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Friday, June 21, 2024

Lean Quote: Determination Makes the Impossible Possible

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 difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a persons determination.  —  Tommy Lasord

The first step in tackling an “impossible” challenge is deciding whether you want to tackle it. That first decision is the start of the determination needed to see you through any setbacks or misdirection as you work toward the goal. If you are leading others, your determination will help keep them going.

Determination means to continue consistently, especially in something that is difficult or tedious.

A person with patience, determination and strong willpower can achieve their goal even if they don’t possess high qualifications or talent. A determined person has tremendous self-confidence, never losing spirit and courage.

Hence, determination must be practiced from development years as it serves as the golden key to open every door of success. Also, one should not shut down upon their defeat. Instead, they should learn from past experiences and aim for the future. 

Take a deep breath, maintain focus, find solutions and you will turn the impossible into the possible!

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Importance of Hansei

Hindsight is 20/20. The term “hindsight is 20/20” is often used to describe the phenomenon of being able to see things more clearly after they have happened. This phrase is derived from the idea that our vision is usually better when looking backward than forwards.

Despite many believing we should always look forward instead of reminiscing about our past, if done right, it can become less of a downer and more of a positive. If we only look back to highlight the success, rather than the mistakes, then that reflection loses its value. Whilst it’s important to celebrate the positives, you can only learn so much from them. If you want to continuously improve then you need to take into account, the negatives too. That’s where the real value lies.

For the past twenty-five years, I’ve helped to develop methods for implementing lean practices in factories and across supply chains. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that self-reflection is as relevant to lean practices as continuous improvement. In fact, it’s an integral and essential part of it.

John Dewey, the American philosopher and psychologist, said “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

To develop, we need to build on our experience. Whether it’s to improve our skills and abilities, become more competent, increase our performance or open ourselves to new ideas. But as Dewey observed, we do this through reflection, either on our own or with others.

In Japan, when someone makes a mistake, they will profusely apologize, take responsibility, and propose a solution for how they can prevent the same mistake from happening in the future. This process is referred to as 反省 – or Hansei. Hansei is a core concept of Japanese culture. It’s not about shame or guilt. Rather, it’s about admitting there is room for improvement – and committing to that improvement.

To paraphrase my friend, Jon Miller: “Han” means to change, turn over, turn upside down. “Sei” is the simplified form of a character meaning to look back upon, review, examine oneself. As a native speaker of Japanese “hansei” strikes me as both an intellectual and emotional exercise. With hansei there is a sense of shame, if that is not too hard of a word. This may come from having been asked to do a lot of hansei as a child, being told “hanse shinasai!” which in English might be “Learn to behave!”

The point is, when you do hansei it is almost never because you are “considering past experience” as if they were happy memories. You are confronting brutal facts about your actions and the impact they had, in hopes that you can learn from this and change your behavior in the future.

Toyota is known as a learning organization, and this is one of the reasons why Toyota has become so successful. Hansei has a strong role in being a learning organization. In Toyota, hansei is often viewed as a precursor to kaizen, and a pre-requisite to being a learning organization. This is best explained as below (taken from Toyota-Global website);

Hansei is both an intellectual and emotional introspection. The individual must recognize the gap between the current situation and the ideal, take responsibility for finding solutions, and commit to a course of action. The examination involves a review of successes and failures, to determine what works and what needs to be improved. Hansei leads to ideas for kaizen and yokoten, the sharing of best practices from one location to another.

At each key milestone in a project, and at completion, the people involved meet to reflect on their experience of what happened. However, successes aren’t celebrated. In true Japanese fashion, they are treated with humility and modesty. Instead, the focus is on the failures and what could have been better.

It goes without saying, but to perform hansei correctly you need to make sure you’re examining the past and what exactly went wrong. Then you must think about the situation and how it could have been improved or averted in the future. Ensure that someone else is responsible for hansei, and it should always form part of your performance management process, whether it’s on completion of the project or at specific review intervals.

The following structure can be valuable for following hansei:

  1. Pinpoint the problem – There’s no such thing as being flawless, so identify what the main issue is.
  2. Accept accountability – Make sure the individual holds themselves liable for what went wrong. From this, they can work on areas for improvement.
  3. Reflect on root causes – There could be more to the problem than meets the eye, so dig deep and reveal any belief systems, habits or assumptions that may be preventing success.
  4. Build an improvement plan – Action all the learnings, then you can stop the same problem from happening again. 

This isn’t about pointing fingers, issuing blame or scoring points. It helps to identify when things need to improve and prevent any of the errors that were made. Above all, it helps to instill the belief that there’s always room and always need for further improvement.

Hansei is one of the keys to kaizen, as the concept itself focuses on improvement as opposed to punishment. When we fail, we realize that we have done something wrong. So, it is important that we will learn lessons from it, and find methods to prevent its recurrence.  It is most important to consider also how bad we feel when we hurt others in the team by not performing to their expectations.

