Lean Quote: Effective Leaders Must Master the Technique of the Educator

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

It has been well said that an effective leader must know the meaning and master the technique of the educator.” — Philip Selznick
A leader must be a good teacher. Leaders must be able to be good teachers to share insights and experiences. Leaders can inspire, motivate, and influence subordinates at various levels through the use of teaching ability. Obviously, one must be a good communicator in order to be an effective teacher. Without the ability to clearly and effectively communicate a message, goal, story, or philosophy, it is impossible to lead.
In a Lean organization, learning is critical, and line management’s direct responsibility. Lean is based on how people think; simply defined, Lean is shared thinking. Management and employees need common philosophy, ideas, and principles. Leaders can’t just put workers into situations, and hope they learn the right things. They should take responsibility for the message, combining real-life experience with direct coaching. An organization’s principles should become guideposts to help people make tough decisions.
Lean Leaders must not only be teachers, they must also preach and promote teaching at all levels. Lean Leaders make sure that all of their direct reports are good teachers. In classical leadership, the role of teaching is frequently delegated – not so with the Lean Leaders.
The Lean Leader must teach leadership. This is the real key to sustaining the gains. Teach them to keep a focus, teach them how to get their resources aligned and teach them how not to “de-motivate” their subordinates and peers and you will have gone a long way toward teaching leadership.
To teach, a leader has to learn, and learning Lean is more than a cerebral exercise By applying Lean to everything, a leader becomes a more effective teacher. Remember what leadership is really about: It’s not a job; it’s an act. Leaders have to learn how to teach, build creative tension, and eliminate fear and comfort. Leaders need to actively participate in the transformation of the business, and apply Lean to their own jobs.


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For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

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Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:


