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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Lean Roundup #145 – June 2021

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

Improvement Begins with I – Bruce Hamilton explains the attitude or condition for the kaizen spirit to develop.

How to Lead From Any Level In the Organization – John Hunter answers how anyone can, no matter their role or authority level, create value and shape their influence so that the company can amplify positive results.

Applying the Improvement Kata to the Process of Leadership – Mark Rosenthal talks about some of the challenges change agents face when trying to influence how people respond to challenges and interact with one another.

What is a Team? – Pascal Dennis described some of the more visible and invisible aspects of teamwork.

The History of PDSA, PDCA, and Dr. Deming – Jamie Flinchbaugh shares a couple of takeaways of Ron Moen’s article Foundation and History of the PDSA Cycle.

How to Think Long Term – Jon Miller discusses why it seems so hard to make decisions that are in the good of the long term.

Leadership tip #9: See & Stop Micromanagement—Learn to Trust Instead – Johanna Rothman talks about the pitfalls and challenges surrounding micromanagement and why to extend trust instead.

Amin Elhassan: It’s Not Enough to Be Right, How You Communicate Matters More – Mark Graban shares a story from Amin Elhassan, a former NBA executive about instead of trying to gain “buy in” after developing a solution, it's better to engage others in developing the solution with you.

Are You Creating the Right Environment? – Josh Howell explains why “Creating the Right Environment” is a strategic imperative for the company.

Purpose, Process, People - James P. Womack says taking stock of any lean work without examining your purpose--as well as your processes and your people--will never lead to meaningful success.

Ask Art: What Do You Look At in a "Pre-lean" Company? – Art Byrne share with you the key elements to focus on from decades of acquisition evaluation experience.

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Monday, June 28, 2021

Want to Be a Great Leader? These Are the Top 10 Qualities You Need

Effective leaders have the ability to communicate well, motivate their team, handle and delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback, and have the flexibility to solve problems in an ever-changing workplace.

Successful managers, team leaders and supervisors typically possess ten traits and skills that make them superior leaders.

1. Surround yourself with people smarter than you are

Good leaders achieve success when they’re surrounded by teams of people who are experts in their areas, and even who are smarter than the manager that hired them. Good leaders let their team work and innovate. In exchange, teams with a good leader make it so this leader feels comfortable and prepared for the challenge of creating good work.

2. Be transparent and involve them in your vision

A team that feels like something is being hidden from it is mistrustful. The group has to know what’s going so that everyone rows in the same direction. If you hide information, you’ll lose the trust of your team, because they’ll believe that you aren’t taking them into account and turn their backs on you. If you tell them what’s happening, you head off possible fears and at the same time inject a healthy dose of motivation.

3. Communicate well

Leaders need first-rate communication skills. Being open to discussing issues, solving problems or forming objectives with employees are all vital elements of good leadership. A leader will also have to chair team meetings, give persuasive presentations and liaise effectively with clients.

4. Earn their respect

Leaders with character have no need to pull rank to get results: they get them by generating trust and respect, that’s why they’re more effective. They don’t need to impose rules or micro-manage to get their teams to complete their tasks.

5. Show empathy

When someone brings up a problem or concern, a good leader tries to understand the problem and the point of view of the person. Showing empathy is proof that the leader has listened. Your response must address the concerns the other person has brought up, even it’s not always the response this person was hoping for.

6. Trustworthiness

If employees are uncomfortable or unwilling to approach a leader, then the trust between the leader and their team is broken. When employees believe in their leader’s integrity, it is beneficial for the honesty and accountability in the workplace as a whole. A trusted leader is a far more effective one.

7. Be Responsible

As a leader, the responsibility for both failures and successes should be on your shoulders. This means taking full ownership for the actions of yourself or your team, as well as being willing to accept blame and seek solutions when required.

8. Be optimistic and show curiosity

Optimistic leaders inspire and motivate teams. If you show curiosity, you’ll learn and collaborate with the team. This closeness avoids unnecessary conflicts that can grow out of lack of understanding and indifference. Curiosity will allow you to get closer to people and rise to the challenge of leadership in new times.

9. Influence

Whether it is encouraging an employee to ‘buy in’ to a project, step outside their comfort zone or improve productivity, a leader should have the influence to encourage that improvement. A positive influence is a vital skill that will help a leader support their co-workers, and encourage them to go further and do more.

10. Inspiring Motivation

For a leader to be successful, they must motivate those around them to achieve more, go the extra mile and do better in their work. This motivation goes beyond simply providing verbal encouragement; it can include offering team members tangible rewards for their effort through recognition, improved responsibility and even physical rewards. Providing employees with better autonomy and productive work is key to maintaining high motivation.

