Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Lean Roundup #131 – April 2020



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

Now More Than Ever, Huddle Daily as a Team – Jon Miller discusses the importance of having daily huddle meetings even remotely.

Do you know what problem you’re working on right now? – Jamie Flinchbaugh says we vastly underinvest in the task of generating a well thought out and articulated problem statement.

3 Tips For Managing Customer Experience In a Downturn – Marci Reynolds shares 3 key takeaways from the“Managing Customer Experience In a Downturn” webinar.

Why Not? – Bruce Hamilton shares lessons from this chaotic and emotion-charged pandemic time worth relating to.

Suggestion boxes vs Quick & Easy Kaizen – Al Norval explains that a quick and easy kaizen process is better then a suggestion box system.

What Does Breakthrough Mean? – Pascal Dennis explains that a common failure mode in Strategy Deployment is not understanding Breakthrough.

Five Tips for Managers of Newly Dispersed Teams – Johanna Rothman explains managing dispersed teams requires different tactics, here are 5 tips to get you started.

Are Your Values Worth the Paper They’re Printed On? – Dan Markovitz discusses why it’s these times of crisis that reveal a company’s true commitment to its stated values.

What is Lean’s Future? – Bob Emiliani talks about the impact on Lean of a crisis like COVID-19 and the how management can revert back to old methods.

Advice during COVID19 for Internal Lean Resources – Jamie Flinchbaugh shares advice for internal lean resources with all sorts of titles, struggling with how to support lean during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

How to Manage Chaos & Uncertainty – Ron Pereira says to try personal leader standard work in order to get through these challenging times.

Revealing Courageous Leadership  - Kevin Meyer says now is the time for great leaders to step up and show their courage, to reinvent and reimagine, to show us the way.

Be Deliberate About Your New Normal – Steve Kane says as your businesses transition back to full operation many practices will need to change and this isn’t a time to jump to countermeasure but to be deliberate in action.

What Bad Managers, Good Managers, and Great Managers Do – Mark Graban explains bad managers tell, good managers explain why, and great managers go beyond this.

How A Virtual Obeya Can Enable Effective Teamwork -  Katrina Appell explains as we are adjusting to new ways of working to slow the spread of COVID-19, we have to find new ways to work together effectively.

Ask Art: What Do You Focus on When Assessing the Potential Gains From Converting to Lean? – Art Byrne says while there are no set gains that a company can expect to get from converting to lean we can use as guidelines the gains that others have gotten to set goals as to what is possible.


What the Covid-Virus Can Teach Us About the Toyota Way – Jeffery Liker hopes that coming out of this crisis many people throughout the world will have a greater appreciation for the power of scientific thinking, the power of collaboration, and the power of diversity.

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Monday, April 27, 2020

5 Traits of an Effective Leader

Being a good leader means setting a confident, positive example for team members to follow, on top of effectively communicating with employees. Strong leadership is beneficial to both your company and employee base, increasing overall happiness and morale while elevating your bottom line. Business News Daily reports that, “...employees who work under great leaders tend to be happier, more productive, and more connected to their organization.”

But what makes an effective leader? For starters, you can inspire your employees to be their best selves by using various Lean-based leadership tools. By avoiding micromanagement, ensuring that employees are well-trained, and promoting a healthy work-life balance, you’re actively demonstrating your strong leadership skills.

Yet that’s only the beginning, and leadership tools are something you’ve likely picked up along the way: In fact, the bulk of effective leaders have particular, inherent characteristics that are an asset to businesses in every industry. Studies show that high-quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their industry counterparts, and are integral to a company’s operations, profitability, employee morale, and more.

The following five examples are just a few of the attributes that allow strong leaders to stand out from the crowd, and excel in their chosen field. Using these traits, effective leaders are also better able to smoothly lead their teams through major business and policy changes.

1. Confidence

Effective leaders are sure of themselves and their decisions, at least on the surface. It can take time to develop confidence, but the good news is that it can be faked, and/or developed over time. For starters, rather than dwelling on your mistakes, acknowledge where you went wrong and ask yourself how you can do better in the future. Negative thoughts and self-talk have no place in the mind of a confident leader.

Improving your confidence may also serve as a useful decision-making tool. As a leader, you’re often tasked with making tough decisions, sometimes on the fly. Having confidence in yourself and your abilities can help fuel your decisiveness and ability to effectively lead your team to greatness.

