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Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Lean Roundup #175 – December, 2023

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of December 2023.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.  


Advice to Young Lean Professionals – Bob Emiliani shares advice that could help young lean professionals better succeed and avoid much stress and anguish.


Signs of a Failing Lean “Implementation” – Mark Rosenthal outlines why the hiring of a CI Director outside the company ins not a sign of success.


New Competency #1: Systems Thinking, Systems Leading – Christopher Chapman explores the first “leadership competency” as explained in Pete Scholtes’ book, The Leader’s Handbook.


Launching a Lean Transformation: An Aerospace Manufacturer’s Journey with Purpose, Process, and People  - Matt Savas share the 10 month lean journey of aerospace manufacturer Re:Build Cutting Dynamics.


Learning to See in 2023 – Mark Rosenthal talks about the importance of mapping your process to see.


How to Conduct High-Value Monthly Business Reviews for Continuous Improvement – Maggie Millard explains monthly business reviews can redefine your approach, elevate critical metrics, and propel your organization toward unparalleled growth.


A Christmas Message from the CEO of Spotify – Bruce Hamilton explains why Spotify’s memo to employees about reductions is similar to the Scrooged executive Frank Cross’ actions.


Santa’s Workshop, The Ultimate Lean Factory! – Mark Preston shares some of the lean principles used in Santa’s workshop.


Toyota Practical Problem Solving (PPS)—Introduction – Christoph Roser goes through the practical problem solving process used by Toyota step by step.


Beyond Mistakes: Uncovering Toyota’s Approach to Success Through Learning – Mark Graban shares lessons from Toyota’s journey that teach us to embrace mistakes as opportunities from growth and learning is a powerful catalyst for innovation.


Random Thoughts – Bob Emiliani shares a list of random thoughts that may have become the source material for books.


A Second Chance for Lean? – Bob Emiliani shares thoughts on Lean Managements second chance to replace classical management.


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Friday, December 22, 2023

Top 10 Lean Quotes from 2023

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 cannot improve.

10. "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily."   —  Zig Ziglar  

9. "My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me."   —  Jim Valvano 

8. "At the end of the day, how we spend our days on average, is how we live our lives."   —  Dr. Ashley Whillans, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School

7. "Change is inevitable. Change is constant."   —  Benjamin Disraeli

6. "There isn’t time—so brief is life—for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving—and but an instant, so to speak, for that."   —  Mark Twain  

5. "The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership."   —  Harvey Firestone

4. "What you permit, you promote.  What you allow, you encourage.  What you condone, you own.  What you tolerate, you deserve."   —  Michelle Malkin

3. "To be doing good deeds is man's most glorious task."   —  Sophocles

2. "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."   —  Anne Bradstreet

1. "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."   —  Maya Angelou

These are the top 10 quotes on A Lean Journey website in 2023.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Top 10 Lean Tips From 2023

As 2023 comes to an end and we look toward 2024 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

Lean Tip #3195 – Believe in Your Goals and Trust Yourself That You Can Do It

You need to believe in your goals and trust yourself that you can do it. First, you must believe that your goals are possible. And second, you must trust that you can achieve them.

When you truly believe you can achieve your goals, you will do whatever it takes to reach them. Think about why people buy lottery tickets. Well, it is because they believe that they stand a chance to win, right? If you don’t believe you stand a chance to win, you will never bother buying the lottery ticket.

The same goes for your goals. When you believe that you can achieve them, you will do it with a 100% commitment rather than a half-hearted attempt.

Therefore, believe that your goals are possible and trust that you can achieve them.

Lean Tip #3306 – Focus Team and Company on Crucial Tasks

Don’t confuse being busy with being productive – they’re not necessarily related. We all know someone who is always busy, but never seems to get anything done. Where focus goes, energy flows, and it’s crucial to keep your employees focused on just one task or goal at a time. Make it clear what’s most important, and efficiency will follow.

