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Monday, February 27, 2023

Lean Roundup #165 – February 2023

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


When You’re Convinced You’re Right, You’ve Lost Your Ability to Learn – Pascal Dennis says we need to cultivate debate, dissent, and a healthy skepticism but first we have to recognize the corrosive effect of self-righteousness.


The Limits of Work Standards – Christoph Roser explains how to make your standard a success by training and motivating your people.


Revitalizing Leadership Training – Bob Emiliani shares why we need to rethink how we train people to lead organizations better since it has not produced the desired outcomes.


Building Habits to Support Lean Initiatives: A Guide for Business Leaders – Ron Pereira shares some tips to help business leaders create effective habits to support lean initiatives in their organizations.


How to Overcome a Possible Economic Recession with Continuous Improvement - Jeff Roussel looks deeper into the financial impact of continuous improvement.


Where Continuous Quality Improvement Strategies Go Wrong – Maggie Willard discusses some of the most common why quality improvement initiatives often experience short-term wins but quickly fizzle out, failing to achieve long-term transformation.


What Are the Advantages of One-Piece Flow? – Christoph Roser explains the benefits of one-piece flow production.

Learning to Solve Problems By… Wait for It… Solving Problems - Josh Howell shares lessons of a team learning what matters when it comes to problem-solving using lean thinking and practices.

Teaming Up to Overcome Common Business Challenges - Katrina Appell and John Drogosz explains why creating Collaborative Study Teams (CSTs) help organizations learn together how to improve their product and process development performance.

Ask Art: What Is the Biggest Cultural Change Barrier to Lean? – Art Byrne tackles the biggest cultural barrier to adopting lean practices in companies: the resistance of CEOs and senior management.


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Friday, February 24, 2023

Lean Quote: Leadership and Learning are Indispensable Together

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.

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.  —  John F. Kennedy

Leadership is a continuous learning process that has to be mastered if one would like to become an effective leader.

Leaders can't just put workers into situations, and hope they learn the right things. They should take responsibility for the message, combining real-life experience with direct coaching. An organization's principles should become guideposts to help people make tough decisions.

Leaders must not only be teachers, they must also preach and promote teaching at all levels. Lean Leaders make sure that all of their direct reports are good teachers. In classical leadership, the role of teaching is frequently delegated – not so with the Lean Leaders.

To teach, a leader has to learn, and learning Lean is more than a cerebral exercise. By applying Lean to everything, a leader becomes a more effective teacher. Remember what leadership is really about: It's not a job; it's an act. Leaders have to learn how to teach, build creative tension, and eliminate fear and comfort. Leaders need to actively participate in the transformation of the business, and apply Lean to their own jobs.

True leaders are never satisfied with what they know about their leadership and are always in pursuit of new learning. That means constantly seeking feedback, taking time for relevant learning and guidance, and looking for positive changes in the organization.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Establish a Culture of Trystorming

I learned from my time at Wiremold, originating from Art Byrne, the fundamentals of trystorming. This method consists of, “Rapid cycles of real-time experimentation, used to test and adjust improvement ideas before establishing standard work or implementing processes broadly.” In plain language this means – try it out! Try Storming incorporates physical actions that can engage other senses and give testers a better sense of whether an idea is viable or not.

Trystorming is different from brainstorming in that it encourages the rapid development and test of an idea rather than merely thinking about the possible solutions. It allows people to visualize, touch and further improve on an initial idea. It also models action rather than talk. Often in our desire to design the perfect Future State we forget that the best way to build a process that works is through the iterative process of trying, adjusting/correcting, and trying again.

The process is built on three basic principles:

  • It is not important to create perfect solutions.
  • Be action-oriented.
  • Keep solutions simple.

These principles work hand-in-hand to develop effective solutions. When implemented correctly, Try-Storming can be used to continuously improve any business process.

One of the key reasons to utilize trystorming as part of any process design activity is that it models action rather than talk. By leaving the conference room and actually trying ideas during the course of the work, your team will quickly realize that your activity is more than just a meeting or an exercise in theory.

In addition, taking action typically increases the level of idea generation and team engagement exponentially. By mocking up and trying concepts the team will be able to visualize their ideas and transform plans into tangible improvements quickly. While trystorming requires much more energy than the traditional design approach, use of this methodology will significantly reduce the overall time needed to reach a workable solution.

Whether you are a business just looking for a new way to create together or are looking for a practical, yet fun way to reduce costs and optimize an existing or new process, TryStorming can be an immensely useful tool for your company or work team.

