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Lean Leadership: A Direction . . . Not a Destination

One of the problems with some of the books and articles on lean leadership is the tendency to oversimplify the concept in terms of a dictator versus coach.  It is too easy for people to read about the characteristics of a traditional manager and, because they aren’t that bad, surmise that they are therefore a lean leader.  What many do not understand, though, is that the difference between a traditional manager and a lean leader is not … Continue reading

Motivation and Helping People Learn, Make a Difference, and Have Fun

“Why are we here?  To learn, to make a difference, and to have fun.” – W. Edwards Deming  Many years ago, I was fortunate enough on a couple occasions to attend W. Edward Deming’s 4-day seminar.  Early in both seminars, Dr. Deming asked attendees, “Why are we here?” After waiting in silence and repeating the question, he would offer up the notion that we are here “to learn, … Continue reading

Flattening the Organization- Probably Not the Answer

One of the reasons often given for eliminating layers of management is that managers get in the way and slow down processes. Although often true, eliminating layers is not necessarily addressing the root cause of the problem. The company can benefit more by understanding why its leadership is ineffective and its processes and systems are slow, rather than assuming it is because of excessive layers. Continue reading

Short-Term vs Long-Term: They Both Matter

Over the years, I have found many organizations the lack the ability to effectively balance short-term pressures with long-term improvement. The situation causes frustration in people because, in the end, the short-term virtually always wins while the focus on the long-term suffers. There are a number of reasons for a tendency toward short-term thinking. First of all, people tend to be measured and rewarded based on achieving current year targets much more than long-term improvements.  Another factor driving a short-term focus is the targets are right … Continue reading

No Systems Thinking in Trump’s Plans

Another difficult to quantify consequence of significant tariff increases is the effect on developing nations that rely on access to the U.S. market to continue growing. The administration wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep people from crossing into the U.S. illegally. Since many of those coming into the U.S. from Latin America do so for economic reasons, raising tariffs and pressuring manufacturers to scrap foreign factories to build in the U.S. will result in lost jobs and other problems for those countries. It seems logical then, that this action could actually increase the number of people attempting to cross into the U.S. to escape poverty. Continue reading

Improving Dashboards With The 3-Meter Rule

Dashboards are critical for a successful continual improvement effort.  Effective dashboards can drive better coaching, faster team meetings, and more effective problem-solving.  A common problem that interferes with the effectiveness of dashboards, however, is the inclusion of charts that attempt to convey too much information and are difficult to understand.  One way to prevent this … Continue reading

There’s No Generalizing in Lean

It has been decades since we first learned about the Toyota Production System and how it contributes to the company’s quality, productivity, and competitive success.  And although some companies have done very well with lean, most have struggled.  There are many reasons for failed applications of lean, but one that gets very little attention is the … Continue reading

Are We Happy With Mediocrity?

“Nobody gives a hoot about profit.  I mean long-term profit.  We talk about it, but we don’t do anything about it.” – W. Edwards Deming Why do so many companies seem to be happy with mediocre performance? People generally consider the idea of having it all – perfect safety, high quality, short cycle times, low … Continue reading

When Lean Fails

Many companies today are jumping on the lean bandwagon and expecting huge cost reductions as a result.  Unfortunately, many of these companies will never see the type of improvements they expect from lean, and their leaders will likely become disappointed and frustrated, and eventually abandon the effort. There are a number of reasons companies fail … Continue reading

A Simple a Process for Achieving the Vision

Determining the gap involves breaking down the vision, which is often stated as a generalization, into specific 3-5 year objectives (which often include targets for safety, quality, production/schedule, and cost, although other areas can be covered). The objectives are regularly compared to current performance to determine the gaps that needs to be closed to move the organization closer to the vision. Continue reading