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Monday, January 31, 2022

Lean Roundup #152 – January 2022

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of January 2022.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Lean Lessons from COVID – Bruce Hamilton shares is thoughts on the lessons learned from the past couple of years dealing with COVID.

Lean and the Martial Arts – Pascal Dennis explains the single most important quality in Lean (and the martial arts) is tenacity, which great senseis, and great organizations have in spades.

Encourage Management Collaboration to Integrate Leading and Serving Others – Johanna Rothman says when you focus on management collaboration, you integrate leadership and serving and you can reduce management decision time.

“Do” or “Responsible”? – Joe Ely change your view of your job by answering not what you do but what you are responsible for.

Crafting Your Continuous Improvement Strategy – John Knotts shares a general framework he recommends you follow to build a culture of continuous improvement.

Building A Culture Of Continuous Improvement Part Two – Steve Kane says without the proper organizational structure, you will constantly be fighting an uphill battle to build this type of culture.

Continuously Lubricating Processes – Kevin Meyer explains there are processes that need to be maintained daily to be most effective.

How to Let Small Things Bother You – Jon Miller says you can raise awareness of near-misses from hiyari hatto, seeing or feeling something unsafe almost happened.

Telling People to Be Courageous vs. Making it Safe to Speak Up – Mark Graban shares that instead of focusing on those who are speaking up (such as labeling them as “uncourageous”), leaders need to think about their role in shaping a culture of psychological safety.

Ask Art: Why Are the Four Lean Fundamentals So Important for Making a Conversion to Lean? - Art Byrne reviews the core lean elements reveals how — and why — lean management leads to higher enterprise performance.

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Friday, January 28, 2022

Lean Quote: True Mastery Comes Full Commitment

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.

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.  —  Albert Einstein

Without commitment, success is just but a far away dream. It is the force originating from within you that seeks to bring out the potential in you and drive you to your destiny. It is the desire of many to achieve success but a determined person is never satisfied until he gets what he is after. Commitment is what motivates one to strive and work hard towards success; therefore without it one tends to walk blindly and without purpose.

Commitment is demonstrated by a combination of two actions. The first action is called supporting. The second action underlying commitment is called improving. It is the combination of both supporting and improving behaviors that makes up the practice of commitment. Company leaders demonstrate their commitment to change and improvement by making these behaviors visible to everyone. Leading by example is the ultimate demonstration of your commitment.

When you make a commitment to do something, you are saying that they can trust you and rely on you. Commitments are involved in trust, and trust is the foundation of continuous improvement. Commitments are things that you say you will do and people trust you to do. When you fulfill those commitments, people trust you and will trust you in the future. Managers that do not follow through on commitments are not deemed as trustworthy, and trust is vital for transforming a business culture.

The best way to build commitment is by involving people. This way they will have a sense of ownership. By involving your frontline teams in selecting the project that they believe will make a difference, you’ll build ownership, engagement, and have their commitment.

Lean doesn’t work unless everyone is involved and has input. We must involve employees in the continuous improvement process because the people actually carrying out the job know how to do that job better. The best companies in the world tap the creativity and talent of the whole organization and not just a select few.

The lack of ongoing employee involvement at the shop-floor level has been identified as a major reason for the non-sustainability of Lean in the organization. When there is a lack of staff involvement, and management fails to seek employee input on critical decisions, employees may feel dejected and detached from the organization.

Employee involvement cultivates an atmosphere of collaboration, increases retention of talented staff, and intensifies dedication and commitment. Employees develop a sense of ownership over proposed changes when they are involved.  Employee engagement can not only make a real difference, it can set the great organizations apart from the merely good ones.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Lean Tips Edition #182 (#2941-#2955)

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 #2941 - Focus on One Goal at a Time

Achieving even one small goal can boost your belief in yourself. For larger goals, consider breaking them apart into manageable chunks to work on one at a time. The American Psychological Association (APA) also suggests focusing on just one behavior at a time is more likely to lead to long-term success.

