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Friday, July 30, 2021

Lean Quote: A Sunrise Taught Me About Missed Opportunities

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.

"Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.  —  William Arthur Ward

The sun rises every single day. We have the opportunity to see darkness change to light in a matter of minutes every single day. So why don’t we? Because, for most of us, it’s too damn early!

Timing is everything to us. We use “not the right time” or “not enough time” for just about everything and we, as a society, accepts it as the perfect reason because we use the same excuse to get out of things.

Opportunities will present themselves at inopportune times and we only have two choices when they do show up: believe it’s not the right time and let it pass or grab it and go. The timing will never be just right but the clock doesn’t stop for us until we feel the time is right, it keeps ticking.

Mindset is the first step to being prepared. If we don’t have the right mindset, we won’t be taking that next step, no matter how easy the next step may be. If we’re not setting ourselves up for success, we’re defaulting into failure.

Regret can debilitate us or it can inspire us. We can think about the things we didn’t do or take it as a lesson learned and move on. If we’re constantly punishing ourselves by wishing we could turn back time, what good will that do for our future selves? Regret can force us to live in the past or it can serve as a powerful catalyst for change. At the end of the day, do we really want to regret all that time we spent regretting?

Opportunities are never missed; we allow them to pass us by. But with every passed up opportunity, a lesson will follow; it’s up to us to figure out what that lesson is and learn from it.

Everything is harder in our heads and if we don’t get out of our own thoughts from time to time, we’ll miss the sunrise.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Lean Roundup #146 – July 2021

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

The Fog of Big Company Disease – Pascal Dennis talks about the symptoms of big company disease, what he calls the “fog”.

The Five Steps to Getting Better at Anything – Jon Miller shares some lessons from comedian Jerry Seinfeld about achieving success that should resonate with Lean thinkers.

When PDCA Meets Silos – Bruce Hamilton explains that when PDCA meet silos, it too becomes siloed.

The Return of “Ted Lasso” and the End of “Tyrannical” Managers? – Mark Graban shares some leadership lessons from a popular TV show that we can all learn from.

Addressing a Critical Problem in Strategic Planning and Execution & Ensuring Success of Hoshin Kanri – a Better Way to Plan and Execute Your Strategy - Patricia Panchak discusses the challenges of implementing the hoshin kanri process (aka strategy development and deployment) across the organization. 

Ask Art: Why Should I Convert to a Pull System? – Art Byrne advises that you can deliver more value to your customers by converting your business to a pull system and connecting demand directly to your production system.

10 Golden Rules for Radical Quality Improvement - Patricia Panchak & Roberto Priolo explain what you need to know and do to lead your team to make step-change improvements to quality.

In Praise of Depth – Pascal Dennis relates Lean understanding to that of our use of electronic devices for communication advocating the need for deep practice.

What Is a Milk Run? – Jon Miller explains the concept of the milk run within the supply chain and how it sets a base for continuous improvement of material movement.

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Monday, July 26, 2021

Staying Positive as a Remote Manager

Image Source: pexels.com

Remote managers face a tough balance. On the one hand, these managers must ensure remote workers remain productive and efficient. Yet, remote managers must also maintain a positive outlook, so they can help workers achieve the best possible results.

Ultimately, it can be difficult for remote managers to stay positive. However, with the right approach to everyday activities, remote managers can alleviate stress, depression, and other common work-from-home issues — and help remote workers do the same.

Now, let's look at five tips to help you stay positive as a remote manager.

1. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Encourage remote workers to keep in touch via email, video chat, and other communication methods. That way, these workers will have no trouble getting in touch with you if they have any concerns or questions.

Also, show empathy when you communicate with remote workers. Everyone is human and deserves to be treated as such. So, doing things like greeting your remote employees with a friendly "hello" at the start of their work shift or setting up daily check-ins can help you show your staff you care.

Give your remote workers a heads up about any major life changes as well. For instance, if you are moving, share details about your relocation with your remote employees. And, remain accessible to respond to any concerns or questions as your move gets underway.

2. Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Provide your remote employees with myriad opportunities to get away from the hustle and bustle of work. Otherwise, your workers may be tempted to try to complete tasks around the clock. The result: an unhealthy work-life balance, along with various health problems.

Watch for signs of depression and fatigue among your remote workers, too. Employees who appear disinterested in work activities or have trouble concentrating on everyday tasks may be coping with depression and/or fatigue. They can also experience joint and/or muscle pain, a sore throat, and other physical symptoms.

