Saturday, October 31, 2020


In case anyone drops by, I want you to be able to see an analysis of the massive problem COVID-19 presented and how we collectively responded.  For a problem solving coach this is pure gold.

Some will view this as a political hit job, But it can only be a hit job if it fabricates a harmful story and distributes it.  When facts are presented logically and objectively that piece together what actually happened with the evidence necessary, it’s just a documentary.

We will be studying the US response to the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic for decades.  I hope we actually learn from this and develop creative solutions to prevent this from happening again or, more likely, improve our response and outcomes WHEN something like this happens again.  We must make changes.

God bless the USA.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

113 - Tomorrows problems

Today was a big day.  On October 29, 1969, the Internet was born.  That’s the day that ARPANET created the first host-to-host connection and transmitted a message between two computers at UCLA.

As I'm working through my production schedule for these videos and the book, I'm trying to set the framework for what kinds of problems we've had in the past and what we might face in the future.  I don't necessarily predict the future, but looking at certain trends provides some foresight.

Tomorrow’s Problems and Challenges of the future
Productivity, Profitability, and Professionalism
How do we improve Productivity in all types of work systems?  I think we will need to continue to improve productivity to stay competitive.  In many cases, we will have fewer resources available so we will have to figure out how to get more work done by each without burning people out or asking them simply to work longer and harder.
How will we increase Profitability as resources become scarcer or more expensive?  If we can't maintain profitability, we can't stay in business.  This is intimately linked to the productivity question, but will also force us to understand markets, pricing, and staying attuned to customers demands.
How can we attract, assimilate, and retain a professional workforce?  This may be the toughest challenge we'll face.  We already believe there is a significant gap in the available talent we need in many workplaces.  
Balance and wellness.  I believe that services for balance and wellness at work will be critical to maintaining our ability to improve productivity, profitability, and professionalism.  I think it will be important that we find affordable ways to look after the needs of all employees, but especially key leaders in stressful roles.
Global leadership – Leading people across a spectrum of vastly different cultures will tax the ability of leaders.
Diverging mindsets – will we be able to lead people with polarized mindsets toward a common objective?
Greed - Can we find ways to avoid promoting only incentive-based structures for motivating employees reducing greed across senior leadership?
Hate - Can we find ways to promote a mutually respectful environment to get people from diverse cultural backgrounds to work together, overcoming centuries of hate?
Another huge problem is our human tendency to jump to and act on a solution or conclusion - this problem points to the importance of finding ways of developing processes to resolve prospective or existing problems in the organization.
Technology – Technological interventions that help create an engaging environment in the workplace.
Talent – Diverse talent – hiring individuals that add value to the organization rather than fill empty spaces.
I'm certain there will be things that can't anticipate that will tax our abilities.  I want to work to discover the best ways to prepare for this.  What we do now really matters.
I teach people how to think, not simply how to solve problems.  My hope is that better thinking will help us respond better to whatever comes our way.
Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

112 - More of Today's Problems

Good morning!

I love taking a look back through history as I prepare for these daily videos.  Here’s what I found for today:

• In 1636, Harvard College is founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
• In 1793, Eli Whitney applied for a patent for his Cotton Gin, a device that dramatically changed the economics of growing cotton in the southern United States, which I think allowed slavery to expand because the Cotton Gin made plantations profitable.
• In 1886, President Grover Cleveland dedicated Liberty Enlightening the World, also known as the Statue of Liberty.  She was a gift from France celebrating our Centennial in 1876.
• In 1927, Pan American Airways launches the world’s first scheduled international flight.
• In 1955, Bill Gates was born.  Happy Birthday, Bill!

I encourage you to take a step back every now and then and take a look around.  This quick review of the past always sparks some desire to learn more.  I use the Eli Whitney example of one of the seminal events that enabled the transition from the Craft Age to the Mass Production Age.  

We are still trying to make the jump from Mass Production to Lean Production - and when I say production, I don't mean just manufacturing.  We "produce" services as well and the principles are just as applicable.

Today, we still have problems, whether caused by a system failure or a decision to be better.  
To me problems are NOT bad things. They teach us. They challenge us. They drive us forward. We only think they hold us back because our heads aren't always on right.
I've had a few conversations with people about framing this and here's what I've learned.

The fundamental problem for business is "how can we be successful."  In most cases, success = growth.  But there are a variety of ways to shape success, and there are a variety of reasons to grow.

