Log in | Register | Contact Us | View Cart

 

Lean Article Index

  • 10 Random Tips to Supercharge You On Your Lean Journey (Webinar Recording) Tim McMahon and I recently presented a webinar full of tips that can help you really speed up your progress on your Lean journey. The tips include: Go to the Gemba Watch and Listen to What People Really Say Develop Your People Find Little, Instant Rewards Many Small Wins, Rather Than The Occasional Big Win Buy People Books Stop Fighting Fires Measure Twice, Improve ...
  • 11 Common Continuous Improvement Mistakes You Are Probably Making In any field, there are a handful of common mistakes. Continuous improvement is no different. Some of these errors come as a result of ignorance about the proper way of doing things. Some are the result of habit. And a handful come as a function of taking the path of least resistance. Regardless of the source ...
  • 11 Common Misconceptions About Lean (+PDF) Novices go into their Lean journey with many preconceived notions. This list covers several of the most common of them. Plus, download a FREE 4-Page PDF of the article.
  • 11 Principles of a Lean Office (+Video +PDF) The Lean Office has several guiding principles that make it effective. Learn what they are, plus, download a FREE 4-Page PDF of the article.
  • 12 Predictions about Lean in 2011 With the New Year coming soon, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the future has in store. I am anticipating some major changes for Lean. Some of these predictions are US focused, but most are internationally applicable. Lean will continue to grow. Hiring for Lean vs. Six Sigma is rising. (See my Gotta Go Lean ...
  • 12 Ways to Start Building a Continuous Improvement Culture (+Video +PDF) Creating an organization that embraces continuous improvement is not easy. It takes strong, committed leaders who are willing to pay the up-front costs, and who resist the urge to harvest gains at the expense of future improvements. It takes a team that believes that when they make changes, they share in the rewards of their ...
  • 13 Ways to Apply Lean Principles to a Small Business (+PDF) A lot of people register on my site to get access to the wide range of free Lean information I offer. Some of the organizations they work for are easily recognizable as Fortune 500 companies. But many of the visitors to my site come from companies that are not as well known, and likely have ...
  • 15 Things Consultants Add That You Should Be Doing On Your Own There is a bit of a misconception in the Lean community about the value that consultants bring to the table in terms of helping with specific projects. The consensus view is that consultants provide expertise and knowledge to their clients. This is true, but they provide a great deal more than that. The problem is that ...
  • 17 Lessons I Learned from Japanese Consultants (+PDF) Over the years, I have worked with some premiere Lean consultants from Japan. Here are some of the many lessons I learned from them… Watch before asking. Observe a process before asking any questions about it. You’ll prevent biasing what you see. More… Note: This article is available for download on PDF.
  • 18 Principles of Lean Leadership (+PDF) There are several principles that should govern your conduct as a Lean leader. This list covers several of the most common of them. Plus, download a FREE 5-Page PDF of the article.
  • 3 Ways to Sneak Lean into Your Company Let’s face it. To the person unfamiliar with Lean, it sounds like just another way to squeeze a little more out of workers. When people hear there’s something coming that can get waste out of the workplace, they worry about layoffs. And the concept that removing inventory can reduce lead time is downright counterintuitive. So rather ...
  • 5 Principles of Lean Customer Value (+PDF) Learn 5 guiding principles about how customers view value. Plus, download a FREE 4-Page PDF of the article.
  • 5 Why Analysis-Lean Training Video I’ve gotten another Lean video rolled out. This one is on the 5 Whys. If you are not familiar with it, the tool is useful for diving down to the root cause of a problem. Please take a look at it and let me know what you think. Rating it well on YouTube, where I have ...
  • 6 Big Data Analysis Mistakes That Hinder Lean Efforts (+PDF) Learn some of the common pitfalls of data analysis, and what can be done to avoid them. Plus, download a FREE 3-Page PDF of the article to hand out to your team or add to your Continuous Improvement Companion.
  • 6 Ways to Improve Problem Solving in Your Company (+PDF) At its core, much of continuous improvement is about problem solving. Tools such as Standard Work, policy deployment, kanbans, and andons are all really just pre-packaged solutions to common problems. Note: This article is available for download on PDF.
  • 7 Tips to Build Good (Lean) Behavior (+PDF) My dad lives in the Chicago area. His house has been buried in multiple snowstorms over the course of this winter. A few weeks back, he was driving somewhere during the time when the kids in his neighborhood were walking to school. Along one of the arterials, there are no houses that face the road, ...
  • 8 Reasons People Resist Change (+Video +PDF +MP3) Learn some of the main reasons people resist change, and what can be done about them. Plus, download a FREE 3-Page PDF of the article.
  • 8 Ways to Address the “WIFM” Principle (+PDF) Remember Mark Twain’s book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? On one hot summer day, young Tom Sawyer got stuck doing a hard day’s labor—whitewashing his aunt’s long picket fence. Mr. Twain tells the tale much better than I can, but the basic plot is simple. All morning long, Tom’s friends pass by and give sympathy ...
  • 8 Ways to Develop Winning Teams in Lean Organizations (Webinar Recording) Developing a winning team is critical to the success of a Lean organization. That’s because a strong continuous improvement culture demands the involvement of people throughout the organization. And people won’t want to take on that responsibility if they do not feel prepared for the challenge. In our April, 2011 webinar, Tim McMahon (of ALeanJourney.com) and ...
  • 9 Steps to Better Metrics (+Video +PDF) As I talk about making improvements, I invariably end up telling people they need focus more on their processes. Time and time again, just the simple act of gaining a deeper understanding of how work is done will shed light on what to improve. The spotlight shines even brighter when one crosses functional boundaries and ...
  • 9 Steps to Developing a Daily Management System (+Video +MP3) Running an effective operation takes a daily management system. To get one up and running, Lean leaders have to: Identify the demand. This means tracking data for a while to see what your customers are asking you to do. (Hint: Pivot tables are your friend!) More… Note: This article is available for download on PDF.
  • 9 Tips to Running a More Effective Kaizen (+PDF) If you are in a Lean company, you probably already have a fairly well defined kaizen process. After all, an effective kaizen is one of the most powerful continuous improvement tools in your Lean kit. Note: This article is available for download on PDF.
  • 9 Words That Kill Lean Progress (+PDF) As a Lean consultant, I have identified several words over the years that immediately make me see red flags with a process. When I hear them, I immediately start snooping around a little deeper, and often uncover some great opportunities for improvements. This list is by no means all inclusive, so I welcome your additions in ...
  • A Bad Employee Attitude Resonates Throughout an Organization As I was packing to get ready for a training session, I came across a new dilemma. I recently switched back to using an electric razor. As I was contemplating where to pack it, it brought me back to a time, years ago, when I was a young lieutenant in the army. I had an ...
  • A Better Way to Save Lives As budget constraints and sequestration put the squeeze on fire departments, there is a substantial risk that response times will creep up. In many cases, that can lead to more serious injuries, complications, or even death. So how do you go about getting the response time down when there are some very real constraints? Well, in ...
  • A Common Lean Problem: Mismatched Expectations I am an aspiring golfer who plays less than half a dozen rounds of golf a year. (My translation of aspiring means I have been golfing for a long time without any real improvement.) To gain some perspective about my skills, the average golf score in the US right now is around a hundred. My ...
  • A Healthcare Poka Yoke Against MRSA In the latest issue of Men’s Health magazine, there is a little blurb about MRSA resistant paint. In testing, all MRSA bacteria died after 20 minutes of exposure to the painted surface. A little further research found a more detailed article on the coating. The paint can actually be used on surgical equipment as well. The ...
  • A Hundred Million People Just Went ‘Huh?’ I have to admit I am a fan of seeing what Google puts up on its site. I like seeing the creativity. So, I have to ask the question, is this a joke, or is this a quality problem? (I grabbed this image at about 11:20ish PST, 9/26/09) I’m leaning towards the former, but what do you ...
  • A Lean Prognostication Because I have a bit of an uncommon working situation, it can be interesting when people ask what I do for a living. I can say I own a business, that I’m a consultant, that I’m an author, that I do corporate training, or that I run an online store. Inevitably, though, there is a ...
  • A Paradox of Lean: Job Control Rises and Falls at the Same Time I have an old stack of articles that I peruse from time to time to give me blog idea. One of my best sources is Men’s Health. It is surprising how often the little tidbits of information the magazine offers strike a chord with me. In this instance, an April 2008 article–more of a paragraph, really—mentioned ...
  • A Quarter Million Viewers Can’t Be Wrong Sometime in the last few days, we passed the quarter million video views mark on YouTube. Far from the numbers the typical kitty playing with yarn gets, but for a small business, we think it is pretty respectable. And much appreciated. The funny thing is that nothing really changed between view number 249,999 and 250,000. But ...
  • Abnormal Conditions and Parking Lots I was walking through a parking lot today, and for some reason, I noticed the puddles of oil in the center of every parking space. Not an uncommon occurrence, but it got me thinking about abnormal conditions. If your car was leaking oil, could you tell when you backed out of one of those spaces? With ...
  • An Overlooked Benefit of Kaizen Events Everybody sees kaizen events as an opportunity to make an improvement. Most people also see them as an opportunity to train teams. But few regard them as a way to identify the future leaders of the company. Employees working in frontline production roles have limited chances to demonstrate their skills. Of course, there are some who ...
  • Andon: Lean Superhero I had a rather random thought this morning. It would not be much fun to work with a superhero, especially one with super-speed. Imagine the conversation with your boss. “Jeff, you’ve been doing OK, but you just can’t seem to keep up with the day shift. Superman and the Flash always seem to get more work ...
  • Applying Lean in Uncommon Ways One of the challenges Lean philosophies have faced is the perception that they are applicable only on the shop floor. That view, though has been under assault for some time, most notably with the rise of the Lean Office and Lean Healthcare. Lean has not enjoyed the same inroads in project work, though. Sure, 5S and ...
  • Are You Driven to Learn Lean? (Webinar Recording) Most people see the automotive industry as a great way to show how to apply Lean concepts to your organization, but your own car can also provide valuable insight into the application of Lean tools. In this video, Tim McMahon of A Lean Journey and I discuss how an item you use every day—your car—showcases many ...
  • Are You Kidding Me? You Call That a Metric? I’ve been trying to improve my overall fitness. Fortunately, it just got easier for me. Pizza and fries are now officially healthy choices. Congress has confirmed that both count as vegetables in school lunches. I am going to increase my consumption of both, as we are supposed to load up our diets with produce, right? This ...
  • Are You Worrying About the Right Things? Some people worry about shark attacks. They see the stories on the media, and get concerned that they will be a victim. But let’s look at the numbers. In the decade of the 2000’s, there were 11 unprovoked shark attacks in the US.
  • Attitude, Employee Behavior, Customer Service, and Lean So, I was thinking about my post from yesterday on customer service and retention and wanted to add another point. I really didn’t talk about the attitude of the employee at the front desk-the voice of the company. Now, she was civil to me. There was no evil cackle as she made me jump through the ...
  • Be Flexible in Your Kaizen Project The success of a kaizen project is closely correlated to its proper, thorough planning. But there is also a need to avoid going into a kaizen project with pre-conceived notions of specific changes. Those two opposing factors can create a situation where a team starts diving into a kaizen project and realizes that there is a ...
  • Be Happy. It Pays. And It Could Save Your Life. I was leafing through a folder of interesting articles I clip to give me ideas for my writing, and came across a Men’s Health clip from a few years ago. The story doesn’t provide numbers, but it quotes ‘studies’ that show some of the benefits of being a happy person. You make more money. You are more creative. You ...
  • Benchmark Lean: Difficulties Copying the Toyota Production System. Lean TPS Information. To some, Toyota might seem surprisingly open with its Lean TPS information. After all, Lean TPS is the primary reason for Toyota’s success and recent dominance in the auto industry. Why wouldn’t they guard their secrets? Even more, why would the give access to their facilities to both Lean practitioners who will take their learning ...
