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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Lean Roundup #136 – September 2020

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

Solving Complex Problems: Systems First, or Individual First? - Jamie Flinchbaugh shares a series of questions to help you frame complex problems to focus on system or individuals first.

How to Build High-Performance Teams through Lean Practices - Jon Miller advices using high performance teams to lay a foundation for sustaining continuous improvement vias specific lean practices.

Building Quality Into The Process - Pascal Dennis talks about building quality into the process through a familiar example frequent clothing size checks for growing boy.

“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail” - Al Norval says that most organizations have a strategic plan but few outside the leadership knows what it is. 

Jumping to a Solution (Gun Crime Edition) - Dan Markovitz uses a recent article on homicides and gun crimes to highlight the difficulty of not jumping to conclusions when framing a complex problem.

Eliminate Busy-Work to Create Engagement - Johann Rothman talks about how busy-work creates disengagement and why to eliminate especially when we return from our home offices to the workplace.

Is the Right Attitude Enough? - Jamie Flinchbaugh explains the importance of backing positive attitude with thoughtful and purposeful action to get what you desire.

CEO Akio Toyoda’s Perspectives on the Toyota Production System - Mark Graban discusses key points regarding engaging people by asking questions instead of lecturing them from recent publication on Akio Toyoda’s perspective of TPS.

Akio Toyoda’s Take on TPS - Jon Miller shares his thoughts on Akio Toyoda’s take on TPS.

Akio Toyoda’s View of TPS: A Critical Analysis - Bob Emiliani shares his perspective on Akio Toyoda’s view of TPS, a different perspective then others.

The Stabilizing Foundation of Values - Kevin Meyer talks about values and why they are so important to your actions and strategy.

Tap the Power of Flow to Develop Lean Thinkers - Gert Frick & Eivind Reke discuss flow in people development.

Ask Art: What Was Danaher Like In the Early Days of Lean? – Art Byrne shares the history of Danaher’s lean journey over the last several decades.

Lean Lessons from Cobra Kai(zen) and the Karate Kid- Michael Balle shars some explicit values the film Karate Kid shares with Lean and Kaizen.

Lean Peeves – Bruce Hamilton shares the first of his 16 Lean peeves which is about waste modifiers. The collection these are all worth reading.


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Monday, September 28, 2020

The Importance of Continuous Learning for Business Leaders

Continuous learning is a popular topic in ever-evolving modern business culture. However, to experience the full benefit of this powerful professional mindset, leaders, managers, and employers as a whole must acknowledge the fact that learning isn’t something reserved for those further down the corporate ladder. It must also be embraced by those on the highest rungs of a business’s structure.

The Power of Continous Learning

With so many new concepts constantly making the rounds, it’s important to define what the term “continuous learning” means in the first place.

While it’s certainly up to interpretation on a certain level, continuous learning can be boiled down to a few specific principles, particularly as they apply to the business world. The core tenet behind the mindset is that employees are given a variety of different opportunities to make learning a part of their work.

This could come in the form of new responsibilities, training to use new software or even extracurricular education outside of the workplace. The important thing that makes something qualify as continuous learning is the fact that it helps to develop the talents, skills, knowledge, and abilities of an employee while they’re actively on the job.

Learning can obviously take place on an individual level as employees personally hone their professional education. However, the goal of maintaining a continuous learning mindset is often applied on a company-wide level as well.

Amazon, for instance, has realized its meteoric rise largely thanks to a continuous learning mindset. The company got its start selling books online — which was already ambitious enough back in the early 90s when the company was founded. However, since its inception, Amazon has ceaselessly looked for opportunities to grow. It built the largest online e-commerce store in the world. It expanded its originally book-centric business model into one that has invaded and adapted to every retail market on the planet. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling healthcare e-commerce products or pantyhose, Amazon has you covered. This is all largely thanks to a willingness from the company’s leadership to always be adapting, growing, and looking for new opportunities to expand their current product or service offerings — i.e. applying a continuous learning mindset.

