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Friday, December 2, 2022

Lean Quote: Improving Your Communication Skills

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.

"Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.  —  Brian Tracy

Communication is the foundation of every single relationship you have in your personal life; it's no different in business. Without effective communication, there can be misunderstandings, problems and conflicts among your staff, your clients and everyone else you come into contact. Poor communication can make effective delegation, increased productivity and an enjoyable work environment virtually impossible.

Here are the 7 Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills:

Make communication a priority. Checking in with employees is essential. Meet with them regularly either in-person, inviting them to discuss their thoughts on their projects, tasks, and the organization as a whole. They want to be heard, and they want to share their thoughts and opinions. This will improve internal communication throughout your entire organization, as well as empower your employees and keep them comfortable in their positions.

Simplify and stay on message. Use simple, straightforward language. The truth is that everybody cannot be on same page when it comes to vocabulary. Therefore, to be effective in your communications with your team members, use words that can be easily understood. When ambiguous words are used, you can be misunderstood and/or waste precious time having to explain yourself.

Engage and encourage feedback. Don’t just talk and walk away. Draw your listeners and readers into the conversation. Ask questions and invite opinions. Solicit their feedback. It will also afford you the privilege of knowing if your message was well understood. Look for ways to clarify or rephrase what you are trying to say so it can be understood.

Listen to your team members. Communication is intended to be a two way street. Don’t just talk because you are the leader without listening to anyone else. Encourage them to open up so you can be well guided when communicating in the future with them. You have two ears and one mouth –so you must listen more than you speak.

Respect your team. Recognize your message is not just about you or what you want. You should sincerely care about the needs and the unique perspectives of those to whom you are communicating. One of the best ways to show your respect is simply by paying attention to what they say.

Develop trust. Trust is the product of open and honest communications. So it is important that good communication channels exist. Also, trust is an essential ingredient of teamwork. If trust exists among business associates, teamwork and cooperation are much easier to achieve.

Inform and Inspire. Communication is a form of information exchange. Explaining and clarifying your thoughts and ideas is important in a leadership role. But passing on information to your team is only half of the equation. As a leader, it's vital to your business that your communication efforts inspire your team as much as they educate them. Plan ahead for meetings and conversations so you can effectively mix information and inspiration.

Ultimately, effective communication can be one of the most important skills you use in your business. If your communication skills can use some fine-tuning, take time to analyze how you communicate, and the results of your communication. Then focus on ways you can improve it over time. You may be surprised how much that changes your relationships with staff, clients and colleagues for the better.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Lean Roundup #162 – November 2022

A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of November 2022.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here. 


Going To The Electronic Gemba – John Knotts talks about how to go to the “electronic Gemba!”  with 1) A Wall Walk, and 2) A Functional Analysis.


The Good Karma of Lean – Kevin Meyer discusses an interesting alignment with key aspects of lean and continuous improvement – as well as karma, stoicism, and zen.


Beware Prizes, Belts & Self-appointed Experts – Pascal Dennis says professional degrees or certificates are nothing more than a kick-start, a proxy for the hard work of building a management system & getting results.


How to Reduce Product Variants – Christoph Roser gives some general suggestions on how to reduce your number of product variants.


Keynote: How To Be A Lean Leader Who Inspires and Influences People In Their Continuous Improvement Journey – Katie Anderson shares her keynote presentation from QP Summit 2022 on lean leadership challenges.


Automation and People - Michel Baudin summarized observations on automation and people from the Van of Nerds tour of 11 manufacturing sites in Northern France


At Toyota: Mistakes are OK, as Long as We Learn; Culture and Psychological Safety – Mark Graban talks about Toyota’s culture of trust and safety when it comes from learning from our mistakes.


Why Few People Truly Take the Lean Leap - Michael Ballé says the reason why lean is only truly taken up by few has to do with embracing changes in our hearts and minds.


Lean Eyes Don’t Lie - Darren Walsh shares tips on how to gauge whether improvement efforts are paying off and people are internalizing a lean way of thinking.


Who, or What, Is Your Company Investing In? – Josh Howell asks if technology works for your people or the other way around?


