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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

4 Ways To Build Trust During Times of Change

Trust is essential in a team, especially in times of change. People commonly resist change for a variety of reasons.  Although you intend for the change to result in a positive outcome, change is often viewed as negative.

If the people in an organization don’t trust their leaders, they won’t buy-in to the change. They will question their motives, drag their feet, or actively work against the change. Trust is key to both managing and leading change. We cannot afford to take trust for granted.

Trust is needed in every aspect of performance in an organization and affects many aspects ranging from increased productivity, efficient management, job satisfaction, employee engagement and staff development. However, when there is organizational change trust becomes the most important aspect of a company to ensure the change succeeds.

To build trust in times of change, consider these three steps:

1. Overcommunicate the outcome.

There’s no such thing as communicating too much in times of change. For communication that builds trust, paint a picture of the outcome. Instead of endlessly tweaking the messaging, focus on providing clear and succinct communication about what is being done, why it’s being done that way and what the results should look like.

2. Focus on the work and build small wins.

The point of overcommunicating is to ensure that employees know what is happening and why, even if they haven’t fully bought into the change itself. But there has to be a balance between communication and actually doing the work. People will put real trust in the plan when they see the wins coming from putting the change into action.

Your read on the situation will determine the timeline. Once you gain some initial buy-in, focus on what people need to do right now to see those small wins start to build up. Employees seeing the benefits for themselves will translate into increased trust in the process—and in the executive team.

3. Be a role model

Building trust takes time. It’s not something you earn in a week, and certainly not in the period of crisis. You have to think about a pivotal point in your company long before it’s even on the horizon, and the best way to gain employees’ trust is by making it a part of the company culture. Treat your team members like you want to be treated and show them a model of behavior in difficult situations that they could copy. At the same time, be transparent and super honest at all times. If things go wrong, look for the solution first, not for the one who messed it up.

4. Seek feedback from frontline employees.

Change strategies are built with input from a lot of people: executives, the board, outside consultants. But often, you have to put the plan into action to find the gaps in it. At this point, the people closest to the work will be able to provide the most actionable insights. Listening to their feedback and adapting the process will further build trust in your leadership and buy-in to the change.

You build and maintain trusting relationships and a culture of trust in your workplace one step at a time through every action you take and every interaction you have with your coworkers and employees. Trust may be fragile, but it has the capacity to grow strong over time with the deliberate efforts above.

Without trust in the workplace, communication and teamwork will erode. Additionally, morale will decrease while turnover will rise. However, by using these strategies, you can build your employees’ trust in management, thereby making their workplace an environment filled with innovation, creativity and ultimately higher profits for all.

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Monday, August 15, 2022

7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Selection the Right Metrics

Choosing the right metrics is critical to success, but the road to good metrics is fraught with pitfalls. As your endeavors to become more metrics-driven, beware of errors in the design and use of metrics.

Here I compile the most common mistakes that teams are committing when using metrics, so you’ll know what not to do when adopting them.

1. Metrics for the sake of metrics (not aligned)

KPIs are only useful if they are aligned to your strategy and inform strategic decision making. Anything else is just window dressing. When KPIs are not linked to your strategy, you’re wasting huge amounts of time and money collecting information that is not going to benefit the business. KPIs are useful if they deliver mission-critical information that is relevant to your business.

2. Too many metrics (no action)

A common belief is that if you capture every type of metric, it will tell you magically what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, that is not how we get to insights, and would be comparable to having to find a needle in a haystack.

Too many metrics may be worse than no metrics. They require large amounts of resources to track and produce reams data that call for substantial time and effort to analyze. A large amount of data can create the impression of knowledge but is useless if it doesn’t lead meaningful insights and actionable recommendations.

3. Metrics not driving the intended action

If you collect metrics, you need to use them somehow. Therefore, one of the most common mistakes is doing nothing about the metrics you are seeing. Metrics can give you process improvement insights and, to react, you need to understand how they work and what they mean.

4. Lack of follow-up

Your KPIs are your window into understanding how various parts of the business are doing — your health metrics. When these areas aren’t progressing as intended, it’s crucial to take timely action to ensure your business stays on the right track.

5. No record of methodology

Companies that generate metrics reports also should have a robust metrics analysis framework or record of methodology. Without a statistical framework for measuring, analyzing and improving process performance, the value of metrics diminishes. Metrics and reports are a means to an end, not the end themselves. They should be analyzed to assess process stability and capability, and to trigger process improvements efforts.

