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Friday, April 30, 2021

Lean Quote: Seek Perfection

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.

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.  —  Vince Lombardi

The Shingo principle seek perfection is about challenging the status quo; always wanting to be better and do better. While perfection will never be obtained, the pursuit of perfection creates a mindset and culture of continuous improvement.

Challenging the status quo is the very essence of kaizen. Good enough is never enough! No process is perfect and a leader should always be looking for a process where perfection is required. Perfection is possible only when a leader is observant.

While we tend to think of perfectionism as being incompatible with an open mind and a questioning mentality, they not only go together but are an integral aspect of Lean leadership and Lean organizations. The Lean leader is not focused on momentary success, but on continuous improvement. Everything that is done well can be done better, with more efficiency and a less wasteful process.

For this, a decent amount of time must be spent in Gemba. Striving for perfection does not imply that we must make the processes more complicated. Simplicity is the key. The leader needs to have a daily routine of simplification and develop an eye for finding waste.

Seeking perfection is about constantly looking for opportunities to get better. It is helpful to set attainable goals and work diligently towards achieving them. When everyone is working together to achieve goals the continuous improvement mindset will spread.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Lean Roundup #143 – April, 2021

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

Two Lean Journeys – Bob Emiliani describes 2 Lean Journeys that many are on and which one you should be on.

Respect, Standards and Jidoka – Mark Rosenthal takes a look at first step of Jidoka, detecting the problem, and how organizations fall down on respect for people.

Why Lean in Sales? – Pascal Dennis talks about Lean in Sales process and some of the differences in seeing waste from that of a factory.

Setting Goals, and the One Minute Leadership Lesson – Jamie Flinchbaugh shares a 1 minute lesson on goal setting by asking 3 key questions.

Addition Still Beats Subtraction – Bob Emiliani talks about management’s encouragement to add things instead of subtracting and how kaizen shows us the value of subtraction.

Managers: Are You Responsible “To” or “For” People? – Johanna Rothman explains the behavior differences when a manager is responsible to a team and when they are responsible for a team.

Uncovering New Perspectives – Kevin Meyer shares an opinion on how to expand perspectives and understanding like how language and information can shape our thinking and improve of understanding.

The Coaching Cycle Is Not a Judgement-Free Zone – Jon Miller discusses why good coaching needs to occur in a judgement-free zone to be effective.

Break the Habit of Breaking Good Habits – Steve Kane shares a simple strategy to prevent new practices from failing form the start.

What are the Origins of the Term SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Die)? – Mark Graban discusses with Ritsuo Shingo the history of SMED at Toyota.

Zoom Out For The Whole Picture – Brian Buck explains that perspective matters in everything we do and how zooming out can give you the perspective you need during challenging periods.

Form A Bold Strategy For Uncertain Times – Jeffrey Liker explains that Hoshin Kanri is more then just a tools for connecting goals.

Development Is A Team Sport – Jim Morgan explains how collaboration is vital to new product, process, and services development.

Coach's Corner: The Four Critical Elements of Collaboration – Eric Ethington tells us that collaboration requires a clear purpose, a clear process, clear expectations, and clear support.  

Learning By Doing with Art Byrne – Art Byrne shares his knowledge and expertise about the need for people learning to lean to do so not in a classroom but hands-on at the gemba.

Who, or What, Is Your Company Investing In? – Josh Howell asks will technology work for your people, or other way around?

What are the Three A's of the A3? - John Shook & Lisa Yerian explains the three A's of the A3.


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Monday, April 26, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #170 (#2761 - 2775)

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 #2761 – Communicate Tasks and Processes Clearly.

Communication is key for any business to run smoothly. It is critical for everyone in the office to understand the rules and processes. A successful business encourages employees to let each other know what they are working on, answer any questions others may have and frequently report to their managers. Without proper communication and discussion, it is easy to think others are accomplishing tasks or working on a project when in reality nobody has touched the project. Communication is critical to ensure all tasks are accomplished and all work is completed.

Lean Tip #2762 – Conduct Frequent Training on Processes.

When employees are intimidated by their workload or a current project, they tend to procrastinate, losing efficiency and productivity. When they are thoroughly trained in the processes of your company, they will feel more comfortable and less intimidated by their work. Even if they receive the same training more than once, it may calm any worries they have and make them more willing to tackle large and difficult projects.

