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Monday, November 29, 2021

Lean Roundup #150 –November 2021

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

Five Lean Questions for Rethinking Work - Jon Miller shares five questions for rethinking work from a lean management perspective in post pandemic world.

The Power of Commitment - Bruce Hamilton shares a story with tribute to Mr. Hajime Oba from his early experience with TSSC in 1996.

Henry & Edsel Ford – the Pride & the Sorrow - Pascal Dennis talks about how Detroit answered President Roosevelt’s call for weaponry in WWII.

Leadership Tip 15: Reward Meeting Behavior You Want to See - Johanna Rothman explains how leaders show their power with meeting example.

What’s Lean All About? - Jon Miller shares his thoughts on the meaning and purpose of lean from experience.

Going to Gemba Isn’t Sufficient - Ron Pereira talks about how you can use video to study and improve your processes.

This WSJ Article About Lean Isn’t Terrible (via GE and Larry Culp) - Mark Graban discusses a recent WSJ article about General Electric and CEO Larry Culp (who knows Lean very well from his time as CEO of Danaher).

Ask Art: I Want to Convert My Company to Lean. What Are the First Steps? – Art Byrne explains the commitment you must make— and the expectations you must set—when you start your continuous-improvement journey.

How a Focus on People Accelerated a Lean Transformation - Sharon Visser shares the story of dramatically improved business and operational performance when a car dealership's leaders embraced the lean principle of respect for people.

How to Respond to the ‘Great Resignation’ – Josh Howell says a trip to the gemba reveals an overlooked management strategy that could be the most effective way to keep your employees from quitting their jobs.

Leading in Uncertainty -  Steve Musica shares Dr. Eric Dickson MD lessons in leading a hospital system through the worst of the global pandemic.


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Friday, November 26, 2021

Lean Quote: Thanksgiving is a Time of Togetherness and Gratitude

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.

"Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness and gratitude..  —  Nigel Hamilton

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to reflecting and gratitude for everything we have in life. Around Thanksgiving, many of us pause to reflect on the things, people, and circumstances that make us grateful. Some families even have traditions of sharing gratitude around the Thanksgiving table.

For many people, “thanks-giving” is a tradition that happens around the dinner table once a year. But research suggests that leaders should encourage gratitude in the workplace year-round.

Boost worker engagement and productivity – as well as satisfaction and health – by increasing gratitude in your workplace. Here are 4 ways to help encourage gratitude in the workplace and foster more thanks-giving year-round at work:

1. Be grateful for people, not performance.

Sometimes, gratitude initiatives can feel like old recognition programs warmed over. To avoid this feeling, focus on social worth and think about how people have made a difference. Give thanks for people’s willingness, enthusiasm, commitment, or efforts — not their impact on the bottom line.

2. Customize your thanks-giving.

Practicing gratitude requires thinking about how specific people like to be thanked and tailoring your gratitude accordingly. Thanking a very shy person at the global quarterly meeting might come across more like punishment than recognition.

3. Be specific in your gratitude.

Saying “thanks for being awesome” doesn’t have the same impact as “thank you for always getting to meetings 5 minutes early to set up the projector; I know that our meetings wouldn’t go as well if we didn’t have you.”

4. Don’t fake it.

Authentic leadership and showing vulnerability are key parts of gratitude. If you can’t think of anything you’re truly grateful for, don’t try to fake it. Most people can tell when an expression of thanks isn’t heartfelt, and fake gratitude is probably worse than none at all.

Make Thanksgiving count. This year, let’s be truly grateful and carry that gratitude throughout the holiday season.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Being Thankful this Thanksgiving

Whenever the holiday season comes around, annual traditions and Thanksgiving activities seem to explode. There are family events centered around each special occasion, and Thanksgiving is no exception. However, even though this celebration is so common for American households and we grow up anticipating the turkey, amazing sides (not to mention desserts!), the food coma, and football naps, a lot of us might scratch our heads at the origin story of this beloved holiday.

Thanksgiving is commonly known as a way to commemorate the colonial Pilgrims’ harvest meal that they shared with Wampanoag Indians (who “were key to the survival of the colonists during the first year they arrived in 1620”) in 1621. As years went on, designating feasts dedicated to giving thanks on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well.

Thanksgiving is all about reflecting on blessings and acknowledging gratitude. After all, in President George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, he stated about its purpose: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’”

Thanksgiving has evolved over the years as an important holiday. It is not just about feasting and merrymaking. The tradition of Thanksgiving dinner teaches us to appreciate the finer things in life. It is about showing one's gratitude for the blessings that we are showered with. In all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Thanksgiving, take a moment to focus on what being thankful is all about.

