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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Friday, June 26, 2020

Lean Quote: Lean Like All Great Achievements Require Time

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.


"All great achievements require time.  — Maya Angelou

Things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. It would be pretty unrealistic to develop and build a whole company from the ground up in less than a week or even month for that matter. The plain and simple truth is that it takes time to do things, especially if it is going to be considered quality. Maya Angelou’s quote reminds us that in the grand scheme of things, and it takes a long time to climb a mountain.

Lean is often described as a “journey, not a destination”. For me the Lean journey is not a stroll down a winding road but rather a climb up a perpetual hill. Reaching the top of the hill is the pinnacle of the journey. So you are either improving (climbing the hill) or you are falling back. The key to keep you moving forward up the hill is to stay customer focused (not competitor focused as that is looking behind you.) Your acceleration up the hill is controlled by the rate of new learning (this changes the speed of improvement). The smarter you work the closer you get to reaching the top.

Lean doesn’t end after you reach your first set of goals, and it’s not a finite project with a beginning and end date. Rather it’s a way of business life that everyone needs to pursue continuously. Sustaining the Lean effort and overcoming inertia requires institutionalizing your process (how you’re going to climb the hill). The real benefits of Lean come from a sustained effort over years, not weeks or months.

A Lean journey is full of steps not all of which are forward. Failure will occur. Its ok, the purpose is learning, and we learn through experimentation. Never settle for mediocre, especially when processes and procedures could be improved to provide greater levels of productivity and enhanced levels of cost savings. Trying new approaches, exploring new methods and testing new ideas for improving the various processes is exercise for the mind.

Getting lean doesn't happen overnight. Lean takes time. For those who worry about the time involved with implementing lean concepts, remember, the time will pass anyway so why not spend it creating worthwhile changes.

Just like compound interest, continuous improvement compounds over time, giving greater long-term benefits.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Lean Tips Edition #156 (#2551-2565)

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 #2551 – Communicate Openly
Employees often have a hard time dealing with change in the workplace due to fear regarding its impact on their responsibilities, pay, benefits, and other important aspects to one’s career. Open – and proactive – communication can help alleviate this. Remember: Always tell employees what you know, what you don’t know, and what you’re working on figuring out. They’ll appreciate the honesty and it’ll help keep the rumor mill at bay.

Lean Tip #2552 – Listen Carefully
Chances are your employees have several concerns that have yet to be addressed, and this is true no matter how thoroughly and how often you communicate with them. Set aside part of your day to listen to their concerns and questions, and address them as openly and respectfully as possible. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer yet, let them know you are working on it and will get back to them.

Lean Tip #2553 – Prioritize People Over Processes
Having processes in place can help you deal with change, just as certain mathematical equations can be used to help mathematicians solve unique problems. But ultimately, an equation can only do so much. The same is true of business processes. You can have processes in place to handle unique challenges, but it’s the people behind these processes that matter most.

When confronted with change, a computer program or piece of software is only going to do so much for you. You really need to have strong relationships with people you can trust. Together, you can use your collective knowledge, experience, and creativity to tackle these new issues. Prioritize people over processes and you’ll be better off almost every time.

Lean Tip #2554 – Get Over the Pursuit of Perfection
How many mistakes do you think you make on a daily basis? Five? Ten? Fifteen? Between little things and big responsibilities, we’re all making a handful of mistakes on a daily basis. According to research, the average person will make 773,618 decisions in a lifetime. Of those decisions, 143,262 – or nearly 20 percent – will be regrets. In other words, you aren’t going to be perfect – not even for a day.

The sooner you get over the notion that you can or should be perfect, change will come easier. You’ll put less pressure on yourself and be more willing to confront the challenges and decisions that await you.

Lean Tip #2555 – Know Your Limits
You’re human and can’t be perfect. Once you realize this, you’re free to confront the fact that you have limitations. Recognizing your limits isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s a sign of self-awareness. When you know what you can and can’t do, you’re able to hand off certain responsibilities and processes to other people who are better prepared to handle a specific element of change. It can be humbling to do this, but it’s usually what’s best for the company.

Lean Tip #2556 – Share More, Not Less.
Even in a small company, silos emerge. A policy of more sharing will help everyone stay in touch with what others are doing, and create a collective expectation. Keeping everyone pointed in the same direction is hard; sharing more about what’s going on, how you’re doing things, reasoning behind decisions, etc. will help.

Lean Tip #2557 – Don’t Automatically Blame the Tool.
It’s not the hammer’s fault if the person swinging it uses the wrong end. It just won’t work well. Most tools are decent enough, they’re just used incorrectly. Rushing to change a tool because things aren’t working well may be a mistake.

