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Monday, October 30, 2023

Lean Roundup #173 – October, 2023

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


From Punishment to Improvement: Transforming Workplace Culture – Mark Graban explains why it is important create a culture of learning and innovation instead of fear and punishment.


The Strategy of the 14 Points – Christopher Chapman makes the case that Dr. Deming’s 14 Points are in fact a strategy any management team in any industry may use to become more effective and competitive.


Improving Coaching Skills in the Workplace – Steve Kane shares 9 practical steps you can take to enhance your coaching skills.


Harnessing AI Large Language Models for Process Improvement – John Knotts outlines five areas where AI could enhance or streamline your processes.


Why is Business Transformation so Hard? Lessons from the ‘Back Pain Industry’ – Pascal Dennis shares 5 lessons from his experience in the back pain industry for lean and business transformation.


The Toyota KPI Dashboard—Safety, Quality, Productivity, Cost – Christopher Roser shares a series of posts overviewing the Toyota KPI dashboard.


What Can We Do Instead of Appraising People? – Christopher Chapman shares some excerpt from Deming and Peter Scholtes on why appraisals are misguided and what can be done instead.


The Recipe for Being a Top Leader – Bob Emiliani shares pattern or recipe of 10 characteristics that stand out from most top business leaders over 30 years of studying them.


Cultivating Psychological Safety: How Leaders Can Encourage Openness About Mistakes – Mark Graban explains that you can’t just tell people to speak up, you need to create a culture where the benefits of speaking up outweighs the perceived risks.


Catchball: The Lean Approach to Streamlining Collaboration and Feedback – Maggie Millard provides an introduction to the Lean concept of catchball and why it’s important to success.


Continuous Improvement With Lean Systems in Manufacturing – Noah Paratore explores the concept of continuous improvement within the framework of lean systems in the manufacturing context. 


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Friday, October 27, 2023

Lean Quote: Unity is Strength

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.

"Unity is strength... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.  —  Mattie Stepanek

Once there lived a farmer in a village. He had four quarrelsome sons who used to quarrel with one another. The farmer was utterly sick of their cat-dog life. He tried his best to create harmony and unity among them, but all his efforts proved fruitless. His sons always turned a deaf ear to his took to his advice. This grief told upon his advice. This grief told upon his health and he took to bed. He wanted to unite his sons before his death.


One day he hit upon a plan to materialize his dreams. He had in his hand a bundle of four sticks. “I wanna see which one of you can break this bundle of sticks quickly,” he said. The eldest one tried first. The eldest son was the strongest, but he could not break it though he used all his strength. After that, each of his sons tried hard to break the bundle. None of them could break it. At last, they gave the bundle of sticks back to the old farmer, saying, “We cannot break the bundle at all.”

So their father untied the bundle and gave each son one stick. “Now break the sticks,” said the farmer. They all said, “That is very easily done,” and they held up the broken sticks. ”Now tell us why you asked us to break these sticks,” said the sons. “Do you not see,” replied the old man, “that if you all stand together, none can harm you; but if each of you stands by himself, you may easily be ruined like sticks”

The farmer had succeeded in creating a suitable situation to teach them a lesson. He advised them that strength lies in unity. As long as the sticks were united, they could not break them.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole world.”

If they were united like sticks, they would be strong and undefeated. But, if they kept on quarrelling, they would burn their fingers and opponents would crush them. They got the point and promised their father never to quarrel again.

Unity Story Morals:

United you stand, divided you fall.

The union is the strength.

Unity is Strength.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

10 Qualities of Strong and Successful Teams

Teamwork is the often underestimated tool that drives every successful business. Without a well-managed team, a company might not meet its full potential.

Each person on your team has the ability to bring their unique skills and talent to the table, but teamwork is required to truly take advantage of that.

Putting your employees into groups won’t help you if the team doesn’t have clear goals. They also need to have precise objectives and definite individual responsibilities.

When your team is aligned, it can be an incredible win for your business. In fact, employees who collaborate often at work are shown to be more engaged, more successful with their goals, and less fatigued.

Teamwork also has the power to improve your employees’ well-being because they’ll have a greater sense of connection with each other. And when your employees are happy and productive, your business will be bound to grow as a result.

Teamwork drives employees to think of the big picture they want to achieve. With that goal in mind, they’ll choose to work together instead of against each other. Teamwork can also break down silos between departments and smaller teams.

Finally, teamwork is important because it offers great learning opportunities. Junior employees can learn by collaborating with more experienced employees. Senior team members can get the opportunity to sharpen their leadership skills and learn how to build an effective team.

