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Friday, June 28, 2024

Lean Quote: Success is About Preparation, Learning, and Mindset

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.

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.  —  Colin Powell

Success is one of those things that just about everybody wants, but not nearly as many people do what it takes to achieve. It’s the reason why so many people search for a “secret to success”; they want it, but they’re afraid of what it might take to get there. They’re looking for an easy path; a magic pill that will solve all their problems along the way and give them what they want with minimal effort.

Well, I’ve got news for you.

There is no magic pill. There is no easy path. There is no secret to success.

One thing I've learned: mindset is important. If you orient your thinking the right way, you drastically increase your odds of success.

In my experience, that means focusing on 4 key ideas:

1. Success or failure is all about you. The corporate world teaches you to compete with everyone, but business is all about maximizing your own excellence.

2. Don't overthink decisions. If you don't make firm decisions, your business won't move forward and grow.

3. Have an attitude of accountability. No one is perfect, so mistakes will happen. The key is to learn from them.

4. Be humble. Business is a collaborative industry. If you want to succeed, you must be humble enough to work with others.

Lots of people prepare for what they want to do. In my experience, that is usually the easiest part of the job. But if they don’t learn from their experiences, they will continue to fail.

Fewer people will truly work hard. They’ll build strength, endurance, strategy, and all sorts of tricky skills. But if they don’t learn from their experiences, they will continue to fail.

A person, with a bit of basic preparation and a willingness to work, a person who is willing to learn can get a great deal accomplished. By learning from their experiences, failures become stepping stones to success.

If you can stay with it, persevere in face of repeated failures (and learn from each one), there is very little limit to what you can accomplish.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Lean Roundup #181 – June 2024

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


Beyond Developing People – Bob Emiliani uses the simple analogy of plants, blooms, and pollination applied to the work of managers to help us understand what they must do.


A Lack of Respect for People on the Balance Sheet – Kevin Meyer discusses the flaws that people, with their brains, creativity, and experience, are not recognized as assets on traditional financial balance sheets causes.


Target, Actual, Please Explain – Pascal Dennis talks about daily gemba walks and the benefit of a manual process.


Operational Excellence Examples for Business Growth - Brittany Currier shares best practices of organizations to harness the full potential of operational excellence.


Mistakes and Errors: A Circular Definition; Leadership Matters – Mark Graban talks about mistakes, errors, incidents, or accidents, and cultivating a culture that views these events as opportunities for learning and growth.


Finding Your Beginner’s Mind – Bob Emiliani says there is one method that is wonderfully effective at helping people find their beginner’s mind — kaizen.


Pursuing Perfection: Craftsmanship in Product Development - James Morgan explores the concept of craftsmanship in design and engineering, how to cultivate it in individuals and organizations, and the benefits of pursuing excellence.  


Psychological Safety vs. Psychological Comfort: Understanding the Distinction - Mark Graban explains that some people mistakenly equate “psychological safety” with being comfortable all the time which can undermine it’s true essence in the workplace.

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Monday, June 24, 2024

Lean Tips Edition #301 (#3541 - #3555)

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 #3541 – Daily Management Best Practice: Ownership for Action Items

When action items are assigned, they should be owned by the person responsible for them. This ownership is not just having a “clearly identified assignee” but making sure that the owner understands the rationale and impact of the action item. Make sure that the action item is something that the assignee can do.

Lean Tip #3542 – Daily Management Best Practice: Avoid the Hero Complex

Make sure that you don’t train your team to look to you as the hero coming to clean up the messes that all teams experience at one point or another. When team members feel unempowered, they tend to look to the heroes to solve their problems or at least to tell them how.

Instead, build up your team’s capabilities to deal with challenges that they face and celebrate their victories when they do. Help guide your team to come up with appropriate countermeasures to mitigate problems. Teams that feel empowered are better engaged and deliver a higher impact.

