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Friday, September 30, 2022

Lean Quote: The Secret to Delighting Customer is Putting Employees First

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.

"Your number one customers are your people. Look after employees first and then customers last.  —  Ian Hutchinson

Of course, the customer remains king, but employees are the ambassadors of a brand. Whether the employee approaches the customer with a smile or with a sigh makes a big difference in the customer experience. After all, the employee is supposed to put the customer first, but if this employee is not happy with his or her work, this will inevitably reflect on the customer.

The time has come to work on enriching the employee experience just as we do the customer experience. It’s all about giving them a feeling of fulfillment and joy. Without that experience – one that evokes an emotion, a memory, some identity – employees will simply view their paycheck as a commodity; no different than bread at the supermarket.

You cannot have employees without customers or customers without employees. It’s like the chicken and egg conundrum: they both came first. Customers and employees are inextricably linked. Burning your employees out at the expense of customers’ satisfaction, as an example, throws that balance out of whack; its a losing proposition that you cannot sustain.

When you take care of your employees, they will naturally take care of your customers. Rather than making your customers the top priority in your company, make your employees the focus. An employee who is satisfied and sees how much you value their work will, in turn, take care of your customers.

Conversely, if you put your customers above your employees, you might wind up hurting those customers in the long run. Employees who see that you care more about the clients they serve than you do about them will not provide the same level of customer service. They will cut corners and care less. Make sure your employees are happy and provided with the tools they need to succeed and the rest will take care of itself.

Work on your employee experience, and those employees will be able to better deliver a quality customer experience.

Putting employees first has great value that cannot be overstated.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Lean Roundup #160 – September 2022

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


Rethinking Strategy – Bob Emiliani shares new book Wheel of Fortune about  learning how to improve the process of developing business strategy, executing business strategy, and learning from strategy failure.


Robot Day – Bruce Hamilton talks about all thing AI and how it related to continuous improvement and elimination of waste or not.


How The Project Charter Evolves – John Knotts explains that a Project Charter should not be created and then tucked away inside of a filing cabinet or drawer but needs to evolve with the team.


A Simple Plan for Starting Your Lean Journey – Steve Kane shares 4 steps to point you in the right direction to get started by focusing on fundamentals.


The 7 Cs: Characteristics of a Leader to Create a Chain of Learning – Katie Anderson looks at the 7Cs of impactful leadership allowing you to approach problem-solving – and achieving needed outcomes while developing people –  in the most intentional way possible.


This is NOT Lean: Lean Staffing – Christopher Roser explains that “lean staffing” is actually not a lean thing and does not show respect for people.


A Mystery Solved! That Photo I Use to Talk About Standardized Work and Workarounds – Mark Graban discusses standardized work and the many workarounds people create.


10 Tips for Getting the Most Value from Value-Stream Mapping - Judy Worth shares 10 key things to keep in mind for ensuring your organization reaps the performance gains it can deliver — including improvements in performance and teamwork.


How Purpose Shapes Culture – Richard Sheridan reflects on the struggles and rewards of building a leadership culture that elevates human energy.


Why Coaching is a Core Skill of a Lean Leader – John Shook says if "learning by doing" at the gemba is the best way to learn lean thinking and practices (and it is), coaching is THE skill leaders need to enable more effective, more efficient learning.


Expanding the Purpose of Catchball – Josh Howell explains how catchball helps get the job done while building capability simultaneously.


The lean answer to uncertainty - Michael BallĂ© says in the face of uncertainty, when it’s hard to see the road ahead, we can still make things better day after day by embracing kaizen – until we are out of the woods.

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Monday, September 26, 2022

Lean Tips Edition #193 (#3106 - #3120)

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 #3106 – Think Differently

Ideas for change can come from a process or policy that you have come across that may be improved or appears to be no longer fit for purpose. Choose something you and others genuinely care about. Keep it simple; you are testing small scale change not trying to do ten things at the same time. You may decide to do a project against a known standard; but this will be a real-time, dynamic audit with the real possibility of making a difference in a short space of time rather than the traditional approach we have become used to.

Lean Tip #3107 – Be Clear and Focused

Have a clear vision and objectives so everyone understands what you are doing and why. Using SMART goals (which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) should help you achieve this.