Here are a few qualities that a successful team possesses.

1) They know what is expected.

A new team needs to know what's expected of them, so you should establish the company culture you want to uphold from the beginning. This will show your team how to behave and how to approach their work.

Don’t forget your job as a leader either — being a good facilitator of these team values will ultimately ensure that everyone stays on the right track.

2) They communicate well with each other.

They communicate openly with each other, sharing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas with members of their team;  as well as taking into consideration what others have to say. Communication is essential for keeping track of progress and working together efficiently on tasks. Poor communication can lead to crossed wires, which can mean work is left incomplete/incorrect or conflicts can arise.

3) They focus on goals and results.

They agree on and set team goals based on outcomes and results, rather than just on the amount of work being done. A clear plan can then be set about how they are going to achieve these objectives, as a group, as well as each individual’s contribution. This provides them with clear direction and gives them something to aim for collectively.

4) Everyone contributes their fair share.

Each member of the team contributes their fair share of the workload and fully understands what their responsibilities are and where they fit in with the running of the business. They feel a sense of belonging to the team, are committed to their work, and really care about the success of the company.

5) They experiment.

Although teams are often most productive when they have well-defined roles, consider experimenting with new ideas. The most successful teams tend to accommodate informed risk-taking and allow ample opportunities for learning, especially if these experiments have the potential to generate better results.

6) They offer each other support.

Team members are always happy to assist others when they need a helping hand with work. Teams are often more productive when they are also offered support from the organization and access to the required resources.

7) Team members are diverse.

Everyone is unique and will be able to offer their own experiences and knowledge that others may not possess. Diversity is needed so that all of the required skills are covered by somebody in the team and each individual can be assigned a particular role on the basis of their strengths and skills. A variety of personalities, age groups, cultures, etc. can also bring creativity and a broad range of ideas to the table.

8) Good leadership.

A strong team usually has a leader that they trust and respect. This individual essentially works as the glue holding the team together and should be responsible for setting the pace, offers encouragement and motivation, and keeps all members of the team updated.

9) They’re organized.

The organization is essential for the smooth running of a business. Without it, the workplace can become chaotic and goals are unlikely to be achieved. Though each individual should be responsible for organizing their own workload, management should ensure that everything is running to plan and each member of the team is getting their work completed efficiently. Holding regular meetings can help to make sure that everyone is on the same page and deadlines are being met.

10) They have fun.

It shouldn’t be all work and no play! This can lead to burnout and a lack of productivity, so it’s important to inject a bit of enjoyment into working life. Teams who work particularly well together enjoy each other’s company and get together outside of the office from time to time to socialize and have some fun! Building a positive relationship with your colleagues can make for a much more relaxed environment and reduce conflict.

All team dynamics are different. Teams depend on the personalities of the members, as well as the leadership style of managers. However, the ingredients for what makes a successful team are similar across the board. Having mutual respect, common and aligned goals, open communication, and patience can all help make for a successful team.

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Monday, October 23, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #211 (#3376 - #3390)

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 #3376 – Build Trust By Being Vulnerable

Being open about your emotions and showing some feelings can help with building trust. It shows that you care and that you're a person too.

Don’t be afraid to let coworkers know if something has upset you or stressed you out.

This needs to be approached carefully. You don’t want to go telling all of your coworkers' overly-personal details.

A level of emotional intelligence is needed to make sure that you aren’t over-sharing or under-sharing. Begin by sharing gradually. Done correctly, opening up about your feelings can strengthen a trusting relationship.

Lean Tip #3377 – Being Helpful Fosters Trust

Someone who is trustworthy will tend to go out of their way to help people if they can. Not because of some agenda or because they expect to get something out of it. But because they're genuinely a good person.

Maybe you’ve done all of your work for the day. You could just sit at your desk browsing the internet. Or you could be helpful.

If you notice a coworker who is struggling with their own workload, offer to help. Or ask your manager if there’s anything extra you can take on. Also, there is never any harm in giving guidance and advice to that new hire who seems overwhelmed.

Lean Tip #3378 – Stand Up for What’s Right

People respect honesty.

While some bosses may like “yes” people who agree with everything they say, the best leaders value insights and opinions. Don’t sacrifice your values and what you believe just to appease your manager or try to get ahead. This will decrease trust with others.

Lean Tip #3379 – Honor Your Commitments and Admit When You’re Wrong

A trustworthy person does everything in their power to stick to agreements they’ve made. If you make a promise, follow through on it. Avoid making promises that you might not be able to keep.

People don’t like to hear excuses. If you do something wrong, it’s best to just be upfront about it. If you realize you were incorrect about something, own up to it.

