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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Lean Roundup #177 – February 2024

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of February 2024.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.  


Introduction to Toyota Kata – Mark Rosenthal introduces Toyota Kata as a way to start to nudge the culture in the direction we want it to go.


The Problem (737 MAX and Beyond) at Boeing Isn’t “Idiots.” It’s Far More Complex Than That… But Fixable – Mark Graban asks and answers what can we do to prevent mistakes and protect ourselves from human error.


Toyota’s job rotation policy - Michel Baudin focuses on the specifics of Job Rotation as a policy that sets Toyota apart from most other manufacturing companies.


Strategy in a Time of Explosive Change – Pascal Dennis discusses how to develop and deploy strategy in ‘interesting’ Technological times.


The Power of Perception: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities – Ron Pereira talks about how our experience is shaped by our perception and reaction.

Asking the Wrong Question (for Decades) – Bob Emiliani says we have challenged people with the wrong question.

Understanding the Customer Experience is a Keystone in Process Improvement - John Knotts says ensuring satisfaction through the entire journey a customer undertakes with your business is essential for process improvement and, ultimately, business success.


Different Aspects of Seeing a Shop Floor—Introduction - Christoph Roser goes through the steps for understanding the shop floor to see what’s going on in the production system.


Coach’s Corner: How can Lean Product and Process Development enable the creation of environmentally sustainable products? - Katrina Appell shows how following LPPD principles and practices enables teams to consider sustainability when making decisions early in and throughout the design process.


The Ongoing State of Agile Transformations - Christopher Chapman reviewed and analyzed the annual State of Agile industry survey to see how peers were doing in adopting this “new” way of delivering software, what impediments they were facing, and what trends were emerging.


Lean Leadership in Action: CEO Larry Culp’s Journey to Revitalize GE at the Gemba – Mark Graban discusses the importance of leadership action in Lean with recent example from GE’s CEO Larry Culp.

Learning is Not Enough – Bob Emiliani explains learning is a foundation, a launching point, but one has to go much further to gain know-how.


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Monday, February 26, 2024

Fear is Poor Motivator for Business Transformation

Those of us who are familiar with Continuous Improvement programs all know the term “burning platform”, an expression used to describe a situation where a company or organization needs to take drastic action to survive. The concept has gained popularity as an effective way to motivate employees and stakeholders to make a real change.

In general, a necessity to change – the burning platform – will create higher stress levels which affect the attitude and behavior of employees towards the upcoming change. The more critical and urgent the need for change, the bigger the chances for stress levels. This triggers negative and defensive reactions like fight, flight or freeze.

Too often, we see high stress levels result in internal fights, pointing fingers, pushing problems to other teams and the best talents moving to other companies.

Maybe, these negative sentiments can be transformed into a more positive and bonding attitude within teams for a while, but not for long time.

My view, however, is different. Even though fear is a strong motivator, it only works for a limited time. And should never be applied on a personal level. Fear causes stress, decreasing performance levels and motivation in the long run. Typically, as soon as another option is available, people find ways to escape the unpleasant situation or environment.

To sustain a transformation journey, shifting from a burning platform to a burning ambition is absolutely critical. Leaders’ personal ambitions are surpassed by the lasting impact they wish to have on their organizations, their customers, their industries, and their communities. Burning ambitions provide far greater leverage than burning platforms to keep leaders on track. Clarity of personal and organizational ambition allows leaders to reorient their focus in spite of these competing pressures and allows them to accept short-term pain in the pursuit of longer-term gain.

Moving from a burning platform to a burning ambition is a necessary first step toward organizational transformation. Because this shift allows leaders to become calmer, more purposeful, and more responsive to the inevitable challenges they are going to face. Secondly, it is not only vital for a leader to articulate the organizational reasons for change, but they need to delve deeper and establish very compelling personal motivations for change. Finally, the fire or the ‘Big Why’ is a crucial part of how leaders transform.

The better option is what leading and dynamic manufacturers do very well: they rally their employees, their clients and their partners with a strong and compelling purpose, which makes continuous innovations and change the natural, logical and compelling thing to do.

In essence, if there are compelling reasons and not too many obstacles, people will change and drive innovation to improve. They do not need a crisis or burning platform to change. After all, that is the only reason the world is changing so rapidly.

However, too many organizations do a bad job in providing compelling reasons and a good job in creating obstacles. That is the reason organizations struggle to keep up the high pace of the changing world.

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Friday, February 23, 2024

Lean Quote: Love What You Do

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.

