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Monday, April 22, 2024

Lean Tips Edition #298 (#3496 - #3510)

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 #3496 – Enhance Cross-Functional Collaboration

Many organizations find that most waste occurs at the points in a process where different functions intersect. Breakdowns that result in waiting, wasted motion, and unnecessary movement are common when handoffs occur. That's why getting all departments on one system to manage improvement and problem-solving is critical. When everyone is on a single platform, communication flows smoothly, and improvement gains momentum. Everyone speaks the same language and follows a standard procedure for planning, implementing, and evaluating their improvements.

Lean Tip #3497 – Conduct a Waste Audit

A waste audit involves analyzing each area of your startup to identify specific instances of waste. This can be done by observing workflows, talking to employees, and reviewing data. For instance, if you notice that your sales team spends a significant amount of time on manual data entry, this could be considered a waste of their time and skills. Similarly, if you find that your manufacturing process results in a high rate of defective products, it's important to address this waste to minimize costs and improve quality.

Lean Tip #3498 – Monitor and Measure Progress

To ensure that your efforts to eliminate waste are effective, it's crucial to monitor and measure your progress. Set key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect your waste reduction goals and regularly track and analyze the data. For example, you can measure the reduction in defects, the decrease in inventory levels, or the improvement in lead times. 

By monitoring and measuring progress, you can identify areas that still require improvement and make necessary adjustments to your lean initiatives. Celebrate success along the way to keep your team motivated and engaged in the waste elimination process.

Lean Tip #3499 – Streamline Processes

One of the most effective ways to identify waste is by analyzing your business processes. Look for inefficiencies, redundancies, or bottlenecks that may be causing unnecessary delays or expenses. For example, if your production line requires excessive manual handling or frequent rework, it might be time to invest in automation or process optimization. By streamlining your processes, you can reduce labor costs, improve productivity, and minimize waste.

Lean Tip #3500 – Eliminating Non-Value-Added Activities

Non-value-added activities refer to tasks that do not contribute to the final product or service. These activities consume resources without adding any value for the customer. Take a critical look at your operations and identify any activities that can be eliminated or streamlined. For instance, excessive paperwork, unnecessary meetings, or redundant approvals can be streamlined or eliminated altogether. By focusing on value-added activities, you can enhance efficiency and reduce unnecessary expenses.

Lean Tip #3501 – Give Your Team Members Ownership

The best leaders in the business understand the power of ownership. Giving ownership to the team members means nothing but letting them make their own decisions and making them accountable for their work.

Making team members accountable for their work induces a sense of responsibility in them regarding their work can be very helpful in improving team performance. They start to see their work differently so that their decisions can impact the performance of the entire team.

Lean Tip #3502 – Ensure Proper Communication

Communication is one of the critical factors that contribute mainly to team productivity. Without effective communication, businesses fail.

A lot of successful businesses thrive on effective communication. Now, a project manager must ensure effective communication prevails in a team.

Communication plays a significant role in helping team members to understand their job responsibilities. And, if there is any communication gap, it can lead to multiple confusions within a team, which will undoubtedly impact the overall productivity of a team.

Lean Tip #3503 – Give Them Room to Work

Every employee or team member works best when given an environment where they are allowed to do things ‘their way’. Most employees tend to lose interest as soon as they are being micromanaged by their bosses or managers.

One of the many ways that can help you overcome this is to create a kickass team. Define their job responsibilities and your expectations clearly to them. Now, get out of their way and let them work on their own.

At the same time, be approachable so that if someone in your team has a question, they don’t need to think twice to clarify their doubts.

Always trust your team with utmost confidence. This further strengthens their belief in themselves which helps them to perform to their best abilities and contribute positively to team productivity.

Lean Tip #3504 – Praise a Job Well Done

While for different employees, different things work to boost their productivity and efficiency at work. But for many of them, it is something as simple as being acknowledged for their efforts.

Nothing can add to productivity if an employee feels that his contribution isn’t valued enough. Whereas appreciating them in front of the whole team can work wonders.

Instead of virtual congratulatory words, this public act of appreciation inspires others in the group to do their best. This promotes a healthy work culture in an organization which will be an addition to boosting team productivity.

Lean Tip #3505 – Lead With Gratitude

Being thankful can have a major impact on the people you work with within the workplace. Gratitude improves how we interact with others and collaborate. It makes our colleagues feel a sense of belonging and motivates them to work harder. So, don’t ever underestimate the power of a firm handshake, a warm smile, and saying “thank you” to your team members.

