Monthly Archives: November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving Day.  A great day to watch football, eat a large amount of food and enjoy the company of family and friends.

I want to say a special thank to all the readers of my blog.  I appreciate your comments and your time.  I know your time is valuable and knowing you take a few minutes each week to read what I have posted means a lot.  I hope to continue to add value and post topics and viewpoints that you enjoy reading.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!!


Lean Leadership Example

Last week, I attended a lean forum with speakers and breakout sessions.  It was done very well.  I was very excited that I was able to attend.

One of the speakers was a General Manager at a distribution center.  She told the story of how lean has evolved at her facility and where it stands now.

When listening to transformation stories I try to listen for a few different things to see if they are really getting it or just going through the motions and implementing tools.

I will say her story, I haven’t directly observed, is a very promising and exciting story.  I believe they are doing things right and well.  There were two bits of evidence that lead me to believe this.

First of all, she is holding the staff, managers and all employees accountable for learning about lean and taking action.  Not a lean group or a someone else.  Herself and everyone around her.  In fact, they integrated the lean staff into manger roles and no longer have that crutch to lean on.

There were stories of the General Manger’s own learning and changes.  How getting dissolving the lean group but expecting better results helped make everyone accountable.

While dissolving the lean group worked for her and her facility don’t go do this just to remove the crutch.  This General Manager was a true believer in what lean could do for her and she partnered with other local companies that were doing lean very well.  She had a support system but it was one that held her accountable for leading lean.  Not supporting it.

The second piece of evidence was a video she showed of a great employee driven improvement.  Great it was employee driven, but what really stuck with me was the General Manager promoting the small improvement.  It was about a five to ten second improvement in a manually process.  This one small improvement was going to save $40,000 in a $19 million target she was going after.

Most people look for the BIG improvement to get the whole chunk at once.  They don’t understand the large gap is made of hundreds of small problems.  They don’t have the patience to go after the small problems.  This General Manger understood this concept.  It was very refreshing to see.

The facility still has a long way to go, but they are traveling down the right path and that was invigorating.

I will share more from the forum at a later time.

Guest Post: Initiative: Employee Empowerment

Today’s post is from Tony Ferraro, on behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR ( Tony strives to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. His knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. Tony believes in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.

Have you ever walked into a work facility and taken note of an atmosphere full of complaints and unmotivated workers? I have, and let me tell you first hand it’s not a fun place for anyone to be. In fact, it is basically the opposite of what is needed for growth and success. Why are these employees creating such a negative work environment? Or is the negative work environment caused by something other than employees? Well, many times the work atmosphere is a direct result of leadership. Great leadership can motivate employees, create an environment conducive to high levels of productivity, and create unparalleled levels of employee job satisfaction, while not-so-great leadership can single handedly flush an entire business down the tubes. Whether we want to believe it or not, good and strong leadership is essential to the success of a business.

Creating Good Leadership

Good leadership isn’t something that just happens on its own, good leaders have to be trained, empowered, and willing to help others reach towards success as well. By doing this, the leaders help to motivate and grow the employees by guiding and leading by example. In order to empower employees, there are some basic elements that contribute tremendously to creating strong and positive leadership:

*Create a Positive Work Environment: A productive work environment that yields high levels of success is similar to having rich soil in your garden. The richer the soil, the hardier and more desirable the harvest.

*Empower Others to Grow: Being a leader isn’t just about focusing on being a leader and growing oneself, but it is also about empowering others to grow as well. Good leaders take the time to discuss with employees where they would like their career to go and help them to develop and refine their skills to help them achieve their career goals. One of the most depressing things to an employee is to believe that they have no opportunity for growth and that they will be stuck in a dead-end job doing the same thing for the rest of their lives. When employees elicit this mindset, their levels of productivity drop significantly and they are attending work for only a paycheck and that is it. This is poison to the success of a business.

*Think outside the Box: According to Rita Mae Brown, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Don’t harbor insanity, instead if you want to strive for different results, changes must be implemented. The same goes with leadership, when leaders embrace the practice of thinking outside the box and are willing to think creatively, the sky is truly the limit.

*Encourage Experimentation: This component of leadership is similar to thinking outside the box but this tactic is more about encouraging employees to engage in experimentation. Employees should be praised for coming up with new ideas to help enhance products and streamline processes.

*Always be willing to Help and Listen: A good leader should always be willing to help employees. Whether there is a disagreement between two co-workers or a machine that creates constant headaches, an effective leader is someone who will be there to help sort out the details and rectify any issues or problems.

Never underestimate the power of great leadership. However, it is a mistake to just assume that because someone is in a management position that he or she is or will be a great leader. Instead, a leader takes time to create and must be willing to learn the important and crucial elements that make a leader great.

Losing Focus

Losing focus can happen to anyone, especially when working on changing the way you do things.

I am a good example of that.  For close to seven years, I have consistently block time on my calendar every Friday morning to do reflection on the week.  The last three weeks or so I have not done it.

Also, part of my job is to bring others along the lean journey.  Get them to see and understand and start to make changes.  I lost sight of that for a bit too.

Sure.  I got busy with my projects and was running with my hair on fire, but I have plenty of other weeks like that.

Everyone will lose focus from time to time.  Losing focus in itself isn’t a bad thing.   Losing focus shows others we are human and capable of making mistakes.  How we react is what is important.

We should realize and acknowledge we have lost focus.  Then do something to regain that focus.

I have found people respect this and as a leader you become more authentic when helping others because you can relate to losing focus.

Is there something you should be refocusing on?

Dilbert – Google Kills Spirit of Inventing

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

Has anyone ever had this happen?

I have.  I had an idea and was researching the materials when I found several links to a very similar product out there.  In fact, I have been able to find something on any thing I have thought up.

What does this do to people trying to create new inventions?  Does it kill the spirit?

What are your though