Lean Tip #1561 – Engage the Full Team to Find Improvement Opportunities
Continuous improvement in a facility is almost never going to be made by a single person. This is why you need to have the entire team involved. This starts with the CEO and leadership team and goes all the way to the front line employees. By creating a teamwork environment where everyone is working together to ensure ongoing improvement you will be much more successful in the long run.
Even when employees propose an unrealistic idea it should still be seen as a positive step. Taking all ideas seriously and trying to find ways to implement them if practical can allow employees to have the confidence in the management team that they need to want to bring new ideas up to the team.
Lean Tip #1562 – Recognize Successes
When a change is made that results in improvement in the facility it should always be recognized. This recognition could be something as simple as a thank you from the department manager or as large as corporate recognition with a bonus or other reward. To the extent possible, all recognition of improvements made should be done as publically as possible to help motivate others to work towards improvements.
If someone has an idea that doesn’t work out as planned, it can still be a good idea to recognize that even though it didn’t work out, it was still a good thing that they made the attempt. As the saying goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Even when ideas are unsuccessful it is still a learning opportunity and it may trigger ideas about the next great improvement in the facility. Never punish people for making an attempt at improving the facility.
Lean Tip #1563 – Know Your Processes
You can’t make improvements on something if you don’t really know what is going on with it. This is why you should have a clear understanding of everything that is happening in the facility. A great strategy for this is to employ value stream mapping. This will help you pinpoint where all the value for your products is added so that you can eliminate any waste that is involved.
Keeping your value stream maps updated and accurate is important. Every time a change is made to an area, for example, make sure you know how it is impacting the value add to that area. This will ensure you are always evaluating an accurate portrayal of your facility so you can make the needed improvements on an ongoing basis.
Lean Tip #1654 – Discard Conventional Fixed Ideas
Part of problem solving is thinking “outside of the box.” Encourage fresh perspectives and ingenuity in your team in order to develop innovative ways to forward Lean manufacturing without changing what is already efficient and successful. With such a rapidly evolving climate in manufacturing, sometimes conventional thought is what leads to the problem in the first place!
Lean Tip #1565 – Don’t Just Talk About it, Do it!
Once you have a Lean strategy in place, put it into fast and thorough action. Naturally, implementation is what ultimately yields results and improvement. The last think you want is to devise and formulate a Lean campaign that then sits on the shelf and collects dust. Run with your Lean plans as soon as you have everything nailed down.
Lean Tip #1566 – Harness the PDCA Strategy
One of the key concepts used in Kaizen is the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” strategy. This is a quality model that can be used when implementing any type of improvement in the facility. As you might expect, the PDCA strategy is a cycle of ongoing improvement that should never end. The steps are as follows:
Plan – This step is where you identify an area where improvement is possible and make an initial strategy on what chance should be made to realize the desired improvements.
Do – Implement the change, but only on a small scale. This may mean having one department make the change in some situations or for larger corporations, having one facility make the update. During this step it is also very important to be gathering as much data regarding the change so it can be properly evaluated.
Check – Review the results of the change including the data that was collected. Looking to see if they had the desired impact or not is critical to know whether you should move forward with rolling the change out to other areas.
Act – IF the data in the check step points to a success, it is time to push the change out on a wider scale. Once the change has been successfully implemented you will go back to the plan step to look for further improvement opportunities. If the data from the check step shows that the change did not work as planned, you go directly to the plan step to either start from scratch or attempt to make the needed adjustments to get the desired results.
Lean Tip #1567 – Think Small
Many companies today are only looking for the, “BIG WINS” when it comes to improvements. While big wins are always nice, they really aren’t going to be able to happen very often. A company that identifies small areas of improvement and implements them frequently is going to make much more progress over time than one that ignores the small things and only focuses on bigger issues.
Lean Tip #1568 – Empower Employees
Good managers are an invaluable part of having a facility that engages in continuous improvement. This is because good managers know that it is often going to be the employees who come up with the next great improvement idea. Employees perform their jobs all day everyday so it is no surprise that they will be the ones to find problems and hopefully the solutions to them.
Empowering employees to take steps toward improvement can be very helpful. Having a process by which they go through the PDCA cycle with as little interference from management as possible can be very helpful. Of course, for some changes manager involvement and approval will be necessary, but putting as few obstacles in the way as possible will result in much more improvement.
Lean Tip #1569 – Concentrate on Bad Processes, Not People
By concentrating on the processes and building continuous improvement, you will have the culture change that you are looking for. Also, correct mistakes immediately. Don’t wait for the next shift, the weekend or maintenance to do it.
Lean Tip #1570 – Create Short-term Goals to Keep Momentum High.
Documenting processes can be a laborious exercise, from holding meetings with different stakeholders, collecting process information, drawing process maps, creating process documentation to obtaining signoffs. To keep morale and momentum high, identify short-term wins and milestones to keep team members from lagging behind or worse still, burning out.
Lean Tip #1571 – Set Goals for Lean Manufacturing
In order to get people motivated, they must value the goals set for Lean manufacturing. These goals must be challenging, yet obtainable for your employees. Further, always ask for feedback on these goals, as well as progress toward target attainment. Feedback should always contain measureable facts and figures.
Lean Tip #1572 – Set Realistic Target Dates For Goals
People, by nature, are goal-oriented and want to see that their actions are producing positive results. But if you’re not being realistic with your target goal dates, you are setting yourself up for failure from the beginning. Set small goals and reward yourself and your employees for each milestone accomplished.
Lean Tip #1573 – Get (and Stay) Organized
Staying organized—and keeping your tools and equipment where they are easily accessible—will accelerate positive changes in your operations. Not only will it increase efficiency and reduce costs, but it will also help build support for subsequent phases of Lean.
Lean Tip #1574 – Show Results, Not Action Items
It’s important that you post real results on your Lean board, not things that you’re going to do. You must be able to point out your successes if you are ever going to convince others that Lean really works.
Lean Tip #1575 – Never Give Up
Whenever thinking about Kaizen continuous improvement you need to recognize that the ‘continuous’ part of the strategy is extremely important. This is a strategy that should be implemented as soon as possible and then continued indefinitely into the future. As soon as one improvement is made, it is time to start looking at what the next improvement opportunity will be.

It is also important to remember that there will be failures along the way. Some ideas will be tried and found to not produce the results that are needed. When this happens make sure you and your team don’t get discouraged or give up. Instead, start the process of finding and implementing improvements over and you’ll soon achieve the results you were hoping for.

