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Leading Lean – Apply Lean to Your Work

Last week, I mentioned that I would talk more about the lean forum I attended.  The theme of the forum was leading lean.  Several speakers presented and they all did a fantastic job.  One of the speakers was Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center.  Jamie outlined five leadership moves that demonstrate lean leadership.

  1. Leaders Must Be Teachers
  1. Build Tension, Not Stress
  1. Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
  1. Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate
  1. Apply Lean to Your Work

Over the next few posts, I thought I would share the message and how I personally have exhibited the behavior positively and negatively, because we all must learn from our mistakes.

Apply Lean to Your Work

As leaders it isn’t good enough to just talk about lean and how it can apply elsewhere.  Leaders apply lean thinking to their own work in order to help themselves improve continuously.  Structuring the day or week using standard work and learning ways to eliminate waste from their own work show a commitment to lean and how it can apply to anyone doing any kind of work.

Applying lean to my own work has helped me grow as a lean leader and gain credibility over the years.  I had standard work that I followed when I was working in the manufacturing facilities that called for dedicated observation or waste walk time.  This really allowed me to understand what work I was falling short in and make corrections.

Also, I have standard work for how I conduct lean improvement (kaizen) events.  I have it down to the minute for each section.  Because of this, I have been able to try new techniques to see if they allow me to reduce the time for a given section without sacrificing the quality of the event.

The biggest change was seven years ago when I added 45 minutes every Friday morning to reflect on my week.  This has helped me better understand things I have tried and why they worked or didn’t work.  Adding planned reflection time every week is probably the single most important thing I have done to learn.

With all the positives, I still don’t have standard work that I use for the week in an office environment.  This has caused me to not be as effective in high work volume times.  I have gotten so busy at times that I haven’t taken the time to reflect and improve.  We should always create time to reflect and improve so during the next heavy workload maybe it isn’t so stressful.

There are plenty of opportunities to apply lean to our own work.  We just have to take the time to do it as leaders.

How are you applying lean to your work?

Leading Lean – Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate

Last week, I mentioned that I would talk more about the lean forum I attended.  The theme of the forum was leading lean.  Several speakers presented and they all did a fantastic job.  One of the speakers was Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center.  Jamie outlined five leadership moves that demonstrate lean leadership.

  1. Leaders Must Be Teachers
  1. Build Tension, Not Stress
  1. Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
  1. Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate
  1. Apply Lean to Your Work

Over the next few posts, I thought I would share the message and how I personally have exhibited the behavior positively and negatively, because we all must learn from our mistakes.

Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate

This is about actually being out front and engaging in the change.  Engage with people and with lean.  Transforming an organization to a lean thinking culture is not something a leader delegates to others.  Be involved.

I have had to be the first to design and analyze an improvement.   Then go sell it to leadership.  In one instance, it took almost two years to get the idea approved.  It was something that had never been done in industry at the time.  In order to reduce inventory and quicken lead time, I worked to have 2200 Ton injection molding presses directly tied to a massive electroplating line.  It took time but as it started to take shape others took notice and came forward with new ideas that would change the way production was handled at the facility.

I haven’t always been actively engaged though.  I have tried to design changes and then hand them off under the guise of “they need to learn like I did.”

WRONG ANSWER.

I needed to actively engage the team to help get the idea through.  Instead, the improvement died on the vine and nothing changed.  I was a poor leader because I kept mentioning that it could be better but didn’t engage and get and help to make it better.

When leading a transformation the leader needs to be actively engaged throughout the process and show everyone it will be alright.

How are you actively engaged in your lean transformation?

 

Leading Lean – Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort

Last week, I mentioned that I would talk more about the lean forum I attended.  The theme of the forum was leading lean.  Several speakers presented and they all did a fantastic job.  One of the speakers was Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center.  Jamie outlined five leadership moves that demonstrate lean leadership.