• Maybe we want to keep high paying manufacturing jobs in your region. 
• Maybe we want to have some positive impact on the community - one client of mine that makes medical devices said they want to reduce overall healthcare systems costs through improved patient outcomes.  
• Maybe they are focused on providing a reward those invested in the success of the company - following the old “Maximize Shareholder Wealth” purpose.

How can you grow your business?  To me, there’s really only one way:

• Be more innovative.  That means to learn and act faster than others.  This can lead to 2 basic things:
○ New processes for higher quality and productivity (including a faster process for launching new products, better processes for sales and marketing to reach new markets, etc.)  
○ New products for market growth

How can a company be more innovative?

• Get more ideas from more people.  In other words, improve employee engagement and confidence so they are willing to share their ideas.  We can do that in several ways:
○ Give them ownership (leadership has to let go) and rewards (not necessarily money) for sharing their ideas
○ Give them better thinking skills to improve the quality of ideas (teach them how to think critically)
○ Give them a structure that allows them to experiment with their ideas quickly:  Give them structures so that they can more quickly see problems that might prompt ideas (structures that make them more aware of what is going on)
○ Give them practice at doing these things

I've designed the C4 system I've been talking about to do all of these.  Let me help you put it in place.  Send me an email at or send me a direct message on one of my social media platforms.

I’m David Veech and this has been Elevate Your Performance.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

111 - C4 Master Pres File

Sometimes teams need to keep track of more than the C4 Card or C4 Worksheet provides the space for. I built this C4 Master Presentation File in PowerPoint just to provide that space and keep things organized, especially for teams who will need to periodically present their progress to a decision-maker. #problemsolving

Monday, October 26, 2020

110 - The C4 Worksheet

Elevate Episode 110   The C4 Worksheet 20201026

How do you keep track of ugly problems?  I've been in dozens of meetings where teams of people argue back and forth about what problem is really plaguing them or who should be doing what about it.  Lots of talk.  Lots of defensive emotions.  Lots of stress.   Zero action.

I've said this before but I'm telling you again, you have to write down everything that comes up when talking about a problem.

In most cases, problems that employees tell us about can be taken care of with the C4 card I shared with you last week.  It works great to help people think through the critical issues of the problem, find the most likely root causes, and develop more effective countermeasures by requiring us to think through the impact the countermeasure will have.

But what happens when it's a big ol' ugly problem?  

To address these, we need a team.  To help the team get it's head around the problem, we need something a little more flexible and substantial than the card.

In lean circles, we teach A3 problem solving.  A3 is simply the size of the paper that you work on.  The process follows PDCA steps.  But in many cases, the A3 is just a blank sheet of paper, or a paper with several large blocks designated for different activities, and I have found that many people find this very intimidating and it limits their progress as they try to figure out what is supposed to go where on this blank form.

So I thought I'd offer up some training wheels.  I took a Quality Circles Theme report from Toyota and used it as a guide to create this annotated C4 A3 worksheet.

It starts off with some questions to ask and answer and offers some descriptions and examples of what to put in each block.  It's everything you need to keep track of a problem or a project in summary form.  

It is not sufficient for collecting everything a team needs to complete a proper analysis of processes surrounding the problem or for details related to confirming root causes and managing experiments to gather enough data to evaluate countermeasures.  For these tasks, I've put together a C4 master presentation file that I'll talk about tomorrow.

This C4 A3 is available to download for free at my website,  Just hover over "Learning Resources" and click on "Free Downloads."  After we verify who you are, you're free to download everything we have there, including a full copy of my book, "The C4 Process."

I will also be teaching how to use these in a Lean Frontiers Digital Workshop coming up December 3-4.  Here's the registration link:

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

Sunday, October 25, 2020

109 - Sunday Reflection

Good morning.

With travel this past week, I missed recording on Thursday and Friday.  Saturday I have managed to skip for 3 weeks in a row.  I still have in mind to do a travel related show on Saturdays to have some fun and to boost my travel agency a bit.  We'll see how that works out.

The pandemic had an effect on my travel to New York.  I had checked the travel restrictions and New York apparently has some of the tightest controls in the country.  I'm happy about that, because we don't seem to be taking it as seriously as we probably should especially since we had  a record number of new cases yesterday.

To make it to my client in Rochester, I had to complete a form for the New York State Health Department giving the details of where I was arriving from and if I've shown any symptoms or if I'd been exposed to anyone with symptoms or been in any potentially hazardous activities that could have put me at risk.  