Taking on too much all at once can be daunting. It can be particularly difficult because establishing new behavioral patterns takes time and sustained effort. Focusing yourself on one specific goal makes keeping a resolution much more achievable.

Lean Tip #2942 - Make a Detailed Plan

Creating a detailed written plan can help you stick to your goal. Why is this stage so critical for success? For one thing, it allows you to consider what tactics you will use when you're faced with challenges. When things get difficult, what strategies will you use to stay on the path toward making your resolution a reality?

If you start working toward a goal without any type of plan in place, you may quickly find yourself giving up when faced with any sort of obstacle, setback, or resistance.

Lean Tip #2943 - Start With Small Steps

Taking on too much too quickly is a common reason why so many New Year's resolutions fail. Starting an unsustainably restrictive diet, overdoing it at the gym, or radically altering your normal behavior are surefire ways to derail your plans. Instead, focus on taking tiny steps that will ultimately help you reach your larger goal.

While it may seem like a slow start, these small incremental changes make it easier to stick to your new healthy habits and increase the likelihood of long-term success.

Lean Tip #2944 - Remember That Change Is a Process

Those unhealthy or undesired habits that you are trying to change probably took years to develop, so how can you expect to change them in just a matter of days, weeks, or months? Be patient with yourself. Understand that working toward your resolution is a process. Even if you make a misstep or two, you can restart and continue on your journey towards your goal.

It may take longer than you would like to achieve your goals, but remember that this is not a race to the finish. Once you have made the commitment to changing a behavior, it may be something that you continue to work on for the rest of your life.

Lean Tip #2945 - Learn and Adapt

Encountering a setback is one of the most common reasons why people give up on their New Year's resolutions. If you suddenly relapse into a bad habit, don't view it as a failure. The path toward your goal is not always a straight one, and there will often be challenges along the way.7 Instead, view relapses as learning opportunities.

If you are keeping a resolution journal, write down important information about when the relapse occurred, what might have triggered it, and what you might do differently next time. By understanding the challenges you face, you will be better prepared to deal with them in the future.

Lean Tip #2946 – Optimize Everyday Operations

Many companies are never able to grow because they spend all of their energy fixing broken processes. While addressing bottlenecks and other problems is an important part of process improvement, a more productive approach is to evaluate procedures that are not broken. Sometimes this can be achieved by making an adjustment that is as small as a minor tweak to the order entry process.

Lean Tip #2947 – Tie Process Improvement to Key Objectives

Your employees need to see the connection between their efforts to improve processes and your company’s mission. By linking process improvement strategies to organizational goals, you will be more apt to earn the support of employees across the board.

Lean Tip #2948 – Focus on Long-Term Success

The most successful process improvement initiatives value future solutions over short-term fixes. You should expect to encounter obstacles as you focus on process improvement and strive to maintain a positive attitude towards process improvement.  Success requires patience and a long-term commitment to documenting strategies and outcomes from start to finish. This allows you to review your execution in detail to determine when and where a process faltered.

Lean Tip #2949 – Prioritize the Customer

Any process creating pain for your customers must be addressed first. When outlining a solution, think about how the changes will improve the customer experience. To identify these factors, perform customer interviews, and dig into your company’s customer data such as analyzing how often clients perform subsequent purchases and customer churn rate.

Incorporate and prioritize the needs of your customers as part of any process improvement project. From deciding which procedure to improve first to the solution itself, consider the impact to your customers.

Lean Tip #2950 – Make Improvement a Team Sport

The most successful process improvement efforts are built on collaboration. Involve your whole organization in capturing processes, reviewing existing ones and constantly finding ways to improve the way they work. Part of the process champion’s job is to make sure everyone feels heard.

Involve people in setting targets, and constantly evaluate your progress against those. Appreciation motivates and inspires, so share the results in public forums like team meetings and company-wide intranet announcements.

