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Monday, November 30, 2020

Lean Roundup #138 – November 2020

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

Five 5 Why Fallacies to Avoid - Jon Miller shares five fallacies related to 5 why analysis that need to be avoided for more effective problem solving. 

Why should you have a Chief Engineer? - Jamie Flinchbaugh explains the importance of having a Chief Engineer role in you organization

Practical Problem Solving – Proving Cause & Effect - Pascal Dennis explains how to overcome a common failure point in problem solving that can be avoided by proving cause and effect.

(Value Stream) Map Your Way to a Better Post-Covid Future - Dan Makrovitz shows that value stream mapping is the tool that will help you become faster and more nimble post COVID.

“Red / Amber / Green” Charts Are Not State of the Art, Are Not Effective Visual Management - Mark Graban illustrates how bowling charts are problematic and states why process behavior charts are better.

The Value of Building Granularity into Product Development - Jamie Flinchbaugh explains the benefits of additional granularity can have on product development.

Move Over Lean! - Bob Emiliani discussed the impact COVID has had on process improvement previously centered on human technology pushed aside now in favor of machine technologies.

Lean Thinking and the Swiss Cheese Model - Jon Miller discusses how multiple safeguards are better than hoping on a single one when it comes to COVID, quality, Lean and more.

The Deeper Purpose of Problem-Solving - Regis Medina says PDCA is a better way to root out misconceptions and fix the glitches in our thinking. 

Why Lean Is the Strategy We Need For Today's World - Michael Ballé & Dan Jones explains that Lean is an upside down strategy for an upside down world.

Lean WX – An Rx for Making Things Better - Josh Howell explains how standardized work enables a purposefully designed work experience where everybody, every day, is learning and improving through doing value-creating work. 

The Benefits of Kaizen Learning vs. Traditional Problem-Solving - Art Byrne says Lean's emphasis on kaizen offers a fundamentally different approach to problem-solving than most companies practice today. 

Debunking the 'Time Drives Costs' Myth with Lean Financial Thinking - Nick Katko explains why in Lean Accounting, we want to stop allocating costs based on time because it isn’t an accurate way to understand costs. 

Why Value Stream Mapping is Essential to Product and Process Development - John Drogosz describes how product development value stream mapping has been a useful technique to help teams really see how they do their work and how their work fits together.

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Friday, November 27, 2020

Lean Quote: Cultivating Gratitude Has Enormous Benefits

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.

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.  — Cicero

It’s that time of year where many people begin thinking about everything they have to be thankful for. Although it’s nice to count your blessings on Thanksgiving, being thankful throughout the year could have tremendous benefits on your quality of life.

In fact, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous.

Research reveals gratitude can have these benefits:

1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends. A recent study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.

2. Gratitude improves health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health.  They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

3. Gratitude improves self-esteem and mental strength. A researcher found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs – which is a major factor in reduced self-esteem- grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have – rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve.  Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.

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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day has evolved over the years as an important holiday. It is not just about feasting and merrymaking. The tradition of Thanksgiving dinner teaches us to appreciate the finer things in life. It is about showing one's gratitude for the blessings that we are showered with. In all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Thanksgiving, take a moment to focus on what being thankful is all about.


More Than A Day

As Thanksgiving Day rolls around,
It brings up some facts, quite profound.
We may think that we're poor,
Feel like bums, insecure,
But in truth, our riches astound.

We have friends and family we love;
We have guidance from heaven above.
We have so much more
Than they sell in a store,
We're wealthy, when push comes to shove.

So add up your blessings, I say;
Make Thanksgiving last more than a day.
Enjoy what you've got;
Realize it's a lot,
And you'll make all your cares go away.

By Karl Fuchs


Being thankful for what we already have is probably the most powerful tool of positive thinking. The ability to notice what we already have and to consider ourselves blessed with it truly unlocks the door to abundance and to feeling good.

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Monday, November 23, 2020

The Importance of Gratitude in the Workplace and 3 Easy Ways to Show It

As the holiday season rolls around again, you may be thinking about all the things you’re thankful for. Have you brought that attitude of appreciation into the office? Gratitude in the workplace is essential, and not just during the holidays. The acknowledgement you give your employees can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to praise your employees for the successes, both big and small.

