Blog Archives

Reflection Types

During my work, I have seen people learn and reflect in two different ways.  One is to learn something through reading, doing, listening or any other way and spend time reflecting on it right then and there.  They take the time to deeply understand what they learned and how it applies to them before they move on to something else.

A second way of reflection I have seen I call the information gatherer.  It is learning something new in all the ways I listed above and just letting it sit.  The person moves on and gathers more information on many other things.  They just let the information simmer in their mind and an hour, a day, a week or even a month later BAM!  It hits.  They understand how it applies to them and their situation.  They understand the learning deeply and can apply it anywhere.

Neither way is right.  Neither way is wrong.

In fact, a person may be a combination of both depending on the situation and what they are learning.

I am a combination of both.  If it is a situation where I need to learn and apply something now, I will be very intentional about reflecting and trying to figure out how what I learned applies to what I am working on.

If it is just learning for my learning, I will take in as much information as possible and keep gathering it.  Eventually, sometime down the road it will click and a huge learning will occur.

What type of reflection do you most often apply?

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 5 Thru 1

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!

5.   Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #9 – 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.

4.  Don’t Over Complicate the Formula (October 2011) – Talks about simplifying formulas to get you directionally correct especially with calculating kanbans.

3.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #4 – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

2.  Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.

AND……

1.  5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #3 - 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 hope 2014 is a great year!

Top 6 – 10 of 2013

Best of Beyond Lean in 2013

Today I am highlighting the five most popular posts written in 2013.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Visual Management at Home (February 2013) – A great example of a visual board used at home of a friend of mine.

4. Hoshin Planning – Catch Ball (April 2013) – A great video explaining the process of catch ball during the strategy development process.

3.  My Continuous Improvemnt: Personal Kanban 3rd Revision (January 2013) – The latest update to my evolving personal kanban for work.

2.  Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri (March 2013) – Chad Walters does a great job explaining strategy deployment using the movie Moneyball

1.  When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment (May 2013) – Talks about the importance of setting standards and using them to understand your processes.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!

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?

Lean In Project Management

Like so many that started learning and implementing lean in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I started applying lean principles and concepts in manufacturing.  I spent nearly 15 years applying lean thinking in a manufacturing environment.  I absolutely loved seeing the immediate change in material flow or the feedback from operators that someone listened to them and they were able to make things better.

It is no secret.  A manufacturing environment is a tangible environment to see the improvements and get quicker feedback back on how you are applying lean thinking because of the immediate visual results.

A couple of years ago, I moved from the manufacturing environment to the office/project management environment.  This was quite a change and one I looked at as a new challenge.  I took it on.  I have worked with product development and retail management teams.  Not even thinking twice as to what I was doing…until recently.

This summer I took on the role of project manager.  I am managing the deployment of technology to our retail environments.  The changes are not as immediate and not as visual as a manufacturing environment.  After a while, I questioned whether I was still applying lean principles to my work.  Finally, I took a step back to have a serious reflection and what I discovered is my previous 15+ years have engrained the thinking and principles without realizing it.

I have been directly observing the work as activities, connections and flows by sitting with the teams developing and testing the technology.  I see how the work and how the product works.  I have gone to a few retail stores to see the technology being used so I can bring those observations back to the team.  I also went to other retail stores using similar technology and talked with the store managers about what is working and what isn’t working for them.

The principle of systematic problem solving comes to light with using visual boards to status the project and highlight the problems that need to be worked on in the next 24-48 hrs.  We are trying to surface the problems quickly, so they can be resolved.  We have broken the issues down into categories to know which are the highest priority.

Systematic waste elimination comes from defining new processes that will continue once the project is launched.  We are working to improve and make them as efficient as we know how today.

Each day at standup, we are establishing high agreement on what we are going to be working on and how we will go about working on it.  This establishes clear ownership of the work and an expected due date.

Finally, we are learning about the product, the technology and our processes with every iteration.  Getting feedback incorporated into the product as quickly as possible.

The reflection helped me understand how I am using the lean principles everyday even if it is not in a tangible manufacturing environment.

How about you?  In what type of environment are you using the lean principles?

Model the Advantages of Using an A3

The A3 is a great communication tool.  It can help tell a story succinctly and clearly making it easier for people to understand your thought process.  An A3 will contain some background information, the current state, what the desired or future state is and an action plan to get there or measurements showing the success of the work.

Putting together an A3 can take some time.  It isn’t actually putting the A3 together as much as it is truly understanding the issue and stating it clearly and concisely.

When your manager doesn’t understand the time it takes to truly understand how to put together an A3 it can be frustrating.  As a lean learner, I encourage you to fight through that frustration and use the A3 to communicate with your manager or other managers.  Show them the power of tell a good story on an A3.