The largest retailer in the world aside, continuous learning has had an impact on company cultures far and wide. For example, industries everywhere have been put into a state of flux as the technologically-driven 21st-century has unfolded. This has led many larger companies to hire a Chief Learning Officer to help manage the constant change. A CLO can focus on identifying meaningful change and then figuring out what programs, courses, training, or other learning opportunities must be offered to keep employees up to date with the perpetual flood of new technology.

Another example comes in the form of the sea of smaller companies that have discovered small-yet-effective ways to apply continuous learning to their business models. Many have learned that e-commerce and the digital economy are instrumental to long-term success — especially in the wake of the coronavirus. They’ve flocked into the online marketplace in droves, only to find that simply creating a website isn’t enough. They must also keep up with digital transformation trends in areas such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and 5G technology. 

In other words, rather than simply trusting to a “build it and they will come” mentality, they must continually learn about tech trends and then find ways to adapt their e-commerce sites accordingly. This can be as simple as updating to a trendy new look or as complex as reformatting to a single-page site or integrating a chatbot. Either way, small companies must keep that continuous learning mindset to ensure that they’re aware of what is needed in the here and now.

The breakneck pace of change has, at times, even become so intense that keeping up with new tech on a small business budget requires shifting focus from updating to straight-up reinvention and innovation to remain viable over the long-term.

The point is, whether it’s Amazon, one of its competitors, or a tiny mom-and-pop shop on the corner, continuous learning has become part and parcel of the modern business model.

Why Leaders Should Embrace Continous Learning

The question that naturally arises at this point is why leaders, in particular, should embrace a continuous learning mindset. There are several answers to the question. For example, a leader who embraces a continuous learning mindset can: 

       Inspire their employees to follow suit. Continuous learning is a discipline that requires patience and fortitude. By demonstrating it regularly, a leader can show their employees the long-term benefits of continuous learning.

       Overcome the challenges of remote work. In the post-COVID-19 era, looking for remote growth opportunities has become a challenge — one that continuous learning can help to overcome.

       Help employees identify how to enact change. A good leader knows how to think of others and find beneficial solutions, even when it comes to helping them learn and grow.

       Show that the learning journey is never complete. Leading in the effort to continuously learn is a key concept in developing teamwork, empathy, and a tenacious desire to never give up.

Guiding Employees into a Continous Learning Culture

Learning to think differently has always been valued in the business world. However, doing so in the context of continuous learning can take a bit more effort. Always striving to learn and grow isn’t glamorous. Nor is it always exciting.

However, if leaders can cultivate and demonstrate a continuous learning atmosphere in their workspaces, they can help to develop a culture that is always willing to adapt and change. This isn’t just helpful, either. In the modern era, adaptation has become a critical aspect of long-term survival. This is true both for businesses as a whole as they learn to shift to the evolving needs of their customers as well as individuals who must maintain their skills and knowledge to remain active contributors to their company’s success.

Either way, though, it falls to the leaders to shape and direct the course of change through the adoption and application of continuous learning regularly.

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 technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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Friday, September 25, 2020

Lean Quote: Clarity and Simplicity

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.

"Clarity and simplicity are the antidotes to complexity and uncertainty.  — General George Casey

Leadership clarity and simplicity in these times of dynamic uncertainty is important to build and maintain confidence and perspective in your organization.

Clarity means your team knows their objective.  They know the goal, and they know where they are heading.  Often a good leader will set these objectives collaboratively with their team, to help them to buy in to what needs to be done.  Clarity means making a plan, and knowing the steps to execute that plan.  When you have clarity on what needs to be done and how you are going to do it, there’s quite simply a much higher chance it will get done.

Simplicity means being able to reduce the steps to getting the outcome you want.  It means finding the lowest common denominator, the clearest path, the smoothest way forward.  Albert Einstein is credited with saying “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”  That means only someone who truly understands something can articulate it in simple terms – others will go on and on trying to convince everyone, including themselves.