Articulate your vision and try to find the hook that makes them want to get involved as well. For example, what new skills they may acquire and the rewards for participating, such as team recognition or leadership.

Lean Tip #3108 – Make a Change and Evaluate it to See if it Worked

Use a straightforward measuring process so there is no doubting the improvements made. It's important to know the baseline activity before you start so you have a number of points of comparison and keep measuring little and often. Two data points are not enough. Record your results on a run chart so you can see the changes taking place over time.

Lean Tip #3109 – Engage Your Team

Improvement is a team activity. Therefore, an essential step in getting started is to engage in dialogue with your team. Make time to talk about what matters to people and involve them in solutions. No one person has the skills or knowledge to come up with a solution on their own. Identify the benefits to the team, customers, and employees, which will help with buy-in. If you don’t have buy-in from your team, you will likely fail, no matter how good your idea is.

Leaders must actively support and make time for improvement processes, in order for it to take hold and flourish. Enable your team to openly share information and encourage people to take action where it’s needed. As a leader, you can create a culture where your team feels connected and empowered.

Lean Tip #3110 – Commit to Change 

Most importantly, you need to enjoy the experience. Lean makes change a real possibility, which is both empowering and satisfying for everyone. Finally, don’t worry about what you don’t know or it being perfect the first time. You will learn by doing and your skills will be developed as you go.  Celebrate your successes and your failures, as there is valuable learning in both.

Lean Tip #3111 – Take a Tour

Sometimes we learn best by first witnessing the success of others. See the benefits of lean in action. It is not difficult to find organizations that will allow you to see their lean implementations (referred to as the Gemba walk). Take detailed notes of what is highly effective in their Lean implementations, ask questions, and get as much valuable information as you can in order to help you formulate you own Lean strategy for implementation.

Lean Tip #3112 – Discard Conventional Fixed Ideas

Part of problem solving is thinking “outside of the box.” Encourage fresh perspectives and ingenuity in your team in order to develop innovative ways to forward Lean manufacturing without changing what is already efficient and successful. With such a rapidly evolving climate in manufacturing, sometimes conventional thought is what leads to the problem in the first place!

Lean Tip #3113 – Provide the Right Supplies, Tools, and Training

Although it’s often taken for granted that a shop floor has what it needs, I’ve seen facilities where employees have to rummage through dumpsters to get simple supplies like grinding discs. From bad documents to missing parts, dropped balls are rampant in almost every industry. By correcting this problem with the right materials, tools, information, training, and work environment, a wide array of inefficiencies will simply evaporate. Your employees will jump to support any good-faith efforts that eliminate the inconveniences they experience.

Lean Tip #3114 – Enlist Believers.

A system-wide change must be powered by team members at all levels of the organization, not just upper level leaders.

The best lean implementations are mandated and supported top-down and put in place bottom-up by enabling the people who do the work to redesign and improve their work.

Find and enlist an army of recruits who will work under the guidance of your leadership team. They will establish the systems and processes that enable both structural and behavioral change.

Lean Tip #3115 – Leave a legacy

Many executives are passionate about what they do and care about making a lasting impact on their organization.

Implementing a process improvement culture can make a real difference to business teams and to the success of an organization. Execs are well-positioned to leave a legacy with the support of engaged teams who are executing processes aligned to the business strategy.

Lean Tip #3116 – Encourage Peer Recognition

Encouraging peer recognition is an effective way to ensure that your employees feel recognized and appreciated for their contributions. Instead of an annual, top-down approach, peer recognition programs empower employees to recognize and reward one another on a much more frequent basis.

Crowdsourcing employee recognition makes celebrating the myriad achievements and contributions of all the members of your team much easier, more organic, more genuine, and much more realistic to accomplish.

Although peer recognition is one of the most effective methods to ensure employees know they're appreciated, there are many other complementary initiatives you can implement that dovetail nicely with it.

Lean Tip #3117 – Highlight Employees When You Can

Whenever you get a chance, highlight your employees. There are a few different ways you can do this. Many companies use social media to highlight employees who are doing something special. Those employees then share that information with their friends and family, so you’ll get more eyes on your brand. This is a win-win for you and your employees. You can also highlight an “employee of the week,” which allows you to recognize employees more often than an employee of the month.

