Friday, July 10, 2020

Lean Quote: Learn to Think Differently

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.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.  — Ian McLaren

The illustration and story below, while short, is the perfect example of why sometimes switching your view on a situation can go a long way in empathy.

The man doesn’t know that there is a snake underneath. The woman doesn’t know that there is a stone crushing the man. The woman thinks: “I am going to fall! And I can’t climb because the snake is going to bite me! Why can’t the man use a little more strength and pull me up!” The man thinks: “I am in so much pain! Yet I’m still pulling you as much as I can! Why don’t you try and climb a little harder!?”

The moral is— you can’t see the pressure the other person is under, and the other person can’t see the pain you’re in. This is life, whether it’s with work, family, feelings or friends, we should try to understand each other. Learn to think differently, perhaps more clearly and communicate better. A little thought and patience goes a long way.

Be kind to people. Everyone we meet is fighting their own battle.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Five Ways to Motivate Your Team With Empathy and Authority

A crisis pressure-tests leadership and culture. Many new values are formed under the strain, and employees gain new perspectives on their organization and its leadership. Communication is the key to keeping them motivated and productive in a season of enormous distraction.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t my first financial crisis. No matter how well you run a business, external forces will test you, your culture, and your resolve. Leaders are constantly processing the future, and our employees are watching to see how confident we are and how clearly we see the situation.

So, what exactly does “empathy” mean right now? It means focusing on goodwill and doing no harm. It means prioritizing people and their well-being. Making decisions that are in your employees’ and customers’ best interest. This may sound simple, but it’s not always easy to execute. Here are some tips to help you navigate communication in the midst of a challenging situation.

Let Employees Ask Questions
Remember, during a crisis people are scared. Actively listen to what employees have to say. Even if you think you know what questions are on your employees’ minds, giving them the opportunity to ask makes all the difference in how “heard” they feel. Displaying empathy through solidarity can assuage concerns.

Seek Opportunities to Learn & Grow
While crisis can be detrimental to normal business operations, such as having to cancel events, it can also lead to positive growth and learning. We are already seeing signs of this positive growth and learning opportunity. Many companies have leveraged their built-in virtual infrastructure and transformed massive in-person events into virtual meetings to protect participants’ health. And, while some may be concerned about how remote work and work-from-home flexibility may impact business, research shows that there are a variety of benefits when companies provide remote work flexibility. Those may include: an increase in productivity, increased morale, less stress for workers, and lower operating costs.

Build Trust
To feel confident to act on your recommendations and direction, your team has to trust you. Why is trust so critical in a crisis? Because, according to several studies, the more we trust the people who are supposed to protect or inform us, the less afraid we will be. The less we trust them, the greater our fears. To build trust, communicators must manage expectations and communicate openly, honestly, and often.

Arm Employees with Facts
Knowledge is power, and during a crisis information and events can move quickly. Educate your team on the best ways to take care of themselves and others. Provide your team with updated links to reputable sources with accurate and up-to-date information that includes advice. Research shows, the more people are armed with facts and understand what they can do to take care of and protect themselves, the more they will gain self confidence that they can care for themselves.

Challenge Your Biases
We all have biases. Some of them are conscious biases, because we know we have them. Others are unconscious – we react automatically, without thinking. Biases are built from our upbringing and experience. We can never eliminate them, so the next best thing is to be aware of them, so we can ensure they don’t affect our decision making.

Leading isn’t for the fearful. How you show up and how you communicate can dissipate anxiety and help your team be more connected to the purpose of your company and to one another. It can also help them be productive while getting there.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Book Review - The Conclusion Trap: Four Steps to Better Decisions

Why do organizations and individuals so often struggle to make good decisions, investing enormous amounts of time and money in fruitless efforts to solve thorny problems? Too often, our mistake lies in jumping to conclusions before we even understand the problem we’re attempting to solve.

Dan Markovitz’ The Conclusion Trap gives us a straightforward guide to thinking better about "problems." He distills key insights from lean management and the psychology of making decisions into an easy method you can apply right now.

This book will help you make better decisions by eliminating the tendency to jump to conclusions. You will learn how to ensure that you deeply understand a problem before pursuing any given solution by applying a powerful, four-step process: (1) gathering both facts and data, so you can accurately grasp the situation; (2) framing the problem, so you can avoid cognitive biases; (3) isolating contributing factors, so you can manage complex situations; (4) finding the root cause, so you can avoid ineffective makeshift actions.

It is intentionally a quick read (maybe a couple hours) at just 59 pages but has good illustrations and simple follow structure. The book goes directly to the point with real examples to approach application.

This book doesn't provide solutions. It is a guide to come up with a better understanding of the problem: Get the facts, put them together and think about why this keeps happening.  But understanding the problem is really the first step in coming up with better solutions.  Understand what to change first, before talking about what to change to or how to cause the change.  

This is a great primer to problem solving for those starting a continuous improvement journey but more of a review for seasoned practitioners.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Lean Quote: Freedom Lies In Being Bold

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.

"Freedom lies in being bold.  — Robert Frost

Tomorrow, we celebrate Independence Day in the US. The 4th of July is an extremely patriotic holiday where we celebrate the independence of our country. People celebrate with family and friend gatherings, barbecues, parties, games, food, fun, festivals, parades, musical events and fireworks. 

Lean is a journey of discovery and offers a new path to a different world – a Lean World. The destination and routes individual enterprises takes will rarely be the same, but the principles they apply will. Few executives are brave or bold enough to take a radically different pathBeing bold is about having the courage to challenge the status quo but also about being the leader who can set a direction and a goal. A bold organization knows its weaknesses but never let them stop it from making impact. 