Lean Tip #2558 – Focus on Gradual Small Changes Instead of Major Shifts
Focus on small gradual changes rather than large changes. Small changes can be made quickly, on a daily-basis, and are typically inexpensive. By focusing on small changes, you can remove barriers from just starting a continuous improvement process. This focus will allow your team to reap the benefits of their “small wins” right away. As more and more small changes are applied, your team will see an accumulation of benefits from them. This will give them more confidence to suggest more ideas.

Lean Tip #2559 – Prioritize Ideas that are Inexpensive
By going after the ideas that do not require a large amount of investment, you can remove the financial barriers of your continuous improvement efforts. This process can empower the line worker to suggest and implement ideas that can improve their working process because they know that their changes do not need upper management approval. Some ideas such as reducing waste, eliminating unnecessary steps, and re-organizing in the work processes fall into this category.

Lean Tip #2560 – Gather Ideas From the People Doing the Work
In a Lean and continuous improvement organization employees are your greatest asset and should also be the source of generating new ideas for improvement. No one knows the work better than the person who performs it everyday. No one has more “skin in the game” about the working process than that person. As a result, the best person to suggest ideas for improvement and to implement them is the line worker.

Lean Tip #2561 – Empower Employees for Improvement
Although employees play a vital part in the continuous improvement process, it is management’s role to train and empower them. Most workers are unaware of Lean principles and practices such as 5S, the 8 wastes, value stream mapping, visual management, Kaizen, etc. As a result, they may not realize that many of the processes that they perform everyday and the frustration that they feel at work are due to unnecessary waste. Additionally some workers are modest and reluctant to share ideas. It is management’s role to educate their staff on Lean tools and techniques that can be applied to the continuous improvement process and to help their employees overcome any personal or psychological barrier that prevents them from trying out new ideas.

Lean Tip #2562 – Educate the Workplace.
Like any other business strategy, ongoing education of the workplace is critical in establishing awareness, developing skills, and institutionalizing the needed mindset and behaviors to bring about effective change. It is no different with Continuous Improvement. Expect and overcome resistance to change with ongoing training, reinforcement of expected behaviors, and recognition of those who are learning and doing.

Lean Tip #2563 – Ensure a Penalty-Free Exchange of Ideas.
In many organizations, expressing one's opinion on how to do things better may not necessarily be a welcomed activity. Management can feel threatened or pressured to act resulting in immediate resistances. And, those expressing ideas may be viewed as complainers or trouble makers. In such an environment, it doesn't take long for the potential risks of making a suggestion to stifle enthusiasm and participation in improvement oriented thinking. Ensuring a penalty-free exchange of ideas is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver of new ideas and approaches and will ensure a safe two way exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Lean Tip #2564 – Use a Consistent Approach for Projects.
A consistent and structured approach for project identification and execution will provide the organization with the ability to identify, select, and manage continuous improvement projects. The continuous improvement project process should also provide post-closing process steps to continually refine the improvement project methodology and to act upon the lessons learn from the project effort.

Lean Tip #2565 – Establish an Enduring Culture.

For continuous improvement to work, there must be a relentless focus on and commitment to getting things right. Adaptability and an action oriented leadership team are inherent components of a continuous improvement culture. Resistance to change exists in all organizations to a degree and it must be recognized for what it is, an impediment to improvement.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Book Review: Practicing Lean



I finally read Practicing Lean, edited by Mark Graban. Rather, I should say I listened to the audible book which was recently released. The idea behind this book came from Mark who espouses continuous improvement is never something one masters, but rather is a lifelong practice. As Mark points out, people talk about lean thinking, doing lean, implementing lean etc., but all of these phrases miss the point. Lean thinking does not contain any action; doing lean does not contain any thinking, implementing lean could mean that there is end in sight. Practicing lean means that it is something that is done to improve oneself. There is no end and there is both action and thinking.

This is a collection of informal memoirs about lean leadership and transformation in a wide variety of organizations and industries. The stories vary from 5S gone wrong to how people have become better leaders using lean methodologies. A common theme throughout most of the stories is respecting people over simply implementing tools. The individual authors highlight their deep reflection, learning and growth through the years.