"Do what you love, love what you do, and with all your heart give yourself to it.  —  Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

We often hear the phrase “you’ve got to love what you do” and it is advice given by many self-help gurus and books. But what exactly does it mean?

These days it appears to be fashionable for young kids to call themselves entrepreneurs or founders. They have fallen in love with the idea of starting and running their own businesses. Yet unless you are making money, instead of raising money, you are not being very entrepreneurial. What these people are in love with is the title of ‘entrepreneur’. But to be a true entrepreneur involves hours and hours developing a product or service. It means spending days and weeks sitting in front of a computer writing boring lines of code or prototyping package designs and UI experiences. If you are not in love with that part of the work, you are not in love with what you do.

And that is what “love what you do” really means. It means you love the work of doing what you do every day. It means you love waking up at 6 am every morning and writing your book. It means you love pushing through the pain barrier every day in the gym to achieve the body you want. What it really means is you love the process of doing what you do.

If your love is the title, or the money or the position, you will never find happiness or fulfilment in your work. That only comes from the process. It is the love you have for doing that ultimately leads to happiness and fulfilment. That’s where the long-term wins are. There is no winning strategy in handing out small pieces of card with the title “founder” on it only for you to spend your days running around seeking money for a, as yet untested idea. That’s being in love with the name and not the process.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Lean Tips Edition #295 (#3451 - #3465)

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 #3451 – Develop a Positive Attitude

It’s crucial to have a positive attitude when striving to be an approachable manager. It is essential because seeing yourself as a positive person will change how you think, act, and relate. You’ll spontaneously treat others with respect, kindness, and warmth. All this will together make you approachable. It can be difficult when things are going poorly, but it’s essential if you want to build relationships with your team and achieve the objectives you set for yourself. 

One of the best ways to develop a positive attitude is to focus on your strengths. When you focus on what you do well, you’ll see progress and success in areas you previously struggled with. That will ultimately lead you to develop a positive attitude.

Lean Tip #3452 – Be Vulnerable in Sharing Your Failures or Insecurities 

As a manager, it’s important to be vulnerable in sharing your failures or insecurities. It will help you build trust and credibility with your team and enable them to lean on you for support when things get tough. When you are completely candid with your team, they will see you as a person instead of a manager. 

It empowers them to take risks and make decisions in the team’s best interest. It’s also important to be open about your thoughts and ideas so that they can provide valuable feedback. If you can make yourself approachable and available, your team will be more likely to report to you with good news, and they’ll be more likely to stick around if things go wrong.

Lean Tip #3453 – When You Don’t Know Something, Accept It And Work Together To Figure It Out 

When you don’t know something, and you’re the team manager, it’s essential to be patient and accept that fact. It means reaching out to your team and asking for help in most cases. If somebody on your team is knowledgeable about the subject, they’re more than happy to lend a hand.

You can quickly get up to speed on the issue and make the best decisions possible by working together. It is essential for decisions that impact the team’s productivity or morale. When you approach your employees with your problems or shortcomings, they are also pushed to come to you for their issues, positively impacting your approachability.

Lean Tip #3454 – Speak Openly and Honestly With Others 

If you want to become an approachable manager, a crucial step is to start speaking openly and honestly with others. It means being straightforward and honest about your intentions and willing to listen to others’ perspectives. Be responsive, show openness to feedback, and communicate openly about what you are doing and why so that everyone in your team feels engaged and invested in your work. Finally, while being honest, respect others’ time and effort. 

Lean Tip #3455 – Be a Sounding Board

Approachable leaders understand that people will come to them with good and bad news. Show compassion and empathy; let people know they can always come to you. As a leader, you don’t only lead — you must also stay open and listen. You must embrace compassion and engage empathy. Making yourself approachable and accessible is the secret ingredient to great leadership. 

Lean Tip #3456 – Challenge Processes, Not People 

One Lean management habit that’s more difficult in practice than it is on paper is challenging processes, not people. Often, we don’t realize how we are assigning blame to the people on our teams.

We all carry subconscious biases that prevent us from truly seeing the reality of any given situation. Aiming to solve any problem by focusing on the process keeps teams solutions-oriented and discourages power struggles on teams. 

Challenging processes, not people, can also usually uncover the real issues at hand. Returning to the idea that people want to do their best work, often our tendency to blame people leaves us with high turnover rates but the same problems. 

Lean Tip #3457 – Share Knowledge, Spread Energy

One key Lean principle is the idea of sharing knowledge. Increasing transparency in the flow of information can help to spread positive energy across the organization and reinforce Lean leadership principles. If the goal of Lean is to meet the needs of the customer in a sustainable and healthy way, sharing knowledge helps the entire organization maintain an up-to-date, accurate picture of the customer and their needs. 