Building A Diverse and Capable Workforce from the Bottom Up - Adrienne C. Trimble and Mark Reich say combining lean thinking and practices with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives builds more inclusive, engaged, and resilient businesses.


How Can Business Transformation Reduce Costs? - Adam Darnell says that implementing a digital business management system to structure and measure business process improvements can result in significant cost savings and a more strategic use of resources.


How to Align Continuous Improvement with Strategic Goals - Megan Cox says when improvement work is aligned with strategic goals and objectives, the organization moves in lock-step, increasing the probability of long-term success.


The Indispensable Role of Middle Management in Lean - Maggie Millard discusses the role of middle managers, evolving them from "enforcers" to enablers and coaches of front-line workers and supervisors.

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Monday, November 28, 2022

Lean Tips Edition #196 (#3151 - #3165)

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 #3151 – Build a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Having a lean and healthy culture requires many components. One of those is instilling an environment of continuous improvement.

Gradual, consistent change that sustains continuous improvement is critical. It doesn’t mean you have to train staff in strict fundamentals. It does mean you need the idea of continuous improvement to be part of everything you do.

Seek out ideas about how to improve production processes. Making everyone part of the change shows that you appreciate their opinions. It can also increase employee engagement and foster a more inclusive environment.

Lean Tip #3152 – Perseverance Should be Admired, But Only Up to a Point

If it takes a lot of effort and time to prove your point, make sure it’s worth it – for you and your sponsor. Persistence is an admirable quality and crucial to success, but it’s important to know when to let it go and move on. You may sometimes have to invest your passion in alternative projects to ensure long-term success, so make sure you stay flexible.

Lean Tip #3153 – Change of Behavior is as Important as the Tools

Industry experts believe that change in behavior is mandatory for the effective implementation of change. People have this tendency to work around a problem rather than fix it, and this is where Lean and Six Sigma inculcate a willingness to constantly address problems that arise in business processes. When people are committed to changing their behavior even tools will be incorporated seamlessly. Training your workforce in Lean and Six Sigma is one thing, but without a change in behavior, the whole process will be just academic without any practical implications.

Lean Tip #3154 – Have the Right Measurement System in Place

Organizations first need to understand that things that cannot be measured cannot be improved. By having a proper measurement system in place, practitioners can decide on baseline performance and use the data to make informed decisions. And when people understand the potential of Lean and Six Sigma, there will be rapid improvement in projects. Also by encouraging participants to define both tangible and intangible measures one can monitor the impact of their improvements and keep a database that will help in communicating the success to the organization.

Lean Tip #3155 – Have Constant Communication to Engage a More Employees

In an organization, there can never be enough communication. There should be varied communication channels to – receive information and comprehend it in a way that the recipient will be able to reflect and act upon it. Having open communication channels in an organization is an important aspect to complete Lean and Six Sigma projects on time. On many occasions addressing a small group or having face-to-face communication for discussion of important things is more effective than mass e-mail communications. In fact, many organizations today are using local displays with regular updates on work progress and visual summaries of future plans or targets will help in better engagement of the workforce.

Lean Tip #3156 – Take a Lean Tour

Sometimes we learn best by first witnessing the success of others. See the benefits of lean in action. It is not difficult to find organizations that will allow you to see their lean implementations (referred to as the Gemba walk). Take detailed notes of what is highly effective in their Lean implementations, ask questions, and get as much valuable information as you can in order to help you formulate you own Lean strategy for implementation.

Lean Tip #3157 – Get the Whole Team on Board

To get the greatest advantages out of Lean, the entire organization should adopt and promote its practices, and extend its influence to suppliers as well. You must involve the people who are the closest to the work and you must get support from senior management as well.

Lean Tip #3158 – Discard Conventional Fixed Ideas

Part of problem solving is thinking “outside of the box.” Encourage fresh perspectives and ingenuity in your team in order to develop innovative ways to forward Lean manufacturing without changing what is already efficient and successful. With such a rapidly evolving climate in manufacturing, sometimes conventional thought is what leads to the problem in the first place!

