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Friday, September 22, 2023

Lean Quote: Patience and Good Attitude

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.

"Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.  —  Joyce Meyer

Patience is a quality often lacking among today’s leaders. The dictionary defines patience as a state of endurance under difficult circumstances. It is also the ability to wait in the face of delay without becoming negative.

Society expects those in charge to take action quickly and decisively. True leaders recognize that patience enables them to take stock of the situation, to understand what is required, and wait while they build the capacity to take appropriate and effective action. Patience requires composure and character. Societal pressures for action may cause others to criticize and condemn a leader’s perceived inaction or lack of speed. People will first demand action. Then they will demand results. The greater the crisis, the greater the impatience.

By demonstrating patience, leaders reinforce the importance of focusing on the long-term outcomes. Patience doesn’t mean ignoring the interim milestones or short-term deliverable. It does mean keeping them in context.

Never confuse patience with apathy. Being patient doesn’t include disconnecting from our emotions and feelings. It means accepting how we feel about a given situation and doing whatever needs to be done. Being patient means accepting both how you feel about a given situation and what you can realistically do about it. To be patient doesn’t mean to surrender and just give up hope, being patient does not mean being passive.

Many tasks associated with leadership require patience (e.g., strategic planning, negotiations, people development, program management, etc.). The bigger the issue and the longer the planning horizon, the greater the patience required to remain committed. Strategic plans, for example, typically have a long-term time horizon and address big issues that affect an organization. It is easy for a leader to see the desired end-state and want to jump ahead without exercising the patience needed to succeed. Leadership means understanding that patience may require sacrificing short-term glory for long-term results.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Book Review: The Mistakes That Make Us

We all make mistakes. That’s what makes us human but do we learn from them and how do they shape us to be who we are.

We all have a choice about how we react to our mistakes. We can ignore them and likely keep repeating or we can admit to them, think about what we expected to happen, and learn where we went wrong.

The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation written by Mark Graban dives into embracing and learning from mistakes and fostering a culture of learning and innovation.

I’ve known Mark for many years and this has been a passionate topic for a long time.  I follow him online especially the podcast series My Favorite Mistake which led to this book. He has authored many tremendous contributions regarding Lean and continuous improvement so when this came out it was on my must-read list.

The book is filled with relatable real life stories of many types of people in many different roles who have made mistakes and learned from them. He has organized them into 7 lessons. Each lesson overlaps and feeds into the next lesson.

Lesson 1 - Admit mistakes quickly and honestly. Coach, don't punish, those who report mistakes and use the knowledge you've gained to coach others so a mistake isn't repeated.

Lesson 2 - Be kind. Not the same as nice, kindness is less about forgiving and more about using mistakes as learning opportunities.

Lesson 3 - Prevent mistakes. As a lean student poke yoke is always in my mind. Once you learn use systems to prevent mistakes from reoccurring.

Lesson 4 - Help everyone speak up. This requires a culture change. But this really starts with those you lead.

Lesson 5 - Improve don't punish. Hiding rather than learning from mistakes out of fear is one of the biggest mistakes.

Lesson 6 - Iteration. In order to innovate and create something new you must iterate to see what works and doesn't work. Reminds me of the practice of coaching kata.

Lesson 7 - Cultivate forever. Don't try to emulate someone else. Use your desire to learn and coach up and down to drive through the organization.

In the book, you'll find practical guidance on adopting a positive mindset towards mistakes. It teaches you to acknowledge and appreciate them, working to prevent them while gaining knowledge from the ones that occur. Additionally, it emphasizes creating a safe environment to express mistakes and encourages responding constructively by emphasizing learning over punishment.

The Mistakes That Make Us is a must-read for anyone looking to create a stronger organization that produces better results, including lower turnover, more improvement and innovation, and better bottom-line performance. This book will inspire you to lead with kindness and humility and show you how learning from mistakes can make things right.

I really enjoyed learning from others’ mistakes and the positive lessons that came from them. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to change their perspective and their life for the better by cherishing the mistakes we make.

