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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Lean Tips Edition #189 (#3046 - #3060)

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 #3046 – Check in With Employees on a Regular Basis.

Checking in with employees is an effective way to make sure communication is strong. Plan in-person or online meetings every few weeks or months. Discuss projects, feedback about leadership, and suggestions for the future. You can also schedule stay interviews or create employee surveys. People want to share their thoughts and opinions. By respecting and listening to your staff, you will improve communication in the workplace.

Lean Tip #3047 – Identify a Common Goal.

Every organization has a common objective that motivates employees to show up every day and do their jobs. By identifying, clarifying, and reinforcing this objective, you’ll strengthen your staff’s productivity because it’s a reminder of why they joined your organization in the first place. Inspire, motivate, and keep teams on track. After all, there’s nothing more important for a team than for everyone to be on the same page.

Lean Tip #3048 – Focus on Company Culture.

Communication should be part of your company culture. It encourages employees to connect with each other and aligns them to your organization’s goals. You can do this by implementing employee engagement ideas into the workplace. Also, promote your core values by branding your intranet, office decor, business documentation, and other places you can represent what your organization stands for.

Lean Tip #3049 – Value Teamwork.

Sometimes with team projects, employees like to get their tasks done individually, with little communication with team members. Some people feel comfortable collaborating, others don’t trust working with other people. How do you get employees to work together? Encourage teamwork with collaboration tools that boosts productivity. The workplace should be a place where employees communicate and work together. Asking your employees to take team-based approaches may cause initial discomfort, but a few minds are always better than one.

Lean Tip #3050 – Welcome Questions.

There is a saying: “If you have a question, ask. If you think it’s silly, ask. If you think you know the answer, ask.” Questions are one of the most fundamental components of effective communication in the workplace. Just as you should be asking questions, so should your employees. Instill that mindset in your organization. Make sure employees are comfortable to reach out with questions to you, managers, or each other.

Lean Tip #3051 – Build Employee Engagement

Collaborative efforts between management and employees can help form stronger relationships. Boost employee engagement by peer-to-peer awards for good work. Another alternative, is to create an ‘ideas leaderboard’ where employees can see or build onto other employee ideas. Through a encouraging, supportive, and engaging environment, your company can help transform these ideas into realities.

Lean Tip #3052 – Involve Employees in Ideas

It’s essential to involve all employees in the idea creation process. Employees have an incredible potential to provide outstanding insights and ideas about organizational practices, customers, and broader business goals. Employees need to be motivated, involved, and participating in the idea process. They shouldn’t have to be forced to reveal their thoughts. Pulling employees into the innovation management process is easier with organizational-wide transparency.

Lean Tip #3053 – Encourage Your People to Think About Innovation on a Daily Basis

Innovation shouldn’t be something people think about only during retreats and workshops. If thinking about new ways of doing things is seen only as an occasional exercise, you’ll never be able to access the full potential of your employees’ creativity and imagination.

Instead, make room for your staff to consider innovation as part of their daily tasks. For example, manufacturing giant 3M is famous for giving its employees a 15% time allowance every day for constructive daydreaming.

Of course, this doesn’t mean handing out a 15% buffer for employees to just snooze at their desks. You should ask your people to demonstrate the results of these innovation sessions.

Lean Tip #3054 – Accept Failure and Make it the Norm

It’s an unavoidable fact that innovation carries the risk of failure. For every example of world-changing innovation, there’s a whole trash heap of failed ideas.

Rather than running from this fact, companies need to come to peace with it. Acknowledge the possibility of failure, dedramatize it and encourage risky initiatives to help employees approach innovation in a more open and inventive way.

Lean Tip #3055 – Give Employees a Reason to Care

The fact is, if people aren’t feeling connected to your company, there’s little incentive for them to be innovative.

Make sure you keep your team in the loop on your firm’s strategies and challenges, and invite their input.

Employees who are involved early on in processes and plans will be motivated to see them through to completion. Their active participation will fuel more ideas than if they learn of initiatives second-hand.

Lean Tip #3056 – Empower Your Employees to Make Decisions and Take Action

People who are trusted to take safe risks and attempt new ways of doing things just may stumble across that next great business solution.

Be careful about being too critical when things go wrong, though, because employees will take note.

No one wants to be the center of negative attention, and people will hold back on making suggestions if they’re worried about potential consequences.

Lean Tip #3057 – Calm the Naysayers For More Creativity

A key reason people often hesitate to offer fresh proposals is that they worry what others might say. No one wants to have their ideas shot down immediately or become fodder for jokes. Make sure you’re doing all you can to make it safe to brainstorm.

