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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Lean Roundup #142 – March 2021

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of March 2021.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Better Lean Leadership through Novice Learning – Jon Miller explains that we can be better leaders by gaining empathy and learning insight into the common struggles of novice learners in our organizations. 

Coaches Have Obstacles Too – Steve Kane shares some concepts from Tony Robbins about breaking the mental state and allowing the opportunity to get out of his head shift into productive state of mind including five steps to overcome distraction. 

The Problem with Lean Thinking – Bob Emiliani says we fail to grasp the extent and effectiveness of tradition as a near-total replacement for our own thinking in our efforts to promote Lean. 

Jumping to Solutions: A Hard Habit to Break – Mark Graban shares an illustration on the dangers of jumping to solutions and how to break that problem. 

Learning From Customers – John Hunter talks about making sure customers can be heard and the ways to do that.

You Want to Get More Done? Do Less… - Pascal Dennis reiterates the impact of focusing on a few strategic activities instead of crowding you A3 with many countermeasures.

Accidental Excellence – Bruce Hamilton illustrates the power of discovery from lucky chance events in his experience. 

Reflections and Lessons From 1997 – Mark Rosenthal talks about his kaizen experience to create a model line and how it forces you to fix your system. 

Back to Basics - What is Value? – Pascal Dennis says value is Lean’s guiding star, get close to your customer and ask them what they need from you.

What Does Lean Mean to Healthcare Professionals? What Should it Mean? – Mark Graban explains that Lean isn't just efficiency… it's safety, quality, delivery, cost, and morale which often misunderstood by many. 

From Thought Leadership to Banal Thoughts – Bob Emiliani s ays we have drifted from thought leadership to banal thoughts. The consequence of banality is a loss of creativity and innovation through the ceaseless repetition of common bromides which propel clumsy or ill-informed practice. 

Better Lean Leadership through Novice Learning – Jon Miller explains that we can be better leaders by gaining empathy and learning insight into the common struggles of novice learners in our organizations. 

How to Shape Lean Leadership Culture Through Daily Management – Jon Miller shares traits of a lean leadership culture and how a daily management system helps to reinforce them. 

Adopt a 5S Mindset to Sustain Your Lean Work – Andrew Quibell shares six takeaways to make housekeeping an ingrained habit as a means of respecting your team members and developing a culture of improvement.

Achieve Your Deeper Goals Through Daily Work With Hoshin Kanri – Jeffrey Liker says Hoshin kanri is a living process of planning, testing ideas, adapting, and learning in which people work towards clear targets addressing the next big obstacle. 

Real Respect Feels Like Knowing You've Been Heard - David Verble says showing respect by actively listening to others--being present in mind and body, consciously attending to what is said, connecting with the person not just the words--are all deeply anchored in core lean values.

Boost the Power of PDCA By Tackling the Challenge of Self-Awareness - Mike Orzen argues while PDCA is the engine of lean discovery, building self-awareness into this scientific method truly unlocks the power of lean.

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Monday, March 29, 2021

The Foundation and Principles of Lean Thinking

Though there is no single definition of Lean thinking, these concepts will help any organization get started with Lean thinking. Lean thinking offers the agility to continuously deliver value in an ever-changing business environment. Implementing Lean thinking will guide your organization toward a stronger, more sustainable future.

3 Foundations of Lean Thinking

1) Purpose

Since the goal of Lean management is to deliver value to the customer, everyone needs a clear understanding of what that value is and how it is measured.

Once a value is defined, everyone can begin working together with the purpose of delivering that value as efficiently as possible. Uniting teams with a shared and clearly defined purpose is integral to leading a Lean organization.

2) Process

Lean methods focus tirelessly on process improvement to remove waste and create value.

Lean leaders believe that flawed processes reduce value and detract from their purpose, so they empower everyone to identify and work to correct problems and improve processes.

3) People

Lean organizations are not led from the top down. Leaders strive to create the conditions for employees to be their most successful and efficient, and actively observe, ask questions, and elicit input toward that goal.

They foster engagement and mentor employees toward continuous improvement. Lean companies are holistic, and success is the result of goals, attitudes, behaviors, and processes that are enacted by everyone, every day.

The Guiding Principles of Lean Leadership

The five Lean principles provide a framework for creating an efficient and effective organization. Lean allows managers to discover inefficiencies in their organization and deliver better value to customers. The principles encourage creating better flow in work processes and developing a continuous improvement culture. By practicing all 5 principles, an organization can remain competitive, increase the value delivered to the customers, decrease the cost of doing business, and increase their profitability.

The 5 principles of a Lean system guide the daily activities of every Lean leader. Those principles are:

1) Identify value

Value is defined by what the customer needs from a product and informed by their desires and expectations.

In an internal system, the “customer” can be another team or department that determines their requirements for value.