Lean Tip #2763 – Attack Difficult Tasks First.

You cannot do every task at the same time, so it's important to prioritize. Doing the most difficult tasks first will allow you to focus on smaller, less difficult tasks later. At the start of your day, consider ranking each task in a to-do list according to importance and urgency. Put the most important projects at the top of your list, checking them off as you complete them. If a task seems overwhelming, getting rid of it as soon as possible will ease your mind and reduce that feeling of being consumed by numerous tasks.

Lean Tip #2764 – Don’t Lose Focus (Eliminate Interruptions)

Workplace interruptions or distractions come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been interrupted or who interrupts you the most during the day. What matters is how you avoid workplace interruptions and improve your work performance. Remember, workplace interruptions are dangerous. They make you lose focus, waste time, and in the end, disrupt your work management and cause a delay in projects.

If you want to avoid interruptions or distractions at work, then you need to stay away from your phone or email. Turn off the notification and keep your eye on successfully completing the tasks at hand. Also, learn to say “no” when necessary. You can and you must say no to anything or anyone who can interrupt your day. 

Lean Tip #2765 - Acknowledge Your Strengths and Weaknesses

The word “perfect” is too good to be true. There’s no way for you to be perfect in everything. We all have weak spots and it’s important to acknowledge them in order to identify improvement opportunities. Additionally, every individual has his/her own strengths i.e something that they are exceptionally good at. Now, in order to bring improvement to your everyday work performance, you need to cherish your strengths and overcome your weaknesses at the same time.

Never settle for “quite okay” when you can achieve “awesome”. Be your own critic and keep evaluating your performance for potential improvements. If you’re pretty good at something, then do whatever you can to be the best at it.

Lean Tip #2766 – Leaders Should Be Growth-Oriented

As a manager, focus on helping your employees progress – individually and collectively. Get to know your workers on a personal level so you can help them leverage their interests and talents. Find what works and what doesn't, and work on identifying and removing obstacles so your employees can perform at their best.

Consider a development goal that isn't about the business. Have one goal focused on the development of a person (or people) on your team that isn't connected to a business outcome. This could be developing confidence in presenting by sharing work to a big group or learning a new language.

Lean Tip #2767 – Leaders Should Be Excellent Communicators

Communication is a driving force behind nearly everything we do as humans, and being a clear communicator is vital as a manager. You should set clear expectations for your employees, be transparent about important topics, and establish guidelines for giving and receiving feedback.

In order to inspire original thinking, managers should create an inclusive culture where everyone can voice their concerns, opinions and ideas. Encourage authenticity and vulnerability by leading by example. Ask for help. Turn to your team when you're at a loss. Start a conversation, and be open to wherever it leads.

Lean Tip #2768 - Great Leaders Are Personable

Being a leader means working under pressure, trying to balance between personal, company and team objectives. There is always the possibility of getting into incendiary situations especially where responsibility for team members lies with you, and there are deadlines to be met. Being personable, which is just another term for great interpersonal skills, makes it easier to accomplish tasks with help from other team members and improves the support mechanism during these high-pressure situations. It also helps you to interact with, manage and balance the different types of personalities in the office. Moreover, mind the importance of respect in the workplace.

Lean Tip #2769 - Effective Management Means Taking Responsibility

Most new managers find it difficult to assume responsibility when things don’t pan out as they hoped, for example, a late deadline, an undelivered or under-delivered work item, or a project that didn’t go according to plan. Whatever the scenario is, it is crucial that you hold yourself to the same high standards that you hold other team members. If it was a failed team effort, be the first to assume responsibility instead of shifting blame onto others. This will make your employees respect you and also stand up for you in the future.

Lean Tip #2770 - Be at the Forefront of Problem Solving

Being a manager and a leader requires an affinity for solving problems and providing direction at the most crucial times. At an impasse, there is often a tendency by managers to pass on responsibility to employees, especially when things aren’t going as planned. Some go as far as hogging all the glory when positive results come back. Resolving problems requires that you be at the forefront of accountability, even when things are tough.

Lean Tip #2771 - Study the Principles of Management Success

You don’t need to be one of those gurus that have studied hundreds of motivational success books to excel in managing a team. But you do need to be able to at least pick up finer points from those who have gone before you on the management route. This will help you know how to deal with certain situations that arise in the workplace and also how to go the extra mile when it comes to those life-changing projects.

