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Friday, September 29, 2023

Lean Quote: Create a Culture of Feedback

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.

"We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve.  —  Bill Gates

Giving effective feedback is key to building strong teams and high-performing companies. That’s why so many organizations focus on creating a culture of feedback.

Positive employee feedback and constructive feedback can:

  • Boost employee loyalty
  • Strengthen team bonds
  • Promote mentorship
  • Improve performance
  • Increase employee engagement

In fact, Gallup found that when managers provide weekly constructive feedback, employees were 5.2x more likely to strongly agree that they receive meaningful feedback and 3.2x more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work.

When organizations offer employees the opportunity to provide feedback, it helps their people develop a sense of ownership over their work and the business's overall success. Regular feedback is critical in developing employee voice—the ability of employees to express their views, opinions, concerns, and suggestions, and for these to influence decisions at work. When this happens, employees feel invested in what they’re doing, more engaged, and much more valued and empowered.

More and more organizations are focused on making feedback a part of their daily business practices. By going beyond once-a-year engagement surveys and incorporating feedback at every stage of the employee experience, companies can expect to grow their business and create happier and more engaged employees.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Lean Roundup #172 – September, 2023

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


Another Tale from the Past – Mark Rosenthal shares a story that questions whether kaizen events alone, no matter how many or how quickly they were run, would actually create long-term significant change.


Highlights from GE’s “The Lean Mindset” – Katie Anderson talks about her experience attending GE’s special event called The Lean Mindset: Pursuit of Progress.


Labor Wastage Day – Bruce Hamilton discusses why we don’t have labor shortage problem; we have a persistent labor wastage problem and why it’s about time to do something about that.


Expand the View of the System to Find Ways to Improve Results – John Hunter shares an example of expanding the system view and looking at the results of the entire system it is often possible to find improvements that are not possible by only looking at “your” system.


What Makes Toxic Cultures? – Pascal Dennis discusses toxic culture that leaders create and can eliminate.


HR: The elephant in the room for psychological safety – Michel Baudin adds comments to Mark Graban’s Quality Digest column about psychological safety by focusing on the HR policies and practices.


Completing A Kaizen Event is the Beginning, Not the End of an Improvement – Steve Kane says the conclusion of a Kaizen event is not the end of an improvement; it marks the start of an ongoing journey toward excellence.


Understanding How Process Behaviour Charts Work – Christopher Chapman dives into the theory and clockworks behind Process Behaviour Charts so as to demystify how they work and to aid in creating and interpreting them more effectively.


Dos and Do Nots for KPIs – Christoph Roster discusses the three most common pitfalls are to underestimate the effort (and hence the cost) of measuring a KPI, to overestimate the accuracy of a number, and (worst of all) to believe that the numbers tell you everything.


Should You Forget About Psychological Safety? – Bob Emiliani talks about the aspects of psychological safety and what you can do about it rather then complaining about a lack of it.


Some Common Themes From the GE Lean Mindset Event’s Diversity of Backgrounds – Mark Graban shares his experience about the recent event, The Lean Mindset, organized by GE.


What Is Process Improvement, and What Are Some Best Practices? – Delancey Padmos shares the aims of process improvement and some best practices to consider.



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Monday, September 25, 2023

5 Manager Competencies Contributing to Achievement

Managers rely on 5 competencies that contribute to collective success.

1.     Translating the Strategy Into Actions

Translating the strategy into actions means developing plans and making operational decisions, and mobilizing employees who will implement them. Managers implement this by:

·        Understanding the company’s strategy and sharing it with their employees.

They keep their team informed of the company’s strategic direction and decisions. They explain the impacts of these decisions on the team’s activities. They allow every employee to speak up and raise questions.

·        Organizing their team’s work.

They provide clear and concrete directives that are applied to individual and collective missions. They identify performance indicators. They define responsibilities, schedules, and processes. They ensure that everyone is aware of these factors and understands them.

·        Making sure that action plans are implemented.

They explain their decisions and ensure that action plans are implemented, They communicate with other managers regarding the impact of action plans on their respective activities.

·        Supporting their employees in the execution of their work.

They are close to their teams and support them, particularly at critical moments. They advise them and provide the suitable expertise and resources needed for success.

·        Providing their management and peers feedback.

To positively influence behaviors, they provide candid and objective feedback to their management and peers.

2.     Delivering the Expected Results

Delivering the expected results means reaching the managerial, financial, business, and technical targets on time, while ensuring the utmost safety and security. It means meeting the expectations of internal and external customers. Managers implement this by:

·        Setting an example in terms of safety and security.

At their respective level, they guarantee that the company’s safety and security standards are met. They share these standards and explain their meaning. They supervise the application and strict observation of safety and security rules, and continuously measure the performance and progress of their team.

·        Defining goals that are realistic, yet ambitious.

They share the goals set by their own management with all their employees. Together with their teams, they set SMART targets that are congruent with others in the company. They plan and specify the results and deliverables.

·        On a daily basis, managing the activities in an efficient manner.

