Blog Archives

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 10 Thru 6

2014 is now in full swing.  Before 2013 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2013.

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 2013.  Enjoy!

10.  Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #6 – 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.

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

8. Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – A quick description of a strategy A3 with a link to a template that can be downloaded.

7. Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It (July 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #10 – 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.

6.  Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – 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.

My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2013.

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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?

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.

 

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2011 – 10 Thru 6

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!

10. Dilbert Leading Transformation (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #3 – The Pointy-Haired Boss wants clear responsibilities and employee engagement.

9.   Adding Inventory…A Good Thing? (March 2011) –  Sometimes adding inventory might be the right thing to do based on your business. Take time to understand your business and its needs before deciding.

8.  Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – 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.

7.  Beyond Lean Joins Twitter (February 2011) – Beyond Lean announces the venture out onto Twitter.

6.  Redbox Produced in the U.S. Using Lean (October 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #5 – News article about Redbox manufacturing using Lean to produce the Redbox dispensers close to it’s customers in the U.S.

My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2011.

Control What You Can Control

Have you ever gotten frustrated that another department was pushing product to you when you weren’t ready for it or sending defects to your area or your manager was unclear about the priorities?

It is even more frustrating when you start to understand lean thinking and concepts.  We want everyone to see the world through the lean lens we have developed.  If the everyone else would see it that way then we could make a real difference.  If they don’t we feel beaten down, like we may never get better.  The waste we see can become extremely frustrating.  As lean thinkers, we may even want to give up because others aren’t seeing the big picture.

This is a common problem I have seen with people that have truly bought into lean thinking in an organization that has not.  I have had that those feelings and thoughts myself.  This is when we have to remember to control what we can control.  We have to remember there is no end to a lean transformation there is only the next step.

If we concentrate on making our work better and applying the thinking to our own world, we can slowly start to make a difference.  For instance, if you are frustrated that your boss isn’t clear about the priorities, take what you think are the priorities and write them on a whiteboard with a header of “Top Priorities for the Week of XXX”.  Make the board visible.  Let your boss see it.  That way a discussion can be had if necessary.  If he asks why you are working on something point to the board and say these are what you consider the top priorities.  Eventually, your boss will start to use the board too.

I have seen managers in non-lean organizations use lean thinking to just their little world.  As they did, their performance increased and they got increased responsibilities.  This led to their reach of lean thinking expanding to others.  The more that got exposed the better things were getting.

Lets be clear.  It still was a slow process over a few years, but these managers had a clear understanding of what they could control and they controlled it using lean thinking.

Control what you can control.  Lead by example.  Understand others may never come along the journey.  None of this is easy especially when you buy-in to the lean thinking, but it will help keep your sanity.

The Difference Between Kaizen and kaizen

Big K vs. Little k has different meanings depending on what you are talking about.  In baseball, big K means you struck out looking and little k means you struck out swinging (some use a forward k or a backward k too).  But in implementing lean thinking, my colleagues and I have used it to refer to the different types of thinking regarding continuous improvement.

‘Big K’ kaizen refers to the type of continuous improvement where everyone improves their work everyday.  Every employee is working to drive waste out of their work in order to improve the business on a daily basis.  This is the ideal state of lean that we would like to achieve.

While ‘Big K’ kaizen is a great future state, most companies starting a lean transformation do not have much employee engagement.  This is where ‘Little k’ kaizen can help.  ‘Little k’ kaizen is what most people refer to as a kaizen event.  An organized event where a cross functional team including people from the process, suppliers of the process, and customers of the process are sequestered, typically a week, to work on improving the process.

Most organizations have not had much employee engagement in the past.  This is usually due to many reasons that usually can be placed back on the shoulders of leadership.  The event based ‘Little k’ kaizen allows a way to kick start the employee engagement by gathering employees together to work on improving a process.  The key is to listen to the employees and let them implement their ideas with leaderships support.  ‘Little k’ kaizen is not a forum to push management ideas out onto the employees and have them execute it.

I have seen the ‘Little k’ kaizen process be very successful as I have helped organizations kick start the employee engagement.  The pitfall is treating ‘Little k” kaizen like it is the same as ‘Big K’ kaizen.  Most organizations are so happy with the ‘Little k’ kaizen process results and the employee engagement from the event that they plan more of them.  They continue to get these great results and before you know it they set a goal to have X amount of ‘Little k’ kaizen events per year.

The events are not what are important.  It is engaging the employees in problem solving.  The trick is to know your culture and build on the momentum from the ‘Little k’ kaizen event.  As leaders we must continue to engage our employees after the ‘Little k’ kaizen event and push them to make changes to improve the process as they come up with the ideas every single day, this is ‘Big K’ kaizen.  Don’t wait until the next ‘Little k’ kaizen event.  When employees are looking for ways to improve the process everyday and not waiting for the next event or management to make the changes, then you are getting to true ‘Big K’ kaizen.  It isn’t easy, but it is well worth it when it happens.