Lean Tip #3196 – Think Positive

You can’t always control life-changing events, but you can control how you respond to them. Rather than dwelling on negative thoughts, accept that change is part of life, and try to see it as an opportunity for personal growth. What can you learn? How will this situation better prepare you for the future? Concentrate on what you ultimately want to achieve, rather than worrying about the obstacles in your way. Try to keep things in perspective, and avoid catastrophizing or feeling helpless or overwhelmed. The more you can face a stressful situation with optimism and positivity, the more resilient you will become – and the better equipped you will be to face the next challenge.

Lean Tip #3208 – Teach Employees Instead of Giving Orders.

An effective leader knows how to show others what is required, rather than simply telling them. Leaders should coach their team members toward a more collaborative, committed work environment – without coaxing them.

If you are controlling people to do certain things in certain ways, you’re not going to get the level of engagement that you’re looking for. Coaching is about helping the people you lead recognize the choices they have in front of them. People will then take a great deal of ownership over the direction of the project.


As opposed to simply barking orders at team members, good leaders should encourage growth by teaching. People wouldn’t grow if leaders never taught them anything. Leaders need to be teaching so they can grow new leaders to take their place.

Lean Tip #3209 – Be Open to New Ideas.

Good leaders have the emotional intelligence to understand and accept that change is inevitable. Instead of trying to maintain a status quo just for the sake of consistency, embrace change and innovation. Be open to new ideas and alternative ways of thinking. Everyone brings a unique perspective to the table, and that is something to take advantage of, not discourage.

When you’re open to hearing the thoughts of the talent around you is when you truly embrace every possibility and potential. See things through till the end. Understand that there will be errors along the way, but if something doesn’t work, try to figure out why and how before scrapping it.

When solving a problem, encourage team members to provide their insights. When employees feel like they can openly bring new ideas to the table, true innovation, engagement and success can prevail.

Lean Tip #3290 – Deliver Praise and Recognition Often

Were you aware that feeling underappreciated at work is the #1 reason Americans leave their jobs? Number one! Beating out low salary, limited vacation days and not enough flexibility for life outside of work.

A statistic as powerful as that one needs to be front of mind for managers and leaders.

By offering consistent praise and recognition, your team will be excited and eager to contribute to company-wide initiatives.

Ask team members how they want to be recognized for a job well done. Send out a quick email or commence a team huddle to get their feedback on how they prefer to be recognized or complimented when and where credit is due. For some, it may be a quick “You did it!” shout-out during a meeting. For others, it might be a one-on-one positive feedback session.

The key is to be consistent. If a team member deserves to be recognized for outstanding work, tell them right away: Don’t wait for their “review.” The days of annual reviews are ancient history.

Lean Tip #3295 – Strive for Progress Over Perfection

Everyone seeks perfection—but no one ever attains it. One of the most important things to remember when trying to improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace is that nothing can ever be perfect. Holding yourself and your employees to unattainable standards is demoralizing, stress-inducing and impractical.

Part of the working world is embracing setbacks and challenges without letting them overwhelm you. If employees are constantly striving for perfection, they will never have a healthy understanding of success and will, therefore, struggle with their work efficiency.

Progress is far more important than perfection – embrace feedback from your colleagues and help them to do the same. Without the weight of perfectionism around our necks, we are much less likely to procrastinate and far more likely to achieve something great.


Lean Tip #3279 – Develop A Culture Of Constant Improvement

The most important value that companies can build their culture around is one of constant improvement, both as individuals and as an overall business (and your processes, workflows and the way you handle customers). If members of your team know and understand that the business is always looking to improve itself, then it becomes easier to talk about gaps and areas that may be able to be improved. Be accepting of proposed solutions or changes that are brought to you by employees, and reward them for what they are doing—which is actively working to make your business better. It is hearing these suggestions out and giving them serious thought and discussion rather than brushing them aside that is the ultimate incentivization for employees.