6. No benchmark (unrealistic targets)

Many organizations set targets without any thought to current performance, process stability or process capability. Industry benchmarks are helpful, but before applying these benchmarks to an organization, the team should analyze current process performance to ensure that unrealistic targets are not set. Unrealistic targets create resistance within an organization and impact team and people performance. In some cases, they also lead to data manipulation or incorrect reporting.

7. Underestimation of the data extraction (and data quality)

A common pitfall is to underestimate the importance of data quality. Working with bad entry data is pointless: no magic formula or algorithm can reverse it. And you will be measuring something wrong.

You need to identify good sources of data. I always recommend working hand in hand with IT. This way, they will know your needs better and you will understand your company’s data management (governance, architecture, databases, master data etc.)

A well-designed set of KPIs should provide a clear indication of current levels of performance and help your people make better decisions that bring the business closer to achieving its strategic objectives. By avoiding these 7 pitfalls, you can ensure your KPIs are designed, implemented and used exactly as they were intended – to help your company succeed.

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Friday, August 12, 2022

Lean Quote: 7 Traits of a Leader

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.

"You don't need a title to be a leader.  —  Mark Sanborn

Anyone can be a leader by doing their best and setting a good example. Leaders believe in themselves, their vision, and their ability. They do what is necessary to seek out greatness in themselves and others. Here are some more key traits of top leaders:

They Are Self-Motivated.

Leaders not only know how to drive others to succeed; they also know how to drive themselves to get things done so that they may become successful as well. 

Setting definite goals helps leaders stay motivated at all times. The motivation a leader has can directly impact and inspire their team. 

They Have a Positive Attitude.

Great leaders overflow with an abundance of positivity. The positive disposition they have is contagious and helps to inspire a positive mindset in others. 

They Are Emotionally Stable. 

Stress and frustration are common things that come with leadership positions. Good leaders cannot allow themselves to let their emotions knock them off track.

Instead, they must have strong and stable emotions so they can continue on, even in difficult circumstances. 

They Exude Self-Confidence.

People are more likely to believe in you if you believe in yourself. This is why it is essential for leaders to have self-confidence that shines through.

Only someone who exudes self-confidence can influence others and earn their respect. 

They Are Decisive.

Leaders often have to make decisions. Some of the decisions may be difficult and require a great deal of critical thinking.

They know how to make decisions, and they stick to their decisions because they are confident enough to believe they made the right choice. 

They Are Accountable and Responsible.

Playing the blame game isn't something that true leaders do. Rather they take responsibility for their actions, tasks, and the results they get. 

If a mistake is made, they remain accountable and admit their faults readily with little prodding from outside sources. 

They Are Passionate.

Passion is made up of expression, energy, and activity. Passion plays a part in the drive and zeal a leader has.

Good leaders are excited about what they are doing, and they express that passion in front of others. 

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Lean Tips Edition #191 (#3076 - #3090)

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 #3076 – Identify Bottlenecks, Roadblocks, and Issues.

To produce meaningful results, you need to identify what’s holding your process back. What’s going well or not? How can you improve it? Maybe one person’s task is overly time-consuming or a step is unclear, constantly prompting questions. Maybe the process is too dependent on other processes or people.

When identifying roadblocks, it helps to have data associated with the process for analysis. Tracking data points like time, output, and ROI will help you figure out if the improvements you make are effective. The amount of data you need depends; some processes (like our RFP process) might only require a month or so of data, but embarking on an overhaul of a citywide passport request process, for instance, would benefit from a year’s worth of data.

Lean Tip #3077 – Find Ways to Resolve the Issues.

Technology—in particular, automation tools—can often help solve efficiency problems. Automation may already be embedded in the tools you use regularly, you just might not be taking advantage of it. So look closely at the tools you’re using and see how you can use them better; or, if the situation warrants it, consider making a bigger investment into a software tool that includes automation and would be helpful in eliminating unnecessary manual work for your team. 

Lean Tip #3078 – Share & Continue to Refine Your Process.

When your process is formalized, document and share it with the team. But just because you’ve reached the end of these process improvement steps doesn’t mean you should stop looking for ways to improve further! Monitor its ongoing performance and continue to refine as you hear more feedback from team members. Over time, there may also be changes surrounding the process that might affect the overall flow, and require additional fine-tuning.