  • Benefit of Lean: Is Lean Really Easier? Let me ask you this question about the benefit of Lean. Is jogging a mile harder than sprinting a quarter mile? That’s the basic problem with pitching Lean as making a job easier. It’s not always an apples-to-apples comparison. Sure, Lean makes tasks easier. But the entire job might actually get more strenuous. This is most common when a ...
  • Benefits, Lean or Otherwise, Depend on Perspective When managers explain Lean to their employees, they always list the benefits. Lean improves productivity. It makes quality better. It gets products out the door faster. All true. But despite those benefits, Lean sometimes makes employees dissatisfied. Why? Let’s look at it from the perspective of my daughter when she very young. I’m a gadget guy. I can’t ...
  • BLUF Your Way Through Meetings No, I’m not saying to fake it when you don’t know something. I’m talking about the acronym BLUF. Bottom Line Up Front It’s simple. Lead with what you are trying to accomplish in the meeting so people can stay on track. You are not trying to build suspense, so it doesn’t matter if people know what you ...
  • Brand New Lean Terms for You! I was travelling recently, and managed to get quite a few new entries done for my Lean Dictionary. Internal Setup Mura Muri Nagara One-Piece Flow Point-of-Use Inventory Two-Bin System Please feel free to comment on the terms. Obviously, short entries like these can’t cover everything on these subjects, but if there is something you think should be added, let me know.
  • Building a Continuous Improvement Culture Webinar Recording In January, I posted an article about ways to start building a continuous improvement culture in your organization. Tim McMahon and I revisited the topic in March when we did a live Lean webinar chat on the subject. Tim added some of his perspective, and we talked for nearly an hour about how to engage ...
  • Building a Lean Infrastructure Webinar Filling Up Fast… Tim McMahon of A Lean Journey and I have been doing our live webinar shows for over half a year now, and we’ve gotten a solid reception to them up until now. But our latest one, 8 Ways to Create an Infrastructure that Supports Lean has been filling seats at the fastest rate yet. If you ...
  • Cancelled Travel Plans Means More 5S Info We had a last-minute change of plans in my family, so I ended up staying home rather than traveling over the holiday weekend. In this case, my loss was your gain as I spent a lot of time updating the information relating to 5S in The Continuous Improvement Companion. I added a short video to ...
  • Categories of Waste: Why They Don’t Really Matter Taiichi Ohno divided waste up into seven forms. Since then, there have been several other versions of the categories of waste (CLOSED MITT, for example). As a refresher…. The Categories of Waste Defects Overprocessing Transportation Motion Waiting Inventory Overproduction Why the Categories of Waste Don’t Matter Breaking waste into categories does have many benefits. First of all, they provide a way of organizing your mind when ...
  • Checking Your Lean Progress (+Video) A short while ago, Tim McMahon of the “A Lean Journey” blog and I hosted a webinar in which we talked about how to understand and evaluate the progress you are making as you reduce waste and increase value in your organization. (Note: the link above will take you to a discussion about the webinar ...
  • Choose the New Free Content for April One of the things we take pride in on our website is the extensive amount of free continuous improvement information we offer. But as helpful as we are constantly told the site is, it is missing one thing. Your input. We tend to create the lineup of new free content based on what we think ...
  • Collective Intelligence and Lean. How to Harness All of Your Team’s Brainpower There is a theory called collective intelligence that says groups of people are smarter than individuals. Let’s look at a simple example of how this works. Imagine I listed the names of several states up on a board, and asked a room full of people to rank order the states based on size. Individual rankings tend ...
  • Communicating Goals: Managing Continuous Improvement Teams A while back, I was at clinic for a flu shot. As I was waiting in line, I could hear one of the nurses in the other room loudly describe her manager in unpleasant terms. The main gist of the RN’s complaint seemed to center around productivity. According to the nurse, her boss had asked ...
  • Communicating Your Improvement Initiative Starting anything new can be a challenge. It can be especially so at the beginning of a process improvement initiative. Whether the new methods come from Lean, Six Sigma, a hybrid of the two, or a homegrown philosophy, people have a natural resistance to change. And managing that resistance poorly can lead to disastrous results. ...
  • Communication. Lean Depends on It. I have spent the majority of my waking hours for the last three weeks or so staring at my computer screen. My bloodshot eyes have gotten to really dislike re-doing any work I have already done once. To prevent the waste of this rework, we at Velaction use a process to go over page designs before making ...
  • Competition at Work. How Lean Principles Can Help. When you hear the term ‘competition’, you mind likely immediately pictures two companies competing for market share. Google and Microsoft locked in an epic battle. Oil companies fighting over drilling rights. Car dealers offering ever-sweeter incentives. But that’s only part of the competition at work you are likely involved in. You are also competing with your coworkers. ...
  • Continuous Improvement Teams: 6 Reasons Why Crab Fishing on Deadliest Catch is a Model for Lean Managers & Employees Where can you find some of the best Lean Six Sigma teams around? The people I’m thinking of don’t spend their day on the shop floor or in an office. They work on the deck of a boat. Surprisingly, a great example of Lean operations is on Discovery Channel’s hit show Deadliest Catch. Many regard fishing ...
  • Continuous Improvement: It’s not just for the law-abiding anymore I have to say, I was amused by a recent article. Authorities seize catapult used to hurl pot into Arizona The headline pretty much sums up the story. Drug smugglers, looking for a new way to get their product to market, were thinking outside the box. I think the Plan and Do phases of the PDCA cycle are ...
  • Correlation or Causation? Interceptions and the Playoffs. SI.com recently ran an article about the ‘interception ladder’. It looked back at playoff games since 1970, and found an interesting statistic. With each interception a team throws (accidentally throwing to the guys in the wrong jersey) the chance that the team won dropped. Now, this is a classic case of confusing correlation with causation. If ...
  • Costs of Business. What Does ‘Cost’ Really Mean? Reducing the costs of doing business is one of the main goals of Lean. But, as I worked on the term ‘costs’ for The Continuous Improvement Companion, it struck me that there are a significant number of ways to look at costs. I’ve compiled many of the different ways I’ve heard the term ‘cost’ used in ...
  • Could Lean Help Me Go Pro? I had dinner last night with a friend I hadn’t seen in a number of years. We did a lot of catching up, but because we first met working for a company that was just ramping up its commitment to Lean, we talked a lot about continuous improvement. I made a joke that with the Lean tools, ...
  • Cursive is Dead. Long Live the Keyboard. I just read an interesting article that said the State of Indiana will no longer require their schools to teach cursive in class. My first response was more emotional than logical. I couldn’t believe that cursive writing is dying. It would be hard to imagine that my kids would not be able to read a ...
  • Customer Service-Lean: First Impressions Last There’s a little pastry shop up the road from us. It’s just far enough off our beaten path that we have to make an effort to go there. My wife stopped in a few years back and got lousy service. I had gone around the same time, but I thought the staff did OK. Since then, I ...
  • Customer Service: Retention to an Extreme I had an interesting experience with my health club this week. It had to do with what I am presuming is a customer retention policy. I was cancelling one of the services they offer, but keeping the membership. First off, they told me I could not do this over the phone-I had to come in and ...
  • Customer Value Added. Helping the customer get more value out of using your product. When we think of process improvement, our minds often jump immediately to what the business is doing to fill a customer’s needs. We are not as good at looking at the steps the user takes. Is customer value added every time the product is used? A case in point. I saw this kiosk at the airport recently. I ...
  • Deming’s Great Lapse in Logic I’m going to start out by saying that I fully expect to be blasted for this article. Challenging anything that Deming or Ohno or Shingo or Juran says is walking on thin ice in the Lean community. Despite that, I am going to do it anyway. Lately, I have been more aware of the numerous references ...
  • Do Goals Limit Team Performance? Conventional wisdom contends that goals are essential for improving team performance. I’ve shared that belief for years, but what if it is wrong? What if goals act to hold back a team’s performance? For low performing teams, I’m convinced that goals do inspire improvement. For those groups, inertia tends to rule, and the status quo is ...
  • Do You Suffer From SCS (Squirrel Chasing Syndrome)? One of the challenges modern businesses face is the flood of information that is streaming at them on a daily basis. That wave of data contains a wealth of good ideas. And some of those ideas are things that the competition is doing. The problem is that many people, predominantly managers, suffer from SCS, better known ...
  • Does Lean Need Agile? I like to be challenged in my beliefs. For this reason, I am running an article that was submitted to me by Stephen Jannise of SoftwareAdvice.com. Stephen’s premise is that Lean is no longer enough to thrive in today’s competitive, flexible market. He believes that agile management is the next step beyond Lean. Now, I agree with ...
  • Does Your Leadership Style Create Management Waste? When improving an operation, most people only look at the process. They seldom dive into the manager’s role in running that process. Often, the way a leader behaves can have a substantial impact on how smoothly a process can flow. Watch out for… Managers batching approvals. Most managers do approvals one of two ways. The ‘drop ...
  • Domino’s Restaurant Kaizen I was watching a little TV to wind down this evening, and saw an interesting commercial from Domino’s. Apparently, the pizza franchise did a little restaurant kaizen and came up with a new recipe. I am sure restaurants are constantly tweaking their processes and their secret ingredients, but this is the first time I have seen ...
  • Don’t Be Scared of Being Scared Fear can paralyze us. It can keep us from trying new things, and mire us in bad situations when we are too frightened to take a risk to try to change things. Rather than talk in more detail about this, I am going to point you to another blogger who dives deep into the topic. As you ...
  • Don’t Blindly Follow Directions Standardizing processes is an important component of Lean success. But just because instructions are written down does not mean that they are correct, or even safe. I saw an article recently that reinforced this. Apparently, according to a story on MSNBC, a woman downloaded walking directions on her phone. The route led her to a busy ...
  • Don’t Debate Something That Can Be Measured In Lean, there are certainly some things that are open for debate. How aggressively to set goals, for example. When the criteria used to select a course of action are different for both sides, there is likely to be a disagreement. (See my recent video on using a decision matrix for more info on that ...
  • Don’t Go Crazy with Your 5S I often see people focusing on technical aspects of 5S, rather than the purpose of what 5S is all about. Remember, 5S is intended to create a more productive, effective workspace. Some common errors include: Defining a location for a fixed object. Some people like to outline everything, but I simply don’t see the need to run ...
  • Don’t Trust New Technology! I received a very interesting e-mail this morning from one of my readers regarding yesterday’s post on policy deployment. Here it is: Jeff: Have you started using some sort of speech-to-text software?  There are several grammar/syntax errors in today’s post—and that’s unusual. As always, the post is full of good information.  Thanks for making it available. SG Guess what. SG was ...
  • Don’t Let Cost Reduction Eliminate Customer Value I’m a fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Recently Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (the ‘Hero of the Hudson’) was a guest on the show. Jon Stewart brought up a part of Sully’s book (Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters) where Sully had mentioned that his copilot had to leaf through the index of ...
  • Dumb Jobs: Dirt Can’t Hide. Dumb Can. Earlier this evening, I was recording some Lean audio training-my “Dirty, Dumb, or Dangerous” entry from The Continuous Improvement Companion. I thought I’d highlight one of the points I made in that article. (Remember-dirty, dumb, or dangerous tasks show a lack of respect for people, and should be eliminated.) Dirt is easy to spot. Granted, sometimes it works ...
  • Employee-Customer Relationships and Airlines I recently went to a restaurant, and received this bill for an item that cost $12.95 on the menu: Item Price Food $12.95 Food Preparation Surcharge $3.95 Property Tax Surcharge $0.95 Site Security Fees $0.37 Waiting Area Use Fee $0.46 Clean-up Fee $0.99 Booth Usage Fees $0.76 Imagine how this bill could damage an employee-customer relationship. OK, I jest here, but this is a typical situation for airlines. The fare you see when ...
  • Establishing Standards: How Using Incentives Helps Many years ago, when I was a lieutenant in the Army, I was responsible for a motor pool—a military word for a glorified lot where the unit parked its forty trucks when they weren’t in use. Every Friday afternoon, my sergeants and I managed the cleanup of the motor pool. As I am sure you can ...
  • Every Approval Is a Leadership Failure Businesses are full of managerial approval loops. An employee wants to take a break, and he must check in with the supervisor. An employee wants to buy a hand tool, and she must go through channels to put in the request. A back-office employee wants to do something to take care of a customer, and he has to ...