Lean Tip #3285 - Treat Mistakes as an Opportunity to Learn

Inevitably, there will be some mistakes along the way for your team. Depending on the way they are handled, they can become big roadblocks for your team. No one ever responds well if they are called out and criticized harshly for making a mistake or failing to reach a goal. That does not mean you should let mistakes or missing a goal slide as being no big deal. Instead, use these situations as an opportunity to learn what didn’t work this time and to make better plans going forward.

Avoid assigning blame to anyone. Instead, ask questions similar to the following:

•           Is there something the team did (or did not do) that caused the mistake to occur?

•           How can we regroup and move forward to reach our goal next time? Be specific.

•           What can I do to help the team reach the goal next time?

Generally, when a failure occurs, it is not due to one mistake. There are a series of events that occur and the failure is the result. Spending time trying to assign blame takes away from learning how to avoid the same pitfalls next time.

Lean Tip #3212 – Transparency of Ideas is Critical

In fact, ideas submitted to suggestion boxes are occasionally implemented. The problem is that there is often little or no communication with the idea submitter. Hence as far as she knows – nothing has happened to her idea.

Thus, it is critical that any idea generation initiative is transparent, not only during the idea generation phase, but also during the idea review and testing phases. Regular reports to the idea submitters lets them know how their ideas are developing and demonstrates the value that the firm gives to good ideas.

These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2024. What advice would you share for the New Year?

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Monday, December 18, 2023

Top 10 Posts of 2023

The end of the year is traditionally a time to look back and reflect. One way to reflect is to evaluate popular blog posts. I have been taking time to reflect on the year that was and as part of that reflection I have flipped back through the 150 blog posts I have written so far this year and compiled a list of my Top 10.

What were some of your favorite Lean posts from 2023? Any recommendations for next year?

10. 5 Ways to Build a Strong Team - Here are 5 ways that you can develop your team and earn yourself some kudos at the same time.

9. Management by Wandering Around is Not a Thing – There is a better way to mange then randomly sampling the shopfloor, learn more about purposeful Gemba walks.

8. Personal Habits All Leaders Should Nurture – Guest post from Luke Smith shares 5 personal habits all leaders must take the time to nurture to be the best they can be. 

7. Empower Your Employees With the Right Mindset – To empower employees get them in the conversation so they can see the bigger picture.

6. Helping Improve Employee Engagement Through Sustainable Practices – Guest post from Luke Smith about improving employee engagement by tapping into a commonly held value: sustainability.

5. 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Problem Solving – Avoid these common problem solving mistakes if you want to find the best solution.

4. The Communication Soft Skills You Need At Work & How To Use Them – Guest post form Nancy Howard discovering some of the most important communication soft skills you need at work and how to use them.

3. Got to the Gemba with a Plan and Purpose – 5 tips to make your next Gemba walk more effective from experience.

2. Management’s Responsibility for Leadership - You can think of Action Centered Leadership as being a compass to help you determine where and how to spend your time so you can build a high-performance team, which delivers the right things in with the right behaviors.

1. Four Essentials for Developing Employees – There are four essential elements to consider when developing employees in the workplace.

Thanks for your continued readership in 2023. I hope you enjoy the holiday season and go on to achieve Lean success in 2024.

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Friday, December 15, 2023

Lean Quote: Keeping Christmas Spirit All Year Round

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 honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  —  Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol

One thing I love about Christmas is the “Christmas spirit” that often surrounds us during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We tend to be more worshipful and our interactions tend to be infused with extra excitement, joy, and generosity.

During the holiday season our smiles are just a little wider, our handshakes a touch heartier, our purse strings a tad looser, and our creative juices overflow. We expend a lot of energy towards making this festive season memorable and enjoyable. Wouldn’t it be nice to spread some of the cheer throughout the year?

Staying in a Christmas state of mind for twelve months of the year is probably unrealistic. Let’s be honest: we can’t be carol-singing, gift-giving little elves all year long. But there are a few elements of the holiday season that we can keep with us throughout the year, giving every day a chance to have just a bit of the magic that comes along with Christmas Day. Here are some of the best ways to keep the spirit alive every day of the year:

Focus on what you have.

