Wednesday, September 30, 2020

90 - Productivity

How do you know if your team is as productive as possible?

I've seen some weird calculations for productivity in businesses.  Most of the time, it depends on who is doing the measuring.

Since we're talking about visual management systems and productivity as a measure for the team, we have to think clearly about what our team members need to know about productivity and delivery.

We have to know our team's output.  What is it that they produce and deliver to customers?  What are they supposed to accomplish every day?

Everyone assembles some type of product, even if it's an information product like a report to your boss.  In places where you only do that once a month, how do you know if you're being productive every day?

It comes down to daily targets set by the leaders.  These targets will break down the product or service to a daily chunk of work, then we'll measure our progress against that target.

In the easy case, my team needs to produce 24 scopes today, in one 8 hour shift.  Our target output is 24, but it'll help me keep pace if I break that down to 3 per hour.  I can check every hour now to see if we're on track to hit the target.  If the plan is 24 and the actual is 24, in its simplest form, that's 100% productivity.

Setting those targets isn't arbitrary though.  The target needs to be based on actual demand, and the team needs to be staffed to complete the work assigned.  If it takes the team longer than 20 minutes to complete that scope on average, they'll never be able to keep pace and hit the target.

I have all kinds of ways to help you determine your demand, your pace, and your targets that will give you truthful information and help you make better decisions.  I've done this with government offices, with manufacturers of everything from steel to apparel, with insurance providers, fast food retailers, warehouses, and hospitals.

Call me and let me help you build a more productive team.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

89 - Measuring Safety

What should you measure for safety?

Last week, we aired an episode about getting started with visual management.  To me, the only thing that makes this easier is if everyone knows the purpose behind the system.  Visual management systems are a countermeasure to some problem the organization has and wants to solve.

When we're clear about the purpose:  Improve employee engagement; Improve work flow; improve communication channels; it's easier to talk to team members about how they can contribute to the success of the system.  There's something in it for them.

The things we measure have to be meaningful for the team.  That means that all team members understand how their actions move the needle on any particular measure.

Safety should be your number one metric.  But how do you make this meaningful for people?  Sure everyone wants a safe work environment, but what are the team members doing to improve safety?  What are they doing to reduce the risk of an accident or incident?  What are they doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Some companies will roll safety in with their 5 S stuff and call it 6S.  I guess it sounds like success, but what I've seen is that very few back it up in any tangible way. 

If you're only counting recordables and near misses, you're trying to move forward by looking in the rear-view mirror. 

So what should you be doing?

I recommend including everyone in your behavior-based safety program that involves doing a safety observation of a particular area.  Make a plan for who will do an observation in the team area and track whether people are staying on the plan by completing their observations on time.  If you include everyone, you'll end up teaching everyone how to look for specific hazards that they might not notice working away every day.

Assign them to observe in an area where they don't typically work everyday.  Have them record their observations as answers to specific questions on their safety observation card.  Then if their observation includes nothing to draw attention to or repair, then the green side of the card is displayed in the safety area of the board.  If there IS an observation, everyone needs to be empowered to stop the work there immediately and work together to remove the threat/hazard.  If it's something that can't be fixed right away, make sure you have a clear process for escalating.

I've seen this in far too many places, where they'll do an observation and turn the card in to the EHS guy but no action ever comes from it.  If that's the case, you're wasting everyone's time. 

People are too valuable to not manage the risk in the workplace.  If you need some help setting something up, I can help.  Send me a message or give me a call.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Monday, September 28, 2020

88 - Reflection on the week

Here's the recap of lessons learned from last week's videos here on Elevate Your Performance.

Monday - Problem solving gemba walks.  Key lesson:  go and see, ask questions, show respect

Tuesday - Fundamentals in problem solving.  Key Lesson:  Say what you see to get things started

Wednesday - Standardized work.  Key Lesson:  Useful first, pretty second

Thursday - Getting started with visual management.  Key Lesson:  Understand what problem you are trying to solve when you install visual management.  Second Key Lesson:  Keep your focus on the needs of the team members to get them engaged.

Friday - I was working with a client early so I missed this one.  I'll get something uploaded today to keep the sequence and schedule intact.

Saturday - Travel Day.  I recounted my adventures traveling during the pandemic.  Key Lesson:  Keep your sense of humor.

This week:  I will continue sharing some thoughts about visual management systems and metrics, applying the key lessons learned from Thursday. We're also welcoming October. 

What I am planning for October through January is to use this energy I have behind these 87 episodes of this video series, Elevate Your Performance, to muster the discipline to write this High Speed Problem Solving book I already have outlined.  Send me a little encouragement.  I'm going to need it.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

87 - What to expect if you travel.

Good morning.

What can you expect if you go out for a trip that involves a flight, rental car, and hotel these days?

But first...I broke my streak yesterday.  Until yesterday, I had done 86 daily Facebook Live posts in a row.  I missed for a good reason, though.  Yesterday I was working with a client.  That is pretty significant for a number of reasons I won't get into right now. 

I plan to get back on track with two videos today, then I'm going to pretend that the streak is intact!

But Today;  Today is Saturday, and Saturday is Travel day and I’m going to share my experience this week traveling to the client's location.

Here's a little background info: 

Pre-COVID, I was traveling at least a couple of weeks every month.  My engagements are usually 2 to 5 business days each.  Because business had been pretty good for me, I've been in Delta's Platinum or Diamond frequent flyer status for years.  I'm at the top level for both Hilton and Marriott.  And I'm at the top level for Hertz. 

I also have the kind of American Express card that includes membership in Delta's SkyClub, so I have access to all of their lounges, plus the Priority Pass lounge network that gets me access to hundreds of lounges around the world. 

As a business traveler, I am spoiled rotten.

Here's my first recommendation for you:  Pick your favorites (airline, hotel, and car rental) and stick to them. 

AIRLINE:  I've used Delta for as long as I can remember. Every time I've flown with American or United, I have a less-than-optimal experience.  Sometimes for convenience, I will fly Southwest. 

HOTEL:  I first picked Hilton because there was this nice embassy Suites I liked to stay in whenever I worked in St. Louis.  I'm also a time-share owner in the Hilton Grand Vacations Club, so that keeps me in Diamond status with them. 

But I tried Marriott and really love their properties. I went through their travel agent training program too, that taught me a ton about how they promote their different brands. 

RENTAL CAR:  I picked Hertz because USAA has an awesome discount that works with them.  I've had good and bad experiences with them, but they’re usually easy, so I stick with them.  I got mad at them a couple of months ago for leaving me stranded at the airport after their last shuttle bus ran, but trying to find anyone who does as good consistently is not easy.

All right...back to my experience this week. 

For the Flight, you can expect airports to be at about 30% of the crowds I experienced pre-COViD.  Lines are short.  The TSA Pre-check line was really no faster than the normal line, but I get to keep my shoes on and all my crap in my backpack where without TSA Pre-check all electronics have to come out. 