Lean Tip #3159 – Set Realistic Goals

In order to get people motivated, they must value the goals set for Lean manufacturing. These goals must be challenging, yet obtainable for your employees. Further, always ask for feedback on these goals, as well as progress toward target attainment. Feedback should always contain measurable facts and figures.

People, by nature, are goal-oriented and want to see that their actions are producing positive results. But if you’re not being realistic with your target goal dates, you are setting yourself up for failure from the beginning. Set small goals and reward yourself and your employees for each milestone accomplished.

Lean Tip #3160 – Show Results, Not Action Items

Naturally, implementation is what ultimately yields results and improvement. The last think you want is to devise and formulate a Lean campaign that then sits on the shelf and collects dust.

It’s important that you post real results on your Lean board, not things that you’re going to do. You must be able to point out your successes if you are ever going to convince others that Lean really works.

By concentrating on the processes and building continuous improvement, you will have the culture change that you are looking for. Also, correct mistakes immediately. Don’t wait for the next shift, the weekend or maintenance to do it.

Lean Tip #3161 – Make Experimentation a Habit

Today’s changing times make it essential for big and small companies to be able to adapt and – if necessary – pivot quickly. Any firm that keeps the focus on experimentation welcomes new ideas and works on evolution patterns to see what their product or service could become. But a culture where experimentation thrives often takes a push from management to make it happen.

Lean Tip #3162 – Ensure a Strong Commitment From the Leadership Team

It’s important to develop a strong commitment to the change amongst the senior leadership team before it is rolled out company-wide. In doing this, you can identify any potential obstacles or resistance to change and put a plan in place to overcome these. The top executive should be the main driving force, and the responsibility of cascading the change further will be down to the senior leadership team so it’s crucial to instill a high level of understanding.

Lean Tip #3163 – Engagement is Everything

Don’t underestimate the power of engagement here. Change requires engagement to succeed. Highlighting employee strengths and where these can be put to effective use within the change itself will move focus away from resistance towards more positive actions.

Lean Tip #3164 – Identify Key Influencers

Identify any informal leaders within the business and ensure they are a champion for change. Find out who the company’s sounding-boards are and make sure these people are on-board with the change!

Recognition is powerful. You could create an internal campaign to identify those who are quick to adapt to the change and show leadership qualities in their positive adoption.

Lean Tip #3165 – Constant Assessment

When you are supporting your senior leaders to adapt to change and form new habits, encourage them to consider the overall objective you are trying to achieve through the change and motivate them through outcome thinking.

Regularly assess these new habits and how the change is being adopted throughout the business. What’s working, what’s not? How can these challenges be confronted and overcome?

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Friday, November 25, 2022

Lean Quote: Thankful People are Happy People

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.

"It’s not happy people that are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.  —  Unknown

It’s my favorite time of year, the holiday season. I especially love Thanksgiving. The very foundation of the holiday is a concept rooted in gratitude and giving back. It’s a time to gather with loved ones, enjoy the bounty of the earth and open our hearts to all the gifts we have been given!

Studies show we are happier, healthier (less heart disease, stress related disorders) and heartier (we actually live longer) and are more resilient when we focus on the plusses not the negatives in life.

The holiday season reminds us to slow down the pace a bit and just Be. Yes, I know, it’s not easy to let go of our daily stresses, and it’s true that there is a very long list of things to do.  But, when we think of the bounty we have in our children, our families and our friends, the rest can wait.

Happiness seems to be a rare quality these days. But maybe it's because thankfulness is rare too. Taking a moment from your day to remember why you are thankful can make you feel more complete. By focusing on being grateful for what we have, we can retrain our minds and feel more satisfied in our daily lives. Being thankful can help you live a life with a lot more appreciation and mindfulness.

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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Be Thankful This Holiday

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

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

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

Be Thankful
Poet Unknown

Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary,
because it means you've made a difference.

It's easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.

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Monday, November 21, 2022

Build a Culture of Gratitude at Work

Few things will demoralize employees more easily than feeling like they’re not being appreciated for their efforts. Making sure that employees who are delivering effort and results hear you express something along the lines of “thanks for your hard work” is vital. Even this basic action gives them recognition for their efforts, which becomes feedback to inspire even better team performance.