The holiday season often reminds of all that we have to be thankful for: our friends, family, and the collective joy many of us experience at this time of year. If we keep that feeling of appreciation with us all year long, we’ll prolong the wonder of Christmas on a daily basis. The trick is to focus on what you have, not what you want. Through the year, whenever you find yourself thinking, “I wish I had…” replace that with, “I’m so thankful I have…”

Know what really matters.

At Christmas—at least on Christmas Day!—most of us prioritize matters most: spending time with those we love and celebrating a season that means something to us. During the rest of the year, it can be hard to keep our priorities straight with all of the various aspects of life vying for our attention, but when you bring yourself back to what matters most, you make the most of every day.

Treat strangers with kindness.

At Christmastime, people are often a bit kinder, merely based on the fact that it’s Christmas. Treating others with kindness—especially those you don’t know, and especially those who don’t necessarily treat you with kindness—is a wonderful way to keep the spirit of Christmas alive every single day of the year. When someone bothers you, imagine how you would treat him or her if it were Christmas Day.

Look for the good.

Christmas is a time for taking note of things we love—the people we care about, the gifts wrapped just for us—and it’s also a time for noticing special things—the little traditions, the pretty, glittery decorations. The season brings out a sense of childlike wonder. Trying to embrace that wonderment all year long, by looking for good bits in every day, is another great way to keep the spirit of Christmas alive.

Fortunately for us, the hectic schedule of the holiday season only lasts a little while, but the best parts of the holiday can last all year long.

This time of year is meant to remind us of how we should live our lives every day. The season is a celebration of values that are too important to be celebrated for only one or two months.

In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge says, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

Even though the hustle and bustle of the holiday season ends when the new year begins, the heart of the holiday can last all year long.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The Power of Year End Reflection

Every year, I like to close the year by reflecting on my past year. I find it to deepen the learning I’ve made, plus it makes me more appreciative of the power of a year.

By definition, self-reflection involves deliberate thinking about your own behavior and beliefs. When you engage in this deliberate kind of thinking, you will develop awareness of your mental and emotional states and awareness of your actions. Developing this awareness is the basis for personal growth.

We learn by experiences and mistakes. But, unless we question ourselves about what our experiences mean and think actively about them, research has shown that we won’t make any changes. Self-reflection enables you to move from just experiencing, into understanding.


·        Encourages a level of self-awareness and consciousness about practice

·        Enables you to identify areas for improvement and also areas where you are strong

·        Allows you to recognize what works and what doesn’t with students

·        Enables you to think deeply about students reactions to your teaching

The Process of Self-Reflection

This is a simple guide to the process of self-reflection:

  • STOP: Take a step back from life or a particular situation.
  • LOOK: Identify and get perspective on what you notice and see.
  • LISTEN: Listen to your inner guide, the innate wisdom that bubbles up when you give it time and space to emerge.
  • ACT: Identify the steps you need to take moving forward to adjust, change or improve.


Five Habits that Enhance Self-Reflection and Personal Growth

  • Be honest with yourself. You don’t do yourself any favors if you aren’t 100% honest with yourself about how things are going and how you are behaving.
  • Notice behavior patterns. We are all creatures of habit. Some of these habits are helpful and others are not. It’s good to be aware of your habits so you can actively weaken the ones you don’t want and strengthen the ones you do want.
  • Be able to articulate your core values. If you don’t know what’s important to you, how can you ever grow and manifest your best self? Take time to consider what’s most important to you so that you can better evaluate whether or not you're living those values.
  • Be forgiving. Change is hard and old habits are hard to break. Be gentle with yourself when you don’t get it right. It’s okay. We’re all human. We all make mistakes.
  • Keep track of your self-reflection. Start a journal where you record your observations and monitor your personal growth. This will help you when looking back at your year to remind yourself of where you’ve been and where you want to go.