Unlike Massachusetts, New York didn't say they would waive the requirements with a negative COVID test within the past 72 hours.  I decided it would be prudent to get one anyway, for my client's and my own peace of mind.

CVS does drive through testing that easy and essentially free, so I took care of that on Monday morning hoping to have the results before I arrived in New York.  I didn't, but I filled out the New York travel forms and got an email back with a green check mark that said I'm good to go.

When I arrived in Rochester, the National Guard was there to collect information from everyone arriving.  I showed them my green check mark and they let me sail on through.  I picked up the car at Hertz with no trouble and arrived at the Marriott hotel with no trouble.

The client had a similar statement that I had to sign, plus they took my temperature before they let me in.  Our group met in a large, well-ventilated training room that allowed everyone (a group of 9 people) to spread out.

At lunch, I got a phone call from the New York State Health Department and we had a nice conversation about how I was feeling, and if I'd had any symptoms at all.  They said if my employer had restrictions or quarantine requirements I should follow their guidance.  I was following the client's guidance so I think I'm good to go.

Later that afternoon, I got an email from them (the Health Department) that was pretty much a form letter that they must send to everyone arriving in New York from almost any other state that ordered me to quarantine in my hotel room for 14 days.  There was no hint of this coming based on the phone call I had, which clearly indicated I could work following the employer's guidelines.  

About this same time, my test results arrived - a nice big "Negative" across the top.  I forwarded this to the client, and showed them the email, and we decided to proceed with the second day of training.

I was supposed to get periodic text messages from the Health Department asking about symptoms, but they sent them to the wrong phone number so I didn't see them until I got home.

I'm home now, feeling fine except for not sleeping much because my poor wife is still hurting so badly from her knee surgery.

This past week, I showed you my C4 Card and explained how to use it.  On Wednesday, I talked about 4 types of problems:  Alert Response, Measured Response, Individual Idea, and Management Response and how they tie in to the C4 card as well.  

This week, I'll bring up the C4 worksheet and a Master file I give to groups to use to hold everything they discover on their problem solving journey.  I'll talk through both of those, then go into a little more depth on  the types of problems and on the types of gemba walks.

I hope you'll stick around.  Let me hear from you!  Make a comment.  Let me know if you'd like to know more about anything I'm talking about.  Let me know if you'd like me to come to you and take a group through these steps.

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

108 - Four Types of Problems

I mentioned yesterday that how we process the C4 Card depends on the type of problem we have.  The types of problems that I have written about in my books are:

Alert Response Problems:
• Problem occurs that threatens your ability to serve your customer
• Requires immediate report and immediate response
• Short term countermeasures contain the problem from spreading further
• Follow up analysis to find the root cause and develop a permanent solution

• For these problems, you'll need to take some action to contain or correct the problem immediately.  When the "crisis" passes, grab a C4 card or worksheet and quickly capture the problem and describe what actions you took.  Try to pull a few people together to dig into the problem deeper to make sure your countermeasure will correct the root cause.

Measured Response Problems:
• Problem is visible through process metrics as an "out-of-standard" condition
• Could also be a nuisance problem but doesn’t threaten customers (usually smaller in scope)
• Individual reports the problem
• Coach works through the problem with the individual, escalating the problem if warranted
• Together they develop and implement the countermeasure

• For these problems, when you see the deviation from standard in your process, pull a C4 Card and capture the problem as the gap between what you planned and what you actually got.  Assign a coach - or do it yourself - and work through the card to define and clarity the problem, the find the root causes.  Afterwards, develop several countermeasures to try and implement the one that works best in every similar process.

Individual Ideas:
• Individual has an idea and is willing to share it with us
• Ideas often stem from unresolved problems that may be hard to define
• Coach works through idea with the individual to identify the problem and check if the idea actually solves the problem
• Together they decide whether or not to implement the idea
• For these problems, write the idea in the countermeasure section of the card, then, as the leader coaches the team member, we identify the problem that prompted the idea, the find its root cause.  If the idea solves the problem at that root cause level, we can say it's a good idea; if it doesn't solve the problem, try something else!

Management Response Problems:
• Problem is created when management sets a goal that exceeds current ability (push the standard; set a stretch goal) OR
• Business is making slow or no progress on annual or quarterly goals
• Assign a team to work through the problem solving process to pinpoint problems or barriers to success, find its cause or articulate the obstacles, develop and implement a set of countermeasures, then track progress

• For these problems, pull a team together from the start and build the plan to achieve the goal, but dig through to understand not just the root causes of any problems you foresee in pursuing this new standard, but also to identify any potential barriers to success.
Tomorrow, let's talk about escalating and using the C4 worksheet.
Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

107 - The C4 Card Part 2

Good Morning.