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Today we celebrate and recognize the life and achievement of Martin Luther King Jr. MLK as they say was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs. His quote below has always struck me as paramount to change.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
Making a change requires a leap of faith. Taking that leap of faith is risky, and people will only take active steps toward the unknown if they genuinely believe – and perhaps more importantly, feel – that the risks of standing still are greater than those of moving forward in a new direction.  Making a change takes lots of leaps of faith.

Leaders may make bold and often unpopular decisions. Effective leaders require courage – to stand up for what is right, for what they believe in, and to take the necessary risks to be innovative and creative.

You can’t move forward if you don’t grow and you can’t grow if you never leave your comfort zone. When possible, challenge employees to grow. Help them prepare by providing them a safe environment to learn from the mistakes that they are bound to make.

Moving beyond our comfort zones is how we can best learn and grow. The challenge is to resist our normal human instinct to seek comfort rather that discomfort. The key is to continually push beyond the comfort zone and drive continuous improvement to develop and strengthen your Lean thinking.

It takes courage to be a change agent, to rise up and lead the way when others are filled with fear. It takes courage to walk in a different direction when others walk along a contrasting path. Most important, it takes courage to drive persistence to overcome resistance…to find comfort outside your comfort zone when the promise of reward is ambiguous.

When things are difficult, unknown, and perhaps unattainable we may turn the other direction. We must find the inner strength to overcome these perceived barriers. History has proven time after time that the power of a thought is the beginning for actions that will alter the future positively. Understanding this, and having the courage to keep going even in the face of all obstacles, allows us to accomplish anything we want.

The courage of true leadership is revealed while still standing in the midst of controversy and challenging circumstances. It is relatively easy and requires little effort to stay in your comfort zone or to do what is convenient. Courage is not required to stay comfortable. Leaders need essential people skills to get people to work together smoothly even if some compromise may be needed. However, it also takes courage to make a stand on what you believe to be right.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. exemplified what being a true leader of change is all about. His actions made him one of the great leaders of the 20th century, Time Magazine’s “Man Of The Year” in 1963 and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964.


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On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” — Japanese Proverb
Fear is the number one issue that paralyzes someone when it comes to change. Fear is absolutely normal emotion. Even the best experience fear from time to time. The key is to not let fear hold you back and prevent you from taking action and go after what you want in life. Getting through fear is a skill that anyone can learn.

Here are three helpful facts to keep in mind when overcoming fear:

1. Fears are common. Everyone experiences fear at some time or another. Your fear indicates that you’re stretching yourself, which is a good thing. Do not judge yourself harshly if you are afraid. Don’t shrink from your fears or wallow in them, confront the situations and people you fear. Use the adrenaline they produce to motivate you to action. When you exercise control over fears, you are exercising one of your greatest personal powers … the power to choose.

2. Fears are often unfounded. We typically believe that the object of our fear can do more harm to us than it actually can. Former United States President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous words, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” accurately describes most situations. Examine the source of your fear and consider the worst that could happen if it became a reality. Then, plan how you will minimize the risk and potential damage.

3. Fears are thoughts. You have tremendous power to control your thoughts. Replace fearful thinking with positive thinking. Saturate your mind with your dreams, goals, and values. Remember that confronting fear is a sign of progress and a valuable learning experience. Every time you overcome a fear, you strengthen your ability to overcome future fears. 

It’s important to overcome these paralyzing fears so that you can move forward with your life and reach your goals. 


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Many people are effective at setting goals but not as many people are effective at accomplishing their goals. It’s important to set goals, but the step that many may miss is the ability to develop the detailed plan needed to achieve the goal. Goals, whether personal or professional, need to be written, harmonious, yours, specific, measurable, attainable, realistically high, and time bound.

Many of us spend a considerable amount of time and effort planning a vacation. We will figure out exactly where we want to go and what type of things we want to do while we are there. We’ll make reservations, schedule appointments, and prepare a list of all of the appropriate things we need to pack. This planning is usually very detailed, somewhat tedious, and time consuming. But, because we want the trip to be hassle free we will plan these occasional trips right down to the very last detail.