Lean Tip #2772 - Successful Managing Means Letting the Reigns Lose Sometimes

Most managers always try to keep a tight check on things even when they are not in the office. Once you have identified responsible team members and have delegated accordingly, always give them space to carry out the mandate you have trusted them with. You chose them because you trusted their ability to deliver, so now let this play out. At the same time, you also need rest from the high-pressure work environment, so take all breaks and personal quality time seriously. Always maintain a healthy work-life balance if you’re to avoid balking under pressure.

Lean Tip #2773 - Gratitude and Recognition Go a Long Way

Employees really appreciate genuine and specific recognition from managers, senior management, and coworkers. They feel great in their job role and feel appreciated which leads to a happier, more productive employee – which only means a better bottom line.

Think about it, there are some employees out there who work in a job that doesn’t pay that great and the role itself might be mundane but they stay because they love their manager and their coworkers.

Being a good manager means knowing that gratitude and recognition go a long way.

Never underestimate how powerful saying “Thank you” or “Well done,” to an employee really is. It’s a great motivator, sometimes even more than a pay raise or promotion.

Lean Tip #2774 - Welcome New Ideas and Approaches

Most managers are cautious when taking risks and trying new methods and approaches. After all, if anything doesn’t pan out then they’re on the hook. However, welcoming and trying new ideas and approaches is a huge part of being a good manager.

You have to take controlled risks so the company can grow. The most successful companies have managers who are flexible, open to change, can adapt to change and are interested to hear new ideas.

Don’t forget that some of the best ideas out there may very well lie with your employees! After all, they’re in the thick of it each and every day so they usually have great ideas when it comes to improvements or innovations – and it’s important that you listen. By listening to your employees’ ideas, you help employee retention from going south.

Lean Tip #2775 - Practice Consistency.

Following set processes for certain tasks within your organization can yield positive results. Optimized processes allow for repeatability and efficiency, amongst other benefits. But to realize these benefits, you and your staff must be consistent in following these processes. Do your part to ensure everyone on your team understands the processes they should follow. Beyond this, it’s helpful to explain why the processes should be followed and how abiding by them will lead to positive outcomes.


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Friday, April 23, 2021

Lean Quote: True Mark of a Leader is the Willingness to Stick With a Bold Course of Action

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.

"The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you're not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.  —  Bill Taylor, from article "Do You Pass the Leadership Test?"

Leadership is not some manager sitting in his office presuming that he knows it all, and “all of it” can be expressed in a spreadsheet that he can receive on his PC and then, from the comfort, quietude and solitude of his office analyze this information and make a cold, calculated decision that will drive his business to prosperity.

This is such a perverse model of management and leadership that I struggle to find words to describe it. The best I can come up with is arrogant management.

There is a better leadership model; the Japanese have been using it for 65 years -- lean leadership. It has six basic qualities, which are:

Leaders as superior observers: They go to the action -- they call it the gemba -- to observe not only the machines and the products but also to spend significant time with the employees. They also are in contact with their customers. A much overlooked leadership skill they have in abundance is the ability to be an empathetic listener.

Leaders as learners: They do not assume they know it all. Rather, they go to the floor to learn. They are in lifelong learning mode.

Leaders as initiators: They plan, they articulate and sell their plans, and they act on their plans. They are not risk averse. They are not cavalier.

Leaders as teachers: They are lifelong teachers. When something goes wrong, their first thought is not “Who fouled up?” but “Why did if fail?” and “How can I use this as a teaching opportunity?”

Leaders as role models: They walk the talk. There is no substitute for this. NONE.

Leaders as supporters: They recognize they mainly get work done through others, so they have mastered the skills of servant leadership.

Lean leadership principles aren’t new. They are the qualities that have always distinguished a great leader from an average one. The key to lean leadership is institutionalizing these principles in the everyday culture of the business, and embedding them through repeatable behaviors that demonstrate expectations to the wider organization and encourage exceptional performance.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Obeya: The Lean War Room

Successful projects don’t just happen; they require hard work and collaboration from both project managers and team members to ensure all tasks are completed and goals are met, on time and on budget. However, many projects ultimately fail or are abandoned because the team does not work together to achieve shared goals. Much like how two people in a canoe won’t get anywhere if they’re rowing in opposite directions, projects will be doomed to fail if all members are not working towards the same end product.

