leader is easier said than done. After all, the most successful business owners and senior managers are rarely ever natural-born talents, but rather hard workers who spend a lot of time developing their professional abilities.

In this article, we analyzed 10 ways to build stronger leadership skills. Keep our tips in mind and take some time to put them into practice – it could turn you into a super-successful business leader!

About the Author: Becky Holton is a journalist and a blogger at GrabmyessayBoomessays. She is interested in education technologies, help with assignment  and is always ready to support informative speaking at Best Essay. Follow her on Twitter.

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving: 3 Ideas to Appreciate Your Employees

Ah, November. The leaves are falling, the weather is chilly, and the smell of pumpkin spice permeates the air. While you’re probably making plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, there’s one group of people you may be forgetting—your employees.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to express your gratitude to those around you. Making your employees feel appreciated now only promotes mutual feelings of goodwill, but it can make them feel more loyal and dedicated to their work.

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be difficult. These appreciation ideas for employees will help you get in the spirit and show how much you appreciate the people you work with.

1. Take the time to talk to, and get to know, your employees. The most significant way to thank your employees is to get to know them. Take them to lunch or schedule time to ask about their values, hobbies, and interests. Understand your employees. Use what you now know about them to build a customized skills-improvement performance plan. Spend time with, and become interested in, each of your employees.

2. Ask employees what they think. The best way to feel appreciated is to be included – to feel that your perspectives matter. In a Lean environment, we need input from all of our employees to be successful. Including employees in company issues, challenges, and opportunities empowers them, engages them, and connects them to strategy and vision of the company.

3. Say thank you and mean it. Most managers actually do thank employees who do great work. Employees work for more than money. They work for the praise and acknowledgement of their managers. A sincere thank you, said at the time of a specific event that warrants the applause, is one of the most effective ways to appreciate employees. Remember the phrase, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated.” Start to say “thank you” or “I appreciate what you do” when it is deserved, and it will inspire the behaviors to continue. Make it personal and sincere. Catch employees doing great things and respond. It empowers them, appreciates them, and celebrates their performance.

The Thanksgiving season is a great time to recognize employees for their dedication. Finding simple and creative ways to show your appreciation does not have to be difficult. Be creative and try to come up with new ways to say, “thank you” this holiday and every day.

Thanksgiving brings a valuable reminder of the power of rewards and recognition, but these interactions shouldn’t be limited to one season of the year. To keep your employees engaged and productive, find ways to let them know year-round that you are grateful for their efforts.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Lean Quote: Clued-in Leaders are Vital to an Engaged Workplace Culture.

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.

"Nothing liberates our greatness like the desire to help, the desire to serve. — Marianne Williamson

Businesses that take the time and effort to improve worker morale and job satisfaction can reap significant benefits; in fact, according to Gallup, disengaged workers “offer perhaps the greatest untapped opportunity for businesses to improve their performance and profitability.” But what’s the best way to increase engagement? Fortunately, it’s not as difficult (or costly) as it sounds.

Let’s get right to business with some key ways to raise spirits and get your culture working for you rather than against you.

1. Recognize and appreciate employees.
Who — and what — you celebrate tells your employees a lot about the kind of culture you have and the kind of culture you want. When frequent and genuine appreciation is modeled every day from the top down, you’ll create a culture that people want to be a part of and contribute to in every way.

2. Value a culture of open-mindedness.
If you want to raise employee morale, your culture must welcome input from all sources, regardless of internal conflicts. It’s the difference between employees that just follow orders and a culture that actively encourages debate and fresh perspectives. When you have many people and perspectives united toward one mission, that’s when employee morale soars to new levels.

3. Enable and empower employees to work to their full potential.
People want to stretch themselves, so potential is a huge motivator for most. It’s also closely tied to employee engagement levels. Find opportunities to be flexible and give employees the freedom to change how they work. When they’re able to realize their full potential, you’ll also see a boost in employee morale.

4. Managers care about employee concerns.
People spend the majority of their waking hours at work, and of everyone they interact with, their manager has the biggest impact. It’s essential to employee morale that managers care about their employees as individuals and show genuine interest in their concerns.

5. Last, but not least: Don’t forget to have fun.
Fun encourages creativity, productivity, and teamwork. It promotes bonding and a positive culture where employees are better connected to your organization. Fun is a great stress reliever, and it gives people something to anticipate. And beyond boosting employee morale, fun at work may even help your organization attract and retain top talent.

Clued-in leaders are vital to an engaged workplace culture. Knowing they have a good grasp on reality boosts the confidence and trust of employees.

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