Monthly Archives: December 2012

Best of Beyond Lean in 2012

I was looking at the Top 10 posts for 2012 and noticed that only 2 posts from 2012 made the Top 10.  Both posts were from earlier in the year.  I finally realized that a post from about May on in the year has very little chance to overcome posts that have a 5 month or more head start on gaining views.

I decided to highlight 5 of the most popular posts written in 2012.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Misinterpretations of Lean vs. Six Sigma (April 2012) – How Six Sigma and Lean can be misrepresented in what their purpose is.

4.  Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – This is the post about the new downloadable template to help with strategy discussions.

3.  Visuals Used in the Office (October 2012) – A couple of visual management examples from the transactional workplace.

2.  True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.

1.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!


2012 Lean Reading Conclusion

Earlier this year, I posted a blog about not reading any lean or business books this year.  Choosing to spend the year putting into practice more of what I have read already and trying to understand how it pertains to my work.  In June, I published what I had read to date to give people a flavor of what I have been reading.  I have accomplished my goal and read one non-work related book per month for the entire year.  I have listed all the books from the first half of the year below also along with the books from the second half of the year.

I found I really enjoyed reading these other books.  There was almost always a leadership lesson to be gained from these books.  My interests grew as the year went on and I was amazed as to what there was to learn from fiction books as well biographies.  With the new year upon us, I must now learn how to balance reading books for work along with fun fictional and biography books.


JanuaryLone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell – This is the autobiography and recount of the lone survivor of a S.E.A.L. team member that got caught in a fire fight deep in Taliban territory.  It is an amazing story.

February It’s So Easy by Duff McKagan – The autobiography of Guns-N-Roses bassist Duff McKagan.  GNR is my favorite band of all time.  Duff now writes for ESPN’s Page Two website.  He is a really good writer and the book is a great recount of his life and view of the GNR rise and fall.

March11/22/63 by Stephan King – This a fiction story about a guy who has a chance to go back in time and stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating President Kennedy.  Long book, but very enjoyable.  A fun read.

AprilAmerican Sniper by Chris Kyle – Chris Kyle is a S.E.A.L. sniper that at the time of the writing was credited with the most confirmed kills in American military history.  This is his recount of his time in the S.E.A.L.s.

MayFifth Avenue by Christopher Smith – A thriller novel about two of the most wealthy mean in New York City and the extremes their grudge will go to.  Good book.

JuneLife by Keith Richards – This is the autobiography of Keith Richards the guitar player for the Rolling Stones.  I love the Rolling Stones and I was traveling the the UK for work…seemed like a good fit to read at the time.

JulyAbraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith – Interesting book following the true path of Abraham Lincoln’s life ans encounters but with a fictional vampire twist to Abraham’s reason for making the choices in life that he did.

AugustThe Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – What is the Holy Grail? I had seen the movie when it came out several years ago and decided to give the book a try.  It was excellent.

September In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – This is a nonfiction novel.  It is the story of a brutal murder of a family of four in western Kansas in 1959.  Truman Capote does a great job of getting inside the heads of the killers.  It follows the family and killers from the day before the murders until the execution of the killers.  The book was written in the 1960s.  Living in Kansas now this true story captured my attention.

OctoberGone Girl by Gillian Flynn – A twisted revenge novel.  This novel tells of a marriage gone wrong and the lengths a woman will go to to make it clear who is in control.

NovemberDark Places by Gillian FlynnGone Girl was so good that I tried the book Gillian wrote before it.  Dark Places is a great who dunnit book.  It keeps you guessing until the end.

DecemberThe Redbreast by Jo Nesbo – This novel is the first of the Harry Hole detective series.  Actually, it is the 3rd novel in teh series.  Jo is a Norwegian author.  The first two books have not been translated.  The 3rd through the 8th (just released in the U.S. this fall) have been translated.  Harry Hole is a police detective in Oslo, Norway.  He has taken to drinking but still gets the job done.  Very enjoyable detective novel.

What did you read this year?

Merry Christmas

Image courtesy of Feelart /

Today is Christmas Eve.  I am looking forward to a great holiday season and spending time with my family.  There is nothing like seeing the kids’ faces light up when they wake up Christmas morning and see that Santa has visited them.

If you are traveling, be safe.  Have a Merry Christmas!!!

