Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Maybe it's time to add another waste to lean's big seven (or eight depending on your perspective).

We already have a WORM PIT waste digs us into. That little mnemonic device will help you recall the categories of waste as Waiting, Overproduction, Rejects, Motion, Processing, Inventory, and Transportation. And we can remember that the only way to get out of the wormpit is by using our collective Intellect.

But is our intellect being overtaxed by noise? Are we now overproductive as a result of advances in our ability to communicate with each other? Gil Friend sent a tweet that cited Car & Driver reporting that 18% of cell phone users, and 48% of young drivers (16-25) text while driving. This is NOT safe multi-tasking.

But the question is Why? I have to admit that I too am guilty of sending an occasional short text from the drivers seat. But much more frequently, I'm certain a much higher percentage of cell phone users read email, check google maps, look up restaurants, or do other tasks that are just as distracting as texting, but don't report it as texting.

Are we making it clear to our people that we, as employers or as family and friends, expect them to respond immediately when we want to ask them something? Are we forsaking any reasonable hope for quiet time or personal time? Do we really want to exert that kind of control over others?

With everyone connected, and most people addicted to checking emails and texting, we have truly drfted from the digital age into an age of overproductivity. How long can we continue if we start burning people out or killing each other in our cars?

-- Posted from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A couple of days in Miami Beach

Came to Miami Beach for the International Boatbuilders Exhibition. I came down a day early, thinking I had something to do Sunday, but that wasn't the case. My wife joined me, flying in from Fort Walton Beach where she had been with friends. As we walked the beach, the boardwalk and the boulevards, we saw amazing diversity among people.

I had the chance to walk down the length of Lincoln Road on Sunday afternoon, and then again on Tuesday night, both times by myself, content to just watch. It was very entertaining, with ample examples of the unusual. I noticed that in many stores, the mannequins have breast enhancements, which tells me the stores are very much connected to their customers. This is a town where $1,000 cocktail dresses and $600 shoes hold the space in store windows; where street performers tease children and old women, or simply move when you least expect it (the grey girl was particularly good;) and where restaurants are elbow to elbow and compete for your business.

In its stores are amazing things with amazing price tags. I saw everything from Cuban cigars, to hand carved wooden cocks (the chicken kind - pervert), to Nike shoes. The Ghiradelli store is a favorite. Tonight the free sample was a chocolate and peppermint stick square...just what I needed after a huge wienerschnitzel and liter of weissenbiere at the Hofbrau Munchen.

This is a town of very short dresses, very tight jeans, and it's clear that no one goes outside without careful thought about the look they want to portray. It's a very body-conscious town. On the boardwalk along the beach (arguably my favorite feature in the entire city,) a constant parade of runners and walkers pass us by, most wearing as little as possible to keep things from shaking too much.

Collins Avenue is the main North-South drag. We stayed at the Doubletree Surfcomber hotel, situated between the Delano to the south and the Sheldon to the north, one of the smaller hotels on the art deco strip. The cookies alone make it worth the stay. As we walked up Collins from an evening stroll, we saw as Aston Martin, a Rolls-Royce, a couple of Ferraris, and a Lamborghini, just cruising like you'd see a chevy any place else. The same is true for people on Lincoln Road.

Yep, this is a town full of unusual things, but then I started noticing that there were still an awful lot of normal folks around too. There were Conventioneers, making fun of a huge watch on a mannequin, a little louder than most and traveling in a pack. There were families, and lots of kids. I heard lots of Spanish, some English, a little German, some French, and some stuff I don't know where they were from! Most looked absolutely usual, in a clear contrast to what they obviously came to see...the unusual.

The beach here is one of my favorites. It's wide and clean. It's firm up close to the hotels but softens as it slopes gently to the Atlantic. We watched the cruise ships sail from the port. Kids played in the surf in all kinds of strange types of bathing suits...mostly looking like underwear. Lots of Asian families on the beach, and people of all colors. The beach is tops optional, so occasionally a walker gets an extra treat of a tanned latina emerging from the water.

Despite the higher cost for nearly everything here, this is a great place to visit. IBEX is moving to my back yard next year (Louisville, Kentucky) so I might just have to plan a vacation for my next visit down here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The President and our Kids

This uproar about the President of the United States speaking directly to school kids has me baffled. For 200 years we've loved our President to talk to our kids. We want our kids to succeed and the ultimate challenge has always been "Maybe someday YOU could be President of the United States."

We are fortunate in this country that we can debate issues of relevance freely and shape policies. We have a long and proud history of getting behind our Presidents, usually regardless of Party, when something needed to be done. Everyone agrees that SOMETHING has to be done about health care. Everyone agrees the SOMETHING has to be done about terrorism, about immigration, about education, etc. We have a President that was elected by a significant majority. The noise about everything he is trying to do coming from the right drives me crazy. President Bush got bashed by the left and comedians plenty, but no one ever stooped to comparing him to Hitler. No president that I can recall had to endure this endless noise.

