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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Lean Roundup #151 –December 2021

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

Ask Art: How is Traditional Management Different from Lean Management? – Art Byrne discusses how Lean management differs from traditional management in delivering value to customers.

Continuous Improvement of Learning and Development – Jon Miller talks about learning and development in continuous improvement.

You’re My #1 Customer – Bruce Hamilton talks about superficial improvements that automate the waste of waiting rather than eliminating it.

Lean/TPS in the Public Service – Part 2 – What are the Obstacles? And Lean/TPS in the Public Service – Part 3 – Obstacles & Countermeasures? – Pascal Dennis discusses the obstacles and the countermeasures for adopting lean thinking in government.

How to Think About Breakthrough Objectives – Jon Miller suggests that breakthroughs should aim to address muri and mura, rather than muda directly.

Practice Congruence to Create an Effective Culture – Johanna Rothman discusses the role congruence plays in your culture.

Respect for People: Making the Job Easier for Workers - David Drickhamer talks about Lean practices and respect for people in construction industry with Turner Construction.

Ask Art: How Do You Create a Lean Culture? – Art Byrne discusses the entire process of Lean culture from his experience at Wiremold.


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Friday, December 24, 2021

Top 10 Lean Quotes from 2021

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 cannot improve.

10. "Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go."   —  Unknown

9. "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

8. "You get what you expect and you deserve what you tolerate."   —  Mark Graban

7. "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

6. "What do you think?"   —  Tom Peters

5. "The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you're not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special."   —  Bill Taylor, from article "Do You Pass the Leadership Test?"

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

3. "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

2. "No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it."   —  Andrew Carnegie

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

These are the top 10 quotes on A Lean Journey website in 2021.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Top 10 Lean Tips From 2021

As 2021 comes to an end and we look toward 2022 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

Lean Tip #2707 – Leadership Credibility is Critical for Employee Buy In

Most sustainable business transformations start at the top and trickle down. It’s impossible to promote a culture of continuous change if managers doubt the benefits of organizational changes. Meet with your leaders early on to explain key points of the proposed changes. Gaining support from leaders at different levels in the organization will make your plan stronger and ensure managers have time to prepare for questions that may arise throughout the process.

The credibility of your leader is crucial in getting people to buy in on the change. Their words must be backed up with actions, and those actions and support should be visible to your entire operation. This ensures a strong and visible network of leaders to generate momentum for the process improvement initiatives.

Lean Tip #2733 – Don't Set and Forget Goals

Goals aren’t crockpots. You can’t just set ‘em and forget ‘em. Goals, like our favorite recipes, take time to develop. Because of this, individual and team goals shouldn’t only be discussed once a year.

Managers and employees should make a point to discuss, examine, and adjust goals year-round. I recommend discussing goals and their progress at least quarterly—though monthly is better.

Creating, communicating, and aligning goals across the organization is the best way to build a successful performance management process. When employees, managers, and teams feel connected to the company’s vision for success, they will be successful too.

Lean Tips #2750 - Commit to Continuous Learning

Make a commitment to improve your own skills and competencies. If you’re not continuously learning, why should your employees? Lead by example and your team will follow.

Show that you are interested in their success (why wouldn’t you be?). Ask questions about where they see their career going, or how they see their role evolving in the company. Even if they don’t have a plan laid out yet, these questions will make them think about their career and what they want to accomplish within the organization. 

Show your employees that you don’t just want them to do better so you look better, but that you’re actively interested in their career, accomplishments, and professional success.

Lean Tip #2760 – Be Flexible Enough to Change Your Mind and Drop Priorities

As you prioritize, it’s important to remember to be flexible. No one knows what the future holds. And ultimately, prioritizing and planning is really just guessing.

Sometimes you might prioritize a task only to have expectations or deliverables change on you. At this point it’s hard not to be disappointed. But you can’t let that skew your judgment.

Humans are especially susceptible to the “sunk cost fallacy”—a psychological effect where we feel compelled to continue doing something just because we’ve already put time and effort into it.