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Monday, February 20, 2023

Five Leadership Lessons form George Washington

The very first Commander in Chief of the United States of America set the standard for leadership in the new country not only for his tactical prowess but especially for his character and trustworthiness. George Washington’s administrative and organizational skills in conjunction with his merit, passion for country before himself, and the mutual trust he shared with those he led, makes him one of the greatest leaders in U.S. history.

Every third Monday in February America celebrates President’s Day, commemorating all presidents, but first established in 1885 in recognition of George Washington whose birthday is February 22.

To celebrate this President’s Day, here are 5 lessons on leadership we can take away from the exemplary standard of President George Washington:

1. He treated others with the utmost respect:

Washington treated the lowliest private with the dignity and respect he afforded a visiting dignitary from Philadelphia. How we treat service personnel, subordinates at work, people on the telephone, the guy at the garage, our family members, all impacts the effectiveness of our role as a leader.

2. He held his men accountable:

Along with respect came expectation. I believe in you… therefore I expect you to come through. Same thing at home. We demonstrate to our children that we believe in them, and that we respect them – but if there is no consistent response in terms of guidance and discipline, we will eventually lose our edge as leaders.

3. He placed the welfare of his men ahead of his own:

It’s not just that Washington was willing to take a bullet – there’s no glory in vain bravado. No, what Washington demonstrated is why he was willing, and it wasn’t for his own glory, it was for the cause and for the welfare of those who looked up to him and trusted him.

4. He was personally invested in the cause:

The great general put his money where his mouth was. He personally invested in the cause, not only blood, sweat and tears but cold hard cash too. Those who look to us for leadership are always conscious of the priorities that guide us.

5. He did not waver from his guiding principles:

He was against tyranny, so he was not a tyrant. He valued freedom, so he extended it to others. He believed in the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and he lived as if they were worth his own life to secure.

Being a great leader takes hard work and consistency based on strong principles and values.

As we celebrate our freedom, it is important to remember the great leaders who worked hard and suffered much to create this great nation. We can take lessons in perseverance, the development of competence and of living a life based on core values from a man like George Washington.

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Friday, February 17, 2023

Lean Quote: Three Roles Every Leader Must Fulfill

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.

"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.  —  Max DePree

This quote, from Max DePree is among my favorite servant leadership quotes. This frames 3 roles every leader must fulfill: the roles of Realist, Praiser and Servant.


Every leader should be a realist. Yes, to lead effectively, optimism is needed at times and you need to have Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs). You will also need to display vision. However, if a leader is not realistic, the followers may lose faith in them, their goals will become unobtainable and ultimately, that leader could set the organization up for failure. Instead, by being a realist, one can still display great vision, foresee opportunity and even set those BHAGs.


A leader must thank their constituents. Anyone that supports a leader and their mission needs affirmation of that fact. This is especially true during difficult times and turnaround situations where fiscal means of recognition and awards are less common. While people may not do the work simply because they want to be praised, individuals working hard enough, long enough, without such praise, will soon work elsewhere.


I do love this quote, but if I were to make any modification to it, it would be to simply say, “Throughout, the leader is a servant” rather than in between. This may be splitting hairs. However, this would emphasize that a leader is, at all times, a servant to their stakeholders. I believe this was Max’s intention as well. A leader serves the constituents by being a realist, praising their efforts and by helping them and their community achieve more. A real leader is one who wants to serve others and realizes that the best way for them to be of service is through their leadership.

The next time someone asks you what roles a leader must play, keep this mind.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Prevention Power of Failures Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

Failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) is a step-by-step approach for identifying all possible failures in a design, a manufacturing process or assembly process, or a final product or service. “Failure modes” means the ways, or modes, in which something might fail. Failures are any errors or defects, especially ones that affect the customer and can be potential or actual. “Effects analysis” refers to studying the consequences, or effects, of those failures.

What Is An FMEA?
  • A tool used to evaluate potential failure modes and their causes.
  • Prioritizes Potential Failures according to their Risk and drives actions to eliminate or reduce their likelihood of occurrence.
  • Provides a discipline/methodology for documenting this analysis for future use and continuous process improvement.
This analytical technique is used by manufacturing / engineering teams as a means to assure that, to the extent possible, potential failure modes and their associated causes or mechanisms have been considered and addressed. Due to its systematic approach it has a number of benefits for process and product development and improvement.