Note: The author, Mark Graban, provided an advance copy for the purpose of reviewing.

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Monday, September 18, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #209 (#3346 - #3360)

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 #3346 – Make the Problem Relatable and Put Yourself in Their Shoes

It’s critical to frame the problem in such a way that your colleagues and management relate to and identify with the problem. Remember, you’re aiming for a reaction like “Ack, you’re right! That is such a pain! You have a solution? Tell me!” Your colleague might identify with the fact that the company has an issue keeping track of project timelines and therefore they get tons of last-minute requests.

Your boss, on the other hand, might identify with the amount of company time and money being lost due to poor project tracking and low productivity. Know your audience, understand what matters to them, and speak to the problem and the possible solution in a relatable way. 

Lean Tip #3347 – Actively Listen, Measure if Possible, and Then Listen Some More

Being clear about the problem means actively listening to those around you. As you explain the problem, do your colleagues have a different view? Do they have an additional but related problem? Can the problem be measured through an employee survey or analytics? It is vital to listen to your colleagues and to management as you discuss the problem because you may very well uncover a new layer that you had never originally considered which requires you to modify your solution.

Lean Tip #3348 – Secure a Change Sponsor, Not Just a Change Cheerleader

If you are the sole person inside your organization pushing for change – whether it be a new tool, tech or process – it will fail. As the change management process teaches, long-term and sustained change inside a company requires someone at the top to “sponsor” the change, not just be its cheerleader.

A sponsor is someone inside the company, usually a manager or executive, who helps communicate, manage, and be accountable for the change. This person doesn’t need to be the CEO or oversee all the tiny details, but they do need to enjoy a high degree of social capital – meaning they are highly connected, valuable to the organization, and tend to enable cooperation and collaboration between teams. All organizations have these people. Find the person that everyone listens to, the person who is highly credible and authentic, the person who is willing to go the extra mile, and secure them as your sponsor.

Lean Tip #3349 – Communicate Clearly Before, During and After

Communication is key to the success of any change inside an organization. If your organization is lucky enough to have a communications team – or better yet, an internal communications team – engage them early and work with them often to help strategically get messages out to employees within the organization.

There is such a thing as over-communicating. No one will appreciate a daily update about how your new tool is changing the lives of your team. Pick a communication frequency that makes sense for the magnitude of the change you are trying to implement and sustain.

Lean Tip #3350 – Don’t Fall So in Love With Your Idea That You Forget About the Most Important Thing – The Problem.

It’s important to remember one thing: as much as you love your idea, your tool, or your new solution – if you’ve followed the steps, and it’s clear your suggested change is not working, it’s ok to abandon it and reassess. Don’t make the mistake of continuing to figuratively beat people over the head with something that isn’t working. Take the feedback, regroup, refocus on the original problem, and try again. 

Lean Tip #3351 – Personalize Tasks.

Make sure the tasks you assign to each person play to their strengths. When people are set up for success, they are more motivated to achieve. Like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, nothing will get done if you have a big-picture person working on detail-rich tasks. Be clear with each person about how their work is vital to the outcome. Then set measurable goals and let them know how they will be held accountable. If appropriate, let the individuals take part in defining the work they will be undertaking.

Lean Tip #3352 – Follow Up and Stay Connected With Employees

Stay connected to ensure that everyone is clear about the mission that they are working toward. Keep an open-door policy as much as possible. If that's not feasible, consider making yourself available via email or during certain hours of the day. It's important that employees let you know when challenges arise. That's not to say you should listen to every gripe and complaint, but you can let everyone know you are empathetic to their concerns and are willing to work with them to find solutions. Further, encourage employees to bring a solution with them when making you aware of a problem.

Lean Tip #3353 – Nip Resistance in the Bud.

Be aggressive in addressing instances where you see resistance. This is important for two reasons. First, small problems have a nasty habit of ballooning into bigger ones. Second, you don't want unhappy employees poisoning the minds of other employees who have already bought in.