Being vulnerable enough to admit fault can humanize you and make you appear more trustworthy. Admitting mistakes is also part of being honest.

Lean Tip #3380 – Building Trust Requires Transparency

As long as you can explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, most people will be able to understand.

Don’t keep secrets or hoard information for yourself. The people you’re building trust with are usually people on your team that you should be working collaboratively with. Share the information with them that they need to succeed too.

Lean Tip #3381 – Invest in Leadership Development

Leadership is culture in action. If your company's leadership style promotes unhealthy practices, your culture is set to become toxic.

Leadership and executive teams are key strategic players in building or shaping culture.

While cultural changes are often pushed from the bottom-up, key transformations are enabled through solid leadership buy-in.

Involving leaders and executives in creating a thriving workplace culture means activating a shift at the core of a company's decision-making nerve and accelerating the transformation across the organization.

Lean Tip #3382 – Add Community-Building to Your People Strategy

Engineering meaningful connections among people at work fosters a sense of purpose and unlocks the potential of diverse personalities coming together.

Community-building helps teams work better together, design more efficient governance (collaboration rules), and build solid synergies that allow teams to leverage how they perform and deliver.

Plus, in an increasingly remote and globally distributed world of work, people value quality relationships that help them grow, exchange knowledge, and feel more connected with diverse personalities at work.

Lean Tip #3383 – Leverage the Professional Growth and Development Strategy

Growth and professional development are key culture enablers, top retention factors, and reasons for people to join and stay in a company.

If you have long overlooked it, it's time to leverage your Learning & Development culture and make it part of your people experience and retention strategy.

Employees who don't experience a solid professional development journey at work are likely to look for better opportunities elsewhere.

Lean Tip #3384 – Improve Your Operational Functions

Frustration and disengagement often arise from experiencing messy and inefficient operational functions. 

These are often caused by a lack of solid leadership, ownership, and accountability frameworks, where employees aren’t able to lead their tasks autonomously, or they need to spend long hours searching or waiting for the right resources.

Many companies underestimate the importance of structured collaboration and communication systems in creating a thriving culture.

Solid operational functions set employees in the position to perform their tasks, grow their skills, and have smoother experiences in their day-to-day working routine.

Lean Tip #3385 – Focus on Experience Design

Culture is the experience people have of a given environment. To build a workplace culture that attracts and retains, you need to focus on designing outstanding experiences for people at work.

Employee experiences aren’t just about building more efficient processes, smoother collaboration and communication systems.

It’s about implementing people-centric workplace practices that aim to make them feel safe, seen, and valued both as humans and as professionals.

Lean Tip #3386 – Highlight Areas That Need Improving

In business, there will always be issues you need to identify and iron out. Risk management is one way to avoid potential disasters, but it’s also important to have a system in place for dealing with issues when they inevitably arise. Process mapping can help you do just that by revealing problem areas and potential choke points in your business processes.

Once these are identified, you can begin to put into place measures to improve things. Maybe you need to add an extra step to a process to ensure quality control. Or maybe you need to invest in new software that will automate a task and speed up the workflow. Whatever the solution, process mapping can help you identify what needs fixing.

Lean Tip #3387 – Boost Efficiency and Productivity

If your processes are running smoothly, you’ll see a corresponding increase in efficiency and productivity. When everyone understands the process and knows their role within it, things tend to move along more quickly.

This is where process mapping can be especially helpful for businesses with multiple locations or departments. By creating a standard map for all employees to follow, you can ensure a level of consistency and efficiency no matter where someone is working.

Lean Tip #3388 – Encourage Communication and Collaboration

How do you know that everyone is on the same page? Communication and collaboration. When all members of a team can see the big picture, they’re better able to understand their role within it and work together to achieve common goals.

Process mapping can help with this by providing a visual representation of how tasks are interconnected. This makes it easier for team members to communicate with one another and identify potential bottlenecks.

Lean Tip #3389 – Use a Process Map to Facilitate Change

Processes evolve over time as new technologies are introduced and new methods are discovered. As such, your process map should be fluid, too — it should be able to adapt as your business changes.

This is where process mapping can be especially helpful. By creating a map that can be easily updated, you’ll save yourself the hassle of having to start from scratch every time something changes.

Lean Tip #3390 – Manage Risk

Businesses are always taking risks, but some risks are more manageable than others. Process mapping can help you identify and manage risk by showing you how your processes work — and where they could go wrong.

This is especially important for businesses that rely on multiple processes to function. If one of those processes fails, the business could be in trouble. Process mapping can help you identify and mitigate these risks.