Once again, communication is key, particularly when it comes to promoting a healthy work-life balance among your remote workforce. Let remote employees know to come forward if they feel overworked or stressed out. At this point, you can work with these employees to incorporate ways to cope with their work-from-home stresses, such as creating a routine and adhering to boundaries between work and personal life. Over time, you can ensure your remote workers can optimize their work-life balance.

3. Foster a Culture of Growth

Build and maintain a culture of growth. By promoting a growth mindset to your remote workforce, you can help your employees realize their full potential. And, in the long run, you and your remote staff will be well-equipped to maximize your productivity and efficiency.

It takes hard work and patience to foster a culture of growth. As part of your efforts, you should empower your remote workers. Give these employees opportunities to show what they can accomplish both as part of a team and on their own. Provide feedback along the way, and you can help your remote workers achieve outstanding results.

Of course, you need to set a positive example for your remote team. To do so, commit time, energy, and resources to perform your best. If you accomplish great things while working from home, your remote workers may be prone to do the same. Thus, you and your remote staff can thrive from any location, at any time.

4. Recognize and Celebrate Your Remote Workers

Acknowledge remote workers who contribute to your company's success from afar. Employee recognition can improve retention and satisfaction across your workforce. Plus, it shows your staff you value and appreciate their efforts.

There is no shortage of opportunities available to recognize and celebrate your remote workers. For example, you can honor a remote employee during a video meeting. Or, you can send out an email or meet with a remote employee one-on-one to commemorate their work.

Don't forget to reward remote workers regularly, either. You can provide these workers with extra time-off, gift cards, or other rewards to celebrate their accomplishments.

5. Prioritize Ongoing Improvement

Check the pulse of your remote workforce and learn from employees who work from home. If you engage with your remote employees, you can find out how they feel about their work. Next, you can explore ways to improve as a manager.

Oftentimes, it helps to schedule ongoing one-on-one and group meetings with your remote staff. These meetings let you find out how your remote workers feel at a given time. From here, you can collect feedback and insights from these employees and adjust your management style as needed.

You may want to conduct remote work surveys, too. You can then use these surveys to assess your performance as a manager and plan accordingly.

The Bottom Line on Staying Positive as a Remote Manager

Remote work will likely be a big part of the "new normal" for businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. More companies than ever before have let employees work from home due to the crisis. Meanwhile, business managers have been forced to adjust how they work on the fly. And, they must continue to stay positive as they connect with remote workers in the months and years to come.

The aforementioned tips can help remote managers remain positive and help their employees succeed, regardless of setting. Use these tips, and you and your remote employees can consistently reap the benefits of a positive work experience. 

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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Friday, July 23, 2021

Lean Quote: You're in Charge, Develop a Growth Mindset

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.

"You’re in charge of your mind. You can help it grow by using it in the right way.  —  Carol Dweck

To keep on growing in life you have to keep on learning from things that happen around you. Many people are of the opinion that learning stops after you complete your education. But it is not so! You are learning and growing every moment. 

Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University coined the theory of growth mindset. This theory categorizes human learning and intelligence patterns into two categories – fixed mindset and growth mindset.

Fixed mindset is when individuals consider that their abilities and talents are constrained to a fixed set. On the other hand, when individuals believe that they can improve their abilities, intelligence and talents through their efforts, it is termed as growth mindset.

How to Deliberately Create a Growth Mindset Culture

Establish Trust

Firstly, you need to establish trust through open and honest communication within your team. Speak openly about every success and failure in a blameless way. Trust allows a team to communicate freely and respond to change more easily in a blameless manner.

Make it Safe to Fail

As a team you should collectively agree to expose your ideas and reasoning to scrutiny, despite the risk to yourselves. Egos must be left at the door. Recognize that your knowledge isn’t perfect and that things may not go as planned. With each success or failure recognize that progress has been made and then focus on the learning outcomes. Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He viewed every mistake and setback as a learning opportunity.

Take an Experimental Approach to Information Discovery

The “Build-Measure-Learn” loop is a core component of the Lean StartUp methodology. It encourages a feedback focused approach to building a product by testing assumptions and measuring the results in a systematic way with users.

By taking an experimental approach to information discovery you don’t simply build features in priority order from your product backlog and chuck them at users to see if they stick. Instead we shift focus from a feature factory to a laboratory.