Lean Tip #2951 – Motivate the People and Stay Resilient

Leaders must motivate the individuals around them. Even during rough days or weeks, they must stay focused and positive. A leader that exhibits resiliency and a sense of purpose will impact the teams’ spirit and work ethic. This effectively sets the example that even through difficult times, you can successfully navigate the situation without having the issues affect your work or attitude.

Lean Tip #2952 – Take the Blame and Work Through It Together

One of the biggest things to remember is that as a leader it all starts with you and all stops with you. It doesn’t matter who made the mistake on the team—it should be seen as a collective mistake that the team works through together. Leaders should be the problem fixers and show their team that they are not on a lone island and there is someone to support them. This method of problem solving also provides training opportunities, allowing the leader to expand on best practices and tips so that the same mistake can be avoided in the future.

Lean Tip #2953 – Focus on Small Wins Daily

Servant leadership is a mentality. It’s like having a kind of tunnel vision and being able to navigate through the noise and fire throughout the day. One way to do this is by taking the time to focus on the small tasks at hand. Write down daily goals, and when you accomplish an item, scratch it off. This will make you feel successful and help you realize that each small achievement is going to benefit someone, whether that is a team member, partner, or fellow manager. Everything a leader does set an example for the team and provides an opportunity to better support them. Having daily goals is about small wins to keep you motivated.

Lean Tip #2954 – Be Able to Conceptualize.

Servant leaders are big-picture thinkers. They inspire their team to think beyond the day-to-day grind, beyond the immediate issues in front of them. Traditional leaders are fixated on short-term or immediate goals. Servant leaders look beyond numbers and goal posts, thinking of what their team needs to do to accomplish everything, not just the one thing in front of them. They help their team get the training and tools they’ll need not just for today, but for next year and on. 

Lean Tip #2955 – Commit to Building Up People.

Servant leaders understand their most important resource and concern is people. They are committed to the growth and well-being of their team, thinking first of them instead of themselves. This means that training opportunities, promotions, growth—these are given to the team instead of to self. As a servant leader, there is no fear that the people on your team will surpass you. You aren’t trying to protect your own place in the world. You aren’t keeping the best opportunities for yourself.

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Monday, January 24, 2022

6 Characteristics of Inclusive Leaders

The world is changing. And in turn, what organizations need from leaders is changing.

Only 31% of employees believe their leaders are inclusive. That is, less than a third of employees believe their leaders see, value, and respect them as a whole person.

Most leaders and managers don’t set out intending to exclude others. Yet, in the course of pursuing a goal and relying on sometimes outmoded beliefs about leadership, they fail to get the best out of their teams. Worse, they might not even realize it.

Inclusive leaders are one step ahead of the game. They know how to take advantage of each opportunity, adequately use the skills of their team members, and leverage the competitive advantages available to them.

When we think of inclusivity in organizations, things like race, gender, orientation, ethnicity, equal pay, and other characteristics or issues come up. Leaders focused on real inclusion are thinking global; not only do they facilitate diversity and inclusion, they understand the bigger picture of why diversity and inclusion are important to long-term business success.

But what specific characteristics allow them to be successful? According to Deloitte’s report, The six signature traits of inclusive leadership, the following characteristics of inclusion set these leaders ahead of others:


Making a commitment to diversity and inclusion isn’t the easy path; these leaders are resolute because of the business case for diversity and the tie to their personal values.


An inclusive leader is not afraid to challenge those around him or her to improve the status quo. Speaking up and questioning what’s normal and commonly accepted in the organization, as well as in his or her mind, allows the leader to courageously lead the change.


A critical trait is self-awareness. Organizations and people alike have blind spots and bias, but a leader who is truly inclusive works to recognize those problems and remedy them through policies to ensure decisions are the result of fair, logical consideration of the facts.


Due to experience, an inclusive leader knows that a variety of ideas and experiences allows for different perspectives. He or she is not afraid of different ideas or experiences, using them to enable both personal growth and successful organizational growth. This leader is willing to keep their mind open to new things while actively seeking out how others see the world differently.