Why not take this opportunity to practice some self-reflection? In what areas do you need to improve? How can you take ownership of that need to improve? What can you do differently?

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Monday, June 17, 2024

How Effective is Your Poka-Yoke?

Poka-yoke or mistake-proofing is the use of process design features to facilitate correct actions, prevent simple errors, or mitigate the negative impact of errors. It is essentially used to make the process easier. To assess how effective your solution is, you must look at three factors: the power of the mistake-proofing solution, whether it can be overridden, and if it is sustainable over time.

The first factor is to look at the mistake-proofing power.  The power of the mistake-proofing solution is a measure of how well the solution fulfills the ultimate objective of mistake-proofing: to make it impossible to make mistakes.  There are three tips for improving the power of the solution:

  1. The first tip focuses on the trigger of the solution.  Using an automatic trigger (forced control or shutdown) instead of an operator dependent or discretionary one (warning or sensory alert) improves the power.
  2. The second power rating tip focuses on the type of outcome.  The power of the solutions with prevention outcomes is significantly greater than those with detection outcomes.  When possible, focus on prevention, not detection, outcomes.
  3. The third power rating tip involves the type of effect selected.  The power of the mistake-proofing solution becomes greater and greater as you move up the effects column. Forced control is usually better than a shutdown effect, shutdown is better than warning, and warning is better than sensory alert.

The second factor used to determine the effectiveness of a mistake-proofing solution is to assess how well it is defended against being overridden.  Solutions can be overridden if their trigger can be ignored, if a device can be disabled, or by a malicious act.

The third and final factor is to assess whether the solution is sustainable over time.  There are three questions to consider for assessing the sustainability of the solution:

  1. Did the interim solution become "permanent?"  Many organizations fall into the trap of allowing an interim solution to become permanent.  However, interim solutions are like band-aids.  They are short-term fixes not intended to be robust.  To keep interim measures from becoming permanent solutions, identify the obstacles for developing or implementing permanent solutions, develop a time-based plan, and follow through.
  2. Can practices regress back to the "old ways?" Fight off the urge to regress.  To help do this, sell the benefits of the "new" way and audit performance for compliance.
  3. Are there service life issues? Make sure the right materials are selected.  If shelf life is a concern, use first-in, first-out inventory control.  Check frequently at first to make sure the solution is working effectively and as planned. Then use data to set the correct preventive maintenance frequency.

The effectiveness of a poka-yoke should be judged after the performance of the solution for a period of time.  Make sure the poka-yoke is delivery the results you expect.  If the solution is not effective, then try another solution by following the guidelines above.

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Friday, June 14, 2024

Lean Quote: Embrace Every Setback as a Stepping Stone to Success!

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.

"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.  —  Winston Churchill

In the pursuit of success, setbacks, and failures are not roadblocks but rather stepping stones. Winston Churchill's famous quote, "Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm," encapsulates the essence of resilience and determination. The profound wisdom behind this quote delves into the mindset and strategies that can transform failures into invaluable lessons and pave the way to success.

Failure isn't the end; it's the beginning of a new lesson. Remember, F.A.I.L. stands for "First Attempt In Learning." Every stumble is just a stepping stone toward your goals. And when you encounter obstacles, remind yourself that E.N.D. means "Effort Never Dies." Keep pushing forward with relentless determination.

Receiving a "No" doesn't mean defeat; you're one step closer to your next "Yes." N.O. signifies "Next Opportunity," an opportunity to refine your approach and seize the next chance that comes your way.

It all starts with a mindset shift. Embrace challenges, learn from setbacks, and keep your eyes on the prize. Your journey to success is defined not by the hurdles you face but by how you overcome them.

So, let's rewrite our narratives. Let's transform our failures into foundations, our setbacks into stepping stones, and our "No's" into new opportunities. Together, let's redefine what it means to succeed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Five Reasons Your Team Won’t Take Responsibility and How You Change Can That

Things don’t get done unless people take responsibility. And in organizations, leaders and team members must take responsibility to move the vision, and the overall organization, forward. So, why do team members sometimes abdicate responsibility? What holds them back from stepping up when things are on the line? While the reasons can be numerous, here are five common reasons.

1. Lack of Clarity

There are times when a team member doesn’t take responsibility because they lack clarity about expectations. It’s not that they don’t want to do what’s right, they were just never given a clear role description, expectations, objectives, or deadlines. This is especially common when onboarding new team members.

2. Lack of Commitment

Author Patrick Lencioni observes team dysfunction begins when there is an absence of trust. That trust gap creates a fear of conflict, which means when decisions are made about the organization’s direction, team members exhibit a lack of commitment because they never felt comfortable weighing in on the decision. Simply put, the fear of conflict (caused by a lack of trust), produced a decision that people couldn’t buy-in to. What’s the outcome? When team member lack commitment, they ultimately avoid accountability for the decision, which leads to an inattention to results. This is why a feedback culture is so important. It allows everyone to weigh in so that they can buy-in.