One of the surest ways to set your team up for failure is to make tasks and initiatives overly complicated. So bring simplicity and clarity to your team – you will see their employee engagement soar and your productivity improve.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Review: Everything I Know About Lean I Learned in First Grade

Everything I Know About Lean I Learned in First Grade written by Robert Martichenko is a not your typical lean book. It's written from the perspective of the author visiting his daughter's 1st grade class and discovering methods for teaching and managing the classroom that seem very similar to the Toyota Production System.

Adopting a Lean culture plays itself out in a variety of ways within this elementary school, but more important than the specific ways in which it manifests itself, are the principles behind it. The author’s writing style interweaves the experience of first grade for the first time with points of reflection on lean principles.

I’ve had a similar experience as the author visiting my own kids’ elementary schools. There are examples of 5S, standard work, visual controls, and many other systems. I could easily relate to the authors’ viewpoints.

Great concept to tell the Lean story. It’s a short, simple to read, and easily understood book. Good introduction to Lean concepts presented in an accessible and practical manner.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in Lean. If you are a practitioner there are good examples used as a reminder and if you are new to Lean this book illiterates the concepts well in familiar situations.


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Monday, September 21, 2020

10 Lean Blogs to Follow

A key part of Lean (or continuous improvement) is continuous education – learning new ideas to challenge your thinking. The Lean community of thinkers is a generous one that believes in paying it forward. Many share their knowledge and experience in blogs they write. Reading these Lean blogs can keep Lean principles and practices at the forefront of your mind as you make decisions in work and in life.

Here’s a list of ten Lean blogs you should follow, in no particular order…

1) Old Lean Dude – by Bruce Hamilton

Location: Massachusetts

About: Bruce has been around the Lean scene since 1985, first as a practitioner and later as a consultant. He is passionate about learning and shares all his thoughts and learned lessons on his blog. As he says “Everyday there is something new to learn and to share.” His blog is an ongoing reflection on Lean philosophy and practices with an emphasis on keeping good jobs close to home.

Frequency: 1 post / week


2) Lean Pathways – by Pascal Dennis and Al Norval

Location: Toronto, CA

About: In this outstanding Lean blog, you can enjoy insightful articles, find interesting facts and curious points of view. The author often presents commonly accepted norms and theories related to Lean but from a different angle. Pascal Dennis is a professional engineer, advisor and author of several books. He has a solid background with Lean and has supported lean implementation at leading international companies from different industries.

Frequency: 1 post / week


3) Bobemiliani.com – by Bob Emiliani

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

About: Bob Emiliani is a professor of Lean management at Central Connecticut State University. He is an author of 17 books and 47 research papers based on his deep researches in the fields of leadership and management. Prior to his academic career, Dr. Emiliani has 15 years of industry experience and he is more than passionate about Lean management. All this knowledge converts into insightful articles presented in his blog. A gold mine for both, Lean practitioners and Lean enthusiasts.

Frequency: 7 posts / month


4) Gemba Academy Blog – by Jon Miller, Ron Periera, Kevin Meyer, Steve Kane

Location: USA

About: Gemba Academy offers online Lean Manufacturing, Lean Office, and Six Sigma training to companies around the world. They teach topics such as 5S, the 7 Wastes, Kanban, Standard Work, Value Stream Mapping, Quick Changeover, and how to leverage these methods in Kaizen Events.

Frequency: 2 posts / week


5) Lean Blog – by Mark Graban

Location: Fort Worth, TX

About: Mark started this blog back in 2005. He is a veteran Lean management practitioner in the manufacturing industry and later he decided to dedicate his professional life to incorporating the principles of Lean in the healthcare industry.

Frequency: 1 post / day


6) JFlinch Blog – by Jamie Flinchbaugh

Location: Lehigh Valley, PA

About: Jamie Flinchbaugh is a lean advisor, speaker, and author. He has advised over 300 companies around the world in a lean transformation. Previously he co-founded the Lean Learning Center, and he has helped build nearly 20 other companies as either a co-founder, board of directors member, advisor, or angel investor.