Guest Post: The Importance of a Quality Management System

Today’s post comes from Alice Rose.  Alice is a freelance copywriter working for QMS International plc, a business certification company specializing in ISO 9001

As the recession hit many businesses began to think of the best ways to cope and short-term solutions such as cutting staffing levels and reducing marketing costs were some of the most popular. But, as time has progressed and consumers are still being very cautious with their spending, I want to touch on some other ways that you can try and beat the big squeeze.

What is a quality management system?

A Quality Management system is the processes, procedures, organizational structure and resources that come together to ensure that a business provides a consistent and reliable service. It emphasizes different principles within a business such as leadership, continual improvement, staff involvement and different approaches to decision making.

It’s all about the consumer

The first thing to remember is that if you provide a great product or a brilliant service to the consumer then they are going to keep coming back. One way to check that your company is running a high quality business is to put a quality management system into place. Quality management systems often incorporate a ‘customer service’ element to them, ensuring that there are procedures in place so customers can record a complaint which means that issues can be addressed and reduced in the future.

Manufacturing industry

If you are manufacturing a product there are certain steps that you can take to ensure that the final product will arrive with the consumer in a high quality state. This can start at the beginning of the production chain, in the factory for example. Simple tasks such as ensuring your workplace is clean will lead to the creation of a better final product. As the product progresses along the chain if simple manufacturing tasks are conducted in a more streamlined fashion the consumer is more likely to receive a high quality product – which will also lead to less waste on your part, reducing costs.

Service industry

The services industry is not immune to the economic downturn and there are simple changes that your company can take to ensure that the customers are still happy. One of the simplest ways to find out if you are providing a good service is by encouraging customer feedback – if you know where you are falling down it’s easier to pick yourself back up.

Setting an example

It is important that quality management systems are considered as a priority by business management who have the facility and knowledge to implement these systems and who, leading by example, will encourage greater productivity and performance across the board as well as locating new areas of the business for growth.

Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2012 – My Flexible Pencil

At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management.  The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers.  This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.


A couple of years ago, I met David Kasprzak through blogging.  David is a professional that has worked in large companies throughout his career and recently finished his MBA.  During this time he started his blog, My Flexible Pencil.

David covers a wide range of topics.  He discusses observations of business he has from being with his family, like how helping his son pick something out for show-n-tell was a lesson in teaching people how to develop answers not directing them towards an answer.

David also blogs around business issues like continuous improvement, project management and behavior & culture.  At the beginning of 2012 David had a long series of blogs about ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment).  The topic spurred great conversation from many in lean and ROWE alike.  David wrote a few blogs on the similarities and differences of ROWE and Lean.  Then wrote his own thoughts after hearing both perspectives.  I think it is worth reading and developing your own opinion on the subject.

I read a lot of blogs and respond when I have time to as many as I can, but My Flexible Pencil has caused me to sit back, think and respond more than any other blog.  My Flexible Pencil is a great read.

Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2012 – Lean Blitz

At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management.  The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers.  This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.


A blog that I discovered this year was Lean Blitz written by Chad Walters.  Chad is a student of the Toyota Principles and he does a great job of explaining each principle in a separate blog post.  Each post has an example of the principle that can be seen in everyday life.  If you are not familiar with the Toyota Principles I would suggest checking out Chad’s posts on the all 14 Toyota Principles.

Chad uses his business background to write about lean in business like the overproduction Domino’s Pizza has in their stores with all the pre-built pizza boxes.  He also points out how Domino’s can use standardized work toe fold the boxes in the most efficient way like the worker in the TV advertisement.

Chad also shows how the Toyota Principles can help small businesses in a practical way.

A unique perspective that Chad brings is his experience in working with professional sports teams and organizations.  He does a great job of relating the Toyota Principles to happenings in the sporting world.  The Miami Marlins inability to think long-term in order to achieve their goals is a fantastic post about Toyota Principle #1.

Being a very large St. Louis Cardinals fan, I really enjoyed the post about the filth at Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs).  Chad uses data sited from studies and then relates it to having a good 5S program in place and using visual management.  The morale increases everyone is happier.  Is this the reason the Cubs can’t win?

Chad talks about other lean concepts such as long lead times and how sporting organizations are losing revenue due to long lead times.  Texas A&M got off to a great start in football this past season and their quarterback, Johnny Manziel played well enough to be in the discussion as a Heisman finalist as the best college football player.  The university had long lead times on the jerseys for Manziel and ended up leaving a lot of cash on the table and fans unhappy when they couldn’t get one.

Chad has created a unique blog at Lean Blitz.  It is a fun and different way to demonstrate lean principles in action in any environment.