The sixteen authors are:
Mark Graban, Author of the books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, blogger at LeanBlog.org
Nick Ruhmann, Director of Operational Excellence for Aon National Flood Services, Inc.
Michael Lombard, Chief Executive Officer of Cornerstone Critical Care Specialty Hospital of Southwest Louisiana
Paul Akers, President of FastCap, author of 2-Second Lean and Lean Health
Jamie Parker, 15 years’ experience in operations management / leadership in retail, service, and manufacturing
Harry Kenworthy, Expert in Lean government after a long career in manufacturing
Bob Rush, Lean Manufacturing Group Leader for Tesla Motors
Samuel Selay, Continuous Improvement Manager for the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton
David Haigh, David works at Johnson & Johnson Canada, the largest consumer healthcare company in Canada
Joe Swartz, Administrative Director, Business Transformation, Franciscan Alliance, co-author of Healthcare Kaizen
Cameron Stark, Physician and Lean improvement leader in Scotland
Harvey Leach, Principal Consultant with The Consultancy Company based near Oxford, England
Andy Sheppard, Author, The Incredible Transformation of Gregory Todd: a Novel about Leadership and Managing Change
Mike Leigh, President and Founder of OpX Solutions, LLC and former Lean leader at General Electric
Jamie Flinchbaugh, Lean advisor, speaker, and author, who has advised over 300 companies on their Lean journey
Lesa Nichols, Founder, Lesa Nichols Consulting and former Toyota leader

You won’t connect to every story but there are plenty of personal experiences that you’ll relate to from your own journey. Part of the appeal of this book is that there is something for everyone within these 16 contributors. As the author pulls you in it feels very conversational.

Practicing Lean isn’t a technical book focused on tools or how to implement lean but rather a reflection of lessons learned in implementation. Common themes include: learn by doing, respect for people, experimentation and pdca, trusted mentor, and continuous learning to name a few. This book shows there isn’t an ideal lean journey but the path can be more clear learning for others’ experiences and applying the knowledge to your own journey. 

I personally found this book inspirational. It made me reflect on some of my mis-steps and learning over my more than 20 years of practicing lean. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is, well, practicing lean in their organizations.

All the proceeds from this book go to the non-profit Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation. Be sure to check out the website and read the heart-wrenching story of Louise Batz and the family who is trying to help others to never have to deal with preventable medical errors.



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Friday, June 19, 2020

Lean Quote: Make the Impossible a Reality

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.


"It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.  — Robert H. Goddard, Father of Modern Rocketry

This is very powerful statement and I want to explain how I think it relates perfectly to Lean transformation.

For most people, the thought of being more efficient can be impossible.  The amount of time, effort, training, etc. can be daunting.  Most endeavors of substance usually are.  But, I believe that most people think that Lean is even harder than it is.

But, for the people who dream of becoming better, they must take the first step.  Deciding that improving your organization is your goal and then beginning to work towards that goal is how you start.  This is when your journey begins.

As time goes by and you gain some skills, the dream turns into hope.  You no longer think it is an impossible journey, but one that is attainable with dedication and patience.  You see that over time, with good, consistent application of principles, and practicing what you learn, you can gain the skills necessary to improve, and those improvements will eventually lead to more improvements.

Finally, after all the dedication and hard work, you’ll see business performance improve. Your initial dream turned into a hope, and then you made it into a reality.  There is no magic that happened; just determination and effort put towards a goal that over time turned into something very special.


So, whenever you think that something is impossible, remember this quote and this story.  You might find that what you think is impossible now, is simple the light that will shine in your eyes to inspire you to take the first steps necessary on the journey towards making the impossible a reality.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Book Review: Getting Home


I recently had some time to read a book I have been meaning to get to. Getting Home tells the wonderful story of a very special lean journey. Zack, a defense lawyer, and Liz, a schoolteacher, left their careers temporarily to rebuild homes for desperate survivors of Hurricane Katrina but wound up staying in New Orleans, where they reconstructed the entire process for rebuilding after disasters. After a chance meeting, they wound up partnering with Toyota to apply TPS to cut the time and cost of rebuilding.

When they first connected with their Toyota advisor, the simple question, “Are you ahead or behind?” prompted the response that drives all improvement, all scientific advancement, all innovation: “We don’t actually know.”

Being able to answer “Are you ahead or behind?” means you have to have a point of reference – what is supposed to happen, in what order, with what timing, with what result. If you don’t know those things, you can only get a general sense of “on track” or not.

Plus, they had to create a culture that developed people as problem solvers at SBP (St. Bernard Parish), the disaster relief nonprofit they founded, in order to sustain the improvements. Today, the organization is a global model for disaster recovery efficiency, and with the help of thousands of volunteers, has rebuilt homes for more than 1660 families in disaster-struck areas across the US.

This book drives home the idea Lean isn’t about specific tools. It isn’t that important whether this-or-that specific tool or approach is put into place, it is critical to understand what the tools you use are there to achieve. Each tool surfaced more detail, which in turn, challenged the next level.

Getting Home also details an innovative blueprint based on their experience for how private industry, relief agencies, volunteers, and all levels of government can work together to dramatically shrink the time between when disasters hit and victims get home in a prompt, efficient, and predictable way. And they offer advice we can all use on how to prepare for disasters.

For those familiar with Lean, I think you'll enjoy reading about the transformation, and you will get ideas on how you can better deploy these concepts at your work.