2. Imagination

The thought process of effective leaders tends to move so fast that it may seem like a superpower. Great leaders are able to quickly process the myriad data tossed their way and offer tangible solutions and ideas, even under the pressure of a looming deadline.

And while intelligence is influenced by a variety of factors, including nutrition and availability of learning resources, imagination stems from both the way we think, and what we know. As you hone your leadership skills, make sure to do plenty of research about your company, its competitors, and the industry itself. Having a large data set in your mental arsenal allows you to more effectively connect the dots when you’re faced with a workplace challenge.

3. Innovation

For many entrepreneurs in leadership positions, an active imagination helps spark innovation. In modern times, for example, the iPhone stands out as one of our greatest (and most innovative) inventions in modern times. It’s common knowledge that the iPhone is the brainchild of Steve Jobs, but how did he come up with the concept of a device that would ultimately change the world?

In fact, Jobs developed the initial iPhone based on the concept of simplicity, and how it connects to design, elegance, and sophistication. His innovative invention is a prime example of effective leadership in action — the iPhone spawned a revolution, and as of January 2020, Jobs’ legacy, and his Apple company, is worth $1.3 trillion.

4. Humanity

For everyday workers, leaders such as Jobs may appear larger than life, enjoying a sort of celebrity status throughout the office or collaborative community. But it's a leader's ability to remain human, humble, and approachable that allows him or her to truly make waves. Employees are more likely to trust a leader who supports and facilitates them, rather than sitting in the corner office with the door closed.

And when employees trust and believe in their leaders, company morale is likely to grow. Employees are more prone to excellence when they work for a company and leaders who they believe in. What’s more, humanity among company leaders can help build a strong and company culture, which benefits all involved, from yourself to your customers.

5. Adaptability

No matter the strength of your company culture, however, change is inevitable. It’s the capacity with which you handle that change that determines the true strength of your leadership. During policy transitions or company reorganization, it’s a leader’s job to facilitate that change.

Your employees may respond to change in varying ways, up to and including the so-called seven stages of change, which begin with shock and frustration, eventually culminating in integration. As a leader, you must be prepared to help guide your employees through every stage, and demonstrate how well you can adapt and thrive through any change.

Final Thoughts


Effective leadership is both a cornerstone of Lean principles and a necessity in today’s constantly evolving business landscape. Whether you’re already in a leadership position or aspire to be, ensuring that you possess a number of positive leadership traits can help ensure your continued success. 

About the Author – Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Lean Quote: Leadership Confidence Is A Huge Factor In Engaging Employees

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.


"When the leader lacks confidence, the followers lack commitment.  — John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You

Employees that are confident in their leadership will provide employers with a more engaged workforce. In fact, 70% of employees who lack confidence in the abilities of senior leadership are not fully engaged. Having confidence in leadership can be a huge factor in retaining and engaging new employees.

It is confidence that separates average leaders from great leaders. When leaders exhibit confidence, they typically:

  • Are happy: They feel positive about their ability to lead people and deal with daily challenges. The have a “can do” attitude about whatever comes their way. Their team members appreciate working with an upbeat leader who holds a positive vision. 
  • Have better relationships: They enter into positive, productive relationships. They feel good about themselves, treat others well and in turn, are treated well by others.
  • Are motivated and ambitious: They set goals and are motivated to accomplish them. They believe that the work they do is important and makes a difference in the company or even the world.
  • Laugh more: They can see the humor, even in challenging situations, and have the ability to put things into perspective. They also laugh sooner and more often.
  • Are open to risks: Or at least calculated risks. They confidently forge into the unknown and learn from their mistakes. They are not safely mired on the sidelines, but in the thick of the play.
  • Recognize success: Not only do they look for opportunities to genuinely recognize the success of others, they are also able to openly receive compliments, never discounting the sender by saying, “I was just doing my job.”
  • Accept feedback: They welcome feedback from others and put their ideas into action. Because of their receptivity, people keep coming to them with feedback and ideas for improvement, helping the leader continue to grow and develop.
  • Think for themselves: They have a deep sense of their core values – what is right and wrong, and although open to feedback from others, confidently form their own opinion or pick their own course of action. They are easy to follow, because their words and actions are in alignment and consistent.

When people in a company or area of a company feel there is an openness or an availability between staff, and staff and management, where all people feel comfortable enough to express themselves without reparations or assault, confidence is fostered. People, regardless of their position, need to feel an acceptance from others. Everyone needs to feel safe and supported as they work.