Becoming a great leader starts with knowing your strengths and shortfalls. Few leaders start with all ten attributes or skills. Some confident people naturally have enthusiasm and have always been courageous.

More timid, reserved individuals can still be good leaders by learning to believe in themselves, acting enthusiastically, and addressing fears. Empathy, humility, and gratitude come naturally for some because of background or culture, but leaders can learn to incorporate these characteristics into their leadership styles by developing self-awareness. 

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Friday, June 25, 2021

Lean Quote: Employee Are Watching, Set a Good Example

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.

"What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.  —  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whether you realize it or not, if you're a leader, your employees are watching every move you make. Good leaders must lead by example. By walking your talk, you become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing, but do another, they erode trust--a critical element of productive leadership.

Leading by example not only holds the managers to strict standards but it requires a great deal of interpersonal communication skills. Those who lead by example need to be able to form strong human relationships with those that they need. This can be a challenge for any manager, especially those who aren’t exactly natural born leaders. The good news is, there are several proven strategies that can help any manager, in virtually any field to master the often tricky art of leading by example.

Listen to your team. Practice patience and try to not interrupt when someone is talking. Be attentive, make eye contact, nod and ask pertinent questions. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.

Roll up your sleeves. Show that when a job needs to be done, everyone at every level needs to chip in and participate. Do your part, and make sure that what needs to get done, gets done.

Establish an impeccable standard of excellence. The best way to establish a standard is by modeling the expected behavior yourself. Showcase excellence. When your actions have the potential to affect everyone around you and the bottom line, don't dabble in mediocrity. Reflecting excellence is critical to exercising effective leadership.

Be a fearless problem solver. Instead of freaking out in a bad situation, focus on ways to deal with problems. Be fearless and create solutions. How a leader reacts in a bad situation speaks a lot about his personality. So, make sure that you create a good example for others.

Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them.

Praise improvement, even minor improvements. Psychologists discovered long ago that when you positively reinforce a desired behavior, people are far more likely to repeat that behavior. Most people want to do the right thing, which means you will find far more success in leading a team if you focus on using positive reinforcement rather than negative actions like threats and fear tactics.

When you lead by example your behavior becomes a catalyst for people’s trust and faith in you. And it also emphasizes what you stand for. Leading by example shows people exactly what you expect and gives them living proof that it can be done. On a deeper level, leading by example and being as good as your words builds trust. It’s a sign that you take what you say seriously so they can, too.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

10 Traits All Great Leaders Possess

Successful leaders indeed differ from other people, and possess some common personality traits that make them capable of being effective in a leadership role. These core traits can predict leadership effectiveness, and organizations looking for a leader would do well to check for these characteristics in potential candidates.

Over the years, I have read and saved many lists that detail the characteristics of historically great leaders from business, sports, politics, the military and other areas. Looking back on all these lists, these 10 leadership qualities constantly crop up, in no particular order:

1. Integrity: People want leaders they can trust to act for the greater good and tell the truth. We want leaders who act according to their stated principles, are honest with us and keep their word.

2. Humility: As we shift away from command and control leadership, we gravitate toward leaders who are approachable and don’t hold themselves above others. When leaders show humility and vulnerability, others instinctively want to work with them to achieve their goals.

3: Empowering Others: Great leaders trust the people on their team and coach them to make important decisions without micromanagement. They don’t do everything themselves—instead, they set clear vision and values, and direct others to work according to those guiding principles.

4. Great Communication: Leaders must communicate well, both to move others to action and to ensure their directives are well-understood. It’s no surprise that we often celebrate leaders who deliver historic speeches or impactful quotes. Great leaders also give their teams the information they need to excel.

5. Forward-Thinking: A great leader sets a compelling vision for the future, attracting and convincing others to want to join their movement. These leaders are capable of sharing their vision with clarity and specificity, and they are passionate about the execution of those goals.

6. Empathy: We want our leaders to demonstrate empathy and an ability to relate to those they lead, especially in moments of crisis. A leader cannot effectively lead someone if they fail to understand their fundamental needs, and if they cannot connect others’ fulfillment to their own.

7. Competence: Leaders must be capable of doing the job at hand, and surround themselves with competent people. Competent leaders don’t know how to do everything, but are skilled at identifying people whose abilities complement their own, and bringing them into the fold. They also aren’t afraid to hire people who are smarter than they are.