2) Map the value stream

Determine all the processes involved in delivering value to the customer from beginning to end.

At a high-level, mapping the value stream can be detailing the path of materials as they move through the design and are delivered in a product, identifying departments and processes.

Another way to look at the value stream is to map the flow of information through a department or organization. Mapping gives greater insight and understanding of business operations and is the first step in identifying waste.

3) Create flow

Work to move products, processes, or information through the value stream with no interruptions, delays, or bottlenecks.

Flow makes everything move in a tight sequence with high efficiency and little waste.

4) Establish pull

With a smooth flow, products can be delivered to the customer as needed. Using a “just in time” delivery model reduces excess inventory, over- or under-production, or unmet demand.

The benefit of pull is that everything is produced highly efficiently, exactly when needed, in the exact quantities required.

5) Seek perfection

Even with a very good process, further evaluation of the value stream always reveals waste or excess that could be eliminated, and flow can always be refined.

Lean systems are engaged in continuous process improvement, iterating these 5 principles over and over in the pursuit of perfection.


Four Lean Rules-in-Use

Rules create structure in our systems. Without rules there would be in chaos. Lean rules provide the guidance needed to implement improvement, explaining the “why” behind lean tools and the Six Sigma methodology. Lean rules also help develop new solutions to problems. For everyone in an organization, these rules help structure activities, connect customers and suppliers, specify and simplify flow paths, and bring improvement through experimentation at the right level.

The Principles of the Toyota Production System can be summarized into four basic rules.

Rule 1: “All work shall be highly specified as to content, sequence, timing, and outcome.

Thanks to specification in terms of sequence of steps, timing, outcome and content, people are able to address any deviations. This rule is a necessary step for people to know implicitly how to do their work.

Rule 2: Every customer-supplier connection must be direct, and there must be an unambiguous yes-or-no way to send requests and receive responses.

The path of communication must be described, shared, known and applied. Each collaborator so knows implicitly how to connect with each other.

Rule 3: The pathway for every product and service must be simple and direct.

Services don’t flow to the next available person—but to a “specific” person

Rule 4: Any improvement must be made in accordance with the scientific method, under the guidance of a teacher, at the lowest level in the organization.

Frontline workers make improvements to their own jobs and their supervisors provide direction and assistance. The purpose of the supervisor is to act on the process to continuously improve the performance of the process.

The impact of those rules on the System is important – “By making people capable of and responsible for doing and improving their own work, by standardizing connections between individual customers and suppliers, and by pushing the resolution of connection and flow problems to the lowest possible level, the rules create an organization with a nested modular structure”.

Toyota developed this set of Principles, Rules-in-Use, as the building blocks of a production system. They allow organizations to gain maximum efficiency so everyone can contribute at or near his or her potential. When the parts (activities, connections, and pathways) come together the whole is much, much greater than the sum of the parts.

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Friday, March 26, 2021

Lean Quote: Now is the Time to Understand More, so we May Fear Less

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.

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.  —  Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity —her research papers are still radioactive more than 100 years later. Curie was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in France, and the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize. She's the only person to ever win two Nobel Prizes in (both) physics (1903) and chemistry (1911).

This quote, by Marie Curie, is about the relationship between fear and understanding.

Fear can be hard to get rid of when it sets in. When that happens, we can feel paralyzed and confused. Either we take no action or make unwise, irrational decisions.

But often, it turns out that it’s the unknown that gives us fear. The more unknown and uncertain things are the greater the fear. From a child being afraid of the dark to an adult being afraid of what the future might hold – it all has to do with the unknown.

The best way to have less fear in our lives is to understand more. Curiosity can help us learn about the things we don't know, so we can demystify them rather than fear them. “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas,” said Curie.

When fear sets in, consider how you can increase your understanding. The less we fear through understanding, the greater our resolve to take the most appropriate action.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Helping Your Employees Manage Their Time

Image Source: Unsplash

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to assume at this point that “how we work” will never be the same. Even after the pandemic passes, its effect on the workplace will linger.

On the professional front, the biggest legacy of COVID-19 is the way in which it pushed more people than ever before to work in a remote environment. Some employees and employers have embraced the change and made the most of it — but others have struggled every step of the way, such as employees who are unable to get motivated and leaders who don’t have a system in place for holding their team accountable. With that said, the face of workplace productivity, and how managers track it, is changing.

How to Keep Your Employees on Task

There’s no exact science to successfully managing remote employees. What works for you and your company won’t work for the next person, and vice versa. But regardless, it’s critical that you have a strategy in place for keeping your employees on task, all while taking time away from their job to rest their minds, body, and soul. Here are five things you can do to help employees manage their time:

1. Schedule Regular Check-ins

You don’t want to come across as someone who is micro-managing their team — autocratic leadership often leads to employees resenting their managers. However, if you don’t schedule regular check-ins, you may find it difficult to monitor your team’s progress.

