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Monday, July 31, 2023

Lean Roundup #170 – July, 2023

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


Conducting A Manual Process Assessment – John Knotts shares seven steps to assess manual processes in your organization to help you prioritize which processes to improve or automate.


The Particularities of Continuously Moving Assembly Lines – Christoph Roser discusses the basic commonalities and differences between pulsed and continuously moving lines.


The Lean Spectrum – Bob Emiliani shares his Lean Spectrum which he created  to identify areas of strength and weakness and to produce a more balanced practice of Lean management to continuously achieve better overall results quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year.


11 Examples of Continuous Improvement Companies - Danielle Yoon highlights a few examples of outstanding continuous improvement culture within some of the world's most well-known companies.


Continuous Improvement Processes: Choosing the Right One for Your Business – Matt Bana discusses different continuous improvement methodologies that you can implement to achieve more efficient and cost-effective operations.


Top Process Improvement Tools to Enhance Performance - Noah Paratore shares process improvement techniques can be used alone or in combination with other process improvement tools.


PDSA, or Doing it Well, Starts With Psychological Safety – Mark Graban discusses using the PDSA approach and why it requires a high degree of “psychological safety.”


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Monday, July 17, 2023

On Vacation till July 31st

I’ll be on vacation for the next several weeks taking a much needed break.

Americans leave too many vacation days on the table —

Consider these statistics:  

Ironically, while Americans may pride themselves on their hard work and dedication, research suggests that we will actually work harder, perform better, and have greater health, stamina, and enthusiasm for our work if we take time off.

Three ways vacation is good for you:

1. Vacation is relaxing. When you are in the thick of your day-to-day life, it can be difficult to take a step back and look at things objectively. This can make it hard to see either how good you have it or if you need to make some adjustments. By removing yourself from the daily grind, your to-do list, and normal responsibilities, you can make a true evaluation of your situation. And it’s often the case that people love coming back to their routines and restoring a sense of normalcy to their lives after a vacation.

Vacations improve your relationships with those around you. Whether it’s your spouse, children, parents, friends, or coworkers, your relationships are bound to improve after leaving your daily responsibilities behind for a few days. Since vacations tend to reduce stress, you will also be able to deal with difficult or frustrating situations with those closest to you in a more effective and satisfactory manner — and with a clear mind.

2. Breaks make you more productive. Another personal and professional advantage of taking vacations is the ability to detach from work.

Taking time off helps remind you that you are, in fact, a person. And probably a person who has interests and hobbies. So take the time to remember what they are, and make sure you schedule them into your weekly routine.

You know the refreshed feeling you get when you take a few minutes away from your desk? Well imagine what a whole day, or week, could do for your productivity. In fact, it works like such a charm that more companies are starting to realize the importance of time off — especially time off to pursue your own creative pursuits.

3. A change of pace boosts creativity. Another professional advantage from taking time off is a boost in creativity.

Nothing can lead to an anxiety attack faster than working a million days all in a row. So taking even one day off can help reset yourself mentally, and make it easier to have a clear head once back at work. According to Minda Zetlin on INC.com, "A growing body of scientific evidence explains what many of us have learned from unpleasant experience: Push yourself through too many hours or days of work and your brain starts to push back. Ideas that once flowed easily dry up, and tasks that you should be able to perform quickly become excruciatingly difficult ... you need to give your brain, and yourself, some rest." Amen to that.

Vacations provide opportunities for adventure and exploring new places, a chance to relax and unwind, learn new skills, gain insight, expand one’s perspective, strengthen connections with family and friends, create cherished memories, and more.

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Friday, July 14, 2023

Lean Quote: 3 Rules for Better Work-Life Balance

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.

"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 

Have you answered a work email during an important family event? Or taken a call from your boss while on vacation? According to behavioral scientist and Harvard Business School professor Ashley Whillans, "always-on" work culture is not only ruining our personal well-being — but our work, as well. She shares three practical steps for setting boundaries that stick.

Let’s recap the 3 rules below.

Reframe rest: Find ways to be present during time off instead of seeing it as an unproductive barrier. Treat the upcoming weekend like a vacation and create clear boundaries with work.

Set team goals for personal time: Do it publicly, collect data, and hold each other accountable.

Negotiate for more time: Savor your weekends and allotted time off by requesting an extension on adjustable deadlines.

I hope that this TedTalk has provided insight into how to reclaim rest and achieve a better work-life balance. 

