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Monday, July 30, 2012

"Great is the man who has not lost his childlike heart". ~ Mencius

Reconnecting with an old colleague last week, for the US Lean Tour, reminded me of the first Executive Program LSI ever launched. It was back in 2007 in  idyllic Honolulu, Hawaii. The hard sell it was, trying to convince executives that they needed a workshop in Hawaii, is a distant memory, but looking back all those years brings to mind, one feature of our programs that continues to this day.

Not long after the customary class introductions, I asked everyone to take off their shoes. By the bewildered looks on people’s faces I had a suspicion that even with the beautiful Pacific lapping at our door step, the next assignment might be a little challenging.

“We’re going out onto the beach so you might want to take your shoes off”, I explained. A few people removed their shoes. Cautiously we made our way to a sunny stretch of smooth sand. I assembled the class into teams and asked them to be the first to build the nicest sand castle. More blank stares came my way. “Do what?” a few people asked? “Build a sand castle”, I repeated. “You remember when you built sand castles at the beach”. At this point a few more people slipped off their shoes and before long, the teams were shaping their patch of sand into castles, like children on summer vacation.

What this exercise underscores is that as adults, many of us have lost our sense of play. Yet research has shown and continues to show that play is so important and not just for children. Organizations need to play.  Stuart Brown is his insightful book, “Play – How it shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul”, is a good primer on play, if you need convincing.

At LSI, we incorporate a sense of play into all of our programs. From the class movie the Greenbelts create, to the Sensei’s Den that Blackbelts participate in, to the seemingly trivial activities we engage in, during our executive sessions, I’ve always found that incorporating fun and a sense of play into learning is a natural way for me to learn and enjoy learning. An organization’s progress to business excellence is fraught at times with difficulty and uphill battles. It benefits and it is so much more invigorating when we can approach it, at times, with the mindset a child.

Why play? Here’s what Stuart Brown has to say on the subject.

Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity. Play is an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time. It is also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again. Play creates new neural connections … an arena for social interaction and learning. The genius of play is that, in playing, we create imaginative new cognitive combinations. And in creating those novel combinations, we find what works.

How does a sense of play fit into your corporate culture? Your lean training programs? Do play and work seem mutually exclusive to you?

John Wheatman, an interior designer, writes of a favorite teacher in college who offered this important lesson. I pass it along, because, as a lean practitioner, I think it is so valuable.

Cultivate the mind of a three-year old. To a three year old, everything is new, and every day is an adventure . . . . They have open minds and adventurous hearts. And they know how to have fun!”

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lean production planning

David is working with a California company on creation of a three year lean-based production plan this week. Their Greenbelt and Blackbelts are co-facilitating.

Happiness at Work

“We create our own experience,” says Rao, who taught “Creativity and Personal Mastery,” one of the most sought after courses at Columbia Business School.
He believes that the single biggest obstacle to workplace happiness is the belief that we are prisoners of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to us. To change your job, he says, you must change the way you think about it.

Rather than encourage people to focus on “positive thinking,” Rao wants to banish the whole notion of good and bad events. “‘When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade’ assumes that you have been given a lemon and that a lemon is bad for you,” he says. “I’m saying, first of all, if you’ve been given a lemon, is that a bad thing? You can train yourself to say, ‘OK, this happened,’ rather than label it as bad.” If you think of events that occurred 10 years ago and seemed bad at the time, he says, you’ll realize that many of those events led to something positive.

Rao believes that in order to be happy in the workplace, you need to move from personal ambition to “greater vision” ambition. “Personal ambition is ‘I want to be CEO,’” he says. “Greater vision ambition is, ‘I want to lead this company so that people want to work here.’” He says that ambition hinders happiness as long as people employ an “if/then” model: If I get the promotion, then I will be happy. Rao says that a healthier and happier perspective is to think “I have a grand vision and I will try my best to make it work. If I succeed, wonderful. If not, wonderful. My purpose is to give it the best I’ve got.’”

