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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Lean Roundup #148 – September 2021

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

Coaching Problem Solvers at Toyota – Jon Miller expounds on how people at Toyota develop problem solvers through coaching.

Your Problem Solving Spectrum - Jamie Flinchbaugh says that while there is a critical mass of problem solving your job as a leader is to stretch the profile of your team.

Why ‘Pulling Out All the Stops’ is Very Bad Thing - Jeff Hajek explains this common expression about getting things done should not stand in the way of problem solving and continuous improvement.

My First Lesson - Bruce Hamilton shares the first lesson he learned from Hajime Oba when he started down his lean journey at United Electric Controls.

Walt Disney -- Lean Thinker and More on Walt Disney - Pascal Dennis shares why Walt Disney was an early Lean pioneer and how that contributed to business success.

How to Create Your Own Team Board Without Spending a Ton of Time or Money - Johanna Rothman shares several steps you can use to get started with your own team board.

How to Build a Culture of Continuous Improvement – John Knotts talks about the importance of a CI culture and how to build one in your organization.

The Value of Friction and Inefficiency – Kevin Meyer says working to become more efficient is great, but recognize the value of some level of inefficiency and friction.

How Important Is Physical Presence on the Gemba?  Jon Miller says in this virtual age you can not  replace the need to physically be present in the Gemba.

How Lean Can Help You Go Green - Gary Cundill and Rose Heathcote explain how to use lean thinking and practices to create sustainable business practices.

Coach’s Corner: How To Put People First Using Lean Practices - Katrina Appell expands upon what it means and takes  to be a people first leader.

3 Go-To Ways for Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement Anywhere - Kiyoshi "Nate" Furuta says To reach a state of endless continuous improvement, executives must lead the company in making a critical leap from management-driven improvements to employee-driven improvements.

Ask Art: How Do Improvements to Your Balance Sheet Drive Earnings? – Art Byrne explains one place to start for significant improvement in financial performance is by focusing and fixing your balance sheet.

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Monday, September 27, 2021

Lean 101: An Introduction to Lean Manufacturing

Source: Smederevac / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

I recently authored the below article on Lean 101: An Introduction to Lean Manufacturing for Quality Magazine and wanted to share with A Lean Journey audience. Creating a good foundation of Lean starts with learning the fundamentals. 

The core idea of lean is to maximize the customer value by minimizing the waste within value chain. This thinking is comprised of five fundamental principles that create a framework for creating an efficient organization. By evaluating our processes for sources of waste and eliminating these inefficiencies we promote productivity and growth. This optimization of the value chain is done through rules that structure activities, connect customers and suppliers, and facilitate flow of materials and information.

To learn more about the basics of the lean thinking check out the following article:

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Friday, September 24, 2021

Lean Quote: 3 Communication Principles to Get Your Ideas Across

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 can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.  —  Lee Iacocca

Communication is by far one of the most valuable skills in any leader’s toolkit. Whether you’re just starting your career or you’re a seasoned vet, being an effective communicator at work is key to your success.

I believe there are three communication principles that will help anyone become a more effective and influential communicator in the workplace:

1. Strive for clarity

Identifying your key messages—the main ideas you want to embed in your audience’s mind—is an important part of communicating clearly. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Before you communicate, write down your central idea. What are the key messages you want your audience to hear and understand?
  • Spend time thinking about your audience and the knowledge they may or may not have about the content you’ll be sharing. When in doubt, be prepared to provide context and a quick recap to bridge any knowledge gaps.
  • As you write out your key points, avoid jargon and other language that could confuse your audience or distract them from your central idea. Technical language or high levels of detail may seem important to you, but they can be a barrier to audience engagement.

Developing key messages before you communicate will help you focus in on what you want to say and deliver your content with clarity.

2. Keep it concise

Aim for short, direct sentences. Saying less forces you to focus, and the more focused you are, the higher your chances of getting your message across. Be sure to define exactly what you want people to understand and what, if anything, you’re asking them to do.

Saying less has another advantage. Whether you’re communicating by email, over the phone, or in person, saying too much can hurt your efforts. Try these tips for concise communication:

  • Take out the filler. Write down your message and then review it for conciseness. Is every bit needed to get your point across or have unnecessary words snuck in? In particular, watch for overuse of filler words like “very” and “really.”
  • Keep it simple. Fancy words will only confuse your audience—or worse, alienate them. Stick to language that is familiar and accessible.
  • Formatting is your friend. The longer the update, the more likely it is that important details will be lost. Use formatting in written communication (such as bullet points, headings, or bold emphasis) to highlight vital information. I like to bold important dates, calls to action, and key decisions so it’s nearly impossible to miss them.