Lean manufacturing provides your workforce the freedom that they need to own and maximize their productivity. In a Lean production plant, the "freedom to control one's work" replaces the "mind numbing stress" of mass production. Armed with the skills they need to control their environment workers have the opportunity to think actively even proactively to solve workplace problems. 

Lean is more than the traditional metrics of improved efficiency, reduced costs and increased throughput. The people-centric approach to the application of Lean creates a better future, driven by empowered individuals working in teams, committed to continuous improvement. It is this culture of responsible freedom and trust that allows employees and their organization to realize the positive benefits of Lean and achieve a successful outcome. 

Lean transformation lies in being bold. It takes boldness to win the day. To build your influence, you’ve got to walk in front of your group. You’ve got to be willing to take the first arrow, tackle the first problem, discover the first sign of trouble. You’ve got to seize the moment. 

Consider this my challenge to you. Dig deep into your inspirational leadership skills to inspire others. Being bold is about taking charge and making something happen. Bold leaders in bold companies do not sit back and wait to see what happens – they take an active role in making good things happen. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get moving so that you can boldly take your company where it has not been before. I’m confident that it will be an exciting ride full of opportunity and promise.  

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Focus on Countermeasures Not Solutions to Problems

Inherently, in Lean problem solving is the heart of what we do. Murphy’s law is an adage that broadly states: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." It is therefore inevitable that businesses must solve problems. Organizations cannot improve unless they consistently seek out and solve their problems. But are your focused on the right thing. 

One element of the Toyota Production System that has not gained much traction is the practice of addressing problems with countermeasures instead of solutions.  It is misunderstood by many people that the tools will lead to the development of a solution to the root cause of a problem.  Organizations are highly complex systems and it is naive to think that any of the problems they face result from a single root cause or can be resolved by a single solution. 

When all of the factors and interactions that can influence work are understood, it becomes clear that the best we can do is attack problems by addressing as many of the perceived causes as possible with the idea that we may never permanently fix the issue.  Because of this, remaining competitive requires continually developing and implementing measures to improve processes and accept the fact that some of the problems the organization faces may never completely disappear. 

Within Lean, virtually every action, tool, or system is considered a countermeasure rather than a solution in an effort to prevent the mindset that changes are, in any way, permanent resolutions to problems. Although some action may, in fact, be permanent solutions to a problem, acting in this way can lead to static thinking and interfere with the development of better methods in the future. 

This is a difficult concept for many to accept because of the importance our culture places on solving problems.  Countermeasures can, at first glance, appear to be nothing more than temporary fixes to problems rather than permanent solutions – which is counter to what organizations are trying to achieve with Lean.  In reality though, it is just the opposite, because a solutions thinking mindset can give a false sense of security that a particular problem has, in fact, been eliminated.  This can be very dangerous down the road if a problem that the team thinks it resolved returns. 

This is not to say that a countermeasure approach focuses on symptoms of a problem rather than the root causes.  The tools and methods associated with an effective kaizen process help a team get down to the root causes of a problem.  The difference with this line of thinking, however, is the concept that there are several potential root causes to any problem and that actions taken to address a problem are based on what is known today with whatever information is currently available.  As the environment changes, the problem can reappear as a result of new or different interactions that were not known at the time it was last studied.  Although the initial countermeasures were valuable to the company, the team needs to continue its efforts to assure performance remains stable or continues to improve. 

Rarely is there a silver bullet in Lean when improving processes. That is why in the Lean language we do not like to use the term “solutions,” implying fixed and done. In the Lean vocabulary, we prefer “countermeasures,” which must be implemented with a good PDCA cycle. 

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Lean Roundup #133 – June 2020

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of June 2020.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

The Genius in Simplicity — 5 Lessons in Kaizen to Improve Our Lives – Brendan McGurgan discusses a deep reflection after talking with Paul Akers of 5 areas of our lives where a Lean mentality and application of Kaizen will have profound effects.

Towards Non-scale Management – Jon Miller says that people get the point of Taiichi Ohno’s book Toyota Production wrong, it was about the desire to get to no scale production.

Lean Outside the Factory - Reverse Magic! – Pascal Dennis reminds us the next frontier of lean is the office, where we need to make the invisible, visible.

Andon – Putting Quality at the Forefront – Al Norval explains the key connection between detecting abnormalities and stopping the process for humans to solve problems is andon.

Do You Really Understand the Problem You’re Trying to Solve? – Dan Markovitz shares four tips that can help you improve your problem framing and therefore your problem solving.

Why coaching? – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains why coaching is the most important leadership capability for effective problem solving.

Do Generalists or Specialists Win in 2020? – Marci Reynolds believes in 2020 and beyond, that it’s less about using a specialist or generalist approach, and more about using a flexible, adaptable approach.

Team Improvement: Management Desires vs Team Reality – Johanna Rothman explains what happens when managers don’t understand the reality and are too focused on a specific solution instead of the desired outcome.

Reflections on Respect and Countermeasures — In Workplaces and Society - Mark Graban discusses the need for being proactive, experimentation, and respect since there is no single magical root cause not one countermeasure will do.

Lean Must Learn From Black Lives Matter  - Bob Emiliani shares thoughts Lean management adoption by CEOs and what could be done to increase the number of CEOs come around.

Lean Thinking for Solving Systemic Problems - Jon Miller discusses the insights that lean thinking offers to solve systemic problems and how that relates to current events.

Five Revolutions Into the Lean Journey: What's Next? – Daniel Jones says the current pandemic serves as an opportunity for us to rethink the world of enterprise and explains five different revolutions of Lean.

How to Show Respect During a Pandemic – Katrina Appell shares a helpful framework to show respect which is challenging under normal business conditions especially challenging during COVID.

How to Fail At Lean in Four Easy Steps – Regis Medina shares four ways to fail at Lean as means bring success to your own Lean journey. 

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