Lean Tip #3506 – Provide Help if Needed

Helping your team members at work is critical to fostering and maintaining a stable workplace. As a team leader, you should encourage your team members to approach you in case they have any questions or concerns at work. You should instill confidence in them by taking the initiative. Observe your team, which people are most productive and who are struggling with meeting deadlines.

Here are some ways how to improve team productivity by offering timely help to your team members.

  • Practice consistent communication with team members
  • Actively listen to people in your team and encourage 2-way communication
  • Use your experience to recognize when others are struggling at work
  • Build relationships with team members while being aware of professional boundaries
  • Practice surprising acts of thoughtfulness such as getting them coffee, leaving personalized “thank you” notes on their desk, etc.
  • Ensure a fair and even workload to prevent employee burnout and excessive stress
  • Inspire positivity by maintaining a friendly attitude

Lean Tip #3507 – Be Authentic and Vulnerable

Create an environment of trust and honesty within your team so people feel comfortable talking about what's going on for them. Start from the top by being honest and open about where you have opportunities or where you might have trouble. Being publicly vulnerable with your team shows them that admitting when you don't know or need assistance is OK.

Cultivate a team culture that lets people know that it's okay to be human. Asking for help, admitting you were wrong, or having a project go sideways isn't unforgivable. If you position these things as learning opportunities, it will help your team be more productive — they can move forward and try new things without having to worry about being punished for failure.

Lean Tip #3508 – Set a North Star

One of the hallmarks of a good team is working together. But how are you supposed to work together if you don't know where you're trying to go? Imagine a three-legged race where both participants are trying to run in different directions — they wouldn't get very far!

The same goes for your team if they don't have a unifying goal or metric that they are trying to hit. Before you start trying to boost your productivity, identify the big things that would impact your customers' experiences. From there, distill the big-ticket items into achievable goals and metrics.

A "North Star" metric is a measure that is the most likely to indicate success for a company or team. In the case of support, your North Star metric may be:

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Customer effort score (CES)
  • First contact resolution
  • Time to first response

Or, it may be something that funnels up to your company's overall metrics. For example, if your company sets a North Star metric of the number of customers and wants to increase from 10,000 to 30,000 customers in a year, your team would need to set some goals in service to that. Those goals might be closely linked with:

  • Customer happiness
  • Time to first response
  • Churn
  • Renewal rate
  • Customer satisfaction

Each of those metrics contributes to the company’s North Star by helping to maintain or gain new customers.

Lean Tip #3509 – Prioritize Your Goals

One of the best ways to increase productivity within your team is to prioritize your goals well and to help your team members prioritize theirs. Once you've identified priorities and started to work toward them as a team, check in regularly to see if they need to shift or grow with your team’s abilities and your company's goals.

Lean Tip #3510 – Reward Quality, Not Quantity

Recognition is so important when it comes to the workplace. Any good team lead or manager takes the time to recognize the hard work and effort their team members put in. This recognition can occur at the team level, within stand-ups or meetings, or at the company level during all-hands or annual events.

When you recognize excellent work and contributions, try to focus on quality efforts rather than the quantity of a body of work. For instance, consider if one of your team members answers tons of tickets but has a low customer satisfaction score. You may also have another team member who responds to fewer tickets but has a 100% customer satisfaction rating. In this situation, it's best to target your praise on the team member with higher-quality work.

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Friday, April 19, 2024

Lean Quote: Communication is the Key to Any Effective Teamwork

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.

"In teamwork, silence isn’t golden. It’s deadly.  —  Mark Sanborn

Teamwork is the force behind every successful business. Only when employees come together, share a common vision of the goal, put together their strengths, complement their weaknesses, and help each other in times of need- can an organization grow to its greatest heights. Teamwork leads to a multitude of benefits:

  • Builds a sense of community
  • Improves employee morale
  • Increased productivity
  • This leads to personal and professional development
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Faster problem solving
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Faster execution of ideas

Communication is the key to any effective teamwork. If you can’t share ideas and get your point across in a supportive environment then it will be difficult to get anything done. If people don’t agree, or have a problem then need to be able to tell the other members in a constructive manner. Also, each member needs to stay informed about any decisions or progress so that everybody is working together rather than in their own direction.

Make it clear that collaboration is the minimum standard. Define roles and responsibilities within the team. Every team member should understand their position and what is required of them. In a collaborative environment every team member takes responsibility for good outcomes.

Include every person on the team in as many large decisions as possible. Create a means of communicating current work flows to avoid duplication of effort. Initiate daily team huddles where each member shares what they will be accomplishing that day. This keeps everyone on the same playbook and enables team members to re-direct their efforts as needed.