Positive interaction between people who are committed to the same cause can strengthen the worth of the company as well as the worth of the individual. People who are able to talk, work, and have fun together build bonds with each other. People who bond, support each other. People who feel that others support them will demonstrate confidence.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Lean Tips Edition #153 (#2505 - 2520)

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 #2506 – Leaders Must Take Responsibility
As the saying goes, it’s lonely at the top. Blame roles uphill. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them. It doesn’t matter if one of your team members messed up or you did. If you are the leader, you need to take responsibility.

Lean Tip #2507 – Leaders Listen to the Team
As leaders, sometimes we are so consumed with providing directive, giving orders, and, well, talking that we forget to stop and listen. If the recruitment and training engine is functioning well, you should have a whole team of experts to turn to for advice. One sign of good leadership is knowing that you don’t know everything. Listen and get feedback from your team regularly.

Lean Tip #2508 – Leader Acknowledge – and Even Celebrate – Failure
If your leadership model says, “Failure is not an option,” you may be setting yourself up for not only more failure, but a culture of disappointment and fear. Failure is a vital process of invention, innovation, and risk-taking. If you want a truly extraordinary team, celebrate failure and even encourage it in a controlled, experimental environment.

Lean Tip #2509 – Leaders are Truthful
Honesty really is the best policy. Lying -- and even withholding information -- affects everything and everyone: relationships, decision-making, communication, and more. Team members start to second-guess themselves and the organization, and stop listening. Though honesty is difficult at times, your honesty as a leader is vital to maintaining organizational health.

Lean Tip #2510 – Leaders Establish a Baseline of Excellence.
If you don’t want mediocrity from your team, don’t be mediocre. Whatsoever you do will be watched and emulated, so start with demanding excellence from yourself. Your team will notice, and do their best to keep up.

Leading by example is the fastest way to train a team. When you hold yourself to a high standard, your team will look to gain your approval by doing the same. They will rise to our expectations of excellence, integrity, and respect when you give them the same. And when your team is composed of excellence, you are sure to see success.

Lean Tip #2511 – Leaders, Follow Your Own Rules.
This should go without saying, but do as I say, not as I do is a horrible leadership motto. Don’t bend the rules because you’re the leader. Your dishonesty and hypocrisy will immediately cancel out any authority you’re trying to convey. If you’re not willing to follow the rules, why should anyone else? Establish rules, and stick to them.

Lean Tip #2512 – Leaders Value People
Appreciating the contribution of other people in an organization helps strengthen the relationship between the leader and the followers. The leader should exhibit good communication and listening skills such that no employees will feel inferior to other persons within the organization. Also, the leader should be honest, fair, and open to discussions that touch on the welfare of the employee. Valuing the contribution of employees in the organization enhances the leader’s ability to interact with people in a meaningful way.

Lean Tip #2513 – Leaders are Courageous
When times are tough people respect and follow leaders who step up to the challenges. Take the lead in taking calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to the purpose and strategies of your business.

Lean Tip #2514 – Leaders are Persistent
Setbacks happen to every business, every team and every leader. Role model how to deal with setbacks by reviewing progress and trying a different tack. In doing this you will demonstrate to your team that obstacles don’t mean giving up.

Lean Tip #2515 – Leaders Focus On Solutions
Don’t dwell on problems but move into defining the solutions. Don’t be the first to offer up solutions, but ask thoughtful questions of your team to draw out their insights and ideas. When you are a leader, offering your solutions first will often inhibit other ideas.

Lean Tip #2516 – Lead by Example and Demonstrate that You Can be Trusted.
Nothing speaks more loudly when leaders’ behaviors models their actions.  This not only influences your employees’ actions but can also drive employee results. It is also important that you are consistent. Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk. Do what you say you are going to do, not just sometimes but all the time. This builds trust, not just for today but for years to come.

Lean Tip #2517 – Create Open Lines of Communication
You know better than anyone that the only constant is change. As your company scales, building open lines of communication helps you stay tapped into your employees’ day-to-day realities and shifting needs. Maintaining a high-level view helps you spot the places where they need support, visibility, or a new approach. And when you’re responsive to those fluctuations, your employees will trust that you’re there to empower them.

Lean Tip #2518 – Focus on More Than Profits. 
Leaders should talk less about the bottom-line and more about positive long term impacts for employees. Topics such as job creation, skill development, and career pathways demonstrate a commitment to employee growth. Many believe that CEOs should be personally involved in discussing societal issues. Use every opportunity to have meaningful conversations and place broader employee and societal issues on your agenda.

