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Monday, August 30, 2021

Lean Roundup #147 – August 2021

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

Piloting Continuous Improvement – Jon Miller discusses how a pilot can be an effective way to roll out continuous improvement.

Rather than Blaming Employees, Managers Must Take Responsibility for Problems – in a Taco Joint, a Hospital, or a Factory – Mark Graban shares some personal examples where individuals are blamed for system problems.

Why We Must Talk To People Not About People – Marci Reynolds shares a story in the news that is about respect for people principle.

Takt Time: How Slow Can You Go? – Mark Rosenthal discusses the challenges of managers focused on output versus takt time.

Leadership Tip 12: Focus on Effectiveness, Not Efficiency - Johanna Rothman talks about the importance of focusing on effectiveness first and efficiency second. 

Why Having More Meetings Is Not The Answer - Dan Markovitz says you can avoid the conclusion trap, by spending time understanding the problem before you rush to action, you can find more effective, less expensive, and more durable solutions.

A Culture of “Fessin’ Up” About Mistakes at Garrison Brothers Distillery – Mark Graban talks about a culture of “fessin' up about mistake.

Thinking About Introducing A3 Problem-Solving? Think Twice if Leadership Isn’t Engaged – David Verble cautions that it will be very, very hard to succeed for reasons he explains in this Q&A follow-up to a recent webinar on the A3 process.

Coach's Corner: Designing the Entire Value Stream From Concept to Product End Life - Katrina Appell explains how LPPD can help reduce both your cost and carbon footprint in the value stream.

How Designing Value Streams, Not Just Products, Creates Competitive Advantage – Jim Morgan describes how lean development practices helped them develop better products, create profitable value streams and strengthen development teams.

What is Lean Leadership and How Do You Get it? – Jeffrey Liker describes what organizations need to do to develop their leaders' lean leadership capabilities.

Five Practice Patterns for Succeeding as a New Manager – Jon Miller discusses what organizations do to set their new managers up for success.

Ask Art: What Targets Should We Set When Launching a Lean Turnaround? – Art Byrne discusses why setting results-oriented targets instead of process-oriented targets will doom your lean improvement efforts.

Why the Most Important Product Leaders Can Develop is Their Team – Jim Morgan says while new technology and innovative ideas may seem paramount to achieving development excellence, it's really the people within the teams who are preeminent.

Don’t Change the Culture, Change the Cultural Inputs - Steve Kane shares eight steps to counter undesirable cultural inputs.

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Friday, August 27, 2021

Lean Quote: The Things We Miss and The Violin

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.

"Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you you you are.  —  Jose Ortega y Gasset

Editor's Note: This is an oldie, but a goodie. And we were inspired to post it after the story was forwarded via email. We don't know the original author of this version, but they've done a good job so we've decided to publish it as is. A little research dug up the original Washington Post article (titled "Pearls Before Breakfast", for which the author, Gene Weingarten won the Pulitzer this past year) and experiment that it's based on, which you can find here with accompanying video, and it is, in fact, a true story. We highly recommended reading the entire thing -- an excerpt would not do it's breadth and coverage justice. We don't know the original author of this version, but they've done a good job so we've decided to publish it as is. It's a powerful and beautiful message -- but most importantly, its a good one to keep in mind as you go about your day-to-day life. We hope it inspires you to read the whole story or -- at the very least -- to stop and listen.

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold, December morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After 3 minutes a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.00 each.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.  The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Finding Value in Certification

Nowadays there are lots of certification out there, but do you wonder what the value in certification is?

The corporate world is continuously evolving, with industries and jobs expanding at a rapid rate. Job descriptions change and skill sets that used to be needed for a particular job may not be enough nowadays.

Employees need to keep up with the fast pace of the industry they’re in. Lifelong learning can do wonders for your professional and personal life.

Lifelong learning refers to the process of gaining knowledge and learning new skills throughout your life. Many people continue their education for personal development and fulfillment, while others see it as a significant step toward career advancement.

Here are several benefits to keep in mind if you’re considering whether or not to pursue that next certification.

Grow Your Knowledge and Skills

By acquiring new and updated industry information or techniques, you can hone current work habits that may be causing inefficiencies or quality issues with your output while increasing your competencies. This can help give you the skills and confidence to try something new.

Boost Efficiency

Professional certifications can also help give your business a solid foundation. The advanced training, information, and knowledge you gain from specialized coursework can provide you with up-to-date tools and technical strategies that will serve to guide and direct you in the execution of your projects, allowing you to manage all aspects of your work more effectively.


Many find themselves stressed out or in a rut after several months or a few years in the job due to their ever-changing job responsibilities. Learning something new can ignite your spirit and help you become motivated again to pursue your career goals.