8. Accountable: Great leaders have a “the buck stops here,” mentality. History is filled with leaders who credit their teams for their successes and accept personal responsibility for the team’s failures. Poor leaders do the opposite, taking credit for their teams’ accomplishments and distancing themselves from accountability.

9. Gratitude: One of the core responsibilities of a leader is to consider the needs of the many. A mindset of gratitude pushes leaders to focus less on themselves and more on how they can value and strengthen others.

10. Self-Awareness: Leaders must be aware of their own strengths and limitations. They have to build a team that magnifies their strengths and limits their weaknesses. Leaders are also open to criticism and willing to do the sometimes-painful work required to improve.

There are many qualities that are essential to being a great leader. Some of them may come naturally to you, and others may not. But the more you can develop these qualities in your own skill set, the more successful you’ll be.

Leadership is a journey of continuous learning. It is an amazing experience that will take you on roads you’ve never traveled before.

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Monday, June 21, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #173 (#2806-#2820)

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 #2806 – Foster a Creative Environment.

Allow team members to brainstorm in an open, nonjudgmental framework that embraces the team's purpose and direction. The team has to be secure enough to take risks, both individually and as a team, to be willing to suggest daring ideas. There are numerous ways to give employees the security they need to take risks and be creative. Try periodically hosting a lunch event to celebrate the biggest team flops – to show that "we can't win if we don't fail, and we can have fun by laughing at our mistakes."

Lean Tip #2807 – Build Team Cohesion.

Create a means of communicating that allows for easy workflow, establishes a distinct set of priorities and makes all colleagues feel included. Keeping everyone on the same playbook enables team members to focus and flourish. Jeff Bezos famously established a "two-pizza rule" for the size of teams at Amazon: The number of people on a team was not allowed to exceed what two pizzas could feed. This limit kept the teams at a manageable size, fostering productivity and accountability.

Lean Tip #2808 – Visualize Ideas.

As humans, we interpret visual information much more quickly than verbal information. That’s probably why traffic lights are colors, not words.

Give team members the opportunity to use visuals to clarify and share their ideas at the simplest level. You can do this with anything from rough sketches to full-scale presentations. Most people learn better and retain more when they have seen something, and a shared whiteboard, real or virtual, is a great tool.

Lean Tip #2809 – Give Your Team the Power to Make Decisions

Giving your team the power to make decisions is a great motivation for teamwork. As a manager, you often rely on the expertise of your team for your own decision-making. So why not shift and share the power with your team? This gives them the autonomy and confidence to make decisions that allow the team to move closer towards the overall goal.

Lean Tip #2810 – Foster Creativity and Innovation in Problem-Solving

There are many ways to approach problem-solving and it is usually based on our own personalities and perceptions. For that reason, it is important to give the floor to your team in order to listen to different approaches to problem-solving. In listening to other perspectives, you are likely going to learn from the individuals in your group and adopt practices that promote effective team work.

It’s also important to give your direct reports the chance to solve challenges on their own (by coaching them and asking open-ended questions), instead of trying to give them all the answers and information they need.

Lean Tip #2811 – Make Communication a Two-Way Street

Teamwork only works when team members feel like they can speak openly, share ideas without getting shot down (and build on those of others), make suggestions, and voice their opinions. Make sure communication isn’t just flowing downward, but also upward and between team members. Multi-way communication is the goal. 

Lean Tip #2812 – Promote the Utilization of Your Resources

Your resources aren’t just money and products; they’re the people who hold your business together. Every employee, regardless of what department they work in or how long they’ve been with your company, has their own set of skills, strengths, and knowledge that can be valuable to others. By encouraging each person on your team to look at their peers as a valuable resource, they’ll begin to work together as a team to resolve issues, create new ideas, and even learn new skills.

Lean Tip #2813 – Lead by Example

You should conduct yourself in the way you would like your team members to behave. There is a famous saying that one should be the change they would like to see in the world, and similarly, a manager should live up to the change they would like to see in their office. Make a constant effort to lead by example, so your team knows how you expect them to behave. 

Lean Tip #2814 – Create a Culture of Collaboration, Not Competition

The ultimate goal of teamwork is to foster collaboration but sometimes it might turn into a competition when you’ve multiple teams. Employers often make the mistake of comparing teams with each other which is indeed a terrible practice.

Each team has got its own set of responsibilities and members with unique skill sets. If you’re comparing them with someone else, it’s like disregarding them and their work. It affects team morale and brings down their motivation when they see you praising others. This also gives rise to internal conflicts within the teams that hinder progress.