Lean Tip #3118 – Never Underestimate the Value of Sharing Your Time and Building a Relationship With Your Team

They appreciate your genuine interest in their ideas and thoughts about their jobs. They like bouncing ideas back and forth with you and look for your sincere input on their projects and goals.

The role of mentor and coach is powerful in training your organization’s culture and expectations. It is also a significant source of experiential knowledge, history, work approaches, and on-the-job training.

Lean Tip #3119 – Provide Opportunities for Contributing Employees

Opportunities can take many forms. But, all of them are outside of the normal day-to-day requirements of their job plan.

Employees appreciate chances for training and cross-training. They want to participate in a special committee where their talents are noticed. They’d like to lead a team that is pursuing an important objective.

They are happy to attend professional association meetings and proud to represent your organization at civic and philanthropic events. They’d appreciate the green light relative to implementing an idea they have for increasing morale in your workplace.

They are eager to stop doing portions of their job that have become rote in favor of new goals and assignments that stretch their skills and build on their abilities.

Lean Tip #3120 – Recognize the Person, Not Just Their Performance

When we think about the content of a recognition message, we usually associate it with praising an employee's performance. For example: "Great job on exceeding our targets for the quarter!"

But, the problem with only praising performance and productivity is that it can make your message's content feel impersonal.

Ultimately, to boost the impact of appreciation, a recognition message should add a few words about the soft skills they brought to the table. In short, be specific.

"Amazing job exceeding your targets for the quarter! We are so impressed by your creative problem-solving and work ethic."

As you can see, recognition and appreciation messages at work are most impactful when leaders highlight what the employee did differently. When someone sees you and understands you as a person, it's a great feeling.

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Friday, September 23, 2022

Lean Quote: Take Time to Watch the Leaves Turn

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.

"Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.  —  Elizabeth Lawrence

Seasons change and each one beckons a new energy. Autumn, when the light is equal to the dark, is a period of both abundance and surrender. It invites you to celebrate your bounty – the fruits from the seeds you planted in the spring. Then, it reminds you to be grateful, demonstrating both the impermanence in nature and the possibility of regeneration.

So, pause to watch the leaves turn. Take time to reflect on the cycles of life. If you have received great favor, then determine how you can share the love. If your harvest was not as robust as you would like, then start planning for next season.

Just as leaves fall from the trees, it’s a good time to consider your strongholds and shed anything that doesn’t serve your spirit or may be holding you back from reaching your highest potential. As you let go of dead weight – whether it be habits, beliefs, activities or even people – you make way for new growth. You may just fall into a more vibrant version of yourself.

You’ve been working hard and playing hard. A great way to prevent burnout is to create space and time for yourself. Fall offers us a colorful window to sit and take in Nature’s work, to revel in the beauty that truly is all around us. Enjoy the peace, quiet, and beauty that autumn brings.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Autumn is the Season for Reflection and Gratitude

A new season greets us. Fall has arrived, and with it comes crisper air, warm sweaters and blankets, and natural beauty. For me there is a special magic in this season.

Leaves begin to burn into an explosive palette of colors, a crisp and cold air is blowing, the days are shortening, pumpkins are appearing announcing Halloween.

Symbolically, Autumn is a time for reflection and gratitude.  It's time to slow down and remember where we are coming from and where we're going.  It is time to reap what we sowed in the spring and time to commit to new projects.

Autumn leaves remind us to slow down and enjoy the life going on around us, right this moment. It’s a time to reflect

As leaders, we spend a great deal of our time looking for the right results – planning, measuring, and refining.

Again, these are often all necessary essentials if we are going to be effective in our roles. However, these results are not the goal of true leadership. They are simply the by-product of the true goal – helping people grow.

Autumn, and the measured slowness it brings, naturally creates an opportunity for us to simmer down, hit pause, and actually relate to our teams. It’s a time to remind ourselves that they are the resource, not the vehicle used to produce the resource.

Take time to interact with your people, all without agenda or expectation. Invest time in deepening your knowledge and understanding of who they are, what their hopes and dreams might be, and how you can help them become the people they were always meant to be.

Regular periods of self-reflection help leaders ensure they’re headed in the right direction with regard to engaging their teams, making progress on their own leadership development, and creating a legacy that is sustainable over the long-term.

