Friday, January 17, 2020

Lean Quote: Bias for Action: A Vital Ingredient for Successful Leadership

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.


"Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it. — Steve Chandler, Reinventing Yourself: How to Become the Person You've Always Wanted to Be

Let me guess, you’ve been putting something off recently. 

The human mind is fantastic at coming up with reasons for not taking action. The human brain is designed to keep us safe and to conserve energy. For that reason, we are programmed to look for risks and reduce the amount of work we need to do to in order to survive. When we weigh any potential action, we look for reasons that specific action or activity will fail. At the same time, we look for ways that we can conserve energy and get the same benefit from less effort.

Often managers spot a chance to do something valuable for their company, but for some reason, they cannot get started. Even if they begin the project, they give up when they see the first big hurdle. The inability to take purposeful action seems to be pervasive across companies. Managers tend to ignore or postpone dealing with crucial issues which require reflection, systematic planning, creative thinking, and above all, time.

If you do nothing, nothing changes. Things at rest have a tendency to remain at rest. Be aware of items that stall your action. It's better to have a 50-percent improvement right away than it is to take no action and hope for a 100-percent improvement sometime in the future.

The only cure for inactivity is action. That’s why the first step in creating a successful culture of execution is creating a bias toward action. People who make things happen need to be praised and rewarded. People who don’t should be coached to change, or weeded out. Failure cannot be unduly punished. Unless people feel free to make mistakes, they will not feel free to take bold actions.

Develop a strong bias toward action. Don’t wait. Assemble teams, form action plans, assign roles and responsibilities, track progress, reward success. Simple. Most of all, as a leader offer real support and foster collaborative results. Do it now.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

6 Ways Accelerate Your Lean Journey


Leaders in organizations across industries are always looking to “speed-up” a lean transformation. Most organizations prefer to take small incremental steps away from their current business model and target a set of initiatives that still falls close to their existing position.

The challenge with lean is that, despite its attraction to many executives who want to cut costs and increase productivity, a lean process doesn’t happen overnight. There are plenty of obstacles to overcome.

After 20 years of leading manufacturing operations, implementing lean principles and conducting hundreds of kaizens, there are some basic ways to accelerate your Lean journey.

Develop Culture
Lean is about people. All successful and sustainable business change starts with top management (leadership team). Culture by design requires changing the way that people think and work. That’s difficult to do, because people get comfortable with the way they are. You must establish a foundation so that change can happen. The definition of ‘win’ has to be shared and understood by everyone.

A new lean culture will not develop unless the organization’s leadership team is willing to model and be the examples of the new behaviors.

Leaders have to Lead
Relentless commitment from the leader or leadership is the basic requirement if you are going to have a successful lean conversion. It’s the role of Lean leaders to create an environment that fosters continuous improvement, by asking guiding questions, supporting teams as they test hypotheses, and celebrating improvements, in both performance and process.

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

Kaizen – Develop Internal Capability
Kaizen events are a powerful improvement tool because people are empowered to come up with new ideas to help the business. Employees are isolated from their day-to-day responsibilities and allowed to concentrate all their creativity and time on problem-solving and improvement.

The purpose of kaizen is to involve everyone, everywhere, everyday in making simple improvements. These small improvements add up overtime and result in an extraordinary and never-ending transformation of processes. Companies which use Kaizens have found they generate energy among those who work in the area being improved, and produce immediate gains in productivity and quality.

Kaizen also improves people’s capability for thinking, judgment, and making fact-based decisions. Kaizen teaches leaders how to develop other people so they can help to quickly improve the business.

Bias for Action
If you do nothing, nothing changes. The only cure for inactivity is action. That’s why the first step in creating a successful culture of execution is creating a bias toward action. Get your teams out of the conference room and into the gemba. From there, mandate a fast turnaround time, have them quickly do a value stream map and root cause analysis for their actionable items, and post their successes right away.

Teach Lean to Everyone
The key to implementing any new idea or concept is training. It must be top down training so that everyone is on the same page. The more understanding of what lean manufacturing is all about, why you are implementing it and the expected benefits from it, the more likely you are to get buy-in.

It is very important that everyone in the company become committed to lean culture. In order to make the culture successful, managers and employees need to be aware of waste within the company and be prepared to attack and eliminate it. Making sure that the employees are empowered to do this, not just pushing the job off on someone else, is imperative in the proper function of lean culture.

Ensuring everyone is on the same page will help to avoid conflict. At the same time, it is important to ensure people have the space in which to think about what improvements they think need making.