Top Five Questions for Self-Reflection

  1. What are my values?
  2. In what ways do my words and actions reflect or fail to reflect my values?
  3. What are areas in which I’m doing well and what are areas in which I could improve?
  4. How am I caring for myself so that I am mentally and physically at my best?
  5. What have I learned about myself today (this week, this month, this year)?

If you can engage in self-reflection, you will develop insights about yourself and put yourself in a great position for personal growth.

Reflecting on what’s going on in your life can simply serve as a reminder of what you do on a daily basis. Most of our days end up blending into one another, so regular reflection can be an opportunity to show you that the days are different. On the other hand, it can encourage you to think about how you can add more joy and fun into your daily life.

Powering through periods of intense stress to get everything done may seem like the path of least resistance. However, if you can spare the time, the respite from stress can increase long-term productivity, help you maintain your priorities, and ultimately strengthen your team.

Lastly, self-reflection can positively influence other soft leadership skills such as feedback, positivity, creativity, motivation, and communication. With consistent practice, self-reflection will become an essential component of your daily routine. Looking inward at how you lead and actively sharpening your soft skills will elevate your team’s performance, leading to more significant areas of self-improvement.


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Monday, December 11, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #213 (#3406 - #3420)

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 #3406 – Gather the Right People for Kaizen

Carefully selecting the team members is crucial. The meeting should encompass diversity in terms of their areas of expertise. With analytical and creative skills, they can contribute innovative ideas that enhance the processes.

Including personnel who are not directly related to the current goals, but have not yet experienced Kaizen, provides an opportunity to train more staff on these dynamics.

The invited team should consist of representatives from all areas relevant to the goals, including supervisors and managers. If necessary, external experts, customers, or suppliers can be added, considering their potential interest in the process.

Lean Tip #3407 – Assign Roles and Responsibilities on the Kaizen

Assigning specific roles and responsibilities in organizing the meeting is fundamental. Designate a team leader to guide the meeting, an individual responsible for documenting progress, and someone to present ideas. This allocation helps maintain order during the meeting.

It is also important to involve managerial personnel who can approve improvement proposals since Kaizen aims for small but rapid changes. This way, the presented ideas can be transformed into tangible actions to improve company processes.

Lean Tip #3408 – Create a Distraction-Free Environment

Properly preparing the work environment is crucial since achieving results necessitates substantial planning. Ensure it is a space conducive to comfortable gatherings and provides access to the necessary tools and materials for the event.

The work environment must be pleasant and devoid of distractions, allowing participants to focus on the discussions at hand. It is common to temporarily suspend all deadlines and projects, enabling attendees to maintain their concentration on the designated task.

Lean Tip #3409 – Train the Staff for the Kaizen Event

Another aspect to consider is providing training for the employees. The team should receive instruction on improvement management tools and their application before, during, and after the event. This training reinforces the comprehension of the topics discussed during the meeting.

Take the time to provide guidance on what to expect during the event and which improvement tools will be used. It is also crucial to communicate the expectations for the event.

Lean Tip #3410 – Celebrate Progress and Improvement

Recognizing and celebrating the team’s small accomplishments is essential. It is worth noting that no one within the company possesses a better understanding of its operations than the teams and responsible individuals. In order to encourage outstanding suggestions, incentives must be provided, as employees may exhibit disinterest in change without them.

It is vital to acknowledge and reward team members who have contributed to the meeting, particularly when employees may be hesitant to alter their working methods. In summary, celebrating achievements plays a pivotal role in the sustainable growth of any company.

Lean Tip #3411 – Keep Your Shop Floor Clean and Organized

Process quality is critical to increasing the quality of products and other outputs, but the way your team manages its workspace is also important. Quality control in manufacturing isn’t complete without quality control inspections that consider the organization and cleanliness of the shop floor.

