Friday, December 13, 2019

Lean Quote: Reflection is One of the Most Underused Yet Powerful Tools for Success

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.


"Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success. — Richard Carlson

Great leaders pause and reflect on a regular basis; leaders at their best renew themselves daily. Without time for reflection, a leader is likely to miss important cues, to forget to do the more important things. They don’t see opportunities because they are hidden by the busy and trivial things. Over time, the leader without time for reflection is doomed to run out of ideas, energy, and the ability to serve those that we lead. We simply “run out of gas.”

Unfortunately, there’s not enough emphasis in the business world about the need for leaders to make time in their day for reflection. In fact, thanks to today’s accelerated pace in the workplace, a greater focus is being put on a leader’s ability to react fast to changes and making quick decisions for their organization. While the ability to think quick on one’s feet is certainly a valuable trait for a leader to demonstrate, it’s also important that leaders develop the habit of putting aside time during their day to reflect not only on current decisions their organization needs to make, but also to review past mistakes to see what lessons their company can gain from that experience.

For many leaders, the acknowledgement that slowing down for some part of the day is necessary, desirable and valuable is in itself transformative. Even the very practical leader will discover that regular time spent in reflection will bring greater perspective and new levels of emotional clarity.  This is the time to step back and take an unhurried look at daily challenges, past “mis-takes” and future visions.

The more you reflect, the more you realize that it comes naturally, and that without it, you are not able to do your job. You will discover that we all reflect, most of the time. By relearning how to use your reflecting skills as a tool in your leaders toolbox, you can increase your ability to see possible challenges early, and seek alternative solutions before you are forced into a corner. You become pro-active.

Making time to reflect on past decisions and mistakes, and allowing yourself the opportunity to learn from it, is a critical step to continued growth and development and your ability to effectively lead others.



Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Setting Organizational Goals: Less Is More


There are two common mistakes made when setting goals.

#1 Not setting any goals

#2 Setting too many goals

Businesses flounder when they chase too many goals. If you feel you have too many priorities and claims on your attention, you are hardly alone. A recent survey of 1,800 global executives that dug into this issue revealed a wide range of related management ailments, including:

  • Most executives (64%) report they have too many conflicting priorities.
  • The majority of executives (56%) say that allocating resources in a way that really supports the strategy is a significant challenge, especially as companies chase a wide set of growth initiatives.
  • 81% admit that their growth initiatives lead to waste, at least some of the time.
  • Nearly half (47%) say their company’s way of creating value is not well understood by employees or customers.
To paraphrase the great Jim Collins, most great businesses don't die of starvation...they die from indigestion. They are on what I like to call the “Goal Buffet,” and their eyes were much, much larger than their stomach. As a result, they now have a plate of goals piled so high that they certainly can't eat all of them, and in trying to do so they will almost certainly be unhappy with the result.

Many businesses that find themselves paralyzed by this goal-overload indigestion. Things aren't getting done. People aren't effective. Deadlines aren't achieved. Companies feel stuck.

Goal setting is one of the more challenging tasks that leaders face. There are short- and long-term goals, plus overall business objectives to consider in addition to individual team and employee goals. They must be relevant and timely to motivate employees to actually reach them, but they also can’t be so fine-tuned that team members feel micromanaged. It’s a tricky balance to strike.

While keeping employees engaged and motivated in achieving those goals can be complicated in practice, the key to success is simplicity. Whether you call them goals, objectives or priorities, you should define each by a deliverable outcome. We like to call these measurable and achievable targets key results.

Focus on less in order to accomplish more. Start by selecting 1 wildly important goal, or WIG, instead of trying to work on a dozen goals all at once. I’m not suggesting you ignore the work necessary to maintain your daily operation. I’m suggesting you narrow your focus to work on what you want to significantly improve.

Most intelligent, ambitious people don’t want to do less. Especially if it means saying no to good ideas. They are wired to do more, but there are always more good ideas than there is capacity to execute.

When you choose a wildly important goal, you identify the most important objective that won’t be achieved unless it gets special attention. In other words, your normal course of business won’t make it happen.