Even if someone makes an unrealistic suggestion, thank the person for thinking creatively. Also make sure that people can offer their recommendations in writing if they’re not comfortable speaking up. Stress to the entire team that you welcome input any way they prefer to share it with you.

Lean Tip #3058 – Remove the Red Tape

You may think that it’s easy for employees to offer their ideas, but is it really?

Consider which internal processes might be stifling innovation.

For instance, it can be demoralizing if recommendations must go through multiple layers of approvals in the organization and take a significant time before they’re implemented, if at all.

Look for ways to streamline the process so people can see their good ideas in action quickly.

Lean Tip #3059 – Be Positive About Every Suggestion

Treat every idea with the same amount of respect. Record or write every idea your team suggests, but try to limit how much time you spend on each idea. This can help encourage your team to continue thinking of new ideas and using previous suggestions as inspiration.

Lean Tip #3060 – Realize That Innovation is Everyone’s Job

A common issue in organizations is to assume that innovation is someone else’s job to figure out. Surely coming up with new ideas is for the creative team/the managers, no one else?

The reality is that no matter where you are in the organization, everyone has ideas. Everyone can, and should, share their unique perspective to help the organization grow and improve.

Getting into the mindset that innovation is everyone’s job can take some adjustment. But by encouraging everyone to contribute and valuing everyone’s ideas equally, you can learn so much from your team.


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Monday, June 27, 2022

Lean Roundup #157 – June 2022

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

Three Most Important Metrics in a Continuous Improvement Culture – John Knotts shares 3 very simple measures that many organizations fail to collect, or if they do, they collect it at the wrong level.

Top 5 Trends to Track in the Future of Work – Katie Anderson shares what she believes are the top 5 trends to track for the future of work.

Eliminate Posters, Slogans, Exhortations – Christopher Chapman reviews Dr. Deming’s advice against the use of posters, slogans, exhortations as a tool for managing the improvement of quality and productivity.

Strategy is Not About Doing What’s “Important” – Pascal Dennis explains that strategy is about leader’s deciding and testing the plan.

Where to Start Your Kaizen? – Christopher Roser digs deeper into the possibilities and challenges of picking improvement projects, with a particular focus on systems that have multiple independent production lines.

5 ways to improve your connection with the gemba - Fl├ívio Battaglia discusses the practices that can help us make the most of the traditional mantra “go see, ask why, and show respect”.

Post-pandemic hansei – Jim Womack reflects on how lean organizations have performed during the pandemic and addresses age-old misunderstandings about Just-in-Time.

Kaizen: An Exotic Word, Common Sense Principles for Healthcare – Mark Graban shares an article originally published 10 years ago regarding kaizen in healthcare and what has changed since he wrote the article.

Proven Lean Strategies for Optimal Business Performance – Maggie Millard shares a set of lean strategies that when used together provide even more value to optimize resource utilization, reduce waste, and delight customers.

Ask Art: How Do You Motivate Managers to Adopt Lean? – Art Byrne shares some tried-and-true strategies that leaders can deploy to encourage everyone at every level to adopt new approaches to their work.

Toyota: differentiation and vitality - Flavio Picchi shares a few examples of lean system foundations that seem to be perennial.

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Lean Quote: Have a Growth Mindset for Success

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.

"Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning  —  Benjamin Franklin

Truth be told, I would say that not only do they have no meaning, but it would also seem they are impossible to achieve without any growth or progress. I think Ben Franklin is talking more to our inner growth and progress, because if we haven’t changed, that is, we haven’t improved ourselves or deterred at all from our origin, then what have we improved?

We must commit to providing continual growth and development opportunities for individuals and organizations, and we can’t forget about the need for self-enrichment.

No matter how experienced, tenured, or mature we may be, we all need to minimally “refresh” our abilities, attitudes, behaviors and skill-sets.

Having a growth mindset can help you maintain a positive attitude throughout all of life’s trials, helping you learn from and overcome difficult situations.

Be realistic; growth and attaining desired results does not happen overnight but a commitment to continual learning will drive progress that leads to success.