This doesn’t mean you have to schedule an hour-long Zoom call every morning. It also doesn’t mean you have to check-in multiple times throughout the day. As long as you and your team know when you’ll check in with one another, it should be easy enough to stay on task. And if you do this enough, you may come to find that some people don’t really need it.

2. Require Them to Clock In and Clock Out

Just because your team isn’t working alongside you doesn’t mean they can’t clock in at the beginning of their workday and clock out when the day comes to an end. There are many time-tracking tools you can implement, including mobile time-tracking apps, with most of them benefiting both the employer and employee.

For instance, the ability for workers to clock in and out from any device allows them to work in a more efficient manner. And of course, when employers are able to track this, they’ll have greater peace of mind, avoiding fears of employee fraud when it comes to claiming work that’s getting done.

3. Organize Their Tasks and Responsibilities

Time management is difficult enough when you’re sitting in a physical office alongside co-workers. But when you’re working remotely, it’s even more difficult to stay the course.

As a leader, do your part in organizing tasks and responsibilities for your team. By doing this, you’ll both have a clear idea of expectations. Here are some ideas to try:

       Create and manage calendars on behalf of your team (such as a content calendar)

       Use motivational tools to push and reward your employees

       Set aside time each day to discuss progress

4. Make it Easy to Communicate

Even if you trust every member of your team to do the right thing, you’ll still want to stay in communication with them.

There used to be a time when communicating meant one thing: picking up the phone and making a call. But those days are gone, and there are more ways than ever to communicate efficiently. In addition to phone calls, other options include text messaging, email, and video chat. 

For example, both Zoom and Slack have experienced an uptick in activity as a result of the pandemic. Through the use of these tools—among others—it’s more efficient to work in a remote environment. For example, with Slack, you can send and receive text-based messages, while also making video and voice calls, as necessary.

As you experiment with different communication tools, you’ll come to find what works best for you and your team.

5. Request That They Take Breaks

Do you get the sense that your employees are working entirely too hard? Are they finding it difficult to disconnect from their job when the day ends?

It’s important to help them through this, as neglecting to do so can take a toll on their mental and physical well-being. Not to mention the fact that it can also kill productivity.

There are many benefits of taking breaks throughout the workday, including but not limited to:

       Easier to process and retain information

       An opportunity to rest your mind and body (such as your eyes)

       Creativity boost

       An opportunity to eat a healthy snack or meal

You can’t make someone take a break when they’re working remotely, but it’s something you should encourage. By doing so, you’ll show your team that taking time away from their desk is a good thing. It’s not something that will lead to trouble.


With the tips above guiding you, you’ll find it easier to engage with your employees and ensure that they’re working in the most efficient manner possible. Even when times are uncertain—such as what we’ve experienced with the recent pandemic—it’s a must to take the steps necessary to help your business survive. And a big part of that is making sure that your entire team is on the same page.

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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Monday, March 22, 2021

Five Time Management Tips for Project Managers

There are three important factors that come together when determining the success of a project. These are, of course, quality, budget, and time. In this post, I am going to discuss the latter. Time management is one of the most difficult things for any project manager, especially when scope creep kicks in and things go wrong during the project lifecycle. After all, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a project to run exactly as you expected it to when you finalized your project plan.

Here are some tips that can help you manage your time more efficiently.

Get the project plan right

Of course, time management begins with getting your project plan right in the first place. When you start to execute anything without a plan, you spend a lot of time discussing what to do, how to do it, what it should look like, and so on. This chaotic approach is often the leading cause of misused time in a project, because when a project remains in the concept stage, nothing tangible can actually be accomplished. Therefore, when you are building your project plan, you need to talk to the people that are actually going to be doing the work, i.e. your team. Find out how long it is going to take for the tasks to be completed so that you can build a realistic timeframe and give a deadline that you can actually fulfill.

Deconstruct your tasks

Another important step when it comes to time management is to deconstruct your tasks. One of the big problems with projects is that it can seem like the end goal is extremely far away. Employees feel like they have a mountain to climb and this causes them to feel demotivated. Not only this, but it is hard to work efficiently when your objectives seem like they are still far away and this makes people fall off track. Therefore, if you break down a large project into smaller pieces, it will make it a lot easier to stay on track. This is because milestones will be reached on a continual basis and this will cause employees to feel more motivated and enthusiastic about the project. It will also ensure that everyone knows what they should be working on and when.

Effective communication and collaboration

The success of any project team relies on effective communication and collaboration. Some of the biggest time-related issues project managers face are delays in communication, and more often than not, those delays are not happening within the project team itself. Instead, stakeholders who were so invested at the beginning of a project are often the first to go silent after time has passed, and their priorities—and attention—has shifted onto new tasks.