  • Every Conflict Comes From a Gap in Expectations Every conflict can be traced back to a gap in expectations. Every single one. Every time. I normally don’t make such definitive statements, but in this case, I am convinced. Every time I have ever had a dispute with someone, whether it was with my wife over who ate the last of the ice cream, or ...
  • Examples of Lean: Teach Your Teams With Examples They Can Relate To (+Video) In all likelihood, have not given a lot of thought to how you choose the examples of Lean you use to illustrate points. Whether you are conducting training, or simply trying to build buy-in for process improvement efforts, you should look for examples of Lean that people see on a daily basis. Why? For a lot ...
  • External and Internal Customers in Lean Lean focuses on the customer. That’s one of its bedrock principles, and is reinforced with every value stream map. Value for an external customer is fairly easy to pinpoint. If a customer is willing to pay for something, they value it. But if they aren’t willing to pay for it, you have to ask if they ...
  • Failure Isn’t Really Failure I was recently reading a rather old book on customer satisfaction by Bob Tasca. He had an interesting quote about failure. “Failure isn’t failure at all—it’s information.” Now, I am not saying to go out trying to fail just to gather information. But, when you try a lot of new things, you are going to make your ...
  • Featured Lean Thinker: Chris Paulsen The latest member of our Featured Lean Thinker group is Chris Paulsen. Chris and I have commented back and forth several times on various blog posts, and you’ll see his ideas frequently on blogs and forums throughout the Lean community. He’s got a sharp eye for picking up the nuances of an article and always ...
  • Featured Lean Thinker: Evan Durant This week’s Featured Lean Thinker is Evan Durant. Though he doesn’t mention it in his bio, he blogs about Lean on occasion at his Kaizen Notebook blog. I like reading his articles, as we share some common background. Evan works at a Danaher company. I gained a good deal of my experience working under the ...
  • Featured Lean Thinker: Jay Watson This week’s featured Lean thinker has been a guest in a few podcasts now. He is Jay Watson of FreeLeanSite.com. Jay is one of those seasoned veterans of Lean from before it was mainstream. Yet with all those years of experience, he still has passion in his voice when we speak about Lean. In fact, when ...
  • Featured Lean Thinker: Jeff Hajek I am working with a new group in the near future, and they requested that I start out by introducing myself in the ‘Featured Lean Thinker’ format. I realized I hadn’t actually answered the questions myself, so instead of just talking to the group about what I thought, I went ahead and wrote out some ...
  • Featured Lean Thinker: Mark Graban This week’s featured Lean thinker is Shingo prize winner Mark Graban. I suspect that many of you are familiar with his LeanBlog.org and his work in Lean healthcare. If you are not, you should be. So, here’s how Mark answered my Lean questions… What does Lean mean to you? I haven’t revisited my blog’s “What is Lean?” page ...
  • Featured Lean Thinker: Mark Rosenthal This week’s featured Lean thinker is Mark Rosenthal, who, for the last three years, has written his blog, appropriately named for this article, The Lean Thinker. Mark is also a former coworker of mine. So, here’s how Mark answered my Lean questions… What does Lean mean to you? “Lean” is an unfortunate term that has “stuck” to mean ...
  • Featured Lean Thinker: Tim McMahon In an effort to build the Lean community, I am introducing a new weekly posting in the Gotta Go Lean Blog. Every Thursday, I will profile a “Featured Lean Thinker”. These are the people who have a voice in the Lean community, and are shaping the way people think about and practice Lean. I ask ...
  • Find a Factory Whisperer Most people look at a factory, and just see a building where people make things. They just see chaos. They see people mixed with inanimate objects, sprinkled with the occasional robot. But there is more to it than that. A factory is a living, breathing, active thing. It has a pulse. It grows. It gets sick. So ...
  • Fishbone / Ishikawa / Cause and Effect Diagram Video Training I’m on a roll this week. Getting a lot of new content out. Today, I posted a Lean video training presentation on the Fishbone/Ishikawa/Cause and Efect Diagram (the link takes you to the term in our Lean Dictionary.) It’s a six minute video that shows the basics of how to make a fishbone diagram. For those unfamiliar ...
  • Free (Lean) Tax Advice I saw a blurb in Forbes magazine that I just had to check out. It referred to an instruction located on the US tax form 2106-EZ. The instruction says, “An expense does not have to be required to be considered necessary.” I have to confess, I don’t have the brainpower to figure out what expenses might ...
  • Gauge Go/No-Go. Can You Be Lean and Not Even Know It? I was just winding down watching some TV on a Sunday night, and it struck me that a lot of people are Lean without even realizing it. To be fair, I have a rather broad definition of Lean. I basically use it interchangeably with “continuous improvement“-constantly doing more with less. So in that sense, most companies ...
  • Give Us Your Opinion on Gotta Go Lean Article Types Up until now, the Gotta Go Lean blog has been published on a rather flexible schedule depending on the amount of time being spent producing new training materials and serving clients. Well, as our readership has grown, so too has the need to be more structured in how we publish. Now that we have passed 5,000 ...
  • Gotcha! Oh, Wait. Do I Know You? One of the challenges of being a big company lies in making sure one hand is talking to the other. I recently came across an instance in which this seemed not to happen. I was running McAfee security software at the time, and occasionally received emails from them. I was mild amused to see their spam ...
  • Gotta Go Lean Podcast: Where Is Lean Useful? I’m finding myself quickly growing more comfortable in front of a microphone talking about Lean. It helps that I love the topic, and could talk about it for days. This podcast contains my thoughts about where Lean can be useful. The idea came to me while I was at a coffee shop getting my caffeine fix. The ...
  • Government Lean. The TSA and Process Improvement. Airports and government agencies give such great opportunities for Lean blog articles. Despite the abundance of topics where I could point out problems, I have to say there are lots of positive changes I see in the face of challenging regulations and stressed customers. For example, story after story comes out about how the TSA did ...
  • Guess What. Tired People Make More Mistakes. (Surprised?) It comes as no revelation to us that we make more mistakes when we are tired. Drive late at night, and you will undoubtedly notice that you’ve got a slower reaction time and that your mind wanders more. Think of the silly errors you make when it is late at night and you are dead ...
  • Guess What. You’re Not Unique. In my travels, I have lost track of how many people have told me that their situation is unique, or that their process is different. The truth of the matter is that they are right. Every process is unique, and every situation is different. But ironically, that very fact means that they are not. Every person ...
  • Guest on “The Lean Nation” Friday, August 20, 2010! Exciting News! I will be a guest on the world famous The Lean Nation radio show on Friday, August 20, 2010 from 4-5pm Eastern time on 790 AM Talk and Business, hosted by Karl Wadensten.  We’re going to discuss an article I wrote as a guest on Mark Graban’s LeanBlog.org—The Secret to Lean is Saying No. This ...
  • High Energy + No Direction = Problems! I saw this sign at a coffee shop a while ago, and spent the whole day moderately amused. First of all, I am a big coffee fan. I joke that I can’t give blood because the caffeine in my veins would wake up patients during surgery. Second, I am not a big fan of running full ...
  • High School Math and Lean Let’s break out a little high school math and talk about a difference between shop floor cycle times and the time it takes to do work in the office. Cycle time on the shop floor is fairly straightforward. There is a time that a task takes, plus a little more time for every option that is ...
  • How a Hockey Stadium Can Provide a Lean Lesson A while back I read an article about the Florida Panthers. They are an NHL hockey team with the seventh largest arena in the league. In Florida, I am certain that hockey does not reign supreme. It is a state where most kids seldom see a dusting of snow growing up, let alone a frozen ...
  • How Can Healthcare Be So Good and So Bad? Over the last few days, I’ve got to experience both the good and the bad of the healthcare system in the US. You see, my daughter was a bit over-adventurous with her parkour in the playground and broke her ankle trying to leap from a ladder to a set of monkey bars. So, the bad first. ...
  • How Deep Is Your Team’s Talent? I am an avid Chicago fan, despite having left the area over twenty years ago. I still watch the teams whenever I can, and follow them religiously on the web. So, this year has been a huge letdown. The Bears were riding high when their star quarterback, Jay Cutler, was injured. Saying they limped to the ...
  • How Do YOU Approach An Idea? There are two basic types of people. Those who are worried about trying an idea that won’t work, and those that are worried about not trying an idea that might work. The first type can go a whole career with some degree of success. Every time I play golf, I realize that at my skill level, ...
  • How Easy is “Easy”? So, it is a lazy Saturday morning, and my elementary school age son asked me to play a game of baseball on the Wii. He even offered to “take it easy on me.” It is impossible to resist an offer like that, so, of course I played. The first inning was scoreless. In the second inning, ...
  • How Lean Fights Obsolescence I heard an interesting story the other day about baggage fees. Although the decision to charge for extra bags has alienated travelers, it hasn’t seemed to reduce the number of fliers significantly. But the fees did, however, alter passenger behavior. Travelers take fewer bags with them now when they catch a flight. Of course, anytime ...
  • How to 5S. Or More Accurately, How NOT to 5S. 5S is one of the building blocks of Lean, and really, any continuous improvement effort. Learning how to 5S properly can launch a company on the path to greatness. Unfortunately, many companies don’t learn how not to 5S. What you don’t do can be as important as what you do. How NOT to 5S When I was ...
  • How to Organize Cables with 5S I was sitting here looking at my computer, and my eyes wandered to the various ways my computer cables are organized. I wondered how other people organize cables and cords. First of all, why bother to organize cables? Because an organized and clean workspace is generally an effective workspace. (Read the entry on 5S in my ...
  • How to Overcome 24 Common Lean Excuses (+PDF) Change is hard for some people. And since Lean requires a significant shift from typical thinking, it can generate some strong resistance. One of the most common forms of pushback when changing to a Lean mindset is the use of excuses. People are extremely creative at coming up with reasons that Lean will not work. Note: ...
  • How to: Visual Management. Lean in the Airport. Why is it that when we are in the airport, we don’t wander aimlessly around? It is because of the extensive use of Lean visual controls. Lean practitioners, just like airport designers, know the value of using visual controls. Lean processes should have what airports have: easy to recognize signals that keep things flowing in the ...
  • Identifying Waste: Stop. Don’t Look. Listen. 15 Sounds That Shout Waste. (+4 Page PDF) Waste reduction is a cornerstone of Lean. Waste is anything that does not add value to a process or serve the customer. The first step to eliminating waste is identifying it. Most people do this by observing a process and looking for inefficiency or redundancy. Although you can learn a lot by watching, sometimes you ...
  • Implementing Kaizen: How Late Should Kaizen Teams Work? Great Lean practitioners and change agents know the same thing about implementing kaizen that a carpenter does about his trade. You have to use the right tool for the right job. When building cabinets, a woodworker relies on tools other than his hammer. Lean companies should look to tools other than the week-long kaizen project when ...
  • Implementing Lean in 3 (Not So) Easy Steps I am often asked about what can make implementing Lean easier, or how to do it quicker. Unfortunately, implementing Lean takes a lot of effort. It requires a lot of expertise, experience, and a wide array of skills to make it successful. There are no magic wands, special beans, or secret scrolls passed down from ...
  • Improvement Objectives In Lean You might be surprised to hear me say this: Does that mean that I am not driven to make big gains in Lean? No. Does that mean that I don’t think Lean goals are important? Absolutely not. You shouldn’t be hitting all of your Lean improvement objectives. All it means is that I think Lean improvement objectives should ...
  • In Lean Jobs, Experience Is Less Important In some jobs, experience is critical. I want to be treated by a doctor who has seen every symptom for every disease. I want my pilot to have logged a massive number of flight hours. The few times I’ve needed a lawyer to prepare legal documents for me, I’ve chosen ones with plenty of experience. In ...
  • Inspect Your Inspections Any time I hear the word ‘inspection‘, I think failure. An inspection is an admission that you haven’t been able to build quality into a production process. That said, I think there is a place for inspections, as long as there is recognition that they wasteful. But since even wasteful processes can be improved, here’s a ...