Being thankful for what we already have is probably the most powerful tool of positive thinking. The ability to notice what we already have and to consider ourselves blessed with it truly unlocks the door to abundance and to feeling good.

As we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving in the US, may we vow to live not just this day but every day with a grateful heart and to use our blessings to bless others.

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Monday, November 22, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #180 (Tips #2911 - 2925)

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 #2911 – Don’t Rely on ‘Hunches’ on Your Next Cost Savings Activity

You might think you know what the problem is with your product. You might have a very clear idea about the cost burdens you should address to change its fortunes in the marketplace. But do you have the evidence to back it up? Be determined and systematic in your evidence gathering. Don’t take anything for granted or you may miss your most dramatic and unnecessary cost centers.

Lean Tip #2912 – Cost Savings Is Not a Job For Just One Person or Department

The whole business needs to understand that this is not a job for a single person or even a single team. It may be several years since the way your product is delivered was last analyzed and explored (if at all). There may be subtle ways in which your product is failing to deliver against expectation, or cutting edge opportunities to introduce more efficient materials and processes that require cross-discipline expertise to uncover. Just giving one team the task to deliver on VE objectives is a mistake.

Value Engineering is a powerful tool because it’s an objective, cross-disciplinary tool. It uses the insight around every part of the product cycle from material procurement, product build, and logistics - to make suggestions for intelligent cost reductions and substitutions that will improve value for your customers’ long term. You need to conduct proper VA/VE with an expert internal team to facilitate this.

Lean Tip #2913 – It is Important to Generate Lots of Ideas

The more ideas generated— the better. When it comes to VA/VE, I would much rather have the burden of ranking a ton of ideas as opposed to having too few. Think about it. The process of sharing ideas, good or otherwise, inspires even more ideas. Sowing lots of idea seeds gives you greater potential to harvest great solutions. Increase your odds of success with as many ideas as possible!

Encouraging an abundance of ideas requires coaching in divergent thinking and establishing an open, comfortable environment. Paradigms must be deconstructed, and pet designs neutralized. A climate that encourages productive-free expression and probing questions and eliminates judgement or disapproval should be cultivated. For this part of VA/VE, assemble a group representing nearly every functional area in the business and prepare them with the objective and rules of engagement well before any meeting takes place. If possible, consider priming them with materials to educate them in idea generation and be sure to provide for their comfortable and undistracted participation in the idea-generation meeting.

Lean Tip #2914 – VAVE Is Not About Slash And Burn

Some businesses say they’re implementing Value Engineering but are simply on a slash and burn cost-cutting exercise. In searching for savings they pounce on every opportunity to cut spending, beat up suppliers on cost and substitute materials for cheaper alternatives regardless of the impact on quality. That strategy won’t work long term because it’s not interested in preserving the value of the product for the customer. It is more likely to damage ongoing sales and, ultimately, your reputation as a supplier.

Lean Tip #2915 – Liberate Your Thinking Through Creativity

The purpose of VE is to be imaginative. But the reality is it’s quite difficult to be creative on demand. Don’t forget, that when the technology is complex it can be difficult for non-specialists to understand and contribute to the conversation around potential alternative solutions.

The techniques that Value Engineering uses for creativity - such as Functional Analysis - helps a mixed team look past the technical complexity to quickly grasp the primary function of a product. In other words, what a particular component actually does for a customer. You don’t need to understand exactly how the element achieves this to grasp its function and the value it brings the customer. But equipped with that basic knowledge, a whole team of different disciplines can begin to suggest new ways the function might be fulfilled at a lower cost, in ways possibly never imagined before.

Lean Tip #2916 – Gather Ideas from the People Doing the Work 

In a Lean and continuous improvement organization employees are your greatest asset and should also be the source of generating new ideas for improvement. No one knows the work better than the person who performs it everyday. No one has more “skin in the game” about the working process than that person. As a result, the best person to suggest ideas for improvement and to implement them is the line worker.

Lean Tip #2917 – Prioritize Ideas That Are Inexpensive

By going after the ideas that do not require a large amount of investment, you can remove the financial barriers of your continuous improvement efforts. This process can empower the line worker to suggest and implement ideas that can improve their working process because they know that their changes do not need upper management approval. Some ideas such as reducing waste, eliminating unnecessary steps, and re-organizing in the work processes fall into this category.

Lean Tip #2918 - Focus on Gradual Small Changes Instead of Major Shifts

Focus on small gradual changes rather than large changes. Small changes can be made quickly, on a daily-basis, and are typically inexpensive. By focusing on small changes, you can remove barriers from just starting a continuous improvement process. This focus will allow your team to reap the benefits of their “small wins” right away. As more and more small changes are applied, your team will see an accumulation of benefits from them. This will give them more confidence to suggest more ideas.

