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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Lean Roundup #168 – May, 2023

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


Eight Tips for Managing Up – Steve Kane shares some tips for managing up in a rapidly changing, or continuous improvement, environment.


Reflections on True North – Pascal Dennis talks about how Strategy Deployment is messy, humbling, intuitive, a marriage between the Right & Left brain, between intuition & logic, art & science.


The Necessity of Leading Without Reacting to Metrics – Christopher Chapman discusses an interesting essay by David Heinemeir Hansson, wherein he makes an argument for the “luxury” of working without metrics.


The Difference between the Toyota Production System and Lean Manufacturing – Christoph Roser discusses some smaller differences between TPS and westernized version Lean in the underlying approach, as well as some larger and often unintentional differences in its application.


Why Lean Management Requires Humble Hubris – Jim Benson reflects on the mindset and related behaviors that are the standardized work of “being the change you wish to see.”


Ask Art: Do You Prefer a Handwritten or Computerized Process for Visual Management? – Art Byrne shares the questions that matter when setting up your visual management systems.


How Context Switching Affects Problem-Solving – Steve Kane explains Context switching poses significant challenges to our cognitive processes and problem-solving abilities.


Toyota’s real secret sauce – Michael Balle wonders whether we are drawing the right lessons from TPS and highlights a few things we are underemphasizing.

Business Transformation Strategy: Breakthrough Ahead – Maggie Millard presents several critical milestones on the path to successful business transformation.


It’s Unfair and Unjust to Blame and Punish Nurses for Systemic Mistakes – Mark Graban talks about systemic problem of medical when nurses have more “accountability” thrown at them than autonomy.



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Monday, May 29, 2023

Memorial Day: Reflection and Celebration

Memorial Day is a time when we come together and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to their country. Since its formal creation in 1971, Americans come together to honor the fallen by visiting cemeteries, memorials, or holding family gatherings to celebrate the freedom that was earned through sacrifice.

In addition to picnics and BBQs, here are five great ideas for things we can do around our homes and towns to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend.

  1. Attend A Ceremony. Many towns have parades and ceremonies on Memorial Day and some events even conclude with a memorial service. Take some time from prepping for BBQs or relaxing with friends and family to take advantage of what your town has to offer.
  2. Decorate with Flags. For many years, it has been a tradition to decorate graves of fallen soldiers with flags on Memorial Day.  Another tradition is to fly the flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. If you have a flag pole, consider joining the tradition this year.
  3. Thank A Veteran. While Memorial Day is a time for remembering and honoring our fallen soldiers, it’s also a wonderful time to thank soldiers past and present who are right here in our midst today.  Many of our inspectors are veterans – thank you for your service. Don’t know a veteran or want to do more? Write a letter to a veteran or soldier! Check out OperationGratitude.com for more information about writing letters or sending care packages to soldiers currently deployed.
  4. Participate in our National Moment of Remembrance. In an effort to ensure Memorial Day is the sacred and noble holiday it is intended to be, the National Moment of Remembrance asks all of us to pause for 1 minute in an act of national unity wherever we are at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day.
  5. Buy A Poppy. During the days leading up to Memorial Day, members of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) accept donations for poppies. The poppy’s significance to Memorial Day derives from John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields.” Disabled and needy veterans in VA hospitals have been assembling Buddy Poppies since 1924. Purchase a poppy and your donation assists in maintaining state and national rehabilitation and service programs for veterans.

Our veterans have fought around the world, in places like Europe, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.  These wars have helped preserve freedom and liberty around the world and at home and have kept us safe.

It is no secret that democracy and freedom have required sacrifices. Our men and women in uniform are the ones who make those sacrifices to keep us free, no matter the cost.

Words cannot fathom how our communities, families, and loved ones feel towards our fallen soldiers. They have given everything to make sure that we are free. We have all seen the stories on the news of fallen soldiers returning home and their entire community paying their respects to a soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice to keep them safe.

Today we remember the fallen and show our gratitude for those who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms in the U.S. Happy Memorial Day!

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Friday, May 26, 2023

Lean Quote: Recognition, Not Money, Is the Real Motivator

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.

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

Motivation is a core factor for a successful business and there have been many studies around it, yet there is no definitive answer or a one size fits all solution to motivation and employee engagement.

Leaders often miss the mark when trying to ramp up employee productivity. In a recent article several employee motivational myths are debunked:

  1. Many think money motivates but studies show that motivating with money is not effective because it is short lived. Receiving money is periodic in nature and therefore does not continuously motivate individuals.
  2. Keeping employees happy with perks at break time is also not effective since employees want a break. However, enjoyment at breaks does not support to improved performance.
  3. Some try to avoid conflict but this doesn't help anyone. It can result in dissatisfaction and discipline.
  4. There are those that believe some employees can never be motivated. This simply is not true. The reasons people are motivated do vary and the challenge for managers are to find what works for all employees
  5. Some believe that your achievers; those workers who quickly learn, adapt, and produce; don’t need motivation. All employees need motivation. If you don’t motivate those individuals than they will get bored.

