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Friday, March 29, 2024

Lean Quote: The Lesson of Good Friday Is One of Hope

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.

"The lesson of Good Friday is to never lose hope or at least give it 48 hours.  —  Robert Breault

Hope is the one thing that lifts the human spirit and keeps us going despite our difficulties that we face. Hope looks beyond life’s hardships to a better, brighter tomorrow. It keeps us believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, tomorrow’s light will shine brightly. Hope is seeing the future; a future we can attain if we keep moving forward and, as needed, adjusting, and adapting. A leader’s hopeful outlook enables people to see beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers.

Leaders must give hope for the future, mobilize people in a direction, and believe deep in the core of who they are that there are great opportunities on the horizon. Here are 7 ways leaders can instill hope:

  • Be visible. Be Present.
  • Be as open, honest, and as fair as possible.
  • Emphasize Optimism.
  • Encourage and Motivate.
  • Focus on Possibility.
  • Let your people know how much you Value them.
  • Invest in People

Giving hope to your people combines the alignment, engagement, and vision of the organization. A leader's ability to do so will reap enormous benefits for your organization and your people.

Hope is not always a guarantee for success, but a leader will take the slightest amount of hope to chip away at the barriers of reality and impossibility. An astute leader will dove-tail hope into the vision and mission of their organization. They will work to make sure that everyone is "laser focused" on the task at hand. More importantly, they will make the vision bigger than the obstacles that threaten the mission itself.

The ability to instill hope is a necessary leadership trait. The leaders’ hope surrounds the belief that his/her goal will be attained. It enables one to face tough times with creativity and resilience. Leading in these uncertain times requires inspiration more than ever.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Lean Roundup #178 – March 2024

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


The Power of One Page – Pascal Dennis discusses the power one page has to enable quick effective communication when used to tell stories.


Revolving Door Leadership – Bob Emiliani answers whether the revolving door leadership at the top and management churn below really is the problem that produces a lack of sustainability of Lean management.


Cultivating a Culture of Candor: Transforming Workplace Communication for Better Outcomes – Mark Graban talks about encouraging people to be candid by cultivating a feeling of psychological safety and rewarding their candor instead punishing it.


Process Improvement Across Industries – John Knotts takes a deep dive into the contrasting landscapes of various industries aimed to illuminate the unique challenges and opportunities each sector presents.


Dogs & Buns – Bruce Hamilton shares a fun story and real example about the mismatches in your processes causing waste in your operations.


The Two Directions of Poka Yoke – Christoph Roser talks about poka yoke, and the two fundamentally different directions poka yoke can take.


Operations IS Your Customer - Steve Shoemaker describes how redefining operations as the primary customer of engineering can transform product development, enhance collaboration, and drive unprecedented improvements in quality and efficiency.


A Satisfied Employee Will Switch – Christopher Chapman shares a quick analysis of a labor market survey through a Deming lens.


Value in an Age of Endless Innovation – Pascal Dennis says there’s a good chance we do not understand value and explains what it means in our modern era.


Shigeo Shingo & Norman Bodek on Learning From Mistakes, Including Shingo’s – Mark Graban shares some older material from his bookshelf, Zero Quality Control by Shigeo Shingo published by Norman Bodek on Mistake Proofing lessons.


Why There Are So Few Lean CEOs – Bob Emiliani explains why some people motivated to become Lean CEOs and most others are not.


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Monday, March 25, 2024

Respect for People – Not an Optional Principle for Successful Lean Companies

Respect for People is one of the most overlooked principles of Lean.  Respect for people means developing employees’ latent skills in both on the job and off the job training. It is easy to invest money in new technology, software, or equipment. It takes time, effort, and planning to invest in employee skills development.

Without respecting, involving, and drawing upon the expertise of employees who perform the work every day, you overlook the most fertile source of practical and ready-to-implement suggestions for improvement.

By engaging people in the process of problem solving, it reduces resistance to the recommended solutions. Rather, participants want to see their ideas implemented and be successful because they are their ideas. Lean is inclusive; it is not done to people; it is done by people who feel empowered to create value.

If you really want to empower employees, you'll need to create a company culture that encourages and rewards innovation. You may start by asking individuals to look for ways to improve efficiency, output, safety, etc. in the tasks they perform every day.

Allow them to make mistakes as a form of learning. Show that it is really OK to make mistakes. Trust that people have the right intentions and will make the right decisions, even if they are different than your own. Let them know you really support their decisions.

