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Monday, December 14, 2020

Top 10 Lean Tips of 2020

As 2020 comes to an end and we look toward 2021 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

Lean Tip #2528 – Challenge the Way You Work

Encourage employees to keep looking anew at the way they approach their work. Ask people what works well and what doesn't. Allocate time for thinking about different approaches. Appeal for original ways to solve particular problems. Keep your door open to anyone with new ideas. Encourage people to work together and share ideas. Individuals within the team can feed off each other – exploring, testing and refining new approaches.

Lean Tip #2541 – Don't Forget How Processes Interact -- Think Global While Acting Local

While many processes stand alone, the chances are good that every process is a part of a bigger whole. As your team begins to consider the process at hand, don't lose sight of how that process integrates with everything else. Plan for it. Make sure that you're not making something else worse in an effort to solve a different problem. This may mean attacking multiple processes at once in some cases. As you plan for improvements, step back and from a high level, try to determine what will happen once proposed changes are made.

Lean Tip #2543 – Make Sure the Right People are Involved

Make sure you include everyone who has a stake in the process. If you don't, your efforts will fail. Those excluded will know they've been excluded and will resist any proposed changes. Further, your efforts won't be as complete as they otherwise could be.

Just because someone is involved doesn't mean that that person will cooperate. I've been involved in process improvement efforts with people who were less than cooperative, and it really affects the possible outcomes. In every organization, I believe that people have a responsibility for improving the workplace, which should be included in annual performance reviews. If someone is truly combative just to resist the change, it should be reflected there. That said, if people have valid points and you simply don't agree, don't punish them! The goal here is inclusiveness, not divisiveness.

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 #2629 – Make Visual Board About Conversation Not “Wallpaper”

If you think just putting information on a Visual Management Board on the wall will get people to engage, then you will be disappointed. I see many big immaculate visual displays sprawling across entrance halls and walkways with literally dozens of metrics displayed. Here is the bad news: no one looks at them. In many cases, the job of printing the graphs and posting them is delegated to an administrative staff member and not even the business leaders notice or read the graphs. We call this type of visual management board “wallpaper” because that is the only function they serve. The boards need to be the focus of structured daily conversations about how the team is going, what are the barriers to improvement and how these barriers can be overcome. Therefore visual management boards go hand in hand with daily meetings.

Lean Tip #2644 - Invest in Training Your Team

Ever wondered what the best way to invest in the growth of your company is? It all starts with investing in your team.

Your team is more than just the fuel of your company. They are also the wheels, gears, and steering wheel. Without a properly functioning team, your company is not going anywhere.

Team building is an easy way to invest in your team. It shows that you are willing to put time and money into making them happier. Offering training to your employees is one way to invest in your team that demonstrates your commitment to them and also has a direct correlation to the way your company runs.

Consider holding group team building activities that focus on teaching your employees a new skill that is useful for the work they do. Another option is to provide training opportunities as rewards to employees that go the extra mile.

However, you choose to go about incorporating training into your company, know that this is an important investment. It may not have an immediate ROI, but it will come back to you in bigger and better ways.

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 #2671 –Outline a Clear Team Vision for Your Frontline Employees.

Your frontline employees are your direct connection to your customers and potential customers – they’re the ones who are in direct contact with those customers, and need to be able to understand your organization’s ambitions and goals in order to provide superb customer service experiences for everyone they interact with. However, many times, frontline employees feel as though they’re disconnected from corporate – they don’t always feel as though corporate understands them, or that they’re really linked in with what’s happening at corporate headquarters.

Investing in training and helping your frontline employees to really understand what your corporate vision is, what your brand means, and how they can assist with achieving company goals is a great way to motivate your frontline employees.

Lean Tip #2674 – Listen and Empower

Coaching requires both encouragement and empowerment. As a manager and a leader, your job is to build one-on-one relationships with employees that result in improved performance.

Your employees are likely to have a lot of input, questions, and feedback. It’s important for them to know you care enough to listen to what they have to say, so encourage them to share their opinions.

Some employees will have no problem speaking their mind, while others will need a LOT of encouragement before they share an opinion with you openly. Once they do open up, be sure to respect those opinions by discussing them, rather than dismissing them.

Lean Tip #2694 – Connect Recognition to Company Values

Another way to ingrain recognition into company culture is to relate it directly to your organization’s core values. This can take praise to a deeper level; rather than simply recognizing an employee’s great work on a project, you can explain how that work epitomizes the organization’s mission and is a key step toward its big-picture goals. Employees will see that their work is integral to the success of the company, which should help to inspire their work on a daily basis.


These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2021. What advice would you share for the New Year?

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