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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Lean Roundup #174 – November, 2023

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


Understanding Misunderstandings – Bob Emiliani talks about his life work to advance progressive leadership and management.


The New Competencies - Christopher R Chapman discusses management competencies, in particular those that frequent Deming collaborator Peter Scholtes outlines in his excellent 1998 book, The Leader’s Handbook.


Systems Thinking–More than the sum of its’ parts – Andy Carlino shares the benefits to individuals and organizations of Systems Thinking.


Is Process Improvement Certification Right For Me? – John Knotts answers the question about whether it is desirable obtaining a process improvement certification.


Harmonizing Organizational Excellence: A Fusion of Agile, Deming, and Toyota Principles – Steve Kane explores the core elements of these frameworks, so we can distill a set of simplified guiding principles that encapsulate the essence of organizational excellence.


What Exactly Is Overburden (Muri)? – Christopher Roser takes a deeper look at overburden, including plenty of examples as well as the effects of overburden on your people.


Continuous Improvement vs Process Improvement: Spelling Out the Important Differences – Danielle Yoon provides a detailed comparison that clarifies the distinctions continuous and process improvement.


How Lean Agile Methodology Can Help You Avoid Waste - Maggie Millard introduces the Lean Agile methodology for project management and addresses the specific types of waste the approach targets.


Gemba vs. Genba — Different Spellings or Different Words and Meanings? – Mark Graban talks about all things Gemba, Japanese word that means, basically, “the real place” or “the shopfloor”.


The Sustainability Myth – Bob Emiliani talks about challenge of sustainability and advocates to commit to never-ending hard work of learning and practice.


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Monday, November 27, 2023

Understanding the Exodus: Why Younger Generations Are Leaving Your Workplace

Image Source: Pexels

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.

In recent years, employers have witnessed a growing trend — younger generations, specifically, millennials and Gen Z, are leaving their workplaces at an alarming rate. This phenomenon, also referred to as the “Great Resignation,” demands the attention of business leaders who must start enacting more effective changes if they hope to retain their top talent.

Why Millennials and Gen Z Are Instigating the Great Resignation

Though one can argue that every generation has had it hard and that we all have our burdens to carry, millennials and Gen Z have been pushed beyond their limits with stagnant wages, longer working hours, the global pandemic, and skyrocketing inflation.

This younger generation is burnt out, and unlike previous generations, they are not of a mind that one just has to keep their head down and continue working hard because of societal conventions. Instead, millennials and Zoomers have a much more philosophical view of life that prioritizes mental health and demands more from their employers.

Self-care and Prioritizing Mental Health are Top Priority

Because millennials and Gen Z are much more mindful of their mental health, they prioritize self-care. While self-care might seem like something they can do in their personal time when they aren’t working, it actually includes being cognizant of how their job is affecting their mental and physical health.

If the workplace is toxic or if it doesn’t allow for a healthier work-life balance, then they are more than happy to leave and find a better situation elsewhere — and they’re just as happy to do so if they’re feeling stagnant without room to grow.

Empower Employees with Training and Growth Opportunities

Millennials and Gen Z employees want to learn and grow in their careers, and they are prepared to leave employers that don’t offer these opportunities. According to Lorman Education Services, “86% of millennials would be kept from leaving their current position if training and development were offered by their employer, and over 70% of high-retention-risk employees will leave their company in order to advance their career.”

To top that off, Zippia’s statistics indicate that “45% of workers would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development,” and that 59% of employees report no formal workplace training at all.

As such, employers can turn to edtech and VR solutions to continuously uptrain and empower employees to do their jobs better. E-learning modules and gamified training mean that these opportunities are accessible to everyone, no matter where they are located. In manufacturing, one might even turn to VR to simulate on-the-job training without the risks or costs involved in real-life on-site apprenticeships.

Millennials and Zoomers Want a Job With Purpose

Finally, younger generations want more from the companies they work for. These generations tend to do things to derive more meaning from life. This is in part achieved by traveling more, indulging in hobbies, and again, prioritizing self-care, but it’s also about seeking purpose-driven employment.

Millennials and Gen Z aren’t trying to leave the workforce entirely, but if they do have to work, they want their jobs to be more meaningful or impactful. A study from Deloitte found that younger generations are more likely to stay with a company that has a more positive societal and environmental impact, and that makes an effort to create a more diverse and inclusive culture.