Delta has first class cabins on most planes now, and because of my status, I am always near the top of the upgrade list.  They are loading planes with about half the number of people.  On my flights, first class had a 1 seat - 2 seat configuration and they were only putting one person on the 2 seat side.  The rest of the plane was 2 and 2 and they did the same - unless you wanted to sit with a loved one, you didn't have anyone sitting next to you.


I was in three different airports coming and going this time.  Columbus and Hartford are not necessarily major markets and their airports are pretty small.  Most of the stores and restaurants were closed in both because there just isn't enough demand to support the cost. 

You can expect to have to go a little out of your way to get a snack or a drink.

In Detroit, it is a major hub for Delta and pre-COVID you couldn't walk 15 feet without having to change direction a little to avoid bumping into someone. 

So yesterday, a Friday evening where before, tons of business travelers would be crowding the barstools and lounges trying to make it home after a busy week, the airport was a comparative ghost town. 

Detroit has an internal train in Terminal A that usually runs constantly along the 2 mile stretch from gate 1 to gate 78.  It wasn't operating.  There are 4 SkyClubs in Detroit, but only 1 is open.

On the plus side, everything was spotlessly clean.  Hand sanitizer is everywhere, and everyone, except for a few pilots I saw, complied with the mask-wearing order. 

Yes, in all the airports and on the plane the entire flight, masks are required.  They allow you to remove your mask to eat or drink but will gently remind you on the plane to keep it on.

On arrival in Hartford, I had to stop by the health desk they had set up on the way to baggage claim.  There, they show a map of the US with states colored Red or green.  If you're arriving from a Green state, you're good to go.  If it's red, there are a couple of additional steps - and several health related questions to answer first.  Ohio was green there, so I was good, but Ohio was Red on Massachusetts's map, so they required a negative result from a sample less than 72 hours prior to arrival. 

Fortunately, I was good to go.


For rental car service, with Hertz, in most airports they have a President's circle area of upgraded cars that I usually get to pick from. At Hartford they had a convertible Mustang I could have gotten, but I usually try to stick to more utilitarian cars, so I picked up an Altima.  I should have gotten the convertible because the trees were changing color and the hour plus drive I had from the client to the airport would have been beautiful.

All the cars are sanitized now and Hertz puts a yellow sticker over the edge of the driver's side door saying so.  You can see that no one has been in the car you've chosen since they cleaned it.  I thought it was a nice touch.


The hotel I chose was the Hampton Inn in Auburn, Massachusetts.  I picked it because I had two different facilities to visit during this trip and it was sort of centrally located.  It's a Hilton property and I've stayed there a few times.  This time it was a little cheaper than the Fairfield Inn by Marriott that's just around the corner.  Hilton has signs everywhere to remind you that masks are required pretty much whenever you are out of your room.  The room was spotless and it too had a seal on the door saying so.

What I missed most was the breakfast area.  This time, there was no breakfast area and not even any coffee.  They did have an in-room, one cup at a time coffee maker, but before COVID, they had three varieties of coffee with French vanilla and hazelnut creamers that I always loved.

I don't miss the crowds. 

I don't like having to wear the mask, but I like spreading the virus a lot less. 

I miss the convenience of buffets in the SkyClub and the hotel, but I understand the precautions taken.  The SkyClub still had plenty of food and snacks but everything was individually wrapped now.

When you're a frequent traveler, you learn that the most important travel accessory you can take with you is a good sense of humor.  Things happen.  Flights get cancelled.  Passengers are dicks.  The car you want isn't available.  A million little things go wrong.  But with a sense of humor, you can smile and roll with it. 

I still love traveling.  I love airports.  I love all the people going to all those different places. 

I love walking past the gates in Detroit where all the big planes get ready to fly to international destinations - and wish I were on those instead.

Traveling is one of those sweet rewards we can give ourselves.  I’ll be very happy once things are safe again.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2020

86 - Getting started with Visual Management

Good morning!

Are you wondering how to get started with a new or modified visual management system and the team huddles that go along with them?

What do you measure?   What do you display?  How do you get people to care about the boards?   How do you get people to care about the huddles?

It can be a lot of hard work for leaders.  I don't want to sugar coat this. 

The most important aspect of visual management and huddles is understanding why you want to incorporate them into your workplace or work life. 

You need to understand what problem you are trying to solve with this.

To me, the most important reason to do all this is to allow all employees to feel more involved in what's going on at work and give them a system where they can become engaged. 

Why that?  Because we need engaged employees to help us see and solve future problems, to share new ideas, and to develop the skills they will need to be future leaders.

How do you start?  You'll need some specific measures.  Usually there will be a set that includes a metric for People, Safety, Productivity or Delivery, Quality, Service, and Cost.

The general question for all of these metrics is "what do people need to know?"  This isn't about what the leaders need to know, but this will play directly into metrics at higher tiers. 

"What do the people in the huddle at tier 1 need to know?" 

1. They need to know if their team is here or if they can expect more work because they're short handed today.  So we MEASURE Attendance.
2. They need to know if special events, training, or future vacations are going to affect them.  So we have a 3-month rolling calendar people can write on.
3. They need to know what they are expected to do that day.  What are the targets for production or service delivery - How many widgets am I expected to make or how many customers should I expect to see today? 
4. They need to know that the problems they had yesterday (or earlier) are solved or are being solved if they aren't personally involved.
5. For other things, ask them!  
a. Many will want to know how they are doing with customer satisfaction, so you will want some quality measure of their work. 
b. Many will want to know how the company is doing financially - especially if there's a gainshare or bonus structure they will benefit from with higher profitability. 
c. Others will want to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, babies, promotions, or recognition team members have received.

I'll start today with People and the simplest thing you can do to begin bringing people in - Measure attendance at the huddles.

Sounds silly to take attendance, but the way it should work is that each team member has to interact with the board to mark that they are here.  We do this to build the habit of coming to the huddle, picking up a marker, and putting a green dot next to your name.

But that alone will just be annoying, so you have to offer a challenge.  You have to offer something like: "If we have 100% attendance for a month, there's a reward for the team."  The reward can be an office pot luck, but that's pretty much a non-starter in COVID world, or it could be that everyone gets a $5 Starbucks or Walmart gift card. 

Give out the reward as soon as it’s earned.  Don’t wait til the end of the year to reward perfect attendance in February.

For longer periods of 100% attendance, you offer larger rewards. 

Don't forget though, that the purpose you are after is to get them to care about the huddle.  So the other things you measure and talk about in the huddle have to matter to them. 

I'll talk about them over the next few days.  If you need any help with this, send me a message or give me a call.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

85 - Standardized Work

Good morning from Massachusetts today. Taking all kinds of virus prevention protective measures.

One of the more important things you can do to allow you to let go as a leader is to make sure everyone knows what to do.

