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Monday, May 31, 2021

Remembering the Ultimate Sacrifice

National Memorial Day in the USA is celebrated on the last Monday in May.

All men and women, who gave their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces, are commemorated on this day. National Memorial Day is formally known as Decoration Day, the day that commemorated the Union and Confederate soldiers, who died during the American Civil War. Later the day extended to honor all American soldiers, who died while in the military service.

Traditionally, the flag of the USA is raised briskly to the top of the flagstaff, then it is lowered to the half-staff position. This position is chosen in remembrance of those people, who died for their country. At noon the flag is raised to full-staff as the symbol that the memory of dead soldiers is being raised by the living. Their sacrifice was not in vain, that is why we rise up in their honor and continue fighting for liberty and justice.

I’d would like say thank you to those men and women who paid the ultimate price. We will always remember the sacrifices of our nation’s heroes. We are deeply grateful.

In remembering the fallen, we also honor their loved ones: spouses, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends. There really aren’t proper words, but we do live in gratitude each and every day for the precious gift that they have given to us.

“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Friday, May 28, 2021

Lean Quote: Standard Work Enables and Facilitates Improvement

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.

"Today’s standardization…is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvements will be based.  If you think “standardization” as the best you know today, but which is to be improved tomorrow – you get somewhere.  But if you think of standards as confining, then progress stops.  —  Henry Ford in 1926

Standard work is a written description of how a process should be done. It guides consistent execution. At its best, it documents a current “best practice” and ensures that it is implemented throughout a company. At a minimum, it provides a baseline from which a better approach can be developed.

The definition of standard work is “the most effective combination of manpower, materials and machinery”. Standard work is the method, and thereby you have the four Ms of manufacturing (manpower, material, machinery, methods). Standard Work is only “the most effective” until the standard is improved.

Standards to a company are like scales and sheet music to a musician. Our team members help develop and maintain standards, which are not static. Standards change as we get better, just as a good band will incorporate chord and melodic variations if they sound good. Thus, standards do not constrain creativity – they enable it, by providing a basis for comparison, and by providing stability, so we have the time and energy to improve. 

Standardized work comprises:

  • Content
  • Sequence
  • Timing
  • Expected outcome

It should also contain tests, or red flags, which tell you when there’s a problem. That way, you won’t ship junk. The tests could be physical, such as a torque check on a bolt, or it could be administrative, like a blacked-out template that fits over a standard form and highlights the critical information.

Standard work enables and facilitates:

  • Avoidance of errors, assuring that lessons learned are utilized and not forgotten
  • Team learning and training
  • Improvements to make the work more effective
  • Reduction in variability
  • Creation of meaningful job descriptions
  • Greater innovation by reducing the mental and physical overhead of repetitive or standardized work

Standard work does not preclude flexibility. You can still do a lot of different jobs, and be able to address new problems. Standard work just takes the things you do repeatedly and makes them routine, so you don’t waste time thinking about them.

Standards are an essential requirement for any company seeking to continuously improve. All continuous improvement methods leverage learning to get better results from their business efforts. Standards provide the baseline references that are necessary for learning. A standard operating procedure supplies a stable platform for collecting performance measurements. The standard and its profile of performance yields the information people need to uncover improvement opportunities, make and measure improvements, and extract learning.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Lean Roundup #144 – May 2021

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

How to Solve Hard Problems with Kaizen Events – Jon Miller discusses how kaizen events help people and organizations solve some of the harder problems.

What is a Healthy Company? – Dan Markovitz shares characteristics of a healthy organization which goes beyond a healthy balance sheet.

Why Do ‘Smart’ People Struggle with Strategy? – Pascal Dennis explains in strategy there is no right answer there is only a right process.

Healthy Organizational Cultures Focus on Humanity and Connection (Not Your Whole Self) – Johanna Rothman describes healthy organizations as those who’s cultures focus on humanity and connections instead of divisiveness.

The Future of Work, and the Workplace, Post-Covid – Jamie Flinchbaugh analyzes some of the changes in a post-pandemic world positive and negative.

Rethinking the Need for Lean – Bob Emiliani discusses how Lean can be the answer for human rights and environmental issues.

Lessons from Twelve Years in Pursuit of Zero – Jon Miller talks about the stunning feat where the U.S. domestic airline industry achieved twelve years without a fatal crash and the lessons applicable to zero accident cultures.

On Learning, Listening, and Wisdom – Kevin Meyer talks about how lean leaders wisdom comes from listening to the knowledge then challenging to find new pathways where other knowledge – and perhaps tools – can be applied.

Is “Red & Green” Really Lean? Process Behavior Charts are Better – Mark Graban explains there is a better way to identify issues using process behavior charts instead of red/green color-coding metrics.