Lean Tip #3079 – Find the Pain Points in the Process

To discover where improvement is needed, look for signs where the current process is failing. Identify the location of bottlenecks and where multiple steps are required to complete just a portion of a procedure. A clear sign of a process pain point is at the stage where customers or employees are becoming frustrated with the workflow. Find the areas where work needs to be regularly redone, or it’s being repeated by different people. This duplication of effort is a waste of time and resources, so you’ll want to find a way to eliminate it.

Lean Tip #3080 – Obtain Stakeholder Buy-in Buy Explaining the Rationale for Change

People are naturally resistant to change, even if it’s for the better. That’s why you must explain the reasons behind the process improvements to obtain buy-in. Moreover, by detailing how the changes will deliver value, such as a better customer experience, stakeholders become motivated to help you.

Lean Tip #3081 – Document Your Current Processes

A wise mentor of mine once said, “You can’t automate what you haven’t defined.” More broadly we can apply that same piece of wisdom to process improvement. When we look at our breadth of offerings and our own processes, we may know in our heads what we mean, and what the ideal process is, but if we don’t write down or document our as-is processes, we lose our ability to experiment in changing them.

By defining our current processes, we can then start discussions from an informed place. Documentation comes in all shapes and sizes. You can make process maps, knowledge articles, scripts, storyboards, customer journey maps, a service catalog and service definitions, or any combination of these.

Lean Tip #3082 – Troubleshoot in Real Time

One of the most useful concepts that continuous improvement borrows from Kaizen is the encouragement to confront problems head-on in an effort to solve it faster. If an issue becomes apparent fix it immediately instead of searching for the “perfect” solution.

Waiting will inevitably cost time and valuable resources. Instead, on-the-spot troubleshooting allows production to continue while the new, improvised solution can be analyzed using continuous improvement techniques. You might find that what was first a temporary fix could lead to permanent positive changes.

Lean Tip #3083 – Encourage Leadership to be Open Minded

Continuous improvement works especially well when individuals are encouraged by senior leaders. Prepare your leadership team by offering special training to encourage new ideas and removing any blockers that may be in a team member's path as they are trying to improve a workflow.

One of the hardest parts of using the continuous improvement model is the desire to strive toward perfection. This is an impossible feat, and the philosophy behind kaizen is to make small changes to be better than you were the day before. Focusing on perfection can lead your team to make changes that aren’t actually necessary.

Lean Tip #3084 – Foster Discovery and Curiosity

Continuous improvement empowers every team member to take ownership of their processes. When your company culture encourages team members to improve business processes in a way that works best for them, it encourages more discovery and curiosity within the entire company. This enables individuals to experiment without the fear of breaking processes or being judged for failure. If something doesn't work, things can just revert back to what they were previously.

Lean Tip #3085 – Keep on Keepin’ On

The part of continual process improvement that can feel overwhelming is the continuous aspect. With continuous improvement there is no perfection, and there is no end, but one of the first rules of project management is that every good project should have a start and end date. Where process improvement differs is that there is likely to always be more we can do, and things we can change. Don’t get defeated by this, but see it as a chance to break up the monotony, and keep innovating.

One thing that makes this easier is that there will always be new technology, solutions, software, or cultural changes that enable us to rethink how we do things. This can keep things exciting. The biggest difference with process improvement from your typical project is that there will always be something new for us to consider. If we ignore this, we run the risk of stagnating or falling behind.

Lean Tip #3086 - Start Small.  If Everything is a Priority, Nothing is a Priority

As you delve into a problem, there are many paths for improvement that will open up to explore.  It’s very easy to get distracted from what you set out to accomplish when you start to see all of the potential opportunities for intervention and improvement. It’s imperative to keep your goal front and center and continue to ground yourself in what you are trying to accomplish.

To achieve sustainable, meaningful improvements, rigor (being thorough and accurate) to the process must be maintained. What seems at the surface level to be an “easy fix” requires a thoughtful establishment of the new way of doing things for improvement to truly take hold.

Lean Tip #3087 – Acknowledge Past Achievements

In most businesses, improvement initiatives are not really brand new out of the box thinking, as many people have already been exposed to and worked on improvement concepts for a long time, and with some successes. It’ s important to acknowledge past achievements and recognize the champions who made it happen by assigning them significant roles for the new wave. If however, the approach has been firefighting, you may want to build a different team and approach the initiative more proactively. If past projects were not successful then it’s important to show how the new initiative differs from the previous and why it stands a better chance for success.