3. Be consistent

Consistency in communication usually means two things: repetition and frequency.

  • Don’t be afraid to repeat your key messages—it’s hard for people to miss a point when they’ve seen or heard it multiple times.
  • Make sure you communicate on a regular basis. Depending on the project or situation, this may involve creating a set communication schedule to provide updates. Or, it can simply mean being proactive and responsive in terms of how you communicate by email, over the phone, or in meetings.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #177 (Tips #2866 - 2880)

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 #2866 – Give More Praise Than Criticism. 

Giving honest feedback in performance reviews and team meetings is important, but it’s important to be mindful of the motivating potential of meaningful compliments and praise mixed with constructive feedback. Singling out team members who’ve gone above and beyond can be a powerful motivating force for boosting employee engagement.

Lean Tip #2867 – Check in Even When Nothing is Wrong.

Make time for one-on-one meetings on a regular basis. This gives your direct reports an opportunity to bring up questions or challenges before they balloon into major problems. They also give you a less formal opportunity to communicate with your employees and gauge their level of motivation.

Lean Tip #2868 – Get in the Trenches.

While it’s important for you to stay focused on the big picture, you also can’t lose sight of what the day-to-day work of your team entails. Being involved in managing individual projects on a personal level as they unfold in real-time can help keep you connected to the work your team is doing. Ask questions about the hard work your team members are doing, and stay up-to-date on trends in your field or business.

Lean Tip #2869 – Think About Lasting Solutions.

No matter how difficult the problem, there is always a quick solution, and leaders are happiest when they are devising solutions to problems. The trouble is that, in our zeal to fix things quickly and move on to the next fire, we often overlook the lasting solution that may take longer to develop. Although it's more fun to be a firefighter, the next time you have a problem to solve in your organization, deal with the cause of the problem instead of simply treating the symptoms.

Lean Tip #2870 – Be Open, Honest and Transparent

Good communication and trust are key ingredients for a happy high performance team. If you want your team to feel comfortable, to be honest and have trust in you, then you need to do the same with them. People can always sense when someone is not being genuine with them. Being honest and open also means admitting your own mistakes and acknowledging when you don’t have the answers. Don’t try to be a know-it-all. 

Lean Tip #2871 – Be a Mentor and a Coach (Not a Drill Sergeant)

View yourself as a coach and a mentor who is there to help develop your team and team members’ potential, not as a drill sergeant there to crack the whip and keep employees in check. Most employees want a job where they can grow, be respected, challenged with great work and where they can build great relationships and friendships. View yourself as a coach who is there to motivate the team when they need it and mend their wounds to get ready to fight another day.

Lean Tip #2872 – Put Yourself in Their Shoes & Provide Support

Every great leader was once a follower. Never forget where you came from and put yourself in your team members’ shoes to consider things from their perspectives. Ask yourself: what would have been helpful for me if I was in that situation? What type of support/coaching would have benefited me?

Lean Tip #2873 – Give Them Challenges & Help Them Build a Development Plan/Career Roadmap

To build a high performance team, you need to challenge your employees to do their best work while also allowing them to reach their personal career objectives. A happy employee is one who sees the value of their work and who feels productive and needed. As a manager and a coach, you should help each team member reach their full potential by helping them create a yearly development plan of one or two key career goals they would like to meet. Then during the year, be on the lookout for these opportunities and give them to the employees who are actively working on acquiring these skills.

Lean Tip #2874 – Never Stop Learning

In order to be a great manager, you should recognize there is always room for you to learn and improve. Cultivate a positive personal growth mindset and create your own yearly development plan with individual career goals.

Lean Tip #2875 – Encourage Ideas That Challenge Your Own

Despite the fact that you are their manager, your team members likely understand their job far better than you do. It is virtually impossible for you to come up with all the ideas, especially when it comes to process improvements. Solicit, encourage, and adopt any ideas that are good--regardless of where they come from.

Your team performance can only be as solid as the ideas that you allow your team members to share. If you stifle your employees' creativity, you will eventually stifle your own as well.

Lean Tip #2876 – Achieve Better Work-Life Balance, Establish Clear Boundaries

Establishing boundaries at work is an effective way to create work-life balance because it ensures you have time and space available for meaningful aspects of your personal life. Possible boundaries include not taking work home, not checking work email on weekends and leaving work on time each day, even if you are in the middle of a task. While there are likely to be occasional exceptions or last-minute emergencies, do your best to stick to these boundaries. Discussing your desired boundaries with your manager to gain their support can help you feel comfortable implementing these practices.