That sounds pretty basic, doesn't it.  But think for a minute.... You'll discover that we don't do a great job of this. 

Clear expectations are a critical piece of trust building, and since it's about trust, we have to make sure that both sides of the relationship understand the expectations of the other.

As the leader, you represent the needs of the organization, its goals and objectives, and its rules. It is up to you to ensure that everyone else knows those goals, objectives, and rules.

As the follower, you represent the ability of the organization to accomplish things that satisfy customers and keep them coming back.  It is up to you to ensure that leaders know when you aren't able to do the work so they can help round up additional resources or reprioritize the work.

For every task, there are goals and objectives, but we usually call these targets for daily work.  There are also rules that describe how the work should be done.  These should all be integrated into standardized work. 

Standardized work isn't just a detailed description of how to do the work. It captures the best techniques and knack points that people have discovered while doing the work.

Creating standardized work is a lot harder than people think.  Many fall into the tendency to have engineers or continuous improvement staff create standardized work, but the only way people will do what we need them to do with it is if they are intimately involved in its creation.

Reality mandates that we start with some specification or draft document.  But it won't become standardized work until the people doing the work show us their reality.  Then, engineering and continuous improvement staff can provide support in capturing what the people do but it has to be a highly interactive process that ends with the team doing the work owning the documentation.  Once they own it, we'll need to challenge them to keep making it better. 

That means - can they find a way to save a second or two here and there?  Can they find a way to walk less, to reach less, to bend and stretch less while doing the work?  In offices, can they access the information they need more quickly?

But when they find those better ways, the standardized work needs an update.  Keep in mind that it doesn't have to always be pretty.  They can update the document set with a pen or pencil every time they make a change in the work.  Maybe a few times a year we'll need to clean them up and reprint something a little prettier. 

Useful first.  Pretty second. 

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

84 - Fundamentals

Good morning!

There was an excellent question posed by a lean colleague on LinkedIn a couple of days ago.

He posted the video clip of Lucy in the Chocolate Factory that lots of us use in teaching and simply asked “What is the problem?”

The responses range from solutions (”They need an Andon to slow or stop the line,”“no feedback,””no Kanban”) to assumptions (“Her mental models are the problem,” “fear is present and respect for people is missing) to general statements (“Every muda starts with MURA and MURI”) - These are all different categories of waste in the lean world.

All of these comments are by seasoned professionals who are good at getting to the root cause of a problem, but solutions and the absence of solutions, assumptions, and general statements are not stating the problem. 

My response was:

“The problem is we make assumptions about what the problem is.  The problem begins with what we can observe, so say what you see.  These are the symptoms of the real problem. 

Starting with what you see, start pulling layers back with critical thinking and effective analysis.  Keep pulling until you find a measurable and actionable root cause (5 whys), then explore at least 5 ways to solve each root cause (5 whys to 5 ways). 

In this case the starting problem must be that Lucy and Ethel aren’t keeping up with the line. 

As we peel, all of those other problems mentioned here begin to come out, but we have to be able to keep our list of contributing problems in context with the observed problem or we will keep working from assumptions and we will miss the correct root causes.”

Problem solving has to begin with the fundamentals.  Sometimes, we restate what is clearly obvious, but I’ll refer to the way Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, and for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, used to start training is players.  He always started by showing the team a football, and saying “Boys, this is a football.”

Similarly, John Wooden, another legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins, the NCAA basketball team with the most National Championships, would start his training by teaching the players how to put on socks and tie their shoes.

Reminders of the fundamentals is never wasted.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2020

83 - Problem-Solving Gemba Walks

Good morning.

I hope you’re ready for a great week!  It’s the first day of autumn.  It is definitely cooling down.  I’ll probably have to start doing these inside soon.

I’m excited that I get to go back out on the road this week with a client in Massachusetts.  I’m looking forward to seeing them again and getting back in the game to help them elevate their performance.

Let me remind you that the theme this month is Let Go.  We’ve been sharing some ideas to help leaders let go and allow their people to do the things they need to do.  This is the third decision that leaders need to make every day to serve the needs of their teams.  The first is Love - put the needs of others ahead of your own.  The second is Learn - go seek to understand the work and the people doing the work so you can help them satisfy their needs.

Letting go is a little tricky because we still have to stay connected and monitor the work so we can provide support and resources when necessary, but we need to do this in a way that isn’t perceived as either micro-managing nor abandoning. 

We’ve spent time talking about metrics and visual management systems, organizing the workplace, other ways that leaders can maintain their own sense of control without revoking control and ownership from the people they have empowered.

But what happens when there’s a problem? 

Nearly every where I go, when a problem comes up it’s like everyone expects the leader to solve it and they wait for him or her to tell them what to do.  It happens in big companies and little companies; in government offices, schools, and hospitals; it happens everywhere, even in organizations that are working at high level so of operational excellence.

It’s a natural tendency we have.  When something happens, we naturally want to do something about it.  If it hurts, we want to end the pain - or maybe just grunt it out to see how much we can take.

So what should an effective leader do when there’s a problem?

First, ask questions.  Do they have everything they need to solve a problem?  Is anyone else having the same type of problem?  How long do you think it will take to solve it?  Is it isolated and contained?  What do you need from me to help solve the problem?

Then, do a Problem-Solving focused gemba walk.  Go and see where the problem actually occurred and ask more questions so you can understand the problem better. 

But remember, you are not there to solve the problem.  You are there to offer you support and encouragement.  You can also ask coaching questions to make sure they are doing the critical thinking required to solve the problem themselves.

Keep the gemba walk short or people will start expecting you to interfere.  When you leave, simply say that if they need anything to let you know, and when they’ve got a solution to let you know.

When they bring you the solution, try to keep in mind that it’s not for you to approve or disapprove.  It’s their solution.  If it works, it’s their solution.  If it doesn’t work, ask them what they intend to try next. 

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

82 - Reflection

Good morning.

It’s Sunday.  What did you learn this week?

On Monday, I got to share a story about using the idea of coupling in root cause analysis where we need to think through how things interact to cause other things.  That way we can see potential solutions in the process, in materials, or in the environment rather than just blaming people for not following the work instructions.

I think the key lesson though was that leaders really need to focus first on a failure of the process rather than the failure of the person.  And of course, leaders are responsible for the process.  If we ask “how did I fail in designing the process or providing support” that will put us in the right frame of mind for finding the ultimate root cause.

Tuesday I shared some upcoming events.  I hope you’ll listen to podcasts I’m on, register for online summits I’m speaking in, join me for an online problem solving workshop with Lean Frontiers, and register for my webinar series on culture change that starts in November.

On Wednesday, we focused on the team building nature of tiered leadership.  Key Lesson:  We need leaders to be team members and work together in teams to help the organization achieve its goals.

On Thursday, we got a little lesson in Japanese, learning about Genchi Genbutsu and the purposes of doing a Gemba walk.  Key Lesson:  Focus on relationship building in addition to whatever purpose you have behind your gemba walk.