“You should make a change from the place of being grateful for your experience but ready to make a change and continue to grow.”

Even in corporate America, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, Rao advocates inhabiting an “other-centered universe.” If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he still may succeed in less tangible ways or land an even better job down the road. “They may rise later in the shootout,” says Rao. “I’m challenging the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.”

Credit: Forbes
Click here for full article

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

San Francisco Lean Tour

Some great group photos from the San Francisco Lean Tour:

Hansei time in Napa Valley

After an extremely busy two days in San Francisco area visiting United Airlines and Johnson & Johnson, the group took a well deserved "detour" to Napa Valley and did something only Lean Sensei would think of - hansei (reflection) in vineyard!  The group discussed the "lessons learned" as well as key take-aways from the trip, while enjoying the amazing view of the valley. We even had an opportunity to taste the world-class wines of Quintessa while discussing lean events.  This was an amazing end to the busybut rewarding two day event here in the Bay area.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 2 of San Francisco Lean Tour

Tap Into Your Creativity, Trust Your Unconscious

Have you ever toiled over a problem and the moment you stop forcing yourself to come up with the solution, it simply came to you? Comedian John Cleese explains how letting his unconscious mind tackle problems has helped him to unleash his creativity.

I’m not talking about the Freudian unconscious but the intelligent unconscious. We can’t control our unconscious but we can look to how we can create the circumstance in which it becomes easier for us to work with our unconscious.

Two pillars of creative thought: playfulness and granting yourself time.

Why would those two things be importance? The playfulness is because in that moment of childlike play, you’re much more in touch with your unconscious. The second is that when you defer decisions as long as possible, it’s giving your unconscious the maximum amount of time to come up with something.

When Einstein is thinking he could not describe to anyone in words what’s going on in his mind. And if you press too hard, nothing comes of it.

This is how extraordinary the unconscious is. A researcher once got a bunch of people and showed them a bunch of Chinese ideograms. He asked them back a week later and said he was going to show them some they saw the week before and some they didn’t see. 

They were hopeless at identifying the ones from the week before. He tried it again but this time asked them to tell him the ones they liked best. When they picked the ones they liked, they were the ones they’d seen the week before. 

So the unconscious has this extraordinary knowledge; the trouble is it doesn’t come up very clearly. That’s why you have to give it time. That’s why when you start on something that’s fundamentally creative, don’t bring the old critical mind in too quickly. Let the thing fall, find out when it is. And then, by all means, bring hare brain in to evaluate them, because you’ll get ideas, but not all of them will be good.

Monday, July 23, 2012

LSI in San Francisco

We are just kicking off our San Francisco Lean Tour. First stop is United Airlines.

What are Your Strengths?

One method to discover your strengths is through feedback analysis, the process of comparing what you expect the outcome of a key action will be against what actually resulted.

Knowing your strengths means you will know where your time and effort is best spent - building yourself into an employee of superior performance.

Feedback Analysis Method:

Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations.

Feedback analysis is by no means new. It was invented sometime in the fourteenth century by an otherwise totally obscure German theologian and picked up quite independently, some 150 years later, by John Calvin and Ignatius of Loyola, each of whom incorporated it into the practice of his followers. In fact, the steadfast focus on performance and results that this habit produces explains why the institutions these two men founded, the Calvinist church and the Jesuit order, came to dominate Europe within 30 years.
This method will show you what you are doing or failing to do that deprives you of the full benefits of your strengths. It will show you where you are not particularly competent. And finally, it will show you where you have no strengths and cannot perform.

Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis. First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results.

Second, work on improving your strengths. Analysis will rapidly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It will also show the gaps in your knowledge—and those can usually be filled. Mathematicians are born, but everyone can learn trigonometry.

Credit: Peter F. Drucker - Harvard Business Review Online
Click here for full article

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Importance of Cultivating Champions in Your Organization

"I can't be the only one closing business here. The clients always want just me."
Ahhh...our Hero. Always there to come in and save the day. He is the one by which all others are measured. He gets the results and doesn’t need anyone else. He is Super Executive!