It’s difficult to achieve that “we’re all in this together” mentality across the organization if only some members are allowed to see all the cards. Although it can feel risky to increase transparency across the organization, the benefits of a culture built on trust and openness outweigh the temporary feeling of vulnerability. 

Lean Tip #3458 – Lean Leadership by Example 

Lean leaders have to be curious, open, and transparent in ways for which traditional management methods did not prepare them. Embracing and embodying Lean management principles requires many to retrain their brains to allow for a completely new approach to leadership. 

One of the most exciting parts of Lean leadership is that it challenges the idea that leadership is an inborn trait that people either have or they don’t. By practicing the principles and practices above, anyone can become a Lean leader, regardless of their role, experience, or personality type. 

Lean Tip #3459 – Coach and Develop Your Team

Lean leaders invest in the coaching and development of their teams. They provide guidance, feedback, and support to help employees develop their problem-solving and Lean skills. Leaders encourage cross-functional collaboration, knowledge sharing, and learning from failures. By investing in their teams’ growth, leaders build a capable and empowered workforce that drives sustainable Lean improvements. 

Lean Tip #3460 – Instill a Continuous Improvement Mindset 

Lean leaders instill a continuous improvement mindset throughout the organization and create a Lean Culture. They encourage employees to identify and address waste, inefficiencies, and problems on a daily basis. Leaders utilize Lean tools and methods such as Kaizen events, A3 problem solving, and value stream mapping. These tools and methods help them make incremental improvements and foster a culture of learning and innovation.

Lean Tip #3461 – Be More Adaptable By Learning From Your Coworkers

One great way to learn adaptability is to observe how your co-workers embrace change. Consider the way they showcase their adaptability in certain situations and how you can apply those same concepts. It can also be beneficial to ask them for any tips they can provide you with in this area. 

Lean Tip #3462 – Ask Questions to Learn

Consider asking your co-workers how they perform certain tasks and handle certain situations in the workplace. One of the greatest ways to learn adaptability is to not only observe but actively seek advice from others who excel in this area. Make sure your questions are professional and well thought out.

Lean Tip #3463 – Be Willing to Make Mistakes 

Though making a mistake can be disheartening, it also provides you with various opportunities such as the ability to learn a valuable lesson, share knowledge and consider a future solution. Change your mindset when it comes to your mistakes in the workplace. The better you are at embracing your mistakes, the more adaptable you'll be at managing the fallout.

Lean Tip #3464 – Find the Positive

Many things in life and in the workplace don't go as planned. When this happens, focus on the positive. This will allow you to change your mindset and pay attention to the positives. Consider what you're able to take away from these situations and be optimistic about the future. 

Lean Tip #3465 – Keep Your Goals in Sight

When you face new challenges, keep your goals, values, and aspirations in mind. You may feel discouraged or frustrated as change happens, but it’s vital to revisit your aspirations and create a new plan to renew your determination and continue toward your goals.

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Monday, February 19, 2024

Leadership Lessons from John F Kennedy

Every year, Americans celebrate Presidents Day as a day of remembrance — a day to look back and learn from our nation’s greatest leaders. In today’s competitive market, business leaders are looking for the edge that will put their organization and workforce ahead of the curve.

As we celebrate President’s Day today, I want discuss President John F. Kennedy (JFK). As a young boy space was inquisitive so I’ve always appreciated his vision to be the first. JFK is known for his dedication to country, as he often recalled his time in the armed forces as a motivating factor for leadership. His famous phrase is a reminder to work hard and live for the betterment of others: 

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Here’s a snapshot from JFK of lessons for today’s leaders.

1. Ask Great Questions

Space leadership had become a measure of world leadership. America was already behind the Russians, who had launched a man into space April 12, 1961.

Kennedy responded to the Soviet achievement by doing what the best leaders do. He posed the key question: “Is there any…space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win?”

Experts scrambled and advised Kennedy that putting a man on the moon was seen as a race where the U.S. “may be able to be first.”

Armed with this assessment, Kennedy made the first of many “hard decisions” related to America’s space program. On May 25, 1961, JFK challenged America with the goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” He wanted it done “before this decade is out.”  And he wanted to beat the Russians.

2. Play to Win

Kennedy’s competition was the Soviet Union. The American-Soviet Cold War battle was for preeminence in space. The stakes were enormous.

