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Friday, April 29, 2022

Lean Quote: Why Optimists Are Better Leaders

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.

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.  —  Helen Keller

If you want to be good leader then become an Optimistic Leader. Optimists demonstrate the behaviors and attitudes that support good leadership. Listed below are the 3 reasons why optimists are better leaders.

1. Optimists are Solution Focused

Optimists want to solve problems and improve the situation they are in. They will always focus on finding a solution rather than analyzing the issues surrounding the problem.

The solution-based approach that an optimist leader uses promotes creativity and innovative thinking. An optimist is quite comfortable thinking outside of the square; in fact that is where they are their happiest.

The key questions an optimistic leader will ask when seeking a solution are: What is needed? (Not; what is wrong?). What it going well? (Not: what is going badly?). What practical progress can be made to work toward implementing the solution? How can we measure that the solution is working?

2. Optimists Are Not Afraid Of Failure

Optimists do better than pessimists because their coping strategies are better. They are more resilient and able to quickly “bounce back” from failure and setbacks in life.

An optimist is a risk–taker and is comfortable making tough decisions. They accept the reality of failure and the possibility of making mistakes. An optimist will view failure or mistakes as an opportunity to learn and to make progress. They see failure and set backs in the workplace as a part of life. An optimistic leader is quick to respond and adapt to the situation at hand. They will want to get their teams moving forward and back on track as quickly as possible.

Optimists do not seek scapegoats or play the blame game. If mistakes are made they will want to know what went wrong and what could be done differently to avoid making the same mistakes.

3. Optimists Have A Success Mindset

Optimistic people always focus on the positive aspects of a situation. Their view of life is different to that of a pessimist. The analogy that is used to describe the difference is, that optimists see a glass of water as “half full” whereas a pessimist will see the glass of water as a “half empty”.

An optimist has hope and a belief in a better future. They focus on opportunities instead of obstacles. They understand what motivates and inspires them to live a successful and fulfilled life. Negativity and fear do not belong in their world and in fact are inhibitors to their success in life.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Lean Roundup #155 – April 2022

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

The Natural – Bruce Hamilton shares a story about what refers to as “naturals” those employees who excel at specific aspects of the business.

Why Are You Asking Questions? – Mark Rosenthal explains the type of questions a leader should ask to help those who bring problems to the leader.

Problem Solving and the Worlds of Reflection & Experience – Pascal Dennis says good problem solving entails moving fluidly between the worlds of reflection and experience.

The Continuous Improvement Learning Cycle - Steve Musica shares a simple, proven improvement cycle to experiment and learn in organizations that can be applied to personal change. 

Have Faith & Trust the Process – Ron Pereira discusses the importance of trusting the process not only in our professional lives but also our personal lives.

Engaging Partners and Suppliers on Your CI Journey – John Knotts shares 5 steps if you are serious about engaging your partners and suppliers in your continuous improvement journey.

The Hierarchy of Action – Ryan McCall explains that you need to keep the hierarchy of action in mind the next time you’re leading others to take action.

Meeting Strategic Objectives - Patricia Panchak shares story of how Turner Construction uses hoshin kanri (strategy deployment) and A3 problem-solving to create a management system that ensures it achieves its strategic business objectives.

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Monday, April 25, 2022

Benchmark Your Leadership Skills

Every person has a unique DNA that guides his or her natural behavioral (personality) strengths and struggles—yes, everyone has both strengths and struggles. This knowledge is grounded in science (i.e., it’s measurable and predictable, not just “touchy feely”), but the application requires awareness and flexibility to adjust your leadership and management to fit the talents and experience of the individual.

The most effective leaders regularly audit their own leadership skills and competencies to see where the gaps are.


With this Leadership Assessment Test you can benchmark yourself against 96 different skills across 12 leadership competencies.  


Over 20,000 leaders worldwide have taken the assessment and it receives rave reviews. Your personalized report will highlight your strengths and areas of development plus tips on how to improve your scores for next time.

The first step to becoming an effective leader is to understand your current strengths and weaknesses when it comes to leadership. This leadership self-assessment will help you understand how you stack up as a leader and what opportunities there are for you to improve your leadership effectiveness.

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Friday, April 22, 2022

Lean Quote: Create Efficient Operations without Costly Inspection

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.

"Goal setting has traditionally been based on past performance. This practice has tended to perpetuate the sins of the past.  —  Joseph M. Juran

In his focus on people and how they work in processes, Juran took a different approach than others working in the growing quality improvement field. In doing so, he completely changed how companies looked at reducing inefficiencies.

Juran found the hidden costs in how companies tended to deal with defects. In the early 20th century, that often meant dealing with the issue after it had occurred rather than focusing time and money on making quality improvements to keep defects from happening.

He also felt that the resulting poor product quality cost companies more than they fully accounted for, including damage to a company’s reputation that led to a loss of customers.

He also advocated for creating operations that ran efficiently without the need for costly inspections.

He developed the Juran Trilogy, which involved three principal areas:

Quality planning – This involves identifying your customers, determining their needs and developing products that respond to their needs.

Quality improvement – Develop a process to create the product and then optimize that process.

Quality control – Create a process that can operate under minimal inspection.

The Juran Trilogy was formally published in 1986 and quickly became established as a must-read for those involved with quality improvement around the world.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

What Every Leader Can Learn From Their Younger Self


Where do effective leaders find inspiration? From their role models? From public figures? From self-help books?

Well, you may be surprised to learn that effective leaders have a source of inspiration that is far closer to home: their younger selves.

Effective leaders know how to use their previous experience and personal journey to create an authentic, highly personalized leadership style that suits their identity and the needs of those around them. However, these leaders don’t arrive at an authentic leadership style by accident. They spend time refining their approach and are intentional about what sticks and what gets left behind — here’s how they make it happen.

Metacognition and Leadership

Experience alone is not enough to become a helpful or effective leader. Instead, older leaders can sort through their previous experiences and “younger-selves” to gain key insights and make decisions that align with the current context of their leadership environment. Thinking in this way is called “metacognition,” and is vital for leaders who want to transfer previous experience into current issues.

Simply put, metacognition just means “thinking about thinking.” This might seem mundane, but leaders who consciously consider how they think about their previous experience will find much more success when attempting to learn from their past selves. Common questions that experienced leaders might ask themselves when attempting metacognition might include:

     How has the context of my followers’ work changed since “my day”?

     When I think about my followers, what adjectives come to mind? Are these descriptions helpful?

     How would my younger self have dealt with this problem? What might my younger self expect from someone in my position now?

These questions are designed to help experienced leaders interrogate their own biases while making use of their previous experience and knowledge. By imagining their decisions from the perspective of their younger selves, experienced leaders may discover a new, more effective approach. Additionally, routine metacognition keeps you from making rash decisions and reenergizing a leader’s approach to a challenge.

Re-Energizing and Adaptation

Leadership is a difficult, demanding activity which requires constant creativity and adaptation. However, adapting to new trends and emerging technology can drain a leader’s energy, and distract them from their number one priority: caring for the well-being of their team.

But experienced leaders who are feeling drained have a secret weapon: their younger selves. Oftentimes, a leader’s younger self is bolder and more willing to take risks or make big decisions. As a leader ages, they need to invoke their younger selves to promote a culture of experimentation and ensure that their team remains on the cutting edge.

There are a few different ways that leaders can invoke their younger selves and find the energy for experimentation. One of the best methods to re-energize leadership efforts is to make a move that promotes mental health. In particular, leaders who are trying to get in touch with their younger selves may consider moving to quiet suburbs or lakeside homes which support creativity and problem-solving.

Creativity and Problem Solving

Our younger selves had fewer responsibilities and more time for creativity. This meant that we could easily discover solutions to complex problems,

Experienced leaders can tap into this youthful thinking by doodling. That’s because doodling activates our brain’s default mode network, which allows us to make new connections and discover memories that may have been forgotten about.

Of course, not all doodling is productive. But experienced leaders can use productive doodling strategies when they’re feeling burnt-out or are running up against mental roadblocks. Even a short doodle session between team meetings can help unlock a leader’s younger self or reduce stress. This may lead to new approaches and insights that can help a leader find solutions to problems and discover new leadership approaches which inspire confidence in their team.

Relate, Don’t Patronize

Inspirational leaders rarely start a point with a phrase like “When I was your age . . .”, or “In my day . . .”. This is because they understand that the context of their leadership is vital, and the cultural changes that have occurred since “their day” have changed the way we think, work, and live. As such, motivational speeches that harken back to the “good old days” are more likely to create generational divides, rather than inspire unity and create trust within leadership.

Instead, effective leaders who are older than their peers know how to leverage their previous experiences in a way that feels relatable to younger folks, rather than patronizing. Leaders can achieve relatability in many different ways but should always seek to centralize the experience and emotions of their team, rather than themselves — simply sharing old “war stories” is unlikely to help anyone.

For example, let’s say an employee has recently made a costly mistake and is suffering from low-self esteem. An older, more experienced leader can help restore the employee’s confidence by sharing some of their own previous failures. This sentiment is echoed by Dr. Sam Collins, an expert in entrepreneurship and leadership. Dr. Collins states that failures are essential to success, and thinking of failure in this way helps us find the confidence we need to achieve our dreams.

Experienced leaders, who may have taken some serious knocks in their younger days, can add credibility to the idea that failure is a step towards growth. They can also draw inspiration from their younger selves by using metacognition to ensure that their leadership is relatable and improves the confidence and ability of those around them. 

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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Monday, April 18, 2022

Lean Tips Edition #186 (#3001-#3015)

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 #3001 – Bring a Solution

Managers should encourage employees that come with problems to also propose a few solutions that they think might work. Once these are discussed, managers can offer guidance into how to proceed, but managers shouldn’t be the ones that will automatically come up with solutions to all problems, every time.

Lean Tip #3002 – Encourage Transparency of Ideas

This is not just limited to ideas and way of working but applies to ensuring people feel free to talk about their failures and how they found their way out. This culture of sharing will not just invite more people to speak up but will also enforce the feeling of being safe to try and fail. Transparency is also about trade-offs. Sometimes failure happens because of limited resources – time, money, people. Ask after each failure what compromises were made and how the employee made those decisions. The whole business can learn so much out from the experience and the journey that led to an event, not just from its outcome. It’s also an excellent way to learn from other’s mistakes, if you are aware of what happened, why it happened and understands what’s working and what is not.

Lean Tip #3003 – Eliminate Drama and Penalties for Failure

Failure should be encouraged and accepted as is. Any negative emotions associated with failure should be avoided, as should penalties of any kind. Even a bad word from a manager can discourage further innovation. Of course, managers and teams should have contingency plans for failure, but also having an honest and open, blame-free culture helps to build all this.

Lean Tip #3004 – Understand What Went Wrong

You need to know why failures really happen. The answer will be different in each organization, but every company needs to gain a better overview of where the problems lie that keep them from learning from failure. The key thing to keep in mind is this is not about avoiding failure; it’s about how can we learn from failure and apply that into future processes. The challenge is to create a common understanding in which failure is seen as a learning opportunity that holds the potential to make the organization smarter and better.

Lean Tip #3005 – Reward behaviors, not just outcomes.

Too often, organizations are too focused on rewarding the outcomes of their employees. It is just very difficult to reward the team of people in charge of a failed project or initiative, but then what do you do when the learnings the team captured and shared leads to great success in the future? Should these people not be rewarded and recognized in some way? If you really want to change a corporate culture, you must find ways to reward the behavioral changes that lead to the desired outcomes. If not, you might not get there at all.

Lean Tip #3006 – Engage Employees by Providing Them With the Tools for Success.

As a manager, you not only have to oversee different facets of business, but you should be sure your employees understand what they are doing. Training within their specific job descriptions can offer them more confidence in what they’re doing. When one of your team members is unsure of what to do, or how to handle a situation, productivity can come to a grinding halt while they try to troubleshoot the situation. If it becomes too overwhelming, there is a possibility of a small hitch becoming a much larger problem. Even if additional coaching or training is needed, providing your employees with a strong foundation for the tasks ahead is a good step towards raising their level of engagement.

Lean Tip #3007 – Encourage Teamwork Among Employees.

There is a reason that people flock to team sports. When a group of people pulls together to win the big game, it often comes an infectious feeling that engulfs everyone around them—from teammates to the fans—the sense of camaraderie and success spreads to the masses. The same can be said for the workplace environment. When a large account or significant client needs your services, developing a strong team of employees gives them a sense of greater purpose. Pulling them together to work towards a big company goal can be incredibly satisfying, and allows them to bounce ideas off each other to ultimately meet the needs of your client. It adds a sense of cooperation, consideration, and confidence in not only each other but in the company, itself.

Lean Tip #3008 – Listen To and Act on Employee Feedback.

Listening to what your customers have to say is important, but so is listening to your employees. Having regular meetings to determine what areas of your workplace environment need improvement is an important part of keeping the employees engaged with the company. By using a company survey, or even a monthly meeting, giving your staff a voice is vital in making them feel like part of the company. If there is a situation within the internal workings of the company that goes unnoticed or unaddressed by management, it sends an unfavorable message to your staff. If they know that management cares, and hears their concerns, they will continue to maintain a high level of engagement instead of becoming despondent and disengaged.

Lean Tip #3009 – Motivate, Inspire and Coach Your Employees.

Not only should your employees understand the scope of their work, but as their manager, so should you. Creating a positive workplace environment starts with happy employees, but doesn’t end there. The tone is set by the managerial staff from the beginning, and a good way to achieve a positive tone is to be more than their boss; be the best coach they could have. If you see an employee struggling with a task, approach them to see if you can help in any way. Whether it is a pat on the back and words of encouragement urging them to keep trying or offering guidance on policy and procedure, they will see your willingness to help as a concern for their state of mind, as well as the company’s success. Many individuals throughout history who’ve been praised for outstanding accomplishments have had a good coach or mentor standing behind them. Be that coach for your employees.

Lean Tip #3010 – Encourage Employee Personal Development.

Many times, the people who work for any given business only do so out of the necessity of a paycheck. Companies who retain employees with specific skill sets aren’t likely to face this issue. However, it still could ring true to some individuals on the staff. As you get to know your employees, you may learn about their personal hobbies and interests, even as far as learning what it is they eventually want to do with their lives. Think about the company and the different areas it may specialize in. Is there a better place for this employee to apply these additional skills? Does one of the secretaries have a love of graphic design? Maybe a warehouse worker desires to do more by upgrading his education to better serve the company as a distribution manager. Helping these employees reach a place within the company not only helps to encourage their development but allows you to retain them on staff in a capacity in which they could elevate their levels of engagement.

Lean Tip #3011 – Support Team Learning Company-Wide

There has to be a company-wide commitment to education. A learning organization must have many opportunities for sharing knowledge and creating productive discussions. The most important part of team learning is having a supportive and positive learning environment. Employees should feel comfortable taking risks to try new ideas and possibly achieve significant improvements. People should also be supported if they struggle to understand new data or processes. Learning can only happen in a positive environment.

Lean Tip #3012 – Create a Shared Vision Across the Entire Enterprise

Shared vision is the active process of aligning the company’s mission with individual mental models. Essentially, it’s about helping employees recognize and align themselves with the vision managers have for the organization. Managers help people understand what they need to do and why they need to do it, which helps the employee support the learning organizational model. Creating a shared vision across an entire organization can sometimes require debate internally about who you are and where you’re going together.

Lean Tip #3013 – Make Learning an Everyday Habit

Many of us have a common perception that once we leave the schools and get our degrees, we need not continue pursuing other learnings. That’s a very wrong thinking as we no longer live in a world where we can assume that learning is fixed for one’s trade. There are continuous innovations in every field changing the way we do our daily works. Continuous learning can help an individual to stay sharp, relevant in his or her field as well as stay ahead in the competition. Also, building this learning attitude is not a difficult or time-consuming task.

Lean Tip #3014 – Reward Employees for Learning

Rewarding employees for accepting a positive learning culture can be one of the methods to encourage the staff to develop and grow. However, there is no guarantee that rewards can bring in change unless these are effective. Some of the ideas for creating training rewards for employees includes demonstrating the value of training to the employees, creating opportunities like representing the organization in a conference after completion of course, bringing a healthy competition among the peers taking the training, creating reward system for those training that bring in maximum ROI for the organization as well as employees and finally rewarding the employees who completed the course on a public stage to motivate other employees as well.

Lean Tip #3015 – Train the Managers to Coach Effectively

Coaching is one of the greatest methods to build an employee’s confidence level as well as competence. Managers need to know how to apply the right blend of “clarity coaching” and “skills coaching” to their employees, two of the critical elements that organizations need to provide to their managers while training them. Having the ability to coach others is one of the core skills in the 21st century, required by every manager to be regarded as a successful leader. Long gone are those days where the managers used to command and control leadership in order to get their work done. Today, the most effective way for the managers to lead is through coaching and collaboration. If the managers are not skilled enough to coach their employees, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to achieve positive results for the organization or even themselves in the long term.


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Friday, April 15, 2022

Lean Quote: Leaders Instill Hope

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.

"Good Friday and Easter free us to think about other things far beyond our own personal fate, about the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and events; and we lay hold of a great hope.  —  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Hope is the one thing that lifts the human spirit and keeps us going despite our difficulties that we face. Hope looks beyond life’s hardships to a better, brighter tomorrow. It keeps us believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, tomorrow’s light will shine brightly. Hope is seeing the future; a future we can attain if we keep moving forward and, as needed, adjusting, and adapting. A leader’s hopeful outlook enables people to see beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers.

Leaders must give hope for the future, mobilize people in a direction, and believe deep in the core of who they are that there are great opportunities on the horizon. Here are 7 ways leaders can instill hope:

  • Be visible. Be Present.
  • Be as open, honest, and as fair as possible.
  • Emphasize Optimism.
  • Encourage and Motivate.
  • Focus on Possibility.
  • Let your people know how much you Value them.
  • Invest in People

Giving hope to your people combines the alignment, engagement, and vision of the organization. A leader's ability to do so will reap enormous benefits for your organization and your people.

Hope is not always a guarantee for success, but a leader will take the slightest amount of hope to chip away at the barriers of reality and impossibility. An astute leader will dove-tail hope into the vision and mission of their organization. They will work to make sure that everyone is "laser focused" on the task at hand. More importantly, they will make the vision bigger than the obstacles that threaten the mission itself.

The ability to instill hope is a necessary leadership trait. The leaders’ hope surrounds the belief that his/her goal will be attained. It enables one to face tough times with creativity and resilience. Leading in these uncertain times requires inspiration more than ever.

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