Here, we discuss 3 easy and effective ways to show gratitude to your employees:

1. Words of Affirmation

Studies have found saying ‘thank you’ to employees boosts their morale, increases their job satisfaction, and creates an overall healthy, positive culture. Whether you want to say it face-to-face, put it down on paper, or send it via email, make sure you regularly thank your employees for all that they do for the company. Employees are so pleased to receive a note or email from their boss thanking them for a job well done.

2. Gift Giving

From points-based incentives to performance-based incentives, employee of the month to suggestions of improvement, giving employees a gift to thank them for their outstanding efforts is a great way to boost motivation, satisfaction, and positivity in the workplace.

The type of gifts employees appreciate include gift cards, opportunities to upskill (training programs or courses), or something that caters to their interests (event tickets like concerts or art exhibitions, restaurant vouchers, a book you had discussed with them, etc.).

3. Quality Time

Managers and employees spend a lot of time together in the workplace – be it in team meetings, over a cup of coffee in the kitchen, at social events, etc. but in most cases, these meetings are just by chance. Communication between managers and employees is important – employees want regular meetings for performance reviews or to be updated on important business matters; communication like this is what makes them feel valued in the workplace.

Regularly schedule ‘quality time’ with your employees. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss their performance and career path, find out if there are any areas in the business they would like to upskill in, and recognize them for their strong contribution towards the company’s goals and objectives.  It’s important that these meetings are done on a frequent basis to keep high levels of productivity and interest in the workplace.

Overall, as with any “culture” initiatives, gratitude in the workplace starts at the top. If your employees see you practicing appreciation, they will follow suit and express thankfulness to their coworkers. Making gratitude a cultural focus will increase productivity across the board and create a much better environment for everyone – including you.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Lean Quote: Leadership is About Empathy

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.

"Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.  — Oprah Winfrey

When you get into a discussion about leadership, empathy does not normally come high up on the elements for discussion. I think it should. 

I would agree with Oprah Winfrey if you cannot connect with people to inspire them, then you are going to fall short as a leader. If you cannot see into the minds and hearts of your people, then you will not lead them. 

Rhetoric will only take you so far, and for a short period of time. Long term leadership will only be sustained with true empathy. 

Empathy is a skill that you can develop and grow – but it takes effort for those not naturally inclined. Below are three simple ways of doing this. 

1. Listen to Others  

Listen to others very carefully. Don’t just listen for the sake of listening. Listen with an open heart and mind. Only in this way, you can understand the entire message the other party is trying to communicate. Pay attention to their tone of voice and body language. Really try to feel what the other person is saying to you. What is important to them? Step outside for a minute and try to understand their perspectives. This can be very helpful especially if you are discussing a divisive topic. You don’t need to agree on everything the other person says but it is important to see their points. 

2. Be Nice and Smile 

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Be nice to people and smile at them. Don’t forget that good manners and kindness always win in relationships. If you treat others nicely, you will soon notice that they will also treat you the same way. In this way, you can build a healthy relationship with your co-workers. For example, if you are going to give a birthday gift to a co-worker, think about whether the person receiving this gift would actually like it or not. Rather than picking out something you like, try to think about the feelings of the other party and shop accordingly. 

3. Turn the Tables 

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes before criticizing them. First, try to understand their actions by turning the tables and then decide. The best example for this is the interview process. When you are interviewing someone, think about the interviewee. Put yourself in his/her shoes and try to remember the last time you went for an interview. Do you remember how excited and nervous you were? Then, it is normal for the person you are interviewing with to have the same feelings. Therefore, in order to calm him/her down, you can start with simple and expected questions like “Tell me about yourself” and then, move onto more difficult and technical ones. 

So, yes, empathy is a key element of leadership, and without practicing it, you will be lesser for it. 

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Lean Tips Edition #163 (#2656 -2670)

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 #2656 – Avoid Making Quick Assumptions. 

One of the biggest inhibitors to quality communication in the workplace is missed signals and quickly formed assumptions. If your employee is lagging in an area in which you expected them to excel, don’t immediately assume that they’re a slacker who doesn’t care. 

Instead, provide a non-confrontational setting to dig into where the problems lie. When you ask your employee how things are going, you may find out that they are moving and have had a hard time focusing at work, or that they’re not used to juggling six projects at once and need to de-prioritize something. When your ears are open, so are the lines of communication. 