Lean Tip #3354 – Be Transparent About the Process

Employees often become stressed when they feel a sense of uncertainty around organizational changes. One of the best ways to alleviate any anxiety or feelings of uncertainty is to clearly lay out what employees can expect throughout the change process. If you’re introducing a new initiative, share the timeline and key milestones. If you’ve already introduced a new initiative and it’s hit a snag, provide an update on the timeline so employees don’t feel like they’re being left in the dark.

It’s also helpful to try to explain what any new processes or work will look like from the employee perspective. You’ve shared the “why” to help employees understand the initiative from a high-level organizational perspective, now share what it will look like in terms of the employees’ day-to-day work. Will employees need to adjust any of their normal procedures or processes? Does the new initiative take priority over existing projects? Be clear about how it will impact employees.

Lean Tip #3355 – Solicit Feedback

Meet with your team, present your idea and ask for their input. Some may bring up points you never thought of. There's no point in putting forward a proposal if you discover disadvantages you hadn't considered. On the other hand, some objections may boil down to "I don't want to learn a new system" or "The old way's good enough." If we always thought like that, we'd still be hiding from sabertooth tigers in dark caves.

Lean Tip #3356 – Visual Management Board Belongs to the Team

As a manager, you may have a burning desire to create our own vision of an information center or visual management board in the middle of your factory or workplace. It is important to resist the temptation. However, lean metrics and visual management

A monthly “cross” for quality or safety can replace complex metrics. The aim is to highlight off target performance in order to prompt problem-solving discussions.

the goal of visual management boards is for front line teams to understand operational performance and engage in improvement.

Therefore your role as a manager is to coach your teams to understand their performance and measure it themselves. This starts with a conversation about “what does a good day look like”? Ask the team how they measure performance. They may have simple indicators such as numbers of jobs completed or boxes packed, which make sense to them.

Lean Tip #3357 – The Board is Not Wallpaper, It’s About Conversation

If you think just putting information on a Visual Management Board on the wall will get people to engage, then you will be disappointed. I see many big immaculate visual displays sprawling across entrance halls and walkways with literally dozens of metrics displayed. Here is the bad news: no one looks at them. In many cases, the job of printing the graphs and posting them is delegated to an administrative staff member and not even the business leaders notice or read the graphs.

We call this type of visual management board “wallpaper” because that is the only function they serve. The boards need to be the focus of structured daily conversations about how the team is going, what are the barriers to improvement and how these barriers can be overcome. Therefore visual management boards go hand in hand with daily meetings.

Lean Tip #3358 – Boards Need to be Accessible and Close to the Workplace

The purpose of visual management boards is to be a reference point for discussions around team performance. Therefore the boards need to be located near where the teams work. That means in a safe location (not a forklift aisle) in the workplace where noise is sufficiently low to allow a conversation and where the board will not be obstructed by materials or machinery.

People stand up during their daily meetings, so there needs to be sufficient space to enable the team to meet in front of the board. Lighting also needs to be good enough to read what is on the board.

Lean Tip #3359 – Less is Most Certainly More With Visual Management

When you’re designing and developing your visual management program it can be easy to throw everything at it, but we would recommend taking a less is more approach. Ensure that you’re only using your visual management boards to track measures that drive results. Decide on an acceptable timeframe to read the status of your key measures and constantly monitor and change your visual management to ensure that it is within that timeframe.

Lean Tip #3360 – Establish the Right Mindset and Get Your Team Ready for Change!

It’s important that your business see’s problems as helpful to the organization. Many companies see problems as something to be hidden away, that they’re a source of embarrassment, or that it will only lead to blame. If you’re reading this then you should be the one to take ownership of changing your businesses culture to see every problem as an opportunity for improvement. Businesses that are serious about continuous improvement must love their problems and see visual management for what it is, a way of easily indicating where they need help!

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Friday, September 15, 2023

Lean Quote: Create an Energized Workplace

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.