Even a small progression can be the start of something great. Good luck!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Development FIRST Yields Continuous Improvement

One of the most important qualities of a good leader is the ability and desire to develop their employees. Taking an active role in the development of your team demonstrates confidence and concern for the future of the organization. Unfortunately, development coaching doesn't come naturally to many leaders. The Development FIRST model outlines the following strategies for employee development:

Focus on priorities: Identify critical issues and goals.
Implement something every day: Stretch your comfort zone.
Reflect on what happens: Extract maximum learning from your experiences.
Seek feedback and support: Learn from other people's ideas and perspectives.
Transfer learning to next steps: Adapt and plan for continued learning.

A good development plan should include the following components:
  • A limited number of development priorities. For best results, people should not tackle more than one or two objectives at a time.
  • Opportunities to incorporate daily action. Successful development is evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Smaller daily activities will yield better results than on big burst of activity. An effective development plan specifies situations, time, and people that will trigger development action.
  • Focus on job development activities. Training and development programs are useful, but people also need on-the-job practice.
  • How and when the person plans to reflect on new learning. Research shows that it is not enough to practice new skills: people need time to think about what they have learned. They need to talk about, write down, and think about what they did, what happened, and what they learned.
  • Ways to get ongoing feedback and to track and sustain progress. People need to get accurate, current information on progress to persist toward their goals. An effective plan identifies:
    • Sources and processes for getting relevant feedback.
    • People who can provide encouragement and support.
    • How the person will measure progress toward his or her goals.
  • When and how people will review their plans and transfer them into next steps. Plans often need to be adapted as circumstances change and people get more skilled.

Many organizations are undergoing a revolution. They are under tremendous pressure to stay abreast of change, to do more with less, and to become more agile and versatile. To keep pace, their approach to development must undergo a revolution as well. This revolution requires them to rethink assumptions and to reposition development practices. To meet these demands, organizations need to shift their focus from the tools, programs, and events of development to the ultimate goal: continuous learning that is integrated with people's daily work lives. With learning the foreground, the tools, events, and strategies of development can be more potently deployed to meet the challenges of dynamic organizations.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

10 Common Employee Recognition Mistakes

Recognizing your employees will help you retain your existing workforce and keep them highly engaged as they would be motivated to receive the reward or recognition for the hard work they put in. Employee recognition programs help in achieving the long-term and short-term goals of the organization. 

Despite our best intentions, recognition can go wrong.  And when it goes wrong, it can lead to far more problems for an organization than having no recognition at all.  Recognition problems can result in decreased morale, lowered performance, customer service problems. and a decline in profitability.

Here's a review of the most common recognition makes that are made in organizations:

The rush to recognition.  It is absolutely essential for organizations to have a systematic plan for recognition.  More than a few companies that have rushed to get an initiative rolled out have neglected important components for an effective recognition program.

Rewards that aren't rewarding.  Some awards given in a recognition or incentive program create more problems than they fix.  Deciding what employees value with checking with them is a sure way to increase your risk of missing the motivational mark.

One size doesn't fit all.  Another basic mistake people make is to provide the exact same recognition or reward to every employee out of a false sense of fairness.  Few things are as unfair as the equal treatment of unequals.

Loss of freshness and relevance.  You can't expect a recognition program or activity to remain effective forever.  Even the best programs need to be reevaluated and renewed from time to time.

Confusing priorities and alignment.  It is amazing how many organizations send confusing and conflicting messages in their recognition practices and systems.  When performance expectations are unclear, employees waste a tremendous amount of human energy trying to figure out what is really expected. 

Subjective recognition.  Subjective recognition is uneven at best, and wrong and unfair at its worst.  This can be avoided by using carefully defined, objective criteria.  Checklists can help identify behaviors and results that are worthy of recognition.
Entitlement recognition. When recgonition is done just to be nice it comes to be expected, leading to a culture of entitlement.  Too much recognition is almost as bad as too little recognition.  Recognition should be viewed as a valuable organizational resource and should be used as such.

Recognition take-aways.  When a recognition program ends, which most eventually do, employees commonly feel deprived.  The result can be a decline in morale and performance.

Inappropriate recognition.  Sometimes recognition is too small or too large.  It is very important to differentiate recognition from rewards.  Recognition is positive reinforcement for something well done.  A reward is something tangible that often accompanies recognition.

Zero-sum recognition.  Zero-sum games are those in which in order for somebody to win, somebody else must lose.  This might make sense in competitive sports and games, but doesn't make sense in a collaborative workplace.  There needn't be any losers.
Untimely recognition.  Delay is the enemy of recognition.  Don't let your recognition submittal and approval process stand  let you miss an opportunity to recognize your employees.