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Friday, October 20, 2023

Lean Quote: Good Communication must be H.O.T.

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.

"Communication is not about saying what we think. Communication is about ensuring others hear what we mean.  —  Simon Sinek

In today's team-oriented workplace, the development of good interpersonal communication skills is an important key to success. With a bit of practice and some instruction, you can be on your way to building positive communication skills to use in your workplace and beyond.

The process of communication involves establishing a link with another person either directly (verbal or non-verbal) or indirectly.

Basic Communication Principles include:

·        Communication is an exchange of information

·        Communication is always and only one to one

·        There are two processes when communicating – sending and receiving

·        As a sender, we can use tools and skills to LINK with another person

·        As a receiver, we can use tools and skills to understand what is being conveyed

·        Information can be exchanged directly through words (verbal) or emotions (non-verbal)

·        Information can be exchanged indirectly through posters, signs, videos, e-mail or voice mail

The attitudes you bring to communication will have a huge impact on the way you compose yourself and interact with others. Choose to be honest, patient, optimistic, sincere, respectful, and accepting of others. Be sensitive to other people's feelings, and believe in others' competence. Good communication must be H.O.T.

H.O.T. stands for honest, open, and two-way.

Communication is a key ingredient for empowerment. Give every employee equal and direct access to information. Many companies have developed a trickle-down style of communication that alienates those employees who may not be "in the loop." The more informed employees are and the more communication is open, honest, direct and complete, the more likely employees are to feel empowered and connected to the daily operations and overall goals of their company.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Overcoming Key Challenges on the Path to Leadership Excellence

Image Source: Pixabay

Whether you’re a new leader or an experienced one, there’s always more to learn. This is especially true if you don’t get formal leadership training — which most leaders don’t.

In one study, almost half of leaders with 10 or more years of management experience said they’d had nine total hours of training, and 43% of new managers with less than a year of experience had no training at all.

As a leader, it’s important to understand that many times, overcoming key challenges in your leadership style is up to you. The good news is that there are many ways to identify and address challenges as you move toward leadership excellence.

Here are some key challenges to watch for and how to overcome them.

Identifying Your Natural Tendencies

Everyone has a default way of responding to situations. For example, some people respond to stress with confidence and even aggression, while others think things through before acting, and others freeze and struggle to manage their emotions.

Interestingly, your genetics may have a lot to do with your default reactions. Studies have found that hereditary traits can impact everything from aggression and anxiety to risk tolerance. Knowing your natural tendencies in different work situations allows you to know where you’re starting and what changes you might want to make.

Of course, you’re not stuck with what you inherited — you can always work on your default behaviors to improve your responses. However, it takes intentionality and practice, so be patient with yourself. Overcoming these built-in reactions is challenging!

Balancing Confidence and Humility

Many leaders understand the importance of seeming confident — it inspires confidence in their teams. However, too much confidence without humility can turn people off. You don’t want to come off as an arrogant leader.

How can you balance confidence with humility? Start by understanding your strengths but also your weaknesses. It’s important to know your limits and surround yourself with people who are strong in the areas where you are lacking. People will trust you more when you’re honest about what you can do and what other people are better suited for.

Next, be honest with yourself and your team about challenges. You don’t need to share every detail with everyone, but it’s important to get everyone on board to face challenges together. That way, you get everyone’s best effort when you need it most.

Finally, be open to feedback from your team. Being open to change shows you’re humble enough to grow and confident enough to take constructive criticism. Leaders who know they have both strengths and weaknesses tend to get more respect than those who pretend they can do everything.

Getting Your Team On the Same Page

Getting a diverse group of people with their own unique motivators and challenges to work together is extremely difficult. The best leaders make it look easy, just like the best NFL quarterbacks make big plays look easy, but it isn’t.

Getting buy-in from your team is possible, however. Whether you’re working on a specific project or trying to keep employees engaged with the company, you can start by sharing a vision for the future and explaining the role the team can play. When employees understand how their work makes a difference, they’re much more likely to buy in.

Next, ensure your employees understand the power of collaboration. Inspired people can run off and try to do everything alone, but you need your team to work together. Showcase inspiring examples of teams that made a difference, and help everyone understand the strengths that each employee brings to the table. When your team can see everyone’s strengths, they’ll be more likely to trust each other and work well together.

Finally, don’t micromanage! Once you’ve set the vision and helped reinforce collaboration, step back and let your team own the project or their daily work. Be available for coaching, growth, and helping employees advance in their careers, but trust your team members to execute their skill sets day-to-day.

A manager who inspires and trusts their employees will have a team that’s bought in, productive, and engaged.