Understand Before You Execute – Jim Morgan share the benefits of understanding this principle of lean product and process development.

Visual Replenishment Delivers for Zingerman’s - Karen Gaudet & Jonathan Katz talk about Zingerman's Mail Order lean journey.

Can You Assess Your Way to Lean? – Jeffrey Liker explains trying to assess your way to lean mechanistically generally fails in achieving high-performing lean systems.

Multiply the Improvers in Your Organization Every Day - Andrew Quibell shares ways you can multiply the number of improvers in your business.

Ask Art: Why Switch from Batch to Lean? – Art Byrne discusses the benefits of moving from traditional batch processes to lean flow improvements. 

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Monday, May 24, 2021

8 Project Management Schedule Compression Techniques

Project managers are pressured to deliver projects quickly. Sponsors think their project managers are magicians. And in a way, they are. 

Delays can occur to a project due to various reasons, but some common reasons are below:

  • Unavailability of resources – This is one of the major reasons and the higher management also has a play in this.
  • Risks – Improper management of known risks, and Occurrence of unknown risks.
  • Unrealistic schedule
  • Force Majeure – It is a common contractual clause that frees parties, bound by a contract, from liability or obligation if an “Act of God” happens.
  • Pressure from higher management for new business opportunities – This happens when the higher management sees the possibility of getting a new business or project if you can complete this project early.
  • Need to launch the product early – this can happen when a competitor launches a rival product and you can’t afford to lose the market.
  • etc…

Projects are often delayed and there are various reasons for that. In such cases you need to compress the project schedule duration in order to bring the project back on track. In simple words, project schedule compression is reducing the duration of a project schedule, without compromising on the work that needs to be done in that schedule.

Let’s look at some ways to compress the schedule. 

  • Recheck the activity dependencies. Make sure they are correct and valid. Additionally, look for ways to change the dependencies to drive faster completion.
  • Challenge the assumptions about mandatory dependencies. Do we really have to complete certain activities BEFORE we start the successor activities? Sometimes we can find ways to start subsequent activities in parallel with other activities (called fast tracking). Warning – this action will likely increase risks.
  • Reduce lags. Be creative and find ways to reduce the lags in the project’s critical path. 
  • Check the external dependencies. Rather waiting two weeks for a delivery of laptops, why not drive across town and purchase the laptops locally? Furthermore, double-check the outsourcing assumptions and arrangements.
  • Reduce the duration of activities by reducing the associated risks. When individuals estimate schedule activities, they add time to account for risks. Consequently, if we can reduce or eliminate the risk, we can reduce the time required.
  • Reduce the project duration by adding additional qualified resources to the critical path activities (called crashing). Warning – this action increases cost and often increases risks.
  • Reduce the duration by replacing a team member with someone with greater skill and knowledge for critical path activities. Of course, this action will likely increase the cost.
  • Reduce the scope of the project. Discuss the priority of the deliverables with the key stakeholders and determine if the scope can be reduced.

Effective compression of a project schedule requires efficient planning management. An intelligent decision-making process based on the best scenario generated by testing various options.

Unfortunately, program compression is a fact in most projects.

The challenge faced by project managers is to keep the “compressed program” realistic and achievable.

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Friday, May 21, 2021

Lean Quote: Ideas Won’t Keep, Something Must Be Done About Them

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.

"Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.  —  Alfred North Whitehead

The pitfalls of an ill-conceived employee suggestion program are multiple, legendary and most frequently - avoidable. With organizational commitment, clarity and ongoing communication employee engagement can positively impact your bottom line and your employee motivation and enthusiasm.

Many organizations want to harness the ideas for improvement that naturally exist in their employees. Suggestion boxes are a common, but ineffective, way to engage employees in continuous improvement. They’re usually implemented with the best of intentions by managers who genuinely want to hear their employees’ improvement ideas, but the boxes fail to produce the desired engagement.

If you want to improve your idea contributions, here are some tips I’ve used and found success with over the years for creating an effective suggestion idea system: 

1.     Make it easy to contribute ideas

Employees won’t be enthusiastic about contributing their best ideas if it is cumbersome or time consuming to do so. Develop a simple form that includes the problem, the idea and if the employee can implement it on their own. A simple bulletin board can be used to indicate idea status including columns for Submitted, In Process, and Complete ideas. Encourage employees to submit small ideas that can be implemented quickly by them versus large changes that require external resources such as engineering, IT, and facilities.

2.     Make ideas visible.

Make your idea system public so participation (or lack thereof) is visible to all. And so the ideas themselves are visible to all. Things that are visible are easier to manage. Employees want their ideas to be seriously considered and further implemented. If you’re like most people, you won’t go out of your way to submit ideas that likely won’t be followed up on anyway.