 Lean Tip #2657 – Learn Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses. 

There’s more than one way to do this. It might be through observation throughout the months, finding out what your team members are strong at and need a little help with. For example, my boss and I have figured out that she’s great at getting work done in ordered and segmented blocks, whereas I get my best work done in concentrated bursts. 

There’s also the personality type route — Enneagram, Myers Briggs, and Strengths Finder are just a few. All of a sudden, it might make sense that you’re motivated by competition and focus, whereas your other teammate does best with input and ideation. By understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s easier to have effective communication in the workplace. 

Lean Tip #2658 – Be Present and Engaged in Conversation. 

You can show you are present and engaged in the conversation by focusing on your coworkers as they speak and by keeping your phone and other distractions put away. Acknowledge your coworker’s statements and respond accordingly.  In a face-to-face conversation, you can respond with a smile, nod of the head or polite gesture that illustrates your feelings regarding their statements. 

Lean Tip #2659 – Know When Less is More 

In a perfect world, people are able to power down after work hours and stop checking their emails. But the truth is, many of us are so connected to our jobs and our devices that not checking seems unnatural. The line between a healthy work-life balance is blurred even further when working from home when we don’t have that physical separation between the office and our living room. After work hours, however, keep the number of emails you send to employees to a minimum. While your communication is likely important, it can also most probably wait until the following day. 

According to data collected during the transition to remote work, 32% of employees don’t feel they have a proper balance between work life and personal life. As a manager, it’s your role to lead by example and help them draw clear boundaries. 

Lean Tip #2660 – Good Communication Requires Consistent Effort 

Most of us know how to communicate with our friends, family and significant others, but why is it so hard to do the same at work? 

Often it boils down to creating an environment where people are comfortable enough to express what they’re really thinking, challenge ideas and ask questions that might come across as stupid. Managers need to set an example for their team by demonstrating what it means to be a good communicator. That means practicing good listening skills, giving team members an opportunity to speak, setting clear expectations and providing regular feedback. 

Lean Tip #2661 – Employee Recognition: Be Quick 

Ideally, recognition should occur as close to performance as possible. This way, the praise reinforces the behavior the employer wants to encourage. If you wait too long—days or even weeks later—the employee has already put their accomplishment behind them and is no longer in that mindset. Immediacy is vital, as it allows the employee to better tie their performance with the praise they’re receiving. 

Lean Tip #2662 – Employee Recognition: Be Specific 

“Good job” may sound encouraging, but it isn’t enough to foot the bill when it comes to workplace recognition. You must let the employee know what specific behaviors or actions are being rewarded. When you’re too generic, you leave an employee confused about what exactly they did right. When you praise specific items, however (‘closed X number of sales calls’, finished the project X days before the deadline, etc.), you’re offering the employee a blueprint for repeated successes. 

Lean Tip #2663 – Employee Recognition: Be Accurate 

Nothing’s more embarrassing than not having your facts straight when it’s time to acknowledge an employee. Ensure you know the person’s name and the specific accomplishment for which you’re acknowledging them. Making a mistake in this manner will only serve to leave a sour taste in the employee’s mouth. 

Lean Tip #2664 – Employee Recognition: Be fair 

As the old adage goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ While there will certainly be occasions when a star employee stands out above the rest, for the  most part, projects tend to be a team effort. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking contributors. Instead, recognize and celebrate unsung heroes who helped behind the scenes. 

Lean Tip #2665 – Employee Recognition: Be Well-Balanced  

Make sure that the reward you’re offering matches the degree of achievement. For instance, if you’re celebrating an  employee’s five year anniversary, don’t simply hand him or her a pen with the company’s logo. This only sends the message that the milestone is insignificant. Likewise, avoid going overboard with recognition. Small tokens of appreciation such as plaques/trophies, gift certificate, or even food are sometimes perfectly sufficient to make an employee feel valued. 

Lean Tip #2666 - Employee Recognition: Highlight the Impact 

Employees want to feel connected with their organization’s purpose, and the best way to do this is by highlighting the impact their work has. Whether it’s reflected through business metrics, a delighted client, or supported teammates, showing how someone’s efforts contribute to greater objectives makes them feel like an asset. When you’re delivering recognition, always be sure to state why what they’ve done was important. 