Lean Tip #3543 – Implement Visual Management Systems

Visual management is a fundamental component of Lean Daily Management. It involves using visual tools and displays to communicate performance metrics, targets, and progress. By implementing visual management systems:

  • Utilize tools such as Kanban boards, huddle boards, and performance dashboards to provide a visual representation of work, metrics, and goals.
  • Ensure that visual displays are easily accessible, understandable, and regularly updated.
  • Encourage teams to actively engage with visual displays, facilitating transparency and facilitating timely decision-making.

By implementing visual management systems, organizations can effectively communicate performance metrics, enhance transparency, and facilitate timely decision-making, ultimately driving continuous improvement and efficiency in their daily operations.

Lean Tip #3544 – Use Gemba Walks for Continuous Improvement

Gemba walks involve leaders and managers observing processes firsthand to identify inefficiencies and gather insights from frontline employees. To conduct successful Gemba walks:

  • Prepare for the walk by defining objectives, selecting relevant observation areas, and gathering the necessary information.
  • Engage with employees on the shop floor, asking open-ended questions and actively listening to their perspectives.
  • Provide feedback and discuss improvement opportunities with the team, ensuring that action plans are developed and followed up.

By utilizing Gemba walks as a tool for continuous improvement, leaders and managers can gain valuable insights by observing processes directly. Preparing for the walk, engaging with employees, and providing feedback enables a collaborative approach to identifying inefficiencies and generating improvement ideas. Through effective follow-up and action planning, organizations can drive meaningful change and enhance overall performance. 

Lean Tip #3545 – Encourage Employee Engagement and Empowerment

Engaging and empowering employees is vital for the success of Lean Daily Management. By involving employees in problem-solving and decision-making, organizations can foster ownership, commitment, and continuous improvement. To encourage employee engagement:

  • Create regular feedback loops, providing opportunities for employees to share their ideas, concerns, and suggestions.
  • Recognize and celebrate employees’ contributions to improvement initiatives, fostering a positive and empowering work environment.
  • Offer training and development programs to enhance employees’ skills and knowledge, enabling them to actively participate in Lean initiatives. 

Lean Tip #3546 – Challenge the Status Quo By Asking the Right Questions

If you keep asking yourself "why" when you're following a process or regular course of action, then you've likely identified something that needs to be changed or improved.

If that's the case, ask yourself and other people questions, in order to fully understand why things are being done in a particular way. There may be good reasons that you're unaware of, or maybe it is just because "that's the way it's always been done."

Let people take their time in answering and listen carefully – their answers may lead to further questions, problems or solutions that you hadn't considered.

Lean Tip #3547 – Challenge the Status Quo by Prioritizing Your Ideas

Perhaps you have a whole list of ideas that you'd like to implement. If so, it's important to pick your battles. Being passionate about change is admirable, but rattling off new ideas every day will see people start to tune out, and your best ideas may get lost among the lesser ones.

For maximum impact, pick the ones that are most relevant and likely to succeed. Choose wisely: take some time for self-reflection at the end of the day, and factor in some personal brainstorming.

Lean Tip #3548 – Challenge the Status Quo by Improving Workflows

One way to challenge the status quo is to present new methods and approaches to completing tasks to boost efficiency and improve results. This could include altering the process you work through to complete a task or coming up with more efficient ways of completing the same task using a different method.

Look at how the company currently does things and identify what aspects of the different processes could benefit from change. It's important to understand when a change would be beneficial, rather than inventing problems for the sake of change.

If you don't know where to start, try thinking of some challenging aspects of a process, and then generate ideas for how you could change that process for the better. When communicating your ideas to others, it's important to frame it as a positive change with improvements in mind. This makes it more likely that people will receive your idea well and consider implementing it.

Lean Tip #3549 – Challenge Status Quo by Inviting Feedback and Input from Diverse Perspectives.