  • Inspection and Quality. How the NFL Can Teach You About Lean. So, it is a Sunday morning, and the outlook for today is bleak. You see, it is the bye week for my favorite football team–the Chicago Bears. I can handle the wait from the end of the season until the first game of the next one, but giving me a taste of football and then ...
  • Interruptions and Lean A recent study on interruptions in emergency rooms had a surprising finding. (See the full article on CNN here) I wasn’t surprised at how often doctors were interrupted: 11% of all tasks. In fact, that might be low for any given office worker. Shop floor workers tend to be more insulated from disturbances than the folks ...
  • Interview with Karen Martin (Podcast) Today I am pleased to be posting a short conversation I had with Karen Martin. She is the author of The Outstanding Organization and a recent Shingo Research Award recipient for that work. She is also one of my friends in the online continuous improvement community, so I am especially pleased to help her get her ...
  • Introducing Lean Larry and How He Used Visual Work Instructions I love what I do, but there is one part that brings me particular joy. I get to play with Legos™ as part of my job. Who wouldn’t love that? So, taking that a step further, I’ve created a short video introducing Lean Larry, the production manager of my VelactionKart facility located in western Washington. Larry had ...
  • Is Success Possible? I get a monthly shot to battle my seasonal allergies. As part of the process, the nurse has to confirm my information, prep the injection site, and administer the special concoction. Then there is waiting period where I have to be observed to make sure I don’t have any sort of systemic reaction. The last step ...
  • Is There Value in Lean Certification? The Lean community learns a lot from each other. Two forward thinkers that I follow pretty regularly are Mark Graban of LeanBlog.org and Ron Pereira of LSSAcademy.com. A little while ago, Mark posted an article on Lean certifications, and mentioned that he was biased against them. Ron has the opposite viewpoint. He mentioned that he had ...
  • Is Toyota Still the Champ? Toyota has unquestionably been instrumental in promoting Lean principles through its production system. The evolutionary, and sometimes revolutionary, path it has followed has been emulated by many, and is often held out as the beacon of Lean in the continuous improvement community. In his 2004 book, The Toyota Way, Jeffrey Liker clearly established Toyota as the ...
  • Is Your Leadership Style a Bottleneck to Creativity? Leaders have a tough job. They are in charge, so the success and failure of an organization rests on their shoulders. It makes sense that they want to have a lot of say in how things are done. It is also true that most managers got to where they were as a result of their competence. ...
  • It’s About Time! Actually, this article really is about time. In Lean operations, there are many, many, many references to time. This is a comprehensive list of time terms you may run across in your continuous improvement travels. Please feel free to offer additional time terms in the comments section, and I’ll update the list.   Automated (or Automatic) Machine ...
  • Job Stress and Lean…and Rainbows? Last night, I was trying to think of a topic for an article to write for this morning’s post. At first, I felt my blood pressure start to rise in lockstep with the rising job stress. But then, I remembered something. I know Lean principles. I suddenly realized that I’ve been following my processes, so I have ...
  • Kaizen at Home, Holiday Style! Well, we are deep in the heart of the holiday season. Like many of you, I visited some family last week. I happened to be in Spokane, and one night we went out looking at Christmas lights. Just outside the city, there is a barn with a pretty amazing display. I watched the lights like most ...
  • Kaizen Creativity: Breaking Preconceived Notions One of the harder things for people to do at work is to really cut their creativity loose. Industry as a whole tends to reward successful creativity, but when ideas, especially ones that have just a sprinkling of ‘crazy’ on top, don’t pan out, the person can be viewed in a less than positive light. Lean, ...
  • Key Principles for a Lean Business System One of the mistakes companies make when they try to create a business system or develop a continuous improvement culture is that they focus on the wrong things. They scrutinize behaviors. They spend their energy reacting to unexpected results. They bounce from tool to tool trying to find a fix for their problems. What they often ...
  • Leadership style and neural networks – Part 3 Toyota’s two pillars of management are respect for people and continuous improvement. Respect for people obviously calls on the DMN, the “default mode” neural network associated with emotion and relationships. Continuous improvement does not neglect the people factor, but it does require methodical data collection and analysis — TPN (task positive network) activities. We have ...
  • Leading Change: What’s Good for the Goose ISN’T Good for the Gander I was watching Jon Stewart, where I get all my fake news from, and he had an interesting guest, Atul Gawande, the author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. Now, if you’ve spent time looking at my site, you’ll know that I am a fan of checklists. (I’ve even got a free 8-page ...
  • Lean and the News (and a Contest!) The more I read about problems that companies and other organizations encounter, the more I believe that Lean is the answer. As I write this, one of the stories in the current news cycle is about how a man was able to walk into a terminal at Newark airport by going the wrong way through a ...
  • Lean and the Trapeze I think I might have mentioned in past articles that I see Lean in everything nowadays. Last Saturday was no different. My wife surprised me with an adventure for our anniversary. She took me to a place that teaches people how to swing on the trapeze. So there were about ten people or so in the ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 3/16/2010 I thought I’d try something new, and post a few links to articles I found interesting over the last week. I’ll try to do this every Tuesday if there seems to be interest in it. If you’d prefer not to have this added as a regular feature, please let me know that as well. Lean articles ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 3/23/2010 Here are some of the articles that captured my attention this week. If you happen to see any others that you think should make the next list, please let me know in the comments section below. This week’s Lean articles of interest… Greg Eisenbach wrote about some continuous improvement the US Army used in their training regimen. Bud ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 3/30/2010 Here are a few articles I found interesting this week. One of my readers (Thanks, Brian J!) sent me a link to an interview with Kip Tindell of The Container Store. Tindell says that one great person can be as productive as three good team members. Bill Waddell has some thoughts about where to focus your continuous ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 4/15/2011 Interesting Articles From Around the Web Career Advice on Resolving Conflict. Bud Bilanch is “The Common Sense Coach, and provides some great career advice that could just as easily be Lean advice. Stand-Up Meeting Humor. Mike Wroblewski shows that you have to laugh at yourself on occasion if you are in the Lean community. FAA official out amid ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 4/27/2010 This week’s Lean articles of interest… From Tim McMahon, an article on how to listen. Ron Periera found an interesting andon in a bathroom. Bud Bilanich has been running a series of “Success Tweets.” Not specifically Lean, but applicable nonetheless.
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 5/18/2010 This week’s Lean articles of interest… I like the video and comments Mark Graban posted on his Leanblog.org about no problems being a problem. I especially like the part where the speaker says that if there are no problems, there is no need for managers. Mike Wroblewski counters a USA Today article claiming that U.S. productivity is ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 6/15/2010 This week’s articles of interest… I like the short and sweet nature of Greg Eisenbach’s Grassroots Innovation blog. In this post, he found a sign at a construction site (Obscenity Alert! It is a construction site, after all.) that highlights the problem of having only one person who knows a process. As simple as visual controls are ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 6/7/2010 This week in Lean… Hard not to like Lean articles set against a sports backdrop. Ron Pereira talks about the blown call the stole a perfect game. I’ve been involved in a long discussion with Mark Graban on his blog about rewarding performance. Here’s a related article about rewarding good attendance. The problem I see is giving ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 7/13/2010 (Sports Edition) This week’s articles of interest focus on sports news… The first article highlights the need to think through all of the consequences of an action. Usain Bolt, the current world record holder in the 100 meter dash, has opted out of a race in England due to tax laws. He would have lost money by competing, ...
  • Lean Articles of Interest: 9/14/2010 I’ve gotten away from my articles of interest lately, but thought I’d get back to it… Mark Graban, coincidentally, posted a video about misguided 5S on the same day as I wrote about it. It’s a good, amusing way to spend a few minutes of your time. Bud Bilanich has been posting a series of short pieces ...
  • Lean Education: Can it Work? I saw an article on CNN and thought it would make a good point about Lean. The piece is titled “Why teaching is ‘not like making motorcars’”. The article compares education with producing cars, but misses a key point. The article starts out by saying, “Sir Ken Robinson says our education system works like a factory.” ...
  • Lean Escape Velocity A gerontologist (one who studies aging and the problems of aging people) named Aubrey de Grey has a theory about longevity that basically says in the future, medical and other technological advances will increase average life spans faster than people are aging. He calls the point when that happens ‘longevity escape velocity’. As you age, ...
  • Lean Leadership Soft Skills (+PDF) Learning the technical aspects of Lean takes time and effort. But, what few people recognize is that it is much harder to develop the soft skills of continuous improvement. The following list contains some of the greatest challenges—and opportunities—for many Lean leaders. Note: This article is available for download on PDF.
  • Lean Lessons from Steve Jobs Being Poked with a Stick I was working on a project for a consulting client and took a short break to see what was new in the news. I came across an interesting article about a late-night (alcohol-fueled) exchange between a blogger (the one fueled by the alcohol) and Steve Jobs of Apple. It was interesting enough that it drew ...
  • Lean Litmus Test Question 1: Do small goals add up to big success? I recently posted a list of questions that I use as a litmus test when I start working to help an organization improve. The first of these questions was: If frontline leaders hit all their individual targets, would the company hit its goals? I ask this question to get a feel for how the company manages its strategy, ...
  • Lean Litmus Test Question 2: Do You Know Where You Are? This is the second of a series of questions I posted a few days ago that I use to get an initial read on a company that wants help with continuous improvement. While the questions don’t give a complete picture, they certainly help me determine which rocks to kick over, and where to pay special ...
  • Lean Litmus Test Question 3: What Will Your Team Accomplish Today? This is the third question in a series of five questions I use to do a quick assessment of a company’s progress in its Lean efforts, as well as its receptiveness to it. (Read the second question here.) The third question is Can frontline leaders predict what they will accomplish on any given day, within a few ...
  • Lean Litmus Test Question 4: What’s the Problem(s)? This is the fourth question in a series of five questions I use to do a quick assessment of a company’s progress in its Lean efforts, as well as its receptiveness to it. (Read the third question here.) The fourth question is Can frontline leaders name their 3 biggest problems and clearly state their quantitative impact? This question ...
  • Lean Litmus Test Question 5: Is There Understanding Before Action? This is the final question in a series of five questions I use to do a quick assessment of a company’s progress in its Lean efforts, as well as its receptiveness to it. (Read the fourth question here.) The fifth and final question is Do people thoroughly understand problems before taking action? This question gauges the team’s problem ...
  • Lean Measurement: It’s all in how you measure it… Forbes magazine recently released its 2009 ‘best colleges’ list. My alma mater, the US Military Academy (West Point) came out on top. I am pleased with the results, since I can now ‘legally’ claim to have graduated from the best school in the country. Plus, our arch-rivals from Navy came in far below at number 30, ...
  • Lean Nation Appearance Postponed Well, a last minute scheduling change has happened, and my appearance today on “The Lean Nation” has been postponed. I’ll let you know as soon as I get back on the calendar. I’ll also let you know about a few more new terms in The Continuous Improvement Companion Current State Map Design for Manufacturing Have a great weekend!
  • Lean Overview (+ Podcast) I’m trying out this Lean podcast to give you another way to ‘sharpen your Lean axe.’ I know you are busy, and can’t spare a whole lot of time keeping up to speed. My goal is to give you a way to hear about Lean ideas on the go. This audio presentation runs 12:09. In this podcast, I give ...
  • Lean Podcast-Managing the Fear of Failure in Lean Today’s podcast addresses a topic that many ‘Lean Rookies’ face: the fear of failure. Making mistakes is a part of kaizen–when you are trying a lot of things quickly, not all of them are going to work out. Listen in to a story about how I overcame a failure on my very first kaizen and learned some important ...
  • Lean Problems: Why Not Dream Big? Why Not Dream Big? As I was driving the other day, a license plate frame caught my eye. It said something like “I’m driving my silver dream.” The car was nice – a Japanese import that probably ran about $20K new, but has been out of production now for several years. As I sat behind this car ...
  • Lean Results: Don’t Believe the Hype (At Least in a Kaizen Report Out) I place a lot of value on integrity. I was always pretty honest growing up. I once returned a pair of Susan B. Anthony dollars to a lunch lady when she gave them to me instead of two quarters. And my parents had a knack for finding all sorts of things and returning them to ...