  1. Leaders Must Be Teachers
  1. Build Tension, Not Stress
  1. Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
  1. Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate
  1. Apply Lean to Your Work

Over the next few posts, I thought I would share the message and how I personally have exhibited the behavior positively and negatively, because we all must learn from our mistakes.

Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort

Jamie talked about leaders not only eliminating the fear of trying something new, but also forcing people outside their comfort zone so they are forced to learn.

People generally don’t try new things because of the fear of repercussions.  If they make a mistake or get something wrong, they are afraid of being fired or demoted or having a bad review.  Leaders must eliminate the fear and show people it is alright to try new things.

At the same time, leaders must shrink the comfort zone for people.  Force them to have to try new things.

By doing these two things, a leader is creating a bigger learning zone for the people.  In this learning zone, is where improvements are made.

I had a improvement group one time that had given me a list of 15 items to improve the process they worked on.  They were sanctioned to go and make the changes, but they didn’t believe it.  The feared that if any change didn’t work out their direct manager would reprimand them.  Of course, this was not the case because I had already discussed the work with the manager.  The group actually refused to go make changes because of the fear.  I had to call a timeout and bring their manager in.  He told them directly this was a learning experience and the department would try anything the group wanted to try.  Finally, that got the group to take action and work on their improvements to the process.

As easy as that was for me to help the other group, from time to time I still find myself making excuses and becoming paralyzed by fear to approach a leader to try something new.  Ironic, right?  I can help others but still get paralyzed myself.  Not pushing and presenting ideas that I believe will help move the organization forward.  I can’t let that stop me.  I have to re-gather myself from time to time and take another approach.  Use the learning of what didn’t work to find what might work.

Eliminating fear and pushing people out of their comfort zones isn’t easy, but when done well creates great learning for the organization.

How are you helping your people feel comfortable with learning?  Are you shrinking comfort zones?  Are you pushing out the fear zone?

Leading Lean – Build Tension, Not Stress

Last week, I mentioned that I would talk more about the lean forum I attended.  The theme of the forum was leading lean.  Several speakers presented and they all did a fantastic job.  One of the speakers was Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center.  Jamie outlined five leadership moves that demonstrate lean leadership.

  1. Leaders Must Be Teachers
  1. Build Tension, Not Stress
  1. Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
  1. Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate
  1. Apply Lean to Your Work

Over the next few posts, I thought I would share the message and how I personally have exhibited the behavior positively and negatively, because we all must learn from our mistakes.

Build Tension, Not Stress

Tension is what compels an organization to take action.  Tension will cause the organization to improve.  Stress is what causes the organization to freeze because it doesn’t know what to do.  The stress will cause the organization to break.

There are two components top create tension.  The first is current reality.  We must fully understand current reality and more importantly be very honest about what is current reality.

The second component is having a definition of the ideal state.  What does perfection look like?  Not what is best practice or best-in-class, but what is perfection.

This gap greats tension to move the organization forward.

I have always been a harsh critic of my own work and where I believe an organization stands.  Sometimes to a point where I have offended others in the organization because they believe we are better than my assessment.  I have even been called negative because I don’t see the current reality as ever good enough.

Where I have struggled in the past was defining the ideal state.  I didn’t always do this.  I would define a future state which is somewhere between current reality and the ideal state.  This led to teams not improving as much as they could have.  The team may have gotten a 20% improvement but we could have gotten more if we would have defined the ideal state and stretched ourselves.

By building a future state and not an ideal state or by believing you are better than you are, you take all the tension out of the organization.  The loss of tension creates an culture of no action.

What are you doing to build tension in your organization?

Leading Lean – Leaders Must Be Teachers

Last week, I mentioned that I would talk more about the lean forum I attended.  The theme of the forum was leading lean.  Several speakers presented and they all did a fantastic job.  One of the speakers was Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center.  Jamie outlined five leadership moves that demonstrate lean leadership.

