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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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