Whether you are in a leadership role, an aspiring leader or you just want to be your best in work and life, the habit of reflection can build self-awareness, efficacy, and resilience. If done with purpose and intention, it can help you establish and achieve more meaningful goals and prepare for the new year ahead.

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Monday, September 19, 2022

6 Tips For Building a Collaborative Work Environment

Nowadays, many employers cite collaboration as a key employee skill. It's a great way to encourage people to share knowledge and resources. It can provide great opportunities for cross-training and networking, and can even improve employee engagement levels.

Collaboration means working together with people from across the business to achieve a shared goal. Although similar to teamwork, a collaborative partnership is not hierarchical – everyone has equal status, no matter their seniority. You can collaborate with members of your own team or from other departments, as well as contractors, clients, or even other organizations.

Collaboration can demand a lot from people. It means being open-minded, listening to other people's opinions and putting personal agendas to one side. So, it's essential that you try to encourage collaboration across your organization. You can do this by:

Share knowledge, insights, and resources. Knowledge, as they say, is power. And if knowledge is shared amongst your team, they will feel more empowered to contribute on an even playing field.

Leading by example. People watch how you act. If you aren't afraid to listen to new ideas and offer solutions – even when it makes you vulnerable – you'll encourage others to do the same.

Building trust. Collaboration can stall when people don't feel able to open up. Combat this by setting up team-building activities, and encouraging people to give honest and constructive feedback. This will help to strengthen team bonds, to create a sense of shared responsibility and to give people the confidence to speak up.

Fostering a creative culture. Creative thinking underpins good collaboration. It can help to drive innovation and allows you to avoid groupthink. Encourage this behavior by making use of creativity tools and processes.

Achieve "Buy-In". While some people will jump at the chance to collaborate, others may not be so keen. They might see it as an imposition on their time and be worried about the extra work or stress that it could bring. So, before you ask someone to collaborate think about how it can benefit him or her. Identifying the wider strategic goal, like fine-tuning a process to increase income, can be persuasive.

Get out of the office. Getting out of the office regularly helps teams build relationships based on mutual interests rather than what they share in common within working hours. It helps employees see each other as humans rather than just colleagues.

Team collaboration is the cornerstone of any successful business. Collaborative workplaces see increased levels of trust, a more engaged workforce, and improved performance. Running a collaborative team environment is no simple feat. It takes a concerted effort to integrate co-operative values throughout your whole company's ethos.

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Friday, September 16, 2022

Lean Quote: Lean is, Quite Simply, the World's Most Powerful Scientific Management Approach With a Focus on Work as Flow.

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.

"I will say this again: the only way to generate a profit is to improve business performance and profit through efforts to reduce cost. This is not done by making workers slave away […] or to generate a profit by pursuing low labor costs, but by using truly rational and scientific methods to eliminate waste and reduce cost.  —  Taiichi Ohno

Lean is a collaborative scientific management approach that fosters creativity, innovation and agile organizations. By developing everyone to collaboratively solve problems to the flow of value to customers every day. Everyone engages in observation and experiments to improve flow. Lean management also continuously improves the system within which people work.

The genius of Taiichi Ohno (father of the Toyota Production System) to focus on a truly scientific object of study - flow as energy moving through a system, with few assumptions and that follows robust existing laws and principles - is what sets Lean management apart from others.

Where Taiichi Ohno was truly ahead of his time however, was in creating a collaborative scientific model. In collaborative science, everyone, no matter the level of education or role can collaboratively gather data, analyze data and share learning. What this means in Lean organizations is that the people expending energy to flow value to customers are doing the actual measurements in real time and are best positioned to identify flow problems quickly and engage in controlled experiments in order to improve flow.

Scientific methods used in Lean organizations are varied and include, but are not limited to, experimentation (PDSA or PDCA). The method of observation, for example, is one of the most important to develop in absolutely everyone - not exclusively management - in order to see flow in real time.

The beauty of a scientific management system based on flow is its portability - as long as there is effort expended in a context, Lean applies. This moves Lean way beyond the confines of manufacturing.

Management in a Lean organization is more akin to scientific research management, aligning efforts organizationally with a steady focus on the flow. Developing everyone to be the best at what they do by improving the flow of value to customers in their own work every single day.

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