Why do FMEA? 
  • Identifies potential “manufacturing or assembly” process failure modes.
  • Identifies potential “product related” process failure modes.
  • Assesses the potential customer effects of the failures.
  • Identifies operator safety concerns.
  • Identifies process variables on which to focus controls for occurrence reduction / elimination or detection of the failure conditions.
  • Develops a ranked list of potential failure modes ranked according to their affect on the customer, (both external & internal), thus establishing a priority system for corrective actions.
  • Feeds information on design changes required and manufacturing feasibility back to the design community.
Ultimately, this methodology is effective at identifying and correcting process failures early on so that you can avoid the nasty consequences of poor performance.

When to Perform FMEA
There are several times at which it makes sense to perform a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis:
  • When you are designing a new product, process or service
  • When you are planning on performing an existing process in a different way
  • When you have a quality improvement goal for a specific process
  • When you need to understand and improve the failures of a process
In addition, it is advisable to perform an FMEA occasionally throughout the lifetime of a process. Quality and reliability must be consistently examined and improved for optimal results.  An FMEA also documents current knowledge and actions about the risks of failures, for use in continuous improvement.

How to Perform FMEA
Failure mode and effects analysis might be implemented differently, depending on the organization. As such, the number of steps involved may also differ by organization. As a general process, FMEA steps include the following: 
  1. Create a team of employees who have collective knowledge or experience with the system, design or process and customer needs. This includes employees with experience in customer service, design, maintenance, manufacturing, quality, reliability, testing and sales.
  2. Identify the scope of the system, design, process, product or service. Define the purpose of the system process, service and design.
  3. Break down a system, design or process into its different components.
  4. Go through system, design or process elements to determine each possible issue or single point of failure.
  5. Analyze the potential causes of those failures as well as the effects the failures would have.
  6. Rank each potential failure effect based on decided criteria such as severity, likelihood of occurrence and probability of being detected. Organizations can use a risk priority number to score a system, design or process for risk potential.
  7. Determine how to detect, minimize, mitigate and solve the most critical failures. This helps keep failure effect risks low by creating a list of potential failures and corrective actions to take.
  8. Revise risk levels as needed.
The purpose of the FMEA is to take actions to eliminate or reduce failures, starting with the highest-priority ones. The failures are prioritized according to how serious their consequences are, how frequently the occur, and how easily they can be detected. FMEA RPN is a numerical assessment of the risk priority level of a failure mode/failure cause in an FMEA analysis. is calculated by multiplying Severity (S), Occurrence (O) Or Probability (P), and Detection (D) indexes. Severity, Occurrence, and Detection indexes are derived from the failure mode and effects analysis:

Risk Priority Number = Severity x Occurrence x Detection

Severity: The severity of the failure mode is rated on a scale from 1 to 10. A high severity rating indicates severe risk.

Occurrence (or Probability): The potential of failure occurrence is rated on a scale from 1 to 10. A high occurrence rating reflects high failure occurrence potential.

Detection: The capability of failure detection is rated on a scale from 1 to 10. A high detection rating reflects low detection capability.

It is important to note that neither RPN nor criticality are foolproof methods for determining highest risk and priority for action. Severity, occurrence, and detection are not equally weighted: their scales are not linear; and the mathematics hides some surprises. Use RPN and criticality as guides, but also rely on your judgment.

An effective FMEA identifies corrective actions required to prevent failures from reaching the customer and to assure the highest possible yield, quality and reliability. Taking action transforms the FMEA from a paper chase into a valuable tool. By taking action in preventative means you are adding value to the customer which can be a competitive advantage.

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Monday, February 13, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #199 (#3196 - #3210)

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 #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 #3197 - Embrace Change

Flexibility is an essential part of resilience. By learning how to be more adaptable, you'll be better equipped to respond when faced with a life crisis. Resilient people often utilize these events as an opportunity to branch out in new directions. While some people may be crushed by abrupt changes, highly resilient individuals are able to adapt and thrive.

Lean Tip #3198 - Develop Problem-Solving Skills

Research suggests that people who are able to come up with solutions to a problem tend to cope more productively with stress compared to those who cannot find solutions to problems.8 Whenever you encounter a new challenge, make a quick list of some of the potential ways you could solve the problem.

Experiment with different strategies and focus on developing a logical way to work through common problems. By practicing your problem-solving skills on a regular basis, you will be better prepared to cope when a serious challenge emerges.

Lean Tip #3199 - Take Action

Simply waiting for a problem to go away on its own only prolongs the crisis. Instead, start working on resolving the issue immediately. While there may not be any fast or simple solution, you can take steps toward making your situation better and less stressful.