Hence, you must refrain from creating any sort of competition amongst your teams and encourage inter-team communication.

Lean Tip #2815 – Encourage Trust and Cooperation Among Employees on Your Team.

Remember that the relationships team members establish among themselves are every bit as important as those you establish with them. As the team begins to take shape, pay close attention to the ways in which team members work together and take steps to improve communication, cooperation, trust, and respect in those relationships.

Lean Tip #2816 – Start With Small, Simple Changes

To display the physical benefits of the ongoing change, choose a high-visibility work cell which will serve as a model. This space will be the designated location to implement your first projects.

Avoid beginning with lengthy, costly, and complicated undertakings. Instead, make small tweaks with a big payoff, such as improving a substandard workstation. Once you’ve finished your first project, ask your employees to examine the issue that has been solved—they’ll have the proof right before their eyes.

Starting small means, you’ll be able to show the results to your team quickly and reduce the risk of failure.

Lean Tip #2817 – Ask Employees To Pitch Ideas

Getting employees involved is the surest way to overcome resistance to change—even if you provide Lean training. You will need to make them understand that the ownership of the transformations doesn’t solely rely on 1 or 2 people; instead, it’s company-wide ownership. That way, a Lean culture will permeate all echelons of the business.

One of the best ways to have team members participate in the transition is to gather their ideas by using a suggestion box or board. Your supervisors and those spearheading the improvement process can also help employees make recommendations on an ongoing basis.

Responding to all suggestions quickly is a reliable approach to show that you open to change and innovation.

Lean Tip #2818 – Ask Employees To Help Implement An Idea

Once you’ve collected the various concepts and encouraged employees to play a role in devising the solution, why not ask them to continue the creation process by, for example, having them design their new lean manufacturing workstation? Besides feeling proud of his accomplishment, an employee can improve upon his workstation again in the future according to the company’s unique requirements, when need be.

Lean Tip #2819 – Enforce Improvements

It’s easy for employees to regress to their old ways. Enforcing the changes you’ve made to your processes is important for the improvements you’ve made to last, and it’s key to sustaining continuous improvement in the long term.

Documenting improvements, making sure standard work is up-to-date, and training employees on new procedures can help sustain the progress you’ve made in your continuous improvement efforts.

Lean Tip #2820 – Be Deliberate and Patient.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement is an exercise in demonstrating continuous improvement. You need serious commitment and sustained energy. Many of us make a practice to look for the quickest, highest value wins. Kaizen is more like the effect of oceans on the beach. It’s relentless and disciplined. It can take time to produce the results that many organizations want. A company with this kind of mindset may not be completely ready for kaizen. Also, keep this in mind: even if you have a healthy organization, it will likely be resistant to change.

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Lean Quote: 3 Keys Steps to a Genuine Open-Door Policy

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.

"A true leader has to have a genuine open-door policy so that his people are not afraid to approach him for any reason.  —  Harold Geneen

An open-door policy refers to the practice of business or organizational leaders leaving their doors open so that employees feel welcome to stop by and meet informally, ask questions, or discuss matters that have been weighing on their minds.

These days, with open office environments, co-working spaces and remote team members working around the globe, the “open-door policy” is more metaphorical than ever before.

Follow these three key steps.

1. Set boundaries

Your goal as a manager should be to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s really going on with your team. So, how do you make yourself accessible for meaningful discussions without turning yourself into a counselor or micromanager?

Clear communication lays the first building block to creating a successful open door policy. Even managers who encourage frequent, informal conversations through “walk around management” may need to establish set office hours, say before and after team meetings. 

If daily interruptions and vent sessions are limiting your productivity as a manager, another option might be to schedule weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member.

2. Always listen intently 

The next step in a successful open door policy requires that you listen intently to what an employee has to say. Let the person “speak their truth,” without interruption from phones, email or other people.

Recap what you heard the person say in order to make sure you fully understand the problem. Beware of being dismissive of an employee’s vent because a genuine issue may be lurking behind their frustration.

If the employee brings a recurring issue to you, there’s likely a root cause that needs to be addressed. You might say, “I notice there’s a pattern here. What do you think the solution is?”

By driving the conversation toward solutions, you discourage endless venting and encourage employees to come up with their own solutions.

Remember, not every person thinks in terms of solutions or problem-solving. Walking such employees through decision-making processes teaches them to rely on their own abilities.

3. Focus on the solution

Time, yours and your employees, remains a key component to maintaining a well-oiled open door. After all, endless interruptions compromise your ability to lead your team and your team’s productivity.