Speaking in Houston on September 12, 1962, JFK declared, “We choose to go to the moon.” In that speech he provided the rationale for this audacious initiative and the specifics for winning.

Competing, said JFK, was not enough. “Everything we do,” said Kennedy, “ought to really be tied into getting onto the moon ahead of the Russians.” Some leaders confuse making money with their organization’s purpose and then wonder why their employees are less than enthusiastic about meeting performance objectives. People want to win. Leaders put their people in position to claim victory.

Are you committed to winning?

3. Unify and Inspire People

Great leaders inspire people to rally around a cause that’s bigger than themselves. This is the reason your organization’s mission (its purpose beyond making money) and vision (where you’re going) are so important. They must translate beyond the financial performance of the organization. They must inspire people to show up every day and give their best. This is how top-performing organizations drive accountability.

Does your company’s mission give your team something to cheer for?

4. Challenge Your Team

America started from a position well behind the Russians with the odds stacked heavily against us. In casting his high risk/high reward vision, JFK surrendered day-to-day decision-making, effectively motivating his colleagues to solve their own problems. Owning the outcome forged commitment and drove peer accountability.

Is everyone committed? Does everyone know what is expected of them to help us win?

5. Make Your Challenge Public

Public commitments drive personal and organizational accountability. JFK made public his vision of beating the Russians to the moon. And he held NASA accountable for winning the race. For people of strong character, falling short is an embarrassment – perhaps the most undesirable of consequences.

Are the people on your team capable of overcoming incredible challenges? If not, what – or who – is holding them back?

The power of Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the Moon” speech resonates today, providing a blueprint for any leader seeking to unify a group of people in order to accomplish a difficult task.

What are you doing to move from success to significance?

What legacy are you leaving?

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Friday, February 16, 2024

Lean Quote: Without Passion You Have Nothing

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.

"Without passion you don't have energy, without energy you have nothing.  —  Donald Trump

Passion is the driving force that enables people to attain far more than they ever imagined. Without passion there is no drive to succeed. It is the fuel of the will, and everything you do as a leader must express your passion. Passion is contagious and is easily shared. Passion will bridge moments of weakness, and will drive you past your failures while reaching for your goals. Passion radiates from you and is easily detected by others.

Passion is not style. There are a lot of different styles -- charismatic, quiet, confident. But it all comes down to this motivating sense of commitment to what you do. Vince Lombardi said “the difference between success and failure is energy … fired with enthusiasm.”

Enthusiasm; intensity about a subject; willingness to engage others on their terms with respect to the threats and possibilities; deep knowledge about the subject; examples from one's own experience - all of these are marks of passion.  These are attributes that can be studied, learned, and acquired over time.  They grow from believing that there must be a better way for your organization to survive and prosper in a competitive world.

Passion is literally the fuel that propels you toward success. Passion allows you to think, feel, focus, act, attract and create the events conditions and circumstances that you most desire to see you through difficult times. Passion is what propels you to begin taking the necessary action steps that will allow you to begin changing your current situation.

Great leaders take vision and passion to the next step by investing their time and energy to create environments in which employees are engaged in meaningful work and eager to contribute. When this is realized, the result is competitive advantage.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Show Your Employees Some Love

It’s February 14th and if that date doesn’t ring a bell, you must live under a rock. It’s Valentine’s day!

Whether you “believe” in Valentine’s Day or not, it’s the perfect occasion to show some appreciation to someone special and your employees would probably be delighted and surprised if you took the time to show them some love this Valentine’s day!

Here are 6 Ways you can Show your Employees some love this Valentine’s Day!

1. Verbal recognition – Share a little praise for a job well done.

2. A handwritten note of appreciation – This is powerful. I’ve seen employees keep a note from their boss for years. Some even display it on their desks.

3. Snack time – Surprise employees with a snack of some kind. It can be a chocolate bar, an ice cream sandwich, or anything special. Be sure to remember employees who might have food allergies.

4. Teambuilding – A game or teambuilding activity is always fun and memorable.

5. Take the team to lunch – An hour away from the office to enjoy a meal with your team can build better relationships and morale.

6. Free coffee – Nothing says “I love you” more than a Starbucks gift card. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but people do love their Dunkin!

All of these tips require very little effort but have a large payoff. After all, people who feel appreciated are not only likely to put more effort into their work – they’re more likely to stay at their current job for a longer period of time! So this Valentine’s Day, go ahead and let your employees or coworkers know that you really do appreciate all of their hard work – and then reward them for it!

Does your company use Valentine’s Day as a time to show appreciation?

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