3.     Reward and recognize participation

A great way to increase employee engagement in continuous improvement is to recognize people for their involvement. Employee recognition doesn’t need to be anything big or fancy - a pat on the back or a high five is enough to encourage the participating employee and promote the engagement of others. Announcing the impact and recognizing the person who made the improvement encourages others to get involved, and sharing new best practices expands the reach of each idea.

4.     Measure the process, not the results

Measure process effectiveness not individual ideas. Don’t waste time evaluating the impact of individual ideas. The compounding impact of ideas will generate far greater results then an individual idea. Consider measures like 100% participation, ideas per person, days to implement, and number of submitted, in process and completed ideas.

To truly realize improvement, you need both creativity (idea generation) and action (follow through). Whether they speak up or not, you can be sure that your employees are thinking about ways that business processes could be improved every day. The best way to spread continuous improvement in an organization is to broadcast improvements. A idea system is a great way to capture those ideas.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

12th Blogging Anniversary

I don't know why I do it but I enjoy celebrating the anniversary of this blog every year. Today marks the twelfth year publishing articles on a A Lean Journey.

I’d like to think that I turned my naïve endeavor to share learning along my own journey into a successful contribution in the Lean community. As I have said before this labor of love has been a tremendous learning process both from the great fans and other colleagues online that I exchange with and from the process of distilling my own learning with you.

Some may be asking how do you define success for a blog?  I think like most publications it is basically about audience.  Are you growing followers? Are people reading your posts? So like in previous years we can look at the number visitors, Facebook fan, tweeps on Twitter, and LinkedIn members as an indication of growth.

I love statistics, so with this milestone, here are some numbers from the blog:

Total Posts: 2068

Most read post:  The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process with over 34,925 views

followed by DOWNTIME and the Eight Wastes with over 32,440 views

and by What Do We Mean By True Northwith over 31,685 views

Number of countries/territories who have visited this blog:  230

Top 5 Countries with the most views:
U.S.A. – 35%
India - 15%
Philippines - 8%
United Kingdom – 7%
Canada – 5%

Total views:  Over 1,777,490 and climbing

Unique visits: Over 1,436,650

Total comments:  Over 1,500

Total Facebook Fans: Over 2,300

Total Twitter Followers: Over 3,680

LinkedIn Members: Over 1,200

Total Tips Shared: Over 2,790

Top 5 posts this past year:

Five Lean Games Every Company Can Benefit From

10 Ways to Motivate Your Team

DIVE Deep to Understand Root Causes and Solve Problems

Focus on Countermeasures Not Solutions to Problems

Six Practical Tips for Developing an Engaged Workforce

I am so grateful to everyone who has read my posts and/or followed this blog and my other blogs. Some of you have been with me since I began this journey.  Even though we never have met, you comment on my posts and continually send me words of encouragement.  Blogging has been a much more rewarding experience than I imagined it could be!  

I would like to thank all the visitors and contributors to A Lean Journey Blog this year and every year.  It has been a successful journey but we aren't done yet. Please, share your feedback so that A Lean Journey can be even more successful in the future.

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Monday, May 17, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #171 (#2776-#2790)

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 #2776 - Focus on Alignment.

A key part of managing your team is to ensure that they understand how their jobs and actions directly align to business goals. Knowing how and why what they do matters to the company as a whole helps to create a sense of shared responsibility, and can improve employee engagement in significant ways. Transparency with your team about goals also helps workers understand that targets are not arbitrarily chosen.

Lean Tip #2777 - Manage by Trust, Not by Fear

A healthy workplace is one where the key energy is trust, while where fear predominates is a fear-based workplace. You’ll see employees run away from a place that is managed by fear. Where managers use the power of their position to control their team. Management by Fear is Simply Not a Successful Strategy in Business. You do not have to be such kind of manager. Because no business can afford to lose a team member, so let it be the trust that keeps the team together and not fear.

Lean Tip #2778 - Empower Teams and Do Not Micromanage

What does empower mean? Empowerment is exactly defined as the process to enable an individual to behave, act, and control activities in an independent way. If you are managing an un-empowered workforce, you’re probably a bad manager. Likewise, managers seem to do a blunder by micromanaging. Google’s manager research revealed that good managers empower their teams by giving them opportunities to grow.  Micromanagement is one quality that frustrates employees. So, focus on giving the right balance of freedom and advice to your team.

Lean Tip #2779 – Spread Positivity

You’d never realize it, but the psyche of your employees is what you can change—change the overall working environment. Though many of you may not consider it a part of the project manager role, when you play you’ll see the difference. It’s true that whatever vibe you walk in with, your people will pick it up. So, if you’re positive and energetic, your team will more likely to feel that way. Keep projecting a positive attitude, because happier employees are more productive, more creative, and create a more winning working environment.