It’s important to define what will be measured as part of each experiment and what success looks like before a line of code is written. Figure out the proper "exposed population" before you get going and once an experiment is underway avoid the temptation to change it in any way as this will skew the results.

Regularly Brainstorm for New Experiments

Run regular brainstorming sessions to encourage new ideas for experiments within the team. Run some risky experiments that you think are stupid—these may yield interesting results.

Scrutinize Every Failure for Its Learnings

Each failed experiment uncovers new learnings. These need to be scrutinized and shared freely with everyone. Analyze what happened, what can be learned from each experiment and figure out what impact this new learning has on the backlog and the underlying the assumptions for the product.

Since our childhood days we've been programmed to perceive failure in a negative light. In many organizations failure in the workplace is unforgivable and a culture of deflecting and concealing mistakes pervades. In order to innovate and build better products we must try new things and experiment with the expectation that some will fail. In a growth mindset team failure is most definitely a result to be proud of, and the quicker we can fail and learn from our failings the faster we innovate.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

7 Tell-Tale Signs of Leadership Mismanagement

Business managers are constantly asked to assess if employees are performing to expectations. If employees are not, managers must take steps to remedy the situation.

But what happens if lousy management is to blame for underperformance?

 There are obvious signs that a company is on the wrong management track, such as declining sales and revenue, the loss of major customers and, with public companies, a falling stock price. Yet some red flags go unnoticed. Whether the warning signs are apparent or not, directly and aggressively addressing them is the way out of company mismanagement.

 Check for these 7 tell-tale signs of leadership mismanagement:

 Negative Feedback From Customers

The most important stakeholder in any business is the customer. Disgruntled customers will find a way to complain, negative feedback is inevitable. Nonetheless, when the negative feedback is on an upward trend, you are bound to lose business. If you are unable to deliver improvements and address those concerns, this can be detrimental to the reputation and business over time.

Management should identify those improvements or make strategic moves to improve your business processes and customer satisfaction.

 Micromanagement and Excessive Oversight

Micromanaging is when a supervisor not only examines but also nitpicks everything, from the tiniest tasks to day-to-day procedures. A manager who micromanages might stand over employees’ shoulders as they work. Employees are regarded employees as cogs in a machine instead of as members of a team who share a common goal – to get the job done.

Positive recognition and appreciation go much further than micromanagement, which results in a lack of trust. People work best when managers trust them.

Stubbornness and Unwillingness to Listen and Adapt

A manager who is unwilling to listen to feedback and adapt to change isn't a manager who will lead a thriving team. A willingness to evolve has always been important for business – especially now, because technology moves forward faster than ever before. Managers need to listen to employees’ suggestions and to be honest about where the company needs to go. When managers have too much pride to listen to their employees, then the business will lack innovation, and the business will suffer financially, as innovation is the only way to move forward.

The Management Team is in Denial.

When managers pretend a business is doing fine when it's not, that's a problem. It's important to ensure issues are addressed and solved rather than playing Pollyanna and ignoring the realities of business trends. This has a huge impact on a public company if a management team is ignoring major issues presented by investors and continues to underperform. Not only will near-term company financials suffer, but an unrealistic management team can cause long-term damage to reputation and trust.

New Ideas are Dismissed.

When employees' ideas and suggestions are ignored, it could be signs of a complacent and unsupportive team. This could lead to stagnation in growth potential, especially if management is saying, 'This is the way we've always done it.' Any company, organization or manager that defaults to the past as gospel will get hurt in the long run. You'll miss key changes in trends and lose out on new opportunities.

Instead, promote project innovation and new ideas. Set up a team focused on this initiative. Encourage open dialogue across the organization, and reward staff for new ideas. A company that does not do this could lose talented people who feel their value isn't appreciated.

Employees are Fleeing.

One big sign of company mismanagement is low retention. Employees will occasionally quit even a well-managed company, but if a company has difficulty keeping a full staff and is constantly hiring, that's a sign there's a problem. High employee turnover puts a massive drain on your internal resources. First, there's the monetary cost of searching for, hiring and training new employees. Inexperienced staff is also less efficient and more likely to make mistakes, so your overall productivity drops if you're constantly needing to fill holes in the team roster.

Your company culture isn’t a one-and-done deal. Even after you address these 7 signs of bad culture (mismanagement), you should routinely check in on your organizational culture and see what improvements can be made. You can gauge the strength of your company culture by measuring employee engagement and regularly asking your team for feedback. Remember that your hard work will pay off in the long run, so don’t shirk your company culture responsibilities.