  • Lean Six Sigma Staffing. 8 Traits of People Who Excel at Continuous Improvement & Boost Productivity Conventional wisdom supports the belief that people with formal Lean and Six Sigma training are the ones that are best at making process improvements. While having skills from the Lean ‘toolbox’ is certainly a big plus, it is not the only thing that matters. Often, the personality traits of an individual play a much bigger role ...
  • Lean Success in Public vs. Private Companies There are many reasons that Lean can fail to take hold in an organization. One complaint that I hear commonly is about the short term financial pressure on publicly traded companies. Lean requires a long term investment in people and processes. When a company is first trying to weave a continuous improvement culture into its DNA, ...
  • Lean Survey: What would make the Lean community better? Over the years as a member of the online continuous improvement community, I have had the pleasure of meeting several like-minded individuals. Each contact with them helps me refine my ideas and learn more, as well as reinvigorates me in what I do. Recently, I’ve gotten involved in a series of conversations with a small group ...
  • Lean System vs. Lean Tools Would you go to a doctor whose credentials included only the following? Completed a six year program at ‘Scalpel University’ Certified in ultrasound technology Developed a medication distribution robot for hospitals  What about one who only focused on the theory of healing, but never actually learned how to read an x-ray or has yet to work with a real, live ...
  • Lean Versus Batch Manufacturing Video Lean vs. Batch Manufacturing I’m branching out a little, and have been working on some video content for my site. This one is an animated comparison of how products flow through batch and Lean manufacturers. The side-by-side view of both production methods highlights the advantages that Lean offers. 
  • Lean Wins! The skills managers value is reflected in the way they recruit new employees. One noticeable shift last year was the widening of the gap between job postings for Lean versus Six Sigma. The data comes from The Avery Point Group. In their first year of reporting, 2005, they showed job postings requesting Six Sigma skills outpacing ...
  • Lean Workplace: Group Dynamics, Basketball, and Lean Projects I frequently like to unwind by playing some basketball at a local gym.  Actually, to be a little more accurate, I play something that is vaguely recognizable as basketball. You’d think that with my years of experience at process improvement, I’d learn how to fix my jump shot. The other day, my wife asked me about the ...
  • Lean, Poka Yokes, and Taxi Cabs Recently, a study in New York City found that nearly three quarters of cabbies had charged an out-of city rate for rides within the city, at about twice the cost to the passenger. Now, the actual numbers come out to 1.8 million out of 360 million trips. The article I saw in the New York Times ...
  • Lean, Reasons, and Excuses What’s the difference between a reason and an excuse? The difference is one of intent. When a person has the intention of eliminating the barrier, he has encountered a reason. When a person does not intend to do anything about it, the obstacle is an excuse. For example, imagine that the leaders in a company attempting ...
  • Learn About Saying No to Lean Just wanted to give a quick heads up about an article I wrote as a guest author for Mark Graban’s LeanBlog.org. It is about the need to say no to a variety of things in order to be successful at Lean. Read all about it here.
  • Learning Lean Through Making Coffee (Recorded Webinar) A few weeks back, Tim McMahon and I hosted an online show in which we talked about how a pair of coffee makers can be a great backdrop for Lean lessons. They provide simple examples and are familiar to most people. They also have the advantage of not tuning people out. When business world examples are ...
  • Learning Lean: Always Re-learning Lean Lessons Once again, I found myself re-learning Lean lessons. This time it was a valuable one about inventory. Whenever I go to the big warehouse style megastore, they always have great deals. The last ‘great deal’ was on a couple pounds of grape tomatoes. This morning, as I was throwing out the shriveled remains of the last ...
  • Let Me Think for Seven Minutes So, this afternoon, I was straightening up the house, and I saw a wrapper on the floor in the family room. I asked my young son if he left it there. His response? “Let me think for 7 minutes.” I tried hard not to laugh. After all, I am trying to reinforce the concept of household 5S, ...
  • Looking Over the Wall (Lean Podcast) In my consulting travels, I often find instances where common sense dictates. Unfortunately, it is not common sense until you open up your boundaries and venture a bit up and down the value stream to see what your internal suppliers and customers are doing. Learn more about ‘looking over the wall’ at other processes to find ...
  • Make Quality Better: Eliminate Hammers To make quality better, you frequently have to go hunting for problems. One indicator of problems, though, is hard to miss. In heavy manufacturing, you can walk through a facility and hear the sounds of hammers ringing off in the distance. Let’s start off for a moment and think why people are using hammers in the ...
  • Make Sure There’s a Hole in Your Hoop I’ll admit, I sometimes have readers and customers coming to me questioning my policies and practices. In some cases I recognize immediately that I’m not providing the best service and I change my process on the spot. But as a small company, I am often at the mercy of the service providers I use. So ...
  • Management, Lean, and Leadership Skills Management, Lean, and leadership skills are essential to Lean success, both for you personally, and for your company. Consider this page a signpost to help you pick some tools to help you develop your Lean management and leadership skills. The Continuous Improvement Companion is the backbone of our training resources. Many of our training products build off ...
  • Managing Expectations in 3 Steps Over the years, I’ve seen my share of conflict between people. Some has been overt—two people arguing during a project, or a couple waiting in line in front of me that clearly had some unresolved issues. Other times, the conflict was more subtle. For example, a boss and an employee that didn’t see eye to eye, ...
  • Marketing: Lean and Your Brand I was freshening up my draft of the brand entry for The Continuous Improvement Companion (click this link to go to its online Lean Dictionary), and thought it would make a good, quick post for the Gotta Go Lean blog. What came to mind? The fact that most people don’t immediately associate Lean with marketing. Lean, in truth, can have ...
  • Measure the Things You Can Control As I’ve mentioned in many previous articles, sports provide an outstanding backdrop to teach Lean lessons. This aspect of athletics was reinforced in a recent article in ESPN magazine. It takes a detailed look at the statistics behind one pitcher’s performance. This player had an outstanding year in 2012. By one measure, he was responsible for ...
  • Mirror, Mirror on my Workbench, Who’s the Quickest with a Wrench? Just a quick tip today. Part of being successful at Lean is in developing a bag of tricks that you can reach into when a given situation presents itself. So, what do you do when you see an operator spin a product around (or lean over it) to check something on the back side of it? This ...
  • Mistake Proofing: Temporary Speed Bumps and Schools Zones In the last few months, I’ve seen several speed traps set up in schools zones where multiple police officers line up and systematically pull over a steady stream of drivers. Now, I’m not in the car with those drivers, but I would bet that most of them aren’t intentionally trying to put children at risk. In ...
  • Morning Walkthrough Tips The morning walkthrough sets the stage for a successful day in an effective company. Here are a few tips for leaders to take to heart when they prepare for a new day. Have a plan. Use a checklist. It should include any critical checks you need to complete each morning. These are most commonly safety related, ...
  • Muda. Muda. Muda. Muda. Like the three rules of real estate—Location, Location, Location—continuous improvement has its own repetitive rules as well. Plus, there’s even a fourth one for good measure. By the way—muda is the Japanese word for wasteful activity, but in practice is used synonymously with waste. These rules are pretty simple. Muda. Muda. Muda. Muda. Learn to identify muda. Learn not to tolerate muda. Learn to ...
  • My Braces and Lean In less than a week, I get my braces off. I thought it would be done at that point, but my orthodontist told me that recent studies have shown that teeth will start shifting back to the original position as long as five years after the braces are removed, if you don’t use some sort ...
  • My Daughter Taught Me Again I was having one of those ‘Father Knows Best’ moments with my daughter yesterday. I was trying to explain to her why school is so important. One of my arguments was that the better you do in school, the better job you tend to get. Of course, she saw at least part of my 5 Whys ...
  • Need to Poka Yoke My Process… I won’t bore you with the details, but I want to apologize for the last post (Process Evaluations) that went out on my Gotta Go Lean Blog’s RSS feed. In short, it was a mistake—I don’t mind advertising my products in this forum if they are related to a useful article, but I inadvertently sent out ...
  • Neuroscience and Lean I was surfing around the Kindle store the other day, and found a free download that looked interesting. It is no longer free, though. Sorry. The title might put some people off: Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders. To be honest, I have only skimmed over it a bit, and don’t quite know ...
  • New (QCD) and Improved (Kanban) PDF Downloads for You Just wanted to send out a quick note to let you know we have revised our QCD term, and added a 5-page PDF for registered users to download. We have also revised our kanban term, and have a new and improved download for that term as well. Print them out to add to the growing list of ...
  • New Data Collection Video: Understanding the Types of Data We just posted a new video on our YouTube channel. It comes from our Data Collection Recorded Webinar on DVD. Data collection is a core part of any problem solving effort. Choosing the right types of data to collect goes a long way towards getting this step correct. This short video takes about 5 1/2 minutes from ...
  • New Flow Charts Video Posted We just posted a new video excerpt from our Flow Charts Recorded Webinar DVD. It covers an overview of flow charts and how they contribute to the improvement process. Enjoy.
  • New Lean Terms for the Week (May 28, 2010) I haven’t posted a new article in a little while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working to get you some great new information. I added another tool to my list of free Lean forms, bringing the total to 21! You can now get a copy of my kaizen checklist, complete with all its ...
  • New Lean Terms Update for September 1, 2010 Just a quick update for today. I’ve gotten several new terms posted to The Continuous Improvement Companion. Enjoy. Change Management Current State Map Design for Manufacturing
  • New Run Charts Video Posted We’ve been making a big push to get a DVD released for every one of our PowerPoint packages. Last week, we released our Run Chart DVD and our Cause and Effect Diagram DVD. We already had an online video from an earlier version of our C/E presentations, but we didn’t have anything on run charts.
  • New Video Posted: Managing with Metrics We just posted a video from our brand new DVD, Managing with Metrics. It takes a detailed look at what metrics are and how they help you manage your operation.
  • Obstacles to Lean Lean works. It’s been proven time and time again that its methods and strategies are effective, and that companies that crack the code of Lean improve their operations significantly. But Lean also flounders in some companies, making it harder than it needs to be and limiting its progress. My perception is that there are a few common obstacles ...
  • Office Process Flow and IF-THEN Statements What’s the biggest difference between how shop floor (gemba) work and office processes flow? It’s not what you might think. A task is a task, whether you are grinding out burrs, installing an electric motor, or entering data. Sure, the motions are different, but in truth, the mechanics are similar. Your brain decides what to do. It tells your muscles how ...
  • Office Space Meets the Real World An interesting story caught my eye today. Apparently, an employee decided not to come to work…for 12 years. Amazingly, the paychecks never stopped. It reminded me of this exchange from the movie ‘Office Space’: Peter Gibbons: …. I uh, I don’t like my job, and, uh, I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore. Joanna: You’re just ...
  • One Person’s Value Stream is Another Person’s Waste One of the core tenets of continuous improvement is to work relentlessly to eliminate waste. But waste is a relative concept. Think about the accounting department in your company? Do you consider the credit checks they do to be value added? What about the IT department troubleshooting a systems problem? Value added, or waste? Now, think about ...
  • Only Read This Article If You Are Above Average at Work I have to start out by being honest with you. Some of you are not following directions. I suspect several below average performers are reading this. I’ll cut them some slack though, because they probably don’t even know it. Why? Most people are rather poor at self-assessment. This phenomenon starts early in life. In a study ...
  • Out of Box Thinking…from an Insurance Company? Guess Who’s Thinking Outside the Box? I saw an interesting advertisement that highlights ‘out of box thinking’. Surprisingly, this innovation came from an insurance company. The insurer has a trucking company for a client. This client had a problem with gravel falling off trucks, creating an unsafe and expensive situation. One way to go about resolving this ...
  • Outsourcing Homework? It Was Bound to Happen. Everybody outsources to an incredibly large degree—car maintenance, yard work, cooking, cleaning, milking cows, mail delivery. The world would not function without outsourcing. But I was surprised to see how far the concept of outsourcing can go. I was checking the news a few days ago, and saw an interesting video segment about college students outsourcing ...
