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Friday, October 29, 2021

Lean Quote: If Human Beings Had Genuine Courage, They’d Wear Their Costumes Every Day, Not Just on Halloween

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.

"If human beings had genuine courage, they'd wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween.  —  Douglas Coupland

Well, it turns out that courage has a lot to do with leadership. Or shall I say, leadership has a lot to do with courage.

It turns out that courage may separate out the effective leaders from ineffective leaders and can be the differentiator whether a leader has influence or not over those they lead.

Now let’s unpack this idea about courage and leadership.

First, let’s look at the definition of a leader for a moment: a person who has commanding authority or influence. And a common definition of leadership is : the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.

Second, let’s go back to the definition of courage again: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

Now if we were to have some wordsmith fun and combine the definitions of leader, leadership and courage together in one sentence, I’d come up with something like:

“A great leader is someone who has influence and can effectively motivate a group to act towards achieving a common goal because they have mental and moral strength and will persevere and withstand danger despite their fears and the difficulty of the challenge.“

As you can see now, courage is not something outside of or a small component of leadership, it’s the foundation of good leadership and great work cultures. And organizations who embrace and value courage significantly increase their competitive advantage because they value their culture and the people in it above all else. And that in turn is the driver of their sustained and long term success.

So if you’re a leader and you’re looking to invest in yourself and your team as a way to become great leaders, I would suggest to start with courage and see where it takes you.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Lean Roundup #149 – October 2021

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

The Current State of Grasping the Current Condition – Jon Miller talks about gathering facts and data through multiple visits to the process to understand the current situation. 

How to See Business Agility: Adaptable and Resilient Management Actions – Johanna Rothman says instead of focusing on mindset, take a long, hard look at your actions to create an adaptable and resilient organization.

Ethics Enables Leadership – Pascal Dennis explains why ethics enables leadership and that good ethics is good business.

What Does Kaizen Suggest About How to Incentivize People to Submit Ideas? – Mark Graban answers a common question about continuous improvement and incentivizing people to do so.

A Culture of Continuous Improvement Begins with Leadership – John Knotts says leaders are just one part of the effort to institute a culture however they must first set the environment.

Is Problem Solving a Team Sport or an Individual Effort? – Jon Miller discusses research that found simple tasks are best accomplished by individuals, while difficult ones are more efficiently completed by a group.

4 Ways to Practice Radical Humility – Steve Musica shares four ways you can practice radical humility.

Coach’s Corner: How To Put People First Using Lean Practices – Katrina Appell answers how to use lean product and process development practices to guide people first principle.

How Lean Thinking Improves Financial Results While Avoiding Traditional Cost Cutting – Mike DeLuca explain why lean is not a cost-cutting method.

3 Go-To Ways for Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement Anywhere – Kiyoshi “Nate” Furuta offers details on why and how to transition from management-driven improvements to employee-driven improvements.

Ask Art: How Do Improvements to Your Balance Sheet Drive Earnings? – Art Byrne discusses why a good place to start lean improvement is the balance sheet for financial improvement.

Reaching Your Organization’s Full Potential – Josh Howell reveals how leaders use the A3 process to build staff’s problem-solving capabilities.

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Monday, October 25, 2021

Four Steps for Strategic Alignment

Bridging the gap between strategy development and execution is one of the biggest challenges many organizations face. Studies repeatedly show that, regardless of the quality of the strategies, companies find it difficult to successfully implement them and, therefore, to realize the competitive advantages they were aiming for. Probably the most important driver for successful strategy implementation is "strategic alignment," that is the systematic process of bringing the actions of each business unit and employee into line with the organization's strategic objectives. The challenge is to make them all work together towards a common goal, thereby improving the overall performance of the company.

Here are four steps that can help you in aligning your staff your strategy:

Start With the Company’s Mission and Vision

If your organization has a mission and/or vision statement, it’s a good place to start. You’re unlikely to identify specific or tactical goals with only this information; however, it should offer a north star in guiding the company’s purpose in the short and long term.

If your organization does not already have its own mission and vision, creating one is another strong starting place for the strategic planning process. The organization’s mission and vision provide a framework of its ultimate purpose and guide the team’s goals and activities.

Create the Strategic Plan

With a broader picture of company priorities in sight, now is the time to design a strategy for the organization’s activities to support success across teams. The process of strategic planning, goal-setting and creating roadmap action plans are outside the scope of this article, but there are scores of articles, books and courses on these topics. A few tools and frameworks for consideration include PESTEL analysis, SWOT analysis, TOWS matrix and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Whichever approach you use, be sure to include the entire organization in the process. If it’s a small team, everyone may have a hands-on role. In a larger training organization, gathering input in focus groups or providing planning updates and inviting feedback may suffice. Involving the whole team will encourage ownership of the resulting strategy and action plan, incentivizing everyone to deliver on the plan and effectively support the organization.