But the reality is that no matter what you spend your time doing, you can never get that time back. And any time spent continuing to work towards the wrong priority is just wasted time.

Sometimes our effort is better used switching boats than trying to fix a leak.

Lean Tip #2774 - Welcome New Ideas and Approaches

Most managers are cautious when taking risks and trying new methods and approaches. After all, if anything doesn’t pan out then they’re on the hook. However, welcoming and trying new ideas and approaches is a huge part of being a good manager.

You have to take controlled risks so the company can grow. The most successful companies have managers who are flexible, open to change, can adapt to change and are interested to hear new ideas.

Don’t forget that some of the best ideas out there may very well lie with your employees! After all, they’re in the thick of it each and every day so they usually have great ideas when it comes to improvements or innovations – and it’s important that you listen. By listening to your employees’ ideas, you help employee retention from going south.

Lean Tip #2805 – It’s About Learning, Not Lecturing

Employees are tired of being told what to do.   They are eager to learn and remain relevant.   But they find it difficult to be inspired by leaders who only inflict fear.    In today’s fast-paced world, people don’t have time for lectures; they want continuous coaching and leaders that are paying attention.  Eager to grow, they want objective feedback.

Simplify the process.  Don’t exhaust your employees through complexity and buzz-words.    People seek direction that is too the point.  Remember, most people have mastered the art of execution.  Let your employee do their jobs well by providing the right tools and support to make them better at carrying out their roles & responsibilities.  Be a great teacher, but quickly shift into facilitator mode.   People are inspired when given the opportunity to learn how to do new things. Stop lecturing and start teaching.

Lean Tip #2844 – Employees Should Take the First Step…

Once the key areas of focus have been outlined for your staff, ask your employees to identify the ways in which they will each support the mission.  When employees set their own measures, it involves them in the process and lets them set the bar for their performance.  Further, by taking the first step in setting their own performance goals, employees can make a direct link between their efforts and how they contribute to the organization’s success.

Of course, you will likely want to assign additional measures to the employee, but if you simply assign all measures to the employee, you are eliminating them from the process.  Personalized goals can have a powerful effect on things like accountability and morale – they created them, they own them!

Lean Tip #2892 – Use Employee Feedback as a Springboard for Change

Employees will feel more excited about change if they have a say in it and it stems from what they want and what they have requested. To prevent employees from seeing an initiative as “change for the sake of change”, take the time to highlight where the change originated. If it is the result of employee feedback, employees will feel involved —and more inclined to share their input in future.

Effective organizational change can result from employee feedback — your employees are a goldmine of information. Don’t just ask for feedback once a year. Make sure the exchange of information is frequent and let your employees know their opinions are always welcome. Your reassurance will create a positive cycle of feedback, review, change, implementation and further feedback. Remember, feedback throughout the change is important — you need to know how your employees are adjusting and how you can help them embrace change.

Lean Tip #2906 – Be Simple but Creative in your Solution

Building a simple solution does not mean trivializing the problem which you are looking to solve. The majority of the time, complex solutions are devised for a problem if the above points i.e. understanding the right problem, understanding the fundamentals of the problem, articulating the problem and focusing on the root cause, are not considered.

Give your brain a break, try to baseline your thoughts and stop when you have understood the problem and fundamentals behind it. It is always best to de-clutter your brain and then subsequently attack and approach the problem efficiently. Take a break, then recap and work on a simple solution to the right problem you are looking to solve.

Be creative in your problem solving. This has got nothing to do with how much creative ability you have, it’s basically about thinking of solutions from a different perspective rather than a perspective with which the problem you are looking to solve was built or on how the problem came into existence. This is quite an important message and is highlighted in one of my favorite quotes from Einstein.

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.

These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2022. What advice would you share for the New Year?

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Monday, December 20, 2021

Lean Tips Edition #181 (Tips #2926 - 2940)

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 #2926 – Celebrate Failures

A colleague of mine used to say, “problems are treasures.” That is the mentality you need to celebrate failures and red dots. They are treasures because they provide the opportunity to improve the standards and processes you have in place. When you seek perfection, no defect is acceptable.

