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) – 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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Monday, September 14, 2020

Lean Requires Working IN the Business and ON the Business

Lean improvement involves both tactical and strategic efforts for high performance impact.

Tactical work is a term used to describe the actions that support day-to-day operations. Lean organizations make use of Daily Management systems, a structured process to focus employee’s actions to continuously improve their day-to-day work. Daily Management include activities like daily huddles, visual controls, leader standard work, Gemba walks, et al which empowers employees to identify potential process concerns, recommend potential solutions, and learn by implementing process changes. This is what I would call working IN the business.

Tactical work is the basis of operational effectiveness since it produces the impacts that are measured in evaluating performance. Because of this, changes in tactical efficiency are used to measure whether individual or departmental performance is improving or degrading.

Most improvements to tactical efficiency are incremental. This means that in the big scheme of things, incremental changes have a minimal impact on performance improvement. The main purpose of the daily management process is the enabling of robust “Check” and “Act” activities. An organization that places daily management at the core of its management system will be capable of identifying deviation as soon as it occurs and to initiate the problem solving process right away.

Such an organization will be best placed to deal with future challenges, because it has created a solid method for dealing with uncertainty and problems, and because it has continuously engaged and developed its people (the real value creators).

Strategic work on the other hand, is used to refer to actions that, while they are not integral to day-to-day operations, have the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of tactical work by delivering step-function magnitude efficiency impacts. Many organizations have hard-working people putting their best efforts into areas that have little to no effect on strategic success. They’re essentially majoring in the minors—because their activities aren’t aligned with the priorities. Your strategy serves as the vehicle for answering the question, “How can we better align all our resources to maximize our strategic success?”

You need a strategy because it sets the direction and establishes priorities for your organization. It defines your organization’s view of success and prioritizes the activities that will make this view your reality. The strategy will help your people know what they should be working on, and what they should be working on first.

In Lean, Hoshin Kanri is the continuous improvement management process to deploy breakthrough strategies. The Hoshin Kanri process identifies and concentrates resources on the vital few stretch achievements that support the vision. It separates those performance issues that require dramatic improvement from the many incremental improvements that can achieved at the local level. It translates the strategic intent into the required day-to-day behavior. This is what I call working ON the business.

Incremental improvements are important in business but certainly can’t be the sole basis for achieving (or maintaining) world-class performance. Incremental positive impacts will always be overshadowed by strategic improvements, whether they are made within your company or by a competitor.

Strategy and tactics are both how you will achieve your goals and objectives. Strategy is our path or bridge for going from where we are today to our goal. Tactics then are how specifically or tangibly we will do that. Therefore, Lean requires working IN the business and well as working ON the business for true success.

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Friday, September 11, 2020

Lean Quote: Leadership Is Not a Title or Position

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.

"Being a leader doesn’t require a tittle; having a title doesn’t make you one.  — Anthony T. Eaton

Whilst position and authority provide you with the potential to lead, it does not make you a leader. You don’t suddenly become a leader just because you have a fancy new title. In fact, you don’t need a title to lead. Every day you can find examples of people with fancy titles that fail to demonstrate leadership.

Leadership has nothing to do with your position, rank, or authority. True leadership is not appointed, mandated, or assigned. If you’re going to make a difference, you will need to sharpen your leadership skills. This means improving your influence.

Here are some traits that embody a great boss:

Inspiration. They’re inspiring. They bring out the best in their employees. They don't micromanage. They create a positive workplace culture and give people wings to soar.

Integrity. It’s one thing to rouse employees with a moving speech, but to actually get employees to trust them is another thing. Great bosses are trustworthy. They’re accountable. They expect everyone to take responsibility for their actions, most of all themselves.

Humility. Great leaders don’t surround themselves with "yes employees." or need their ego to be constantly stroked. They consistently seek opportunities to help and serve others.

Empathy. Leaders who possess this trait are not only interested in the bottom line, but the people responsible for the bottom line. They understand the needs of their followers.

Decision-Making. They are great decision makers. They welcome honest feedback and are not afraid to seek out differing opinions, because their focus is doing what is best for all.

Support. They invest in people. Such managers push employees to grow and develop. They recommend and provide opportunities for staff to reach their full potential.

Humor. Running a business is no joke, but an amazing boss has to be able to see the humor in things. They are strong but light hearted. They don’t take themselves too seriously and put their employees at ease especially in tense situations. They have a great sense of humor.

Appreciation. They appreciate employees. Their passion is people. They make everyone they come into contact with, feel valued. When employees have a boss who truly appreciates them, they are willing to go the extra mile to ensure successful outcomes.

Leaders don’t just occupy positions, they exert influence in order to effect change. They influence people to achieve a common goal. They influence people to deliver excellence. They influence communities and organizations in a way that makes a positive impact. Ultimately, leaders influence by the way that they carry themselves and treat people. They lead by example.

You do not have to be in a formal position of leadership to actually lead–you can influence others where you are now. Do not let your lack of positional authority inhibit your ability to make a difference. You can lead where you are, and you can have a significant impact on the people around you and the organization of which you are a part — that’s leadership.

So instead of focusing on the position you do or do not have, how about focusing on your ability to influence others in a positive and significant way?

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