Team communication is one of the most fundamental aspects of collaboration. Communication in teams is more than just efficient work. It allows everyone on the team to be educated on any topic that may affect their work. Moreover, it develops trust, builds camaraderie among the team members, boosts morale, and helps employees stay engaged in the workplace.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Replace your SMART goal with a PACT

A system without a goal is like a marathon without a finish line. But a system with a bad goal will result in a bad outcome. Traditional goal-setting methods use the SMART framework.

Specific. Your goal should be well defined, clear, and unambiguous.

Measurable. You can easily measure your progress towards the accomplishment of the goal.

Achievable. The goal should seem attainable and not impossible to achieve.

Relevant. The goal should be aligned with your current priorities.

Timely. Your goal should have a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target end date.

Each of the SMART components is needed in order for your goal to have clarity and focus. Clarity and focus are the driving force behind achieving your goal. Without clarity you wouldn’t know what to do; without focus, you wouldn’t have a reason to do it.

Instead of SMART goals, which don’t encourage ambitious, long-term endeavors, I prefer to make a PACT with myself. While a SMART goal focuses on the outcome, the PACT approach focuses on the output. It’s about continuous growth rather than the pursuit of a well-defined achievement. Which makes it a great alternative to SMART goals.

PACT stands for Purposeful, Actionable, Continuous, and Trackable—the four factors that make for great goals:

Purposeful. Your goal should be meaningful to your long-term purpose in life, not just relevant to you right now. It will be much harder to stick to your goal if you don’t actually care. When a goal is aligned with your passions and your objectives in life, you are feeling much more motivated. (many tasks don’t feel purposeful but need to be done in order to achieve a meaningful long-term goal, and that’s fine—they are tasks, not goals)

Actionable. A good goal is based on outputs you can control. Your goal should be actionable and controllable. It’s all about shifting your mindset from distant outcomes in the future to present outputs you can control and that are within your reach, taking action today rather than overplanning for tomorrow.

Continuous. It’s important that the actions you take towards your goal are simple and repeatable. So many goals are not achieved because of what’s called choice paralysis. That’s when there are so many options that you end up spending more time doing research than actually doing stuff that will make you progress towards your goal. The good thing about continuous goals is their flexibility. What you need to do is get started, and as you learn more, you can adapt your approach. It’s about continuous improvement rather than reaching a supposed end goal.

Trackable. Not measurable. Stats can be overrated and don’t apply to lots of different types of goals. More of a “yes” or “no” approach, not measurable; ask yourself have you done the thing today? Have you coded today? Have you called three potential customers? Have you published your weekly blog post? Yes or no? This makes your progress easy to track.

While goal-setting methods come in many different forms, there is no one goal-setting technique that works for every person in every situation. Some people say SMART Goals are outdated and PACT goals are too ambitious, so if either of these methods aren’t for you, research some other strategies and try out a few until you find a good fit. Being able to set realistic, attainable goals is a very useful skill you should have as it’s a skill that can set you up for long-term success.

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Listening is the Key to Effective Communication

Communication is an essential part of our lives, and it's something we do all day, every day. However, have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you feel like the other person isn't really listening? Or have you ever been so focused on what you want to say that you're not paying attention to what the other person has said?

We've all been there, but the truth is, listening is the key to effective communication. Listening is one of the most powerful tools you possess as a leader – and can help build trust and loyalty with your team.

Hearing and listening, though synonymous, are completely different things. Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear, whereas listening requires more than that: it requires focus.  Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body.  In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages.  Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages.

Listening is not automatic.

It takes practice.

It takes intention.

It is a skill — one that is capable of being not only honed but lost.

Listening is key to all effective communication, without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood – communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated.

Listening is so important that many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees.  This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to: better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, and increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work.

Here are ten useful tips that can help you become a good listener:

1. Take time to listen.  Obviously, there are times when you're busy for extended discussions.  But you need to set aside times when you can listen carefully to employee's problems, reactions, concerns, and suggestions.

2.  Let employees know that you're approachable.  Adopt an "open door" policy.  That is, communicate your willingness to hear what employees have to say.  Demonstrate that it's safe to talk to you.

3.  Put the other person at ease. Give them space and time and "permission" to speak their peace.   Watch how you look at them, how you stand or sit, it makes a huge difference. Relax, and let them relax as well.

4.  If people don't come to you, go to them.  Some employees may take advantage of your "open door" by approaching you with their concerns.  Others will be reluctant to do so, for any of a variety of reasons (shyness, fear of being judged, unwillingness to complain about others, and so on).

5. Set-up multiple means, both formal and informal, for communicating with employees.  Some employees are comfortable talking face to face.  Others would rather send a note by email.  Some will speak up during a formal team meeting.  Others will reveal their concerns only in casual conversations around the snack machine.  Make multiple possibilities available so that you hear from everyone.

