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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Lean Roundup #159 – August 2022

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


Root Cause to Solution Identification Simplified – John Knotts shares simple concepts, called Divergent to Convergent Thinking, Silent Brainstorming, Affinity Diagraming, and Tree Diagraming you can quickly use to determine the root causes of a problem and identify potential solutions.


Kaizen Kaizen Kaizen – Bob Emiliani says for Lean management to finally fulfill its mission to displace classical management Lean practitioners must return to Toyota-style kaizen.


What is Courage & How does it relate to True North? – Pascal Dennis explains achieving True North requires all the cardinal virtues and none more than courage.


Everyday Collaboration – Bruce Hamilton explains the greater amplification to our continuous improvement efforts lies in our ability to work together in the moment to solve many small problems. 


What is One-Piece Flow? – Christoph Roser explains the often misunderstood concept of one-piece flow.


Maybe “Just in Time” (JIT) Should Be Called “Short Lead Time” (SLT) Supply Chains – Mark Graban discusses the confusion with the term JIT and why it should really be called something else.


Achieve Alignment with Hoshin Kanri - Matt Banna describes how your organization can take strategic planning to the next level with Hoshin Kanri.


How to Test Your A3 Thinking – Tracey Richardson shares an approach that could help you test the logic of your A3 thinking.


Ask Art: Is Lean a Good Cost-Reduction Program? – Art Byrne explains why lean thinking and practice is a business strategy, not merely a cost-cutting strategy.


Tell me about your metrics and I’ll tell you who you are - Fl├ívio Battaglia says management by indicators can be a trap leading us to make decisions that are inconsistent with the real needs of a company and balance between facts and data is key.


Lean through four generations – Jim Womack says every lean generation has faced challenges, and it’s critical we understand the context around us if we are to continue to grow our Community.

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Monday, August 29, 2022

Lean Tips Edition #192 (#3091 - #3105)

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 #3091 – Create Standard Operating Procedures

One of the simplest ways to improve office processes is to have simple, straightforward and standard operating procedures. Another issue to consider is communicating these standard operating procedures. You need to make sure everyone – not just new hires – knows what the standard, approved procedure for tasks related to their job is. Don’t forget to have a standard process for changing procedures and communicating them so that everyone knows what the latest accepted way of doing something is. This eliminates mistakes caused by someone doing it the old way when you changed it to solve some other problem.

Lean Tip #3092 – Map Process Improvement Out

It is one thing to have a standard operating procedure. It is another to viscerally understand the procedure. The solution to this dilemma is to map all of your commonly used standard operating procedures. One benefit of this is that you can see the standard workflow and understand what each step does. When you collect that information along with statistics, you can see how often the standard process delivers things correctly and plan better ways to handle issues that aren’t part of the standard process.

Lean Tip #3093 – Make Quality a Priority 

Many business metrics tend to focus on volume or speed. How many customers did you handle today? How many orders did we ship out? What was the average time per call? How quickly did you assemble that product? One way to improve office processes is to add quality metrics to the scorecard.

If you want to improve office processes, you need to understand what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. You also have to decide that better means delivered right the first time as well as quickly and cheaply. 

Lean Tip #3094 - Encourage Proactive Communication

A lot of errors can be prevented by proactive communication. If an employee foresees an error or inefficiency in the process, coworkers should realize the impact and act on it quickly. Nurture a work culture that encourages team members to identify and solve problems. Announce incentives to employees for increasing the efficiency of the process.

Proactive communication does not mean restlessly seeking problems and solving them. It is acting on a problem immediately after you identify one.

Lean Tip #3095 - Make Changes that Bring Maximum Impact

There are hundreds of improvements you can make to the process. But everything cannot be done in one shot. Be smart at choosing which improvements to execute. The Pareto principle comes in handy.

The pareto principle states that 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes. It also means that if you act on 20% of the causes you bring 80% improvement. Instead of doing pointless busy work, concentrate on making improvements that bring more impact.

You need not break your head calculating the percentage of impact. Remember and apply the principle theoretically when you have multiple improvements to make.

Lean Tip #3096 – Promote Training and Development of Employees 

Job training and continuing education help to fuel employee career growth. Encourage team members to pursue relevant business courses and workshops that will further their career advancement. Virtual learning opportunities are a must for many teams right now, and fortunately, there are many affordable options available. 

In addition to nurturing individual needs and growing specific skills, help your employees keep up with what’s happening in the wider industry. One cost-effective method that’s easy to arrange is to host lunch-and-learn sessions by video, featuring either external or internal guest speakers. Also, give your employees the time and flexibility to engage in industry events. Consider asking those workers to share what they learn at these events with their colleagues.

Lean Tip #3097 – Paint the Big Picture

Reminding employees of their unique contributions to the company’s mission adds meaning to their role. It can also increase their motivation to expand their responsibilities and advance in the organization.