It is recognition, not money, which is the real motivator in a down economy. The author David Javitch offers 10 quick ways to motivate your employees.

1.     Praise the employee for a job well done--or even partially well done.

2.     If an employee is bored, involve that individual in a discussion about ways to create a more satisfying career path, including promotions based on concrete outcomes.

3.     State your clear expectations for task accomplishment.

4.     Ensure that the job description involves a variety of tasks.

5.     Ensure that the employee sees that what she's doing impacts the whole process or task that others will also be part of.

6.     Make sure that the employee feels that what he/she is doing is meaningful.

7.     Provide feedback along the way, pointing out both positive and negative aspects.

8.     Allow for an appropriate amount of autonomy for the employee based on previous and anticipated accomplishment.

9.     Increase the depth and breadth of what the employee is currently doing.

10.  Provide the employee with adequate opportunity to succeed.

All of which are easy to do and cost nothing. What is missing and probably most important is the frequency with which we motivate people as the quote above highlights.

All you have to do to understand your company’s culture is to ask “What gets rewarded around here?” Because what get’s rewarded gets done. It is important for leaders to ensure their employees are not only working on the right things but that they do so productively. When motivating employees consider what you reward and how you reward it because employees want to be recognized for doing a good job

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

10 Rules for an Exceptional Leader

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective. Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole.

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius ruled from 161 to 180 A.D. and has maintained the reputation for being the ideal wise leader whom Plato called a "philosopher king."

His book "Meditations" has inspired leaders for centuries because of its timeless wisdom about human behavior. It's a collection of personal writings from the chaotic last decade of his life. This turmoil inspired him to develop his interpretation of Stoic philosophy, which focused on accepting things out of one's control and maintaining mastery over one's emotions.

Here are 10 rules, as prescribed by Marcus Aurelius, that every great leader should know and practice.

1. Understand that people exist to help one another. Mankind was meant to live in harmony, “That we came into the world for the sake of one another.”

2. Be mindful of others’ humanity. Every person has dignity and pride.

3. Realize that many mistakes, even egregious ones, are the result of ignorance.

Punishment or chastisement should thus be done in an educational way.

4. Do not overly exalt yourself. “You’re just like them.”

5. Avoid quick judgments of others’ actions. “A lot of things are means to some other end. You have to know an awful lot before you can judge other people’s actions with real understanding.”

6. Maintain self-control. You can choose to spend your time and energy languishing over things that have already happened, or you can choose to be calm and address any problems thatarise.

7. Recognize that others can hurt you only if you let them. The only actions that should truly hurt you are things you do that are shameful, since you are in control of your own self-worth and values.

8. Know that pessimism can easily overtake you. “How much more damage anger and grief do than the things that cause them.”

9. Practice kindness. Sincere kindness is “invincible” and more powerful than any negative transgression.

10. Do not expect bad people to exempt you from their destructive ways. It is “the act of a tyrant” to think that you can try to change these kinds of people or persuade them to treat you differently.

Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these rules at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act“ some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become, and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.

Whether you are in a leadership position or are aspiring to be a better business leader, I would recommend the teachings in Meditations as a guide in your journey to develop yourself and others.

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Monday, May 22, 2023

What Employees Really Want in a Leader

Being a business leader in the 21st century is a tall order. You’re responsible for the health and happiness of your staff but also need to run a profitable, efficient business.

Accounting for the differences among employees can be tricky, too, as some folks appreciate a hands-on approach while others need space to spread their wings and flourish.

Finding your stride as a leader may take time. However, you’ll never stray far from the goal if you aspire to be a trustworthy, communicative, empathetic, and authentic leader for your employees.


Effective leadership is all about trust and transparency. Without honest, open communication, employees will second-guess your intentions and be hesitant to believe the information you give them. However, building trust takes time. You’ll need to show employees consistent support and should be willing to put your neck on the line for them.

One way to build trust quickly is by funding inclusive team-building activities, including ones that get employees out of the office. These types of events help build employee camaraderie, improve communication, and often mean that co-workers become more invested in seeing one another succeed.

Activities like hosting local events, group hikes, company-backed team sports, and volunteer days give you and your staff a chance to connect over non-work-related activities. While playing sports or hiking together, you’ll also have a chance to show that you authentically support staff and care about who they are as people.

If possible, try to host teamwork activities once a quarter. In her book, “Reach for the Summit,” Pat Summitt, who coached the third-highest number of  NCAA basketball wins in history  describes teamwork “as a form of trust,” that occurs when you “realize that you won’t achieve your individual goals without the support of your colleagues.”

Teambuilding activities that encourage trust are a great way to get folks working together and build your leadership skills. Over time, your team will trust you more thanks to the experiences you’ve shared outside of work.


Clear, consistent communication is integral to effective leadership. Employees look to you for information and will appreciate concise, accurate messaging. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a natural-born orator or wordsmith to enjoy the benefits of clear communication.