3. Lack of Competence

Some team members don’t take responsibility because they lack the skill to do what needs to be done. It’s not a matter of want to but rather the ability to. As a result, they make excuses, hem haw around, or find ways to delay effort and action. Rather than admitting what they don’t know or can’t do, they pretend, or worse, shift blame. This is why ongoing personal growth, professional development, and leadership coaching is so important.

4. Lack of Confidence

A lack of confidence can stem from a variety of things such as personal insecurities or past failures. When confidence wanes, team members can enter into a doom loop where their lack of confidence leads to a delay in action, which results in no progress, ultimately compounding the lack of confidence. This is why it’s so important to provide ongoing encouragement and belief in your fellow team members.

5. Lack of Courage

Finally, some team members don’t take responsibility because they lack courage. In other words, they’re too scared to take a risk, have a hard conversation, or confront the issues that need their attention. As a result, they keep delaying what needs to be done. They need someone to talk to about their fears, and who will encourage their hopes as they identify easy next steps. Sometimes the big, scary steps just have to be broken down into bite-sized pieces.

So, what’s the cure for these five responsibility gaps? Each one is unique, but generally speaking, there are four primary ways to help a team member take responsibility and overcome the gap that’s undermining them.

1. Clarity

If the team lacks clarity, it’s your job as the leader to provide it. They cannot read your mind, so be sure to establish a clear role description, expectations, and answers to any questions they might have. By providing clarity, you remove ambiguity and help the team see the path forward.

2. Coaching

For many of the responsibility gaps, coaching is the best first step. For example, when there’s a lack of competence, confidence, or courage, the team may just need some practical coaching to get them moving forward. They need someone to believe in them, provide perspective, offer key insights, and help them take the right next step.

3. Culture

Team members need a culture that values relationships, accountability, and feedback. Relationships will help you address the lack of connection, and accountability and feedback will help you address a lack of commitment. When these dynamics are part of your culture, they make it harder to hide behind responsibility excuses.

4. Consequences

Finally, with some responsibility issues, you need make the consequences for failure to change clear and timebound. For example, character issues must be addressed immediately. There’s no time to delay, and immediate change is required. Team members need to understand what the consequences will be if a change doesn’t happen by a specific deadline.

Addressing responsibility gaps aren’t easy, but when leaders do, the respect from the rest of the team increases. Not only does productivity increase, but so does organizational momentum and the health of the team.

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Monday, June 10, 2024

Obeya - Introducing The Lean War Room Article

Projects are important for generating growth for organizations. Successful projects don’t just happen; they require hard work and collaboration from both project managers and team members to ensure all tasks are completed and goals are met, on time and on budget. However, many projects ultimately fail or are abandoned because the team does not work together to achieve shared goals. To avoid this unfortunate fate, project managers can find help with visual management and the Obeya room. Creating an Obeya room is akin to creating a “war room,” a command center that draws together leaders from across departments in an organization.

I recently authored this article “Obeya - Introducing The Lean War Room” for Quality Magazine which helps you understand the process behind the Obeya room, how to use the room efficiently, the benefits of one, and virtual Obeya Rooms.

You can learn more by reading the full article here:


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Friday, June 7, 2024

Lean Quote: Love What You Do and You Will Be Successful

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.

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.  —  Alert Schweitzer

The late Steve Jobs has shared many habits required to be successful and I selected a few to highlight. However, when asked for a single piece of advice essential for success Jobs answered, "you must be passionate about the work you're doing".

Without passion and the ability to leverage our specials skills and abilities, our work day is less satisfying and the contributions we make may be less than what we are capable of.

Below is a list of 7 Key Habits Jobs felt lead to success:  

1. Read every day

Both for enjoyment and relaxation and to also keep abreast of changes within your industry.

2. Make your health a priority

Pay attention to your emotional and physical well-being and "listen" to what your body is telling you.

3. Learn from people you admire

Make the time to absorb the behaviors and actions that make a difference.

4. Plan your day the night before

Do you remember the old Franklin Quest planner? The idea was to document what MUST be done each day, as well as additional actions that could be delayed if needed.

5. Keep your goals in front of you

Ensure that all your actions and behaviors support their attainment.

6. Take action, even when it’s scary

Indecisiveness does not serve us well; do your homework, decide, and take action.

7. Have an attitude of gratitude

Things don’t always go as planned but take the time to appreciate what has gone well and celebrate success.

Habits can’t be developed overnight; you will have to consistently build them.

They should be fostered, cultivated, and nurtured. 

Success requires us to be passionate about what we do. We must feel energized by the work we do. We must build strong, lasting, and supporting relationships.

In the words of Steve Jobs – “In the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you.”