Don’t assume they already know how their work adds value, however. Offer regular insights into how their day-to-day actions make a difference to the organization. In your regular updates to team members, be sure to highlight the firm’s progress toward key objectives. And acknowledge individual employees for specific achievements that are helping to drive the company toward those goals.

Lean Tip #3098 – Create a Learning Culture

Incorporate learning and growth into your core values and make sure they shine through in your people strategies and business decisions. Talk about career growth throughout the employee lifecycle, beginning with recruitment and onboarding, and continuing during one-on-ones and performance reviews.

Encourage your team members to engage in learning activities during the work day and to share their learnings with their colleagues. Demonstrate the value you place on learning and growth by rewarding your developing team members with recognition, promotions, and raises.

A learning culture enables your employees to grow in their current roles and achieve upward mobility within your organization. 

Lean Tip #3099 – Identify and Develop Transferable Skills

Working through a pandemic taught many organizations the importance of agility and the ability to adapt to continually changing circumstances. Soft skills or transferable skills are qualifications that help employees excel in a variety of roles. They help employees transition seamlessly from one position to another. Organizations that offer training and educational resources for honing soft skills reap the benefits of productive teams and employees who are engaged with new opportunities.

Lean Tip #3100 – Provide Frequent Feedback

Annual reviews often fail to provide an accurate description of an employee’s overall performance. It’s easy to assume employees have a firm understanding of how they contribute to the organization. Yet, without feedback, most employees suspect their efforts are overlooked. By offering regular insight into how the day-to-day actions of your employees contribute to organizational success, high performers will be inspired to work toward higher-level positions within the company and continue to work toward company goals.

Lean Tip #3101 – Offer Cross-Training Opportunities

Cross-training your employees to do a couple of jobs in a department that is not their own can help them keep their day interesting and continue to be productive. This will increase your employees’ current level of knowledge and skill and help them gain a broader perspective of the organization, and build a foundation for further career advancement. They will develop more appreciation for their colleagues’ duties and better understand the company’s overall mission.

Regular cross-training among employees can also help teams work together more effectively and build a stronger rapport. And the organization will benefit from having a more well-rounded workforce.

Lean Tip #3102 – Identify and Encourage Unique Skills

Learning the special traits of a worker can differentiate them from others in the workforce when applying for future positions. Employees may even have prior work experience that can be repurposed for new careers, like a former artist who can use their talents to design logos for businesses. Encouraging people to take pride in their unique abilities and apply their skills in different ways will lead to more confident staff members, and should promote creative thinking in the workplace.

Lean Tip #3103 – Encourage and Facilitate Networking and Mentoring

As a manager, you may be able to connect members of your team with key players within your company (and, particularly, people beyond your own department) who can provide valuable career guidance and industry insight.

There may even be someone in the organization who could serve as a mentor to your employee, sharing practical knowledge and hands-on guidance and insight that could help an up-and-coming professional better understand the organizational politics they’ll need to navigate to achieve their goals.

Lean Tip #3104 – Clearly Communicate the Strategy, Direction of the Organization

In order to ensure an employee’s career goals are aligned with the company’s goals, the company needs to be open about its strategy and future directions.

If the company plans on pursuing new opportunities which would make some skill sets obsolete, employees should know this up front and decide for themselves if it is time to move on or if they want to be on the forefront of developing new skills to help explore new opportunities. Employees can’t be in charge of their career and make good career decisions if they don’t understand where the organization is going.

Lean Tip #3105 – Managers are the Key Source for Developmental Experiences

Managers have not fully realized the critical role they play in understanding the career goals of their employees and crafting development opportunities that help them to achieve their goals.

To get work accomplished, we tend to ask people to do things they already know how to do. This is particularly true today when we have to do more with less and expediency is very helpful. But if our managers are not proactively thinking about special assignments or roles for team members with potential for advancement, then how will employees be able to continuously learn and grow?

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Friday, August 26, 2022

Lean Quote: Passion is Everything

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.

"Fires can’t be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens efforts and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.  —  James A. Baldwin, author

A positive and enthusiastic attitude is a critical component of workplace success. Passion is the driving force that enables people to attain far more than they ever imagined. 

Most jobs are pretty predictable after a while, and it’s simply human nature to get bored with a regular routine. What’s more, you might be experiencing the same setbacks and irritations on a daily or weekly basis. If you feel like your career doesn’t hold the same appeal it used to, you’re not alone. 

There are people who manage to remain consistently happy and engaged in their careers, and they’re usually the ones who stay at the top of their professional game. They motivate themselves to meet each challenge and approach every project with a high level of integrity, enthusiasm and professionalism. Their positive attitude and resilience distinguishes them as top performers in their companies. 