When you think about your life, your daily journey, how well do you plan and organize it? Your life’s journey is the MOST important trip you will ever take. Why is it that we spend so little time planning our lives? Many of us have little or no idea where we are going!
It’s important that as you dream about the things you want in life that you set up some criteria to make sure that those dreams come to fruition.

Your goals will provide direction and motivation, and serve as tools for measuring your results. For maximum effectiveness and accomplishment, make sure your goals meet the criteria of WHYSMART. These goal-setting guidelines will help you stay on target as you continually work on the accomplishment of your goals.

Your goals must be:

WRITTEN
Put your goals in writing to help ensure that they are clear and specific. As the W represents in WHYSMART, writing down your goals forces you to clarify your thoughts. Written goals have permanence that promotes accurate, sustained action.

Do you want to dramatically increase the likelihood of meeting your goals? One of the simplest yet most powerful actions you can take is to write them down. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of everyday life that it then becomes all too easy to forget about your goals. I think the saying is, “When you are up to your rear-end in alligators, it’s easy to forget that your original intention was to drain the swamp.”

Put your goals down on paper. Keep them where you will see them every day. Doing this will prevent you from saying around this time next year, “Oh yeah, I remember those …”

HARMONIOUS
Harmonize your goals with your personal vision and purpose in addition to your other goals, so that all elements of your plan are complementary and mutually reinforcing. Unaligned goals pull you in different directions, hampering productivity and creating tensions.

YOURS
You will be most motivated to achieve goals that reflect your important personal desires and values. Resist the urge to conform to the expectations of others. If your goals are not your own, you can’t own them. Be aware of what motivates you and tailor your goals to fit your personality.

SPECIFIC
Vague goals cause confusion and frustration. In order to provide clear direction and strong motivation, make your goals specific. Stating your goals positively will help create the mental picture of you doing what you want to do.

MEASURABLE
Measurable goals provide benchmarks for gauging progress and evaluating performance. Attain annual sales of 4 million dollars is a measurable goal; developing a goal of increased sales is vague and not at all measurable. Go out to dinner once a week with my spouse is measurable goal; however, spend more time with my spouse is not. Goals that are not measurable lack direction, value for motivation, and celebration. If they are not measurable, it is impossible to know when and if you have achieved them.

ATTAINABLE
Attainable goals spark excitement and action. Goals that are beyond reach produce frustration and discouragement. Attainable goals should also provide a challenge so the rewards remain worth the effort.

REALISTICALLY HIGH AND RESULTS ORIENTED
Challenging goals stimulate creativity and commitment. Goals that are set too low result in underachievement and apathy. Be clear about the end result your goal is designed to accomplish and focus on results, not just the necessary activity.

TIME BOUND
Dates for accomplishment are critical for planning, decision making, operational coordination, and evaluation. Goals that do not specify target dates have a tendency to get lost in the shuffle of business and life. “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” – Diana Scharf Hunt

If you do not set “achievement dates” for your goals you’ll get caught in the trap of “someday.” As in, “Someday, I’ll do that.”

Take a look at your calendar. You will find: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. What you will not find is Someday. So not only does someday never come, it doesn’t exist!

WHYSMART is an excellent criterion to make sure that you are maximizing the goal setting process to your professional and personal advantage. Make sure that all of your goals, tangible and intangible as well as short or long-term, are evaluated against WHYSMART, and you will see a distinct difference in your ability to accomplish anything you desire.


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Today I am pleased to share a guest post by long time friend and lean thinker Ankit Patel. Ankit talks about the importance of setting goals (resolutions) but believes many fail because the are missing a key ingredient. He says we need to address the psychological part of change to be successful. 


A resolution (goal) without a plan is just a dream.  A resolution without a plan that addresses human psychology is throwing a Hail Mary and praying.  Lean or the Toyota Production System has produced several ways to create a plan around company goals.  Tools like Hoshin Kanri, Business Canvas Model, Minimum Viable Products, etc.  What’s missing is how you address the psychology of change.  How many New Year’s resolutions or goals have you failed to meet in the past?  If you’re like me it’s way more than I’d like to say out loud. 