Yesterday, I showed you the C4 Card and what it's used for.  Today I want to show you how it works.

Working the Card
• Problem occurs/team member has an idea
• Post card
• Leader pulls
• Assign coach
○ TL or Peer coach
• Dialogue 
○ Critical thinking
○ 5 whys
○ Initial evaluation
• The Dialog piece not only helps the team member but it teaches the coach how to ask better questions and build stronger relationships
• Cross unit coordination
○ Cross-shift/Cross-Dept
• Adjust inputs
• Countermeasures
○ Explore multiple options
○ Evaluate
○ Plan
○ Execute
• Confirm - Check the result.  Do we need to update any procedures or standardized work? Review the process - did we follow it as planned?  If we deviated, why did we deviate?  What did we learn by going through this?

How it works depends a little on how the problem shows up.  We'll cover these tomorrow!

I'm David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

106 - The C4 Card, Part 1

Good morning.

Do you need an easy way to get more people involved in sharing ideas and in finding and solving problems?

Let's talk about the C4 Card.

Every problem or every idea that a team member has is an opportunity for developing problem-solving skills.  So this C4 Card System is first a skills- and people-development system, and second a system to solve problems.

The C4 card is designed to be the initial recording device for all the problems identified or exposed in the workplace.  It is relatively simple and hopefully non-threatening, so that every employee would have, or develop, a high level of confidence that they can fill it out.

The C4 card is sufficient by itself for many smaller problems that employees experience, but still requires all four steps - Concern - Cause - Countermeasure - and Confirm.  Since we are driving learning, and not just solving problems, it is essential that we require evaluation of countermeasures to reach those higher levels of learning for people.

The C4 card is also sufficient for use in an employee suggestion system, where we can capture their ideas, and assist them in analyzing, evaluating, and implementing those ideas themselves, while giving us a tool to keep track of all of them.  For this, you simply start on the back, recording the idea in the Countermeasure box.

Many problems will be more significant and will require more resources to solve than the C4 card will support.  A problem may be initially captured on the C4 card, but could quickly elevate to the next level, which brings us to the C4 worksheet.

Join me tomorrow and I’ll walk through the details of working through this card. It sounds like it will be very time consuming, and the first few times it may be.  But the idea is to get better at these key skills so that we can blast through all the steps in the shortest possible time - Maybe as little as 10 or 15 minutes.

I'm David Veech and this is Elevate Your Performance.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2020

105 - Review and Reflection

Good morning!

What did you learn this week?

Overall, this was a pretty good week.  I celebrated my 100th episode on Monday and got a chance to explain why I'm doing this daily show.

When I got into the prep for Tuesday morning's episode on the scientific method, I searched for some new information.  What I've had in my notes for a long time focused on the impact that the scientific method had on accelerating the Industrial Revolution - but that was only a few hundred years ago.

When I read about the Edwin Smith papyrus I was fascinated. I love finding things that make me want to learn more.  But it makes you think:  People have always had the capability to think in a focused and deliberate fashion.  The hard part is getting people to actually do it.

Finding out why we don't has been a significant part of my research.  To me, it's much less about the sequence of steps in applying the scientific method and much more about people's general behavioral and cognitive habits. 

What makes people do what they do always intrigues me.

I also covered the quality movement; first as part of the discussion on the scientific method, then, on Wednesday, in terms of a shift from inspection at the end of a process to process control.   We haven't gotten away from inspecting and auditing anywhere that I've been, but we have learned that we don't have to rely exclusively on inspection to ensure our products are good.

On Thursday and Friday, I shared the stages and steps of the C4 Process.  I want to emphasize once more that I designed the C4 Process to develop people through problem solving, not just to solve problems.  I hope that focus on people stick with all of you who might decide to use the technique at work.

This week, I have a couple of days with a client that will likely delay or eliminate a couple of episodes.  The plan is to share with you how to use the C4 Card and C4 Worksheet with teams to help solve problems and develop people.

I also signed up for Orienteering Cincinnati's TROL/WARS series of orienteering meets this fall.  I'm excited about getting back out into the woods and get lost again.  They had to suspend meets at the beginning of COVID but we're on this fall - since orienteering is largely individual and spread out in the woods.  I just can't wait to do it; it's one of my favorite things to do.

I hope you'll stick with me. 

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