Many attempts to implement Lean have been superficial. Unfortunately, the reason is that most companies focus too heavily on tools such as 5S and just-in-time, without understanding that Lean is a system that must permeate an organization’s culture and emphasize respect for people.

Tools and techniques are not secret weapons for transforming a business. Toyota’s continued success at implementing these tools stems from a deeper business philosophy based on its understanding of people and human motivation. Its success ultimately rests on its ability to cultivate leadership, teams and culture; to devise strategy; to build supplier relationships; and to establish and maintain a learning organization.

Whether you work at a small or large company, consider how you can create a Lean thinking culture. You may have made some hard decisions about whether or not you have the right people in the right roles to foster this. Having the right talent with the right attitude goes the distance. You can never teach drive and passion. You can always teach skills.

Ask yourself if you are fostering a culture of Lean thinking where you respect your employees and the expertise, they provide each day. Can you leverage this to create lasting value in your company and drive out waste?

In the end Lean is all about people.  The power behind Lean is a management's commitment to continuously invest in its people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.  Establishing good working conditions to promote teamwork is a key component of respect for people.

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Friday, March 22, 2024

Lean Quote: Don’t Say You Can’t…Trystorm It

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.

"Before you say you can’t do something…TRY IT.  —  Sakichi Toyoda

I learned from my time at Wiremold, originating from Art Byrne, the fundamentals of trystorming. This method consists of, “Rapid cycles of real-time experimentation, used to test and adjust improvement ideas before establishing standard work or implementing processes broadly.” In plain language this means – try it out! Trystorming incorporates physical actions that can engage other senses and give testers a better sense of whether an idea is viable or not.

Trystorming is different from brainstorming in that it encourages the rapid development and test of an idea rather than merely thinking about the possible solutions. It allows people to visualize, touch and further improve on an initial idea. It also models action rather than talk. Often in our desire to design the perfect Future State we forget that the best way to build a process that works is through the iterative process of trying, adjusting/correcting, and trying again.

The process is built on three basic principles:

  • It is not important to create perfect solutions.
  • Be action-oriented.
  • Keep solutions simple.

These principles work hand-in-hand to develop effective solutions. When implemented correctly, Try-Storming can be used to continuously improve any business process.

One of the key reasons to utilize trystorming as part of any process design activity is that it models action rather than talk. By leaving the conference room and actually trying ideas during the course of the work, your team will quickly realize that your activity is more than just a meeting or an exercise in theory.

In addition, taking action typically increases the level of idea generation and team engagement exponentially. By mocking up and trying concepts the team will be able to visualize their ideas and transform plans into tangible improvements quickly. While trystorming requires much more energy than the traditional design approach, use of this methodology will significantly reduce the overall time needed to reach a workable solution.

Whether you are a business just looking for a new way to create together or are looking for a practical, yet fun way to reduce costs and optimize an existing or new process, Trystorming can be an immensely useful tool for your company or work team.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

You Get What You Reward, Boeing’s Rewarding Safety and Quality Performance

We’ve all heard the phrase “what gets measured gets done” but I also believe “what gets rewarded gets done even quicker.”

Understanding how employee rewards and recognition impacts productivity, performance, and employee engagement has been the subject of many studies and experiments, ergo, the salient connection between human behavior and appreciation needs no introduction. We are wired to crave connection, support, and acceptance from those around us, due to which the need for effective employee recognition has been diligently emphasized by thought leadership.

Behavior reinforced is behavior repeated. Behavior reward is repeated. This simple yet profound concept is at the root of more poor productivity, broken relationships, negative personnel issues and high costs of doing business than any other management principle.

Boeing has been in the news recently for a number of troubling safety and quality issues. Among the safety and quality issues of recent years have been two fatal crashes of the 737 Max jet due to a design flaw in the plane, numerous halts in deliveries due to quality control issues and, most recently, a door plug that blew off of a new 737 Max operated by Alaska Airlines in January of this year, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that aircraft left a Boeing factory without the four bolts need to keep the door plug in place. It has yet to assess blame for the accident, but CEO Dave Calhoun has accepted responsibility for the incident.

The theme is a corporate culture that was once reflective of an engineering and product quality driven leadership to that of a financial and investment community culture of driving up share price and investor returns regardless of process control, pandemic or building supply network challenges.