Lean Tip #3088 - Involve and Work Through People

Avoid being prescriptive with each step of your approach, rather opting to use a facilitated approach to get support and buy in from the teams involved. Always be open to a team using a different approach though still aligned to the overall objectives. Forcing things down people’s throats doesn’t really work well. Good facilitation should allow for a team to reach a pre-conceived conclusion on their own accord. On the same vein, allow the teams to decide what tasks and actions are to be done and offer to help rather than allocate tasks directly to the different people.

Lean Tip #3089 - What Gets Measured Gets Managed.

Put in place a good monitoring system to track the number of ideas generated over time, the level participation of people at any one time and cumulatively during the process, the rate of implementation and the Return on Investment or benefits. Tracking and showing a direct correlation between efforts and benefits is the best way to sustain improvement. Use agreed targets and KPI’s as your “dipstick” check.

Lean Tip #3090 - Keep Everyone Informed of Progress and Results.

The success of a good improvement program depends on good feedback and communication surrounding progress. Reports on progress can take many forms, as long as relevant and timely information is communicated. It’s also important to publicly celebrate any success coming out of the program. Lastly, where new records have been set and old improvement targets “smashed”, set new targets and make them known. 

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Monday, August 8, 2022

Quality Excellence: Going Above and Beyond

Quality is vital in all aspects of life. In business, quality is an important factor when it comes to any product or service. With high market competition, quality has become the market differentiator for almost all products and services because of the negative consequences of poor quality.

Poor quality can have several customer-related consequences:

·        Poor quality increases defects found by customers therefore increasing labor costs on identifying and correcting these defects. Defects are expensive to fix, and the later in the process they are detected, the more costly they are to fix.

  • Poor quality increases your baseline costs. If an organization releases poor quality, it will likely need a large number of support staff to help with customer issues. These dedicated expenses cut into time and money spent on new development.
  • Releasing poor quality causes delays with customers and lost revenue. Once doubt creeps into the minds of customers, they may delay purchasing new releases, allowing others to gain the business.
  • Poor quality diminishes your reputation and market share. Your brand and its reputation is your most valuable asset. In today’s highly connected environment, it is easy for a few dissatisfied customers to spread negative reviews.

"Quality" means different things to different people. The objective of “Quality" is to satisfy the ever-changing needs of our customers, suppliers and employees, with value added products and services emphasizing a continuous commitment to satisfaction through an ongoing process of education, communication, evaluation and constant improvement.


There are 5 elements of a Quality Management System comprising:

  • Customer Quality – Customer satisfaction/feedback, more than making a good product
  • Product Quality – Performance meets customers’ expectations, zero defect culture
  • Process Quality – Disciplined adherence to process ensure quality assurance
  • Supplier Quality – Proactive and collaborative systems assure supply chain
  • Development Quality – Assessment of product reliability through NPI cycle, reduce risk

This is built on a base of engaged employees and an innovative problem-solving culture.

The customer’s view of quality is an ever-evolving perception of the value provided by a product. It is not a static perception that never changes but a fluid process that changes as a product matures (innovation) and other alternatives (competition) are made available as a basis of comparison.

Quality must go beyond our product or service. We cannot add it at the end of the line or inspect it into the product. At best that is only a false sense of security. If we want a quality product it must be made with quality processes by quality minded people.

Quality is not a program or a project; it isn’t the responsibility of one individual or group to perform. The responsibility of delivering quality products and services to customers lies on the shoulders of every employee in Mirion. We will only make meaningful and sustainable quality improvement when employees at every level of the organization feel a shared desire to make processes and outcomes better every day, in a bold and continuous manner. 

Successful implementation of a quality focused organization requires commitment and patience, but the rewards are substantial. Beyond the obvious practical benefits, organizations become empowered to solve persistent process and performance challenges while raising the expectations they set for themselves.

A focus on quality must be intrinsic to the company culture and practices for the customer to take notice. Excellence in quality improves customer loyalty, elevates brand position, reduces cost, attracts new customers, and draws the best and brightest talent. A strong orientation for quality helps to achieve business goals. Achieving excellence in quality provides significant momentum for the business and is a source of pride for all employees. A comprehensive quality management system is a key attribute to the longevity and success of an organization.

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Friday, August 5, 2022

Lean Quote: A Boss vs A Leader

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.