  1. Leaders Must Be Teachers
  1. Build Tension, Not Stress
  1. Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
  1. Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate
  1. Apply Lean to Your Work

Over the next few posts, I thought I would share the message and how I personally have exhibited the behavior positively and negatively, because we all must learn from our mistakes.

Leaders Must Be Teachers

A teacher is not just someone standing up in front of a classroom explaining how to do something.  That may be part of it, but it is not all of it.  A big part of being a teacher is also being a role model.  Modeling the behaviors that we are teaching others and that we want to see.  My favorite quote about this was “People must see the role model or it isn’t role modeling.”

Jamie is exactly right.

I have spent many hours in front of classes teaching lean principles and lean tools to others over the last 10 years.  I have even spent a lot of time with individuals coaching them in their work environment.  Being patient with them until they start to see something in a new light.  It is very rewarding when someone makes positive changes and you can see it.

Where I have struggled is with role modeling.  Not that I don’t strive everyday to live the lean principles, but am I doing it where other people can see?

By nature, I am an introvert and I don’t seek out approval.  What this means is when I am living the lean principles well, I don’t show others.

Jamie even mentioned this feels like bragging and showing off which is exactly how I felt.  But, it isn’t.  It is leading and teaching others that it can be done.  It has to been known.

Will I make mistakes.  ABSOLUTELY!  Part of the teaching is showing that I have made a mistake and learned from it because we aren’t perfect.

So I ask you, are you a teacher only inside the classroom or are you a teach outside the classroom as well?

Practice with a Coach

Last week I got to spend some time with my coach, Jamie Flinchbaugh.  It has been awhile since I have seen him and the time was very well spent.

He met with the entire group I work with.  During that time, we talked about problem solving and how important it is to have a coach when learning good problem solving.

The quote that stuck with me was:

“Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.”

He reiterated that this is why practicing with a coach is so important.  Just like in sports, a player practices with a coach so he knows he is doing the right things.  The same is true for problem solving and lean.

My first coach was Dennis Mouser.  He spent about 3 days a week with me helping me learn a good problem solving methodology and making sure I practiced it correctly.  It has been eight years since we have worked together but what he taught me is embedded in what I do when solving a problem.

Speaking from experience, a coach is an investment that everyone learning lean and problem solving should make.  They will help you practice the right things so it becomes permanent.

Great Posts on Leadership

A topic that comes up a lot here and around the blog sphere is around leadership and what it looks like in a lean environment.  There are many great perspectives  on leading in a lean organization.

Mark Graban has done a great job breaking down some of Dr. Deming’s view on how to lead a transformation and what the role of a manager of people should be.  Dr. Deming’s teachings still ring true today.  His thoughts and leadership are timeless.

Mark also took some great notes from Art Byrne’s speech at the AME Spring Conference.  Art spoke about why and how to do lean, but the most interesting part was Art’s thoughts on management principles.  It is another great blog post summary of leadership.

Jamie Flinchbaugh wrote a great blog about the difference between tension and stress.  Jamie explains a leader’s role in creating tension.  Knowing you are not where you are supposed to be but understanding the gap and developing a plan to close it.  Jamie does a great job of explaining how stress is not a good thing but tension is very healthy.

Steve Roesler explains how effective coaching as a leader leads to commitment from the employees.  Steve’s ‘what it takes’ and ‘3 to-dos’ is very insightful.

And awhile back Mark Welch wrote a great guest blog for Beyond Lean about being a Servant Leader.  He looks at how Jesus was a servant leader and what we can learn from it for a lean organization.

There are many great blogs about leadership. I encourage you to make copies of a few and refer back to them occasionally.  It is always good to get a refresher.

Agile Retrospectives = Reflection

In an earlier post I mentioned the similarities in agile and lean from a problem solving perspective.  Lean and agile are also the same when it comes to the learning cycle.