Lean Tip #2877 – Achieve Better Work-Life Balance, Make Your Time Count

Effective work-life balance requires that you spend your time meaningfully in each of the respective spaces. By ensuring you spend your time outside of work pursuing hobbies or doing activities that align with your values, you can recharge your energy levels and feel more fulfilled. This also helps you be more present at work, knowing that you have ample opportunities for a full life outside of work as well. Similarly, if you engage in challenging, meaningful projects at work, you will be more likely to experience work as fulfilling, and thus, find that both work and your personal life are valuable.

Lean Tip #2878 – Achieve Better Work-Life Balance, Leave Work at Work

Develop a mental on-off switch between work and home. It helps to establish a transitional activity between the two realms. This might consist of listening to music or recorded books during your evening commute, exercising at the fitness center, running errands, or keeping personal appointments. Scheduling such activities immediately following your normal work hours also prevents you from spending that extra twenty minutes at the office which then turns into several hours.

Lean Tip #2879 – Achieve Better Work-Life Balance, Work Smarter Not Harder

Using time more efficiently is an important skill that everyone from the receptionist to the CEO can learn. Adopting the right combination of time-management practices can cut stress and save you up to an hour a day. This can include the use of technology to become more organized, grouping emails and voice messages, avoiding procrastination and learning to say "no."

Lean Tip #2880 – Achieve Better Work-Life Balance, Focus on Results, Not Time Spent

Rather than thinking about working harder, focus your time and energy on achieving bigger results. By simplifying your areas of focus, you free up more time to live a more joyful and balanced life.

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of doing countless activities that drain your energy and take you away from building momentum in moving your business forward. You are being pulled in multiple directions and don’t have enough time and often take on too many projects. This can often leave you drained, worried and uncommunicative at the end of the day.

Remember, getting more things done means nothing when nothing great is done.

By focusing on a smaller number of projects and delivering maximum impact, you have a bigger sense of achievement, confidence and motivation. Plus, you may have more time to stop work early and spend time with the people that matter.

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Monday, September 20, 2021

The Eight Guiding Principles of Supply Chain Improvement

To balance customers' demands with the need for profitable growth, many companies have moved aggressively to improve supply chain management. To avoid a very real tug of war between the customer's demand and the company's need for improvement supply chain managers are starting to recognize two important things. First, they think about the supply chain as a whole—all the links involved in managing the flow of products, services, and information from their suppliers' suppliers to their customers' customers (that is, channel customers, such as distributors and retailers). Second, they pursue tangible outcomes—focused on revenue growth, asset utilization, and cost reduction.

Many supply chains are lengthy and dynamic and it’s impossible for managers to evaluate every action taken with detailed analysis. At Toyota they believe that reducing the lead time is the right thing to do. Managers there don’t spend time doing analysis every time they try to reduce lead time to prove that this is the correct thing to do. Instead they live by the guiding principle, confirmed over several decades, that reducing lead time eliminates waste, improves quality, and reduces costs.

Robert Martichenko and Kevin von Grabe, supply chain experts from LeanCor, have defined Eight Guiding Principles in their book Building A Lean Fulfillment Stream.  These principles have proven essential in improving supply chains for years:

1. Eliminate all the waste in the fulfillment stream so that only value remains.
Creating flow in a fulfillment stream requires all departments and functions in an organization to work in harmony. Focusing on the fundamental lean principle of eliminating waste so that only value remains helps achieve this harmony.

2. Make customer consumption visible to all members of the fulfillment stream.
If customer consumption is visible across the entire fulfillment stream, then it is much easier for every participant to plan work based on the pull of customer demand.

3. Reduce lead time.
Reducing inbound and outbound logistics lead times will get orders to the customer faster. When a company can reduce lead times to the point where it can exceed leadtime expectations of the customer, it will no longer need to rely on forecasts and can “pull” material throughout the fulfillment stream. End-to-end fulfillment-stream lead times are reduced when overall inventory in the system is reduced.

4. Create level flow.
The ultimate goal is to have goods and information move in a predictable, consistent, and uninterrupted manner based on the actual demand of the customer. This is known as level flow. Level flow reduces variation in processes and tries to spread activities equally over working time. This minimizes the peaks and valleys in movement that create unevenness and overburden, which result in waste.