The A3 won’t be perfect, but this is OK.  If the others you are sharing it with understand your thinking then they can better add input.  This better input leads to quicker high agreement and quicker resolution.

Think of using an A3 correctly as taking your time to do something right the first time, like setting up a machine.  It may seem like it takes a long time but done right there isn’t as much rework because everyone understands quickly and you don’t have to have conversations over again because of the lack of understanding.  Just like the machine being set up right the first time and not having to make tweaks over and over.  In the long run, it is shorter to take your time upfront.

Eventually, others will see the benefits and the effects will spread.

When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment

A huge take away from some of the studying of Toyota and case studies I have seen is that everything they do is considered an experiment.  Every cycle on the assembly line.  Every product development project.  Every meeting.  Everything is a test to see if they got the expected results from the process.  If not, why?

It may seem excessive but it isn’t.  If a process is designed to deliver certain results then we are doing ourselves a disservice if we aren’t stopping to ask if the process did deliver the expected results.  If not, why?  If so, why?  What can we learn?  Positive or negative.

This can be applied to all work.  Many studies state that having an agenda and a plan for a meeting is important to making meetings effective.  If that is the case (and it has been in my experience) then afterwards we should ask if we accomplished what we had on the agenda and did we stick to the timeline?

A person example is the agenda I use to conduct improvement (or commonly called kaizen) events.  I have a detailed 3-day agenda that is my standard work.  Each time I have timing information for every phase of the agenda.  During the event, I note the time that I move on to the next phase.  After the day is over, I reflect to understand if my experiment is working or not.  If something took more time I try to understand why.  If it went quickly I try to understand that too.

Approaching each improvement event as an experiment that is testing my standard process has allowed me to learn and create new ways to approach different phases of my agenda.  I have discovered quicker and more effective ways to accomplish some of the tasks.

To truly learn and improve a person has to look at everything as an experiment testing our standards.  People need to be open to learning with everything they do.

My Kids’ School Eliminates Waste in Cafeteria

It’s that time of year again when I spend a day working at my kids’ school.  It is always a lot of fun to be with the kids in their classrooms and help with activities.  Every year I learn something new from a visual management perspective or from some other aspect of lean.  The school is not “using lean” but there are always elements of it around.

This year I noticed some small improvements that were great ways to element small amounts of waste that would add up over time.  One example was the placement of the silverware in the lunch line.  It used to be the first thing in the line so every kid would grab one of each piece of silverware before choosing their lunch and knowing what they would actually need for their lunch.  Now the silverware is the very last thing in the lunch line.  The kids can choose their food and then pick the appropriate utensils.  This eliminates the cleaning silverware that was never used, saving time in putting silverware away as well as possibly reducing the number of dishwasher cycles needed to clean the dishes.

A second small improvement I saw had to do with reducing food waste.  As part of the lunch, students get milk in cartons, yogurt cups or other food items that are packaged.  In years past, if the student didn’t want it they threw it in the trash.  At the same time, other students might want an extra milk or yogurt and would have to pay extra for it.

Now the school has the “share table”.  It is a small table where students that don’t want their milk carton or packaged food item can put it on the table for other students to eat.  If another student wants an extra milk they can ask to go to the “share table” and pick an item.  Less food in the trash and less cost to parents of kids who want a little extra.  What a great idea!

It is amazing at all the learning that I still get every year I go into my kids’ school.  We can learn ways to reduce waste and communicate visually anywhere.  We just have to keep our eyes and minds open.

Balance Process and Results

In the lean world we always stress how important a good process is to achieving results.  One of my favorite graphics I have seen is the one pictured below.  It shows the four outcomes of balancing process and results.Process_Results_Grid

  • Having a Good Process and Getting Good Results is the gold star.  We know we have a solid process that will give us the good results we want.
  • Having a Good Process and Getting Bad Results is half way there.  We know the process works like it should.  It just doesn’t give us the results we want so we need to go back and redesign the process.
  • Having a Bad Process and Getting Good Results you are gambling.  You got lucky to get the good results and it won’t be consistently repeatable.
  • Having a Bad Process and Getting Bad Results is just not good.  Nothing is working and you should start working on this right away.

I am one of the first to stress process, but as you can see it must be balanced.

When designing a process it must have the right mix of structure and flexibility because it is about understanding, learning and getting the results.

For example, when designing a manufacturing process you may be more prescriptive because of the need to get a particular assembly done correctly.

For a process around coaching or problem solving, there needs to be more flexibility.  A determined process should be designed and used but it shouldn’t be as prescriptive as a manufacturing process.  It allows for the person to be able to go where the problem is taking them but achieving the desired results is still extremely important.

The need to balance the importance of a good process and the getting good results is a key skill to have when teaching people about lean.

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?

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