  • Overprocessing Waste: A Different Spin on the Waste of Overprocessing. Let’s talk a little about the waste of overprocessing. Anyone who has been around Lean for more than a day or so has dived into the seven wastes (eight with unused creativity thrown in). One of the wastes is the waste of overprocessing. The most common explanation given about overprocessing is that it is the act ...
  • PDCA: Predict-Do-Check-Act? Let me start out by saying that, contrary to the title, I am not really advocating changing the name of the PDCA cycle to “Predict-Do-Check-Act”. What I am really pushing for is that part of the planning cycle includes a prediction of what will happen when you make a change. If you recall back to high ...
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly. Starsky and Hutch. Inspection and Quality? Inspection and quality go together, right? Wrong! Conventional wisdom holds that inspection and quality go together like those other famous partnerships in the title. After all, there are mountains of books on how to create sampling plans to check quality with inspections, and nobody blinks an eye when there is an end-of-line inspection station set ...
  • Performance Reviews are a Batch Process In Lean companies, we talk frequently about how batching is bad and flow is good. And yet, nearly every company batches its performance reviews into an annual evaluation. The irony is thick. Those very evaluations—the ones containing 365 days of observations—may critique a Lean leader on how well he was able to reduce lot sizes. The problem ...
  • Personal Kaizen: Getting Lean the Lean Way After sitting for countless hours in front of the computer when I was writing my Lean book, I noticed that my washer and dryer started to malfunction. They started shrinking my pants. OK, maybe it wasn’t the dryer’s fault. It might have had something to do with my lack of activity. I decided to do something about ...
  • Podcast: Frontline Lean Leadership with Tim McMahon I’m pleased to be posting an interview I did last month with Tim McMahon. He’s a Lean Manufacturing Leader at a fiber optics company, the Social Networking Lead for the Northeast region of the Association of Manufacturing Excellence, and has a Lean blog titled, A Lean Journey. He also Twitters at TimALeanJourney. In this 21 minute ...
  • Podcast: The Differences Between Lean on the Shop Floor and In the Office We’ve got a special treat for today’s podcast. A few weeks back, I had a chance to interview Mike Osterling. He’s one of the co-authors of The Kaizen Event Planner: Achieving Rapid Improvement in Office, Service and Technical Environments, owns his own consulting business, is a frequent speaker at organizations such as AME, ASQ, and ...
  • Podcast: The Lean Management Mindset, Part 1 This week, we have the first of a two part podcast series on the Six Simple Steps toward a Lean Management Mindset. In these recordings, I interviewed Jay Watson, the managing editor of www.FreeLeanSite.com. He recently completed a six week project, and his work highlighted some lessons that he learned over the course of his ...
  • Podcast: The Lean Management Mindset, Part 2 Well, I have finally gotten around to editing the second part of my interview with Jay Watson of FreeLeanSite.com about The Lean Management Mindset. If you are a regular reader/listener of the Gotta Go Lean Blog, you will recall that several weeks back, I posted part one, and mentioned that I’d post part two the following ...
  • Podcast: Value Stream Mapping with Karen Martin Once again, I had the pleasure of hosting an interview with Karen Martin. She recently co-authored a book with Mike Osterling. It’s titled Value Stream Mapping: How to Visualize Work and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation. (If you are interested in buying the book, it is available at Amazon.com.)
  • Poka Yoke Devices and Airlines There is a news story circulating around about an airliner that missed its designated stop. The control tower tried unsuccessfully to contact the plane for 78 minutes. The plane ended up flying 150 miles past the airport before the pilots re-established contact and turned the plane around. It seems strange to think that a mistake like ...
  • Poka Yoke? Or Poka Yuck… I just got back from doing some Lean training last week. I frequently return with a few pictures from my travels that are at least a little bit interesting. I apologize for the picture quality. Apparently, when the lens of your camera gets grimy, the pictures get worse. The first is of my rental car keys. ...
  • POLL: How common are KPI boards in your company? One of the hallmarks of an organization that is devoted to continuous improvement is the visible posting of metrics in work areas.
  • Poll: How do you prefer to learn about continuous improvement? POLL QUESTION: How do you prefer to learn about continuous improvement? There are now more options than ever to add to your knowledge about Lean. I am curious which methods you prefer to use when learning about continuous improvement. Pick the top 3.
  • Poll: How does your company make time for improvements? As a new weekly feature, we will be asking our readers a question about how they use Lean or other continuous improvement methods in their organization. This week, we would like to know how your company makes time for improvement activity.
  • Poll: How is Lean received by frontline employees when it is introduced? When a leader first announces that the company is going to commence on a Lean journey, frontline employees tend to have a strong reaction. Obviously, there are a lot of factors that play into the equation, but this week, I’d like to hear how you think employees typically respond to this sort of change.
  • POLL: How long will it take a typical company to become “Lean”? POLL QUESTION: How long will it take a typical average company to become Lean? One of the questions that many people have when they start a Lean journey is, “How long will it take?” Now, the truth is, this question is nearly impossible to answer. The motivation and resources of the company, the quality of ...
  • POLL: How many internal CI experts/consultants should a company have? POLL: How many internal CI experts/consultants should a company have? Organizations that thrive at continuous improvement often do so because they have a staff of dedicated experts acting as guides on their Lean journeys. There are a few different flavors to how these people are assigned, though.
  • POLL: Is Toyota Overrated? POLL QUESTION: Which of the following most accurately describes Toyota’s current role in the Lean community? I am a big fan of all that Toyota has done for the Lean community. Their contributions have been incalculable, and their willingness to share information is legendary…
  • Poll: What Are the Most Important Lean Leadership Traits? POLL QUESTION: What Are the Most Important Lean Leadership Traits? Leadership makes or breaks a Lean effort. Much of the gain comes from frontline effort, but that only happens when leaders set the right conditions for success. This week’s question focuses on Lean leadership. We’d like to know what you see as the most important leadership traits ...
  • POLL: What is the source of improvement activity in your company? POLL QUESTION: What is the source of improvement activity in your company? For most companies, the pull for improvement activity and the source of ideas comes from a variety of sources. As a company becomes more sophisticated, Lean efforts originate from an increasingly diverse range of systems and stakeholders. From the list below, please check all ...
  • POLL: What training products would help you the most? POLL QUESTION: Which training product would most help you develop a stronger continuous improvement culture in your organization? One of our goals is to help you create the best continuous improvement training program possible. We do this through a combination of various factors: Our personal knowledge of how to teach people about continuous improvement An review ...
  • Poll: Who has contributed the most to modern Lean? POLL QUESTION: Who has contributed the most to modern Lean? Modern Lean is the result of a community effort. Many people have contributed their knowledge over the years to form the current collective wisdom that we all share.
  • Predictive Problem Solving I answered a question on a forum earlier this week, and it has had me thinking. It asked how we thought efforts to improve quality would be different in the future. My answer was that I saw a more predictive approach to quality. That just means that more companies will make the effort to identify the ...
  • Preschool, Rainbows, and Kaizen A few years ago when my daughter was in preschool, her teacher sent home a stack of materials to use for classroom decorations. Naturally, I pretended to have a pressing deadline to prepare for, so the work fell to my wife. The task was to use the accompanying box of markers to draw rainbows on ...
  • Prevent Layoffs: Use Lean Skills to Protect Your Job The current economy reminds me of a story about two guys walking in the woods. They come upon a grizzly bear up ahead on the trail. The bear sees them, and starts licking his chops as he starts down the path towards them. One of the hikers sits down and immediately starts lacing up his running ...
  • Problem Solving: Creative Ideas Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune How much do you think it would cost to take pictures at the edge of space? You might guess tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But you’d be wrong. With some basic problem solving skills and a little dash of creativity, your price tag would come out to $148. At least it would if you ...
  • Process Improvement and the Census In any process improvement effort, observing a process is an important step. I recently came across an interesting article about how the Office of the Inspector General was observing the door-to door counting process of the Census Bureau. Just a few items of interest in the article. The observation was done late in the game. While it ...
  • Process Observation: Watch Before You Ask Process observation is a critical task in the battle against waste. One of the mistakes people make when observing a process is to ask questions about it before they go to gemba to watch it. This tends to bias the person doing the process observation.
  • Production Problems and Documentation and Toyota Up until now, I’ve refrained from delving into the problems Toyota has been having. Frankly, I don’t know enough about what happened behind the scenes that led to the current problems the company is having. Anything I said would likely take some assumptions on my part, and I prefer to speak based on facts and ...
  • Productive Work: How to Quickly Gauge Worker Productivity As a Lean consultant, I do a lot of reading about Lean and keep my ear to the ground to try to find new tips and tricks to deliver more value to my clients and the readers of the content on my website. Because I’ve been doing this a while, the pace of the forehead-smackers has ...
  • Productivity Incentives That Work One way to start developing a continuous improvement culture is to offer productivity incentives. When people are just getting used to Lean, or any other improvement method, they probably won’t be regularly offering up ideas. They just aren’t used to that being an expectation of their job. So provide your team with incentives for improving productivity. Key ...
  • Quatily Is Important I just saw an interesting gaffe from the Romney campaign. I try to stay apolitical in my views, but there are some great learning points here. Basically, in this age of new technology, candidates are trying out many new ways of reaching voters. In this case, the Romney campaign used an iPhone app that overlays a ...
  • Randomness and Lean and Perfect Games One of the rarest feats in sports is the perfect game. For those non-sports fans among you who don’t know what that is, it simply means that no batters were able to reach first base. In short, 27 people in a row failed to do their job properly. In fact, the feat is so rare, that ...
  • Reader’s choice! Help pick an upcoming post. Greetings. It dawned on me recently that I’ve been getting some great new content flowing, but it isn’t attached to the feed for my blog. Just thought I’d give you an update on the new stuff available at my site and ask your opinion about what you’d like to see next. So, on to the new stuff. ...
  • Recording of Our “8 Ways to Create an Infrastructure that Supports Lean” Webinar Just a quick follow up about our webinar yesterday entitled “8 Ways to Create an Infrastructure that Supports Lean”. The webinar seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people, and we have gotten a lot of positive feedback about it. For your convenience, we have posted a recording of the webinar on YouTube, ...
  • Reminder About Friday’s Webinar on Things to Avoid in Kaizen Just a quick reminder about our upcoming webinar, 8 Things to Avoid to Make Your Kaizen More Successful. It is scheduled for 9:0f PDT on Friday, June 3, 2011. Tim McMahon of A Lean Journey and myself will cover 8 things not to do when planning and running improvement projects. Tim and I have been doing ...
  • Reminder About Our Winning Teams Webcast Just wanted to remind you (or let you know if you haven’t already heard) that Tim McMahon of A Lean Journey and I will be doing our monthly webcast tomorrow, April 15, 2011, at 9:05 AM PDT. This session builds upon last month’s topic when we talked about how to create a continuous improvement culture ...
  • Selling More to Make Less Is a Bad Combination I get occasional emails from my credit card processor for my online sales. The latest one had an interesting headline: Cyber Monday Drives Single-Day Transaction Record This headline refers to the ‘Pulse Index’, as Chase calls it. It is a measure of a sample of 50 of the largest 250 online retailers. While Chase can only monitor ...
  • Seven Wastes of Lean Leadership and Taiichi Ohno’s Seven Wastes (+PDF) Discussions about continuous improvement frequently mention the term ‘waste’ which is anything that doesn’t add value. But how often are the seven wastes in Lean discussed with respect to managing teams? Leadership, like operations or any other process, uses resources. Doesn’t it make sense to figure out ways to lead teams more effectively by using the ...
  • Social Media Etiquette and Lean I recently had an interesting experience on LinkedIn. On occasion, I answer discussion questions where I think I can add value. One such question mentioned that Dr. Liker recommends Toyota alumni to lead Lean transformations, and questioned why companies would be interested in advanced degrees and certifications. The question was intriguing to me, as I am ...
  • Some Meandering Thoughts… I’ve got somewhat of a meandering article today… First of all, I recently spoke to a group, and one of the things I talked about is how people can have conflicting needs and values, and as a result, end up taking seemingly contradictory actions. Take me, for example. Over the last six months or so, I have ...