Thanking your employees when you think they’ve genuinely performed may boost their commitment to delivering more. When your team knows that you won’t be stingy with your praise when they’ve made extra efforts, they will trust you enough to go the extra mile without having to be pushed.

Why don’t we say “thank you” at work? Perhaps it’s because we don’t like to thank people for something we feel is just an ordinary part of each day—a part of what’s expected? Or we don’t want to cross that line of kissing up or showing favoritism? And everyone knows thank-you emails are taboo.

But, building a culture of gratitude at work has benefits to both the person receiving and the person expressing the thanks:

1. Saying “thank you” shows people you value them. It doesn’t just acknowledge someone’s effort, thoughtfulness, intent or action … it acknowledges the person themselves. When we receive thanks, it gives us a heightened sense of self-worth. But, it doesn’t stop there. It also triggers more helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and toward other people.

2. Gratitude also has benefits for the person expressing gratitude. Research demonstrates that taking time to consider and express the things we’re grateful for has a powerful, positive effect. If practiced regularly, it can keep you healthier and happier. Higher levels of gratitude shown in people’s daily lives results in better sleep and lower anxiety and depression. Feeling and expressing gratitude activated brain regions that make us feel good.

Offering gratitude and expressing messages of thanks to your team can truly motivate your team members and improve the workplace. Pay attention to good work, and offer thanks whenever you identify a job well done. Continue to apply team appreciation and establish it firmly in your workplace culture.

This helps to create a more satisfactory work environment where your employees are more inclined to feel appreciated and happy. Doing so increases engagement, participation, self-esteem and can even positively impact your bottom line. You may also feel more effective as a leader and likely more connected to your team and what they’re doing.

Gratitude is powerful. It’s up to the people with power to clearly, consistently, and authentically say thank you in both public and private settings. And the benefits go far beyond just letting someone know you appreciate their efforts. A simple “thank you” can trigger more good work and positive feelings for everyone involved.

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Friday, November 18, 2022

Lean Quote: Inspiring Gratitude in the Workplace

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Gratitude should be felt and experienced sincerely, expressed generously and received graciously.  —  Michael Josephson

Gratitude is a key factor for living a life filled with positivity. Practicing gratitude in the workplace brings about many positive effects. Feeling valued and appreciated is a fundamental human need of employees. Appreciated employees tend to be more loyal, productive, and satisfied in their roles.

Promoting gratitude in the workplace can be a bit of a challenge. It’s hard for employees to remember to practice gratitude – especially during a rough day at the office. The easiest way for you to help employees feel and express gratitude is by leading by example. Here are a few ways to cultivate gratitude at your company:

Look for opportunities to celebrate success. This could be a newsletter shout-out to an employee who contributed to their team or throwing an appreciation party for employees to celebrate their tenure. Be sure to look out for small successes that will make employees feel special.

Support peer-to-peer recognition. Encourage employees to create shout-outs or thankyou notes for their colleagues. Provide employees with printouts that they can fill out and give to one another. Ask employees to give out at least one thank-you note a week.

Get employees involved in community service projects. Volunteering is a powerful way to promote gratitude. Provide employees with information on local organizations that are looking for volunteers. If you are able to, coordinate a team outing for employees to volunteer together.

Offer education about benefits of gratitude. Send out blog posts, articles, and research studies on the benefits of gratitude. Employees will be more inclined to practice gratitude once they understand its benefits.

Reinforce random acts of kindness at work. Recognize employees who go out of their way to help a co-worker or make someone smile. Kindness is contagious!

Although gratitude might sound like a cheesy topic, research has proved that it can truly impact a person’s mental and physical wellbeing, as well as their work performance. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude releases dopamine in the brain, which in turn boosts feelings of wellbeing, increases optimism, and improves physical health.

Employees who feel appreciated by their employers and colleagues tend to be happier and more enthusiastic with their work. They are motivated to do a better job and contribute to the success of their company.

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