Share, Implement, Evaluate and Report on Progress

Now that you’ve created your strategic plan, it’s time to share it across the organization. Be sure to create audience-specific versions and messaging and to distribute the plan to the organization, the executive team, business unit leaders — and the company as a whole.

The plan should include success measures for you to monitor and report over the course of the year. Remember to create audience-specific updates, such as:

·        Biweekly inputs and internal updates for the organization.

·        A monthly dashboard for the executive team.

·        Bimonthly Lean/CI council meetings.

·        A quarterly newsletter for business unit leaders.

·        An annual infographic for all employees.

Stay Flexible, and Realign as Needed

In your regular reporting to key stakeholders, include an opportunity to check in on any change in priorities across the organization. Don’t become inflexibly attached to the annual plan; keep an agile approach, and adjust goals and activities to maintain alignment with company success.

Aligning business units and staff members with the organization's strategy is not a one-time deal but an ongoing process that requires constant leadership, communication, and monitoring. Moreover, it requires diplomatic skills in dealing with different types of personalities. This requires sure instincts and good change management. Strategic alignment is not an easy task particularly in large companies. However, it is indispensable in order to walk the chosen path successfully.

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Friday, October 22, 2021

Lean Quote: Clarity is a Game Changer That Drives Success

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.

"October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.  —  Hal Borland

Most business owners in the small/medium market spend more time working in their business than on it. They struggle to break the daily routine and succumb to the "not enough time" conundrum. In comparison to their counterparts in bigger businesses, they do not have the resources, professional development, or systems in place to break out. But there is a way to change the game!

Clarity is a game changer and drives success – for businesses, organizations, divisions, and individuals alike. If people don't know what you want to accomplish they can't help you achieve your goals and will substitute their own (goals) in place.

Clarity makes for easier and better decisions. Good decisions are made by following a process or framework. Great decisions are a function of how clear the objective is. Lack of clarity breeds options, at some point developing options wastes resources, with no way to determine which option delivers the most value, a cause for indecision.

  • Clarity leverages internal and external resources empowering others to act, innovate, and offer solutions that support the vision and goals. By sharing clear goals you change the equation for problem solving and innovation from one-to-many (aka top down) to many-to-one (frontline empowered). The result is exponential growth in organizational horsepower (the ability to do work, solve problems, and move toward the vision or goal) as you involve a greater and more diverse group of people.
  • Clarity reduces conflict and stress, improves efficiency. We can all use a little help here. A common challenge in business is balancing resources with work. Typically, there is more work than there are resources. Conflict arises, causes stress, and requires intervention (management) to resolve. Clarity provides the basis of a self-governing process that reduces conflict (prioritizing the work by amount of return on goal/vision) and the need for management (the system for determining which resources will be deployed to achieve the targeted outcome) is lessened.
  • Clarity greatly enhances your ability to find and retain the right people. People are the backbone of any organization. Hiring the right people for the right job and having the right diversity of people has proven to be more important to success than an idea. The easier and more clearly you are able to articulate where you want to go and what you want to achieve, the more powerful your appeal as an employer. People who are inclined with the same values and purpose will be attracted to your company.

The challenge becomes finding a way to introduce a strong dose of Clarity to your leadership style.  Defining what you want the future to look like is not easy. It forces you to reflect and really understand what is important.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

5 Skills Needed to Succeed in the Workplace

Being successful looks different to everyone. It comes in all shapes and sizes. Success comes from the mastery of a core set of skills that can be applied to any position, field or company. When you practice and strengthen these skills in your work, you’ll rise to the top.


In our increasingly hyper-connected world, we’re no longer expected to work just as individuals or only in silos. Our projects have become more complex, so the ability to work effectively as part of a team has also grown in importance. Given the increasingly global nature of work, your ability to collaborate, share knowledge and contribute to teams that can capitalize on a diversity of thinking and perspective in ways that everyone can benefit and drive to the shared outcomes is critical.


The ability to empathize with others, or see things from their perspective by understanding their emotions and reactions, is a fundamental part of how we interact with one another. Communicating genuinely and authentically with others is vital because even in instances when you disagree with your coworkers on elements of a work project, for example, empathy allows you to demonstrate to others that they are seen and heard.


Setbacks and failures are a part of life, but how you choose to deal with those roadblocks is what is critical to your success. Resilience is the ability to bounce back in the face of obstacles and failures. When you are resilient, you don't focus on the ups and downs. Instead, you stay focused on your long-term goals, and you never lose confidence in your ability to prevail. By helping you face challenges and difficulties, resilience also enables you to handle stress more positively.


Creativity is a crucial skill we all need because, in our fast-changing times, employers value employees who can look beyond the present and imagine future possibilities for their company. Creative workers are the ones who ask why. They question, they are curious, and in so doing, they develop new ideas and solutions.