Lean Tip #2919 – Apply PDCA for Regular Feedback

An effective continuous improvement program needs continuous measurement and feedback. Before you can start, you need to understand the baselines of your organization’s performance. Only by understanding and establishing a baseline can you evaluate new ideas for improving upon it. One effective way of gathering feedback on your continuous improvement efforts is to apply the Plan-Do-Check-Check (PDCA) cycle. The PDCA cycle allows you to scientifically test your experiments. The cycle ensures continuous improvement by measuring the performance difference between the baseline and target condition. This gives immediate feedback on the effectiveness of the change. If the idea was effective, the next cycle of improvement will start with the new baseline and your goal is to move towards a new target condition.

Lean Tip #2920 – Foster An Environment of Trust, Collaboration, Open Communication, and A Willingness to Experiment

Applying continuous improvement requires participation from everyone in the organization. Upper management needs to invest time and money in employee training and empowerment. Managers need to foster an environment of trust, collaboration, open communication, and a willingness to experiment. And finally, workers need to be engaged in their work and be challenged to come up with small gradual improvements each and every day. By applying these principles, your company will be able to start and sustain your continuous improvement efforts. This will lead to a more economically competitive organization, more efficient work processes, and more satisfied employees.

Lean Tip #2921 - Ensure a Penalty-Free Exchange of Ideas.

In many organizations, expressing one's opinion on how to do things better may not necessarily be a welcomed activity. Management can feel threatened or pressured to act resulting in immediate resistances. And, those expressing ideas may be viewed as complainers or trouble makers. In such an environment, it doesn't take long for the potential risks of making a suggestion to stifle enthusiasm and participation in improvement oriented thinking. Ensuring a penalty-free exchange of ideas is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver of new ideas and approaches and will ensure a safe two way exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Lean Tip #2922 - Encourage Frontline Teams to Identify Improvement Opportunities

From sales to customer service, there are many frontline employees in your workforce who deal with customers on a regular basis. The conversations they have with your target audience can help them identify potential pain points or opportunities for improvement.

Encourage these teams to share this information with you so they feel like their involvement in continuous improvement is making a difference.

Lean Tip #2923 - Integrate Shared Accountability.

As a team, identify the focus of the work and the opportunities for improvement. Share the responsibilities and the work among team members. It might be surprising that the more responsibility a team member is given, the more motivated they may become.

Lean Tip #2924 - Enforce Improvements

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

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

Lean Tip #2925 - Standardize Work for Sustainment

In order for improvements to last, they must be standardized and repeatable. Standardizing work is crucial to kaizen because it creates a baseline for improvement. When you make improvements to a process, it’s essential to document the new standard work in order to sustain the improvements and create a new baseline. Standard work also reduces variability in processes and promotes discipline, which is essential for continuous improvement efforts to take root.

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Friday, November 19, 2021

Lean Quote: Gratitude Can Transform Your Workplace

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.

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.  —  Melody Beattie

Researchers define appreciation as the act of acknowledging the goodness in life—in other words, seeing the positives in events, experiences, or other people (like our colleagues). Gratitude goes a step further: It recognizes how the positive things in our lives—like a success at work—are often due to forces outside of ourselves, particularly the efforts of other people. But this kind of thinking can seem countercultural in the realm of hierarchies and promotions, where everyone is trying to get ahead and may be reluctant to acknowledge their reliance on—or express emotions to—their co-workers.

Yet evidence suggests that gratitude and appreciation contribute to the kind of workplace environments where employees actually want to come to work and don’t feel like cogs in a machine.

Expressing and receiving gratitude at work is crucial to creating a positive employee experience because it provides an atmosphere of care, warmth and empathy. It also helps individuals exchange expressions of gratitude — and people feel more engaged with their work after receiving expressions of gratitude for helping others. Here is a list of ways to express gratitude at work that are sure to help you create a positive employee experience.

1. Build a culture of trust

Trust plays a significant role in employees having gratitude at work. Employees need to know the organization has their best interests in mind. A supportive, honest and safe work environment is directly linked to the level of respect and loyalty employees have for their peers and the company.

2. Spark innovation

The best ideas are cultivated in an open, collaborative and meaningful exchange. Create a workplace environment that makes sharing new ideas not only accepted, but also encouraged and supported. Showing employees that their opinions and ideas are valued instills courage and confidence that opens doors to creative thinking, expressing new ideas and exploring curiosities.