Focus on Problems and a Few Tools
One of the most common mistakes that companies make when embarking on a Lean transformation is trying to do too much at once. These “boil-the-ocean” initiatives are long, costly and often end up stalling under the weight of their own ambition.

Lean manufacturing consists of many different “tools”. There are a few tools that can and should be used with any lean manufacturing initiative. Some of these tools are 5-S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain), value stream mapping, kanban, takt time, continuous flow, cellular manufacturing, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), SMED (single-minute exchange of die), OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), line balancing, standardized operations, seven wastes (muda), error-proofing, kaizen and root cause problem-solving.

The correct approach to implementing lean manufacturing begins with an analysis of the businesses needs, opportunities and challenges. Once these opportunities are identified, the tools are used which will solve the issues.

It simply wouldn’t be prudent to limit the success of a lean initiative to exclude any tool if it was known to solve the problem at hand.


In other words, the problems identify the tools rather than the tools being forced into the organization.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Suggestions for Creating a Positive Workplace Environment


For most people today, the majority of their time awake is spent at work. It’s quite normal for someone to spend more time with colleagues than with families. With this in mind, it becomes really important to make the workplace a positive and nurturing environment. Studies show that positive workplaces increase productivity, creativity, and happiness. Here are some great suggestions for building a more positive workplace.

1. Gratitude is key

Create a mechanism in your workplace for everyone to express gratitude to their colleagues, thank and appreciate them publicly, and generally respect each other. Doing this once a week can greatly boost morale and set a positive tone for the whole workweek to come. Team members feel valued and respected. Make gratitude a priority in your workplace and organization as a whole.

2. Build a safe environment for all

In a professional workplace, the biggest problem to productivity and positivity is toxicity. IT prevents new ideas and innovation and damages team collaboration. Madeline Hall, an HR manager at Academized and Assignment Services, explains that “to have a safe work environment, do not allow negative personalities to take root, and make sure every person is respected and confident in expressing ideas. Be a leader who is honest and authentic so your employees feel safe and respected.”

3. Finish what you start

If you can’t finish a project you started, for whatever reason, make sure that you have a clear handover, all the files are properly labeled and saved. This means you’re not leaving your mess for someone else and that you value their time as much as yours. By leaving behind a mess, someone has to take time out of their day to look for a missing file or duplicate the work you’ve done. In short, be respectful of your colleagues’ time.

4. Remember the opportunities

If there is a stressful time period in your workplace, take the time to reframe your attitude and see it as an opportunity. Every problem or obstacle is actually a chance to reflect on your process, your strategy, and re-evaluate your next step to always improve. Try to find humor in situations, and work with your colleagues to change the perspective.

5. Be consistent

Workplace culture is changing dramatically these days. More and more companies are moving to flexible hours, remote work, open workspaces, no fixed vacation time, and more. It might seem like a good idea to adopt these ideas, but you need to remember that not every strategy is good for each company. Think about what would work best for your work and your team members, and be sure to remain consistent across the board with the chosen approach. Change is good, but you want to make sure to maintain a healthy and balanced workplace culture.

6. Focus on positive thinking

You want to create a workplace environment where positive thinking is encouraged and there is no place for negativity. Even when something bad is happening, a project is derailed or a deadline is passed, encourage your team to be positive and you will see it becomes easier to find a positive outcome. George Bubbs, a health writer at Revieweal and Essay Services, suggests that you “spend some time as a group to set some positive intentions for each day, week, month, and quarter. This helps you take a step back when you might get stressed or frustrated and change your mindset and the way you’re approaching the situation.”

7. Prioritize

Remember what’s important for a positive work environment and don’t set it aside if something urgent comes up. Urgent shouldn’t necessarily trump important. Prioritize the team meetings or one-on-one interactions so you can focus on making sure everyone is heard and valued. If you delay or cancel your method of regularly communicating with your team, the quality of the business and productivity will go down drastically.

Lean thinking, positivity, good leadership strategies, and consistency are all extremely useful ways to create a positive workplace environment. At the end of the day, what truly matters is making your employees feel respected and safe so they can be as productive and creative as they can without feeling stifled.

 About the Author:

Editor Aimee Laurence works for UK essay writing services and Essayroo Review. She focuses on articles about healthy workspaces, respect for others, and positive leadership. She likes sharing different ways to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Aimee also works for Top assignment writing services VIC as a freelance editor.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Lean Quote: Explore Different Views of a Problem with Six Thinking Hats

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.