Lean Tip #2667 - Center Your team Around Shared Values 

When team members are all connected by shared core values, it offers a kind of North Star for everything from communication norms to collaboration practices and prioritizing initiatives. This not only contributes to healthy team dynamics and performance, it also serves as a reference point for recognition. If everyone is aligned on what’s important to the team, they can easily point to these values when recognizing the good work and behavior of other team members. 

Lean Tip #2668 - Use Recognition to Encourage Desired Behaviors 

This tip can be thought of as a combination of the previously two, but is still so important that it needed a heading of its own! Your employee recognition programs should always encourage desired behaviors, whether directly or indirectly. 

How? By rewarding these desired behaviors! If you want your salespeople to make more money, then reward them with good compensation plans. If you want to encourage teamwork, then recognize team achievements and reward them with a fun, creative team activity. 

Lean Tip #2669 – Invite Peer-to-Peer Recognition.  

Create a culture of appreciation by inviting employees to recognize each other for a job well-done or an over-and-above contribution.  Peer recognition programs encourage employees to take note of what their colleagues are doing, and build camaraderie and excitement for individual and company successes. 

Lean Tip #2670 - Promote Recognition at the Top.  

Every great workplace has several ways that senior leaders or partners can recognize teams or individual employees.  While a great people manager has several recognition tools at their disposal, and demonstrates the characteristics outlined above, a great workplace has leaders who get in on the action too, demonstrating that senior leadership knows and understands how teams and individual contributors are driving business success. 

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Monday, November 16, 2020

6 Reason Recognition Programs Fail to Boost Employee Engagement

Giving recognition and sharing appreciation is a core component of Respect for People. Employee recognition programs are a great way to boost employee engagement. However, more often than not, they end up doing the opposite of engaging people. Poorly structured employee recognition programs end up causing a lot more harm than good. 

So why do 80% of U.S. employees say they aren’t recognized enough for their contributions? 40% of employees say that they would put more energy into work if they were recognized more often. From experience here are the top 6 recognition mistakes I see happen. 

1. Rewards 

When we are constantly looking to link recognition to rewards - gift cards, pizza parties, certificates, a "free" day off work - we take the focus away from the team members and their contributions and shift attention to the rewards. 

2. Generic 

When we give the generic "thanks, bud" or "appreciate you" or "you're the best" recognition, it doesn't feel like it's authentic recognition- and team members are left wondering "what for." 

3. Immaterial 

When we share appreciation for random things that don't tie back to our purpose, goals, and priorities, then the impact of that recognition gets lost. 

4. Incomplete 

When we give recognition without sharing the "so what", it's incomplete and doesn't have the same meaningful impact that effective recognition has. 

5. Infrequent 

When recognition is an event or an occasional activity, the scarcity doesn't increase the value of it - it actually detracts value. Ever hear someone say "I do ten things right and never hear a word - I do one thing wrong and never hear the end of it"? Yeah - that doesn't lead to engagement, commitment, and action. 

6. Similar 

When we give everyone the same reward or recognition it lessens the weight of the gesture. 

So what are we to do? 

Let’s see five practices for employee recognition that organizations could follow and build in their organizations. 

1. Tailor recognition to the individual 

Leading companies are now understanding the need for recognizing individual employees in individual different ways. 

2. Teams need recognition too 

Organizations are often made up of different teams. Teams are made up of different individuals. Individuals should be recognized for their contributions, but so must teams. 

3. Recognition can be shown in different ways 

Recognition does not have to have a tangible form every time. A pat on the back, a social media mention for an employee’s good work, an appreciation card on the employee’s desk, a special mention in the weekly meeting, a lunch treat and a “thank you for the good work” note, are just some of the ways in which to show recognition. 

4. Make recognition a part of your daily work culture 

Some companies create formal recognition programs and some prefer to make recognition a part of the daily work culture. When managers and organizations align recognition and appreciation with the larger company goals, daily gestures of employee recognition can boost performance and accelerate growth. 

5. Merge recognition with company values 

When companies merge company values with recognition programs, they grow faster. 

There is no one standard formula or way to do it. And there is no limit to the ways in which you can show recognition to your employees and your teams. Management must create formal recognition programs aligned with the company culture and goals. Companies should create their own ways of recognizing their employees. If possible, combine all of the above five points, to have the most effective recognition culture. 

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