Realize a Competitive Advantage

When you have training that your competitors don’t, it sets you apart. This can give you an advantage to attracting and retaining top talent, which is particularly important in today’s competitive market.

The best way to learn is to try out new ideas and experience the outcomes in a safe environment. Using a hands-on approach to learning (and certification), allows people to learn by doing, practicing and engaging with the learning content, and they can receive immediate feedback.

As the saying goes, learning is a never-ending process. The world of work is rapidly changing, and people need lifelong learning to advance their skills and stay relevant. Whether it’s going back to the university, taking online courses, earning a professional certification, or attending industry-specific seminars and workshops, find a way to keep learning.

Certifications can be a worthwhile investment because of the many advantages they can provide to you and your organization.

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Monday, August 23, 2021

Six Ways to Create a No-Fear Culture

Fear can manifest in an organization in many ways, but it typically occurs with a trickle-down effect, where ineffective leaders employ scare tactics to control the behavior of employees. If upper management provides mid-management no room to take risks and fail, middle management will be under constant pressure to hide anything short of a clear success, and, worse yet, place blame of their own employees for missteps, however minor. When every employee in the organization feels like she or he is walking on eggshells, it becomes impossible to focus on getting good work done.

As a leader, you have the authority and the responsibility to eradicate fear from your organization. If you don’t take action, it’s unlikely that anyone else will, and your boat will eventually sink as your people focus on protecting themselves by withdrawing and playing it safe (or worse, attacking others). By removing fear from the equation, your team will be more comfortable, inspired, selfless and ultimately more productive. Here are some great ways to get started that you can use to encourage others to follow in your footsteps.

1. 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.

2. Build Trust.

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.

3. 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.

4. Measure Systems, Not People.

W. Edwards Deming proposed a theory to measure the performance of systems, not people, to help drive fear out of organizations. As one of Deming's 14 Points on Total Quality Management, he advised eliminating numerical quotas for the workforce, as well as numerical goals for management. You can't have a culture of continual improvement if people are afraid of suffering serious financial consequences as a result of their individual performance.

Instead, our goal is to get everyone to realize that we're all in this together, working as a team and measuring the output of the overall system. This intrinsically motivated mentality encourages individual innovation on the team. It leads to better behavior, better performance, and improvements that can become breakthroughs for the company over time.

5. Listen to Everyone’s Ideas.

Each one of your employees is with your company for a reason. Encourage employees to voice ideas. Even if the idea may need some work, it’s still important that everyone has his or her say. This will show that each member of your team is valuable and his or her input is just as important as a fellow coworker’s.

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.

6. Open and Transparent Communication.

Healthy cultures have top-down, bottom-up, and cross-department communication. If conversations are only happening in one direction or aren’t happening at all, it hinders transparency and openness, which makes it harder to establish a sense of trust in leadership within an organization. Leaders and employees need to be on the same page when it comes to feedback—it’s a two-way conversation. Leaders need to give feedback to employees, and employees need to feel safe giving feedback to leaders.

Building a great company culture isn’t something that will happen overnight, but you can take the first steps by talking openly with your employees and setting a clear vision. Even a small shift in mentality can make a big difference in developing a company culture that is envied by others.

These are a few examples of how to begin to remove fear from your workplace. More important than these examples is the disposition required to execute them. As you adjust your disposition to align with the points above, you’ll naturally begin to behave in ways that remove fear. All of your interactions with people will improve, your workplace will be energized, your stress level will be reduced, and everyone will become more productive.

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Friday, August 20, 2021

Lean Quote: 5 Ways Leaders Can Help Their Teams

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.

"Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.  —  Chris Hadfield, astronaut and former Commander of the International Space Station

What makes a great leader? When Chris Hadfield was commanding the International Space Station, he learned that it’s not about seeking out individual greatness to make yourself look good.  Instead, he found that excellent leadership is about building up the people around you: trusting them, empowering them, and ultimately, enabling them to contribute their expertise so that the team can become more than the sum of its parts. 

Here are five ways to help your team do better.

1. Be the Example – You as a leader must set the example of what it is to be better. Find areas that your team needs to focus on and be an example in those areas. If they’re struggling with communication, then over communicate the best you possibly can. Show them how they can communicate with others. Help them to understand where they are weak, but don’t make it a bad thing or negative. Instead, show them how they can be more successful when they communicate correctly.

2. Set a Clear Direction – You have to be leading your team in a clear direction. If they can’t see it, they wont understand how to get there. Vision is all about showing somebody where they’re going to be, not a goal or a dream, but what it looks like on the other end. If you can guide and direct them toward the vision, they can see it, and they can fill in the gaps as well.

