Category Archives: Development

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.

Coaching Takes Personal Investment

“I don’t feel like a coach anymore.  We are friends and I care about what happens.”

—Usher on The Voice

I know what you are thinking right now, “Did he really just quote Usher on a lean website?”

The answer is yes I did.  Usher made that comment about a week ago when asked about his thoughts on coaching his last remaining team member.

The comment struck me because I have had the same experience when being coached and when coaching.  The people that have coached me I feel that we have become friends as well as the people that I have coached.

Being a coach is more than just giving instruction, whether it is in business, sports or life.  When you are fully vested in coaching you care about what happens to the other person.  When you truly care it is hard not to become friends or develop a more lasting relationship.

We may say we are coaching a lot of different people but when it comes right down to it we really only coach a few people at a time.  It becomes too intense to do anything more.  We may instruct or guide others, but when it comes to coaching there is much more of a personal investment.

Usher wasn’t the only coach to make similar comments.  I noticed that other coaches on The Voice have said the same thing about caring for their team members they coach.

Who has coached you?  Do you still talk with the ones that really had an impact on you whether it be sports or business?

 

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2012 – 10 Thru 6

2013 is now in full swing.  Before 2012 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2012.

New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past.  While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.

This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2012.  Enjoy!

10. Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It (July 2011) – This is a post from Joe Wilson before he became a full-time author at Beyond Lean.  Joe talks about ways to sell lean to people who are not bought into the benefits of lean.

9.   Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #8 – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with.  The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.

8.  Dilbert Leading Transformation (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #10 – The Pointy-Haired Boss wants clear responsibilities and employee engagement.

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

6.  Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #5 – The first part of a three part series where I compared the lean principles I learned from the Lean Learning Center to the Toyota Principles.  This post covers the first five Toyota Principles.

My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2012.

You Must Teach a Man to Fish

“Give a man fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

This quote comes to mind when thinking about my role as a lean transformation leader.  Lean is about how we think and behave.  I don’t want to just do things differently.  I want to teach and coach others how to think and behave in a way that aligns with the lean principles.  There are two major reason for this.

Reason 1

I want the changes that I make to be sustainable.  If the people involved in the changes don’t think in a lean way then at some point the changes will not be sustained.  The metrics/results/process will slide backwards.  In my experience, it slides at least to the previous state if not even further backwards.

The best example is a manufacturing facility that Joe and I worked at together.  At one point, the facility was in the red with revenue over $100 million.  The company decided to “go lean”.  Joe and I, as well as another friend of ours, were tasked with leading the lean initiative in our facility.  We became part of the plant staff.  The plant manager and the department managers listened to what we had to say.  They let us lead the lean initiative. Joe and I did a lot of great things from a lean perspective.  In three years, the plant was in the seven figure profit range while revenue had dropped 25%.

This was a collaborative effort to use lean.  Everyone played a part in the success.  But in a big way, Joe and I failed.  We both moved on to bigger and better opportunities.  During the turnaround of the facility we did not change the way the plant manager and department managers thought.  When some traditional mindsets started to creep back in, we were there to guide back to a lean mindset, but we never really changed their beliefs.  We hadn’t taught them to fish.  Within a couple of years, the facility was back in the red and back to traditional batch-and-queue mass production manufacturing.  The results were not sustainable.

Reason 2

The second reason overlaps with the first.  When you transform another person’s thinking, not only will results be sustainable, you have another person who can educate and transform the thinking of others.  The lean thinking allegiance starts to spread.  Instead of one person trying to transform thinking, you now have two.  And so it spreads.

Transforming people for traditional ways of thinking to lean ways of thinking is not easy.  The better the support system that is built the easier it is to continue to transform people’s thinking.  There are times when a great support system is very reassuring.

These are the two biggest reasons why transforming the thinking is just as important as delivering the changes, driving results.

 

Random Problem Solving Skills

I’ve been in a really reflective state lately as I try to weigh some different opportunities.  While I have come up with some really interesting topics for posts, most of them have turned too lengthy or incoherent to clog your Lean reading time.  One of the discarded themes has also come up a couple times lately in conversation and I thought I’d throw it out in print.   Here are three of the less obvious skills that have served me well in solving problems and working in continuous improvement activities over the years.

The first one is utilizing some sorta advanced Excel skills.  For all of you statistics nerds out there, I totally agree with you that Excel is not statistical software.  But it can be really, really helpful in sorting out piles of data in to something useable in a hurry.  For me, sometimes digging through the raw data can help highlight a pattern that I can’t see in aggregate.   Sometimes it can help put information in context and help people make better decisions faster.  I have used functions from Pivot Tables to conditional sums to writing macros (with some excellent assists from Matt) and so on.  It’s not sexy, but it is helpful.

The next skill that has served me well is another Office tool…PowerPoint.  I’m not talking about fancy slide transitions with animated gif’s and musical accompaniment.  I’m more referring to using the existing toolbox to tell concise, effective, clean stories.  You could argue that A3 reporting is much more concise and clean (and I’d agree), but PowerPoint is still massively used.  The ability to create a visually appealing communication is valuable for almost everybody.