One of the principles of lean that I have learned is Create a Learning Organization through Learn-Apply-Reflect.  This principle helps drive home the importance of reflection.  Many people and organizations do a great job of learning something new and then trying to apply it.  Where most people and organizations fail is forgetting to reflect.  The reflection step is where all the learning and applying comes together to understand how what was learned can best be applied in the organization.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  What should be kept?  What should be changed?

A sign an organization is doing this well, is the reflection is planned and not a reaction because something went wrong.  The reflection is part of the project plan and will is scheduled upfront with no agenda but to learn and improve.

Agile has a methodology and a term it uses for this reflection and learning.  It is retrospectives.

Agile uses planned retrospectives, usually once a week, to take a time out and gather the team to understand what is working and they should continue doing.  As well as what is not working and should be changed or thrown out.  It takes a monumental act to cancel a retrospective.  These retrospectives are ingrained in the methodology and help the agile teams continue to improve on their process and work.

This is a great of example of Lean-Apply-Reflect.  The agile team takes the learnings from the week, apply them and then have a planned reflection time a week later.  The agile methodology does a great job of fostering the principle of creating a learning organization.

Do you have any examples of planned reflection in your organization?

Four Most Influential Lean Books

Recently, I reviewed The Lean Turnaround by Art Byrne.  The book was excellent and really struck a cord with me.  So while writing the review, I paused for reflection about what are the lean books that have influenced me the most and why.  I came up with a distinct list of four books.  Below is the list in order that I read them and why it had such an impact on me.

  • The Toyota Way By Jeffrey Liker – This was the first book on lean that I read.  Of course, right?  It is the foundation of everything else.  All the principles clicked instantly with me.  The book showed me that others are doing it a better way.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean By Jamie Flinchbaugh & Andy Carlino – I read this book after learning and implementing lean for about 4 years.  The book took everything I had read from the internet and been implementing and organized it in a way that really made sense to me.  The principles allowed me to organize my thoughts and actions.  This allowed me to become a better coach/teacher/trainer.
  • Better Thinking, Better Results By Bob Emiliani – This book was a great case study of how you can transform every aspect of a company.  Not just manufacturing, but HR, Sales, and Finance.  It showed how using lean to become more efficient can free up cash to grow or pay down debt.  Great case study that really reinforced that lean can be done anywhere and should be.
  • The Lean Turnaround By Art Byrne – This book reinforces what I learned from “Better Thinking, Better Results” but Art also laid out actions to be taken to have a successful lean turnaround.  Art stresses and demonstrates the importance of having the top leadership engaged in the work and not just supporting the work.  It was the first book I read that is designed for executive leadership.

Deeper reflection leads me to recommend reading these books in this order for anyone that hasn’t read any of them.  It has a nice progression to understanding what lean is and what are some guiding principles to understanding how effective lean is when done throughout the entire organization and finally the need for executive leadership and how to lead a lean turnaround.

What lean/business books have influenced you?

Create Superheroes Through a Strong Process

It is amazing to me the amount of confidence a person can have of producing a successful outcome when they are supported by a strong process.

“A bad process beats good people” is a quote I picked up from Jamie Flinchbaugh and Any Carlino.

The point of the quote is to stress that even good people will fail within a bad process so design the process so it will repeatedly deliver good results.

Let’s look at the same thing but in a different way.

“A strong process turns good people into superheroes!”

When a strong, repeatable process is designed and followed it will instill confidence of the people using the process.  The more the people use the process and the more they see successful results the more confidence is built.  The person looks like a superhero because they are delivering on results time after time.  Confidence can build to a point of almost arrogance because they know they can deliver the results wanted if they follow the process.

This is true of kaizen events and problem solving as well as day-to-day work execution processes.

This does not mean a strong process can’t be improved because you can always make it stronger, but understand if you have a strong process and use it to your advantage.

Turn yourself into a superhero as well as others around you by developing a strong process for something you do and following it.

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