3. Give Praise – People will repeat what they’re praised for. If you spend time finding them doing things right, they will continue to do what they were recognized for. If all you do is find them doing things wrong, they will become extremely gun-shy and not willing to put themselves out there. They won’t care about being better. The only thing they will care about is not getting their head chopped off.

4. Lead with Dignity – You must treat people with dignity. Understand that these are people. They’re somebody’s kids just like your kids, or like you’re somebody’s child. They want to be treated with dignity. They want to be treated with respect. They don’t want to be yelled at or told that they’re idiots or incompetent. Instead, if you will spend your time building them up, then you’ll find they will be more likely to put their neck out and do things better. They will spend more time trying to be a better team member and person.

5. Let Out the Rope – You’ve got to give them rope. No, not to hang themselves. You’ve got to let the rope out a little bit at a time as your team grows stronger. If you never let the rope out, you’re keeping them in the same spot they were before. As they become better, you have to allow them to be better.

So, if you want to build a team of motivated, hardworking professionals, you must embody commitment, honesty, and professionalism each day, which will make others want to follow in your footsteps.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Reducing Scrap and Rework in Manufacturing

Scrap and rework costs are a manufacturing reality impacting organizations across all industries and product lines. Scrap and rework costs are caused by many things—when the wrong parts are ordered, when engineering changes aren’t effectively communicated or when designs aren’t properly executed on the manufacturing line. No matter why scrap and rework occurs, its impact on an organization is always the same—wasted time and money. And while no one, especially an operations manager, wants to admit it, these expenses add up quickly and negatively impact the bottom line.

Here are 7 ways you can cut scrap and reworking costs and associated expenses that will protect your bottom line, and improve efficiency and quality across the supply chain.

1. Improving Communication

Too often, the information needed on the production floor never quite makes it to the people doing the work. Change orders might be made, specs might change, or processes might evolve, yet the employees who need to know somehow don’t.

It’s easy for papers to get missed or misplaced. A plan to reduce scrap and rework should include an end-to-end solution that tracks every step of the process and is available for view by everyone involved in the process.

2. Organizing the System for Documentation

Manufacturers can decrease scrap and rework in their factories or companies by optimizing the way they document product and process data throughout their supply chain. Your documentation should have a way to store every spec, blueprint, work order, and change order for every piece being manufactured. It should be in real time so there’s no old information in the system that can lead to errors in the manufacturing process. Documentation is a key part of change management, particularly in terms of information sharing and version control.

3. Improving Change Management

Many errors can be traced back to a poorly executed change management process. When something changes, it should immediately be communicated to everyone. The right quality management system (QMS) will keep everything up to date in real time.

4. Optimizing the Manufacturing Processes

Optimizing the manufacturing process means putting in place a process that recognizes problems so you can take corrective action. It should track machine maintenance to keep things running smoothly, as well as compliance and training requirements, and manage conflicts in equipment or personnel.

Perhaps the most important part of the process in terms of its potential to generate scrap is the design phase. Good communication and collaboration between engineers, production team members, and materials suppliers are key.

A scrap materials plan should be instituted to reuse, repurpose, or recycle as much scrap as possible.

5. Minimizing Human Error

Damage to parts can occur during transit or whenever manual handling occurs, so it's a good idea to use automation to limit physical contact with parts as much as possible - particularly delicate parts that will be damaged if dropped.

If you can set up a machine to handle a given task in a way that doesn’t risk damage to the parts you manufacture, then automating that process is often the best option. Not only will you save money on reprocessing your parts, you’ll improve your time to market by getting parts right the first time.

6. Being Proactive

Preempt quality control issues by taking a proactive rather than a reactive position. Make regular factory inspections to identify problems and to look for ways to improve processes. You want to find the root cause of the issue and resolve it as early and as simply as possible. Could the problem be solved by:

·        Acquiring new equipment and fixtures

·        Improved employee training

·        Software upgrades or additions

·        Greater attention during design phase

·        More emphasis on pre-production processes

·        Additional packaging/handling procedures

7. Implementing End-to-End Quality Assurance

For manufacturers, the best way to reduce scrap and rework and adhere to the tenants of Total Quality Management (TQM) is to employ Lean.

Using a well-developed and tightly monitored quality control procedure is essential to minimizing costs associated with rework. Adopting a TQM philosophy and implementing the PDCA Cycle or another closed loop, continuous improvement system is a great start. Six Sigma quality and Lean manufacturing practices will help you eliminate waste and improve quality.

To maintain a competitive edge, manufacturers must constantly find ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. One way companies can save time and money is by preventing scrap and rework. Documenting product data, reviewing manufacturing processes, and clearly communicating changes throughout the supply chain all prevent scrap and rework from cutting into a company’s bottom line.