People say they are AFRAID of this President. What the hell has happened in this country where we can't say, "Crap, our guy lost. But we still need to move forward as a nation, so let's get behind him and make some progress."

We have to move forward. He's the leader, like it or not. He deserves support, but not blind obedience. We need intelligent debate instead of emotional grandstanding (from BOTH SIDES). Please...Let's make this country GREAT our own eyes, in the eyes of the world, but mostly in the eyes of our children. This argument about the President talking to our school kids is simply not a relevant issue. We should use this as an opportunity to teach our kids how great this country can be.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unlikely leaders

I was at my surrogate grandmother's funeral yesterday, reflecting on her stories and on those others told about her. I never really thought of her as a leader, only as my grandmother. But she touched so many lives, and I've never heard anyone say anything negative about her, except herself, and then only in a story about her own mother.

On the drive home, I thought about her as a servant. And how, as a servant, she led so many people to do so many things. What we focused on yesterday was her discipleship. How many people were led to Christ as a result of interacting with her? Her greatest gift might be her ability to tell a story, and how she could draw you in to her story and keep you there, engaged, excited, waiting anxiously for the next word. But I think also that her gentle disposition and her kindness created the right storytelling environment.

How can leaders in all walks of life learn from that small point?

It isn't the story you're telling. It's the person telling the story. Be the right kind of person - a servant - and your stories will matter and people will learn.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Community Action Partnership

We're about to start our first Community Action Partnership program in Louisville, Kentucky. This is a special version of ILS's Lean Systems Certification Series that we're doing onsite with three host companies. Each week of the series has a different focus and is hosted by a different company in their facilities. First up is Linak-US, maker of linear actuators, the device used to make adjustable hospital beds and other furniture adjustable!

Week 1 (August 24 - 28) focuses on Systems, so we'll be learning about Value Stream mapping and analysis while we actually create a value stream map at Linak.

For more information about the Lean Systems Certification Series, see:

For more on the Community Action Partnership, see:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday, Course Ends

We've just finished up a week of learning about the Lean Organization. This workshop focuses on people, leadership, learning, and systems. The class had twenty people from 13 different organizations representing everything from learning institutions to textile manufacturers to boat builders. Two were owners/CEOs of their companies.

We had a lot of great discussions. We spent time talking about the servant leadership and about developing a system to identify, encourage, and reinforce the set of behaviors we want in our leaders. This one theme kept returning as we discussed collaboration among working teams, between customers and suppliers, and between individuals.

This group progressed well through the three rounds of the StrikeFighter system simulation, eventually building 15 aircraft in just under 17 minutes (against a target of 14 minutes.) We wrapped up with a discussion of self-efficacy and psychological flow, wit a focus on practical steps to take to enhance both.

Now I'm ready to head back home to the US. There are always a lot of interesting developments down here, and we have a crew staying busy here. It's nice to see the interest growing, but I worry about the quality of consulting beyond what we're doing down here. It's pretty easy to find consultants who can help with a 5S effort or with a couple of kaizen blitzes. But listening to the participants in the course, that's about the extent of expertise once you get away from ILS and TexSkill our partner. More people need to understand how to focus on developing people and improving their skills, instead of just applying lean tools almost at random.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sunday, Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia

Up to meet the sunrise. A short walk this morning; trouble with my knees again. Beautiful sunrise over the surf. About a dozen boats bobbed in the waves and maybe thirty surfers, braving the icy Pacific for a shot a t a decent wave to ride. Cyclists are also out in droves this morning. It is a perfect start to a beautiful day. I was surprised and delighted at how many sunrise walkers greeted me this morning. Simple, but nice and I remembered an activity from the little book "Fanning the Creative Flame" that said go for a walk, and greet everyone you pass. Now I know why they recommended that.

Stopped in, after several passes, for breakfast at a beachfront open cafe called Montmartre by the Sea. I thought I'd have something different so I ordered their low-fat brekky: two poached eggs, turkish toast with avocado, and a grilled tomato. I could not believe how good it was. With a cup of flat white coffee and a place to sit and write, I was all set.

This week has been great for perspective taking. The walk along the coast at Coogee when I arrived Wednesday morning, and yesterday and this morning on the beach here just reinforce the desire or need I have to live someplace like this permanently. I'll have to start looking for something in Florida, but I want to keep the farm in Kentucky to enjoy seasons when we want to. Got to figure out how to finance that kind of lifestyle.


After a couple of days with friends in Australia, interacting with the leaders of a couple of different facilities, I wonder about a few things.

-Too many senior leaders seem to think they know more than they do and get very defensive when they realize they don't know what they don't know.

-Even the leaders who know what they don't know are often afraid to admit this because of the way organizations cultivate leaders behaviors to conform to preexisting patterns.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Start up

Let's see how this blogging thing works. I have this idea to share leadership insights with readers as I discover them. Since I'm a lean guy, I'll be sharing "leansights" too. I'll try to keep up with this so we have a regular serial going. Send questions, comments, ideas, and insights to me at Thanks.