Friday, I encouraged you to think differently about how we use Training Within Industry.   The key lesson is that TWI is aimed at teaching supervisors how to be better supervisors, not just on how to teach a task to an employee.

Yesterday was a travel update, but what I learned yesterday involved a large ash tree in my backyard.  It has a zillion little leaves that just get into everything including the dogs fur and therefore into the house.  It’s driven my wife crazy every fall for 7 years now.  It’s about 40 feet tall, and about as wide up top.  The trunk is about 22 inches in diameter.  It’s only 8 feet from the house and branches are constantly in contact with the roof, which my Terminix guy blames for some bugs he’s getting rid of.

Yesterday, after we took down the above ground pool for the winter, I grabbed the chainsaw and my courage and cut that tree down.  I’m pretty good with a chainsaw, but this was pretty risky being so close to the house.  I had to make if fall in just the right direction.  But it didn’t fall on the house or on the fence so I’m glad those lessons I learned from my Grandfather, Father, Uncles, and older brothers paid off.  It’ll take a couple of days to get it fully disposed of, so I’m learning about all this pain in my back, shoulders and arms from running the chainsaw and lifting and carrying all these branches and logs. 

Coming up this week
  • Problem-Solving Gemba Walks
  • Executive Teams and Huddles
  • Standardized work for fun
  • Measuring productivity
  • Critical thinking

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

81 - Travel Update

Good morning. 

If you are anything like me, you’re ready to travel again.  But because we’re not through with the pandemic, we need to be careful with where we go and what we do.

The CDC still has a No Sail Order in place that’s affecting all cruise lines.  It’s been extended to the end of this month.  The American Society of Travel Advisors is trying to get that lifted, but most cruise lines have extended their voluntary closing through the end of the year.  That includes Carnival, the largest cruise line with brands that include Carnival, Princess, and Holland America, and Disney Cruise Line.

I have a cruise booked for January and I’m not confident at all that it will sail.

So where can you go?

Marriott International just inked a partnership with the National Parks Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the National Parks Service.  They are offering discounted rates at their properties near National Parks - they have 406 properties that fit that description.  They are also allowing members of their frequent stayer program, Marriott Bonvoy, to redeem points to purchase a National Parks Annual Pass or to donate to the National Parks Foundation.

There’s a National Park in every state, so you don’t even have to go far.  Go out and enjoy a trail and breathe in some clean, clear air, as long as you’re away from the wildfires out west.  Please keep those firefighters in your thoughts and prayers.  They need all the help they can get.

You can also go to Mexico.  The state department lifted its travel ban to Mexico this week.  To be clear, they went from a Level 4 warning which says “do not travel” to a Level 3 warning which says “reconsider travel”.  I’m getting plenty of ads from resorts in Mexico who are desperate for tourism revenue as you can imagine.

You can also visit Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, technically, but even traveling between states, there are certain restrictions.  I’m going to Massachusetts next week, but since I’m coming from Ohio (or any state where the infection rate is over 4% - which is a bunch of states) I have to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel.  The trick is, in Ohio, the test results take up to 72-hours to come back.  So I’m working with that.

Experts are saying that it will likely be 4 years before the travel industry is back.  I’m keeping a close eye on this because I want to take a few groups to a few places in the coming years as part of a Lean Leaders’ Mastermind Program I’m pulling together with Norman Bodek and a few others.  Please use a travel agent.  They’re usually free and they’ve taken a worse beating through the pandemic than most.

If you get out of the house, stay safe.  Wear your mask.  Keep your distance.  Wash your hands.  Quit arguing with the good scientists who’ve studied and studied and have empirically determined that wearing a mask is the best way to prevent the spread of this very real virus that is still killing way too many people.

If I can help, please send me a message or give me a call.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Friday, September 18, 2020

80 - Training Within Industry

Good morning!

We're right at the end of summer.  Cooler temperatures and changing leaves are nice, but we're still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

That keeps us from really enjoying our lives to the full.  My hope is that you'll get a chance to enjoy the outdoors with a nice walk on a forest trail somewhere near your home.  I also hope that you'll be isolated enough to walk mask free, even if just for a couple of hours.

For now, let me talk about work for a minute, specifically about your relationships with your immediate leader, your team of peers, and the team you lead.

The National Defense Advisory Committee established the Training Within Industry Program in August of 1940 - Before the US even got into World War II.  It's original policy states "Management is interested primarily in getting out increased and improved production.  Supervision and training are sometimes regarded as separate functions, but they are actually concurrent with management.  TWI attempts to get this viewpoint accepted and TWO work deals exclusively with what management itself can do to train its supervisors."

Most people who are familiar with Training Within Industry, or TWI, know it primarily as a set of techniques to help people gain proficiency in a particular job in a relatively short period of time.  So, it's an effective teaching tool.

What most people miss, though, is how the program was designed primarily to train and to develop supervisors. Ideally, the first line supervisor is the trainer for his or her team.  You can't effectively train someone unless you have some trust.  TWI includes a Job Relations component as well as a Job Instruction component and they recommend working through Job Relations first.

Even in the 40's, in the midst of a global war, we realized that productivity of individuals is largely a result of their relationship with their leaders.  Let's not forget that today.

How can you build more trust as a leader, as a team member, and with your leader today?

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

79 - Gemba Walks

Good morning!

Do you want to know more about what’s going on in your workplace?

As a leader, do you sometimes feel like people hide things from you for one reason or another?

If you’re working from home, do you often feel isolated and disconnected, wondering what the rest of your colleagues are doing?

Take a walk.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve studied Toyota pretty extensively.  19 years ago, Toyota leadership released “The Toyota Way” in an effort to teach their expectations for people around the world.  It is a remarkably simple document that explains their 5 philosophical principles.



Genchi Genbutsu



One key thing I’ve learned is that Toyota, as a global company, tries very hard to use English in documents like this, so when the Japanese words remain, that usually means there isn’t an adequate translation for the term in English.

In this list we have Kaizen and Genchi Genbutsu.  One of these days, I’ll do one of these episodes on what I’ve learned about Kaizen.  Today, I want to focus on Genchi Genbutsu.

I’m not a Japanese linguist or anything, but here’s what I’ve learned.  Genchi translates directly to local.  Genbutsu translates directly to in-kind.  Those are hints, but not very helpful.  By the way, if you look up gemba (with an m) you get nothing, because it should be genba (with an n) which means actual spot or the scene of the crime.

The Toyota Way says Genchi Genbutsu means “go to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus, and achieve goals at our best speed.”  Friends who worked there usually say it means “Get your boots on and go and see reality.” 

So gemba walks are born from this need to go and see what is really going on and go see it for yourself to really understand the people, the process, the purpose, and the problems in real time.