Don't make these mistakes in your recognition system.  Employee Recognition might seem to be a tedious process to follow, but it surely is an essential and important one for every organization and helps you achieve your goals for the long term. Having a sound employee recognition system in place will not help you retain highly engaged and motivated employees.

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Friday, June 17, 2022

Lean Quote: Lesson’s From My Father

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.

"It’s only when you grow up and step back from him—or leave him for your own home—it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it.  —  Margaret Truman

As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been thinking about my dad and the many timeless life lessons he’s taught me.

1. Aim past your target.

If you want to hit your mark, aim past your target.  If you fall short, you’ll land closer.  My Dad is a Bruce Lee fan so if you’re a fellow Bruce Lee fan you might recognize the point.

2. Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.

Don’t fall for it.

The trick is to be a healthy skeptic without becoming a callous cynic.

3. Do the things you don’t want to, so you can do the things you want to.

This is a way to look at discipline and duty with a healthy respect.

4. Don’t just see what’s in front of you.  See what’s all around you.

This comes in handy in a lot of scenarios, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory or in a dangerous place.

My Dad has good peripheral vision and I’ve developed mine.

This is especially important on the road too.  For example, don’t just watch the car in front of you.

Watch the cars way ahead and look for signs.

If the cars ahead are slamming their breaks, chances are the car in front of you will too.

Looking ahead has saved me from many accidents.

5. Don’t wear clip-ons.

Learn how to tie a tie.

My Dad made it a point that I learn how to tie a tie.

It felt sort of like a rite of passage, and was a big step up from my former clip-on ties.

6. Earn it.

Don’t expect hand outs.  Work for what you want.

I learned how to be a work-horse and how not to be afraid to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

I’ve also learned to deal with the fact that lots of things in life don’t come easy, and that if something is really worth it, then work for it.

7. Focus on what you control and let the rest go.

Don’t stew on the stuff that’s beyond your control.

If you want to make things happen, focus on what you control.

8. Fight back.

The easiest target is one that doesn’t fight back.

Fight back with skill and make any bully think twice.

9. Find a way.

There’s always a way and there’s more than one way to skin the cat.

Never get stuck.

If you really want it, you’ll find a way.

10. Push past your limits.

Never give up.  You don’t really know what you’re capable of until you’ve really given all you’ve got.

Even when you think you’ve given all you’ve got, you’ve still got more.

Happy Father’s Day to you Dad, and to all of the inspiring dads!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

5 Ways to Get Employees Engaged in Process Improvement

Businesses in virtually every industry wrestle with how to engage teams in efforts to improve business processes. Even once they do get employees involved, it’s often a challenge to sustain the momentum.

The good news is that given the chance, most employees do want to have a voice in process improvement. Management just needs to make it as easy as possible for staffers to do so.

Here are 5 ways to engage employees in business process improvement:

1. Put People First

The outstanding qualities and talents of your team members could provide the organization new ideas that could be innovative or useful to level up your services and products. Take the time to inspire and engage tenacious, passionate people who will happily take the lead on your process improvement efforts. Ensure that workers have proper training, ongoing support, and the resources they need to get involved with continuous improvement initiatives.

2. Let Go

Empower your employees and let them explore. You have to give your employees venue to experiment, to try and test their ideas. No one will take risks in the company if they feel there is lack of support and understanding. Innovation has a process, one that is flawed and has moments of glaring imperfection.

3. Make Involvement Easy

Allow your team members to have fun in the workplace. Sometimes, when the work environment is too serious and too strict, it can hinder creativity and continuous improvement. Having fun during work allows employees to be more relaxed yet productive and that is when they begin to be inspired and produce new and exceptional ideas. Needless to say, a stressful work environment doesn’t give one the frame of mind to think of doing things differently. The employee would only look forward to the end of the day.

4. Encourage Collaboration

Process improvement is a team effort, so it is essential to let everyone know “we’re in this together”. An efficient way of encouraging continuous improvement in the workplace is to set up cross functional or continuous improvement teams. Teams will be tasked to come up with ideas how to enhance work processes.

5. Lead and Communicate Expectations

Managers and team members should communicate expectations on a regular basis. Communication lines are open so that all parties can respond and ask for clarification if need be.

It is important not just to involve the organization’s leadership team in process improvement communications, but to make sure their support is visible to the entire operation. It also helps to build up a strong champion or network so that momentum can be maintained in all areas of the business.

Start your process improvement efforts with people being your top priority. The momentum you gain will embed a process improvement culture and position your organization to achieve your goals, whether they’re tech-related or people-centric initiatives.

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