5. Use pull systems.
Use pull systems when level flow is not possible. A pull system is an inventoryreplenishment method (i.e., kanban) in which each downstream activity (customer consumption) signals its need to the next upstream activity. Pull systems reduce wasteful complexity in planning and overproduction that can occur with computerbased software programs such as material resource planning (MRP), and they permit visual control of the flow of materials in the fulfillment stream.

6. Increase velocity and reduce variation.
Velocity is the speed with which information and material move through the fulfillment stream. Meeting customer demand by delivering smaller shipments more frequently increases velocity. This helps to reduce inventories and lead times, which allows you to more easily adjust delivery to meet actual customer consumption.

7. Collaborate and use process discipline.
The collaboration of all participants in a fulfillment stream is necessary to identify problems in the stream, determine root causes, and develop appropriate countermeasures. To be truly effective, this collaboration must be combined with standard improvement processes and regular PDCA.

8. Focus on total cost of fulfillment.
Make decisions that will meet customer expectations at the lowest possible total cost —no matter where they occur in the fulfillment stream. This means eliminating decisions that benefit one part of the stream at the expense of others. This is the real challenge of building a lean fulfillment stream, but it can be achieved when all members share in the operational and financial benefits when waste is eliminated.

The Lean journey generally begins inside the four walls of the manufacturing facility, however eventually it extends to the supply base and customers. The eight guiding principles for turning your supply chain and logistics network into a smooth-flowing “fulfillment stream” delivers more value to customers while reducing the total cost of fulfillment. Implemented successfully, these principles prove convincingly that you can please customers and enjoy profitable growth from doing so.

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Lean Quote: Management is Nothing More than Motivating Other People

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.

"Management is nothing more than motivating other people.  —  Le Iacocca

Employee morale doesn’t simply translate into how happy your people are; it’s a direct reflection of how healthy your company culture is, how well you and other leaders are communicating with teams, and how effective your managers are.

High morale only occurs when employees feel taken care of by their company. And because this year has been filled with stressful distractions, ensuring your people are getting the support they need to bring their best selves to work each day is more important than ever.

Here are seven ways you can contribute to a thriving culture and continually boost employee morale all year long.

1. Be transparent.

Tell your employees what’s happening within your company. Give them updates and make them feel involved in your company’s success. People want to understand the vision and direction of the company and feel like they’re making meaningful contributions to the growth and goals of the business.

2. Encourage continual learning.

Create opportunities for employees to keep learning. A LinkedIn survey found that 94% of employees would be less likely to leave a company that gave them professional development opportunities.

3. Recognize and reward achievements.

Technology is a great tool to help you run your business, especially when it comes to understanding how your employees are performing. One of the features of smart terminals is that you can easily track and monitor customer feedback and employee performance. For example, if you have employees who are constantly receiving positive customer reviews or exceeding sales performance expectations, you’ll be able to see this in the smart terminal apps. This will make it easier for you to recognize employee achievements.

4. Listen to feedback (and implement it!).

You already know how important it is to collect and respond to customer feedback, but it’s important to listen to feedback from your internal team too.

5. Encourage team bonding.

Although the phrase “team bonding” might induce a few eye-rolls, it’s actually a great way to boost employee morale. Investing in building these relationships helps your employees feel more connected to each other and the company, develops trust between teams, and increases their commitment to your business.

6. Celebrate differences.

Make sure that your company has a culture that celebrates and respects people’s differences and continuously learns from them. It can take a toll on an employee’s morale if they don’t feel respected or included, meaning you’ll be less likely to retain them.

7. Give employees independence.

No one likes to be micro-managed. Giving your employees independence shows that you trust them to do a good job even when you’re not there. It makes them feel empowered and respected, giving them positive feelings about their roles and the company.



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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

8 Essential Skills Every Project Manager Needs

While the complexity of project management is daunting, it also offers many benefits to your business. By delegating responsibility and goals to a team, you can ensure long-term success with higher quality results at a reduced cost.

When faced with an overwhelming task like launching a new product or improving processes in every department for increased efficiency, all that needs to be done is to overwhelm most managers. To perform the project manager duties successfully, you must enhance your skills and work more efficiently.

Project management skills are essential to project managers because they have so many roles that need to be taken care of. For example, they must know how to manage budgets, project schedules, and project risks for a project to succeed. In addition, project managers also need the skills necessary for leadership, such as conflict resolution, decision-making, and communication. In this blog post, we will go over eight essential skills every project manager needs.

Essential Skills for a Project Manager

Every project manager needs to have several skills to be successful and achieve the project goals. The project manager's responsibilities may vary from task management, time-management, budgeting or risk assessment. Your interest and skills will answer the question why choose a project management career.