Challenging the status quo requires creativity and innovation, which can be enhanced by exposing yourself and your team to different ideas, opinions, and experiences. Seek out feedback and input from people who have different backgrounds, expertise, roles, and viewpoints from yours, and listen to them with an open mind and curiosity. You may discover new insights, opportunities, or solutions that you would not have thought of otherwise. For example, if you are developing a new product or service, you can ask potential customers, suppliers, competitors, or experts from other fields to test it, review it, or suggest improvements. You can also use tools such as surveys, focus groups, or brainstorming sessions to gather feedback and input from a larger and more diverse group of stakeholders.

Lean Tip #3550 – Challenge Status Quo by Recognizing and Rewarding the Efforts and Achievements of Others.

One of the best ways to inspire and empower others is to acknowledge and appreciate their contributions and accomplishments, especially when they involve challenging the status quo and creating positive change. This can boost their morale, confidence, and motivation, and encourage them to continue or increase their efforts. You can recognize and reward others in various ways, such as giving them verbal or written praise, public recognition, awards, bonuses, or opportunities for growth and development. For example, if one of your team members has successfully implemented a new process or system that improves efficiency and quality, you can thank them personally, highlight their achievement in a meeting or newsletter, nominate them for an award, or offer them a promotion or a new project.

Lean Tip #3551 – Show Your Team You’re Engaged.

If your employees feel that you don’t pay attention when they speak, or that you don’t value their thoughts and opinions, they’ll shut down.

Demonstrate engagement by being present during meetings. This includes making eye contact and shutting your laptop. It’s easy to get distracted by emails, text messages, or Slack during a meeting—but these small acts of disengagement can negatively impact your team’s psychological safety.

Engagement also means listening to what others have to say. Practice active listening. Ask questions to make sure you understand the other person’s ideas or opinions. By actively engaging, you create an environment where people feel it’s only OK to speak up; in fact, it’s encouraged and accepted.

Lean Tip #3552 – Nip Negativity in the Bud.

If you have a team member who speaks negatively about peers, talk to them about it. Be clear; let them know that you work together as a team and negativity will not be tolerated.

When leaders allow negativity to stand, it can become contagious and spread to others. Employees will think that either they’re supposed to talk bad about others, or that others are probably talking about them. In, either case, it’s a psychological safety killer.

Lean Tip #3553 – Include Your Team in Decision Making.

When making decisions, consult your team. Ask for their input, thoughts, and feedback. Not only will this help them feel included in the decision-making process, but it will build psychological safety and lead to better outcomes.

Once a decision is made, explain the reasoning behind your decision. How did their feedback factor into the decision? What other considerations were made? Even if your employees don’t agree, they’ll appreciate the honesty and transparency behind how the decision was made.

When communicating decisions, be sure to highlight contributions from team members. If a certain idea or piece of feedback led to the decision or a successful outcome, acknowledge and celebrate that employee’s contribution.

Lean Tip #3554 – Swap Blame With Curiosity

When team members feel like they are constantly being blamed or criticized, it creates a sense of psychological insecurity and inhibits safety.

Research shows that blame and criticism are strongly linked to defensiveness, leading to individuals shutting down, resisting change, and even leaving the company.

As a leader, try to swap blame with curiosity instead. For example, when team members make mistakes or come up with new ideas that don't work out, ask them questions such as:

What do you think needs to happen here?

How do you think we could have done it better?

What can we do in the future to improve this process?

These questions promote a culture of learning and growth rather than fear. It will help your employees feel like their input is valued and that they can learn from their mistakes. It will also help to reduce the amount of defensiveness and conflict in the workplace.

Lean Tip #3555 – Encourage Experimentation

Fear of failure can be a significant barrier for individuals to take risks, speak up, and bring new ideas to the table.

As a leader, it's important to encourage experimentation and not immediately punish or judge failure. It's about creating a culture where experimenting, making mistakes, and learning from them is encouraged and valued.

For example, you could:

Set aside time for specific projects for individuals to experiment

‍Celebrate small wins or learning moments

Provide resources for career development

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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.