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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #206 (#3301 - #3315)

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 #3301 – Use a 60/20/20 Approach to Time Management

Instead of spending 100% of your time knocking out tasks via the “Whack-a-Mole” method, I suggest a strategic approach to time management. First, use 60% of your time to proactively focus on tasks that truly add value to your business or cannot be done by others. The other 40% of your time should be divided into two categories: 20% on planning and 20% on strategizing. Planning is dedicating time to resources and schedules for the operation of the business; strategizing is time evaluating how you can improve your business performance, your customer experience, or your profit model.

Lean Tip #3302 – Build in Downtime

In farming, Mother Nature gives us some downtime; in other businesses, you need to create your own downtime. This is not vacation or “off” time. This is time away from working in the business to work on the business: to review  data, streamline systems, plan for the next day, week, quarter, year—whatever timeline makes sense for your business. Carving out even an hour will allow you to strategically plan and have insight into small problems before they become major issues.

Lean Tip #3303 – Develop a Strategic Plan

Develop short-term goals: quarterly, semi-annual, or annual, and create a plan that will help you reach those goals. Make sure your plan considers the resources you may need: cash, people, equipment, inventory, and additional operating costs, and make sure the end result will be a service or product that customers are looking for. Set the metrics you will use to monitor your progress towards attaining that goal; adjust your plans as needed based on how close or far you are from your goal. If you aren't meeting your goal, determine why you are not meeting it.

Lean Tip #3304 – Connect With Your Employees

Your employees are also influential on your path to improving business. Creating a positive work environment for your team encourages motivation, productivity, and fresh ideas.

Employees seek out workplaces where they feel valued and respected, and you can implement strategies to create spaces for intentional conversation and celebration. This could be anything from an open-door policy between you and employees to quarterly team feedback meetings and birthday or holiday greetings.

Lean Tip #3305 – Do a Daily Standup Meeting

Also called huddles or scrums, a short, daily team meeting can improve business efficiency. Keep your team updated on what everyone is working on, who needs help and who might have extra time and problems or questions team members have. Face-to-face communication is the most efficient, but if you’ve got a lot of team members who work remotely or who are on the road, give video chat a try. Other than this meeting, try to limit interruptions throughout the day.

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 #3307 – Never Stop Improving

Business efficiency requires a certain mindset – one of constant improvement, hunger and the knowledge that there is always more to learn. It’s a personal trait, but it is also one that you can make a part of your company culture. It will encourage risk-taking and innovation in your employees, which are both important in creating efficiency.

Lean Tip #3308 – Maintain High Employee Morale

Your employees aren’t going to work hard if they’re not happy. Do your part by creating a safe, welcoming environment where they’ll want to work. This isn’t just about company BBQs or free snacks, either. Understanding your leadership style and how your employees want to be led and spoken to is critical to building a business they’ll want to stay at.

Lean Tip #3309 – Build Trust

Building trust in the workplace leads to stronger bonds between employer and employee, as well as between colleagues. Trusting people to do their jobs without looming over them helps create a place where they feel valued and free to do their best work. In return, if you’re honest and transparent with employees, they’re more likely to return the favor, providing valuable insight on tasks, products, services and more.

Lean Tip #3310 – Provide the Right Tools

It seems obvious, but you might be surprised how many businesses aren’t providing their employees with the skills and tools they need to do their jobs. Whether you’re looking at project management software or new training for your accountant, the one-time fee or yearly subscription cost you may pay for a tool will often repay itself tenfold in terms of getting work done quickly and accurately.

Lean Tip #3311 – Figure Out Why Changes are Needed

To effectively manage change in your business, you must first understand why you need to change. Many of your businesses and their employees will have seen massive changes during lockdown and, due to the major shift we’ve seen in the economy, many of these have been necessary to simply survive. Other pressures which might be driving the need for change might be a new leadership team, new competitors, new technology, a new type of customer or demand for a different kind of product or service.

Lean Tip #3312 – Engage With Your Workforce

Your plans for change are likely to only work if key stakeholders within your company understand why it needs to happen and are invested in it. Engaging with your workforce is important and will be a huge source of intelligence which can shape the development of your plan. People tend to fear or resent changes imposed upon them. You have an opportunity to make your workforce part of the changes that are happening so they feel a sense of ownership and control over what’s happening.

Lean Tip #3313 – Communicate Your Plans to Employees

Effective communication with your colleagues at all levels is key to ensuring any period of change runs as smoothly as possible. You must be able to communicate the change process and the need for redevelopment to your employees to help them understand why it’s necessary and how they can help the company to make it a successful and positive experience where possible. Your employees need to know how it will affect their jobs.