To define a WIG, identify where you are now, where you want to be and by when. Said differently, you define a starting line, a finish line and a deadline. Psychologically it is very important to have a single measure of success.

Eliminate other goals that are secondary. This is not to say that you should never have more than one goal. Rather, you need to realize that you have only so much time and energy. Therefore, choose the goal that will give you the highest ROE (return on effort) and focus on that one goal first. Once complete, you can then focus on other goals in sequence.


In business, success comes from identifying the few opportunities that offer a real chance for reward, while ruthlessly eliminating all other goals that might be competing with the few that matter.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Monday, December 9, 2019

Avoiding the Iceberg of Ignorance


Who in your plant knows the most about the problems that occur: the slow-downs, minor-stoppages, equipment failures, the waste, the inefficiencies, the source of poor quality, the frustrations due to maintenance work not being executed correctly, and so on? Is it you? Is it senior leadership? Is it anyone in management or engineering?

Have you ever heard of “The Iceberg of Ignorance”? Japanese consultant Sidney Yoshida coined the term in a study that he presented at the International Quality Symposium in Mexico City in 1989. It was a popular concept in its day and led to the popularization of suggestion boxes and quality circles, among other things.

According to Yoshida, 100% of an organization’s front-line problems are known by front-line employees. This totally makes sense, right?

However, Yoshida found that when he went up one level in management, to the front-line employees’ supervisors, those supervisors only knew 74% of the front-line problems. After all, people “manage up.” They want to look good in front of their boss. Plus, some supervisors “don’t want to hear it.” And people are busy. They may not have time to tell their supervisors about every problem, large and small. So ... only 74% of the front-line problems are known by front-line supervisors.

Naturally, the pattern continues as you move up within the organization. By the time you get to middle management, according to Yoshida, those managers are aware of only 9% of an organization’s front-line problems.

And top management? They’re only aware of 4% — just the tip of the iceberg!
In short: The higher up someone is in an organization, the less likely that person is to have all the information about front-line problems.

So, what can we be doing to melt the berg in our organization? The words of Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho, “Go see, ask why, show respect” are the way we make it happen.

1.     “Go see” involves (1) viewing the Gemba in order to assess the alignment of the Gemba’s purpose with that of the organization, (2) observing processes to understand whether or not they are designed to support the purpose, and (3) to engage the people to gain their perspectives on whether or not the processes are designed to help them fulfill their roles in achieving the purpose.

2.     “Ask why” can be done from four perspectives, the solution view (which looks for opportunities to employ solutions), the waste view (which tries to identify areas of waste or inefficiency), the problem view (which starts with objectives, confirms design, and asks why the objectives can’t be met), and the Kaizen view (which seeks to examine for improvement at a system level).

3.     “Show respect” is perhaps the most valuable piece, as people are the goal, not simply the means to an end. Objectives are accomplished by people, not processes. Processes ought to be designed to support people in their accomplishment of objectives. Ultimately this means developing people to be who they can be. One tremendous side effect of that development is greatly increased capability in fulfilling their roles, which leads to greater efficiency in accomplishing objectives.

       This isn’t anything new. It is at the heart of TPS and basic lean principles. Performing root cause analysis, making suggestions, and executing the solution is fundamental to how humans work. You need to show some trust and let nature take its course.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Friday, December 6, 2019

Lean Quote: Act your way to the thinking you want’ - Lean Leadership is the Act

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.


"Act your way to the thinking you want. — John Shook

Lean management (and the leadership implicit within the role) plays an essential role in the operation and success of lean businesses.  Without a willingness to adopt a lean leadership approach, companies will struggle to fully benefit from the implementation of lean, as leading influencers will still be fixed in traditional management methods.

Managing lean businesses requires a fresh approach, with managers being considered as coaches, leaders and mentors rather than simply a ‘boss’.

This style of leadership goes hand in hand with the core principles of lean, as it focuses on optimizing all aspects of the business, including working relationships between managers and employees.