Lean Tip #2519 – Give Trust to Get Trust
Most people will move mountains to repay this simple but powerful gesture of respect. Regularly give away your authority. If you run a regular operations meeting, rotate the responsibility to develop the agenda and lead the meeting. As often as possible, delegate decision-making to individuals or teams. Any action to show trust by allowing others to decide and act will strengthen their trust in you.

Lean Tip #2520 – Elevate the Voice of Employees.
Trust is a two-way street. You must extend trust in order to gain trust. Results of the survey indicate that employees are often the most trusted advocates to speak on issues related to the business, finance, operations, and staff matters. Extend trust by finding every opportunity to add or expand channels of communication to give those important advocates a voice. Make employee storytelling easy by introducing a digital tool with simple publishing and search capabilities.


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Monday, April 20, 2020

5 Things To Do While Under Quarantine


The novel coronavirus is no longer culturally novel — it's been several weeks since schools and non-essential workplaces began to close down, and many are settling into what's become a new normal of social distancing. In lieu of face-to-face contact, people around the world have developed new ways to stay connected and still have fun, even while adhering to public health guidelines.

Although remaining inside is a good way to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus, and is an important measure to help "flatten the curve" of daily cases that put pressure on our health care system, it could lead to a lesser evil: boredom and stir craziness. 

Here's a few things you can do to make the most of this situation:

1. 5S your home (Clean and organize).
What better excuse? Staying in might provide you with the perfect time to take control of your home. Cleaning and organizing always makes me feel a little bit better. It also stops me from feeling claustrophobic -- a feeling that can be hard to ignore when being cooped up at home. Try cleaning or organizing a closet that hasn’t gotten attention in a while, or go through and get rid of stuff you haven’t used in a while.

2. Learn a new skill.
The business world is rapidly changing and new skills are needed constantly, but it can be nearly impossible to learn something new while you’re just trying to keep your head above water at work. Now is the perfect time to let your creativity flow. Use this time stuck in quarantine to brush up on your skills, learn something new, and navigate the web, work and study. Many e-learning platforms are now offering their online courses for free (or at a bargain)!

3. Read a book.
How often have you said you wanted to read more, but you didn’t have the time? Now’s the time to get reading. Books are a good tool for your learning. If you need some ideas: Top 10+ Lean Manufacturing Books

4. Reflect.
This seems to be an ideal time to reflect or to clear you head. The benefits of dedicating time to reflection are numerous and have been proven in studies over and over again. Retreat and decelerate. Turn off your smartphone and computer and really get some rest. It’s hard, but maybe the pandemic is also a good time to reflect on the really important things in life.

5. Stay active.
Practicing social distancing doesn't mean you have to be cooped up in the house all day. Fresh air is still recommended, as long as you aren’t congregating with lots of other people. There are several activities that can be done solo, or in pairs — and outside, including:

  • Go for a run.
  • Get the bike out and take it for a spin.
  • Hit the golf course and play a round.
  • Find an at-home workout routine that doesn't require additional weights.

Remember, while a quarantine will disrupt your daily routine, the opportunity can also be used to improve ourselves. Trying to stay positive and pro-active appears to be all we can do at the moment.
Make the best of your time at home.


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Friday, April 17, 2020

Lean Quote: April Showers Bring May Flowers

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.


"March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.  — Old English Proverb, First recorded in 1886 it mirrored sentiments from a poem recorded in 1610

Spring has finally arrived in the Northeast. It’s a time of new beginnings, and everyone around just seems to be happier (maybe it’s the anticipation of summer or maybe everyone’s seasonal affective disorder is finally wearing off). We can finally get motivated again to do the things that we kept putting off till “tomorrow”.

Now we’ve all heard the rhyme “April shower bring May flowers” reminding us that even unpleasant situations can have beautiful outcomes.

It is also a lesson in patience, and one that remains valid to this day. Many of life's greatest things come only to those who wait, and by patiently and happily enduring the clouds and damp of April, you can find yourself more easily able to take in the sights and smells of May. After all, it's easier to love something if you begin with an optimistic outlook. So do not be depressed during these cloudy rainy days because soon the sun will shine and beautiful flowers, plants and trees that will have blossomed into a ray of many colors will surround us. 