But a Hero is not what companies need.
Heroes are great for comic books and blockbuster movies. And in those fictional worlds, they always save the damsel in distress. But in the real world, their heroics might be doing more long-term damage than they realize.

Granted, Champion[s] take longer to develop. It takes longer because you are building your organization's future leaders who have only known one aspect of their job, essentially the mechanics of your deliverable. Training them to be Champions means giving them the actions and ability to understand a client's goals and challenges, synthesize them into an insightful recommendation, and close in a compelling manner.

Teaching people to think like you takes patience. You need the desire to first share your vision and understanding of what it takes to procure business with your company. Then is takes the tenacity to stay with someone and shape their behavior. You need to role-model for your high potential executives on how it is done but also let them try and fail.

You have to take time to explain what you are doing and why. Make sure they get your reasoning for why you act at a certain time in the process, what you heard from the client that made you react and why you are making certain recommendations.

They won’t become Superheroes overnight. Relax. Give it time. The process will show you what they have assimilated from your influence on them and what they haven't. That's the benefit of observation. Pinpointing their client procurement gaps is mission critical to completing the development of your execs and the most fulfilling part of leading people. Cue the Champion music.

Great leaders focus on leading people and developing their organizations. Influencing the behavior of those around you transforms their ability to represent your company in a grand way. Each exec grows in a way they never could without your belief in them and guidance. And you become a better leader because you have become a Champion of others versus a Hero with no equals.

Credit: Fast Company
Click here for full article

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Continuous Improvement: The Magic Ingredient for Successful Companies

Culture is a set of shared values, goals and behaviours that bind people together in pursuit of a common goal.

Often, that's because a charismatic leader unwittingly shapes the culture by encouraging certain types of behaviour. But a business driven by one person can lose its way as it grows. And, should that leader move on, the culture may leave with him.

A culture must take on a life of its own, one built on a shared set of corporate values: principles intended to shape the behaviour of all stakeholders.

If you examine enough businesses, you'll realize there is no one model for the best culture. But there is a common thread among great cultures: they all have "continuous improvement" as a key value. In such a culture of excellence, everyone takes an active interest in making the firm better tomorrow than it is today.

You can nurture a great culture through five key influencers: physical environment, language, stories, symbols and rituals.

Physical environment: If you were to walk into a messy and cluttered room, would it make you feel different than if the room were neat and clean?

Our physical surroundings strongly influence our emotional state and behaviour, yet rarely do we give them a second thought. But some companies get it. Toyota is known for its fanatical attention to order and cleanliness, which supports the systematic, orderly behaviour of its employees.

Language: Every subculture has its own language.

One common tactic in business is creative renaming of job titles. For example, WestJet calls its share-owning employees "WestJet owners," encouraging them to treat the airline and its customers with greater care.

Stories: Probably the strongest cultural influencer is a story that's worth telling. Great stories become folklore and deeply influence a culture by being told and retold.

For example, the U.S. department-store chain Nordstrom is famous for superb customer service. As the story goes, in 1975, a customer walked into a Nordstrom store in Fairbanks, Alaska, and asked for a refund for his tires. An employee on the job for just two weeks gave the customer his money back, with no questions asked. The kicker? Nordstrom didn't sell tires. The story has become legendary within the company, and leaves no doubt among new employees about Nordstrom's commitment to customer service.

Symbols: Throughout history, organizations have used symbols to shape behaviour. They may use symbols as rewards, such as with Olympic medals, or to communicate important information, such as with traffic lights. But however they're used, what matters is the message the symbols convey.

At 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, team members often stand by the side of the road sporting bright blue frizzy wigs and waving at the traffic. The wigs were originally part of a hockey-related PR stunt, but have taken on a much deeper meaning, reminding employees that the firm was founded on out-of-the-box thinking.

Rituals: These are established routines we follow in given situations. Rituals guide much of our lives, including our lives in the workplace.