When a problem occurs front line staff should not only be encouraged to bring it up, but they must be given an outlet to do so. Leaders must remember to not place blame but should foster a safe environment that encourages PDSA thinking.

Lean Tip #2927 - Share More, Not Less.

Even in a small company, silos emerge. A policy of more sharing will help everyone stay in touch with what others are doing, and create a collective expectation. Keeping everyone pointed in the same direction is hard; sharing more about what’s going on, how you’re doing things, reasoning behind decisions, etc. will help.

Lean Tip #2928 - Don’t Be Afraid to Ask “Why”

So many people are afraid of the question “why.” Does that sound like you? Stop being afraid, there is nothing wrong with asking why. By asking why you will be able to discover what the base of the task is that you want to accomplish will help you understand it better.

By understanding why something needs to be done, your chances of completing the task from start to finish will increase. Also, you should also consider the fact that by asking “why” and learning the reason behind it, you will be adding to your knowledge.

Lean Tip #2929 - Make Improvement Easy

If you want to build a strong continuous improvement culture, then it’s vital to make it easy for your employees. Turning actions into habits means they need to happen seamlessly and that requires the removal of any potential barriers. Lack of time and resources are two of the most frequent challenges so managers need to address them early on. Create a process that’s quick to follow by keeping it as simple as possible. Support employees with the tools they need to make suggestions, track the progress of ideas, and even execute improvement projects themselves. Using a software platform is an easy way to do this since it integrates the entire improvement process into one tool (along with management systems to track results). 

Lean Tip #2930 - Focus on Execution

Focusing on execution is one of the quickest ways to develop a culture of continuous improvement. Many companies get bogged down by processes and have long reviews which lead to bottlenecks and delays. This causes frustration for everyone involved and means that people lose faith in the concept. Organizations with a strong improvement culture do something different – they focus on execution. They take a lean management approach by simplifying processes and speeding up the workflow. Businesses like this are able to implement the vast majority of ideas which builds confidence in the philosophy until it eventually develops into a company-wide culture. Even bad ideas will usually highlight a good improvement opportunity so act on suggestions quickly to build momentum.

Lean Tip #2931 – Look Outward, Not Inward.

People are more likely to feel grateful when they put their focus on others, rather than getting caught up in their own inner narratives about how things should have gone. Empathy for others can trigger a sense of gratitude, and people who have an outward focus tend to experience stronger benefits.

Lean Tip #2932 – Savor The Good Moments.

If you notice you’re feeling happy, stop what you’re doing and pay attention for a few minutes. Notice exactly how you feel, including the sensations in your body and the thoughts you’re having. Later, when you’re trying to inspire gratitude, you can remember this moment and experience the benefits all over again. 

Lean Tip #2933 – Celebrate The Small Wins.

It sounds simple, but celebrating small wins at work is a great way to practice gratitude. Celebrating small wins increases productivity by activating the reward portion of the brain. This leads to feelings of pride, happiness and accomplishment. It also makes us want to press on and achieve our next goal.

Celebrating small wins and activating the reward portion of your brain can be as easy as crossing something off your to do list. If you have a big project or assignment to work on, try breaking it down into smaller portions. As you complete each portion, celebrate the small win of getting one step closer to completing the bigger project.

Lean Tip #2934 – Notice More.

Taking some time to reflect on how you see the world and your place in it will give you the opportunity to see what you may not have noticed before. Unfortunately, we often don’t appreciate our blessings or opportunities until we no longer have them. Just taking time to notice what you have should improve your gratitude in the moment.

Lean Tip #2935 – Make Gratitude A Choice, Not A Reaction

Try not to wait for good things to happen to demonstrate your gratitude. Think of gratitude as your underlying foundation; operate from a place of being thankful, even without an outside prompt or motive.

