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Respect for People Means Taking Care with Your Questions
By: Karen Gaudet | February 14, 2020
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Asking effective questions is an art in and of itself, says Karen Gaudet, in this excerpt from her new book, Steady Work. Of the many skills required of a leader through a lean transformation, to ask questions of others when you seek to understand a certain problem or situation can make or break the outcome. More »
What’s the Problem: Andrew Lingel Discusses Transforming a Family Business through Knowledge, Grit, and Outrage
By: Matthew Savas | February 10, 2020
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In this What's the Problem podcast with Matt Savas, President Andrew Lingel of United Plastic Fabricating shares how he helped lead a transformation in this family business that makes polypropylene products primarily for the fire industry. More »
How Ron Kelner Helped Build A System of Improvement at Deublin
By: Josh Howell | February 3, 2020
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In this podcast, Deublin COO Ron Kelner shares with Josh Howell the long learning journey of his company as it pursues lean, moving beyond creating a foundation of tools-based improvement, and towards developing a business system with problem-solving and people development at its core. More »
Why We Believe that Pull Flows Are Too Often Overlooked
By: Lean Sensei Women | January 29, 2020
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In this incisive series of articles on the essential value of pulled flow, the lean sensei women argue, in the words of Catherine Chabiron, that pulled flows are not just a manufacturing fad. It is the only way we know to dig deeper into our jobs, collaborate better, and eventually face all the real problems. More »
How Lean Can Make Workplaces Safer and Healthier
By: Jeffrey Pfeffer | December 16, 2019
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The companies that are really going to solve the problem of unsafe work, just as they've done this for physical safety, have to begin by thinking about every aspect of the job and job design, says Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer. Making work safer and healthier begins with basically redesigning the work, and eliminating the stuff that is harmful, unnecessary, stressful, could be automated, and more. More »
Ask Art: What Do You Mean When You Say “Productivity equals Wealth”?
By: Art Byrne | December 13, 2019
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Productivity is the greatest wealth creator whether you talk about countries or companies, says Art Byrne. If you go about it correctly, the best ideas for productivity gains will always come from the people doing the work. Make sure you share the gains with them. More »
The Hard Work of Making Hard Work Easier
By: Mark Reich | December 11, 2019
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We persevere by struggling to overcome the challenges of hard work, argues Mark Reich. And, he says it is also our responsibility to challenge individuals, to “invoke struggle” so people think about how to change how the company views frontline work. It is our job to ensure that the lead person struggles to change the culture. More »
Frame the Work For Safety and Learning
By: Amy C. Edmondson | November 15, 2019
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The most important skill to master as a leader is that of framing the work, says Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson. Frames consist of assumptions or beliefs that we layer onto reality. All of us frame objects and situations automatically. Great leaders understand this and manage frames intentionally. More »
Believe in One Thing All the Way
By: Darril Wilburn | October 2, 2019
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Who is a “superhero” in our companies, asks Darril Wilburn in this inspiring piece: Is it the person that can outperform nine others by three times? Or is it the person that can improve a process by 10% and then share that improvement with the 9 other people, and then do it again and again? More »
Book Review: The Toyota Engagement Equation by Tracey and Ernie Richardson
By: Tom Ehrenfeld | September 20, 2019
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In their book The Toyota Engagement Equation, authors Tracey and Ernie Richardson don’t hit you over the head telling you what to do or how to think per se; instead they share how they learned what they know, and in so doing, invite you to think along the same lines. More »
What Is Your Leadership Model?
By: Nicolas Chartier | September 13, 2019
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In this reflection based on his work as CEO Lean is a leadership model: for more than 60 years now it has been developed, analyzed, tested, adapted; largely by Toyota but also by many others, copying, adding, evolving. More »
Reflections From Ten Years of Michael Ballé's Gemba Coach
By: Tom Ehrenfeld | August 30, 2019
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Since his first Gemba Coach column of ten years ago, Michael Balle has consistently tied his advice to a faithful application of core Toyota Production System (TPS) principles, without demanding a mindless conformity to established practices or to commercialized frameworks, models, or any other packaging of the TPS dynamics as a product. More »
Ask Art: What Do You Mean When You Say Run Your Company On Your Operational Excellence Goals?
By: Art Byrne | August 28, 2019
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The Lean company competes on its operational excellence goals, says Art Byrne. These stretch goals must be aggressive in nature and deployed down to every person in the company so that they all are focusing on hitting these goals every day. More »
Why We Believe Lean is Worth Our Unwavering Commitment
By: Lean Sensei Women | August 16, 2019
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Lean provides a powerful alternative to short-term enterprise driven solely by the goal of maximizing profits while externalizing human and environmental costs, argues these leading Lean thinkings, who reveal why Lean promises a more humane, productive, meaningful, and ultimately, sustainable path forward. More »
How Are You Supporting Your Own Lean Transformation?
By: Lisa Yerian | July 26, 2019
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When someone in our organization complains about something we hand them a Kaizen card, shares Lisa Yerian of the Cleveland Clinic. Perhaps the same approach could apply to the broader challenge of improving the organizational ability to frame problems productively? More »
Ask Art: Where Will the Biggest Resistance to Lean Come From?