To avoid this unfortunate fate, project managers can find help with visual management and the Obeya room. Visual Management is a Lean best practice used to inform and involve anyone in the process (even those who are unfamiliar with the details), and quickly allow them to see what is going on so that everyone ultimately understands what is under control and what is not. A key element of Visual Management is Obeya.

Toyota first created Obeya rooms during production of the Prius in the 1990s. Since then, organizations across many industries have put the concept into action. Obeya, which means “large room” in Japanese, involves bringing together departmental leaders to focus on big picture issues involved with a single project or initiative.

Creating an Obeya room is akin to creating a “war room,” a command center that draws together leaders from across departments in an organization. While most often associated with product development, Obeya also is useful as the command center for managing a new business strategy, software development, project management and workflow management. Obeya helps you to generate ideas, collaborate with management and stakeholders, and gain a full overview of the projects and any problems that need to be resolved.

An Obeya is not a process island. Simply putting all of your engineers in a single, big room does not an Obeya make. By the same token, a glass-walled room studded with monitors displaying and rotating real-time data every 30 seconds also doesn't qualify as an Obeya if it isn't used routinely to collaborate and manage the business. While the room may be visually eye-catching, that may be all it is.

The idea behind an Obeya is to break down the barriers that prevent employees from collaborating and sharing information to make efficient decisions. Obeyas are most effective when established and outfitted to solve singular problems or work on specific projects.

Obeya rooms are a process management tool that fuels creativity and collaboration between decision-makers on all levels while developing problem-solving skills. An Obeya promotes quicker, more nimble problem-solving by speeding up the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) process.

Here’s a breakdown of the PDCA cycle:

·        Plan: Define a problem and develop potential solutions.

·        Do: Implement a proposed solution.

·        Check: Evaluate the results to see whether a solution is working.

·        Act: Take one of two actions: return to the planning step if the results aren’t satisfactory, or standardize the solution if the results are sufficient.

Rather than communicating across departments over the course of days or weeks, an Obeya brings together key decision-makers to implement the PDCA cycle and develop solutions quickly.

One of the most essential components of a successful Obeya room is choosing what will be visually represented in the room. Obeya rooms rely on visual management to spur collaboration and it is important that only relevant and important information is posted in order to keep the focus. For instance, posting customer complaints will keep managers focused on meeting customer requirements and their satisfaction. Other information that can be used in an Obeya are A3 reports, KPI’s, and the results of previous projects. The documents posted in an Obeya room should be clear and easy to understand, set up in a logical manner. It should flow from one side to the other and tell a complete story.

Visibility of information, transparency that applies to all relevant information, and visual organization are important quality attributes. When you walk into a well-equipped Obeya with your team, you would like to have easy access to everything you need. Information should be clear so that there are no misunderstandings. Then you are adequately enabled to identify improvements, make decisions and take action.

But this is just the foundational layer. First and foremost, it’s about the people. Nothing happens with all that neatly collected information if there are no people around willing to commit to each other and use the given platform to take action in pursuit of process improvement.

The Obeya connects information to people and therefore people to each other. By applying a repeatable rhythm and fixed structure, people in the Obeya meet other experts in their own field. All that expertise is needed to realize the strategic intention of the organization. Team members evaluate the status of their work and assess whether they are on schedule. Barriers can be discussed. Managers assess where resources can be deployed and see, at a glance, what that could mean for other initiatives.

Accountability is further supported through frequent “daily” reviews, which highlight responsibilities involved in executing project tasks and apply more pressure on the implementation of corrective actions. For those looking to analyze and improve their project processes more, this also can be great place to begin your daily  Gemba walks.

Companies using an Obeya may enjoy a number of benefits. Those include:

·        Efficiency: A project’s leadership team can save time by bringing helpful visuals, necessary information, and vital resources together in one place

·        Focus: Having key team members in the same room for collaboration and discussion means that project leaders can focus on the right issues

·        Collaboration: An Obeya fosters an environment in which employees can work together across disciplines and in real-time, rather than via e-mail or in rushed meetings

For project managers struggling to establish teamwork, visibility and accountability on their projects, Obeya may be the solution. With the ultimate goal of breaking down walls between team members and getting everyone working on the same page together, Obeya rooms provide big gains in both collaboration and problem solving, two features that are essential in project management.