Managers should try to solve any issue the first time, within the parameters of what’s functionally achievable. By slaying problems as quickly as possible, you set up your team for maximum success, particularly when you involve them in the decision-making process. Things could get worse if you and your team fail to act.

The rationale behind the open-door policy is to develop trust and communication between employees and management, and facilitate a regular feedback process that deals with and improves day to day issues in the work environment. Such a policy is more important than ever since the transition to remote work, as managers need to find new ways to communicate and engage their employees.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

How To Improve Employee Engagement At Workplace

Employee engagement goes a long way in determining productive outcomes for both the individual employee and the organization as a whole. While engagement has been improving, the rate at which it is increasing is still relatively slow. 

Going by Gallup data, only about 34% of American workers report that they are engaged at work while the number worldwide is 13%. 

Several factors hinder employee engagement, such as job market unease, distrust of managers, organizational tumult and lack of cohesion between members of teams, and other reasons specific to employees. The good news is that organizations can significantly improve employee engagement by changing how they relate to them and pay attention.

Here are 9 strategies applicable to all organizations to improve their employee engagement.  

Set the Tone at Onboarding 

Onboarding is the critical time to connect new employees with the teams and the organization. It needs to be exciting enough but not overwhelming. Follow the best practices such as introducing mentors who aren’t managers, prioritizing building relationships with coworkers, including the executive level leadership at onboarding events and meetings and ensuring smooth transitions to regular work.  

Measure Your Employee Engagement 

Without a way to measure the employee engagement levels, your program won’t meet the set goals. Using employee engagement surveys is essential to collect data on where the teams stand and the areas that need improvement.

Conduct the surveys more than once a year and aim for 100% participation. Pulse surveys are excellent tools to get an instant idea about the state of engagement in your organization.


Speed Up Feedback, Appreciation and Rewards

Reinforcing positive behavior is an effective way to improve performance in employees. The trick is that the appreciation and rewards given for good performance have to be immediate, if not timely. Letting months pass between appreciations would dampen the enthusiasm.

Therefore employees need to be recognized proudly and loudly to set an example that motivates others to perform better. 

Align Employees with the Company’s Core Values 

Belongingness is another strong determinant for employee engagement. The secure feeling comes with being accepted and included in a group with a robust individual identity.

Having the employees align with the company's core values by promoting them through the work culture is an effective way to condition them to pick up the values and develop a sense of belonging. 

Maintain Transparency 

Transparency is often underestimated as a factor that contributes to trust and, ultimately, employee engagement. Trust also fosters a sense of belonging to the organization and helps them realize their link to the wider teams and stakeholders. 

You can start by promoting transparency in the work culture and break down barriers between teams by fostering cross-team relationships. Also include discussions about important company metrics in the general meetings. 

Give Individual Attention 

As the workforce becomes more multigenerational, multiethnic and multinational, it helps tailor engagement approaches centered more on the individual to help employees feel valued. 

When you understand the individual tendencies of the employees, it becomes easier to assign roles and responsibilities they are most comfortable doing and have the best chance of excelling. Surveys that help organizations hire people who are best suited for specific jobs can boost engagement. 

Listen to Employees

Listening to your employees is the simplest way to convey that their voice matters and are valued members of the organization. The approach helps to quickly pinpoint and solve problems and predict problems that could arise. 

Companies are increasingly using quarterly or monthly pulse surveys to understand trends and find ways to improve engagement. 

Provide Training and Coaching 

Your organization’s focus on the continuous development of its employees communicates that they are valued and care about their growth. When your employees feel that the company is investing in their future, their engagement and productivity increases. 

One-on-one coaching by mentors and managers is another crucial ingredient that reinforces your organization's commitment to its workforce.


Prioritize Feedbacks 

Engagement with your employees is not possible without feedback. Their word matters, so if you’re not soliciting their feedback, do it right away. To make it friendlier, keep the feedback anonymous and easy to access. Once the feedback is received, come up with a plan of action for it or share your reasons why it’s not possible to change something privately or when appropriate. 

Employee engagement is increasingly becoming a necessity in all organizations today. To help your employees reach their best performance, it is essential to make them feel valued and become a part of their professional growth. Software solutions offer a platform through which it is possible to measure employee engagement in a meaningful way, implement the strategies discussed above, and offer rewards and recognition.

About the Author:

Kathleen O'Donnell is a freelance writer and employee communications and culture expert, with 6+ years of experience in corporate internal communications. She’s also a full-time traveler who loves spending her time writing in little cafes across the world.

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