Know What Your Team Needs From You

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. Leadership excellence requires you to understand your specific employees and meet their professional needs.

What are some things employees want in a leader? First, good communication is essential. It’s vital to work on both your verbal and written communication because you’re as likely to be communicating via email as you are running a meeting.

If your employees sense genuine support and warmth in your communication, that will go a long way toward building confidence in your leadership, which results in better buy-in.

Next, work on your remote management skills. Today’s teams are often at least partly remote or hybrid, and managing remote employees has unique challenges. It’s important to ensure everyone feels like part of the team, your remote workers get enough coaching and professional development, and you don’t overlook someone simply because they aren’t onsite. It’s also vital to understand how projects are going and ensure everyone is on top of their responsibilities.

Finally, encourage your team to work together. Some sports teams think they can win by bringing a ton of stars onto the team, but they fail due to a lack of chemistry. Often, teams with good talent and great cohesion beat teams with great talent but poor cohesion. As a leader, you can encourage connections within your team by recognizing each person’s talents, praising contributions, and putting a stop to toxic behavior before it has time to damage the team.

Leadership Excellence is Within Reach

Having formal leadership training is helpful, but you can become an excellent leader on your own as well. Recognize your tendencies and find ways to improve them. You can get feedback from others in your organization, read books about great leaders, and find inspiration from a variety of sources.

You’ll never overcome all the challenges associated with great leadership, but as you face each obstacle and address it, you’ll become a leader that employees respect, rally to, and are willing to do their best work for.

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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Monday, October 16, 2023

Five Lessons the Fall Season Teaches Us About Life

The Fall season is my favorite time of year. It is a special time of the year, especially in New England. The trees produce a stunning explosion of color as the leaves change from green through yellow, orange, red and then turning to brown before falling to the ground. Trees are a wonderful example of the cyclical nature of life. No other season teaches us so many profound lessons about life.

Here are five life lessons that the fall season teaches us.

1. Embrace the change

Fall reminds us of the impermanence of life. It reminds us that change is inevitable! You’d think we’d get the hang of dealing with change yet it brings with it such fear that we can go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it. Fall shows us that far from shunning change natures achieves this transition effortlessly.

Fall shows us how to embrace change in glorious splendor. It reminds us to accept and flow with the change. Just like the falling leaves you have to let go in order to move forward, grow and heal. Periods of transition and change are often fraught with pain and crisis. But mindset is everything – if you can surrender to that change, trust the process, believe that the universe is working with you and that everything is happening for a reason then you can see your pain and accept change on a more comfortable setting. You can also sit in the knowledge that when the time is right you too will spring back to life and bloom again.

2. Learn to let go

Fall reminds us of the importance of letting go. It shows us that within the cycle of life there comes a time to let go and release those things that no longer serve us. Human nature encourages us to hold tightly to things and yet Fall shows us how to transition and surrender through this process in glorious technicolor.

All too often we cling to the past, hold our wounds tightly and get fixed and locked down with certain habits or mindsets. All of these ultimately cause us more suffering. Life is happier and easier when we can flow, surrender and let go.

3. The metaphor of healing

The four seasons are great metaphors on the process of pain and healing. When life throws us into chaos we tumble into the change and transition of Fall. When we are wounded and hurt we retreat and hunker down in the darkness of Winter. But there comes a time, just like Spring when we slowly start to re-emerge before the time comes when we finally lift our heads to the sun and emerge once again in the sunshine and laughter of Summer.

Wherever you are in this cycle try to surrender and flow with it. Trust that there is a process and journey to healing and rebirth. Healing is not linear it has peaks and troughs, highs and lows. Know that hindsight will give you many answers and that one day you will be able to back at a difficult time in life with insight. Often our darkest hours are the reason we shine so brightly.

4. Delight in the detail

Fall is a beautiful time and yet most of us go about our lives too busy and distracted to notice. Use this stunning season as a reminder to live more mindfully. To take a slower and more mindful pace to life and to notice the detail. Pay attention to the colors of the sky, the falling leaves, the sound of frost beneath your feet. The birds whose songs still chirrup bright and clear. Wherever you live to make it a habit to notice the changes taking place in the natural world around you.

5. Enjoy the little things in life

Finally, the fall season gives us a chance to appreciate the little things in life. A cup of hot aromatic tea, a warm blanket, a good book – these simple things can make us truly happy after being outdoors in the autumn cold. With the chilly weather and depressing images the fall brings to us, you realize the great power the little joys of life have.

Whether you like the fall season or not, you can’t deny that the lessons it teaches us about life are insightful and important.

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