If you work at a nonprofit, this will inspire you to seek out a new way of managing and engaging with staff and volunteers, and will likely challenge your current way of thinking in a good way!

This is an inspiring read for anybody who is interested in finding innovative ways to make a real difference in the world.



Here is an in-depth review of Getting Home from GoLeanSixSigma.com.




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Monday, June 15, 2020

5 Powerful TED Talks to Teach Leadership & Character


How to become a leader in every matter is the right question for everyone who wants to be successful. Not all students can afford expensive consultations with leading coaches, but in fact, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to become a leader and strengthen your character.  Ted Talks provides an opportunity for everyone to get valuable information from leaders. Here you will find the top 5 performances that will reload your understanding of how to become a leader.

Why Watch Ted Talks?

Ted leadership videos for students are a great way to improve knowledge and get invaluable information for free. Such performances allow you not only to gain new knowledge but also the point of view of successful people.

“Ted Talks is an invaluable storehouse of useful knowledge. At the beginning of my career, I often watched speeches about what a leader should be like, and later attended many pieces of training. I can say that insight from Ted Talks are no worse than popular and expensive self-development meetings with coaches.”- shared his experience the CEO of  Online Writers Rating that provides writing services reviews.

So, if you want to become successful and develop your leadership skills, why not spend an hour of your time to gain invaluable knowledge? By the way, some 10-15 minute presentations are equivalent to two-hour lectures at the university. But even more importantly, most speakers make their speeches in a fun manner, which allows you to combine studying with pleasure.

Success and leadership go hand in hand. But have you ever thought about what real success is?  Most people tend to think that success = victory, but John Wooden thinks completely differently and suggests starting with understanding what success is.

In this Ted Talk character and success video you will get a lot of motivation and perhaps you will understand that your approach was obviously wrong. Despite the fact that this speech was released in 2001, all the instructions and explanations are very relevant today and will be so for a very long time. The 17-minute report will be a good motivation and thought-provoking for those who want to become the best version of themselves in this life.

There are a lot of training programs for the development of leaders. However, a study conducted by Roselinde shows that only 58% of the companies surveyed can boast of achieving leadership effectiveness. According to the speaker, modern leadership development programs are not a panacea, but the truth lies on the surface.

The speaker suggests an understanding of what makes a modern leader successful by answering three questions. Such an approach as "going with the flow" is a real collapse for a modern leader according to Roselinde. In a six-minute video, you will learn about the secret skills of modern leaders. Emotional stamina for criticism, the ability to interact with people who think differently, and preparing not for yesterday’s events but for tomorrow’s reality are the basic skills of modern leaders. Agree, the truth lies on the surface. In this presentation you will find practical material, not only motivation.

In the pursuit of finding how to become a leader, we often forget that leadership qualities come from within. Surely, it is always necessary to improve these qualities. The speaker suggests that real and inspirational stories are even more useful than expensive training and methodological materials.

In this presentation, you will learn about the inspirational experiences of leaders who have had a special impact on society. The speaker offers to draw experience from those people who have made a special contribution to your society. Just such people and their stories are listed by the speaker. These real examples are practical material and of course enough motivation and inspiration.

Do you think procrastination is your fault and a barrier to becoming better? What if you look at it from the other side? This presentation will change your understanding of the thinking of successful people, and the speaker reinforces his statements with real examples.

“In our student days, we often scolded ourselves for procrastination. But it turns out that this is not a problem at all and it’s possible to benefit from it. And this performance perfectly demonstrates this. ”- said the team of the Best Writers Online.

This video will allow you to change your thinking and learn about the ways successful people think. Perhaps the thing you reproached yourself for is the potential that you need to wrap up in the right direction and start generating creative ideas. There are also some characters from Ted that are common to successful people and leaders. The speaker jokes and motivates a lot, so this is an excellent performance for those who are interested in success from a non-standard perspective.

This is one of the short ted talks on leadership that charges with motivation and inspiration. As the speaker says, this presentation is a two-hour lecture shortened to three minutes. The most significant thing is that in this speech you can find the answers on how to become a leader, what character traits you need to have and in fact you get a ready-made action plan. And all this in no more than 3 minutes of your time!

The speaker drew up this plan based on the success of real people, and each spoke about how they became successful. This video is required to watch because in just three minutes of your time you can get a good motivation and start to get better.

Final Words


It is not necessary to spend a lot of time and money to learn how to become a successful leader and what character traits to emphasize. Thanks to Ted Talks you can find a lot of useful information that is often sold at expensive seminars. Consequently, devote time profitably spending only a little on watching videos from our list.

About the Author: Frank Hamilton is a blogger and translator from Manchester. He is a professional writing expert in such topics as blogging, digital marketing and self-education. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German and English.

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