"Let's not do it your way or my way; let's do it the best way. — Greg Anderson

Normally, when we look at a problem, we might get stuck looking at the negative side, or the positive side.  Or, we might look at it in terms of just the facts, and ignore how we feel about it.

With Six Thinking Hats, you explore six different views of a problem, by putting on an imaginary hat for each perspective.

Here’s the list of ‘hats’ that may help you become a problem-solving ninja:

White Hat: The neutral White Hat works with facts and figures that are known or require solving. Wear this hat when a problem has just emerged. ‘The facts, just the facts.’

Red Hat: When wearing the emotional and intuitive Red Hat, you can reveal your gut reactions to an idea, express your emotions freely and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves and hates.

Black Hat: Use the cautious Black Hat when you want to get the critical viewpoint. This judgment hat helps decrease the chances of making a poor decision.

Yellow Hat: The sunny and positive Yellow Hat helps identify the value and positive sides of ideas and counterbalance the judgmental thinking of Black Hat.

Green Hat is all about creativity, possibilities, alternatives and fresh ideas. It’s great opportunity to contribute new concepts and new perceptions. This is a hat each participant should wear.

Blue Hat: The organizing Blue Hat manages the thinking process and ensures that the Six Thinking Hats follow the guidelines.

This technique can help you as an individual to explore a problem more robustly and to get unstuck from your thinking.  And it’s a powerful technique for teams to help everybody on the team look at different angles of the problem.

The imaginary hats also help people step out of their comfort zone and explore alternative or even competing views.   And it’s a powerful thing, when everybody wears the same hat at the same time, so everybody is helping each other see the positive, see the negative, see the facts, etc.


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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Lean Tips Edition #148 (#2431 - 2445)

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 #2431 – Communicate Face-to-Face Whenever Possible
Companies have been relying on email as a primary method of communication for the past several years. Electronic communication can have a detrimental effect on any type of relationship, especially relationships with co-workers. How many times have you sent an email to a co-worker or superior that was misconstrued? Even if you had good intentions, electronic communication is often misinterpreted. Since the majority of meaning during a conversation comes from nonverbal gestures and facial expressions, it is easier to decipher the meaning behind what a person says when communicating face-to-face. When gestures and smiles are taken out of the equation, recipients can get the wrong idea – especially if the person isn’t the most articulate writer. To improve workplace communication, pick up the phone every once in a while, or pay a visit your co-worker when you have something important to say.

Lean Tip #2432 – Don’t Just Hear – Listen
Listening is an important communication skill that many people do not possess. Most conflict is a result of poor listening. In order to share information with another person, you have to hear what is being communicated. If you’re thinking about your next meeting or planning tonight’s dinner during the conversation, you’re not paying attention. To learn how to listen well, paraphrase what was said to show that you are listening and to verify accuracy. This will reduce the likelihood of conflict and will help you become a more effective communicator. Another way to learn how to listen better is to pretend there is going to be a quiz at the end of the discussion. Try to keep a mental checklist of all of the important points the person makes.

Lean Tip #2433 – Inform and Inspire.
Communication is a form of information exchange. Explaining and clarifying your thoughts and ideas is important in a leadership role. But passing on information to your team is only half of the equation. As a leader, it’s vital to your business that your communication efforts inspire your team as much as they educate them. Plan ahead for meetings and conversations so you can effectively mix information and inspiration. If this is particularly challenging for you, the support of a mentor or coach can be helpful.

Lean Tip #2434 – Become A Good Listener
You’ve probably heard it many times before, but a big part of communication is listening. Improving your listening skills is a great tip on how to improve your communication skills.

It may be tempting to interrupt speakers or to chime in when you think you understand, but if you allow a speaker to finish speaking and then respond, it lets you absorb more of what they are saying and shows them more respect.

It’s surprising how many people in industry have less than average listening skills. You may be able to articulate yourself at a high level and get your message across, but if you’re not a good listener, then your skills can be improved.

Communication in a workplace is a two-way street. Speaking is only half of it – listening is the other half. This doesn’t only mean hearing what the person has to say, it includes:
·        Allowing the other person to finish what they have to say
·        Thinking about what they are saying and what message they are trying to convey
·        Considering their point when responding
If you consider these three points, you’ll find your own listening skills improving and being able to communicate better.

