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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Lean Roundup #139 – December 2020

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

5S As A Cultural Enabler – Scott Gauvin says if you introduce 5S with the intention of it being the first step to improve employee engagement and company culture it will take on a new, more significant meaning. 

What is a Good Life? – Pascal Dennis says a good life entails having good values, and trying to live up to them.

Failure Is Always An Option – Johanna Rothman says when everyone reframes failure as learning and risk management, we can think our way through the various problems.

Tribute to Norm – Bruce Hamilton remarked how Norman Bodek enriched all of us.

The Lockdown Unlocks Real Work – Dan Markovitz says working from home presents a different set of challenges but the Covid pandemic provides an opportunity to assess and redesign work processes, it also provides an opportunity to lighten the administrative and managerial burden on our workers.

A Surprising and Extraordinary Master Class in Non-Lean Management – Mark Graban explores what might be a very non-Lean (un-Lean?) company in the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati.

Simpler Definitions of Muri, Muda and Mura – Jon Miller shares a new set of definitions to help bring a cohesive explanation of muri, mura and muda.

Norman Bodek and Respect for People – Kevin Meyer comments on the powerful legacy and valuable gift to the world Norman Bodek had.

Lessons from Lincoln on True North, and the Perils of the Journey – Jamie Flinchbaugh discusses the parallels in the lean journey to that of the journey of Lincoln and Stevens navigating the ending of slavery.

Process-Results Dichotomy  - Bob Emiliani says that the Lean community still does not understand the current state of leadership and the process-results dichotomy is just one example that highlights this lack of understanding.

Who Cares? How to Engage Your People in Sustained Lean - Joanna McGuffey & Thomas Richert discuss how to get other people to buy in to lean.

Are You Deploying Lean Mechanistically--or Organically? – Jeffrey Liker describes the lean implementation difference between the mechanistic approach—project based, expert driven, top down, tool--and the organic approach—purpose driven, a journey, engaging people, coaching.

Remembering Norman Bodek, the “Miraculous Life” of an Author, Teacher, and Publisher of Groundbreaking Business Books – Chet Marchwinski shares the legacy and life of Norman Bodek.

Improve Continuously by Mastering the Lean Kata - Rose Heathcote & Daryl Powell believe that the essence of lean—as it applies to all functional areas of the enterprise to different industries and sectors—is continuous improvement, with learning at its core.

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Monday, December 28, 2020

SMART CONTACT is Key to Redirecting Performance

I always say that “silence is acceptance” which essentially mean you deserve what you tolerate. It is a necessary part of any organization to give feedback to employees based on their expected performance. Sometime positive discipline is needed to shape up poor performers. The discipline you apply should be aimed at correcting behavior or performance, not punishing the employee. Many times a correction can be accomplished by a friendly discussion with the employee.

This discussion with an employee needs to address two elements:

       1. Confront the employee with a specific critique of his/her
       2. Address the need for performance improvement.

There are two acronyms I have learned that can help you do this right. The first is CONTACT, used when confronting an employee, and the second it SMART, used to address the improvement.


C stands for "comprehensive." Write a comprehensive memo describing the history of the issue and why now is the appropriate time to write up the employee for poor performance.
O stands for "objective." A supervisor should get HR's input on an evaluation. A second set of eyes helps the supervisor be more objective. Supervisors should also hold onto whatever they write for at least 24 hours because that break in time can change their perspective.
N is for "no charity." No charity means not being dishonest for the sake of complimenting the employee. It's always a good idea to identify something the employee is doing well, but you should not tell an employee that he or she is doing something well if it's not true.
T stands for "timely." The feedback has to be timely. It's wrong to write up an employee for something that happened 6 months ago.
A stands for "accurate." Make sure the facts in an evaluation are absolutely correct and independently verifiable through calendars, appointments, and other sources.
C #2 stands for "candid." Be straightforward and honest about an employee's performance.
T stands for "training." Employees need to know what is expected of them with any position. Supervisor training and coaching employees are essential when it comes to managing employees.

Now, SMART is similar to that used when setting goals and objectives but with an emphasis on improving individual performance.

SMART Keeps You in Line

S stands for "specific." You should specify what the performance issue is.
M is for "measurable." Whatever you're asking of the employee must be measurable.
A stands for "achievable." The improvement needs to be reasonable and achievable, best accomplished through agreement.
R is for "realistic," which ties in with achievable. A goal is not realistic if it's not achievable within the stated time frame.
T is for "turnaround.” When do you expect to see the desired performance?