"Organizations should be deliberate in creating opportunities for employees to feel fulfilled in their work.  —  Dr. Alexander Lovell, Director of Research and Data Science at the O.C. Tanner Institute

As organizations continue to adjust to a new era of work and manage the uncertainty of a subsiding global pandemic and looming economic recession, what employees want most: connection, community, and fulfillment. A sense of community is more important now that employees are returning to the office and searching for fulfillment and connection, but unfortunately, many organizations' current programs are failing to meet evolving employee desires.

O.C. Tanner Institute collected and analyzed input from over 36,000 employees, leaders, and practitioners from 20 countries and reports that:

1 in 3 employees don’t feel fulfilled at work which makes them:

  • 399% more likely to actively look for another job
  • 340% more likely to leave the organization within a year
  • 47% less likely to put in a great deal of effort to help the organization succeed
  • 71% less likely to promote the organization as a great place to work

Each year O.C. Tanner measures changes in the six core elements of workplace culture that together determine employee decisions to join, engage with, and remain at any place of work. They call them Talent Magnets because of their power to attract and connect people to their teams and organizations:

1. Purpose
An organization’s reason for being besides profits. It’s the difference it makes in the world, why the company exists. Employees need to feel connected to the purpose and understand how their job contributes to it. Once they do, their work takes on meaning. Organizations should clearly articulate the connection between work and purpose.

2. Opportunity
The chance to develop new skills, contribute to meaningful work, feel challenged, have a voice, and grow. Opportunity is more than the lure of promotions and pay increases. It’s about preparing and empowering employees to make decisions, inviting them to the table, and offering them projects that will expand their skills and relationships.

3. Success
The thrill of accomplishment, innovation, breaking barriers, playing on a winning team, and experiencing victories. Employees must find success at the individual, team, and organizational levels, and it should be nurtured and publicly celebrated.

4. Appreciation
Feeling valued for one’s contributions and being recognized for one’s worth. Appreciation is essential to employees—people need to know their leaders and peers notice and are grateful for their efforts and contributions. Appreciation is most effective when it’s delivered in timely, personal, and meaningful ways.

5. Wellbeing
Caring about the employee as a whole—their physical, emotional, social, and financial health. Wellbeing ensures employees can be their strongest, most capable, most authentic selves at work. A comprehensive approach to wellbeing requires leaders to create an environment of inclusivity, work-life integration, and connection.

6.  Leadership
The mentoring, coaching, inspiring, and facilitating that allow individuals, teams, and, ultimately, organizations to succeed. Great leaders co-create a shared purpose for their teams and empower their employees to do great work. As the most influential of the six Talent Magnets, leadership cultivates the other five.

Successful organizations are the ones reconnecting with their people by adopting a community mindset where employees find meaning in their work, believe that they belong, and experience greater personal fulfillment.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Seven Characteristics of Servant Leadership

Servant leadership can help foster trust, accountability, growth and inclusion among workers. This will lead to increased productivity and happier customers and will help your business flourish.

The results of servant leadership are exponential: by leading as a servant, you multiply success and satisfaction — personal and professional, for you and your colleagues — above and beyond the limits of traditional leadership outcomes.

Servant Leaders, whose vision is to make people better in various ways, naturally exhibit many ideals in their day-to-day leadership of their people. Here are seven important elements of servant leadership:

 Strong character. A servant leader maintains integrity, makes decisions based on ethics and principles, displays humility, and seeks to serve a higher purpose in the organization.

 Puts people first. Successful servant leaders demonstrate care and concern for others and help employees meet their goals while encouraging personal growth.

 Excellent communicator. Communication skills are integral to any business leader, but especially a servant leader. Make a point of listening to and speaking with workers and inviting their feedback.

• Strong collaborator. Servant leadership means keeping an eye on the future and anticipating anything that might impact the organization. Maintain a positive vision and take decisive action when necessary.

• Has foresight. The servant leader must be a visionary, able to imagine possibilities and anticipate the future, with the courage to take action when necessary.

• Strategic thinker. Servant leaders must be comfortable navigating complex environments and be adaptable to change.

• Leader with moral authority. It is critical to establish trust and confidence in your workplace. Establish employees’ trust and confidence by adhering to quality standards, accepting and delegating responsibility, and fostering a culture that makes room for accountability.