By: Art Byrne | July 17, 2019
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Resistance to Lean will come from every part of your organization, senior management included, says Lean veteran Art Byrne. Knowing where the biggest resistance will come from, however should help you focus your early efforts and smooth your Lean turnaround. More »
Tales Of Lean, Chapter One: Facing the Problem
By: Sandrine Olivencia | June 24, 2019
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What is the best way for a lean coach to support and guide her team? In this fictional tale of a lean leader, Sandrine Olivencia tees up questions raised by this story of how a company founder can best lead her team through a key challenge for the company. More »
Talking Coaching with Lean Sensei Crystal Davis, Rich Vellante, Josh Howell, and John Shook
By: Lean Leaper | June 21, 2019
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In advance of the Lean Coaching Summit, coaches Josh Howell, Crystal Davis, John Shook, and Rich Vellante discuss the finer points of coaching others, including a working definition for lean coaching. More »
Talking About Lean: How Leaders Support Improvement With Words and Actions
By: David Verble | June 20, 2019
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In this comprehensive series of reflections, Lean Coach David Verble examines how the way managers and leaders talk to employees (and to each other) can contribute or be a barrier to, creating and sustaining a culture of engagement and continuous improvement. He explores healthy ways that managers can mindfully observe and improve how they lead employees. More »
Questions and Coaching on A3 Thinking
By: Deborah McGee | June 19, 2019
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In this Q&A, LEI's Deborah McGee shares insights into A3 thinking and problem-solving: "The A3 Management process is really a way of thinking and a method of working with (using) problems as a vehicle for learning. The A3 process leads us to gain alignment across our teams and organization. It is a method through which we can coach and mentor others, leading by example and earning the authority to lead change, even when or if we’re not in a role with positional power.  " More »
Ask Art: How Can I Engage All Our Leaders to Learn and Teach Lean?
By: Art Byrne | June 10, 2019
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What's the best way to teach lean to your internal leaders? By forming teams who will learn by doing, shares Art Byrne. This will drive your gains, build great teamwork, and build the learning environment necessary to become a lean enterprise. More »
Ask Art: What Incentives and Bonus Programs Best Support Lean?
By: Art Byrne | May 8, 2019
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Bonus and incentive plans work best when they serve an underlying purpose, says Art Byrne, who advises that management design them to boost teamwork, learning, and strategic lean goals. More »
Stop Asking Your Leaders to "Support" Your Lean Transformation
By: Lisa Yerian | May 3, 2019
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Helping others with shared work tied to broad improvement goals can be challenging for lean leaders. Continuous Improvement Director Lisa Yerian of the Cleveland Clinic shares key ways that have been found to help: make clear and specific asks, establish exactly how to engage towards that end, and; experience, understand, and critically evaluate the situation before stepping in with support. More »
Show Respect, Psychological Safety, and Social Neuroscience
By: Mike Orzen and David Verble | April 26, 2019
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Mike Orzen and David Verble examine the meaning and lean relevance of showing respect, creating psychological safety, and the links between these two. More »
What Do Managers Do?
By: Matthew Savas | April 10, 2019
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After walking the gemba with sensei Hideshi Yokoi, Matt Savas learned three basic agreements between workers and management, and shared his discovery that a production analysis board is a figurative and literal social contract that binds management and workers together. More »
How Standardized Work Integrates People With Process
By: John Y. Shook | April 1, 2019
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In this three part series on SW, John Shook argues that "the Toyota Way is a socio-technical system on steroids. A test for all our lean systems is the question of how well we integrate people with process (the social with the technical). Nowhere does that come together more than in the form of standardized work and kaizen.  " More »
How Accounting “Squirrels” Can Ferret Out Waste
By: Jean Cunningham | March 15, 2019
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While other functions are busy as beavers looking for waste during a lean transformation, your accounting staff is like a squirrel with its head stuck in a yogurt cup. They only see the traditional work right in front of them instead of digging into data for buried “nuts” of waste, says Jean Cunningham, LEI’s new executive chairman. More »
Going Beyond Low-Cost Obsession with "Women Go Beyond"
By: Mahesh Amalean | March 6, 2019
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Hear the chairman and co-founder of an apparel manufacturer with global operations explain how and why it invests in its largely female workforce while also dealing with the challenges of a highly competitive industry obsessed with low-cost operations. More »
Learning to Help Anna Elevate Her Game
By: Jeff Smith | March 4, 2019
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Anna was trained by NUMMI to identify and solve challenges via experiments with her team, notes Jeff Smith, sharing a story from NUMMI; she had been trained to set up jobs, build racks for parts, and more.  Yet evidently what she needed to resolve the issue at hand was a little practical understanding/physical help and space to think while being relaxed and not emotionally wound up. More »
Ask Art: How Should I Re-invest the Gains from Kaizen?
By: Art Byrne | February 8, 2019
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Becoming lean through using kaizen activity allows you to remove a great deal of waste and deliver value to your customers, shares Art Byrne. If you do the right things with the excess resources you free up, you can then leverage your gains far more dramatically. Don’t waste the gains. More »
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