How often do you go beyond your immediate job as assigned and instead, use more knowledge, facts, and data to see gaps and solve problems? Being a good problem solver is essential because employers value people who can work through challenges on their own or as an effective member of a team by defining the issues, brainstorming alternatives, sharing thoughts, and then making sound decisions.

Success in the workplace is not necessarily tied to how intelligent you are, how many qualifications you hold or even how hard you work. Hard work will help you secure a job in the workplace, however your career progressions will stall without developing your business skills.

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Monday, October 18, 2021

The Four T’s of Great Leadership

The single most important ingredient for transformational high-performance improvement is leadership. Anyone in a management role is considered a leader, but not everyone in those positions exhibits true leadership. The best leaders take their expert management skills and combine them with people skills to become well rounded and highly successful. The difference between being a good leader and a great one is in the relationships you build with your team. These are the four key components of great leadership.

Truth: Lack of truth expressed in any organization can take many forms. It could be departments not sharing information because it might put them in a bad situation with peers or it could be information not reaching a manager because no one wants to pass-on any bad news. Leaders need to know the truth to make intelligent business decisions and the employees at all levels should know the truth to do their jobs effectively.

Trust: Without trust, a leader will not succeed instigating a productive team culture. Moreover, the most important attribute building trust is transparency. Leaders build up their team members’ trust by communicating transparently and truthfully – in other words, by being trustworthy. In addition to the importance of team members trusting their boss, it is essential that supervisors also trust their direct reports and facilitate their success by creating the conditions for it.

Transparency: Many employees believe their organizations arre held back by a lack of transparency. When an individual or an organization is transparent, there are no hidden agendas and no information is being kept from people who need to know it. Transparency also promotes recognition of common goals. This is important because you are not stating one thing while covertly trying to achieve something else. Trust and transparency go hand-in-hand because transparency builds trust.

Teamwork: Teamwork is critical to success in any effort. Excellent leadership requires inspiring the people around them by empowering them, by enabling them to contribute their expertise as a collective and cohesive team, and ultimately trusting them.  Teamwork and leadership in tandem are important because they provide clarity for your team and have a direct impact on the vision of the company and its results.

Being a great leader isn’t easy and every leader—no matter how good or experienced—can always get better. But great leaders can have a tremendous impact on the people around them and on an organization’s ability to make a positive difference.

No matter what your title is, you can become a great leader. Practice these skills, and you'll be on the path to great leadership.

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Friday, October 15, 2021

Lean Quote: The Characteristics of a Good Manager

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.

"Over the years I've learned that, to be a good manager, you need to have passion, and you need to have a strong character. Without those things, the job is very, very difficult.  —  Claudio Ranieri

Having successful managerial skills is a good start, but there’s more to good management. You must keep your tasks on track, support, guide and direct your team, knowing their strengths and keeping them together as a cohesive group, but there are soft skills, too. Here are 10.

  1. Inspiration – A good manager is a good leader. A good leader is going to inspire their team to work hard by making them feel heard and respected.
  2. Believe in Yourself and Your Team – Part of being a good manager is believing that you are, and believing your team will do what they need to do, without micromanaging them. That doesn’t mean being arrogant, and you should hold doubt in your hand, but not let it cripple you.
  3. Encouragement – Sometimes you need it, sometimes your team does, a cheerleader, someone to give them that pep talk so they can pull from where they didn’t believe there was anything left and accomplish what musts be accomplished.
  4. Confident – Again, you don’t want to get cocky, but being confident goes a long way to being a good manager. No body wants a manager who is unsure or fearful. You’re leading from the top down, and you need to set the right tone.
  5. Honest – All the above is based on honesty. If you’re pretending your team will know. Being transparent is going to get you a loyal team that will go the extra-mile for you.
  6. Reliable – You want to depend on your team, and they need you to be dependable for them. If you’re not reliable, then you’re going to lose the focus of your team, probably lose the team too, through attrition.
  7. Relatable – While you are the manager, the leader of the project, you better not act aloof. Get down in the trenches with your team. Know who they are as people, and let them know you. Find that common ground on which to connect.
  8. Follow-up – All these skills and characteristics are great, but if you don’t follow-up on them, then you’re just giving the process lip-service. You team will be able to tell.
  9. Follow-through – This is the flipside to follow-up. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. If not, you’re eroding trust and eventually your project will unravel.
  10. Decisive – A good manager isn’t wishy-washy. It’s hard to decide, of course, and you want to do the due diligence before you act, but once you do be firm.

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg, and you’ll never, no matter how long you work in management, get to the bottom of it. Why would you want to? The discovery and the constantly learning and betterment of your skill set is that intangible which makes for a good manager.

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