Lean Tip #2780 - Point out Other People’s Potential

It is evident that every employee is different having their own set of experiences, values, beliefs, and cultural backgrounds. The best leaders identify and appreciate the differences that individuals bring to the table and understands how to put them to full use. When managing, always be mindful of pushing your teams so they see full potential in themselves to increase their performance. Talk to them about their strengths or find an efficient process they’re more likely to love it. If you want to build upon some of your project management skills, learn to bring out the potential of your people. 

Lean Tip #2781 – Respond Instead of Reacting.

A common behavior when presented with a challenge is to let your emotions drive the situation. We all have a fight-or-flight reaction when we feel unsafe. Incorporate a technique into your workplace culture that will help you take a moment to respond instead of reacting. A responsive solution may take a little more time in the beginning, but it can save you the hours of cleanup for a reactive action to the challenge.

Lean Tip #2782 – Build Trust to Reduce Fear

Building trust takes time. It is not usually a one-time event. You can build trust by maintaining authentic interactions during daily work activities. One highly effective way to build trust is to make sure that verbal commitments and behaviors match the actions. For example, if your company identifies in the mission that the organization is a friendly or caring place, then employees would want to exemplify this behavior as a measure of the authenticity of the individual. Or an employee who commits to completing a task at a particular time would want to either complete the work on time or communicate the change in timelines. When you give employees a culture that maintains trust, you reduce fractures to the organization. Leaders who exhibit an authentic alignment of words to actions give employees a place where they can focus on the work instead of the breakdowns in behaviors.

Lean Tip #2783 – Maintain a Process.

A process offers employees a roadmap for what they need to do, how they need to do it, and when it should be done. You reduce fear at work when employees have this process-driven roadmap in place to monitor workloads and timelines. The process provides an organized sense of movement that gives constant feedback and accountability of individuals for each part of the project.

Lean Tip #2784 – Never Shrug Someone Off

When two parties cannot agree on a mutual solution, we call it an impasse. Impasses happen all the time and aren’t worth overreacting to, but you can create fear when you determine to go separate ways when you can agree on a solution. The next time that person thinks you don’t agree with them, they could avoid the discussion altogether. For you to be an effective leader, you need people to know for a fact that even if they reach an impasse with you, a professional conclusion will follow.

Instead of shrugging them off, become both a student and a teacher, and ask your partner to do the same. You are at an impasse because you have different information, goals or opinions. Often, a logical and mutually beneficial conclusion will emerge by way of mutual understanding or compromise.

Lean Tip #2785 – Acknowledge an Idea Before Accepting or Rejecting It

In group settings, it’s common for someone to raise an idea just to be quickly shut down. The embarrassment attached to being shut down in front of everyone can be tremendous, and can even be enough to cause them to choose to never raise an idea again. This is stifling to an organization, and instantly creates a culture of fear.

First, acknowledge the idea. This proves that the person is valuable and the idea has value (even if not enough to actually accept), and that raising ideas is simply a part of the process. Others will build comfort and confidence purely through observation. Then the idea can be accepted or rejected based on objective or subjective criteria, whichever is more appropriate. Not only have you prevented from introducing fear into the workplace, you’ve subtly trained everyone in the room how to pre-qualify their ideas before raising them — ultimately improving the productivity of the rest of the session.

Lean Tip #2786 – A Good Manager Always Listens and Communicates

Listening might sound cliché or a vague concept. Quoting Andy Stanley, “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” As a manager, you have to strike a balance between giving instruction and listening to feedback. Being in this position of privilege doesn’t mean that you have monotony of knowledge, rather the buck of decision making stops with you. Your employees and the folks under you are the ones bringing the vision to life while you are providing overall direction to this vision. If you don’t listen, there is a high chance that you will get disjointed from the process and progress of this vision.

Lean Tip #2787 – 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 #2788 – 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 #2789 – Focus on Alignment.

A key part of managing your team is to ensure that they understand how their jobs and actions directly align with business goals. Knowing how and why what they do matters to the company as a whole helps to create a sense of shared responsibility, and can improve employee engagement in significant ways. Transparency with your team about goals also helps workers understand that targets are not arbitrarily chosen.

Lean Tip #2790 – The People You Manage are a Direct Reflection on You.

How well your direct reports perform can be a reflection of your effectiveness as a leader.

The best leaders groom employees and help them grow. In addition to overseeing others’ work, you now have a hand in their career development. Take the time to learn about your team members’ short-term and longer-term goals. Explore ways in which you can help them reach those goals.

Offer support that helps them develop new skills and elevates their performance. It takes more time than just downloading a to-do list, but you will end up with a more engaged, successful employee — which is a great reflection on you as a manager.

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