In a Bloomberg, The Big Take in Business column titled: Boeing’s Legacy Vanished Into Thin Air. Saving It Will Take Years. (Paid subscription), the following was noted:

“Together, these point to a common problem: the company’s once-vaunted system for building its prized 737s has been badly damaged by worker turnover, supplier distress and the shortcomings lingering from the breakneck production last decade before the Max tragedies and the Covid freeze.”

This Bloomberg editorial further observes:

“At the same time that Boeing was reworking its supplier network, executives put greater focus on propping up the share price with the help of dividends and buybacks. Since 2011, the year the 737 Max was officially announced, Boeing has handed some $68 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, though it suspended the measures as its financial crisis deepened. Airbus, by comparison, has been much more conservative with its balance sheet, giving it greater resources to respond to the pandemic.”

After being rocked by years of quality and safety issues, Boeing is changing the bonus formula it uses to pay more than 100,000 nonunion employees. Instead of basing most of white-collar employees’ bonuses on financial results, bonuses will now be based mostly on safety and quality metrics.

The company has faced harsh criticism for a series of quality and safety issues in recent years, with many of those critics saying the company has shifted its focus in the last few decades to financial results at the cost of safety and quality in its aircraft. But those safety and quality problems have resulted in five years of operating losses topping $31.5 billion.

“It’s very, very important to drive the outcomes that we’re all committed to, and that’s to deliver a safe and quality product to our customer,” said Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Pope on Thursday in comments to employees announcing the new bonus formulas.

The troubled aircraft maker said 60% of the annual incentive score used to determine bonuses for employees of its commercial airplane unit will now be based on safety and quality metrics. It previously had 75% of that score based on financial results, with the other 25% based on operational metrics that included data beyond safety and quality readings.

Boeing said all employees will be required to complete training courses on product safety and quality management as a pre-condition to receiving any annual incentives.

A core principle of TPS is a system and process that depicts audio and visual systems that indicate a production process has been stopped because of a worker observing and flagging a quality control issue whenever they occur. To quote a Toyota descriptor: “Operators are equipped with the means of stopping production flow whenever they note anything suspicious. Jidoka prevents waste that would result from producing a series of defective items.”

The notion of Genchi Genbutsu (Go and see for yourself) compels production managers to dispatch themselves to where the problem was flagged and to produce timely resolution. It implies not penalizing the worker for calling attention to the problem, or risking a production shortfall, but rather triggering a collective effort toward resolving the problem as quickly as possible. That includes whatever engineering and technical resources that may be required.

The ongoing crisis has Boeing’s most senior management now compelling production workers to flag known production and quality problems. With the systemic changes to reward safety and quality it’s corporate culture can focus on producing each aircraft with the utmost quality and efficiency, and reward production and supply chain workers for their ingenuity and follow through. Such a culture rewards operational workers for significant quality and operational milestone achievements.

From my experience, this will take time and extraordinary efforts. The question remains, what is the willingness of Boeing’s senior leadership? It would be tragic if the commercial aircraft industry faces a singular dominant global provider. Industries require vibrant competitors, especially those with upwards of ten years in order backlogs for new aircraft.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Insights from GE CEO Larry Culp’s Annual Report

Larry Culp, CEO of GE, their first outside CEO in 125 years has been leading their transformation using a Lean mindset. Many Lean practitioners and business leaders have been following GE’s performance. Recently Larry released the annual report and I really appreciate the lessons I found within. You can read the full report here.

1.     Grounded in purpose, values, and responsibilities.

GE’s purpose of building a better world beholden to shareholders, customers, and society.

This document always has been about more than our financial performance, though. It’s told the continuous story of GE’s culture and how our values are embedded in the purpose of building a better world. We remain acutely aware of and humbled by our responsibility to shareholders, customers, and society. And we recognize that our team still, and always, strives for results.

2.     Tackle challenges head on with clear goals.

Companies are in business to make a profit, so this is not a surprise but goal two is really about how they expect to accomplish goal one. Lean will ensure their efforts are both sustainable and culture changing.

We embraced reality head on, taking disciplined and deliberate steps to tackle our challenges while investing to protect what made GE special. We set two clear goals: One, improve our financial position to deal with our debt load. Two, improve our operations to strengthen our businesses. Lean, with its relentless focus on the customer and pursuit of continuous improvement, makes our efforts sustainable and is leading to lasting culture change.