When life doesn’t go quite the way we envisioned it, we can fall into a pattern of self-pity and lament. We begin to view our circumstances as a curse or a trap, rather than remembering the many things around us that we can be grateful for. Shift your focus to the hidden opportunity in every situation you perceive to be negative.

Lean Tip #2936 – Encourage Creativity

Intellectual stimulation is one of the leadership qualities that define transformational leadership. Followers need to be encouraged to express their creativity. Effective leaders should offer new challenges with ample support to achieve these goals.

One way to foster creativity is to offer challenges to group members, making sure that the goals are within the grasp of their abilities. The purpose of this type of exercise is to get people to stretch their limits but not become discouraged by barriers to success.

Lean Tip #2937 – Encourage People to Make Contributions

Let the members of your team know that you welcome their ideas. Leaders who encourage involvement from group members are often referred to as democratic or participative leaders. While they retain the final say over all decisions, they encourage team members to take an active role in coming up with ideas and plans.

Lean Tip #2938 – Keep Trying New Things

Who says leadership is a one-way relationship? As you work toward developing some of these leadership qualities, don't forget to look to your followers for feedback and inspiration. Pay attention to the things that have been effective in the past and always be on the lookout for new ways to inspire, motivate, and reward group members.

Lean Tip #2939 – Have a Positive Attitude

Transformational leaders have an upbeat, optimistic attitude that serves as a source of inspiration for followers. If leaders seem discouraged or apathetic, members of the group are likely to also become uninspired.

Even when things look bleak and your followers start to feel disheartened, try to stay positive. This does not mean viewing things through rose-colored glasses. It simply means maintaining a sense of optimism and hope in the face of challenges.

Lean Tip #2940 – Serve as a Role Model

Transformational leaders exemplify the behaviors and characteristics that they encourage in their followers. They walk the walk and talk the talk. As a result, group members admire these leaders and work to emulate these behaviors.

Research suggests that leaders are able to foster a specific belief and then transmit that inspiration to their followers.

 As a result, followers are optimistic and have high standards for performance and achievement.

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Friday, December 17, 2021

Lean Quote: No Replacement For Family Time

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.

"No amount of money or success can take the place of time spent with your family.  —  Unknown

Modern life is more fast-paced than ever, and we’ve all got a lot of day to day demands on our time. From work stresses to parental responsibilities, finance worries and important calendar dates, we could all definitely use a break every once in a while!

The holidays are the perfect time to gather with loved ones-- sharing stories that ignite laughter and good cheer. Engaging in these precious moments with family and friends is not only enjoyable, it’s also beneficial to your health.

Family time offers many benefits, including building confidence, creating a stronger emotional bond between family members, improving communication skills, better performance in school and reduced behavioral issues, as well as providing an opportunity to make memories built on fun, laughter and togetherness.

No matter how you choose to unwind, it will be difficult to do if you are still thinking about work even when you’re out of the office. The first thing you should do as you step out of the office is to turn your work phone off. Avoid bringing work home with you. You deserve to save some time for yourself and your family after putting in most of your energy for the day into the office.

One of the most important benefits of spending time together is also one of the simplest: creating memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it's playing a game together, attending an event, going on vacation or just sitting in the living room or around the table talking and laughing, positive memories are beloved possessions that give family members a sense of belonging and can help reinforce the importance of family.

Prioritizing family over other obligations is an important element of finding quality time together as a family. This may mean establishing work boundaries and taking time away from technology. But, protecting your family time will help keep your priorities straight and will ensure a happier, better-adjusted family.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Top 10 Posts from 2021

The end of the year is traditionally a time to look back and reflect. One way to reflect is to evaluate popular blog posts. I have been taking time to reflect on the year that was and as part of that reflection I have flipped back through the 150 blog posts I have written so far this year and compiled a list of my Top 10.

10. Obeya: The Lean War Room - Obeya rooms provide big gains in both collaboration and problem solving, two features that are essential in project management.

9. The Power of Reflection In The Workplace - Reflection is fundamental to our growth and development, especially in developing higher mental functions such as problem solving and decision-making skills

8. 10 Traits All Great Leaders Possess - Collection of characteristics from great leaders in business, sports, politics, and the military.