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Monday, April 19, 2021

The Benefits of Lean Visual Project Management

One of the greatest and most important challenges of project management is communicating clearly with your team about both the details and the big picture of your project. After all, it’s unlikely people will work on the right things in the right order if they don’t understand how each task– and its timely completion– contributes to the success of the project. One of the best ways to communicate with your team is via visual project management.

Visual project management is a method by which you can organize and visualize process over traditional projects and utilizing tools to help everyone involved visualize the status and needs of the project.

There are many benefits of visual management:

  • Save time by simplifying the complex – Visual management helps people understand complex information at a glance, like what work items should be prioritized and who should be working on them.
  • Reduce waste by communicating effectively – Take the guesswork out of teamwork by having a shared, common view of all work being done across the team.
  • Overcome impediments to flow – See where work has slowed or stopped by creating a Lean visual management board that enables you to see bottlenecks and blockers.
  • Collaborate and improve – Instead of pushing work blindly into team members’ queues, you can move work through our team process with a better understanding of capacity. This enables teams to collaborate in a healthier, more productive way.

Visual project management tools help bring the information to life, connecting the dots and painting a clear picture of the desired outcome, the current status, and any roadblocks that may be in the way. Visual management becomes a language that everyone can understand and explain.

A visual management board can help see the big picture, structure project activities, monitor and improve a team’s performance. Having a project board showing all the project tasks, their stage in the project life at any given moment can help significantly improve communication between team members.

More specifically, it enables the team to visualize the system, become aware of any constraints or roadblocks that might result, and begin a dialog on how to solve those problems. In this way, the challenges are directed to the system and how to solve versus focusing on the person as the issue. While there are many methods for collaborative communications, several common tools to foster the collaboration include consensus decision-making, A3s, Daily Huddles and similar problem solving activities.

Managing your tasks and overall projects require more than placing them in a sequence and attaching specific timelines to them. You need to adopt a better way to make your workflow transparent so you can continuously optimize your process and evolve it to create superior value for your customers.

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Friday, April 16, 2021

Lean Quote: Lean as a Habit

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.

"The fact that lean methods and practices are too often seen as “events” rather than “habits” is a common cause of program failure.  —  Rick Bohan

Lean is not about the destination but the direction or path you take toward this idealistic place. Lean is not something you check off your "To Do List". It is about the constant, persistent, even relentless pursuit of improving your current situation. Usually, it means doing something you haven’t done before because your old habits will not work in your new system. Lean is not technique you apply to your business system but rather a methodology that replaces your business system.

Every organization, company, assembly plant, cell and team is a reflection of its leadership. To create real change in a manufacturing enterprise, managers must first understand what drives the business. The source of power is people and their behaviors.

The sum of these behaviors is the culture. All business results are driven from the behaviors of people. When you change the culture, you change the business. Teaching people how to think and act differently is the key. The culture of your business can be your most powerful strategic advantage.

Creating a continuous improvement culture requires changing people’s habits. Habits are the set of things that people do subconsciously on a daily basis. They are in fact very difficult to change. Part of the challenge of starting and sustaining a continuous improvement program is identifying a set of desired behaviors and continuously reinforce them. This can include training and retraining employees, helping people understand when their behaviors are misaligned with the continuous improvement efforts, and giving positive feedback to those who exemplifies the desired behaviors.

Culture is like a healthy lifestyle. There are no quick fixes. You have to commit to a long, everyday push to get the behaviors right. It’s easy to take one step forward and two steps back. Changing culture requires extensive discipline for managers / supervisors as well as the front line worker. Without the internal transformation we rely on our old tricks for fooling the system. The paradox is that most Lean implementations fail because Lean is too easy. It is easy to do the practical stuff, but very difficult to change behaviors and habits.

Lean culture is not something that you can implement and forget about; it requires daily feeding. Even Toyota lost its way a few years ago and learned how tenuous lean culture can be after the company went through a period of significant growth.

When there's a plan for making Lean an ongoing effort and not just a one-time event, it can be sustained over time.

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