3.     Embracing a Lean philosophy rooted in kaizen.

We’ve been taught there is always an opportunity for improvement and embracing the spirit kaizen will propel your business forward.

Belief in a better way has propelled this company forward since our earliest days. Today, in an ever-challenging environment, GE employees are embracing a lean philosophy rooted in kaizen, “change to make it better.” They are delivering for our customers by listening, learning, and executing. Step-by-step, one process at a time, they are advancing safety, quality, delivery, and cost, in that order, serving our customers and each other with deep respect.

4.     Empowering people leads to results.

When you combine compelling purpose with problem solving people within lean systems in my experience you’ll find increasingly better performance.

The merging of great people with great purpose. The connecting of plans and performance.

5.     Kaizen is the magic that frankly becomes addicting as the improvements build on themselves and grow.

Like the example below my experience is the same. Improvement begets improvement. It is infectious.

Enter lean… through a kaizen event at our Lynn, Massachusetts, plant… Our goal: Take that 75 hours down to under 32, with one mechanic working at a time.

By the end of the week, engineers and operators working together on the floor identified opportunities both big and small; saving hours of prep time by using a heat gun instead of an oven to treat a compressor rotor, for example. The result was reducing build time to just 11 hours with one operator, all the while enhancing safety and quality.

75 to 11 is the kind of change that takes your breath away. But to me, the best part was the fact that on Thursday of that week, the team was already talking about how they were going to do better than 11; what they could do next.

That is the spirit of lean and kaizen. Always getting better. Your mindset shifts to look for opportunities at the most granular levels, day in and day out, to enhance performance and eliminate waste.

These steps, scaled and compounded across our teams, help customers and support our own businesses. This “power of the ‘and’”, as Jim Collins would say, is the magic that frankly becomes addicting as the improvements build on themselves and grow.

6.     People are our passion.

Respect for people is a key pillar of the Toyota Production System intentionally as they solve problems. They are the solutions. They create opportunities. They are the lifeblood of the company.

With unmatched passion and talent, the people of GE remain at the heart of our efforts, including reinventing ourselves. Challenges can become opportunities when humility joins with optimism, leading us to believe that a better way is possible.

7.     Challenge just good enough culture.

Status quo must be challenged. The just good enough culture must be challenged.

Our goal has never been good enough, or a company that’s just better off. It is to build a world that works better. Period.

8.     Leadership, humility and gratitude.

Embrace every opportunity. As a leader your making a mark on the lives of others and the community you serve.

I’m grateful for the opportunity of a lifetime to work each day alongside this team.

9.     Larry Culp’s Photo (see above)

Many CEO’s would have a professional board room headshot but Larry has a photo from the Gemba. He’s on the shop floor perhaps in a kaizen but at least seeing where the value is created. More CEOs need to do this and set the example for their leadership teams.

It’s great to see both examples of Lean and leadership in the workplace and no less together. What do you think? Are there companies that can learn from Larry Culp and GE’s new approach with Lean? I can think of few in the news recently.

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Friday, March 15, 2024

Lean Quote: The Harder I Work the Luckier I Get

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.

"I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.  —  Thomas Jefferson

This St. Patrick’s Day some may be feeling the luck of the Irish but I tend to agree with Thomas Jefferson’s message about the relationship between work and luck.

Hard work provides a strong foundation upon which success can be built. It nurtures discipline, resilience, and the determination to overcome obstacles. By investing time and effort into honing their craft or developing expertise in a particular domain, individuals increase their chances of success. Hard work creates opportunities and opens doors that may otherwise remain closed.

Luck can manifest in various forms, such as being in the right place at the right time, receiving a timely recommendation, or encountering a mentor who provides invaluable guidance. While luck is unpredictable and beyond our control, it can act as a catalyst, accelerating one's journey towards success. However, it is important to note that relying solely on luck without the foundation of hard work is unlikely to yield sustained achievements.

The relationship between hard work and luck is not one of exclusivity but rather one of interdependence. Hard work creates the conditions for luck to flourish, and luck, in turn, rewards those who have prepared themselves through diligent effort. 

Success is a complex phenomenon influenced by a combination of hard work and luck. While hard work provides the foundation for progress and achievement, luck can serve as an unexpected catalyst, opening doors and creating opportunities. Ultimately, success is a product of the interplay between these two elements, with hard work increasing the likelihood of encountering fortunate circumstances.