Here are some suggestions for regaining your enthusiasm: 

Whenever possible, focus on what you love. There are probably parts of your job that you like better than others. One easy way to revitalize your enthusiasm is to approach your manager with a number of ways you could spend more time on those activities that interest and challenge you and, alternately, find methods to minimize the frustration and boredom you associate with the less appealing ones. 

Take responsibility for your own advancement. If you want to be satisfied with your work, you need to continuously improve your skill set and grow in different directions. It’s the only way you’ll really feel challenged over the long term. But don’t wait for your manager to come up with professional development opportunities for you. Remember, it’s your job to guide your career into new territory. 

That means always keeping an eye out for ways to expand your knowledge and skills, especially in areas that will enhance your long-term career prospects, and then approaching your boss about any learning opportunities you want to engage in. 

Get outside of your comfort zone. It’s easy to get in a rut at work, completing the same tasks over and over again. It may feel safe, but eventually, it’s going to get dull. Don’t let a sense of apprehension hold you back from trying something new and daring at work. If you start to fear failure, remember that taking risks – such as making a presentation, leading a high-profile project or finding a more efficient way for your department to operate – can often help advance your career, if you’re successful. 

Maintain work/life control. Peak performers tend to be steady and centered. They can be passionate without being control freaks, on top of things without seeming obsessive. They typically have one thing in common: a healthy balance between their personal and professional life. 

It’s important to commit to your career goals, but you shouldn’t get so wrapped up in them that you lose sight of your personal needs and priorities. Make sure you’re participating in activities outside of the office that make you happy, and take time off when you can. If you spend every daylight hour, plus weekends, on your work, you’ll be certain to burn out and lose any excitement you once had for your job. 

Passion is everything. Without passion there is no drive to succeed. It is the fuel of the will, and everything you. Passion is contagious and is easily shared. Passion will bridge moments of weakness, and will drive you past your failures while reaching for your goals. Passion radiates from you and is easily detected by others. 

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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

GROW your Coaching and Mentoring

As a leader, one of your most important roles is to coach your people to do their best. By doing this, you'll help them make better decisions, solve problems that are holding them back, learn new skills, and otherwise progress their careers. 

The GROW Model is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring your coaching or mentoring sessions. 

GROW stands for: 


Current Reality. 

Options (or Obstacles). 

Will (or Way Forward). 

A good way of thinking about the GROW Model is to think about how you'd plan a journey. First, you decide where you are going (the goal), and establish where you currently are (your current reality). You then explore various routes (the options) to your destination. In the final step, establishing the will, you ensure that you're committed to making the journey, and are prepared for the obstacles that you could meet on the way. 

To structure a coaching or mentoring session using the GROW Model, take the following steps: 

1. Establish the Goal 

First, you and your team member need to look at the behavior that you want to change, and then structure this change as a goal that they want to achieve. 

Make sure that this is a SMART goal: one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. 

When doing this, it's useful to ask questions like: 
  • How will you know that your team member has achieved this goal? How will you know that the problem or issue is solved? 
  • Does this goal fit with their overall career objectives? And does it fit with the team's objectives? 
2. Examine the Current Reality 

Next, ask your team member to describe their current reality. 

This is an important step. Too often, people try to solve a problem or reach a goal without fully considering their starting point, and often they're missing some information that they need in order to reach their goal effectively. 

As your team member tells you about their current reality, the solution may start to emerge. 

Useful coaching questions in this step include the following: 
  • What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)? What is the effect or result of this? 
  • Have you already taken any steps toward your goal? 
  • Does this goal conflict with any other goals or objectives? 
3. Explore the Options 

Once you and your team member have explored the current reality, it's time to determine what is possible – meaning all of the possible options for reaching their objective. 

Help your team member brainstorm as many good options as possible. Then, discuss these and help them decide on the best ones. 

By all means, offer your own suggestions in this step. But let your team member offer suggestions first, and let them do most of the talking. It's important to guide them in the right direction, without actually making decisions for them. 

Typical questions that you can use to explore options are as follows: 
  • What else could you do? 
  • What if this or that constraint were removed? Would that change things? 
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option? 
  • What factors or considerations will you use to weigh the options? 
  • What do you need to stop doing in order to achieve this goal? 
  • What obstacles stand in your way? 
4. Establish the Will 

By examining the current reality and exploring the options, your team member will now have a good idea of how they can achieve their goal. 

That's great – but in itself, this may not be enough. The final step is to get your team member to commit to specific actions in order to move forward toward their goal. In doing this, you will help them establish their will and boost their motivation. 

Useful questions to ask here include: 
  • So, what will you do now, and when? What else will you do? 
  • What could stop you moving forward? How will you overcome this? 
  • How can you keep yourself motivated? 
  • When do you need to review progress? Daily, weekly, monthly? 
Finally, decide on a date when you'll both review their progress. This will provide some accountability and allow them to change their approach if the original plan isn't working. 