Don’t be Lazy…Get Out and Lead

Leading a lean transformation is not a spectator sport.  You have to get off the sidelines and into the game if anything is actually going to change.  Too many times I hear managers and executives say, “I completely support lean and the work you are doing.”  This is a good start but that is not what lean thinking is about.  Lean is about putting the principles and rules into action.  We must change the way we are doing things or we are becoming Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.

What stops someone from getting out and leading the lean transformation?  The two things I have run into is not knowing where to start and fear.

Where to start?  is a common question.  To be honest, it doesn’t matter.  Read a book, an article, or a blog.  Information on lean is everywhere today.  Pick up something, read it, try to apply it, then reflect and see how what you tried worked and how it didn’t work.  Lean is about learning and improving, so learn something and try it.  Then improve it.  Continue that cycle over and over.

One obstacle to the learning cycle is fear.  Fear of failure or the fear of not being the expert.  People may be willing to learn and improve, but there may be a fear of failing.  What will people think?  How will I be perceived if I fail?  I don’t think it is failing that people might grumble about.  It is how you react when you fail.  If you try and fail and give up, that can be seen as failure because you never tried to fix it.  If you try and fail, but learn and apply the learning to try again chances are you will succeed.  When you succeed you will be seen as persistent.

Another reason people may be afraid to try lean is not being the expert.  I have been learning, implementing, applying, and improving my lean knowledge for over 10 years.  To this day, I still hear, “How can lean be all that good?  You failed and you know more about lean than me.”  You do have to have thick skin to hear that, but then you have to take the time to explain that failing is ok.  Learning is about failing.  Not everything works the first time.

Leading a lean transformation is very hard work.  If it was easy everyone would be doing it.  You don’t have to be a lean change agent to lead the transformation.  In fact, it is preferred that you are not.  Leading from a management role is much more effective.  Most companies pay management more than the direct employees adding value to the product/service.  I believe part of the reason for this is because we are expected to do the hard work of leading by setting an example.

Time to get off the sidelines and into the game.  It is time to lead!

Top Posts of 2010

The wonderful people at WordPress.com and Stats Helper Monkeys provide some great statistics over the year.  I thought I would share the Top 5 Posts based on views from 2010.

If you saw them it might be a refresher.  If you didn’t see the post I thought it might be good to share what seems to be the most popular ones.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2010.

1

5S in the Office September 2010

This is about applying 5S in the office.  When is it appropriate to use and when is it not.


2

Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (Part 1) July 2010

This is the first of a three part series comparing the 5 Lean Principles from the Lean Learning Center to the 14 Toyota Principles.


3

Dilbert Leading Transformation July 2010

A funny Dilbert Cartoon from Scott Adams about how employees might react to a boss wanting employee engagement after years of not caring about the employees.


4

Walmart Changing Transportation Strategy June 2010

Comments on an article about Walmart changing their transportation strategy.


5

Redbox Produced In the U.S. Using Lean October 2010

Highlights of an article showing what Redbox is doing to use lean and keep the manufacturing in the U.S.

Walking a Fine Line – Traditional and Lean Management

Becoming a change agent for lean is very difficult.  People expect you to model the behaviors all the time.  We aren’t perfect ourselves.  We are constantly learning new ways to get better everyday.  Because of this, change agents are expected to be ahead on the learning curve.

When I was hired in to my last couple of jobs, it was because I was ahead of them on the learning curve.  The companies asked me to come in and help them up the learning curve.  These were great opportunities.

This weekend, I did some reflecting on transitioning to new companies.  So far, I think they went well.  The one point that I did see in both cases is how fine a line we walk between trying to get others up the learning curve and exhibiting a old school controlling behavior.

While trying to bring people along the learning curve, I have found myself in situations that are the same from my past.  I can see people heading down the same path I once did.  It was riddled with setbacks and errors.  I try to tell them not to take that path and show them what I have learned.  They still want to make the same mistakes I did, when I can help them avoid the costs and the time of doing that.  At times, I have crossed the line of helping and became demanding.  “Don’t do that.  Do this, so you don’t make the mistake.”

What I have started to learn (but I’m not perfect) is more patience.  Let them make the same mistake, but be there to help them after they do.  I have seen where the person learning gets more from making the mistake and then seeing a better way afterward.  It is a lesson that is now etched in their memory.  This is still faster than letting them learn it all on their own.  It is really hard to do when you have seen the results before hand so you want to get there quicker, but the engagement is about ownership and sustainability.

As lean change agents we walk a fine line between showing new lean management skills and demanding lean management skills via traditional management of demand and control.  We won’t be perfect about it, but we should be conscious of it.