Lean Tip #2435 – Recognize Employees
It’s no secret that recognition (or lack thereof) directly impacts an employee’s level of engagement. In fact, research shows that feeling unrecognized and undervalued is one of the seven hidden reasons why employees leave their organizations. Give employees what they want, and cultivate engagement via communication. Communicate employee value with recognition practices, like praise from senior leadership, increased autonomy, or meaningful rewards.

Lean Tip #2436 – Analyze Your Current Workflow
You might find it a bit strange but most of the businesses out there don’t know much about their work process. That’s why the first step towards improving workflow is to list every process and then do a thorough analysis. You need to know how each process in every division or department of your business operates. Your goal here is to figure out how you have been operating so far and what you have been doing wrong. Talk to your employees, ask them for their feedback on each process or workflow that your business follows. Analyze every aspect and document every detail for the upcoming steps.

Lean Tip #2437 – Identify Key Areas of Focus
Once you are done analyzing your current work process, it’s time to look for opportunities to improve. Keep your eyes open for any waning motivation, unclear instruction, or communication break down. Identify factors that can or that are affecting the effectiveness of your existing process or workflow. Fill in the gaps and create a better version of your work process. Make sure that your new and improved workflow has no loopholes.

Lean Tip #2438 – Break Down the Process
The next step in process improvement is to break your work process into smaller, more manageable steps. Remember, the simpler the better. Most of the businesses today are all caught up in the dependencies and decision points within any given project because their work process is too complicated. Keep your process simple, break it down into discrete steps and aim simply towards the desired outcome.

Lean Tip #2439 – Document Everything
Let’s be realistic. You can’t carry out every process or task from your memory. You need to lay out every step included in the process that you are following in order to get work done effectively. There is no need to be formal, just scrawl down each step of your current workflow on a piece of paper. Don’t assume anything without proof. Document what’s really happening and make sure that things are working exactly as they should.

Lean Tip #2440 – Refine Your Process
No work process or workflow is perfect — we all know that. Therefore, once you have made improvements in your existing work process or implemented the new workflow, be ready to refine it over time. Again, there are workflow management solutions that make it easy for you to refine your workflow and adjust to the changing work environment with simple drag and drop.

Lean Tip #2441 – Align Employee Goals with Company Goals
Although some employees might think so, managers don’t just exist to help employees reach their own professional goals. While many managers do care about their employees personally, their job is to develop employees for the continued success of the company. It benefits both the manager and the employee when the employee’s goals align with the overarching goals of the organization, and it helps steer goal-setting in the right direction. This is not ground-breaking news, but it might surprise you to learn, however, that more than 80% of managers say that their goals are limited in number, employee-specific, and measurable. So where is the disconnect between managers and their employees?

Alignment can be difficult if managers don’t understand the strengths, weaknesses and intrinsic motivations of their people. One surefire way to familiarize managers with their employees’ wants, needs and goals is to establish open and honest communication. They should try to increase communication to at least once a week, especially during big projects and track each employee’s progress to identify strengths and areas of improvement. Finding the time to personally communicate with each employee isn’t easy, but the benefits are worth it in the long run.

Lean Tip #2442 – Make Employee Performance Goals Challenging, but Attainable
“Shoot for the stars” isn’t really an analogy that works for performance management. Managing employee performance is all about practical, attainable, and realistic goal setting. While having ambitious goals shouldn’t be a bad thing, it can negatively impact employee morale and engagement. Moreover, setting goals that are too high can burn out employees. Micromanagement is also a danger here—of those who had experienced it,  71% said micromanagement interfered with job performance. Once a manager sets a goal for their employee, they must trust that employee to complete it, but remain available if the employee requests help.

However, goals shouldn’t be too easy. An overly simple goal will leave an employee bored and stagnant in their development. Instead, managers should assess each employee’s strengths and craft goals based on individual development. One thing that should be avoided is expecting each employee to meet the same goals. They are not the same person and goals should reflect that; personalization is key.

Lean Tip #2443 – Provide Transparency and Visibility
If goals are going to be truly impactful and driving, they must be aligned at every level of the organization. Give everyone visibility to organizational, team, and individual employee goals. Be open about progress toward goals and even failure to meet goals. Common understanding about goals within your organization creates alignment, encourages shared knowledge, and fosters collaboration. It helps employees and teams see how their responsibilities fit into the organization, and it cultivates recognizing the work of others.