In this situation it is important to remember to understand then try to be understood. Listening is the supervisor’s first line defense. If an employee is struggling with an objective it is usually the result of a poor explanation from the supervisor. I believe everyone wants to do a good job but should you need to address a performance gap remembering CONTACT and SMART can help you redirect the employee’s performance.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

5 Leadership Characteristics That Every Leader Should Have

Having leadership qualities and characteristics is considered today as one of the most valued personality traits in the business world; especially for those who claim to be leaders and cannot be compared with that concept.

It is known that some have achieved these characteristics and have gone from being small corporations to growing exponentially and being recognized.

But what are the main characteristics of good leadership? Those who achieve a good synergy between all its components and make you a good leader; more aware and aware of both the business as a whole, as well as your employees.

Five characteristics of leadership

Without a doubt, the main characteristic of good leadership is the person as such, the one whose will, determination and clarity transcend positively; having the power to influence the behaviour and thinking of others. Other characteristics of a good leader are:

They define and maintain the course, the main characteristic of leadership

Every good leader knows what his objectives are, where he wants to go and what are the tools, strategies or techniques that he will use to achieve them; based on great willpower and unmatched determination.

They always think about the "what, how, when and why."

Leaders always carry out their activities knowing the what, how, when and why of all the things happening around them. The more aware the person is of answering all these questions, the more they will concentrate and can work on solving them.

They exploit their abilities to the fullest

These types of people are always looking to exploit and share their abilities to the fullest, as well as their strengths and the knowledge they possess. Another fundamental trait in every leader is that they always focus their energy on correcting defects so that work can be positively maximized.

They know that learning is essential

An important characteristic within leaders is that they are totally willing to learn because they know that this is essential for their progress; as well as teaching other people, either with work issues or to motivate them to be better people.

They understand that you learn from mistakes

Leaders are faithful to the phrase "from mistakes you learn", that is, they know the risks and know that in the end, it is learning. We all make mistakes, and the important thing is to understand how to rectify them as soon as possible and that the knowledge learned during that moment serves as teaching for future occasions.

Importance of leadership

We saw some of the critical characteristics of leadership, now let's talk about the importance of being a good leader as such in any organization. These people can develop and master any problem without attacking; that is, it generates positive feedback among the work team.

They also have the facility to listen to other people and take their ideas, recommendations or comments into consideration, especially if they are innovative; Remember that a person with leadership will prefer the good of their company over being always right.

After all this information, do you think you have what it takes to be a good leader? If the answer is yes, great, you are on your way to success. If your answer was "no" then do not worry, if you follow these characteristics to the letter, then you will become someone worthy of admiration.

About the Author:

When it comes to writing, she believes that the simplest form of words can help build a better opinion in front of people. With this thought, Garima Aggarwal is an aspiring content writer working in the field for last 2 years. Currently, she is working for TABSCAP. Being from the journalism background, she is passionate to write about topics related to lifestyle, health, and digital marketing.

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Monday, December 21, 2020

2020 Year End Reflection – 3 Lessons Learned from COVID-19

2020 has been… interesting, to say the least. To find meaning in a chaotic year, it is important to pause and reflect on the lessons we have learned and how we have grown.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down and changed not just the way we live and work but also how we think and behave. Every part of the world has been affected, and every aspect of life has been impacted. Our everyday routines were brought to a stop, and any sense of normalcy was lost. While we stop and look at the world around us, I cannot help but realize what I used to take for granted. If anything, perhaps there are some life lessons to take away from this pandemic.

  1. Humans are social creatures, and we need social interaction and human contact. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of social interaction and human contact within almost every aspect of our lives, including education, employment, entertainment, and recreation. Efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, including physical distancing, quarantine, and stay-at-home orders, have prompted and exacerbated social isolation and loneliness. I miss social interaction and things as simple as a hug or coffee with a friend.
  2. Humans are adaptive, and life is more flexible than we think. The pandemic has been a time of extraordinary change, and we have had to rapidly change and adapt to the evolving situation. Many individuals have lost jobs and have been forced to find creative ways to pay the bills. Many others began working from home.  Schools turned online with virtual learning. Many physicians started offering telemedicine. This pandemic has been a testament to just how resilient we are as humans and our ability to be flexible and creative in the face of uncertainty.
  3. Life is precious. Be grateful for what we have. With over 225 thousand lives lost to the pandemic in the United States to date (and over 1.1 million worldwide), this pandemic has made me re-think my priorities and remember how precious life is. It has been a reminder to appreciate the smaller things in life – the things I often take for granted. With so many deaths each day, I am grateful for my family and friends, even if it means video calls and text messages while we cannot see each other in-person. With so many people falling ill, I am grateful for my health. With so many people losing jobs and becoming homeless, I am grateful for the food in my fridge and a place to call home. This pandemic has made me re-evaluate my life and assess my priorities and served as a reminder of how precious life is and appreciate the small things in life.