Some of the essential skills for a project manager include:

  1. Effective Leadership skills
  2. Communication skills
  3. Organization skills
  4. Negotiation skills
  5. Adaptability skills
  6. Risk Management
  7. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  8. Patience 
  1. Effective Leadership skills

Project management is all about how you motivate your team and see the project to completion. You're leading a group of people, which means making sure they stay on track so that you can achieve success. Project leadership comes in different styles, and one might work better for you than another, depending on the personality.

As a team leader, you must bring in excellent results from all the team members involved in a project. Thus, project management is about more than just the allocation and organization of quantifiable resources.

Project Management is also about building relationships with people. Project managers understand how to get the best out of their team members to achieve that big goal: to see a project through completion.

  1. Communication skills

A project manager must be able to communicate efficiently for their operation and team members to succeed. Of course, listening will help them understand what needs improvement, but conveying instructions is the most critical role of all, with success or failure.

Clear communication is one of the most critical aspects of leadership. It helps to lead a team effectively because it allows you to articulate what needs to be done and how your project can succeed. Clear communication also ensures that stakeholders, vendors, contractors, etc., are all on board with where the work will go.

  1. Organization skills

Being a competent project manager can be a challenge when you handle multiple facets of a project. Organization and delegation skills are essential to ensure the delivery of an accurate, timely product or service.

While managing a project, it is essential to keep organized and on top of every task. An excellent way for managers to do this would be by creating documents outlining all the jobs they have been assigned. It will help them stay in control and prevent last-minute mishaps that might arise from not being prepared. As a project manager, if you cannot manage your schedule effectively, it reflects poorly on the team.

  1. Negotiation skills

Negotiation is not just about haggling, and bargaining with vendors to get a better price or managing deadlines. It can also be about conflict resolution between two parties that are equally vital to the success of your project. Negotiation skill is comprehended with your mastery of communication.

The art of negotiation is an invaluable skill for project managers to possess because it allows them to negotiate the terms with clients, stakeholders and other allies, which could save their company a lot of money. Although this requires practical experience before one can be effective at negotiating tactics, it would benefit any new or aspiring project manager if they could familiarize themselves with what has proven successful in past negotiations. Managers can carry out already mapped out strategies without having to waste time experimenting.

  1. Adaptability skills

People in managerial positions determine how well their departments will adapt to such challenges. Even if situations get chaotic and out of hand, they must tackle them with a calm and optimistic approach to not let the organization fall apart.

Changes in industry standards are common, and they can result from many adaptations. For example, it could be the emergence of new technologies, strengthening market trends, or changing user demands.

The ability to adjust and change course during a project is one of the most essential skills of project leaders. Instead of starting from scratch when problems arise or changes need to be made, decide what is best for that situation, not hurting other parts of the plan.

  1. Risk Management

There are risks inherent in any task, plan, or project. It is your job as a professional to identify them before they become problems. You must have the skill to identify, assess, and control risk.

Risk management is about being flexible and accommodating quickly to any shift in circumstances. You can put countless warnings and plans in place, but you will always suspect unforeseen factors. In addition, it means that as the primary person responsible for ensuring everything runs smoothly. It may be necessary for the project managers to readjust their thinking while monitoring team members, progress reports, and other input sources.

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Critical Thinking is simply analyzing and evaluating an issue or situation so that you can form an unbiased judgement. It prevents acting on rage, emotions or a received answer. Project managers must be able to use critical thinking skills to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a situation and plan strategies accordingly.

It also required them to know how their analytical abilities can forecast the results of any strategy they come up with. Both convergent and divergent thinking is required when developing strategies.

  1. Patience

A project manager is somebody with the ability to reorganize tasks as needed, stay on top of deadlines without getting stressed out, and keep a cool head even when they're presented with a lot of work. Patience is a virtue, along with which humor goes alongside. It helps project managers ease tensions and create a tone and culture in the workplace.

To Sum Up

Project managers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating the activities of a project from start to finish. Therefore, they need polished skills to ensure that critical deadlines are met without sacrificing quality or accuracy. Furthermore, managing multiple projects at once can be challenging, so having good multitasking abilities is also essential. Through online courses, you can utilize The Tips for PMP Exams to pass the test successfully and pursue a career in project management.

Author Bio: Viswanathan G is a Professional IT trainer with extensive experience in training and project management. By academics, he is a Mechanical Engineer and also developed his skills in programming. His 25 years of teaching experience have brought in thousands of students across the world. He is an expert in designing training courses with technical content and real-time examples. He is now working as a trainer in Edoxi Training Institute.


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