It has six basic qualities, which are:

Leaders as superior observers: They go to the action -- they call it the gemba -- to observe not only the machines and the products but also to spend significant time with the employees. They also are in contact with their customers. A much overlooked leadership skill they have in abundance is the ability to be an empathetic listener.

Leaders as learners: They do not assume they know it all. Rather, they go to the floor to learn. They are in “lifelong” learning mode.

Leaders as initiators: They plan, they articulate and sell their plans, and they act on their plans. They are not risk averse. They are not cavalier.

Leaders as teachers: They are “lifelong” teachers. When something goes wrong, their first thought is not “Who fouled up?” but “Why did if fail?” and “How can I use this as a teaching opportunity?”

Leaders as role models: They walk the talk. There is no substitute for this. NONE.

Leaders as supporters: They recognize they mainly get work done through others, so they have mastered the skills of “servant leadership.”

These six qualities are by no means exhaustive, but I believe they do capture many of the behaviors that we have come to associate with Lean Leadership. They are generally distinct from the general leadership qualities and should thus be considered ‘additional’ traits above and beyond the foundational ones. It is important to cultivate these leadership expectations by institutionalizing them in practices for leader development. But most importantly, leaders must build a lean culture by themselves adhering to the principles of lean leadership on a daily basis, thus generating the repeatable behaviors in the organization that will result in a high level of performance. As John Shook says, ‘Act your way to the thinking you want’ --- Lean Leadership is the Act.




Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Toyota’s 4 Stages of Leader Development


Many organizations have trouble sustaining Lean. Toyota is one of the few exceptions. According to Jeffrey Liker and Gary Convis in their book “The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership”, their secret is their leadership system.

Toyota provides a nurturing but challenging environment, to ensure that new Lean leaders are developed continuously. The leaders at Toyota break down a mentorship role into 4 categories.

Self-Development
Development of Others
Further Development of Others – Support Daily Kaizen
Improving the Goals

These four categories are ongoing in the development process of creating and being lean leaders.
In self-development, lean leaders develop awareness within themselves. Internal and external alertness of strengths, weaknesses, and needs leads to more focus and mindfulness in what they do. This increases personal productivity and problem-solving abilities, preparing them to teach these principles to their employees.

Toyota’s leaders teach their employees to self-examine in a way that matches each individual’s personality. Lean leaders never try to make their followers see things from their point of view. Rather, they ask leading questions and present personal challenges to their employees to inspire them to rise and find the personal conclusion themselves. This encourages creativity, focus and a spirit of self-discovery in the employees. By developing their employees in such a way, lean leaders create more freethinking leaders underneath them. Not only does this boost morale and productivity, but this practice will allow the values of the company to instill themselves in the hearts of employees.

Kaizen, the underlying philosophy behind Toyota’s leadership style, has close ties to the idea of continuous improvement. This means that it must be practiced regularly, ideally on a daily basis, otherwise there isn’t much point in applying it to the work of the company. The leader must coach their workers with a bottom-up approach, and must always retain their focus on the company’s improvement.

Once team members understand these values in the heart, they are on their way to becoming lean leaders themselves. Leaders cannot learn these skills in a classroom but need to live them every moment of their lives. This ongoing practice makes Toyota’s leadership system sustainable.

It’s no secret that Toyota are one of the most progressive companies on the planet, and surprisingly, the key to their success is no secret either. They are quite open about the ideas that make their business work successfully, and the rest of the world has a lot to learn from the concepts implemented in their production facilities.

Mastering the four stages of leader development can be of huge benefit to any company, regardless of the field they’re involved in, and it’s an important part of the growth of any person in a leadership position.


Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare

Monday, December 2, 2019

Leaders Need to Lead – Six Principles of Lean Leader


Lean thinking is fundamentally transforming the way organizations operate. The Lean principles of continuous improvement, respect for people, and a relentless focus on delivering customer value are making teams and organizations rethink the practices that might have guided them for decades. A new, transformative 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.