Let’s say you have an annual goal to lose weight.  What happens with organization goals is similar to what happens with your weight goal.  You go to the gym for the first 6 weeks, you eat clean, you get enough sleep and then life happens.  You have a sick child, you have a stressful project, you go on vacation, or you have a friend’s birthday party.   Slowly your focus shifts and then all of the sudden you’re eating terrible food, not going to the gym, and all of your bad habits creep in.  In fact even if you’re successful at losing weight chances are you are going to put it back on.  Almost 65% of people return to their pre-dieting weight within three years, according to Gary Foster, Ph.D., clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania.  So what does this have to do with company goals?  It’s not different for your organization.  The reason most people put the weight back on or they don’t achieve their goals in the first place is that changing behaviors and habits is hard. 

It takes a significant amount of time and energy to change the habits you have ingrained.  Without a plan to address the psychological need of a person or group of people you set yourself up for failure with hitting a goal. 

There is a multistep approach to setting goals that are in line with human psychology and we’ll talk about the first two parts of a six part process.

The first step is a “Where are you now map” and the second step is “Draw Your Future.”  The where are you now map can be a paragraph description, a process map, a value steam map, or any other mapping tool.  The main point of this is to get it out there visually so everyone can see and agree to the current state.  What this does is align everyone to what the current situation is and what the opportunities might be.  In this step you want to address how the system got to the point it is now and why things are being done a certain way.  Applying this to our weight loss example we might show a picture of our starting weight and a set of photos without a shirt on.  We would also take inventory of all the “bad“ habits we currently have.  One of my bad habits is that I like to have beer while watching any sports game.  I do this because I like to drink socially with my friends. 

The second step is to draw a future state.  This can be a future state map, a description, or something visual that shows how the future would look if we changed and achieved our goals.  This creates an anchor point as a group and a frame that we are all aligned to and are focused on achieving.  In this part of the exercise you will also want to come up with plans on how you deal with the current issues you are facing.  If I am drinking beer every time I watch spots maybe I should try to switch to light beer or maybe sparkling water or another drink.  Maybe I avoid spending time with friends that will drink as much.  Maybe I don’t watch as many games with friends.  All of these are possibilities that I incorporate into my future state picture to help me achieve my goal.  Having thought of a plan like this ahead of time helps you be prepared to handle the stress of change. 

The critical part of the current state and future state maps is the plan of action around areas of change.  If you can address that upfront it will make the job of changing and achieving your goals easier.  If you are interested in the four other steps for change I host a webinar Systematic Framework for Finally Achieving Predictable, Safe Growth without Increasing Expenses. Here you’ll learn the psychology for change that increases your chances of a change implementation being done right. 
About the Author: 
Ankit Patel is a managing partner at The Lean Way Consulting.  One of his favorite accomplishments came when he helped Teknetex, a technology professionals recruitment firm, be named to the “Inc. 500” list of the fastest growing companies in America.

Clients praise Ankit for his stabilizing influence during times of conflict and his balanced, calm leadership through all phases of Lean Transformations and other company change.

He holds a Master of Science degree in Positive Organizational Development from Case Western Reserve University, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech. He lives with his wife in metro Atlanta, GA.


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On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it … establish your priorities, and go to work.” — H.L. Hunt
Goals are essential for establishing direction, defining actions, and measuring progress. As you travel on the most important journey of all – your journey through time – goals will give your life direction and control and lead you to success. Many people refuse to take responsibility, perhaps because of fear or laziness. They relinquish their freedom of choice and depend on others to tell them what to think and do. They don’t develop plans, and they don’t set goals.

By setting goals, you are determining that you have chosen to take responsibility for managing your team and your life. You conscious commitment to personal development puts you among the small percentage of individuals who intentionally pursue personal growth and success. Your life will be more rewarding because you have chosen to design it according to your personal values and aspirations.

The adage “knowledge is power” is only half true. Knowledge is simply potential power. It only becomes power when it is expressed in terms of definite action. Applied knowledge is power. Your plans and goals are essential for success, but they’re of little value until you convert them into actions.


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