Have you had a season of setbacks, disappointments or hindrances? Do not be dismayed. Remember these things: there has never been a wind that did not change directions, clouds do not hang forever and April showers bring May flowers.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Keep Calm and Carry On: How to Engage With Your Customers

We are living in troubling times fraught with uncertainty. There is no coronavirus playbook. Company leaders are facing an unprecedented crisis as the COVID-19 outbreak spreads worldwide and impacts businesses across multiple industries. There are many questions about what comes next in the COVID-19 outbreak.
Keep Calm and Carry On was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for World War II. The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public, threatened with widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities.
 During this time of uncertainty this saying can provide some advice about dealing with what we can control. Focus solely on the here and now and the things you can control. Here are ten things you can to remain focused on customers during this challenging period.
1.      Communicate, communicate, communicate. In times of trouble, it is best to start a dialog with your customers. Moreover, it is better to over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Much of the problem in the current crisis is uncertainty. Communicating with your customers will not reduce the global uncertainty around the health crisis. Still, it will provide some small sense of certainty around how your organization will react to it. People value predictability in times of uncertainty. So, do your small part; Over-communicate and overshare.
2.      Be transparent. Be open and honest with your customers. People will understand things that are not great news when you do. I’ve had two interesting emails from Southwest Airlines and Delta explaining what they were doing to respond to the crisis. They were open and honest, and perhaps more importantly, they weren’t trying to hide or spin things. They acknowledged the issue, explained how they were changing their cleaning process to respond.
3.      Mind the tone of your communication. It is best to have a sincere tone that is authentic, empathetic, and, perhaps most importantly, confident. People want leadership. People want to believe you, and they will only accept you if you’re sincere and feel you’re authentic and empathetic to their situation.
4.      Be fair.  This time is not the time to price gouge. (I’m looking at you online hand sanitizer vendors.)
5.      Listen and be empathetic. I recommend putting yourself in your customers’ shoes (because we are, aren’t we?). Recognize that customers are going to be emotional and anxious. Empathy means that you understand where they’re coming from, but it doesn’t mean you have to give them everything they demand. Listen to your customers.
6.      Invest in the long-term with customers. People will remember the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020, and they will tell their stories. You want them to tell good stories about your company, not cautionary tales. Nobel-Prize winning Economist Professor Daniel Kahneman talks about this with the Peak-End Rule, which says that what people remember about experiences is the strongest emotion they felt (the Peak) and how they felt at the end. Moreover, people still talk about the fact that Southwest Airlines were the only airline after 9/11 that let people change flights without any additional costs. People have long memories when it comes to these things. The long and short of it is to think long term.
7.      Set proper expectations. You should give them the bad news. However, it is essential to tell them WHY you have bad news. While it may upset them at that particular moment, people will understand. (Moreover, if you go back to number two, which is about being transparent, honest and open, and number three, you’re sincere, authentic, empathetic and confident in your approach, then you know you have to tell them the bad news.) People understand the difference between bad things happening to them and how they are treated when bad things happen to them. Also, people with financial difficulties know it is terrible to have them; however, they also remember how people treated them when they had financial problems. This COVID-19 situation is not pleasant for anybody, but people will remember how they are treated by your organization when going through this “not nice” situation. People will make allowances because of that. We’re all in it together.
8.      Think of the next step. Customers feel more confident when they know you are thinking ahead. What we know is this is bad. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. However, what happens after this? If you have those answers, it will help build a relationship with your customers.
9.      Recognize how people feel coming into the experience. People will be stressed and anxious, and it will be best to do things to mitigate their feelings and manage them to a better place. In other words, when people call into the call center who are feeling stressed and anxious, getting them off the phone as fast as you can might not be the best thing to do. However, you might have to because people are sick in the call center, and you might be understaffed. Well, guess what? You have to be open and honest with people and tell the callers if you can’t spend a lot of time talking to them. The point is, you should recognize that stress and anxiety will be on the other end of the line and react accordingly.
10.   Suggest new ways of interacting. Every cloud has a silver lining, even at times of change like this one. The silver lining here is you could potentially get people to change their habits. If you want them to move online, then maybe now is an opportunity to do that, with some support from you. Now is also a time to help meet customers’ needs by getting them to do something different. If it can coincide with what you want them to do in six months when this is over, then all the better.
 While it’s impossible to predict where we will be in the coming days or months, there are always ways to be ready for change and keep both customers and employees informed. Remember to be adaptable and emphatic. Customers and employees are looking to the government and businesses for guidance right now. Find ways of supporting your community and ask for their support in return.

We’re all in this together. That is key to this COVID-19 situation. You’re in this along with the customers, and we’re all doing our part to fight the virus. The main thing is to keep calm and carry on and just keep safe.

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