  • Standard Work in 8 (Not So) Easy Steps (+PDF) Let’s start out by assuming that you understand the definition of Lean standard work and are familiar with the three main documents for standard work. Armed with that basic information, you still have one big decision to make. Note: This article is available for download on PDF.
  • Standard Work Procedures: Hand-Written or Computer Generated? There are two conflicting schools of thought on establishing your standard work procedures. Those in favor of computer-generated standard work documents such as Standard Work Sheets and Standard Work Combination Sheets point to the ease with which the information can be updated, and the ability to rapidly transmit the form to the other side of the world.(Click on the ...
  • Standardization: Process Enhancer or Creativity Killer? Back in May, I was a guest author on Ron Pereira’s LSSAcademy blog. (Click this link for the article on Leadership and Standard Work) Well, I went back today to see the comments, and saw one that got me thinking. The commenter questioned the application of the standardization process to the problem solving methodology. The quote was: I ...
  • Standardizing Personal Processes Look at any continuous improvement philosophy, and at its heart you will find standardization. When people don’t perform a process the same way each and every time, quality suffers, lead times are erratic (and long), and productivity is hamstrung. No operation can prosper without stable processes that can deliver consistent results. Because of this, leaders focus ...
  • Stray Jet Follow-Up So, the story about stray jet-the plane that missed its stop and was out of contact for 78 minutes-continues to unfold. The latest CNN article now reports that the pilots have said that they were both distracted because they were using their laptops in the cockpit during that time. One was showing the other how to ...
  • Stumbling Into Success Success can seem lucky on the surface, but it seldom is when you dive deeper into it. Case in point. A few years ago I facilitated a kaizen event in a service center. The main goal was to improve lead time. In the course of the event, it became clear that one of the obstacles to flow ...
  • Supplier Criteria: Do They Apply to Internal Suppliers, too? Most well-managed companies track the performance of its suppliers. Or more specifically, they track the performance of their external suppliers. Common Supplier Criteria Lead time Quality On-time delivery Responsiveness to questions and problems Orders shipped complete As you can see, there are many criteria with which to measure suppliers. Here’s the question, though. How many of these well-managed companies also hold their ...
  • Systems vs. Tools: A Lean Lesson from The Big Bang Theory One of the trends I have seen recently is to knock taking a tools-based approach to continuous improvement. The driving thought is that you have to focus on the whole continuous improvement system in order to be successful. While this is true for an organization to reach top levels of performance, the vast majority of organizations ...
  • Take “Can’t” Out of Your Vocabulary As you may recall from previous articles, I am a rather big football fan. So I happened upon this video, and found myself repeatedly rewinding saying, “Did he really just do that?” The short of it is that we often limit ourselves by our expectations. Obviously, this guy spends a lot of time doing things that ...
  • Talking Lean (Episode #1, 6-14-2013) Welcome to Episode 1 of “Talking Lean” with Jeff Hajek (me) and Tim McMahon (from the “A Lean Journey” blog). This show is intended to be a buffet of Lean bites. Tim and I both have a variety of features that we regularly post on our websites. Unfortunately, great content such as this can get ...
  • Talking Lean (Episode #2, 7-1-2013) Welcome to episode 2 of “Talking Lean” with Jeff Hajek and Tim McMahon. We had a lot of fun doing the first one, and this second go around is no different. I always come away from discussions with Tim reinvigorated about continuous improvement. Hopefully, you end up feeling the same way when listening to us.
  • Team Members Late to Meetings During a Kaizen Blitz? Not Anymore! I’m going to try out a new style of article to see how well-received they are. Please let me know if you like this ‘quick tip’ format. I am going to be addressing one simple problem or giving an easy tip to add to your continuous improvement arsenal. So, here goes… Tired of having one or two ...
  • The Art of Saying “No” It is a simple word. Just two little letters. Yet, it can be very challenging to say. Why? Because we’ve trained each other to believe that saying ‘No’ is wrong. Say it to a peer, and you are not a team player. Say it to a boss and you are not willing to go the extra ...
  • The Case for Continuous Improvement Over the years while I was working for other companies, I would sit down in the evening and take notes about what I learned during the day. Eventually, I compiled it into something of a personal guide I could reference. That guide subsequently formed the foundation for my lean dictionary. When I launched my business, I ...
  • The Employee Engagement Cycle Employee engagement is a buzzword that I have seen used with increasing frequency over the last year or so. I’ve long been a big promoter of the link between successful Lean organizations and job satisfaction. And since engagement and satisfaction go hand in hand, I am happy to see the increase in awareness about the ...
  • The Employee Reprimand: Is It Effective? Generally, on the spot reprimands and ‘attaboys’ reinforce the wrong behavior…by leaders. Consider this. A leader is in charge of an average performer who has a bad day and really botches something up. The leader pulls the laggard off to the side, and gives him a stern ‘taking to’. The next day, performance is improved.   On the ...
  • The Hardest Step of Problem Solving Contrary to what many people think, the hardest step in problem solving is not coming up with a solution, or even sustaining the gains that are made. It is identifying the problem in the first place. Now, there are several different types of problems. The glaring, painful one. It is the broken arm of business. It is the ...
  • The Irony of Yahoo’s Teleworking Decision Recently, there have been a few companies making news about their stance on teleworking. Yahoo made a sweeping change to its policy, and said that all employees would have to show up at the office to work. Best Buy made changes as well, but did not go as far. They said that the decision to ...
  • The Lean Assessment Litmus Test One of the jobs of a Lean consultant is to assess organizations to see where they are in their continuous improvement journey. There are many techniques to get a precise read on a company, but a thorough assessment can take a significant amount of time. Fortunately, there is also a quick litmus test you can ...
  • The Lean Machine (Guest Post from Tony Ferraro) Notes from Jeff:  I’d like to thank my guest author, Tony Ferraro for his contribution to the Gotta Go Lean Blog. Lean manufacturing is something many companies strive for but only some attain. Many businesses implement different strategies in order to make processes faster, cheaper, and more efficient. Let’s face it, in this day and age ...
  • The Madden Curse and Lean In order to keep the football season alive just a touch longer, I wanted to talk about the “Madden Curse”. This is the theory that any player that graces the cover of the video game’s box will have a sub-par season the following year.
  • The Meaning of Lean (+Video) I’m sure you’ve heard many different definitions about what the meaning of Lean is. The strictest meaning will likely center around creating flow, or will possibly mention inventory reduction. I, however, subscribe to a far broader meaning of Lean. I view it as any effort to reduce waste and improve the delivery of value to the ...
  • The One-Week Move-to-Gemba Managers’ Challenge Very few managers have their desks right out in gemba—the workplace they manage. It is unfortunate, as being right where the action is provides a tremendous value.
  • The Problem With PDCA As a small business owner, I have one luxury that most managers and employees in companies don’t have. When I go through the PDCA cycle, there are no competing agendas. Everything that is good for the owner (me) is also good for the manager (also me). For many situations, though, that automatic alignment does not exist. ...
  • The Real Problem with Air Traffic Controllers Sleeping I’ve been reading a lot about the problem of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job lately, and I haven’t seen anyone address the real root cause of the problem. What has been mentioned at length is the fact that there are periods of radio silence. In those cases, the pilots are aware of the ...
  • The Secret Formula to Success in Anything. (Really, There’s a Formula!) Success comes in many different forms. However you define it, though, the formula remains the same. It starts with potential. Think of potential like the energy stored in something. A wound up spring  and a gallon of gas both hold potential energy. A person is the same. Everyone has potential that they can tap to get ...
  • The Secret to Successfully Running a Lean Office: Daily Management (+PDF) The unfortunate truth is that most leaders, especially in an office environment, don’t have as good of an idea of what is going on as they think they do. If you are the manager of an administrative team, there’s a good chance that the last comment offended you. If it did, ask yourself the following questions ...
  • The Secret Trick for Office Kaizen Success Making improvements requires a complete understanding of a process. A surface knowledge leads to superficial solutions. Getting a permanent, robust, mistake-proofed process requires a level of scrutiny that takes a lot of time and effort. One way to simplify that deep dive and identify the underlying waste that impedes the smooth flow of information is to ...
  • The Standard Work Process: Overcoming Obstacles to Making Effective Standard Work The standard work process is a critical piece in the implementation of Lean manufacturing programs. It helps to stabilize a process and it provides a basis for continuous improvement. No matter how good something is, though, there is always a cost to it. For standard work, the price can come in the form of hard ...
  • The Surprising Truth about Automotive Quality A few months back I posted an article questioning Toyota’s supremacy in quality and in Lean in general. Don’t misunderstand me—I still think Toyota is great at what they do. They have a lot to teach, but I think other companies have taken what Toyota does to heart and applied it to their own processes ...
  • The Symphony of Standard Work I heard an interesting comment about Standard Work the other day. A reader asked why someone just didn’t create a Standard Work document on writing a symphony so anyone could be a composer. It’s always hard to tell someone’s meaning on a short comment like that. It could be taken as an endorsement of the power ...
  • The Three Lean Books a New Shop Floor Manager MUST Own I thought I’d try a little exercise. I wanted to see how easy it would be for me to make a short Lean library starter list for new shop floor managers in a Lean company. There’s a lot of great Lean books out there, so the task proved harder than I anticipated. Initially, I thought Lean ...
  • The Toyota Way and the NFL I’ve been following the NFL labor dispute rather closely, and I am also in the process of reading Jeffrey Liker and Timothy Ogden’s new book Toyota Under Fire for an upcoming book review. Having the two things in the forefront of my mind gave me a passing thought just a few minutes ago. I wondered how ...
  • The Truth about Financial Incentives Over the last year or so, I’ve seen a rising belief that says financial incentives don’t work. There are even studies that reinforce this belief. One shows that when financial incentives are given for simple tasks, productivity can rise. But when the task is complicated, results can actually get worse. The findings make sense in the ...
  • The TSA and the Kobayashi Maru I saw an interesting report yesterday about a passenger in San Diego who videotaped an interaction with some TSA employees. Reportedly, the passenger opted out of the backscatter screening, but then threatened to have the screener arrested if he “touched his junk.” Now, I’m not going to get into the details about this incident. Instead, I ...
  • The Unforgiving Minute Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem titled “If” in 1895. Among many pearls of wisdom in the poem, he makes a reference to the ‘unforgiving minute.’ It struck a chord with me because of how competitive the business world has become. There is no free time, and every minute a company is not moving forward is a ...
  • The Visual Workplace: Shorten Those Shelves! Most people around Lean have heard the term ‘visual workplace’. They know that it is the art of making problems leap out at you, and being able to have a process immediately communicate its status to an observer. One barrier to creating an effective visual workplace is the practice of using tall shelves and workbenches. These ...
  • The World’s Great Equalizer: The DMV Yesterday morning I had to go into the DMV (Department of Licensing here in Washington State) to renew my driver’s license. As I walked into the waiting room and saw the hundred and fifty or two hundred poor souls already lost in purgatory ahead of me, it reminded me of something that had happened years ...
  • There’s More to “Lights, Camera, Action” Yesterday I read something I hadn’t heard before about a very well-known phrase. I heard that there are standard responses “Lights, Camera, Action.” That’s right. Each one of the words is actually an instruction that requires a specific response. I am pretty sure that most people know that when the director calls “Action”, the actors start their ...
  • Think Like Your Competitor to Beat Your Competitor While continuous improvement is a great and wonderful thing, it has one glaring weakness. You have to be right when you define what improvement actually is. If you missed the mark, you’ll just get more effective at doing the wrong thing. One trick that you can use to make sure that your definition of improvement is ...
  • Toyota Under Fire Book Review I recently received a review copy of Toyota Under Fire: Lessons For Turning Crisis Into Opportunity, (Jeffrey Liker and Timothy Ogden) which I am finally getting around to reviewing. Starting with the bottom line up front, I give the book 4.5 stars and a high recommendation. I’ve read quite a bit of Jeffrey Liker’s work, ...
  • TPM: How to Protect Million-Dollar Athletes and Production Machines What does Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) have to do with the sports industry?  Well, I was reading Men’s Health and saw an article that turned out to be a pro athlete TPM “how to” guide. (May, 2009. Major League Muscle.) The piece was about Scott Boras, a sports agent who had set up a facility for his ...