Frequency: 3 posts / week


7) Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog – by John Hunter

Location: Houston, TX

About: In Curious Cat, John Hunter shares opinions and challenges derived from his professional and personal experience. John is an author, lean management practitioner, software development consultant and much more. Here you can find original commentaries related to different topics such as lean management, management improvement and etc.

Frequency: 3 posts / day


8) The Lean Thinker – by Mark Rosenthal

Location: Washington

About: Mark is seasoned in lean manufacturing and has more than 20 years of professional experience. He has helped various organizations to implement and understand continuous improvement. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced professional, in this Lean blog you may find valuable information about broad or more specific topics.Frequency: 1 post / week


9) Markovitz Consulting Blog – By Dan Markovitz

Location: California

About: Blog by Dan Markovitz. Founder of Markovitz Consulting helping organizations become faster, stronger, and more agile through the application of lean principles to knowledge work. Our mission is to improve the well-being of individuals, organizations, and the planet through the application of Lean business management practices.

Frequency: 1 post / week


10) A Lean Journey – by Tim McMahon

Location: Massachusetts

About: Tim is a Lean implementation leader, author, and blogger. Tim has more than 20 years of leadership experience implementing Lean manufacturing. A proven leader in high tech manufacturing companies, he is passionate about quality improvement methods by actively learning, thinking and engaging people.

Frequency: 3 posts / week

Note: I know this is my own blog, but I am partial to my own labor of love.

The blog landscape has changed a lot over the last decade and likely will continue to evolve. I have chosen to focus on personal blogs here, my preference. Yet, there are many other helpful Lean blogs that are not on this list. Let me know the blogs that you enjoy reading.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Lean Quote: You Don’t Control What Happens, You Control How You Respond

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.

"You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.  — Brian Tracy

As we have learned these last many months we are often not in control of the issues we face at work or home. For most of us, the pandemic has upended our entire lives: Important projects have halted, we've lost jobs, canceled momentous trips, gone weeks (and counting) without hugging our family and friends. Nothing seems "normal."

There are so many things out of our control right now. Our home work environment, home schooling of our kids, the health of our loved ones, the global spread of COVID-19, and the impending global recession/depression that is sure to follow. Perhaps the most frustrating part? We have no idea how much longer this quarantine will last. We can’t help but ask, will it ever end?

While we may not wish to acknowledge it, uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. Very little about our lives is constant or totally certain, and while we have control over many things, we can’t control everything that happens to us. As the coronavirus outbreak has shown, life can change very quickly and very unpredictably.

In determining how we face our challenges it is our attitude that is the key. You are not responsible for everything that happens to you, but you are responsible for how you react to what does happen to you. You have a choice as to what your attitude will be.

Use these four steps to have a super attitude:

Focus On The Future

Focus On The Solution

Look For The Good

Look For The Valuable Lesson

So much of our anxiety comes from losing control, so you have to take control when you can. Having the right attitude can make the difference. A positive attitude can motivate other people to change their negative thinking. Everything is possible with right attitude behind you to push you forward. And since you do have a choice, most of the time you'll be better off if you choose to react in a positive and don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Lean Tips Edition #160 (#2611-#2625)

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 #2611 – Communicate Frequently.

Most leaders need to communicate to staff far more often than they think is necessary. Frequent communication reduces fear and uncertainty and ensures that employees have heard the message. While leaders may experience fatigue from repeating core messages, they need to realize team members need to hear these messages multiple times. Different people may need to hear messages in different ways and through different channels.

Lean Tip #2612 – Listen Then Respond. 

Now more than ever, the most important part of communication is listening. Do everything you can to gauge your people’s concerns, questions and opinions so you can feed them into organizational decision-making and reflect them in what you communicate back.

Lean Tip #2613 – Be Honest About What You Don’t Know. 

There’s always a temptation to try and provide people with certainty and reassurance. This comes from a good place, but in such an uncertain situation it is much better to say ‘here are the questions we don’t have an answer to yet’ than say nothing or say more than you can really commit to.