Because the Toyota Way emphasizes building consensus, I like to teach leaders that an underlying principle for every gemba walk is to improve relationships with your people.  Yes, go and see to ensure the system is working properly.  Yes, go and see to set new challenges for the teams to achieve.  Yes, go and understand the problems people experience and the processes that lead to them.  But you are dealing with people and this is an opportunity to either build trust and build consensus, or to break it through bad behavior.

As we progress, I’ll focus on each type of gemba walk in more detail.  But for now, you can do a system level gemba walk to see overall how the workplace functions - and you can do this virtually by having video calls with your key team members. 

You can also do a process-focused gemba walk to understand a specific work process and the team of people who work with that process.

And you can do a problem-solving gemba walk to go and see the point of occurrence of a problem and understand how and why it happened.

But again, underlying all of these are critical relationship building behaviors.  The key things that drive an effective gemba walk will always be Go and See, Ask Questions, and Show Respect.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

78 - Tiered Leadership and Teams

Good morning!

Would you like your leadership team to communicate better?  Does it seem like you just aren't always on the same page, pursuing different goals or competing for resources?

Defining leadership tiers and offering guidance for how each tier meets might help.

When I help organizations with their visual management systems, we usually define 4 critical tiers of leadership. 

Tier 1 is always at the value creation level where a first line leader - either a team leader or a supervisor - supports a team of 5 to 7 people.  At this level, the focus during their morning huddle is on Yesterday and Today. 

An hour or so later, the tier 1 leaders will huddle as a team with the tier 2 leader.  This might be a supervisor or a department manager, depending on the work and the depth of the organization.  At the Tier 2 huddle, those tier 1 leaders learn to be a team, working together on the area or department's goals.  They share the information from the Tier 1 huddles, particularly the current status and what problems they anticipate that day, but they need to also be looking forward for the next week or two.  This will help them anticipate problems like personnel shortages (people going on vacation or flu season) and material shortages.

At the end of the tier 2 huddle, all of these leaders should go for a gemba walk through the work area, talking to people, sharing new information that may have come from the tier 2 meeting, providing support and encouragement, and generally improving the relationships through the department.

About an hour afterwards, the tier 2 leaders will huddle as a team with their tier 3 leader, who will probably be a department manager or a division leader.  In this huddle, the tier 2 leaders learn to be a team, working together for the department or division's goals.  They share information from the tier 2 huddle and their gemba walk (don't forget to gather things to celebrate!)  Tier 3 focuses on the week and the coming month, but still huddles every day.  After this huddle, the tier 3 leader takes the tier 2 leaders out for a gemba walk for the same reasons as before.

Toward the end of the day, the tier 3 leaders will huddle with their tier 4 leader, who will probably be the division leader, general manager, or president.  In this huddle, the tier 3 leaders learn to be a team, working together for the organization's goals. 

Every organization will have its own unique requirements and needs so you'll have to tailor the structure and experiment a little to see what works.

Keep in mind that the huddles at each level aren't formal meetings.  They need to be short - 15 minutes Max.  The gemba walks that follow should be about 30 minutes max.

Don't ever forget that the underlying goal is to build effective teamwork among the managers through the middle layers of the organization.  When you land on the right things to measure and to talk about every day, the organization will start to hum.

If you need help, this is what I do.  Give me a call and let's get you started.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

77 - Upcoming events

To help you see where you need to be to stay competitive and relevant in the future, I'm planning a series of activities starting in November.

First, I am building a series of six webinars focusing on culture change.  They'll be 90 minutes each (give or take).  I'm planning to do them in 3 two-day chunks - so the first 2 sessions on Monday and Tuesday, November 9-10; the next two on November 23-24; and the last two on December 7-8.  You'll need to register for each separately. 

I'm also doing a 2-day problem solving workshop with Lean Frontiers on December 2-3.  We'll be doing 4 hours each day with some applied learning activities for you to take into your workplace during and after the workshop.

The links to all of these are below, but I'll be posting these everywhere as I try to build an enthusiastic audience!

Online workshop:

Lean Frontiers Presents High Speed Problem Solving - an online workshop with David Veech, 12 - 4 pm Eastern, December 2-3.  Register at

Webinar series:

1 - You CAN change your corporate culture:  November 9, 2 pm

2 - Moving your Defiant culture forward:  November 10, 2 pm

3 - Stuck in a culture of compliance?:  November 23, 2 pm

4 - Getting your people more involved: November 24, 2 pm

5 - Your people are FIRED UP!  Now what?? :  December 7, 2 pm

6 - Building a lasting culture of engagement:  December 8, 2pm

Monday, September 14, 2020

76 - Coupling

Good morning. 

How many times have you experienced a problem of some kind at work and you just fixed it?

Isn't that what we're supposed to do - fix problems?

I've been in hundreds of meetings where someone would report a problem and the others would kick around a few solutions until something sounded feasible or until the boss said "do that," and that was the extent of the problem solving they did.

What usually happens when we just fix a problem is that after a period of time, could be short, could be long, the problem returns.

We get involved in this cycle of problem-solution-problem-solution that a bunch of people have described as like playing Whack-a-Mole at the arcade.

If you get a chance to stop and think about why the problem keeps returning, then we start making progress on eliminating the problem or obliterating the obstacle.  But even when we stop long enough to do a root cause analysis, often that analysis is sloppy and comes to wrong conclusions.

Let's say we have a problem where an employee ended up with a cut on his hand that required stitches and counted as a couple of Lost-Time days at work.  That's a reportable and recordable injury, so we do a cause analysis so we can complete the corrective action report and get back to work.

In the cause analysis, when we asked why the worker got cut, we say that the cause was "the banding material was sharp." 

That was the end. 

You could also conclude that the worker didn't follow the standardized work for that job, so our solution ends up being to retrain the worker and make sure they wear their personal protective equipment.

It's often very convenient to focus on how the worker screwed up and so we list training as a countermeasure to lots of problems.   But when we realize that there is sharp stuff all over the place, and we use it everyday, we have to ask what was different about this instance that caused the cut? 

Something in the process was coupled with the sharp end of the banding material.

In many cases, yes the worker may have made a mistake, but in many other cases, they could be following the process and the process could be weak.  Focus first on the process. 

Can we redesign it so that the problem can't return?   Rather than just punishing the worker, (yes, retraining is a form of punishment) maybe we need to fix the process that we designed.

Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to help you see these kinds of couplings.  That's where I come in.  I coach teams through this problem solving approach to improve their skills.  Maybe it's time you brought me in to beef up your team.  Send me a message or give me a call. 

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

75 - Connecting Dots

How was your week?  Every Sunday, I take a few minutes to reflect on the topics covered during the week and try to pull out some lessons learned that might shape next week, getting better all the time.

We started this week with Labor Day, which recognizes the contributions of working men and women.  I discussed an article on innovation that I found in Harvard Business Review.  The lesson for us from that is sometimes innovation isn’t a new gizmo, but a new understanding of value.  One key way to grow your innovation pool is by including more people.  Include those working men and women Labor Day celebrates!  They all have brains.  They all have perspectives.  Get them involved and expand your ability to accelerate innovation.