How Employers Can Improve Retention Rates with Zoomer and Millennial Workers

One of the best ways to entice younger employees and effect meaningful changes is to go to the source and ask them what they want.

One way to accomplish this is by conducting exit interviews. If your employees are leaving, take the time to sit down with them on their way out and ask them what you could have done differently. A few examples of specific questions you could ask can include:

       Why are you leaving the company?

       How do you think the company could improve?

       How has the company helped you accomplish your professional growth and career goals?

Even if you want to, don’t ask personal questions. Keep it professional and seek answers that will genuinely help you make meaningful changes.

Address Burnout

Another way to improve employee experience and keep up retention rates is to address stress and burnout, or the cause of it. Understandably, there could be any number of things causing burnout, which could vary from one person to the next, but there are typically a few main things that are the cause: a lack of flexible work options, long hours, a lack of benefits, and a lack of boundaries. 

This is where self-care can come into play. To help employees prioritize their physical and mental well-being, you likely need to make some changes, which can include:

       Encouraging breaks and taking time off when needed

       Making sure employees are clocking out on time and not working overtime

       Offering better pay and benefits packages

Focus on Engagement

Employee engagement is one of the best ways to provide more value to employees and the work they are doing. When employees are more engaged, they tend to be more productive and have higher job satisfaction. Employee engagement myths might have you thinking otherwise, but numerous studies have shown that employee engagement matters.

Provide them with more opportunities to learn and grow. Do things that remind your employees that you appreciate them and recognize their hard work. Create a more positive work environment that values open communication, diversity, and inclusion, and aligns with the mission of the company.

Final Thoughts

The Great Resignation isn’t a phase or a passing trend. If employers don’t do more to create a more positive and healthy work environment, millennials and Gen Z will continue to leave workplaces at higher rates. So if you want to avoid losing your top talent to those jobs, you must start making more substantial changes that hold more meaning to today’s generation of workers.

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, November 24, 2023

Lean Quote: Express Gratitude in the Workplace

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.

"Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.  —  Henry Van Dyke

It is that time of the year again, when families and friends come together and celebrate the preamble to the Holiday season. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all of the great, influential people in our lives. Our immediate outpouring of gratitude always seems to focus on families and friends, the turkey, stuffing and afternoon football.

However, if we don’t get caught in the raucousness of Thanksgiving, and really sit down and value what we have, our jobs, colleagues, and employees equally deserve thanks. And a simple expression of gratitude goes a long way in the workplace.

Here are four great ways to show your employees how grateful you are to have them, just in time for the Thanksgiving holidays.

1. Have an office meal: Who doesn't love a healthy helping of some good food? Thanksgiving is a great time to try and get all your employees in one place for an office meal.

2. The gift of time: Look to the thing many employees value most: time off. When it comes to the holidays, an extra day to prep is always appreciated. If your company can afford to grant this gift to your employees, give it a shot.

3. Appreciate their work: Nothing inspires people more than knowing their worth. A well-crafted compliment can be better than even the most expensive gift. Your praise can work to kill two birds with one stone. Give your employees the gift of gratitude while also motivating them to produce better work. Sounds like a win-win gift to us.

4. Thank-you wall: When words aren't enough, showcase your creative side. This public display of appreciation is a great way to acknowledge how everyone's good work contributes to a stellar company. Leave your workers with a positive feeling about their efforts before they head off for their holiday travels.

So this Thanksgiving season, extend your thanks from family and friends to your colleagues and work community as well.

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Thursday, November 23, 2023

What Are You Thankful For This Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Day has evolved over the years as an important holiday. It is not just about feasting and merrymaking. The tradition of Thanksgiving dinner teaches us to appreciate the finer things in life. It is about showing one's gratitude for the blessings that we are showered with. In all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Thanksgiving, take a moment to focus on what being thankful is all about.

Being thankful for what we already have is probably the most powerful tool of positive thinking. The ability to notice what we already have and to consider ourselves blessed with it truly unlocks the door to abundance and to feeling good.

As we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, may we vow to live not just this day but every day with a grateful heart and to use our blessings to bless others.

I'm Thankful for You

Thanksgiving is the appointed time

for focusing on the good in our lives.