Employees at one of our clients do a silly little dance whenever they exceed their production targets. What started as an employee's joke has spread across the shop, turning into a bonding exercise tied to an important business objective.

Rituals need not be comical or complicated to be effective. One of my firm's rituals is to devote part of each weekly team meeting to educating each other about something new. It's a simple way to keep education at the forefront of our culture.

Idea: Regular Hansei's, stretch breaks during meetings, sharing success stories to open meetings

In the end, corporate culture is all about your people. Can you shape behaviour? Absolutely. But only if your employees buy in to what you're trying to accomplish. You can't ram it down their throats; you need to get them involved.

Use your internal Lean champions, to perpetuate positive cultural change.

Credit: Profit online magazine
Full article here

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Shape of Things to Come

While attending a workshop last week, I was reminded of a familiar quote by Aristotle.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
If we study many of the world’s successful people, read books on achieving excellence or diligently pursue our goals and dreams, the word “habit” often comes up.
Our daily habits play a pivotal role in shaping our character and the success of our lives.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy products, speaking on productivity rituals, explains that habits are highly specific behaviors done at precise times so that they become automatic and no longer require conscious will or discipline. Ultimately these habits serve to simplify our lives and reduce the amount of energy we expend on a particular task, thus freeing up our brain to turn to more creative tasks.

Habits can be either positive - for example making exercise part of your daily routine. Or they can be negative – snacking chips while watching late night comedy.
In your company’s journey towards operational excellence, what habits are you cultivating? Are you making a conscious effort to follow those good habits?

Habits Die Hard
From the book, "Habits Die Hard – 10 Steps to Building Successful Habits" by Mac Anderson & John J. Murphy

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest asset or heaviest burden.
I will push you up to success or down to disappointment.
I am at your command.
Half the things you do might just as well be turned over to me.
For I can do them quickly, correctly, and profitably.
I am easily managed; just be firm with me.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a
machine and the intelligence of a person.
You can run me for profit, or you can run me for ruin.
Show me how you want it done. Educate me. Train me.
Lead me. Reward me.
And I will it automatically.
I am your servant.
Who am I?
I am a habit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Culture of Empowerment

A Lean culture involves having trust and empowering each other. A good working relationship plays a part in keeping everyone on the same page - a large factor to efficient business operations.

These are five phrases that display respect and care:

1. “That was great how you...” No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them.

2. Asking someone for help This simple phrase implicitly recognizes their skills and value.
Saying, “Can you help me?” is the same as saying, “You're great at that.”

3. “I'm sorry I didn't...” We’ve all screwed up. There are things we need to apologize for: Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, or step in, or simply be supportive.

4. “Can I help you...?” Then flip it around. In some organizations, asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness. Because most people will respond with “No thanks, I’m alright,” be specific. Say, “I've got a few minutes... can I help you finish that?”

5. "I'm sorry I let you down"

These small gestures will have an impact on your colleagues and employees much larger than the effort you put in to execute the initial gesture. The trust between team members is the fuel to keep Lean Thinking go round and round in your organization.

Credit: Inc. Magazine
Click here for full article.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Lean Sensei is all about

Lean Sensei is one of the most unique coaching firms in the world, and this short video brings insights about our coaching style and our programs.

Mike Hoseus talks about Lean Sensei

Mike Hoseus, one of the most authoritative figures in the world of lean and Toyota Way, talks about Lean Sensei and the partnership formed over the years.  Lean Sensei delivers a number of training sessions and conferences involving Mike, and we have since developed a deep appreciation for each other's passion for lean.

Solution to Waste of Movement?

Here are slides instead of stairs to turn several movements to get to the next floor into a single movement (Corus Entertainment office in Ontario).