  • TV Shows that Teach Lean I do a lot of channel surfing, and frequently come across shows that teach Lean lessons, albeit without really knowing they are doing it. So here’s my list of the TV shows that preach Lean… Kitchen Nightmares. Chef Gordon Ramsay comes in and overhauls a restaurant in a very short time (kaizen). He focuses on respect ...
  • Tweaking Our Site As part of our program of regular maintenance on our site, we eliminate programs that are outdated. We recently pulled a plugin from our website platform that limits what goes out over our feeds. Unfortunately, until we get a good alternative, everything we post will go out on our RSS feed. This means product pages ...
  • Ums and Ahs: Improving Your Public Speaking Most people are nervous about public speaking. One of the ways this nervousness comes out is in the form of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. A few aren’t a problem, but when every second word is ‘um’ and you pepper in the ‘ahs’ for good measure, the message gets lost in the delivery. Most people handle this by ...
  • Upcoming Webinars: Lean and Driving, and Daily Management Those of you who receive my newsletter might already know this, but we have started offering webinars to help you learn about Lean and to showcase parts of our Lean Training System. The ones we have scheduled for January are all free. Just a few highlights… Tim McMahon of ALeanJourney.com and I have been doing a monthly session ...
  • Using Lean in My Own Business My perception from personal observation, feedback from you, and copious amount of reading is that Lean is perceived as a tool to be used in larger companies. Sure, it is put in place for small processes within those businesses, but there is little information specifically geared to using Lean in small business, down to sole ...
  • Using Video to Support the Process Walk I was talking to a consulting client the other day, and mentioned that it would be helpful to use a video camera to record a secondary process that would affect a kaizen team’s decisions. This other location is quite a long ways away, so it would chew up a lot of time in the car ...
  • Value the Customer: That Didn’t Seem Faster… So today I went to the bank to put something in my safe deposit box. While I was there, I was given a refresher course on how to value the customer. Unfortunately, my lesson came from observing a poor example. In the past, I needed to show ID and sign in on a form. The whole process is ...
  • Value, Shmalue As I troll the Internet looking for juicy new Lean topics to sink my teeth into, I frequently come across questions from people asking about how to classify tasks as value-added or non value-added. Now, the concept of value-added and non value-added work is great. It is important to understand how the tasks we do link ...
  • Web Surfing Best Practices Sharing best practices turbo-charges your Lean efforts. It dramatically speeds up your progress when you don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every problem. So, since you are on a continuous improvement site reading this, I am assuming that you’d appreciate a few time-saving tips on surfing the web. Finding Keywords on a Page: On Internet Explorer, ...
  • Webinar Recording: 8 Things to Avoid to Make Your Kaizen Successful Well, with the right tools, and a better process, things get much easier. I am actually got a webinar recording posted on the same day that Tim McMahon and I presented it. And I am even including a link for registered users to download the PowerPoint presentation. If you don’t want to register, no problem. Tim ...
  • Weekly Update (April 12, 2013) We’ve been working on our features schedule to try to get something interesting posted every day. One of the latest ideas is a weekly poll question. This week’s questions is intended to shed light on how companies tend to go about allocating time for improvement efforts.
  • Weekly Update (April 19, 2013) I recently had a nice visit with a company that is on the verge of embracing continuous improvement. It has progressed along one of the common paths. A manager with some Lean experience applied it in his area, and got noticed for the gains. One thing led to another, and I ended up sitting in ...
  • Weekly Update (April 26, 2013) Notable News I just finished recording a new DVD: Managing with Metrics. It still needs to be processed and edited, but it is a step closer. It should be done this weekend or early next week. This isn’t just a product announcement, though. The notable part is that the development process reinforced my belief that learning ...
  • Weekly Update (April 5, 2013) Notable News The big news of the week is that we have worked on our production schedule, and are trying to get something new published every day. So far, so good, as we’ve had new content got out each morning. Of course, from the front end, it seems like a small change. From the back end, ...
  • Weekly Update (May 13, 2013) Notable News I am dabbling with the idea of doing a brief weekly podcast, possibly with our frequent partner Tim McMahon, of ALeanJourney.com. We are still trying to work out the scheduling details and what the show would actually look like, so this is your chance to have some input. One of the ideas is a ...
  • Weekly Update (May 3, 2013) Notable News I had a glimmer of hope for common sense in the government this week. It turns out that a bill to get the FAA operating at pre-sequester levels had a typo in it. Apparently it was missing an ‘s’ to make ‘accounts’ plural, which would have limited funding. While this bill was needed ...
  • What 5S (Lean) disease strikes millions? I am a devotee of 5S. I love what 5S does for my effectiveness at work. I keep things organized, make my workspace support what I do, and prioritize all my ‘tools’ (books, computer peripherals, etc.) so the most important things are at arm’s reach.  Despite that, I still constantly struggle with keeping the flat surfaces ...
  • What Crows Can Teach You About Lean I recently become fascinated by crows. Turns out they are one of the smartest animals around, and can do some things that most other animals are incapable of. It dawned on me that many of their behaviors would make them outstanding at Lean. Unity of Effort: During the winter months, crows fly home to roost in ...
  • What I Learned from Almost Winning the Shingo Prize At beginning of this year I decided to apply for the Shingo prize for my book Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? Technically, the award is called “The Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award”, but most people just refer to the award as The Shingo Prize. Unfortunately, the steering committee decision came right down to ...
  • What If Meetings Were Lean? When planning a kaizen event, I use a trick to judge how well a leader knows his or her processes. I simply ask for a list of the cycle times. If the times all end in nice, neat numbers (:00, :15, :30, :45), I know they are just estimates, and there is almost a guarantee ...
  • What If You Had to Sign the Other Side of the Check? Most people are accustomed to signing the back side of their paycheck. The question I’d ask you to consider, though, is whether you’d behave differently if you were signing the other side of the check. Consider if you had to put your John Hancock on a check for one of the many employees you hire on a ...
  • What is the Value of a Real Estate Agent? Every spring, the earth comes to life. The flowers start blooming. The trees grow buds. And the ‘For Sale’ signs spring from front yards all around the neighborhood. And every year it gets me thinking about Lean and the real estate purchasing process. First of all, it is far, far, far too complicated. But that is ...
  • What Kids and a Puddle Can Teach Us about Adult Behaviors I dropped my son off at his elementary school this morning. The spot where they line up was flooded with a giant puddle that was a few inches deep. Interestingly, there were a few different responses to this unusual situation. Some kids just got in line behind it and paid little attention to the standing ...
  • What Lean Is Really All About To the person who is recently introduced to it, Lean often appears to merely be a set of tools that helps improve quality and  lower costs while making deliveries faster and more consistent. But in truth, the tools behind Lean are just solutions to a particular set of problems, and they will only stick around for ...
  • What My 8 Year-Old Daughter Taught Me About Lean I was a bit humbled over the weekend. As a small business, Velaction outsources some of what we do, but for the things that change rapidly, we have developed internal capabilities. It lets us be more flexible, nimble, and cost-effective when we need to update something on our site, or want to get a new ...
  • What Spammers and Scammers Can Teach You About Lean Every morning, as I clean out the assortment of spam, scams, and general junk mail from my inbox, it strikes me that the senders seem to have a fairly strong understanding of Lean principles. Don’t mistake that comment for me saying that I approve in any way of what they do, or that they are in ...
  • What’s at the Core of Lean? I pulled a muscle in my back playing basketball a few days ago, and it is surprising how much movement the core of your body is a part of. Things you don’t realize—reaching for a computer mouse, pulling open a window, and even picking things up off the floor—all caused more than mild discomfort. I’m feeling much ...
  • What’s Your Approach to 5S? I recently responded to a question about 5S on a forum. The gist was that the person wanted to know how long to expect 5S to take. Both myself and another responder quickly mentioned that 5S takes a long, long time. He said months; I said it is never done. The point we both made was ...
  • When Bacon and Kaizen Collide… Let me list three of my favorite things: Bacon (and other assorted breakfast meats) Kaizen Rockets So imagine my delight when a friend on Facebook posted one of the most brilliant minds of our time combining all three. Now I will warn you. This man’s intellect is so advanced that he doesn’t waste his precious brainpower filtering his words. The ...
  • When Good Processes Go Bad… I try to live by the words I preach. I keep my office reasonably well 5S’ed, so I seldom have to look more than a few seconds to find something. I rarely miss deadlines, and hardly ever make promises that I can’t keep (with the exception of two podcasts I will soon be posting. I am ...
  • Where Will Lean Be In 10 Years? Lean experienced a fairly slow start in the 80’s and early 90’s, but picked up its adoption rate rapidly in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Of late, it seems to be reaching something of a saturation point in manufacturing, but is still spreading rapidly in other areas. The Lean office is still going strong. ...
  • Why Daily Management is Like a Petri Dish for Lean I was watching an episode of Mythbusters last night. They were testing out where the highest concentrations of bacteria reside in your everyday life. (Hint: If you are using your keyboard right now, keep your hands away from your face!) The whole concept of a Petri dish got me thinking. Daily management is like a Petri ...
  • Why Educators Think Every Kid Is The Same I’ll start this article off by asking a simple question. Why do educators in the US think that every child is identical? Now, I bet an open ended, inflammatory question like that would be challenged by teachers. There would be a range of arguments presenting evidence to the contrary. But my response? Without even hearing what they had ...
  • Why I Hate Shadowboards Somehow shadowboards have become the badge of Lean. A shadowboard symbolizes 5S to many. It is hard to find a class on Lean that does not show a shadowboard on a slide describing workplace organization. But I hate them. OK, hate is a little strong, and I don’t even dislike them everywhere. They are fine in ...
  • Why is a Lean Call Center like the Tour de France? Imagine two call centers. One is ‘traditional’. That means that the call sequencing goes to the least busy operator or the first available operator. (Those options area actually listed on a website for a major call center system manufacturer). The other is a Lean call center. They always have the first operator answer the call. If he ...
  • Why Is the Government So Fond of Batching? I recently read an article about the debate over the number of H-1B visas being offered. What was interesting to me was not the immigration issue, but rather the customer service issue. Apparently, the system creates a batch process. There is a filing deadline, and companies are required to turn in applications by April 1, ...
  • Why Lean Can’t Be as Effective in Healthcare as in Other Industries Lean has been making tremendous strides in healthcare. Like all industries, there are some nuances that demand special attention, but the basic tools and concepts work well. But there is one monumental barrier that disrupts the effectiveness of Lean in the medical field. So what’s the problem? Whenever I talk to someone in other industries about ...
  • Why Managers Are Bottlenecks Quite often, whether on the shop floor or in the office, a process grinds to a halt when frontline employees have to go seek manager approval for something. Whether it is for spending that exceeds a prescribed threshold, when two employees want to swap work stations to stay fresh, or to sign off on a ...
  • Why Offense and Defense Scoring Rankings are Horrible Metrics for the NFL I am an avid fan of the NFL. I love looking over the stats almost as much as watching games. The numbers tell you a lot about the flow of the game. The stats, though, are can be misleading. Take scoring offense and scoring defense, for example. Let’s say that a team gives up few points. ...
  • Work Lean: Ride the Continuous Improvement Wave How do you work Lean? It means dedicating a part of your time to continuous improvement. Many people say continuous improvement is important, but then don’t treat it like an actual part of one’s job. But when you work Lean efforts into a schedule, you are making a statement that it is not an afterthought. When ...
  • You Want Me To Do What???? This week, we have only one link to share. It’s a video of a pretty amazing example of outside the box thinking. Pay attention to the process that the operator uses, and the fixtures that he uses during the transitions. If he can do this, think of what you can accomplish in your work area.
  • You’re in! Nope. Just kidding. Quality control in administrative processes. I saw a story today about an accidental email that informed nearly 29,000 applicants to a California university that they had been accepted. The problem was that they hadn’t. The news report focused on the impact this error had on the prospective students. While their experience was far from fun, there is another group that will feel a much ...

Copyright © 2009-2016, Velaction Continuous Improvement, LLC | Legal Information