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Monday, August 16, 2021

Using the Gemba Walk to Learn and Engage

While there are many things that affect employee engagement, getting leadership to the place where work is done, the Gemba, and actively engaging with the workforce, seeing with their own eyes the problems that occur, listening to associates and giving advice and direction (coaching) to the team is a critical factor in increasing overall engagement.

All too often, attempts are made to solve problems without knowing anything about or are not being familiar with a particular area or process -- resulting in a misdiagnosis or failed solution. Answers come from the floor, from the Gemba, where the condition occurs. You need to go to the real place and experience these conditions for yourself before being able to take the next steps.

A Gemba Walk is a method to engage the workforce in their native environment. The primary purpose of Gemba walking is to teach. When you are the Gemba walker, you are playing the role of sensei (mentor, coach, teacher). The role of the sensei is to ask questions, introduce new tools and approaches, stimulate new thinking, teach, and (sparingly) to give advice.

A Gemba walk is not a random, unplanned visit to “check up” on the workforce or catch employees being unproductive. It is also not the equivalent of a department meeting whereby leadership pull staff together to deliver a series of messages. Instead, Gemba walks are planned in advance and entered into with a particular objective in mind (e.g., teach something, learn something, role model a behavior, build a relationship, etc.).

Gemba Walks can be summarized by:

     Go to the actual place.

     Get the facts about the actual thing or activity.

     Grasp the entire situation.

     Generate reasons that explain what is happening.

     Guide corrective actions or countermeasures.

 It has been said that the farther removed a leader becomes from the place where the work gets done, the less effective he/she will be in supporting those who do the work. And while that statement may be largely accurate, it’s also true that all operational leaders, but particularly department leaders and above, are pulled in many different directions during a given day, week, or month and may not feel that they have time to spend out in the operation where the products are made or the services rendered.

Additionally, some leaders, particularly those that didn’t start out working in operational roles, may not know how to productively spend time in the operation. Where should they go? What should they observe? Who should they talk to?

No matter what your position is or what you are working on you can not underestimate the importance of going to the Gemba. You can’t solve problems at your desk. Going to the Gemba is a great way to get the entire team involved in identifying and solving problems. It is grounded in fact finding using actual conditions from the actual workers who perform the work. This activity creates energy within the team solving the problem leading to experimentation, ideas, and discussion on improvements.

As leaders, we should spend the majority of our time on the Gemba engaged with both the people and process. This time should be structured and not what I call “Industrial Tourism” where all the leader does is walk around and shake hands and kiss babies. This is superficial and actively works to disengage employees.

A former President of Toyota once said he spent more than 80% of his time at the Gemba helping solve problems and removing the burden from the workforce. By doing so, he is helping develop those that he encounters and this creates a more engaged workforce.

Gemba walking teaches us to see in new ways what we have failed to see before. So what do you look for and how do you see it? All management should learn to ask these three simple questions:

       1) What is the process?

       2) How can you tell it is working?

       3) What are you doing to improve it (if it is working)?

Contrary to popular opinion, the workforce will come to appreciate the presence of leadership in their place of work because it sends the signal that leaders want to understand the challenges they face every day and opens up opportunities for a constructive dialogue.

While conducting structured Gemba walks have many benefits, here are nine reasons why leaders should be doing Gemba walks:

  • Gemba walks build relationships with those that do the work and create value in the organization.
  • Interacting with employees at the Gemba enables leaders to uncover problems and eliminate them quickly.
  • Gemba walks provide leaders with the opportunity to praise people for the good work that they do.
  • Management can be sure that the work that needs to be done is getting done.
  • Goals and objectives can clearly be communicated face-to-face.
  • A visible leader can increase employee engagement.
  • Gemba walks can help develop people through coaching and mentoring.
  • Gemba walks can help the leader validate data, emails and spreadsheets with their own eyes.
  • Gemba walks can enable accountability to occur since the leader is not disconnected from the actions or results. When they “see it” they “own it”.

Remember, as the leader engages the people and processes, he or she should always show respect and understand if something is amiss, it is not the individual’s fault, rather the process and the leader are the guilty parties. A Gemba walk is not an employee evaluation. The purpose is to observe, understand, and ultimately improve processes.

Lean manufacturing doesn’t have to be a complicated process or involve lots of foreign-sounding buzzwords. What matters most is that you engage with the frontline employees regularly and use the walks as an opportunity to learn and improve. So, establish and stick to a routine including regular visits to the Gemba, check the status of visual controls, follow-up on daily accountability assignments, and ask the three simple questions everywhere. This approach can help you with every aspect of the improvement process, from root cause analysis to Kaizen. Keep learning, thinking, and teaching in the Gemba.

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