"A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions.  —  Russel Ewing

We’ve all experienced variations of Boss vs. Leader types in our working lives. The truth is, it seems easier and more expedient to “boss” than to be a leader. But research and anecdotal evidence both show that leaders have more engaged employees, and get better results.  

Being a boss is a lot easier than being a leader. Bosses issue orders and enforce rules. They manage up, not down, and are more concerned with pleasing their own bosses than with helping to grow their own employees. Bosses typically have a fixed idea of how things should work and are not open to new ideas. Of course, “my way or the highway" does not develop committed employees. Those who succumb to the "authority trap" and try to tell and/or sell their ideas are not leading; they are issuing orders or dictating.  

A leader needs to exhibit flexibility and develop common goals that individuals can support and become excited about. Leading requires a dialogue between the employee and the manager. The manager is working not only to attain acceptable performance levels, but also to help the employee grow and develop into a self-motivated achiever who will not only perform satisfactorily but will want to be the best that they can be. 

Here are some major differences between a boss and a leader: 

1. Bosses “tell”; leaders “teach”. When it comes to improving performance, the boss tells the employee what is expected and how to get things done. The leader explains what is needed and why, and seeks the employee’s input and ideas. Leaders show employees how to improve, seek their commitment, and encourage them to think for themselves.  

2. Bosses inspire fear; leaders inspire trust. While fear may work in the short term, it does not inspire people to do their best in the long term. Fearful employees do what they need to do to survive, at least until they find a different job. Employees working for a good leader feel a sense of belonging, empowerment, and loyalty that makes them want to do their best work.  

3. Bosses like to talk; leaders prefer to listen. Bosses are often out of touch with the day-to-day realities of the workplace. They are often inaccessible. They tend to spend a lot of time away from the work area: in their offices, on the computer, in meetings. Leaders like to work where the action is. They want to be available for the employees and want to be part of the daily activity.  

4. A boss needs to control. Whether it is the flow of paper, calls, e-mails, requests, or meetings, bosses want everything to go through them. Control is central to their being. A leader uses control as a tool selectively. Leaders allow a free flow of information without feeling the need to be traffic cops. They are not threatened by members of their team talking to their own coach or their coach's coach. By being honest and candid, they tell it like it is to their team and they expect the same in return.  

5. A boss limits the training and development of the people under him or her. Bosses want only the most necessary technical or administration training for their people. Development is foreign to the boss. A leader ranks training and development as a top priority. Once a leader hires the best, he molds them to make them even better. Nothing is more gratifying to a leader than seeing their people advance to ever greater heights. They see it not as a threat but as the greatest compliment 

Nobody wants a boss, but everybody wants a leader. 

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Speaking at the Northeast Lean Conference

If you are looking for a conference this fall in the northeast consider the Northeast Lean ConferenceJoin us this September when together, we will learn from organizations and thought leaders how to avoid the traps that inhibit collaboration.

While most organizations who aspire to enterprise excellence are thwarted at every turn by constraints, there are leaders who use teamwork to exponentially amplify the continuous improvements of every individual in the organization: Through what we call "the collaboration effect", one perspective is replaced by many, and good ideas develop further into incredible ideas.

I'll be speaking with a colleague of mine about collaboration as key enabler of innovation. Here is the abstract:

The past 24 months have felt like a series of massive disruptions, one after the other, yet some companies have emerged stronger because they were able to use the disruption as an opportunity to innovate. While technology has been a key enabler of this innovation, organizational change will have long-lasting impact on which companies will maintain competitive advantage.

One key to innovation in the face of disruption is the use of cross-functional collaborative teams. These teams drive innovation through visual project management (VPM) by increasing the ability of the organization to understand the status and risk to address challenges more rapidly and efficiently.

VPM projects are traditionally housed in a physical project “war-room” (also known as an “Obeya room”). COVID-19, and the global footprint of staff necessitate a virtual solution for our Obeya rooms. iObeya is a unique solution that virtualizes project rooms enables visual collaboration anywhere in real-time from any device and immerses users in a natural working experience by reproducing physical interactions perfectly.

In this session, we will share Mirion’s approach to bringing proven lean manufacturing concepts from the factory to our new product development process by enabling cross-functional collaboration.   

​It’s hard to argue with the ideal of everyone working together to achieve a common purpose, but true collaboration is a catalyst seen in very few organizations; we call it the Collaboration Effect.  Respect for people and human development cannot be truly realized without it; and business results, too, will be limited. 

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