Servant leadership is not a leadership style or technique as such. Rather it's a way of behaving that you adopt over the longer term. It has the potential to inspire high employee accountability and loyalty, management must still exhibit leadership qualities. Ultimately, servant  leadership does not allow for much control over employees, so managers must be confident in the abilities of both their team members and themselves.

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Monday, September 11, 2023

Leading with Integrity

One of the keys to a positive and productive work environment is having leaders who act with integrity. Integrity in leaders refers to being honest, trustworthy, and reliable. Leaders with integrity act in accordance with their words (i.e. they practice what they preach) and own up to their mistakes, as opposed to hiding them, blaming their team, or making excuses. Integrity also involves following company policies, appropriately using company time and resources, and respecting one’s colleagues and direct reports. It is important to remember that a leader’s behavior reflects on not only their own reputation, but also on the reputation of the organization.

Integrity provides several benefits to both leaders and the organizations. For instance, research has linked greater integrity with increased workplace performance. Additionally, leaders with integrity foster greater trust and satisfaction from their direct reports, who are more likely to follow suit. Employees serving under high integrity leaders demonstrate more positive workplace behaviors and fewer negative workplace behaviors. Moreover, employees who trust their leaders to have integrity are likely to work harder, perform better, and have greater company loyalty.

In assessing your level of integrity, ask yourself the following questions:

1.    I always act with positive intent

2.    I do not avoid answering questions truthfully, even when the issue is tough ex. layoffs

3.    I own up to my mistakes and take steps to not repeat them

4.    I am willing to say what I’m thinking, even when I’m in the minority

5.    I treat others fairly and respectfully regardless of position/title

6.    I lead by example

7.    I always fulfill my promises/commitments

8.    I’m respectful of others’ time and am always punctual

9.    I call others out when the work values are not supported

10. I don’t make excuses for poor behaviors or actions displayed by myself or others

11. I address disruptive behaviors and conflict quickly and respectfully

12. I am not easily influenced by those more senior to me when things seem "off" and have the confidence to be true to myself

13. I encourage collaboration for the attainment of results

14. I make an effort to build a work culture that encompasses trust

15. I give credit when and where credit is due

When your organization has leadership committed to integrity, it can identify priorities and goals to measure improvement. This framework will make it easier to reference issues related to business integrity in your regular reporting as well as quickly address any issues as they arise. This is a culture that will permeate throughout the organization, influencing your internal reward structures, interactions with customers and suppliers, and your relationships with investors.

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Friday, September 8, 2023

Lean Quote: Leadership Starts with Integrity

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.  —  Zig Ziglar

Most leaders think their followers put vision or communication or problem solving skills first. Of course, all of those attributes are important, but what difference do they make if you are not trusted? Does it matter what vision you provide if there is little trust that it’s best for all? Does it matter how well you communicate if what is said can’t be trusted? Does it matter how charismatic you are if only a handful are willing to follow you?

Integrity gets lost…one degree of dishonesty at a time. There are no varying degrees of integrity. A leader is judged to have integrity or not based on what is seen. Minor lies can become a major problem. As minor as lies may seem, employees do not forget integrity mistakes.

There are 4 key ways a leader can earn employees trust:

  1. Keep your promises. You don’t have to promise things just to make employees feel good. They are more interested in being able to depend on what you promise than in feeling good. Just keep the promises you do make and trust will follow.
  2. Speak out for what you think is important. Employees can’t read your mind. If employees have to guess how you feel about something, they may guess wrong. Tell them how you feel and why. This builds respect.
  3. Error on the side of fairness. Be fair to all.  Things are not always clearly right or wrong. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions that affect many people. Sometimes those decisions include having to de-hire some employees. Be fair at all times – regardless of the type or decisions you have to make.
  4. Do what you say you are going to do. Just let you “yes” be yes or your “no” mean no. When you say you’re going to do something, your employees should be able to “consider it done.”

It all starts with integrity. Your employees will follow only if you have earned their trust!

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