At its core, all the GROW model is really doing is getting someone to think about their current state, their desired future, and how they can bridge the gap between the two. This approach forms the basis for several other coaching models and problem solving approaches (e.g. the A3 Problem Solving Model.) 

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Monday, August 22, 2022

10 Characteristics of Effective Performance Metrics

Most businesses understand the value of using metrics to assess the state of their company and validate the company is heading in the right direction. Organizational metrics, sometimes called Key Performance Indicators (KPI), are developed to understand the overall health of an organization. They provide the fundamental element of balanced scorecards and dashboards, which are used to quickly show how well the organization is performing relative to the past, a target, or both. 

Traditional KPI are established within four broad categories: 

Customer. Customers generally consider four broad categories in evaluating a supplier: Quality, Timeliness, Performance and Service, and Value. Customer communication methods are the means to understand the relative importance the customer base places on these categories as well as their general expectations. 

Internal process. These metrics that are strongly aligned with the strategic objectives are best suited. Total cycle time (i.e., time to process the order) and first-pass quality are relevant indicators of internal process performance. Process cycle efficiency, calculated as the value-added time divided by the total lead time, or Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) are relevant Lean-focused metrics for evaluating internal performance and resource utilization. 

Learning and growth. Metrics in this category might focus on the total deliverables (in dollars saved) from continuous improvement projects, new product or service development times, improvement in employee perspective or quality culture, revenue or market share associated with new product, and so on. 

Financial. Many suitable financial metrics are available and widely tracked, including revenue, profitability, market share, and so on. Cost of quality is also recommended. 

The choice of metric is important only so far as the metric is used to guide behavior or establish strategy. Poorly chosen metrics may lead to the suboptimal behavior if they lead people away from the organization's goals instead of towards them. 

To be effective and reliable, the metrics we choose to use need to have ten key characteristics. The following table was adapted from Keebler (1999) which suggest the qualities to look for in indicators. 

A good measure: 


Is quantitative 

The measure can be expressed as an objective value 

Is easy to understand 

The measure conveys at a glance what it is measuring, and how it is derived 

Encourages appropriate behavior 

The measure is balanced to reward productive behavior and discourage “game playing” 

Is visible 

The effects of the measure are readily apparent to all involved in the process being measured 

Is defined and mutually understood 

The measure has been defined by and/or agreed to by all key process participants (internally and externally) 

Encompasses both outputs and inputs 

The measure integrates factors from all aspects of the process measured 

Measures only what is important 

The measure focuses on a key performance indicator that is of real value to managing the process 

Is multidimensional 

The measure is properly balanced between utilization, productivity, and performance, and shows the trade-offs 

Uses economies of effort 

The benefits of the measure outweigh the costs of collection and analysis 

Facilitates trust 

The measure validates the participation among the various parties 

Creating KPIs forces your organization to clearly define the performance measures that outline how you’ll achieve your big strategic priorities. 

Remember the following: 

1) Define Your Measure – This sounds obvious, but every KPI must have a clear expression of what you need to measure. The more descriptive your performance measure, the better.  You can categorize performance measures into these categories: 
  • Activity Measures –This measures activity and can include a percentage, number, currency and activities, or processes. An example of this measure would be the number of leads in your pipeline. 
  • Outcome Measure – This measures progress against a defined outcome, often expressed as a percentage increase, change, or results from an outcome. An example of this would be % increase in revenue compared to last year. 
  • Project Measure – This measures the progress of a project, often expressed as percent complete, a deliverable, activity, or process the owner can influence. An example would be % complete to complete XX strategic project. 
  • Target Structure – These represent a numeric result against a date. A perfect example would be $XXXM in revenue by the end date of a strategic objective. 
2) Define Your Target – Your target is the numeric value you’re setting out to achieve. Targets need to match your measurement type and due date. If your measure is a percentage, your target needs to be a percentage. If your measure is a raw number, the target should be a raw number. 

3) Outline the Data Source – Every KPI needs to have a clear data source. Make sure you articulate where you are pulling your data from and what the calculations are so everyone is on the same page. 

4) Define an Owner and Tracking Frequency – As with any SMART goal, a KPI needs to have a clear owner and defined tracking frequency. So, make sure someone is accountable for pulling the data and updating performance on a defined frequency.  

Once chosen, the metrics must be communicated to the members of the organization. To be useful, the employees must be able to influence the metric through his or her performance, and it must be clear precisely how the employee’s performance influences the metric. 

Regardless of the metrics you use or your method for tracking, make sure to educate your organization on how the metrics are derived, what they indicate, and how they will be used in addition to regularly communicate relevant metrics to your team members. 

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