That of course requires that leaders let go of the notion that only a few people should be involved in innovation, which ties in nicely with our theme for this month of Letting Go.

To help maintain a feeling of control after we let go, I shared a little about Management by Walking Around, or Gemba walks, followed by 4S, which is a system that should drive our thinking about workplace organization and shared learning.

On Thursday, we recognized world suicide prevention day and on Friday, Patriot’s Day - the 19th anniversary of 9/11.  The call is for unity and helping each other out.  Still something especially relevant with everything that is going on these days.

Yesterday, I shared some travel trends.  I plan to share specific travel information every Saturday, just like every Sunday is a reflection day. 

Coming up this week, we’ll start with some information to help us get better root causes to problems, then a pretty heavy focus on short-interval leadership.  We’ll talk about building a cadence board, doing a problem-focused gemba walk, tiered visual management, and training within industry.  I hope you’ll join me.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

74 - Travel Trends

Good morning!

If you don't already know, I have a travel agency as a side hustle.  It's been pretty idle as you can imagine over the past several months, but I expect more people will be ready travel as soon as we can get this virus under control.

Here in the US, we're still struggling to get it under control since our independent nature is showing up as sporadic adherence to the strict prevention guidelines provided by the CDC.  For that reason, a lot of places are not open to Americans and I would advise against anyone traveling to the US.

Still, we can travel and still be safe, but it takes some thinking.  I found a great blog post from offering 6 emerging post-COVID-19 travel reopening trends.

1. The world is reopening sooner that expected.  This may or may not be a good thing!  10 countries have reopened doors to all landmarks and attractions:  They are Greece, Vietnam, Denmark, China, Croatia, Egypt, Bulgaria, Portugal, Netherlands and Switzerland.  Some require specific negative testing.  Croatia has been advertising a lot about being open and trying hard to get their travel industry back in business.

2. Safest International travel destinations right now:  based on the number of cases per day, include Italy, France, Spain, Japan, Greece, and Hong Kong.  Still, you may or may not be allowed in without certain restrictions and precautions

3. Everyone is emphasizing Domestic Travel over International.  For us, this is a great option.  We have some really fantastic destinations that are open with restrictions for all of us.

4. Outdoors before indoors.  Go visit a national park and camp.  Keep your distance from others and you'll have a wonderful and safe vacation.

5. Online tickets.  Most tourist sites here are requiring advance purchase of tickets online.  That's how they are keeping to their admission restrictions.

6. Masks, Sanitizers & Temperature Checks - The New Norm.  Globally, 56% of open attractions are restricting admission.  50% require face masks.  30% provide hand sanitizer and 18% are requiring temperature checks.  In the limited traveling I've done since March, I've had my temperature checked at restaurants, distilleries, and the VA hospital.  I've avoided any crowds out of caution.

Bottom line:  Travel is still risky and subject to your personal tolerance.  There is a way to go where you want to go, but there might be some rules to follow before and after you get there.

Cruise lines have continued to push their own ban further and further.  It's through October 31 now.  I am expecting them to push that to the end of the calendar year just based on the current trends for infections.  That will all change if we get a safe vaccine, but most don't expect that until after the new year as well.

If you can't stand it anymore and want to go somewhere, give me a call and I'll put my travel advisor hat on and we can figure out what's possible.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Friday, September 11, 2020

73 - Unity

Good morning.

Solemn day today as we remember the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania as its passengers tried to take back the flight from hijackers.

I remember how unified we were in those weeks and months following these attacks.  Unified in grief.  Unified in anger.  Unified in commitment to justice.  We're doing things today that are tearing us apart.  The way we put simple labels on others and find reasons be angry at each other over bullshit.

Today, let's set that aside.  Remember how we held hands in silence and remembered those who died innocently on this day 19 years ago.  Let's be kind to each other today.  And again tomorrow.  We need to draw together, or this nation we love will suffer more.  United, we stand.  Divided, we fall.

I was going to have short talk about another topic today, but it just doesn't feel right.  So I'll hit it on Monday.

Be grateful today.  Be kind today.  Be human today.  Love each other.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

72 - World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I went digging for some grim statistics this morning for that.   I’m particularly concerned with veteran suicide rates.  According to the Military Times, an average of 17 veterans take their own lives everyday.  That number has remained stable for more than a decade they say.

I’m concerned about this year since COVID-19 has all of us feeling lonely and depressed at times, but I couldn’t find any numbers to suggest an increasing rate of suicide this year.

Globally, about 800,000 people commit suicide every year.  It’s one of the leading killers of young people.  The suicide rate for men is twice as high as it is for women.  In the US, 60% of gun deaths are suicides.

What can we do?  Talk to someone.

Whether you are a candidate or not, please keep the suicide prevention hotline on your favorites
list on your phone.  If you need help, or if you encounter anyone who needs help, you’ll have the number to call at your fingertips.  800-SUICIDE.  A special number for Veterans is 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) then Press 1.  If you encounter someone in crisis, you can also call 911. 

We need to take care of each other.  We need to love each other.  There are a lot of stressors surrounding us, especially now.  So be sensitive to those you encounter whether in person or online.

Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.  Just check in on them.  Especially the older folks who could be experiencing incredible loneliness.

Incidentally, the lowest suicide rates in the world are countries in the Caribbean.  Hopefully we'll all be able to travel again soon.  Maybe an island break is just what we need.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

71 - 4S

Good morning.

This month we've been talking about ways that you can maintain a sense of control while actually letting go and allowing your workforce to make decisions and make changes in the workplace.

Another system that is fundamental to your ability to do this is the way you've organized the workplace.

There is a system in lean we refer to as 5S.  It gets that name from the 5 required stages of workplace organization.  Those 5 words are Japanese.  One of the earlier descriptions of this system translated the 5 S's as Organization, Orderliness, Cleaning up, Cleanliness, and Discipline - as in sticking to it every day.

You might not recognize this right away, but there are 2 tasks - specific activities we're supposed to perform - in Organization and Cleaning up.  There are 2 Habits the system is trying to cultivate - Orderliness and Cleanliness.  If we can build these 2 habits in the workforce, we'll be able to keep things organized forever, so...Discipline.

But we westerners like our acronyms to make sense and since Organization, Orderliness, Cleaning up, Cleanliness, and Discipline don't start with the letter S, how can we possibly call this technique 5S - so someone retranslated a little and we ended up with Sort, Set in order, Sweep, Standardized, and Sustain.

Don't get me wrong, these 5 tasks will help you get your stuff organized, but it sort of promotes 5S as a housekeeping chore instead of a system that builds a more disciplined and effective learning culture.