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Focus on Outcomes Rather Than Outputs With These 6 Strategies

So many businesses miss a key point to achieving their goals. It is easy to think that what you need to attain extraordinary success is to focus on results and use these results to measure your progress. There is more success to be had by focusing on outcomes rather than output.

Dr. Deming, Dr. Wheeler, and others have famously said “Managing a company by means of monthly results is like trying to drive a car by watching the yellow line in the rear-view mirror.”

I have a young driver at home and I’m always saying to look forward. It’s the same in business. And while it may sound like common sense, it’s amazing how many executives and operating managers are doing just the opposite by the way they operate their performance management process.

Instead of focusing on your goal, the key may be to focus on process – and forget the result entirely. The road to any goal is a matter of taking one step after the next. The process will take you right where you want to be. Results are the enemy that distract and prevent us from seeing this.

When you focus on the process instead of the result, you will start to be more in control over the current work you are doing, instead of delaying till the milestone is achieved. Here are some strategies to help you be more process focused:

Build Confidence

Start small with something you know you can achieve. Self-confidence is your perception of your ability; the more you do, the more you believe you can do. That will help you set loftier goals. If you can’t achieve what you set out to do, start with something easier.

Make a Commitment, Not a Promise

After a few weeks of working toward a goal, it can be easy to let yourself off the hook. A commitment is non-negotiable: when you get married, you commit to your partner; when you have to be at work between certain hours, you are committed to it. There is no “well, maybe I won’t be committed today because I don’t feel like it.” Cut off excuses the moment they start.

Be Specific to Create a Framework

For example, say: at this time, this many days a week, I will do x for this many minutes. Put it in your calendar so you see it regularly and have already allocated time. It’s harder to opt out of something scheduled.

Habit Stacking

It’s easier to stick to a habit when you add it on to an existing habit. Some examples would be flossing your teeth after you brush them or doing core work before your run.

Getting Off Track

You made a commitment with the best intentions but sometimes you make mistakes. Say you are trying to lose weight and swore off chips… and you “accidentally” eat a whole bag! One mistake doesn’t mean you have to start over. Simply pick up immediately where you left off in your process. Examine what triggered you to break your new habit so you can course-correct. To achieve your goal, you don’t have to be 100% perfect with your process but you do have to trend in the right direction. Practice self-compassion but don’t let yourself off the hook.

Is it Working?

Create a support network around you with like-minded individuals to help keep you accountable and motivated. Measure your progress by looking back at what you have accomplished each week instead of looking forward and seeing how far you have to go.

When you start focusing your attention and energy less on the results but rather on the processes or the techniques involved you discover that you learn faster, are more successful and even happier at the outcome. Altogether you gain more in life when you focus on the process rather than the results.

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Friday, July 16, 2021

Lean Quote: Learn Through Experimentation and Failure

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.

"It is only through failure and through experiment that we learn and grow.  —  Isaac Stern

Building a new solutions and products is a highly innovative and creative process. Things simply don't go to plan all the time, setbacks and failures are inevitable along the way. What makes a difference is how a team deals with them. Each failure is an opportunity to reassess, make a change and try a different approach. In order to succeed, teams must become resilient to failure and focus on the learning outcomes that they present. When we feel that it is safe to fail we are more likely to try risker experiments, and sometimes these riskier experiments have huge payoffs.

The concept of the growth mindset was developed by the psychologist Carol Dweck and popularized in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck proposes that people deal with failure in two very different ways depending on their mindset. Some people have a fixed mindset and others with a growth mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence and talent are fixed traits. They believe that talent alone creates success without effort. They don't deal well with setbacks and they try to hide their mistakes.

In contrast people a growth mindset believe that their abilities and talents are just a starting point and that they can be developed through dedication, hard work and learning. They are keen to learn from the people around them. They respond positively to failure and are best described in one sentence: "I can't do that...yet".


Growth Mindset

Fixed Mindset

Failure is an opportunity to grow

I can learn to do new things

I like to try new things

Inspired by the success of others

Embraces challenges

Failure is the limit of my abilities

I'm either good or bad at something

I stick to what I know

Threatened by the success of others

Gives up easily

Teams that operate with a growth mindset have a much more malleable view of success. They do not view failure as a reflection of their ability but rather as a starting point for experimentation and testing of new ideas. They have a passion for learning and improving themselves and their team. They strive for continuous improvement and never give up.

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