In each of our days,

we can find small blessings,

but too often we overlook them,

choosing instead to spend our time

paying attention to problems.

We give our energy

to those who cause us trouble

instead of those who bring peace.

Starting now,

let's be on the lookout

for the bits of pleasure in each hour,

and appreciate the people who

bring love and light to everyone

who is blessed to know them.

You are one of those people.

On Thanksgiving,

I'm thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

By Joanna Fuchs


I am thankful for you, the readers of A Lean Journey Blog. You make sharing my thoughts rewarding in so many ways. I wanted to take this time to resound my appreciation for your interest, dialogue, and support of me and A Lean Journey Blog.

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Monday, November 20, 2023

Four Ways to Show Gratitude at Work This Thanksgiving

Employees spend a great majority of their time at work. Many dedicate long hours to the corporate hustle, and while some are motivated by overtime, others feel they do not have an option, but to work beyond their weekly forty hours.

When employees feel appreciated for their work and by their employer, they are more engaged and able to perform at their best.

Appreciation and recognition aren’t all about money either. At many companies, employees feel their best efforts go unnoticed or ignored.

Consider these four ways to thank and celebrate your employees:

1. Take the time to talk to, and get to know, your employees. The most significant way to thank your employees is to get to know them. Take them to lunch or schedule time to ask about their values, hobbies, and interests. Understand your employees. Use what you now know about them to build a customized skills-improvement performance plan. Spend time with, and become interested in, each of your employees.

2. Ask employees what they think. The best way to feel appreciated is to be included – to feel that your perspectives matter. In a Lean environment, we need input from all of our employees to be successful. Including employees in company issues, challenges, and opportunities empowers them, engages them, and connects them to strategy and vision of the company.

3. Say thank you, and mean it. Most managers actually do thank employees who do great work. Employees work for more than money. They work for the praise and acknowledgement of their managers. A sincere thank you, said at the time of a specific event that warrants the applause, is one of the most effective ways to appreciate employees. Remember the phrase, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated.” Start to say “thank you” or “I appreciate what you do” when it is deserved and it will inspire the behaviors to continue. Make it personal and sincere. Catch employees doing great things and respond. It empowers them, appreciates them, and celebrates their performance.

4. Share gratitude. Set an example by showing gratitude to your team members and praising a job well done, so other managers will follow. Show timely gratitude once a job is done. Employees want to feel recognized as soon as the job is done and not weeks later during board meetings.

Being thankful doesn't have to be just an activity during Thanksgiving. You can also make it a regular routine. At the start of a meeting, you can ask each person to share something they are grateful for.

It is common today to live on autopilot or in survival mode. This is an individual choice, but it can severely impact employee engagement. When employees start to be more present at work, feeling engaged and contributing from a place of gratefulness, teams can benefit from better interactions, a sense of belonging and increased psychological safety, with a significant impact on business performance in the long term.

Regardless of your style and how you do it, connecting with employees and taking the opportunity to thank them, when ever you can, pays dividends for everyone. Appreciating and thanking your employees isn’t hard or costly. So take the time to make a difference in your employee’s life. You will be pleasantly rewarded by them making a difference in yours.

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Friday, November 17, 2023

Lean Quote: For Success, Like Happiness, Cannot Be Pursued

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.

"For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.  —  Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Most people believe that happiness arises from suitable conditions, and that to be happy requires one to find, for example: a good job, a nice house, a new car, etc. However, it is actually more effective to rely on intrinsic ways of finding happiness, rather than through these extrinsic, object-oriented ones. Being happy is actually achieved mostly through one’s behavior and outlook rather than material, situational means. This is why it’s important to start cultivating healthy habits.

No matter what type of business you run, you’re going to need your employees to perform well in order to be successful. If you get the most out of your employees, there is no limit on how far you could go. In order to get the most out of your employees, making them happy should be a priority. Here are five ways that you can help your employees be happy about work.

1.     A sense of meaning: Whether on the widget-line or in the executive suite, every employee feels happier knowing that their hard work benefits not just the business but the larger world.

2.     Opportunities for growth: People are happier when they are learning, and they are happier doing their jobs when they feel that they are enjoying continuous opportunities to grow.  A lot of those people are even happier when they know that growth is helping them get to the next rung on their desired career ladder… or lattice.