6.  Pay attention to nonverbal signals: tone, vocalizations (such as "um," "uh," laughs, and sighs), body postures, and gestures.  Often a person will say one thing but signal nonverbally that the true meaning is different.  For instance, "okay" said with a deep sigh does not really mean "okay."

7. Remove distractions. Good listening means being willing to stop working on a computer, close a door, stop reading your email, or only answer emergency calls. Give the speaker your full attention and let them know they are getting your full attention.

8.  Avoid anticipation.  Don't jump to conclusions or assume that you understand a person's comment before he or she has finished talking.  You may misunderstand, or you may discourage people from saying what they truly mean.

9.  Suspend judgment.  Don't decide on the spot whether the speaker is right or wrong.  Wait until you have a chance to think the matter over.

10. Use active listening techniques.  Active listening means taking an active part in the conversation to make sure you are grasping fully what the speaker is trying to say.  Active listening involves techniques such as these:

·        Attending. Focusing closely on the speaker and maintaining eye contact.

·        Paraphrasing. Repeating what the speaker has said in your own words, giving him or her an opportunity to correct you if you have misunderstood: "You're saying that the procedure seems too complicated, is that it?"

·        Summarizing.  Offering an occasional summary of the main points made so far: "Let's see, you've mentioned three problems…"

·        Interpretation checking.  Stating your interpretation of what the speaker is conveying – both ideas and feelings – and asking if you're correct: "It sounds like you're upset that you didn't get earlier feedback on you handling of this project, is that right?"

·        Using clarifying questions.  Asking questions that attempt to make a point clearer or more explicit:  "Are your suggesting we change our procedures?"

·        Using probing questions.  Asking questions that encourage the other person to expand or elaborate on what was said: "I think I see the problem, but why do you think it happened?"

Good listeners become good communicators.  They understand the importance of speaking clearly in an easy-to-understand manner.  When it's hard to interpret what you mean, you greatly increase the chances of a misunderstanding.

Many successful leaders and entrepreneurs credit their success to effective listening skills. Effective listening is a skill that underpins all positive human relationships, spend some time thinking about and developing your listening skills – they are the building blocks of success.

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Friday, April 12, 2024

Lean Quote: Honesty is Most Important Factor on 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.

"Honesty is the most single most important factor having a direct bearing on the final success of an individual, corporation, or product.  —  Ed McMahon

Leadership with honesty is essential for building trust, fostering a positive work culture, and driving successful outcomes. Honesty in leadership means being transparent, sincere, and straightforward with your team and stakeholders. It involves being open about your intentions, decisions, and actions, as well as being willing to admit your mistakes and learn from them.

Honesty is a key component of effective communication, as it helps to establish credibility and build relationships based on mutual respect. When leaders are honest with their team, they create an environment of trust and openness, which fosters collaboration and encourages honest feedback. This, in turn, can lead to better decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation.

Openness and honesty at work make for an environment where people feel trusted, especially by company leadership. When you have an environment where information is communicated with clarity, it opens the door for greater connection and productivity.

Honesty is important for maintaining the integrity of your organization. When leaders act with honesty and transparency, they set an example for the rest of the team to follow. This can help to build a strong, ethical culture that is committed to doing the right thing, even when it's difficult.

Integrity is the soul of every business. A leader must always walk his talk. An honest leader is a successful leader. As a leader, your honesty will enable your team members to trust your leadership.

Honesty really is the best policy. It all has to start with you, the leader. Model the culture you want to see.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

How Can You Be a More Effective Lean Leader

Lean thinking is fundamentally transforming the way organizations operate. The Lean principles of continuous improvement, respect for people, and a relentless focus on delivering customer value are making teams and organizations rethink the practices that might have guided them for decades.

For Lean to be truly effective, it needs effective Lean Leadership — to champion Lean principles, offer guidance, and ensure that Lean is being used to optimize the entire organizational system for value delivery.

Here are six things you can do to become a more effective lean leader.

Show Respect for People:

Respect for people is a fundamental principle of Lean Leadership. It involves creating a work environment where employees feel valued, empowered, and respected. Lean leaders listen to their teams, involve them in decisions, and support their growth and development with resources. Leaders create a respectful culture where employees can share ideas, skills, and knowledge to enhance processes and promote innovation.

Provide Vision and Purpose

Lean leaders need to establish a clear vision and purpose for the organization’s Lean journey. They should communicate the importance of Lean principles and how they align with the overall mission and strategic goals. A compelling vision provides direction and serves as a guiding light for employees, inspiring them to actively participate in Lean initiatives.