Credit: Inc. Magazine:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Photos of the day

From our last Europe Lean Tour program.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

LSI Coffee table book

Lean Sensei published a coffee table book about lean back in 2009 - it is still fresh with lean ideas and filled with inspirational themes.  Currently it is the the world's first and only lean coffee table book.   Toyota Way authors Dr. Liker, Mike Hoseus and David Meier all loved this book when it made its first appearance at our Lean Strategy Summit. They feel that the book is "truly unique."
You may order one through The link to the LSI book store:
LSI books
Click the photo below to see all of the pages in full color (you can click on the icon on lower right and it will expand to full size)

LSI's workshop receives highest ranking at an international lean conference

LSI is excited to announce that at last month’s CME (Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters) Lean Conference held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, LSI’s Lean Strategy workshop received the highest ranking of all the workshops.

This is the third time David Koichi Chao's Lean Strategy session has received the highest ranking at CME/AME Lean conferences.  The CME/AME Lean Conferences are some of the largest lean conferences in the world and is highly respected as the best lean resource.

LSI’s founder and president, David Chao delivered the day-long workshop to various executives and managers, on the subject of lean strategy.

We are thankful for the great feedback and excited to continue the tradition of attaining top rankings since 2006 at various Lean Conferences:

2012 CME Winnipeg: 1st highest ranking workshop

2010 AME Baltimore: 2nd highest ranking workshop

2009 AME Kentucky: 3rd highest ranking workshop

2008 AME Toronto: 1st highest ranking workshop

2006 AME Cambridge: 1st highest ranking workshop

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Who is Lean Sensei?

A brief introduction about Lean Sensei from hollywood action star Byron Mann:

Greenbelt for Service vs Operations

'Lean' as in 'lean manufacturing' or the 'Toyoto Way' was born out of the little factory that could.

Lean Philosophy for Services

Due to its roots in manufacturing many have overlooked the applicability to everyday services. But- those who truly understand lean and its principles will tell you how 'lean' is less about tools to evaluate manufacturing processes and more about philosophy and corporate culture!

In fact, many companies who have attempted to implement lean tools into their practises without first embracing lean culture- have failed miserably. Instead of blaming their failure on their short-sighted viewpoint (lean as a quick hit way of eliminating waste-thus improving profits) they give-up entirely and propagate the belief that lean was just another flavour of the month initiative by management.

Anyways, this post is not about 'lean failures' but about lean in services...

Well, if we can see 'lean' as a philosophy, we hold the key to why and how it can be applied to services.

Our Greenbelt Programs for Operations and Service

In both programs lean history and philosophy are explored and covered. We believe in practical learning and so both programs will incorporate hands-on-experience at our clients facilities.

Module I: The first module covers 5S- these principles of creating an organized workplace with Visual Management and Standard Operating Procedures are applied either at a service-based organization such as an office or storeroom if you're in Service- or on the shopfloor, inventory room, shipping and receiving area if you're in the Operations program.

Module II: Creating flow. In Services we call this 'Process Time Reduction' and in Operations we refer to it as 'Cycle Time Reduction'.

Business processes such as financial reporting, information filing and recuperation, performance measurements, sales order, service calls etc... will be evaluated and reorganized to minimize waste. These processes are at greater risk of a) over-processing (too many people handling the same document), b) waiting (having to wait on another department), c) rework (insufficient information). Creating 'flow' through these processes by using value stream mapping, spaghetti diagrams will enable service providers to strengthen their processes.

Operational processes may include setup/changeover time and assembly/packing lines as examples. Use of kanban systems, line balancing, creating one-piece flow, re-arranging the line and poke yoke strategies are just some of the tools which can be applied to reduce the 'cycle'.

Module III: Whereas Operations will go through a Lean Office Kaizen- this is similar to what our Service group performs as part of their Process Time Reduction Module- our Service group will study Value Innovation.

Value Innovation looks to all aspects of improving the customer experience. The focus in this module is to evaluate what customers truly value and appreciate and work on improving these touchpoints. Examples of touchpoints could be a customer opening up a new account, navigating the corporate website, making a payment etc... Taking the time to evaluate a customer's experience from start to end and determining how you can set yourself apart from the competition- the WOW factor- is all part of Value Innovation. This module cements the fact that lean can improve services just as clearly as it has in manufacturing!