3.     Offer autonomy to workers: Allowing workers to perform tasks related to their jobs in their own way will not only make workers happier. It will also make them more productive since they will not have to waste time waiting for approval from superiors

4.     Offer a good training program: Employers shouldn't underestimate the impact training has on employees and their future happiness. A company-sponsored mentorship or structured training sessions are likely to lead to engagement among employees.

5.     Create a favorable office environment: Employees are happier if they like where they work. Simple things such as reducing the length of meetings, providing food to employees in the office, and recognizing employees after a job well done make employees happier.

Communication with employees also helps to alleviate many concerns they may have about their job since it helps workers feel happier and more secure at work. Communication either in person, in an email or with a handwritten note all helped to make workers feel better at work.

In general, workplaces that make us feel included, valued, cared for, and competent bring out our best efforts. And while happiness alone may not cause productivity, it’s a pretty solid start. Happier workers stick around longer, bring more energy and enthusiasm to their tasks, and help maintain organizational morale.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Jidoka – Find an Issue, Stop and Fix It

There is no room for compromise in Lean when it comes to quality. We have to learn to build quality into our processes and design Lean processes based on right-first-time principles.

Building quality into our processes means not simply relying on perfectly trained individuals and teams who never make mistakes. Standard Operating Procedures may help people making errors, but it does not stop them.

We have to assume, just like in Murphy’s Law – that anything that can go wrong will go wrong … eventually. And by accepting this fact, the most important aspect of our processes is how well we design them to eliminate any potential errors from ever occurring.

Lean is about stopping and fixing issues when they go wrong: quickly and consistently, every time. It is about creating the proper workplace setup, to ensure that when things go wrong, we can identify them quickly.

Jidoka is an integral part of Lean principles that focuses on optimizing the flow of production processes. It plays a crucial role in helping organizations become more efficient and productive by reducing waste, enhancing quality, and increasing customer satisfaction. Jidoka is based on the idea that any defect should be detected immediately so the process can be stopped until the root cause of the problem is identified and corrected. This helps eliminate wasted time, resources, and energy from running defective parts through a production line.

The implementation of Jidoka relies on a mix of cultural concepts and Lean tools that are summarized below.

Developing a Jidoka mindset. Many people are trained to react to problems and to put in place quick fixes. The concept is to keep things running for as long as possible and work around problems as quickly as possible. A Jidoka mindset is different in that it says that, in the long run, efficiency will come from addressing the root cause of problems and that investing time in solving problems is a valuable investment.

Empowering staff to ‘stop the line’. Do your staff feel that they are empowered to say ‘stop’ when they see an unsafe act or a problem occurring? Many organizational cultures, through the words and actions of managers, disempower staff from stopping a process. Developing a culture where people feel that they are able to raise a real issue – and that far from being penalized they will actually be thanked for raising the issue – is very important in jidoka.

Installing andons. Andons are audible, or more commonly visual, signals that something has happened.  The aim is that andons quickly alert managerial and technical staff to a problem having arisen so that they can get to the source of the problem and begin to investigate it.

Solving the root cause. Quick fixes are typically just that. Jidoka relies on the implementation of an immediate fix to stem the potential damage and on the longer-term fix that comes through root cause analysis.

Utilizing standard work. Having implemented the changes it is vital to document what has been done and to carry out any training required on the new process.

Selective automation. Selective automation is about investing in technology to detect – and more ideally prevent – errors arising wherever there is a business case to do so. This means wherever there is either a high probability that things will repeatedly go wrong, or where a problem arising has significant impact (such as the ability to cause harm), then it means investing in sensors and other systems to enable you to control the process and detect problems as early as possible.

By not fixing the problem as soon as it is identified increases the costs of fixing it later. It potentially allows the problem to get to the customer and kills causing even more damage to the business. And really importantly, in a culture of continuous improvement, we want to learn fast.

If the issue is not addressed immediately, we miss the opportunity to learn (kaizen) and when we finally do get around to fixing the issue, we might find we don’t just have one product that has failed but multiple products.

The sooner the problem is detected, the easier it is to fix and the smaller the impact.  Thus, one of the important parts of Lean is to be able to detect problems, raise them quickly, analyze and fix.

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