The best way to maintain stakeholders’ timeliness is to find ways to keep them engaged with the project. Being able to analyze a stakeholder or organization’s preferred methods of communication is another powerful tool in keeping the necessary groups engaged. Maintaining these relationships with stakeholders is a very important aspect of a project manager’s work and the benefits of doing so successfully extend far beyond the reduction of wasted time in a project.

Dealing with scope creep

Another essential part of time management is dealing with scope creep. Any project manager knows that this is one of the most difficult things with regards to any project. When deliverables are not clearly defined, stakeholders are not involved or supportive, or tasks turn out to be more complex than initially thought, a project can be at risk for scope creep.

Starting a project without a clearly defined scope is like trying to drive from Los Angeles to New York City without directions. Sure, you could try and follow street signs, but you’ll eventually make a wrong turn and lose your way. You may never even reach your final destination at all.

The same goes for project management. The scope keeps you on track and makes sure you don’t miss anything important. It’s basically your project roadmap. When everyone on your team understands where you’re headed, it becomes much easier to complete projects on time and within budget.

Learn from your mistakes

Aside from this, project management is all about learning. With every project that you carry out, you need to learn from the mistakes you made in the previous project and this includes the mistakes that you made with regard to time management. Not only this, but you should not be afraid to use historical information to form judgments going forward. Historical information is a good way to determine how long certain tasks are going to take so that you can schedule accordingly. You can also use this to determine any of the issues you are likely to run into.

Hopefully, you now feel more prepared when it comes to time management for any project which you work on in the future. There is no denying that this is one of the most difficult aspects of project management and expectations for your team when handling any type of project. Nevertheless, as long as you learn from mistakes you make and you follow the tips that have been mentioned, you should be able to achieve time management success.

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Friday, March 19, 2021

Lean Quote: 4 Reasons Why Optimists Are Better Leaders

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.

"Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.  —  Noam Chomsky

All academic thought, science and philosophy on optimism confirms that a person who demonstrates the attitudes, beliefs and actions of an optimist will live longer, be happier and healthier than a person who does not. 

If you want to be good leader then become an Optimistic Leader. This will guarantee you the success of leadership you aspire to.


So Why Is It That Optimists Make Better Leaders? Optimists demonstrate the behaviors and attitudes that support good leadership. Listed below are the 8 reasons why optimists are better leaders. 

1. Optimists are Solution Focused 

Optimists want to solve problems and improve the situation they are in. They will always focus on finding a solution rather than analyzing the issues surrounding the problem. 

The solution-based approach that an optimist leader uses promotes creativity and innovative thinking. An optimist is quite comfortable thinking outside of the square; in fact that is where they are their happiest. 

The key questions an optimistic leader will ask when seeking a solution are: What is needed? (Not; what is wrong?). What it going well? (Not: what is going badly?). What practical progress can be made to work toward implementing the solution? How can we measure that the solution is working? 

2. Optimists Are Not Afraid Of Failure 

Optimists do better than pessimists because their coping strategies are better. They are more resilient and able to quickly “bounce back” from failure and setbacks in life. 

An optimist is a risk–taker and is comfortable making tough decisions. They accept the reality of failure and the possibility of making mistakes. An optimist will view failure or mistakes as an opportunity to learn and to make progress. They see failure and set backs in the workplace as a part of life. An optimistic leader is quick to respond and adapt to the situation at hand. They will want to get their teams moving forward and back on track as quickly as possible. 

Optimists do not seek scapegoats or play the blame game. If mistakes are made they will want to know what went wrong and what could be done differently to avoid making the same mistakes. 

3. Optimists Are Great Communicators 

Optimists get their energy from people. They are good at creating and keeping long-term relationships. Optimists are comfortable communicating and sharing their desires for a better future or for better solutions. 

Optimists understand the importance of engaging and motivating others. They have a commitment to succeed and will speak from the heart rather than using data, reports or research to back them up. To be a good leader you need to be a good communicator and effective at engaging others to share in your vision of the future. 

4. Optimists Have A Success Mindset 

Optimistic people always focus on the positive aspects of a situation. Their view of life is different to that of a pessimist. The analogy that is used to describe the difference is, that optimists see a glass of water as “half full” whereas a pessimist will see the glass of water as a “half empty”. 

An optimist has hope and a belief in a better future. They focus on opportunities instead of obstacles. They understand what motivates and inspires them to live a successful and fulfilled life. Negativity and fear do not belong in their world and in fact are inhibitors to their success in life. 

Research has shown that by having an optimistic view of life you are likely to have a more successful, happier and healthier life, than a person who has a pessimistic view of life. Leaders who are optimists have the ability to envision a better future and they are able to inspire and motivate people to work toward achieving that shared vision of success. 

An optimistic leader does not allow their people to wallow in the dark and difficult times. They encourage them to acknowledge the reality of the situation, to plan ahead, take action and work toward a better and more successful future. 

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