Another skill that seems to be on and off the radar is the ability to filter information. Learning how to quickly separate signals from noise is a very underrated skill and one that needs your attention.  Every person and every idea deserves respect and consideration.  But not every idea needs to be implemented.  Abnormal situations should get due attention, but not every abnormal situation should be weighted the same in terms of response.  Developing the ability to say “no” or “not right now” with a reasonable justification can save a lot of inefficiency.

That was my quick list of unspoken skills (in no particular order).  For the record, I’m not propping these up because I consider them strengths of mine.  They’re just things that I do well enough to not do too much harm when I try to bust them out.  Mostly they’re things that I’ve picked up from others and tried to emulate.   What about you?  Do you think I overrated any of these?   Any other not-just-Lean traits that you use or seen others use effectively?

P.S. ……. K.I.S.S.

Problem Solving…Keep It Stupid Simple (as in really simple).

Recently, this is the valuable lesson I learned in coaching problem solving using an A3 to show the thinking.

Typically, when I have coached problem solving using the A3 I have had the A3 broken down into big sections (Background/Business Case, Current State, Problem Solving and Root Cause Analysis, Action Plan and Results).  Under each section there were more segments that broke down the process to help try to go through the problem solving step-by-step.

With another group, by necessity, a colleague and I informed them of what an A3 was, gave them a 20 minute high level explanation on the big sections and a single point lesson to help guide them.  A week later the three A3s we saw were probably the best first pass A3s I have ever seen.  There was still some learning and some tweaking to do to tell a good story but overall they were very good.

Upon reflection, people that got the minutia explanation were trying too hard to “fit the form” and not use the A3 to show there thinking.  The coaching became much harder and the people kept focusing on filling the A3 out correctly.  This cause frustration and in a lot of cases people didn’t want to use the A3.

The group that got the high level explanation felt the freedom to explain their thinking any way they saw fit.  The A3s were quite different but they all had the big segments (at least through the areas they have progressed).  The questions and coaching around these A3s were much different.  More around different modes of thought and next steps in the problem solving process.  Not what do I fill in here.

Just like physical processes…keep it simple when teaching and coaching problem solving using the A3 as a tool to make the thinking visual.

What are your experiences?  Is simple better in your eyes?

My Half Full Glass of Studying

Last week I began really applying myself to my studies for the ASQ CSSBB (Certified Six Sigma Black Belt) exam.  On a personal level, I’m pretty opposed to doing this because I really feel like I am chasing this certification for the piece of paper and no other reason.

My first thoughts in looking at this were pure dread.  I haven’t forgotten what DMAIC stands for, nor have I forgotten what the steps entail.  I haven’t forgotten what the statistics mean or how to interpret them, even if I let software do most of the heavy lifting.   I still remember the quotes from famous quality people in the study manual and can recite the punchline in the Dilbert that is placed in the beginning of the book.  What I did forget was to send in some paperwork on time.  I’ve already taken and passed the test once, but let my certification lapse out of ignorance and inattention.   In that sense this is more of a personal rework loop than a doing-it-right-the-first-time kind of step.

However, once I got past my selfish whining, I realized I could look at this completely differently.  Instead of just trying to cram in enough tidbits to squeak by, I could give myself a personal “Ohno Circle” to study from.  What I’ve found is that I’m not really tied to having to learn the material the same way I did the first time around, so I’m free to focus and explore some of the smaller details I may not have thought through before.  I can try to seek out some new knowledge out of an “old” source.  I guess it’s sort of like me trying to look for new ideas for improvements after the kaizen event report out, except there really is an exam at the end.

I realize I’m stretching the metaphor a bit far, but once I switched the way I looked at my personal learning in the same way as a manufacturing process it opened some new lanes of thought for me.  I am now itching to dig back through and re-read some of the books on my shelf from Ohno and the Toyota Way series and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to see what may be in there.  I’m sure there are things in each book I didn’t pick up the first time or that have slipped from my mind since I first read them.  I really wonder what is out there in the material I already have.  It’s almost too bad I have to wait to get there until I’m done with this test!

Learning A3 Downloadable Template

If you look at the page links above you will see a page that has been added labeled Downloads.

This page will have files you can download to keep and use. The initial thought is these will mostly be templates that can be used, but I am not limiting it to just templates.

My intent is not for it to be a template just to fill in but a way for people to learn. I want it to be a tool that can be helpful to understanding lean and facilitate conversations.

Here is the template. There are two worksheets in the template.

  • SWI – Intent of Use – This is meant to explain the best way I have learned to use the learning A3. It tries to answer the questions of what is the purpose of the learning A3 and how to use it. It also, gives a standard operating procedure to go about using it.
  • Learning A3 – This is the template to start with. It leads you through several discussions on what business need is the learning tied to, what is the purpose of the learning, what behaviors and concepts will be the focus on learning and actions to take to reach your targets in the upcoming year.

Please feel free to download and use it. Any feedback on the ease and clarity of use would be appreciated.

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