I offered a slight change in my Leadersights book.  I wanted to focus on 4S instead of 5S because that's what I learned back when I spent all that time observing Toyota.  I also looked at how most people approach cleaning out their garage. 

First we pull all the junk out and look at it to decide if we should keep it or not.  So we Sort the necessary from the unnecessary.  Then we usually sweep everything out and wipe everything down, so Sweep would be the logical next step.  Then we put everything we choose to keep back in the garage and try to organize it so we can find things when we need them, so we Set in Order.

The Set step implies making this set up the standard so I don't think we actually need a separate step called standardize.  What we do need is perpetual energy to always make the layout and organization better.  So my 4th S is Simplify. 

It might sound crazy, but I do this with my coffee making every morning.  I think, how can i shave a second off this process so I can get my damn coffee quicker?!

4S - SORT, SWEEP, SET, SIMPLIFY.  Still task heavy but hopefully easier to do. 

And since we're talking about Coffee, join me at noon today for a lean coffee.  I'll past the link in the comments.  We usually have some good conversations and we're especially tuned in when someone brings a problem they actually need help with.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

70 - Management by Walking Around

Good morning.  I hope things go smoothly for you as you get back to work after a long weekend. 

It looks like more things are trying to open up a bit this week: schools and the NFL primarily, but we’re still a long way from the normal we were used to before the pandemic.

Today, I want to offer leaders some help in staying connected while letting go.  Remember, the theme for this month is Letting Go, but it’s difficult.  How can we satisfy our own need to be in control when we let go and empower everyone to act in the interests of the organization?  How can I make sure people have all the support they need to do the work they’re assigned?

The answer is by walking around.  Of course, if everyone is working from home, it’ll be a little different.  But this idea of Management by Walking Around or by Wandering around isn’t new.  Effective leaders have been doing this from the start, thousands of years ago.  The term itself, Management by Walking Around, seems to have shown up first in the book In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman way back in 1982.  Others trace it back to the 70’s at Hewlett-Packard.

Regardless of where it started, it has lasted because it works.  In the lean world, we call it going to the gemba.

Peters says that MBWA should be mostly random and its purpose is to understand the status of the work system, but the expected benefits include improving morale.

When I teach leaders about gemba walks, I remind everyone that while we have to check our systems to make sure everything is functioning properly, the underlying purpose of the gemba walk is to build more effective relationships with the workforce.  We go and see, we ask questions, we show respect.  But we also connect.

These days, we might have to do a gemba walk via zoom.  And that’s okay.  I think it’s important to use the video if you can’t actually be there.  You can even have someone on FaceTime walk you through areas where there might be problems.

Later this month, I’ll get into a little more detail about how to do specific gemba walks for a specific purpose, but for now, just go out and connect with people.  I promise it will make your day better too.

Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Monday, September 7, 2020

69 - Cultural Innovation

Good morning.  Happy Labor Day.  I hope you'll get a chance to relax a little today, no matter what work you do.  I also hope you get to work, if you've been idled or furloughed by COVID-19.

Every month, I want to force myself to pull out the latest Harvard business review magazine and
read through an article that I can share with you.

The article I fell upon today is Cultural Innovation: The secret to building breakthrough businesses, by Douglas Holt, former professor at Harvard and currently President of Cultural Strategy Group.

It did exactly what I hoped it would do:  make me think about related things and give me some more dots to connect.

Briefly, the context is that most companies take a "better mousetraps" approach to innovation, improving a product's functionality.  Sometimes that's just right and produces a big win - lots of tech companies have done this. 

But overall, the results are just average.

Holt's different approach is a Cultural Innovation approach, where a company, often a start up, identifies a weakness in the existing category and then reinvents the category's ideology and symbolism.  That Ideology and Symbolism really form the basis of any culture, whether corporate or societal.

The author cites two specific examples that really illustrate his point, and since I lived through both of them, I can attest that he's right on the money.

The first is the Ford Explorer.  In the evolution of the "family sedan," I guess it starts with the Model T and evolves into the station wagon.  During this period, we had lots of trucks and enclosed trucks or panel vans that were very utilitarian - built for work not for anything else.  But then, Chrysler creates the minivan and changed the game.  Minivans provide space and comfort and easy in and out access - the perfect vehicle for families with kids, and focused on the kids.

Because of that focus on kids, we kind of lost track of the parents, who in our youth still yearned for great adventures and we hated that we had to bend to the boringness of the soccer mom mobile. 

In the late 80's Ford must have sensed this and started outfitting their enclosed F-150 with more creature comforts and 4 doors, and called it the Explorer.  Ford made $30 Billion off the Explorer before a tire-related/design-related set of failures led to a string of fatal accidents that destroyed the Firestone company and the 103-year-old relationship they had with Ford.  It was just the ticket for those parents who needed to shuttle kids, but could also pick them up from soccer practice and head to wilderness in all-wheel-drive safety.

The other example he provided was Blue buffalo pet food that turned the industry on its head by
focusing on ingredients you might eat yourself instead of how cute and energetic your dog was.  They got a boost when a wheat gluten problem with the big pet-food makers killed thousands of dogs and cats in 2007.  That's a story for another day though.

The critical piece of this article to me is this paragraph:  Better-mousetraps innovation is guided by quantitative ambitions:  Out do your competitors on existing notions of value.  Cultural Innovation operates according to qualitative ambitions: change the understanding of what is considered valuable.

I love that.  Could you reshape you messaging by thinking this way?  You can see the article in Harvard business Review, September-October 2020.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

68 - Reflecting on the week

How did last week go or you?  Did you make a point to learn something?

I've had a couple of new opportunities show up in the past couple of weeks that have been forcing me to rethink a lot of things, particularly about what I'm going to be doing in the future.  Which I still haven't quite figured out.

But hey, I'm only 60 and have my whole life in front of me, right?

Both opportunities will force me to learn some new stuff, so that really appeals to me.  I think I can probably take advantage of both of them instead of having to choose between them.

I've been late this week more than previous weeks getting this little video ready because I've been taking advantage of my learning energy, which runs strong first thing in the morning.  So I've been reading and reviewing new things instead of writing up what I plan to say for the video.

I like doing these videos, but others ask me if I'm including calls for action and "what are you trying to accomplish with them".  I started doing them with the hopes of having more people join me in discussing the topics I'm covering and hopefully, by some indirect magical connection, that they might lead to more people learning more about what I do and how I help people, leaders, and companies.

I've had a couple of great discussions with a couple of folks, but I haven't gotten much traction, but rather than quit, I realized that I enjoy creating something in the morning.  So I'm doing these for me as much as for anyone else.

I have some client work returning this month and I'm trying to figure out how to stick to my schedule while working with them.  I think I have it figured out.

This coming week, I have an array of topics for you that seem kind of random, but remember, everything follows this theme of "Letting Go" this month. 

Stick around.  Make some comments.  Ask some questions.  Let's have some fun with this.