Inspections should:

  • Look for overall cleanliness. A clean shop floor keeps workers safer by ensuring spills are cleaned up right away and other items that might cause trips and falls are put away. A clean working environment allows people to take pride in what they do, and that transfers to the quality of the work.
  • Checking for proper use of tools and equipment. Quality inspections should ensure people are using resources correctly and that employees are well-trained on the equipment they use.
  • Ensure specific safety rules are followed. Quality audits might note whether employees were wearing the proper safety gear, for example, or that machines and tools were being used in the safest way. 

Lean Tip #3412 – Set Standards for Manufacturing Quality

Find out what external stakeholders, including customers, vendors, or business partners, expect and whether there are contracts and service level agreements defining those requirements. Your quality control standards must at least meet these requirements.

You can, however, aim for quality that exceeds external requirements. Consider business needs, costs and what might be a challenging but possible goal for your manufacturing teams. You may also want to consider building room in your manufacturing quality standards for failure that doesn’t impact customers.

Lean Tip #3413 – Utilize Manufacturing Quality Metrics to Grow and Improve Your Operations

Once you’ve defined your quality control process, including standards you can use to identify success, continue to gather metrics on quality. Consistently looking at your quality metrics helps you understand whether your quality control processes are working. They also help you identify continued areas for improvement.

Continuous process improvement initiatives — such as Six Sigma — note that perfection isn’t achievable. However, manufacturing organizations can use quality metrics to drive continuous process improvement initiatives to move ever closer to perfect.

Lean Tip #3414 – Ensure Proper Quality Control Training and Resources

The best outcomes from quality programs come when you have the right resources. That includes using quality control software for manufacturing and ensuring everyone who uses that software (and other resources) is appropriately trained. Visual Planning helps you achieve those goals with ongoing support and consulting, ensuring you and your employees are trained to use our software to improve quality and scheduling in your organization.

Lean Tip #3415 – Utilize Technology To Enhance Quality Control

The right technology simplifies complex processes so you can meet production needs without getting bogged down in the details. Visual management supports everyone from ops managers to shift leaders on the shop floor. Leverage your expertise in manufacturing to create tools that let you see process data in real-time and make on-the-fly changes to keep up with demand while supporting quality.

Lean Tip #3416 – Show Empathy in the Workplace: Approach Challenges From a Different Perspective

Imagine the problem or situation from your team member's perspective. This can help you better understand their propositions and point of view. Even if you reach a different conclusion from them, you may have a better understanding of their thought process, which can inform future discussions.

Lean Tip #3417 – Show Empathy in the Workplace: Ask Questions to Understand

Ask what experiences have led to a particular conclusion. Consider the potential underlying factors that caused the person to feel the way they feel. For example, if you're speaking with a buyer who's unhappy with a product, you can ask about their expectations of the product and the specifics of their experience. If you don't understand the situation, keep asking questions until you do. Empathy comes with a deeper understanding of what has happened.

Lean Tip #3418 – Show Empathy in the Workplace: Offer to Help

Ask colleagues if they need help with projects and offer assistance when possible. This can help team members feel like you support them and empathize with their challenges at work. It may sometimes be challenging to determine when a coworker is struggling, so part of empathy is observing your environment and taking the initiative to offer help before someone asks.

Lean Tip #3419 – Show Empathy in the Workplace: Avoid Assuming You Know What Others are Thinking or Feeling.

Another way to practice empathy is by avoiding assuming that you know what others think or feel. This can be a difficult habit to break, but it's important to remember that we can never really know what's going on in someone else's mind. Instead of making assumptions, try to ask questions and listen openly to what the other person has to say. This will help you gain a better understanding of others' perspectives.

Lean Tip #3420 – Show Empathy in the Workplace: Be Aware of Your Own Biases

When trying to be empathetic towards others, be aware of your own biases and preconceptions. Everyone has unique experiences and perspectives shaping how we see the world and its people. Think about how your own biases might affect how you view someone else's situation and then try to set those feelings aside to see or feel things from their perspective.

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