Lead by Example

Leaders must lead by example and demonstrate their commitment to Lean principles. They should participate in Lean practices like going to the workplace, solving problems, and making continuous improvements. By visibly practicing Lean principles and lean management tools, leaders inspire others and create a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Go to the Gemba

A lean leader must go to the gemba as often as possible. They must be present on the job site on a regular basis, actively engaging with the people closest to the customer- rather than spending most of their time in the office or conference rooms. This, as a result, ensures that they are able to truly understand the real situation, allowing them to take effective actions to improve performance.

A true lean leader frequents the workplace both when things are going well, and when problem arise - otherwise, employees are less likely to communicate the real situation if their boss only shows up when problems occur.

Foster Collaboration and Communication

Lean leadership emphasizes collaboration and communication among team members. By fostering an environment of open communication and encouraging teamwork, you can promote idea sharing and problem solving. Consequently, this can lead to innovative solutions and a more cohesive team that is better equipped to achieve your lean goals.

Empower Your Team

Empowering your team is a key aspect of lean leadership. So, you need to give your team the tools and resources they need to identify and solve problems on their own. This means creating a culture of continuous improvement, where everyone is encouraged to contribute ideas and suggestions for improvement.

Lean leadership is all about commitment; commitment to your employees, commitment to the system and commitment to making changes towards improvement. The highest commitment in Lean Leadership has to be towards your employees; your people. In any company, the people working for it are it’s greatest asset. You need to listen to your people and ensure they have the right tools and knowledge to perform their jobs correctly. Lean leadership focuses more on working with your people rather than having your people work for you.

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Monday, April 8, 2024

The Role of a Lean Leader

There is often a missing link in many Lean organizations - which is, the set of leadership structures and behaviors that constitute a lean management system. People frequently equate ‘Lean' with the tools used to standardize processes and generate efficiencies; and organizations tend to focus more on the implementation of these tools. However, implementing tools only accounts for, at most, 20% of the effort needed in lean transformations. The remaining 80% should be spent on changing leaders' behaviors and practices; and eventually their mindsets.

Lean leadership bridges a crucial divide: the gap between lean thinking and lean tools. Lean leaders have an essential role to play in lean transformations.

What’s Lean Leadership?

Lean leadership is all about commitment; commitment to your employees, commitment to the system and commitment to making changes towards improvement. Leaders in a lean environment need good communication skills to understand the problems their people face.

Lean leaders can give their teams the tools to succeed and encourage them to make wise decisions that lead to long-term, competitive growth. It typically involves helping individuals achieve professional and personal progress and acknowledging their contributions to the workplace. This type of leadership can foster a culture of continuous improvement through employee engagement, decision-making and communication.

Here are some roles and responsibilities of lean leaders:

Coach and develop others

As a leader, it may be your responsibility to help others improve. Coaching can enable continuous improvement and personal growth. When your teammates reach their full potential, this can ultimately make your task as a leader easier. Coaching can also enable you to take an interest in your team's development and show that you care about their success, possibly making them more loyal to the company. Giving your team the tools to succeed and encouraging them to make wise decisions can lead to long-term, competitive growth. Mentoring employees can also make them more valuable to the company.


The lean leader should serve their team by providing support, guidance, and development opportunities while challenging them to improve performance. Lean leaders must challenge their teams to go beyond their comfort zones and aim to achieve excellence. This can involve setting ambitious goals, providing feedback, and encouraging team members to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

Facilitate Teamwork

Teamwork is a key component because lean leadership requires employees from different departments to collaborate to improve processes. Encouraging teamwork can help streamline communication channels and ultimately improve communication. Teamwork can also contribute to developing a positive culture, which can boost employee satisfaction by motivating them while at work.

Go to Gemba (Walk the Floor)

As a lean leader, you can use Gemba, a method that encourages you to visit the workstation and engage with employees face-to-face. Instead of depending primarily on reports, executive summaries and other edited forms of information, you can go to the source to listen to employees and learn about the processes that guide the organization’s success. To create an effective environment for improvement, it can be helpful to develop faith in your team's abilities, expertise and experience.

Drive Continuous Improvement Mindset

A lean leader empowers their workers to take on the responsibility for resolving their own problems, by making it acceptable to attempt something even if it does not work out. It's essential to demonstrate that participating in improvement activities, challenging existing practices, and observing processes, are all part of a complete problem solving approach that will advance the organization.

When leaders are true role models for Lean behavior, this inspires everyone within an organization to deepen their understanding of Lean, fully engage with a transformational program, and close the gap between Lean tools and Lean thinking to fully realize the value of Lean.

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