Each person views business challenges and the world differently, dependent upon their culture. Leaders focused on inclusion see that these cultural frames are helpful and are unafraid to cross cultures, while recognizing the impact their own culture has on interactions.


Deloitte’s report notes that “A diverse-thinking team is greater than the sum of its parts.”  Leaders who are inclusive are not only aware of the advantages of being on a team, they actively work to make their teams more effective by fostering collaboration and healthy debate.

The most important qualities of an inclusive leader are his or her abilities to understand and enable others on the team and in the organization to work better. These leaders are resilient, future-ready leaders who are better able to withstand the changes and challenges of the business world by adapting.

Becoming a truly inclusive leader is a long road, but an important and valuable one. Through it, you will become a better leader for your team, and set the right example for other leaders in your organization to do the same.

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Friday, January 21, 2022

Lean Quote: Powell’s 13 Rules of Leadership

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.

"The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.  —  Jim Roh

Most leadership philosophies are built around a list that captures the essence of how a specific leader actually leads. Colin Powell was no different. 

Colin Powell (1937-2021), led the State Department as secretary of state and the military as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also served as a four-star general in the U.S. Army. 

Powell offered 13 rules for leadership in his 2012 memoir, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership. They are lightly edited here.

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. Leaving the office at night with a winning attitude affects more than you alone; it also conveys that attitude to your followers.
  2. Get mad, then get over it. Everyone gets mad. It’s a natural and healthy emotion. My experience is that staying mad isn’t useful.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it. Accept that your position was faulty, not your ego.
  4. It can be done. Have a positive and enthusiastic approach to every task. Don’t surround yourself with instant skeptics.
  5. Be careful what you choose: You may get it. You will have to live with your choices. Some bad choices can be corrected. Some you’ll be stuck with.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. Superior leadership is often a matter of superb instinct. When faced with a tough decision, use the time available to gather information that will inform your instinct.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours. Make sure the choice is yours and you are not responding to the pressure and desire of others.
  8. Check small things. Leaders have to have a feel for small things — a feel for what is going on in the depths of an organization where small things reside.
  9. Share credit. People need recognition and a sense of worth as much as they need food and water.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind. Few people make sound or sustainable decisions in an atmosphere of chaos.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding. Followers need to know where their leaders are taking them and for what purpose. Good leaders set vision, mission, and goals.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers. Those who do risk wasting their time and energy.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. If you believe in the likelihood of success, your followers will too.
Colin Powell’s short rules are full of wisdom and application.  They remain powerful lessons for any leader. These rules encourage leaders to manage their emotions effectively, have a realistic sense of who they are as a person, model the behavior they want from others, take tough stands as appropriate, and treat their teams with respect.

We can all do well with these 13 rules!

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

7 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Employees

Your employees are your most valuable asset, and managing them well is one of your most critical business challenges. While effective employee management is an essential part of the work environment that all managers strive to achieve but few actually reach.

Many managers have unrealistic expectations about how they can get results from the employees they will manage. Sometimes people who haven't ever been managers imagine that being a manager is somewhat like sitting in a big leather chair and issuing proclamations.

The reality is there might be a leather chair involved, but proclamations are few and far between. Managers need to learn quickly how to get results from their employees—proclamations won't cut it.

Here are seven tips for getting the best work and results from your employees.

Foster Good Communication

Open and honest communication is at the heart of a happy and productive workplace. Start by explaining to your employees your company’s vision, goals and plans for achieving them. Focus especially on clear communication in times of change or uncertainty.

Be clear about your expectations of them. Wherever possible, keep people informed about the whole business. They'll want to know about both the good and bad—and particularly about anything that impacts their jobs. Walk the talk. If you expect honesty and openness from them, model that in the way you communicate with them first.


For the love of Pete, please listen to your employees. Listen to their ideas. Remember that you worked hard to hire the best people you could hire. There's no point in hiring good people if you are going to treat them like robots. They aren't robots. Listen to their ideas. Talk to them. Get their feedback.