Since March 2020, every person on the planet has had their life shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way. In the midst of the hardship and challenges, there’s been the sense among many people that this period has helped us evaluate our lives and focus on what’s truly important.

It has been a very difficult 2020 for all of us and, unfortunately, we cannot predict the future. Learning from the pandemic’s impact on our lives can serve as a great lesson as we go forward to adapt and accept change, rather than wishing that we could return to business as usual.

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Friday, December 18, 2020

Top 10 Lean Quotes of 2020

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 cannot improve.

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."   — Winston Churchill

9. "People don't resist change. They resist being changed."   — Peter Senge

8. "It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult undertaking which, more than anything else, will determine its successful outcome."   — William James

7. "Good leaders must communicate vision clearly, creatively, and continually. However, the vision doesn't come alive until the leader models it."   — John C. Maxwell

6. "All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."   — Henry Ellis, British psychologist (1859-1939)

5. "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers."   — James Thurber

4. "No man can be successful, unless he first loves his work."   — David Sarnoff (CEO, RCA)

3. "The Toyota production system has been built on the practice and evolution of this scientific approach. By asking and answering ‘why’ five times, we can get to the real cause of the problem, which is often hidden behind more obvious symptoms."   — Eric Ries, The Lean Startup

2. "Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest."   — Seth Godin

1. "Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar."  — Orrin Woodward

These are the top 10 quotes on A Lean Journey website in 2020.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Top 10 Posts of 2020

The end of the year is traditionally a time to look back and reflect. One way to reflect is to evaluate popular blog posts. I have been taking time to reflect on the year that was and as part of that reflection I have flipped back through the 150 blog posts I have written so far this year and compiled a list of my Top 10.

10. 9 People Management Tips That Will Make You a Better Manager - People management is an art that needs to be understood by everybody especially CEOs and managers and people in leadership or position of authority.

9. 5 Ways To Improve Employee Development At Your Company - Investing in the development of employees is the most important and rewarding thing a manager can do.

8. The Five Types of People to Surround Yourself with for Success - There are five types of people that you must surround yourself with if you want to successful.

7. Keeping Employees Motivated: 5 Essential Tips - Employee motivation is an integral part of performance and excellence for a business or company.

6. 5 Traits of an Effective Leader - Using these traits, effective leaders are also better able to smoothly lead their teams through major business and policy changes.

5. Hoshin Kanri: A Better Way for Strategic Execution - In Lean Thinking “Hoshin Kanri” is the process to select those annual objectives that will give the organization the greatest possible advantage.

4. The Role of Catchball in Lean and Strategic Planning - Catchball is one of the simplest and most effective ways to achieve continuous improvement in your organization.

3. 10 Ways to Motivate Your Team - Leaders must understand that in today’s new workplace, there does not exist a single recipe to motivate employees.

2. 4 Step Process to Determine Leading Indicator KPIs - While we can’t tell you which leading indicators are most important in your business, I do have a proven process for determining the ones that will work for you.

1. 9 Leadership Tools To Inspire Employees To Give Their Best - In this article, we will show you nine leadership tools that can help you to inspire employees to give their best.

What were some of your favorite Lean posts from 2020? Any recommendations for next year?

Thanks for your continued readership in 2020. I hope you enjoy the holiday season and go on to achieve Lean success in 2021.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

Top 10 Lean Tips of 2020

As 2020 comes to an end and we look toward 2021 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

Lean Tip #2528 – Challenge the Way You Work

Encourage employees to keep looking anew at the way they approach their work. Ask people what works well and what doesn't. Allocate time for thinking about different approaches. Appeal for original ways to solve particular problems. Keep your door open to anyone with new ideas. Encourage people to work together and share ideas. Individuals within the team can feed off each other – exploring, testing and refining new approaches.

Lean Tip #2541 – Don't Forget How Processes Interact -- Think Global While Acting Local

While many processes stand alone, the chances are good that every process is a part of a bigger whole. As your team begins to consider the process at hand, don't lose sight of how that process integrates with everything else. Plan for it. Make sure that you're not making something else worse in an effort to solve a different problem. This may mean attacking multiple processes at once in some cases. As you plan for improvements, step back and from a high level, try to determine what will happen once proposed changes are made.