Guest Post: Business Leader Antics That Fail to Inspire

Patrick and Joyce Del Rosario are Filipino business and career bloggers. They work at Open Colleges, one of the pioneers of Online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of diploma of management and small business courses.

In every business there are defined leaders that help steer teams in the right direction. Problems arise when these leaders put antics before strategy and begin to conjure up different and detrimental ideas about how the business should be motivated to operate. These antics have the potential to change the course of project or company and can be either the success or the downfall of an organization.

If you are a leader, chances are you are aware of the tactics and strategies you use to keep your employees motivated. What you are likely unaware of is the true impact this can have on their motivation and work performance – that is until you get the end results and then it may be too late. Here are some of the top antics to avoid doing as a business leader.

  • Don’t treat employees like a number – Your employees are people. They come to work like you do and they have lives away from the office like you do too. Treating your employees like a number and pushing away their personal needs is a sure fire way to lose acceptance in your leadership skills and respect for your position.
  • Don’t forget your own mission statement – You may have sat down with your team to outline a mission for a project or for the company, but can you remember all of the components that went into drafting this important statement? As a leader, you must live and breathe this mission statement in all you do and all you motivate your employees to do. Not knowing it shows a lack of care on your part and your team will notice.
  • Don’t forget to encourage positive performance – Praise goes a lot ways, especially in the workplace. When you praise your employees, you inspire them to continue doing their best. When you recognize them for nothing but their downfalls, they will curl away from you for fear of more lashings and not have the motivation to do better.
  • Don’t leave your team behind – When you show up late and leave early every day you are sending a signal to your team that you have no care for your position or for their hard work. Instead, as a leader you should stick by their side as they tackle a difficult project or encourage them as they put in the extra effort it will take for your team to go from good to great.
  • Don’t look like a slob – Non-verbal cues are just as meaningful as what you say. When you show up dressed like you just rolled out of bed with stains on your shirt and your hair a mess, your employees will see your lack of care for your position before they hear it. Instead, wear clothing that you will be proud to be seen in. This will allow you to command respect instead of disgust.
  • Don’t blow off e-mail or voicemail responses – When a person takes the time to e-mail you or call you, they have spent a portion, albeit a small portion, of their time reaching out to connect. When you blow off this connection you essentially let the other person know that you have no respect for what they were calling to tell you leaving them feeling frustrated and pushed aside. This can be detrimental to team morale. To avoid it, keep current on your e-mails and do your best to call people back quickly.
  • Don’t make threats – Threats can come in the form of something as simple as telling someone that they could be easily replaced or by commenting about future performance reviews. If an employee needs a boost a better tactic is to encourage and mentor them to achieve their best.

As a boss, the way you act and speak has a profound impact on an office. Use these tips to help remember what not to do.

Setting Objectives with Goals

As the year comes to an end, companies and organizations start to evaluate how they performed for the year and what they need to do to make next year better.

The planning for the new year starts with objectives.  What is it the company needs to do to be successful in the upcoming year?  Reduce costs. Increase sales.  Bring new products to market.

Objectives are only half of the work though.  Too often, I see companies set objectives above but never publish a goal for the objective.

Can I reduce costs by $1 and be successful?  $100 million?  What?

How much do I need to grow sales?  What part of the company’s market needs to grow in sales?

How many new products need to hit the market?  How much revenue to new products need to generate?

Without answers to these questions how are people suppose to know if they are being aggressive enough during the year?  Maybe we only need to reduce costs by 5% or maybe it is 25%.  The answer to this question will inform how you go about reducing costs, growing revenue or bring new product to market.

As leaders, we need to set goals/targets for each objective.  Then we need to give updates during the year to understand how we are progressing towards these objectives.

These isn’t new or earth shattering.  But it is something I see quite a few companies neglect.

What are your objectives for next year?  What is your goal for that objective?

Dilbert Takes on Transformational Change

Scott Adams does a great job of nailing how typically organizations take on transformational change.

(click on image to enlarge)

Two concepts I see Scott Adams touch on here.  The first one is the idea of just speaking about transformational change will cause transformational change.  It isn’t enough to just talk about it or say it.  It is very hard work to create transformational change.

Which leads into the second concept shown.  Transformational change does not have to be bad or painful on people..causing us to want to hurl.  It can be good and as management we need to convey a clear message and show actions that back that message up.  We have to consider how people process change differently and create change plans with that in mind.

If all else fails….just show them this cartoon.