Recognize and Reward Excellence

As much as you strive to sets high expectations of productivity, you also need to let individuals know when they have done a great job. Take time at monthly meetings or annual events to spotlight and reward staff members who have demonstrated excellence, going beyond individual awards to recognized entire groups when they have met and exceeded goals. Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement, where a simple pat on the back or thank you for all the hard work can go a long way toward building relationships and developing loyal, dedicated employees.

Train and Develop Your Team

Training and developing your employees makes them more productive and engaged. It also helps attract and retain skilled workers—a growing issue as the population ages.

Offer opportunities at work for your people to grow. There are many ways you can tap their potential: coaching, skills workshops, courses, shadowing, mentoring, increasing responsibility. Beyond just professional growth, offer them opportunities to learn new hobbies, pick up exciting skills, and give them time to focus on their passion projects. Encourage them to step up in their personal and professional lives.

Provide Feedback

Give your employees feedback and they'll know how to improve and what works best. Positive feedback strengthens employee engagement. You should give meaningful feedback through the year, not just at year-end performance reviews.

Negative feedback should be fair, carefully expressed and focused on specific behaviors (not vague complaints). Also ask the employee to tell their side of the story.

And remember that feedback should be a two-way street. Encourage input from your employees, including ideas for improving operations.

Trust Employees and Give Them the Ability to Do Their Jobs

When you micromanage, you may get exact results, but you won't get great performances. Learn to empower your employees by entrusting them with important responsibilities, and then stand back and let them do their job. your employees will appreciate being able to contribute to the company’s success.

Encourage Employees to Think Outside the Box

When faced with a problem, the typical thing to do is to pick the first answer that pops up. In many cases, the first answer is not always the best.

To encouraging your team to think outside the box, you need to make them understand that there are always multiple answers to any problem and train them how to find these multiple answers.

When you are trying something new and untested, there is always the possibility of failure. The problem is that people who are afraid of failing will avoid experimentation and risk taking as much as they can and instead opt for tried and tested methods that are sure to work every single time.

If you want your team to embrace experimentation and risk taking, you need to show them that failing is normal when attempting something new.

At the end of the day, if your team members love their job and look forward to coming into work, they're going to be intrinsically motivated to become more productive employees for your business.

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Monday, January 17, 2022

Four Leadership Lessons From Martin Luther King Jr.

In times of challenge and controversy, it is the leaders in our lives that we look to for guidance. It is the voices that motivate and inspire us that we turn to for help. And during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, there was one particularly important man whom people and activists alike aspired to. A man whose determination and vision made him one of the greatest leaders and orators in American history.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on today, here are four leadership lessons we can learn from MLK.

1. Know Your Cause.

One of the most important lessons to be learned from Dr. King is to always know the why behind what you’re doing. Part of what made the “I Have a Dream” speech so inspirational was that it painted a picture of what Dr. King saw for the future. Everything he was doing was in the name of achieving that vision.

2. Embrace Fear.

A good leader doesn’t have to be fearless – they only have to be willing to face their fear. Journalist Robert Ellis Smith revealed that King often felt scared or worried before a speech that he would be misunderstood or met with violent protests, but he always carried on. He told Smith, “If you are not anxious, you are not engaged.”

3. Get People Involved.

Making a difference is a team effort. Without the communities and audiences he inspired, Dr. King’s words would never have had the impact they did. He did more than just be heard – he asked people to join him. People want to be a part of something special and he inspired them to be involved in something bigger than themselves.

4. Persevere.

Achieving Dr. King’s dream was not an instant success. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, King faced countless setbacks and moments of failure. He was arrested over 20 times, his house was bombed and set aflame, and he was even stabbed. But King never let these obstacles stand in his way. He had a dream and he was determined to see it through.

Great leaders set out to achieve what others deem impossible. Dr. King worked toward a better, more free and equal world, in part because he could imagine it. The struggle for racial, gender, and other forms of equality is not over, but to continue down this path, we must believe there is a destination.

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