Focus on the progress that you have made thus far and planning your next steps, rather than becoming discouraged by the amount of work that still needs to be accomplished.

Lean Tip #3200 - Keep Working on Your Skills

Resilience may take time to build, so don't get discouraged if you still struggle to cope with problematic events. Everyone can learn to be resilient and it doesn't involve any specific set of behaviors or actions. Resilience can vary dramatically from one person to the next.

Focus on practicing these skills, as well as the common characteristics of resilient people, but also remember to build on your existing strengths.

Lean Tip #3201 - Focus on Goals, Not Tasks

Motivational speaker Les Brown gave one of the best quotes on the importance of goals: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

This is the mindset that executives should impart upon their employees. Effective executives train employees to make the connection between goals and the tasks.

Rather than focusing only on day-to-day tasks, employees must also consider the big picture. How can their tasks be suited to the bigger organization goal? Or their own developmental goals?

Even if employees don’t meet the exact goal, their aim has been high and their achievement is sure to follow.

Lean Tip #3202 – Invest in Employee Development for Real Returns

Employee development of any kind is not free: Either it costs the business money directly, or it costs time invested that could otherwise be spent doing the employee’s core responsibilities. But leaders need to remember that employee development is an investment, and that organizations should expect to see a significant return on that investment over time.

For example, if a manager invests heavily in a mentoring program for team members, they may not see the return straight away. But over time, those employees will develop skills that add value to the organization.

When selecting employee development activities, managers need to be cognizant of the fact that months may be needed for the benefits of those activities to show.

Lean Tip #3203 - Sell Your Vision

It’s your role to set and communicate a strategic direction for the business. Discuss your vision and ask for your people’s help in shaping it.

This gives employees a shared sense of mission and encourages potential leaders to see a future for themselves in the business.

Keep in mind the “what’s in it for me” element. No matter how happy they are in their job, it’s difficult for employees to reach the business owner’s level of engagement.

Lean Tip #3204 - Provide Opportunities for Leadership Development

Make leadership development a part of your business strategy. A leadership plan should cover all levels and indicate when an employee should be ready to move to a higher position.

Formal training can help, but isn’t a substitute for experience and on-the-job learning. Challenging assignments or job rotation develop new abilities, deepen the understanding of the organization and improve confidence.

Lean Tip #3205 - Create Coaching Opportunities.

Great leaders should be good coaches, as well. A large part of coaching is tied to being able to provide effective feedback that is timely, specific, relevant, frequent, and actionable. Providing this type of feedback without micro-managing is a fine line leaders must learn how to walk.

Building positive relationships with team members helps open up opportunities for coaching. People learn better and are more willing to accept criticism from those they trust.

Leaders should look for opportunities to coach staff as part of their day-to-day work. Good coaches listen, ask open-ended questions, offer support, and encourage employees to push for alternative solutions.

Lean Tip #2306 – Connect With Your Team Members.

Leading a group of people requires a mutual sense of trust and understanding between the leader and their team members. To achieve this, leaders should learn to connect.

To build a connection with each of your team members, focus on getting to know their personality, interests, strengths, weaknesses, hobbies and preferences. This can give you insight into their goals and motivations.

Being able to recognize the strengths of individuals within their team, and allowing them to be responsible and accountable, not only increases employees’ confidence in themselves and their leader, but also increases their performance.

Lean Tip #3207 – Encourage Personal and Professional Growth.

Acting as your team’s cheerleader is an important part of being an effective leader. You should be invested in their success and growth.

With options as varied as on-demand, virtual [and] in-person options, there’s ample opportunity to continue learning new skills or further developing existing ones. Empower your employees to take the time to learn and infuse that in the work they do.

To motivate and inspire employees, leadership strategy is about empowering others to do their best and take on new challenges. Employees like challenges and feeling the satisfaction of overcoming them.

When leaders believe in their employees and give them the opportunity to learn and grow, they might be surprised how much they can accomplish. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks and encourage freedom and creativity.

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 #3210 – Engage in Honest, Open Communication. 

One of the most important elements of effective leadership is creating an open line of communication with your team members. Your own honesty and transparency should serve as an example for your team members.

When you are responsible for a team of people, it is important to be straightforward. Your company and its employees are a reflection of yourself, and if you make honest and ethical behavior as a key value, your team will follow.

Displaying active communication skills and transparency can build trust among your team and improve overall morale.

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