Communication is a skill that can be learned over years of practice. Improve your communication skills by defining your goals and understanding your audience before you start speaking. Before you head into a meeting, jot down a bulleted list of details that you want to share. Keep your tone consistent and be overwhelmingly positive when providing feedback to staff.

Effective communication requires you to be an expert listener, too. Practice active listening when engaging with staff and take the time to really hear them. Never interrupt and try to paraphrase what they said when making your reply. This is particularly important during times of conflict when tensions are high. People want to feel heard and will be much more reasonable when you show that you are an empathetic listener and clear communicator.


Empathy is a leadership trait that is often overlooked. However, empathizing with your followers is key if you want to understand their motivations and respond to the challenges they raise.

Become a more effective leader by improving your emotional intelligence and leading with empathy in the workplace. Being emotionally intelligent and self-aware is the first step towards understanding the thoughts and emotions that other people are experiencing. This is key if you want to work through conflict and improve employee buy-in. Emotional intelligence can help you recognize your own biases and assumptions, too.

It’s important to recognize that practicing empathy and improving your emotional intelligence is a life-long journey. However, investing in empathy can increase employees’ sense of belonging and enhance collaboration among team members. Businesses with empathetic leaders enjoy higher retention and a stronger brand image, too as everyone wants to work for a company where they feel respected.


Many leaders mistakenly believe that it’s their job to protect followers from the challenges that the business faces. However, employees can handle the truth and will appreciate authentic leadership that doesn’t sugar-coat bad news. Being authentic when engaging with staff will help them feel like part of the team and may even galvanize employees during difficult times. 

It’s important to note that being authentic does not give you free rein to say whatever is on your mind. There’s a not-so-fine line between being authentic and being rude. Staff always need to be treated with dignity and respect; particularly if you’re undergoing hardship as a business.

Balancing authenticity and kindness can instill confidence and self-belief in your employees, too. Confident staff are worth their weight in gold during an economic downturn as you’ll need creative problem-solving and high-performing employees to overcome the challenges you face. Being an authentic, emotionally intelligent leader will encourage employees to take risks and discover new ways to improve the profitability of your business.


Employees need strong, empathetic leadership to support their confidence and day-to-day productivity. As a leader, you can build a positive, productive work environment by empathizing with your staff and building trust amongst your team members. Model your behavior on proven leaders like Pat Summitt who show that emotional intelligence, clear communication, and authenticity are the keys to success in the leadership world. 

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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Friday, May 19, 2023

Lean Quote: The Good Life is Built With Good Relationships

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 good life is built with good relationships.  —  Robert J. Waldinger   

I recently came upon this Ted Talk by Robert Waldinger. Robert is an American psychiatrist and Professor at Harvard Medical School. He is known for his world-famous TED talk about his findings from a 75-year-long Harvard study on adult happiness.  This Harvard study is still being conducted today, even after 75 years from inception. This is a study about life and relationships.  It is important to understand and practice good habits to achieve good relationships. I hope you enjoy Robert's Ted Talk below. 

If you want a satisfying life, career success and financial well-being should be subordinate to the strength of the connections you make with the people who matter most.

Life as a human here on Earth is ultimately all about relationships.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Decision Making: Six Guideline to Better Outcomes

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

It makes sense. Yet, when it comes to the decision-making process, so many of us still wind up paralyzed. We’re terrified of making the wrong move and as a result, stay frozen in our tracks in the vain hopes that the correct decision becomes increasingly apparent. You already know that isn’t a wise strategy, particularly when it comes to managing your workload and leading your team. Instead, it’s much better to figure out what skills and tips you can pick up to get better at making those decisions that previously left you stuck.

Decision making is an essential part of business in all organizations. In traditional companies this power is typically held by few managers at the top of the organizational ladder. Lean companies however strive to empower their employees to make decisions at all levels through access to data, knowledge of evaluation methods, and defined standard processes. Nevertheless, decisions are necessary in all organizations and the following these guidelines can be beneficial.

  1. Timing. Neither making snap decisions nor always having to “sleep on it” is the best approach to the time factor involved in making decisions. Make your decisions based upon the circumstance and the time available. Within the realm of practicality, give yourself enough time to take the following decision-making steps.
  2. Define the problem. Be careful not to confuse symptoms of the problem with the real problem.
  3. Identify the options. Try to get at least four alternatives. Since you may be too close to the situation, seek others’ input.
  4. Gather the facts. In order to evaluate your options, you must gather the facts about the ramifications of choosing each option. List both the pros and cons of each option.
  5. Evaluate the options. Usually this will include a comparison of costs, time required to implement and the expected end result of each option.
  6. Choose and put into effect. Key, and often neglected, aspects of implementing decisions are to communicate the decision to the affected parties, outline why the decision was made, why the particular option was picked, what actions are required on their part and what beneficial results are expected.

Anyone can be a good decision-maker. Making decisions is an integral part of any job, whether you are in an entry-level position or you make important choices on behalf of your company as an executive.

Not every decision will be right but if you follow these six guidelines you will find you have many more right decisions than wrong decisions. Remember, the only thing worse than a wrong decision is no decision.

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