7. Five Ways You’re Stifling Employee Engagement - Top reasons why employees are not motivated to contribute their best efforts at work. 

6. The Benefits of Lean Visual Project Management - Why you need to be using visual project management techniques over traditional project management tools.

5. 7 Tell-Tale Signs of Leadership Mismanagement - Take notice of the signs of a bad company culture (mismanagement).

4. Using the Gemba Walk to Learn and Engage - The gemba walk is a management process to learn more about the actual condition and to engage with employees on continuous improvement.

3. What Makes A Great Team? - Build a great team that will work together and produce results with these 9 surefire characteristics and attributes.

2. Six Practical Tips for Developing an Engaged Workforce - Use these six tips to help you develop an engaged workforce in your company..

1. The Foundation and Principles of Lean Thinking - The principles, rules-in-use, and foundations of Lean establish a process for everyone to contribute at or near their full potential.

What were some of your favorite Lean posts from 2021? Any recommendations for next year?

Thanks for your continued readership in 2021. I hope you enjoy the holiday season and go on to achieve Lean success in 2022.

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Monday, December 13, 2021

10 Reasons for Unnecessary Costs that Lead to Poor Value

There is little doubt that engineers and designers are well aware of the need to minimize cost, and in most instances, they are anxious to receive and use better cost information. However, there are other reasons why unnecessary cost occurs in the products they are specifying.

The most frequent reasons unnecessary cost is found in a product or system will normally fall into one or more of the following categories:

Lack of an Idea: Unnecessary cost can be built into a product or service  simply because of our failure to utilize creative ability in developing alternative solutions. In many cases, we accept the first workable solution that comes to mind.

Lack of Time: Speed to market demands often produce short product development cycles. Aggressive deadlines can sometimes prevent the optimum design from emerging. Decisions we are forced to make, perhaps due to an urgent delivery, or tight design, or product schedule, can force us to initiate a temporary circumstance or satisfy a requirement without regard to cost. Many times, these temporary measures become a fixed part of our product or service, resulting in unnecessary costs year after year.

Lack of Information: Lack of information on exactly what function we are trying to perform. Lack of information regarding what the customer wants or needs. Lack of information on new materials, products, or processes. Lack of cost information or what is necessary cost that is needed to generate a profit.

Reluctance to Seek Advice: Some people are not willing or able to look beyond the current horizon and are reluctant to seek or ask questions, feeling embarrassed or inadequate if they admit they do not know something. This often drives the inability to utilize new technologies and materials. The “Not Invented Here” syndrome does not allow people to tap into ideas from other outside sources.

Temporary Circumstances  or Emergencies: Most companies are faced with emergency measures at some time when a material, machine or supplier readily available is accepted as a temporary solution regardless of cost and continues in use after the emergency has been overcome.

Honest Wrong Belief: Unnecessary costs are often caused by decisions made on what is believed to be true, and not on the facts. We let ourselves believe that there is a good reason why we should not do something: The tools are too expensive; a particular material is not good to work with; that plastic is brittle. “Honest Wrong Beliefs” can stop a good idea that may provide a more economical product or service.

Habits or Inertial Thinking: Doing things almost by rote, each time a similar problem occurs that has been addressed before. We must face the fact that some of our habits need review. We must recognize that old habits can be changed, that new habits can be developed, and more importantly, if we are to eliminate the unnecessary costs, we will have to base our business decisions on fact and not on our habits and attitudes.

Negative Attitudes: Failure to recognize creativity or innovation.

Obsolete Specifications: Some specifications used today are outdated. Testing specifications, codes, material specifications, and specification from previous projects are used unquestioningly.

Poor Human Relations: Lack of good communication, misunderstanding, interpersonal relations between people are a frequent source of unnecessary costs.

These reasons for unnecessary cost probably apply to most aspects of human activity. They will and do occur in well-organized companies having skilled management and technical staff, and do not necessarily reflect on any one individual or group of individuals.

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