Congratulations to Authentic, winner of the Kentucky Derby yesterday.  Sad to see the shots of the empty stands, but it was a pretty good race!

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

67 - Empowerment

Do you feel empowered?  Empowered at work?  Empowered in general?

What does that feel like?

Being empowered should make you feel confident that you can change whatever it is that you think needs to be changed.  Whether it's a societal change like women's rights, black lives matter, or something more mundane, like your work.

What's the source of that empowerment?

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines empowerment as the granting of power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties or the state of being empowered to do something: the power, right, or authority to do something.

In the first case, it refers to someone giving someone else power.  Like a leader letting go and empowering their team.  Leaders who are good at doing this without abandoning the team generally are considered better leaders than those who don't.

But while I usually focus on leaders and leader development in this space, today I want to focus on the second definition - the state of being empowered to do something: the power, right, or authority to do something.

We are, as humans, here for a purpose.  We were born empowered to realize that purpose.  We may have to search for that purpose.  We may have to scrounge up the resources for that purpose, but you see this every day in those people who are constantly giving and supporting.

We as Americans are also empowered by our constitution.  We the people determine who governs and how we shall be governed.  If we don't like the way our country is being led, we are empowered to vote to remove the leadership.  If we do like the way our country is being led, we are empowered to vote to keep that leadership.

We are empowered to vote.  But we still might have to round up the resources to make that happen.  We may have to overcome obstacles that have been put in place, like fewer voting places or requirements for identification - but these we overcome. 

In Australia, they have elected to make voting mandatory.  Here, it's our obligation as citizens, but it's not a legal requirement.  If it were, would that change our feelings of empowerment?

Being empowered doesn't mean that we've been given everything we need to succeed.  But it does mean we can round up whatever we need and make something happen. 

You are empowered.  Find out what for, and get busy. 

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Definition of empowerment
1the act or action of empowering someone or something the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties

Malcolm X, the eloquent spokesman for black empowerment who, in 1965, was gunned down at the age of 39 in New York city, continues to influence the political, social, and cultural climate of our society.— Joe Wood

Therefore, part of the cure for poverty was empowerment—training the residents of a poor neighborhood to organize themselves and learn to get things from the power structure.— Nicholas Lemann

2the state of being empowered to do something the power, right, or authority to do something

Education does not automatically result in women's empowerment, as the social and economic context in which women live can pose overwhelming constraints on their choices.— Erin Murphy-Graham

The focus on getting a candidate elected is a way for voters wary of broken promises to gain a sense of empowerment.— John Dutton

Amid the uproar, he and his fellow students felt a budding—and maybe false—sense of empowerment.— James Graff

Like John Lennon, he brought the idea that through music, empowerment and words, you can really come up with world peace.— Wyclef Jean

“Empowerment.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Sep. 2020.

Friday, September 4, 2020

66 - Just in time

One of the key principles of a lean system is Just-In-Time.  This is the principle that says that material an assembly line or assembly cell needs to do its thing should arrive just in time for the line or cell to consume it.

The principle also extends to finished goods, usually in the form of producing to a specific order
rather than producing to a forecast.

Just-in-time was the brainchild of Kiichiro Toyoda.  He was building a new plant for passenger cars before world war 2 and needed to change the production system to conserve cash.  Too much inventory was tied up in storage because they were making pieces in large batches.

To free cashflow for necessary components, they had to limit production of any part to just what was needed that day.  This was a huge deviation from what everyone had been doing their whole lives.  Eiji Toyoda described it as needing to brainwash the workforce to think differently in his book Fifty Years in Motion.  That might be a good description of how we can help leaders and others Let go of bad habits or old thinking.

To make Just-in-time work, the system has to flow smoothly from end to end.  To create that flow, Toyota created work cells where as many steps as possible could be done in one place. 

Next they limited what they made to just what was needed.  That evolved to smaller lot sizes, with the ultimate goal being one at a time - single piece flow. 

They also needed to regulate that flow, so they created signals that told people when to switch to different parts based on demand.  So they created a Pull system using signal cards they called Kanban.

So, in a nutshell, Just-in-time means doing as much as you can in One Place.  Making One Piece at a time.  And Building in response to a pull system that set One Pace for the operation. 

One Place.  One Piece.  One Pace.  It works for cars and car parts.  It works in Software development.  It works in project management.  It'll work almost everywhere.

Need help to figure it out?  Call me.  Let's see how much it will save you to switch.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

65 - Learning New Stuff

I've been spending this morning learning some new stuff instead of preparing for my normal episode for you on Facebook Live.

The things I'm learning are all about measurement systems:  How can we make ourselves more profitable by the way we measure the way work progresses through a system?

I'm sure once I discover and learn more about this, I can talk more intelligently about it and we'll have a couple of good conversations about it.

Till then, what I want to do is encourage you to go and pick something for you to learn today.  Once you learn something, it doesn't really do any good unless it either changes your behavior or you share it with somebody else.

All learning is relational.  If we all just sit back and learn by ourselves, it's not really doing much.

So go learn something new, share it with somebody else, or teach it to somebody else and then keep going.  Find something to learn tomorrow and the next day.  There's plenty out there, believe me.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

64 - Measuring Quality for Better Results

If you're not getting the results you want, it's probably because you're measuring the wrong things.

One of the things I do in my coaching and consulting business is help companies define measures and build visual management systems.  Contact me and let's have a chat.  I can help.

Since the theme for this month is Let Go, one of the main systems that allows a leader to let go is an effective visual management system. 

Yesterday I mentioned a measurement system, and that measurement system is the heart of that effective visual management system. 

Today, let's focus on measuring quality.

Whatever kind of work you do, there should be some way to measure the quality of your results.  In some environments, that's often hard to see. 

The very best measures are always objective measures - those that are easy to see.  In manufacturing it's usually easy because you have a product to put together and measure to see if it meets the customer's requirements. 

In other environments, you may have to shift your thinking a little to recognize that where ever you produce some kind of product or service, you can measure the product against a customer requirement.  It might be a contract, or a purchase order, or a reimbursement request, or a query to a database, or breakfast at a restaurant, or the education of a student, or spraying a house for bugs. 

How you measure that quality component needs to reflect the quality of the PROCESS as well as the quality of the PRODUCT.  We have to be able to see where the weaknesses in the product and process design are so we can prevent problems from occurring. 

Sadly, our first instinct when quality is poor is to blame the person closest to the error, yell at them or figuratively slap their wrists and tell them to do better or else.

If instead we examine the process and ask "how can we prevent this error from ever happening to anyone again?"  then our thinking will be in the right place. 

So whatever you measure and post in your visual system should encourage people to share when they make a mistake and where the process is difficult.  That's probably not going to happen if you measure defects in "parts per million."

Your measures also need to be easy to collect so you don't burn good, productive time just collecting data to update your board and your database.

Send me your questions about measuring quality and I'll post an update soon.

Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.