3. Inspire and motivate

Creating support networks and connecting employees across business groups gives them a way to maintain motivation in the workplace.  Employee Resource Groups help them find like-minded people they can turn to when they need a jolt of support or inspiration, and tools like the Limeade platform create a digital space for employees to cheer each other on and show gratitude for one another.

4. Help prevent burnout

Expressions of gratitude at work — such as implementing “no meeting” days, encouraging employees to take breaks throughout the day and helping them to better understand their purpose at work — improve employee engagement. It also helps them manage stress without succumbing to symptoms of workplace burnout. When employees have high well-being and feel supported by their organization, it’s a win for everyone.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Thank Your Employees this Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a time when everyone comes together to enjoy each others company, relish turkey and give thanks for the good things in life. And it’s that sweet spot of the holiday season — just between Halloween and Christmas, where you might be planning to spend time with your loved ones while munching on those pumpkin pies.

Thanksgiving and the spirit of celebrations don’t have to be limited to our time outside the office. In fact, it is an ideal occasion for employers to show their appreciation and say ‘thanks’ to employees for their contribution at work. It’s an opportunity to go an extra mile to shower them with some love and encouraging words. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to appreciate the people around you.

Here are four great ways to show your employees how grateful you are to have them, just in time for the Thanksgiving holidays.

1. Have an office meal: Who doesn't love a healthy helping of some good food? Thanksgiving is a great time to try and get all your employees in one place for an office meal.

2. The gift of time: Look to the thing many employees value most: time off. When it comes to the holidays, an extra day to prep is always appreciated. If your company can afford to grant this gift to your employees, give it a shot.

3. Appreciate their work: Nothing inspires people more than knowing their worth. A well-crafted compliment can be better than even the most expensive gift. Your praise can work to kill two birds with one stone. Give your employees the gift of gratitude while also motivating them to produce better work. Sounds like a win-win gift to us.

4. Thank-you wall: When words aren't enough, showcase your creative side. This public display of appreciation is a great way to acknowledge how everyone's good work contributes to a stellar company. Leave your workers with a positive feeling about their efforts before they head off for their holiday travels.

We often forget to thank people for their hard work but this Thanksgiving, let’s thank the ones who deserve it the most — EMPLOYEES! 

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Monday, November 15, 2021

The Positive Impact of Giving Thanks

Approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, many people take time to give thanks for what they have.  This is a good time to remind employers of the positive impact “giving thanks” has on their employees, work environments and their organizations’ cultures.

Understandably, employees feel more positive and happy when their efforts and hard work are recognized by their employers. That happiness can increase mental health for employees, and carry over into employees’ home lives and interactions with others. The benefits do not end there. The benefits extend to the workplaces, and lead to more productive, motivated and engaged workforces, resulting in more positive and effective work environments and cultures.

Over the years, Gallup research has consistently shown that when employees are regularly given credit for their contributions, and shown appreciation for their efforts (even non-monetary): (1) their productivity is increased; (2) they feel a greater commitment to the work they are performing; (3) they have higher job satisfaction; and (4) they are more loyal to their employers and more likely to stay with the organization. In addition, recognizing employees fosters an atmosphere of trust in the workplace. A high percentage of employees who regularly receive recognition and thanks from their supervisors report that they have higher levels of trust in those supervisors and, in turn, the organizations.

Conversely, lack of acknowledgment of a job well done, or dismissing an employee’s work, has significant negative consequences. Employees who feel undervalued are not going to work as hard as they can, are oftentimes disgruntled, generally have more performance and attendance issues, and may eventually look to leave the organization for better employment opportunities causing turnover and associated recruitment/employee replacement costs. Further, those undervalued employees may be more likely to seek assistance from a third party, such as a union, to get the recognition and rewards they feel are lacking.

Showing appreciation to employees begins with simple acts, such as personally thanking employees and treating them with respect. Be specific! The goal is that employees realize the thanks and appreciation are genuine and know that their employers are paying attention to their individual work and efforts. This also serves as a positive reinforcement of the employees’ specific work behaviors. Other ways for employers to show appreciation to employees are: recognizing an employee’s good work in a meeting; planning periodic social activities (e.g., ordering in lunch, a holiday party); and providing training/progression/promotion opportunities. Employers may also consider implementing formal reward and recognition programs to facilitate sustained employee appreciation. There are numerous other ways for employers to demonstrate their appreciation to employees, ranging from low-cost actions (i.e., formal employee recognition letters) to those actions and programs that have a more significant financial impact on the organizations (i.e., annual bonus programs).

Regardless of the method used to show appreciation, employers should remember that to positively impact employee engagement, motivation, productivity and retention, the “thanks-giving” should be regular, timely, sincere, applied equally and consistently throughout the organization, and tied to employee performance.

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