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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?

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?

Whitepaper – Comparing Lean Principles & 14 Toyota Principles

In 2010, I segmented a whitepaper (part 1, part 2, part 3) I had written comparing the Lean Principles I have learned from the Lean Learning Center to the 14 Toyota Principles.

The whitepaper explains how the 14 Toyota Principles bring to life one or more of the Lean Principles.  It breaks down each Toyota Principle and shows which Lean Principles are brought to life and how.

The whitepaper is available fore download in the Downloads section of the Beyond Lean.

Lean Positivity

In my previous post I wondered about wasted human potential within a pretend Lean system.  Today, I want to share a second hand story of the exact opposite.

I have a colleague that has had the opportunity to be a part of a pretty successful Lean journey.  As I talked to him, I became less interested in the mechanics of the change to Lean and more interested in his personal story.  The things I’ve heard from him reaffirmed my faith in the Lean process and reminded me why I am so passionate about it in the first place.

At first glance, this guy normally appears to be a bit on the grumpy side.  But, when talking about the effect of Lean on him and his workplace, his face literally lights up like a kid at Christmas.  When he tells his story, he talks about how the process changed him from being frustrated to loving his job.  And about how much fun he had coming up with new ideas to solve problems.  He spoke with optimism, not despair, about how to continue finding the waste and savings opportunities after the initial activity took care of the “low hanging fruit” we all talk about.  I heard his story about being involved in his first kaizen report out and having Jamie Flinchbaugh in the room.  He told of being initially intimidated by Jamie, but then being excited about sharing what he had done and learning from what Jamie said.  He spoke of the challenge and commitment involved and of the lasting impacts that being a part of the whole process made on him.

It was in this conversation that the light bulb flickered back on for me.  I enjoy being a part of making a business more successful and solving complex problems.  But, the real deep down motivator for me is that someone may be able tell a story of the impact that a Lean journey has had on them and that I may have had a part in that process.  At our best, we aren’t just transforming processes or balance sheets.  We are transforming people.  I’d like to thank my new colleague for reminding me of that.

(For the record, I have no connection to Jamie Flinchbaugh or LLC other than owning his book.  I was just really impressed by his role in this story.)

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2011 – 5 Thru 1

2012 is now in full swing.  Before 2011 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2011.

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 2011.  Enjoy!

5.  Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #2 – 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.

4.  Seth Godin and Failing Better (April 2011) – This post dives into a post from Seth Godin talking about how to fail so you learn faster and use that to your advantage.

3.  Sportscenter Has Killed U.S. Manufacturing (June 2011) – Manufacturing is fundamental.  The U.S. has lost it’s sights on the fundamentals and is just worried about the flashy.  The U.s. needs to get back to the fundamentals in order to get back on top.

2.  Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Exploring the question as to why lean people are not seen as more than just lean experts.  Looking at a process from end-to-end seems like a good business practice no matter what the role.

AND……

1.  5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – Most viewed post for two straight years now.  A look at using 5S in the office.  What is going too far and how to use 5S in the office properly.

I look forward to more posts in 2012!

Top 6 – 10 of 2011

My Continuous Improvement: Reflection is Key to Learning

As I look for ways to improve, I am inspired by other lean thinkers and bloggers.  I see what they are trying and look to how that might work for me.  I try and experiment with things in order to make my job easier and to feel more in control and organized.

I decided to start a series that will be based on what I have tried in order to make my work better.  It may be small or large things and most likely it was an inspiration I got from someone else.  I hope that by passing along what I have learned that it may inspire others the way others have inspired me.

A few years ago, I took a class at the Lean Learning Center.  The class taught the lean principles as presented by Andy Carlino and Jamie Flinchbaugh.  One of the five principles is to “Create a Learning Organization Through Experimentation and Reflection.”  The point that resonated with me was the importance of reflection.  Without reflection, there can be no learning.  Reflection is the time when we take what we have learned and applied and decide how it has worked or not worked for our situation as an individual, group, or organization.  The difference isn’t reflecting after the fact, but planning the reflection in as part of the process.

It resonated so strongly with me that I block off one hour every Friday morning (or last day I work in the week) to reflect on the previous week.  I have been doing this for almost four years now.  There have been weeks when I have missed the reflection time, but that is OK.  It signaled that something was different.  It is such a habit for me that co-workers have stopped interrupting during my reflection time.  I look back at the work done over the last week and how to move forward the next week.  I make note of some of the challenges and mentalities I have encountered over the week so I can reference them if need be at a later date.

I still have room for improvement in how I reflect and the content to make it even more meaningful, but there is no doubt that doing this has helped me understand how I have handled different situations over the last few years.

It’s not the learning and doing that makes us better.  It is understanding how and why the learning and doing makes us better.

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