Lean Tip #3314 – Plan for Every Eventuality

You can make detailed plans but you are bound to discover roadblocks along the way. No period of change will be problem free – so plan to flex your problem-solving muscles! You should encourage your employees to communicate what obstacles are in their way and how they are preventing them changing the way they work. These issues could be ingrained cultural behaviors amongst your management team or workforce. They could be linked to a lack of technology, resources or employees in certain positions.

Lean Tip #3315 – Empower Your Colleagues to Learn

Managing a major change project might be tough and not everyone is equipped with the skills to do so. You might need to look at how your resources affect the changes. Do you have colleagues with the right management skills? You could offer training opportunities to co-workers already in key roles. Using existing employees rather than recruiting someone new can also feel less threatening to your team.

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Monday, July 10, 2023

Navigating Leadership Challenges in a Post-COVID World

Image Source: Pexels

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the world. This isn’t just limited to the new perspectives we have on health or the economic conditions many people have had to navigate. The post-pandemic business landscape has undergone significant change in a range of areas. Elements of operations, customer needs, and commercial priorities have shifted.

 This means that the leadership habits and skills you cultivated prior to the pandemic may not be quite as relevant. It’s important to review the challenges of post-COVID business and how this may affect your approach to guiding your teams. While this isn’t necessarily an easy task, some knowledge, planning, and commitment to adjustment can help you succeed.

Leading Remote Teams

One of the most prominent outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is the greater shift to remote work. Though this may have initially been a social distancing necessity initially, many companies discovered distinct benefits to the practice. However, alongside the advantages, it’s important to recognize that virtual team leadership is subject to challenges. Overcoming issues such as poor communication or lack of team cohesion relies on managers and executives adopting solid best practices.

These include:

Mindful hiring

Not all professionals are necessarily a good fit for remote work. It’s important to adjust your hiring to identify candidates that can operate independently, communicate well, and can function without a social workspace, among other elements. It’s also important to take advantage of the cultural diversity remote working can support, as this can boost the innovative and empathetic potential of your teams.

Effective communication protocols

With your team members operating in disparate locations, good collaboration relies on solid communication. This begins with providing them with multifaceted platforms to utilize. Adopt tools that offer video conferencing, audio calls, and chat rooms so that workers can connect in ways that suit their needs. It’s also important to implement solid protocols about how frequently the team communicates with each other to ensure they use platforms consistently.

Prioritizing Wellness

COVID-19 is likely to have been the most significant public health emergency employees have lived with. For many people, their experiences during this period have made them acutely aware of how important it is to maintain their wellness. Part of the challenge as a leader at the moment is adjusting operations to reassure employees you’re taking genuine steps to prioritize their well-being.

Some of the ways you can address this include:

Providing wellness resources

Giving workers the tools to maintain their mental and physical health can show employees that you care about them. Not to mention that healthy workers tend to be more productive. You can be impactful here by designing a robust wellness program for your business. This could include subsidized access to gym memberships, telehealth therapy appointments, and educational components. It’s important though to keep communicating with employees about these to ensure the resources meet their needs.

Reducing workplace health risks

Taking continued steps to reduce risks in the workplace has been essential following COVID-19. Certainly, this involves actions that reduce exposure to illnesses. However, it should also include considerations for niche working scenarios. For instance, your remote workers may be subject to health risks their in-person counterparts aren’t. Blurred lines between work and home life can lead to burnout and the sedentary lifestyle can lead to musculoskeletal pain, among others. Be sure that you continually analyze the hazards based on the environments workers operate in to confirm they’re adequately protected.

Ensuring Engagement and Retention

COVID-19 caused significant shifts in the employment landscape. One that has caught many business leaders off-guard is the Great Resignation. Significant numbers of workers have reassessed their priorities related to their careers and working conditions. If they feel disrespected, are low-paid, or lack development opportunities, employees are more willing to resign. A key challenge as a leader at the moment is ensuring you’re able to retain and engage workers.

Some areas of focus include:

Supporting work-life balance

Employees recognize that their working lives are not the be-all and end-all of existence, and rightly so. One way you can retain and engage workers, then, is to ensure your operations support their healthy work-life balance. This can include offering flexible working arrangements, such as remote operations or open scheduling. It should also involve providing paid vacation time, parental leave, and mental health days to enable employees to focus on their personal needs.

Investing in employees

Among the solid ways your company can retain workers is by demonstrating a willingness to invest in them. On the most basic level this involves providing competitive pay and benefits. But it should also include providing clear and accessible paths to progression. Subsidize formal education for your workers wherever possible. Help them to identify mentors relevant to their career goals so they have the guidance they need to thrive.