In a lean organization changes occur in all processes at all the areas of the institution. Therefore, lean leadership is required at all levels to ensure overall success. From the CEO to plant managers to supervisors and unit leaders, every leader has an essential role to play in sustaining the lean program. Ultimately, they have find ways to drive continuous change and maintain momentum from year to year. There is really no sure-fire approach to achieve this, but there are specific actions and behaviors which leaders at all levels can take, to sustain a lean initiative and ensure the program continues delivering long-term results and benefits to the organization.

Because lean demands continuous innovation and new processes, leadership in a lean organization is constantly faced with unique problems as they strive to sustain continuous-improvement. Therefore, to improve their effectiveness and hence meet some of these challenges, lean leaders incorporate the following principles in their personal leadership style.

1. Self-Knowledge
True self-knowledge leads to humility. The mark of a good lean leader is the ability to reflect and acknowledge their own weaknesses, seek improvement, learn constantly; and to give and receive challenges.

Before a leader can effectively lead a team and seize control of an institution, he or she needs to ‘know' themselves first. Far too many people lack a true understanding of their own capabilities - most underestimate their weaknesses, while overestimating their talents. As a result, they often make bad decisions about what they can handle on their own and where they should seek assistance from others. The trappings of power, titles and privilege can also fool one into pride, or the false belief that one is more qualified, smarter, or more experienced than those they are leading.

To effectively improve their leadership, lean leaders use some method to gain insight into their performance other than personal perception. This may involve completing a proficiency test in their field, taking an IQ test, or requesting their team to fill out an anonymous survey about themselves. The idea is to get a wholesome and objective feedback about oneself, and though it's an uncomfortable process, it's always well worth the effort.

2. Be Open to Change
To efficiently and effectively drive change in a lean organization, a lean leader must be open to change. This basically means being open to new ideas including those which they do not like, support, or claim ownership to. They should also constantly challenge assumptions and ideas, especially their own; and need be open to being wrong as well as willing to mend their ways.

3. Lead by Example
A lean leader sets the example for others to follow. He or she must be an excellent role model by following what they teach and ask of others.  For instance, if a leader expects team members to complete standard work and show proof of this, then he or she should also complete their leader standard work and provide proof of it for all to see.

To lead by example, a leader needs to act with highest integrity and be genuine. Also, their actions and decisions must at all times be aligned with and supportive of the organization's principles and mission. As a leader your actions should echo your words whenever possible – so practice what you preach.

4. Be Respectful
Every single person in the organization deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Lean leaders treat all people - especially their direct reports - as human beings who know how to think, come up with creative solutions, and solve problems. When employees and other stakeholders are treated with respect, only then can they be enabled to learn, think, and improve.

Leadership is about being a servant to the people who report to you, and supplying them with the resources they require to serve customers and abide by the company's principles. It's all about trusting, teaching, and allowing failures which impart important lessons.

5. Go to the Gemba
A lean leader must go to the gemba as often as possible. They must be present on the job site on a regular basis, actively engaging with the people closest to the customer- rather than spending most of their time in the office or conference rooms. This, as a result, ensures that they are able to truly understand the real situation, allowing them to take effective actions to improve performance.

A true lean leader frequents the workplace both when things are going well, and when problem arise - otherwise, employees are less likely to communicate the real situation if their boss only shows up when problems occur. 

6. Develop a Culture of Continuous Improvement
True lean leadership fosters continuous improvement even when the ideas for improvement do not measure up to expectations. A lean leader empowers their workers to take on the responsibility for resolving their own problems, by making it acceptable to attempt something even if it does not work out. It's essential to demonstrate that participating in improvement activities, challenging existing practices, and observing processes, are all part of a complete problem solving approach that will advance the organization.

Leaders play an integral role in motivating and influencing employees to adopt a continuous improvement mindset. If the leader does not demonstrate the behaviors and mindset required for successful lean implementation then they cannot expect their employees to.

When leaders are true role models for Lean behavior, this inspires everyone within an organization to deepen their understanding of Lean, fully engage with a transformational program, and close the gap between Lean tools and Lean thinking to fully realize the value of Lean.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare