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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

13th Blog Anniversary

Another milestone. Not sure if this is unlucky since it is 13 but I'll take it. Tomorrow marks the 13th year publishing articles on A Lean Journey Blog.

I’d like to think that I turned my na├»ve endeavor to share learning along my own journey into a successful contribution in the Lean community. As I have said before this labor of love has been a tremendous learning process both from the great fans and other colleagues online that I exchange with and from the process of distilling my own learning with you.

I've been doing this over a quarter of my lifetime so perhaps it has been somewhat successful but let's look at the numbers. In previous years we looked at the number visitors, Facebook fan, tweeps on Twitter, and LinkedIn members as an indication of growth.

So with this milestone, here are some numbers from the blog:

Total Posts: 2265

Most read post:  The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process with over 35,279 views

followed by What Do We Mean By True Northwith over 34,111 views

and by DOWNTIME and the Eight Wastes with over 32,823 views

Number of countries/territories who have visited this blog:  230

Top 5 Countries with the most views:
U.S.A. – 40%
India - 10%
United Kingdom – 6%
Philippines - 5%
Canada – 4%



Total views:  Over 1,925,600 and climbing

Unique visits: Over 1,569,660

Total comments:  Over 1,500

Total Facebook Fans: Over 2,300

Total Twitter Followers: Over 3,650

LinkedIn Members: Over 1,100

Total Tips Shared: Over 3,030


Here are the Top 5 posts from this past year in case you missed them:

Five Ways You’re Stifling Employee Engagement


Using the Gemba Walk to Learn and Engage

I am so grateful to everyone who has read my posts and/or followed this blog and my other blogs. Some of you have been with me since I began this journey.  Even though we never have met, you comment on my posts and continually send me words of encouragement.  Blogging has been a much more rewarding experience than I imagined it could be!  

I would like to thank all the visitors and contributors to A Lean Journey Blog this year and every year.  It has been a successful journey but we aren't done yet. Please, share your feedback so that A Lean Journey can be even more successful in the future.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Put People Before Profits for Success



Every business must focus on the bottom line. No company survives without profits, of course. But if the bottom line or some other performance becomes the only priority, the consequences can be damaging over time, with the stage set for everything from internal resistance to lying and other behavior that can end up damaging the bottom line. 

The backbone of any organization is it’s people, if you want to succeed your people have to be happy, motivated, engaged, etc… People have needs and wants and other people serve those needs and wants. Once you have grasped this concept, the rest is easy to follow. If you want to meet and exceed the needs of your customers, create a working environment that is conducive to delivering that service. 

The logic runs like this: if you focus on your people and create a business culture in which everyone is aligned to the reason for being; a culture in which people have a sense of belonging and a common purpose; a culture in which people are treated with dignity, equality, respect, and fairness, then they will be inspired to motivate themselves to serve their customers with a positive attitude. 

If these past couple of years have taught businesses anything, it’s been the importance of a healthy and authentic company culture. After all, it’s what has kept teams together as they worked from their kitchen tables and zoomed in to every meeting. 

Workplace culture is the character and personality of your organization, made up of your people’s values, beliefs and traditions. It’s ultimately what brings your company to life, and together. Culture is reflected in just about everything at work: be that the office setup, employee benefits, hiring decisions, leadership or even working hours. 

Aligned, capable and engaged people will be your ultimate enablers. Your team comprised of aligned people who know what to do, capable people that can do and engaged people that want to do will enable success. 

Successful leaders know that people are their ultimate enablers and prioritize building a specific picture around what success looks like for their people firstly, knowing that this is fundamental in optimizing and maximizing the business. 

Companies win because its leaders know the difference between what they do and what business they’re in. It is said that Toyota is a people business that happens to make cars. 

Put people before profits.  People stick with companies who want them to be successful from the inside out.  When it’s all said and done, companies profit from healthy-minded people who feel valued within their organization. 

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Friday, May 13, 2022

Lean Quote: Improve Engagement With 1-on-1 Meetings

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.


"One of the biggest values of 1:1s is discovering where employees are struggling or stuck, and helping them find a path forward. Not by telling them how you'd do it, but by guiding them to come up with their own solution.  —  Jon Plax, Senior Director, Customer Centric Engineering, Salesforce

1-on-1 meetings are crucial to the success of your company. Think about it. 1-on-1 meetings are a tool used to help your employees succeed, which directly impacts how well your company performs. Without these meetings, you’d have directionless, disengaged employees — which isn’t good for team morale or accomplishing goals.

There are 5 ways your managers can improve their engagement when it comes to 1-on-1 meetings.

1. Don’t skip the 1-on-1

Rule number one of 1-on-1s: never skip them. It doesn’t matter how busy your management team gets. A 1-on-1 that’s regularly skipped or rescheduled indicates to the employee that they’re not a priority. And that fosters feelings of indifference, which can cause disengagement. Reschedule meetings if needed. 

2. Be prepared

Want to have a useless meeting? Well, if you don’t prepare before you come to the table, it’s more or less guaranteed to be — let’s be frank — a waste of time.

It’s obvious to an employee when their manager is unprepared for a meeting. And that reflects poorly on the entire company. It makes an employee feel like their manager doesn’t care, which has a devastating effect on their employee experience.

3. Actively listen

Listening may not come naturally to everybody. The 1-on-1 is a great opportunity to brush up on this skill. Remember, the 1-on-1 is all about the employee, so give them a chance to speak.

Start the meeting by asking how the employee is doing. This helps you understand what to focus on during the meeting. It also gives you a quick temperature check of how the employee is thinking or feeling.

4. Avoid status updates.

When a manager or team member says they don't see the value of effective 1 on 1 meetings, it's a virtual certainty they spend most of the meeting talking about projects and status updates. That's a huge waste.

For managers, it can be so tempting: they finally have a chance in an otherwise hectic week to talk to you about your work. If you're on a big team, this may be one of the few times they meet with you alone.

If they feel out of the loop, then they'll want to talk to you about projects to feel like they know what's going on.  It's also a super safe topic to fill the time, and avoid tough, sometimes uncomfortable, subjects that really matter.

5. Coaching

After going over the progress update, spend the rest of the time coaching. In order to do this correctly, it’s important for managers to understand their report’s motivations and long-term goals. That way managers can offer relevant advice and guide them in the right direction.

One important thing to keep in mind when coaching is making sure to ask open-ended questions so employees are mentally engaged. Don’t talk at them; that is not how anyone learns. Challenge them to think critically and solve the problem first before you offer a solution.

The key to good 1-on-1 meetings is doing them. Don’t worry if you don’t nail it straight away. There are many things you will learn along the way that are specific to your company and the individual humans involved. Regularly sharing your thoughts and feedback is your most powerful tool for making great 1-on-1s happen.


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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Simple Engineering Solutions with Karakuri Kaizen


Manufacturers across the nation are looking for faster, more efficient ways to streamline processes and production. While automation seems to be top of mind for most, it’s also an expensive investment that some may not be ready to take on. Luckily, there are other solutions you can implement to improve your manufacturing facility’s efficiency.

Karakuri kaizen, or karakuri, provides low-cost, simple, hands-free solutions to support manufacturers’ needs. Karakuri literally means a type of doll that moves with simple mechanics. In manufacturing, karakuri refers to simplified engineering for kaizen that improve your system. Karakuri is the use of mechanic gadgetry rather than electric, pneumatic, or hydraulic devices.

Core principles and benefits to implementing Karakuri include:

Easier maintenance. The maintenance of Karakuri is often much easier than other types of devices. When something goes wrong, workers have an easier time seeing what the problem is and typically can fix the issue themselves, rather than calling a mechanic, electrician, or other professional. Waiting for devices to be fixed can cause a delay in production; Karakuri helps reduce lost time.

Improved safety. Implementing Karakuri allows a process to improve without risking the safety of employees. Mechanical devices don’t pose as many hazards as electrical or hydraulic machines, resulting in less lost work days due to injuries. Karakuri can also help reduce human error within the production process.

Cost-effective materials. Mechanical systems typically are much cheaper than computerized systems. They also require less time to develop, don’t take as much energy to operate, and are built using less expensive materials.

Easy improvement for the long term. Because Karakuri is easier to maintain, workers are often able to take care of problems and improve the process themselves. This makes room for small changes that lead in the long term to continuous improvement.

Karakuri is all about supporting the operator through simplicity, so their job is easier and safer. So while you consider the benefits related to development, installation, maintenance, and versatility, understand that human efficiency, ergonomics, and safety are at the heart of karakuri.

A Karakuri system is a way of stimulating creativeness and craftsmanship, figuring out solutions together as a team. Karakuri Kaizen utilizes the knowledge present on-site. Employees are key in this, with their amazing sense of adaptability and ingenuity. Only humans know how to improve their work, how to invent different ways of working and figuring out answers to problems. The result is smart people building smart equipment, that are high in creativity and that later become a benchmark for the others.

Keep in mind that bright ideas emerge from smart people, and smart people emerge from kaizen. It is actually one of the major benefits, because they empower production workers. This is made possible by encouraging the use of individuals’ creativity to build their own improvement solutions with other team members from process departments. Karakuri Kaizen promote on-going “kaizen” improvements by workers who want to make their work go faster, smoother and smarter. This supports the idea that there is always a better way, a truly motivational team experience. When you think about it, it’s a virtuous cycle.


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Monday, May 9, 2022

Lean Tips Edition #187 (#3016-#3030)

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 #3016 – Leaders Should Serve as Role Models

Idealized influence is another of the four key components of transformational leadership. 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.

Lean Tip #3017 – Leaders 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 #3018 – Leaders Motivate Followers

Transformational leaders provide inspirational motivation to encourage their followers to get into action.

Of course, being inspirational isn't always easy. Fortunately, you don't need motivational speeches to rouse your group members.

Some ideas for leadership​ inspiration include being genuinely passionate about ideas or goals, helping followers feel included in the process and offering recognition, praise, and rewards for people's accomplishments.

Lean Tip #3019 – Get Your Hands Dirty 

Humility is the lubricant oil that minimizes friction within a team. And “getting your hands dirty” is one of the best ways of staying humble. 

Lead by example.

Never ask an employee to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.

Serve people before asking for a favor, listen to other people’s ideas, be open-minded, and be willing to admit your mistakes.

Lean Tip #3020 - Learn to be a Team Player

No matter how good of a manager you are or how smart and talented you feel, if you try to do all the work yourself, you’ll get burned out — delegating work is one of the core skills of any great leader.

So, how do you become a team player in the workplace. 

It all starts with the intention. 

Celebrate your peers’ success, appreciate other people’s work, be reliable and open-minded, and you will build trust.

Once they trust you, it’ll be much easier to build a cohesive team that gets the work done efficiently.

Lean Tip #3021 – Improve Workflow Efficiency By Analyzing Your Current Processes

Before you can do anything else, you need to analyze the workflow processes you already have in place. This includes seeking feedback from your employees on how procedures work as they are. The point is to determine what is and isn’t working with the way you do things now. You need to analyze your current workflow based on the different roles. This will help you determine how to optimize these procedures to work better. 

Lean Tip #3022 – Prioritize Projects Based on Importance

Once you understand your current processes, you need to rank them based on their importance to your overall plans. This requires breaking down each project to schedule the different tasks necessary. The idea is to schedule each task in a project based on how important it is to complete each project. This requires the correct tools to track the projects your employees are working on.

Lean Tip #3023 – Implement Proper Training

It’s essential to have the proper training processes to ensure that employees do their job effectively. To do this correctly, track and schedule training for your employees. This also includes optimizing the training procedures so that employees get only the training they need. Ensuring your workers know how to do their job well and understand all safety procedures provides a good start for success.

Lean Tip #3024 –Organize Efficiently

By keeping workflows efficient means organizing projects and schedules, so everyone knows what’s required. You need to have processes in place to track employee’s productivity. You also need to have schedules in place to follow employee’s time spent on projects. Having good timekeeping processes is essential to organizing time efficiently.

To get the most out of your employees’ time, you have to cut down on unnecessary interruptions. This includes cutting down on unnecessary communications, including time-wasting meetings. You also need to cut down on unnecessary tasks or tasks going to the wrong people. This also includes placing time limits on each project. It’s essential to optimize everyone’s time. 

Lean Tip #3025 – Optimize Communications

Optimizing communications is more than cutting down on time-wasting meetings. You also need to have proper methods in place to let people know what’s expected of them.

It’s important to make it easy to track employees’ projects and their progress on these projects. You also need efficient ways to organize and assign tasks, with proper methods to inform every one of their assignments. Finding automation tools that can work together will help processes run smoothly.

Lean Tip #3026 – Make Important Information Easily Accessible

No matter how complex or simple a project, your team needs easy access to everything required to get the job done. That’s why you should give your team quick access to appropriate company databases, technology guides, and training manuals. Providing this information through readily accessible channels can help your team focus on work instead of hunting for resources.

Lean Tip #3027 - Delegate and Empower Decision-Making

Create accountability and allow your employees to be in charge of their own routine. People work better at different times of the day; others need to collaborate, versus work independently. Allow your team to determine their own workflow routine, and ensure everyone stays on task and liable for their own success.

Empower them to complete their tasks without roadblocks. Divide labor and assign projects to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Make sure it’s clear to the team who is responsible for what — especially if you have remote employees. Less is more, and the less micromanaging the better.

Lean Tip #3028 – Allow Employees to Be Transparent.

If you want to make a change, say it. Same goes for your employees. If they have any concerns or too much on their plate, they shouldn’t be afraid to tell you. If you or your employees are afraid to talk about what’s on your minds, it will distract everyone, slowing everything down.

Lean Tip #3029 – Measure Productivity of Team 

It is fair to mention that it is impossible to determine whether your workflow is streamlining properly without comparing various metrics. It is, therefore, essential to take steps for measuring the productivity of your employees in terms of taking time to accomplish various tasks. A customized task management tool can show the performance of every employee in real-time.

Managers can see who is working on which projects and how many tasks have been accomplished on an interactive dashboard. It helps them measure the productivity of employees. It also makes employees more productive and efficient as their performance is viewed closely.

Lean Tip #3030 – Keep Refining Your Process

Even the best designed workflows need to be reassessed periodically, especially as a business grows. Continuous monitoring and review are essential for process improvement, or to incorporate automation and new workflows. Engaging peers, suppliers and vendors can all add value to your organization.

The key to success in workflow process management is to implement best practices that suit your company’s needs and culture.

 

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Friday, May 6, 2022

Lean Quote: The Mother’s Heart is the Child’s Schoolroom

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 mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.  —  Henry Ward Beecher

IOur moms have been present in our lives from the very beginning--and, if you stop to think about it, just about every lesson we learn in life originated in one way or another with her.

Today, in honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to share my top leadership lessons from my mother.

Listen and Observe

The greatest leader is not the loudest. A true leader invests in understanding others by listening and keen observation.

Research your Decisions

Our decisions shape our future in small or big ways. So, whenever possible, do a little digging so you can make an informed decision.

Remain True to your Ethics

Nothing is worth compromising your ethics. A clear conscience and a good reputation are priceless.

Assume Responsibility

A leader leads by example. That means that she needs to step up and honor her commitments to others and to herself. When she doesn’t, she needs to own it.

Respect, to be Respected

Respect is the leader’s currency. People decide to follow you long-term only if they respect you. Gain that respect by treating others with the respect they deserve as fellow human beings.

Love Generously

When you truly love someone, show them through action. Support their dreams, help them when you can and provide a shoulder on which to cry.

The wisdom of our mothers is timeless and profound. She really did--and still does--know best.


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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Defining Employee Engagement

Researchers and firms have developed varied definitions of employee engagement. Although the concepts of employee engagement and job satisfaction are somewhat interrelated, they are not synonymous. Job satisfaction has more to do with whether the employee is personally happy than with whether the employee is actively involved in advancing organizational goals.

Many leaders mistakenly think that increasing employee satisfaction will increase employee engagement and motivation. Satisfaction is transactional and contractual. In return for their work, you promise to provide employees with the basics: compensations, tools, and resources, physical safety, dignity, and respect. Both the organization and the employee must continue to make constant deposits in the relationship “bank account.”

Satisfied employees put out as much effort as they are compensated for, and no more. They deliver what is asked of them, as long as you deliver on your part of the deal. They show up and do their work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to say no to other offers. A satisfied employee does not equal workforce engagement.

Employee engagement is the degree to which employees invest their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral energies toward positive organizational outcomes.

So what do engaged employees look like? Generally, they:

  • Are absorbed in and enthusiastic about their work
  • Find a greater sense of meaning in what they do
  • See a stronger connection between their strengths and their role
  • Look for opportunities to learn and grow
  • Expend discretionary effort in their performance

In sum, engaged employees bring their best selves to work. They are enthusiastic and have a sense of urgency. Engaged behavior is persistent, proactive and adaptive in ways that expand the job roles as necessary. Engaged employees go beyond job descriptions in, for example, service delivery or innovation. They are more likely to do their best work and contribute to the success of an organization.

It’s a powerful engine for not only improving your company culture but for growth and profit. When defining employee engagement, it is important to recognize that it is a 50/50 proposition with the responsibility to become engaged between the employee and the responsibility to create an engaging environment on the organization. Employee engagement is creating a workplace culture where both the organization and the employees become engaged.

As much as we wish employee engagement could be boiled down to a simple mathematical equation, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. Here are the factors that tend to drive employees’ engagement:

  • Meaningful work
  • Career growth
  • Empowerment
  • Belonging
  • Recognition
  • Leadership
  • Fulfilling work relationships

Employers can encourage employee engagement in many ways, including communicating expectations clearly, offering rewards and promotions for excellent work, keeping employees informed about the company's performance, and providing regular feedback. Other strategies include making efforts to make employees feel valued and respected, and feeling that their ideas are being heard and understood. Engaged employees believe that their work is meaningful, believe that they are appreciated and backed by their supervisors and that they have been entrusted with the success of their company.

If there’s one thing you come away with after reading this post, let it be this: Employee engagement is NOT the same as employee satisfaction. An employee can be satisfied, but not necessarily engaged. Engagement requires an alignment of values, a commitment to career development and a sense of purpose.


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