The post-pandemic business landscape presents some significant leadership challenges. It’s important to take intentional steps to navigate these to ensure your enterprise and that stakeholders don’t suffer unnecessarily. This should include adjusting operations to better suit the practical issues related to remote work. COVID-19 also made health considerations more prevalent, so it’s worth adopting wellness programs and relevant risk mitigation practices to prioritize worker well-being. In addition, a commitment to supporting work-life balance and providing development opportunities can minimize the impact of the Great Resignation.

In addition, your leadership approach can benefit not just from looking back at the issues of the pandemic but also from looking forward. Use this as an opportunity to consider what challenges are likely to arise in the future. This enables you to adjust your practices and resources to ensure your teams, business, and consumers genuinely thrive as the landscape continues to evolve.

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, July 7, 2023

Lean Quote: What You Permit, You Promote...

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.

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

It's been said so many times in so many different ways that I can't really say who said it first.  While searching for the origin of this quote, I came across this version by former Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin once said (although many others have said it):

The leader establishes the expectations, and the organization follows. These expectations can be very permissive with no recognizable structure, or the expectations can be clear and reasonable. What the leader permits becomes the cultural norms of the organization. The leader must take a "no-compromise" position when actions violate values and standards.

A company’s core values are useless if leadership lacks the courage and support to enforce them.  For example:

The value is “integrity” but everyone knows he’s cheating on his wife

The value is “hard working” yet there’s still that one lazy person on the team

The value is “positivity” but the same person is always first to say why something can’t be done

The value is “teamwork” yet management tolerates one’s bad behavior on account of their high performance (it’s usually the top sales person)

Culture is all about a shared way of doing things, and when leaders don’t address those that aren’t on board, it sends the wrong message to everyone else. Their inaction undermines company values and communicates that values don’t really mean anything. These are the employees who have high jacked your culture, and you will never make progress until you remove these cancers and stand up for company values. Otherwise, your good employees are left to believe, “If that person can get away with it, why should any of the rest of us even try?”. The best ones just leave.

If you want to be successful in having a great culture, you have to set behavioral expectations that fit and apply them to everyone, relentlessly.  That means ridding your company of the people who fly in the face of your values, however difficult it may be.

Leaders create the culture, and the behaviors that they permit or allow are the ones that they encourage and promote.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Effective Meetings Should Have a PAIR

If I told you that only 50% of meeting time is used effectively, would you believe me? (Don’t answer. I can hear you nodding from here.) There’s evidence that virtual meetings score even lower. And not only are pointless meetings annoying, but they are also a drain on your revenue: two hours per week spent in pointless meetings results in a waste of more than $541 billion in employee time.

It’s important to distinguish between effective and efficient meetings.

An efficient meeting starts promptly, stays on track due to good time management, includes as few people as possible, and achieves the stated objective.

Efficiency is a superficial quality. It says nothing about whether the right people were included for the right reasons, or whether the meeting generated any value.

An effective meeting brings a thoughtfully selected group of people together for a specific purpose, provides a forum for open discussion, and delivers a tangible result: a decision, a plan, a list of great ideas to pursue, a shared understanding of the work ahead. Not only that but the result is then shared with others whose work may be affected.

A simple acronym I learned will help us in this regard. Just remember that every meeting should have a PAIR.

PAIR stands for ‘Purpose And Intended Result’

The purpose of a meeting should be clear and stated before it is even called. It should be stated even before the agenda is agreed.

The purpose could be simple, like ‘To discuss the upcoming quarterly campaign’ or ‘To introduce our new CRM system to the sales team’.

Make sure the purpose is clearly stated, so everyone can assess its relevance to them and the time it’s going to take. Make the purpose attractive and inspirational if possible. People can see the purpose and identify whether it’s worth their time and energy attending.

The next part (Intended Result) is just as vital. We say ‘intended’ because it’s possible that the meeting’s overall result could be determined by the discussions carried out and may change during the meeting itself.

Examples of intended results could be: ‘To allocate responsibilities to each team member for the campaign’ or ‘To get buy in from every team member for the CRM system’

You may only have one purpose for the meeting (the ‘why’ it’s being held) but you may have more than one intended result (the ‘what’ you will achieve).

Attendees should be sent the PAIR for the meeting before being invited, so they know what their responsibilities are during and after the meeting. If their time is limited, they may be able to attend for just a section of it that discussed their specific agenda items.

A PAIR also allows you to determine the success of any meeting you may attend. If the intended result is achieved, it’s been a good use of time. If not, it can be re-assessed and determined if changes need to be made for future meetings.

So, ensure that every meeting you run has its PAIR before you invite others. And make sure that you know the PAIR for every meeting you attend.

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