Lean Tip #2444 – Create an Action Plan
For each goal to be met, it needs an action plan. That relates to the “measurable” component of the SMART system – creating a list of milestones that the employee can use to keep their progress on track throughout the year. You’ll need to set milestones and make each mini-goal measurable, so you know if you’re getting off track.

This means setting deadlines that are reasonable, but also keep you moving forward. What is your target timeframe for completing the overall goal? Work backward from that and start setting target dates, which may be weeks, months or years from now.

Another part of that action plan is ensuring that each employee has all the tools they need to achieve their goals, whether it’s an online class, new software, or other resource.

Lean Tip #2445 – Recognize Attained Goals

Recognizing the people who reach or exceed the goals that have been set shows other employees that this kind of effort is valued by your organization. And providing bonuses, gift certificates or a public acknowledgment of an individual’s accomplishment will further incentivize colleagues. On the other hand, when a team member’s talent and dedication go unnoticed, other workers at your organization are likely to feel that there’s no point to working hard. Even worse, they may start looking for a new job at a company that puts a premium on recognizing outstanding effort and accomplishment.

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Monday, January 6, 2020

Lean Roundup #127 – December 2019



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

How to be Tough on Process, Easy on People – Jon Miller explains how can we be tough on process and easy on people through our interactions to strengthen the culture.

Troubleshooting by Defining Standards – Mark Rosenthal shares a series of questions that, if asked and addressed in sequence, can help you troubleshoot a process.

Two Pillars of the Lean Business System – Pascal Dennis discusses the two pillars of Lean, continuous improvement and respect for people.

Making the Invisible Visible in Design Projects – Al Norval describes how to make invisible work like that in design projects visible.

Practicing Gratitude within the Daily Accountability Process – Jon Miller shares an example of putting appreciation into the daily accountability agenda meeting.

Making People and Making Things – in Japan or Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood – Mark Graban says a truly Lean organization has that sense of respect for each individual — that everyone's job is important and contributes to the goals.

Let Joy Power Your Organization's Flight – Richard Sheridan outlines the relevant principles that cause human teams to fly so we can begin designing organizations that can fly and fly fast and far to amazing destinations.

What Ever Happened to Mura? – Ken Eakin says we need to bring the two lost Ms of muri and mura back into the basic “Lean 101” curriculum and vocabulary.

Ask Art: What Do You Mean When You Say “Productivity equals Wealth”? – Art Byrne explains that if done correctly productivity is the greatest wealth creator in the world.


Learning from Toyota Way Principles versus Copying Toyota practices – Jeffrey Liker explains why there are no “solutions” from Toyota, only ideas and copying Toyota’s culture is ill advised.
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Friday, January 3, 2020

Lean Quote: Great Leaders Inspire Greatness in Others

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.


"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

Great leaders inspire greatness in others. They create an environment in which people are able to expand and evolve, with the support and encouragement to become successful in whatever they pursue.

So how can you develop others for greatness? Here are the core attributes:

Hold high standards. Great leaders set high standards for themselves. They lead by example, knowing that a demonstration of character is the best way to lead others to develop their own high standards and work ethic.

Lead from within: One of the most important ingredients in the formula for success is having a great leader stand alongside you, believing in you, supporting you, guiding you. Commit now to becoming that great leader for your people.

Stick to your commitments. Great leaders know the strength of being responsible and keeping their word. If they tell someone they’ll do something, they do it. They’re honest about their limits; they understand that when people fail it’s most often not because of a lack of desire but a lack of commitment.

Show how to make failures part of success. Great leaders teach that successful people aren’t born but made, through all kinds of experiences, and that studying failure and learning from it is a key feature of all successful people.

Encourage imperfection. Great leaders know you don’t have to be perfect to inspire others. They inspire people with the way in which they deal with their own imperfections—they accommodate and work around and focus on what they can accomplish.

Provide a safety net. Great leaders encourage others to try new ideas without fear of repercussion or punishment if they don’t work out. They know the more you try the more you’ll succeed, because calculated risks can pay off in the long run. The very best leaders encourage their people to take every risk and drop every fear, because only those who are willing to risk going too far can find out how far they can go.


Some believe inspiration is just something leaders need to provide on big occasions. They see it as the yearly speech where leaders get up in front of the employ­ees to get them revved up and encouraged. However, inspiration is much more than this. Everything a leader does, every day, impacts their employees. If a leader would take even a few minutes to ask people how they’re doing, thank them and encourage them to do more; that effort counts. In fact, everything counts. Likewise, everything employees do, on every level, counts within the organization’s results as a whole.

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