Lean Tip #2543 – Make Sure the Right People are Involved

Make sure you include everyone who has a stake in the process. If you don't, your efforts will fail. Those excluded will know they've been excluded and will resist any proposed changes. Further, your efforts won't be as complete as they otherwise could be.

Just because someone is involved doesn't mean that that person will cooperate. I've been involved in process improvement efforts with people who were less than cooperative, and it really affects the possible outcomes. In every organization, I believe that people have a responsibility for improving the workplace, which should be included in annual performance reviews. If someone is truly combative just to resist the change, it should be reflected there. That said, if people have valid points and you simply don't agree, don't punish them! The goal here is inclusiveness, not divisiveness.

Lean Tip #2617 - Communicate to "We" vs. "They"

All too often a message about change is delivered in a way that leaves people with a lot of reasons why they must change or how they need to change. Remember that when someone isn't the one choosing the change in the first place, resistance is a natural and predictable response.

As in any new endeavor, communication is key, so you must be mindful of your messaging. Anything you say that will be heard as "Why you should or must change" will only fuel the resistance.

Instead, when leading change, focus on making the case for why change will make a difference for us, and what it makes possible for everyone's future if we change together. If you really want to send the message that you're serious, try sharing about how or what you can already see YOU will need to change.

Lean Tip #2629 – Make Visual Board About Conversation Not “Wallpaper”

If you think just putting information on a Visual Management Board on the wall will get people to engage, then you will be disappointed. I see many big immaculate visual displays sprawling across entrance halls and walkways with literally dozens of metrics displayed. Here is the bad news: no one looks at them. In many cases, the job of printing the graphs and posting them is delegated to an administrative staff member and not even the business leaders notice or read the graphs. We call this type of visual management board “wallpaper” because that is the only function they serve. The boards need to be the focus of structured daily conversations about how the team is going, what are the barriers to improvement and how these barriers can be overcome. Therefore visual management boards go hand in hand with daily meetings.

Lean Tip #2644 - Invest in Training Your Team

Ever wondered what the best way to invest in the growth of your company is? It all starts with investing in your team.

Your team is more than just the fuel of your company. They are also the wheels, gears, and steering wheel. Without a properly functioning team, your company is not going anywhere.

Team building is an easy way to invest in your team. It shows that you are willing to put time and money into making them happier. Offering training to your employees is one way to invest in your team that demonstrates your commitment to them and also has a direct correlation to the way your company runs.

Consider holding group team building activities that focus on teaching your employees a new skill that is useful for the work they do. Another option is to provide training opportunities as rewards to employees that go the extra mile.

However, you choose to go about incorporating training into your company, know that this is an important investment. It may not have an immediate ROI, but it will come back to you in bigger and better ways.

Lean Tip #2659 – Know When Less is More

In a perfect world, people are able to power down after work hours and stop checking their emails. But the truth is, many of us are so connected to our jobs and our devices that not checking seems unnatural. The line between a healthy work-life balance is blurred even further when working from home when we don’t have that physical separation between the office and our living room. After work hours, however, keep the number of emails you send to employees to a minimum. While your communication is likely important, it can also most probably wait until the following day.

According to data collected during the transition to remote work, 32% of employees don’t feel they have a proper balance between work life and personal life. As a manager, it’s your role to lead by example and help them draw clear boundaries.

Lean Tip #2671 –Outline a Clear Team Vision for Your Frontline Employees.

Your frontline employees are your direct connection to your customers and potential customers – they’re the ones who are in direct contact with those customers, and need to be able to understand your organization’s ambitions and goals in order to provide superb customer service experiences for everyone they interact with. However, many times, frontline employees feel as though they’re disconnected from corporate – they don’t always feel as though corporate understands them, or that they’re really linked in with what’s happening at corporate headquarters.

Investing in training and helping your frontline employees to really understand what your corporate vision is, what your brand means, and how they can assist with achieving company goals is a great way to motivate your frontline employees.

Lean Tip #2674 – Listen and Empower

Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. As a manager and a leader, your job is to build one-on-one relationships with employees that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, so encourage them to share their opinions.

Some employees will have no problem speaking their mind, while others will need a LOT of encouragement before they share an opinion with you openly. Once they do open up, be sure to respect those opinions by discussing them, rather than dismissing them.

Lean Tip #2694 – Connect Recognition to Company Values

Another way to ingrain recognition into company culture is to relate it directly to your organization’s core values. This can take praise to a deeper level; rather than simply recognizing an employee’s great work on a project, you can explain how that work epitomizes the organization’s mission and is a key step toward its big-picture goals. Employees will see that their work is integral to the success of the company, which should help to inspire their work on a daily basis.


These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2021. What advice would you share for the New Year?

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