They are in regular contact with their teams to assess the state of progress of the action plans. They share the state of progress with their management and flag any difficulties encountered. They are capable of looking beyond their own scope to find the competencies and resources required to achieve the targets. They develop their internal and external networks.

·        Mobilizing their teams.

They are close to their team and build strong relationships with team members. They explain the actions taken. They encourage initiative. With each employee, they review their achievements and contributions to the objectives and the progress of the projects.

·        Anticipating and providing solutions.

They list to and take account of the information escalated by their team and their customers. They are flexible, adaptable and show a sense of initiative when faced with unforeseen events, and they seize opportunities. They continuously assess their own actions and decisions in order to improve their team’s practices and performance.

·        Permanently bearing their customers’ expectations in mind.

They know their internal and external customers, and share their customers’ expectations with their team. They develop constructive relationships with their customers. They keep their promises to satisfy their customer and create opportunities for new business.


3.     Leading Change

Leading change means making decisions and implementing the actions required to achieve the company’s ambitions. Most of all, it means mobilizing all of the stakeholders affected by these changes. Managers implement this by:

·        Embracing and explaining the need for change.

They personify the will to change. They share this will with their teams and all stakeholders. They make the reasons for the change clear – for them and with them. They explain the background and constraints (financial, human, time-related). And they ensure understanding.

·        Defining the target and the means of making the change.

They qualify the nature of the change to made: new working methods, a new organization, new tools, etc. They analyze the impacts, risks, and opportunities of the change. They plan the stages of the change. They identify and involve they key players of the changes inside and outside their team, before the project is launched.

·        Organizing and driving action plans.

They know and have expertise in the proven change management tools and methods, and use the tools and methods best suited to the situation. They make sure that the tools are suited to the expected results.

·        Working side-by-side with their teams on the operational implementation of the transformation.

They listen to their teams and regularly adjust their actions. They are able to call working and management methods into question. Together with their teams, they design, and implement suitable solutions and support their teams throughout the change.

·        Identifying opportunities and overcoming any obstacles to change.

They stay close to their teams, are pragmatics, flexible, and persevering. They do not lose heart, even when faced with resistance or disinterest. They accept the risks of the change.

·        Taking stock of the reality of the change and the effects of the transformation.

They measure the progress of the projects and make sure that they produce technical results (the quality of the solution) and engage stakeholders and achieve customer satisfaction. They inform their teams of these results.

4.     Developing Teams

Developing teams means creating conditions in which everyone can make progress. It means giving objective and regular feedback to every team member on performance, competencies and potential to develop. Managers must identify and develop talents. They recognize and value the diversity of their employees. They propose professional development actions. Managers implement this by:

·        Creating conditions conducive to collective performance.

They foster team spirit and collaborative working. They organize their team according to the group’s goals. They listen to their peers’ opinion of their teams.  They set up development plans that match competencies to required targets. They value diverse profiles, backgrounds, and experience.

·        Managing and recognizing induvial performance.

Their assessments of their employees’ competencies and performance are clear and objective. They allow room for errors while addressing inappropriate behavior and poor performance. They support their employees. They applaud success and encourage progress.

·        Contributing to the professional development of their employees.

They assign missions in which their employees can succeed and reveal their full potential. They encourage employees to play an active role in their own professional development. They give their employees the means of enriching their competencies and expertise through training, new missions, and challenges.

·        Favoring their employees’ mobility.

They build career paths with team members and support their mobility. With a focus on internal hires, they engage with other mangers to facilitate mobility.

·        Establishing quality dialog with all their employees.

They build trusting relations with each individual, built on transparency. They prefer direct discussions. They take part in the life of the team. They develop cross-functional cooperations and exchanges of experience and best practices with other managers.

5.     Encouraging Creativity

Encouraging creativity means proposing, nurturing, and implementing innovative ideas. It means creating a climate conducive to innovation and developing creative and original ideas that continuously improve the team’s performance and service to its customers. Innovation is a lever for the creations of value. Managers implement this by:

·        Proposing new solutions.

Managers support innovation in every field: technical, organizational, commercial, social, etc. They regularly and constructively call existing practices into question, to facilitate new ideas and solutions. They step back and think about their professional practices and those of their employees.

·        Encouraging and congratulating initiatives.

They encourage their employees to voice their ideas. They implement tools and processes that encourage new ideas or practices. They actively listen to their employees’ suggestions, including suggestions that go beyond the established order. They widely share and discuss original ideas. They take the various points of view expressed inside and outside their team into consideration.

·        Contributing actively to the implementation of new ideas and encouraging the spirit of enterprise.

They allow and encourage ideas to mature. They make decisions quickly. They are able to find and allocate the necessary budgetary resources. They involve their employees in the implementation of new ideas. They keep track of progress.

·        Using innovation to leverage continuous improvement.

Together with the stakeholders involved, they assess the performance of new ideas that have been implemented. They accept failures and learn from them. They highlight successes and measure the impact of innovation on their activities. They reward the employees who came up with the new idea, and those who successfully implemented it.

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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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