Lean Tip #2614 – Consider Humanity and Empathy When Communicating. 

In difficult times like these, we want to feel close to other people and in touch with our own (and other people’s) humanity. Even the most difficult messages can delivered in a way that reflects this – by being honest with people, by giving time, by being willing to engage, and by seeking to understand. We must remember that people are experiencing fear, loss and anxiety. Being kind in our outlook is the very least that should be expected of us.

Lean Tip #2615 –Communicate With Pace Over Perfection. 

In all but the most sensitive communications, it is better to be communicating in a way that is timely and has gaps in information than polishing every message. Be honest with people that this is what you’re doing and they’ll generally understand and appreciate it.

Lean Tip #2616 – Leaders Mus Own the Change

Now it may seem obvious that if you're leading the change, you already own it. Except you need to ask yourself are you willing to change? If you haven't yet considered how you'll personally need to change for whatever change you're leading to be successful, consider that you don't quite own it yet.

Ownership is personal. Until people see that you really understand the implications of what you're asking, and that you are honestly and courageously facing the change personally, it will be hard to enroll others in taking sincere ownership along with you.

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

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

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

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

Lean Tip #2618 - Show, Don't Tell

Leading change requires that you show people rather than just tell them about it.

Show them how the path you're proposing can serve what matters to them.

Show them you're committed to change by making changes yourself.

Show those who aren't enrolled by empowering those who own the change with you to create short term wins that demonstrate the importance and power of the change you stand for, to create a better future.

Lean Tip #2619 - Nip Resistance in the Bud.

Be aggressive in addressing instances where you see resistance. This is important for two reasons. First, small problems have a nasty habit of ballooning into bigger ones. Second, you don't want unhappy employees poisoning the minds of other employees who have already bought in.

Lean Tip #2620 - Be Prepared to Change the Change.

Just as employees resist change, sometimes we fail to realize that our own changes aren't working the way we want them to. Assuming you have the right workers on the right task, solicit their feedback. You have to be prepared to take the advice they give and adjust your own game plan. Sometimes that means midcourse corrections. Other times, it means scrapping the plan and starting from scratch. That's not defeat -- it's the ultimate sign that you value the buy-in your employees have for your ideas.

Lean Tip #2621 – Limit Strategic Priorities to a Handful. 

A narrow set of clear objectives indicates that the top leadership team has done the hard work of making trade-offs among competing objectives. This effort of making choices — rather than publishing a laundry list of goals — signals the top leaders’ commitment to those objectives. A handful of strategic priorities makes it easier for external stakeholders to assess what matters most to the company.

Lean Tip #2622 – Provide a Concise Explanation of What a Priority Means. 

Some companies listed short strategic priorities like “invest in infrastructure” or “international expansion” without elaborating on the meaning of these objectives. Other companies, in contrast, provided concise descriptions that fleshed out their priorities.

Lean Tip #2623 – Explain Why a Priority Matters. 

Companies should communicate why their priorities matter strategically and how they will help create and capture value. Clarifying the “why” behind the “what” is particularly important if the priorities do not have an obvious impact on the bottom line in the short term.

Lean Tip #2624 – Describe the Strategic Plan

Explain what barriers may arise that could potentially prevent your organization from achieving its vision, mission, objectives and actions. Remember that all employees have different levels of understanding, so make sure that you not only describe the numerics of the strategic plan, but also what the terms mean and why they are meaningful to understanding the business. Differentiate between signal and noise for your employees to determine relevancy.

Lean Tip #2625 – Have Your Senior Management Team Engaged in Communication

Your senior management team is the face of your strategic plan. Having them on board as strategy ambassadors who are available to quarterback the process and answer questions related to the plan is crucial to the successful achievement of your strategic initiatives. Sending out general, lackluster communications via email or internal monthly newsletters may not cut it for your organization. Get your creative juices flowing, and have your senior management team consistently cascade the enthusiasm, progress, and wins throughout the organization.

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