Test Beliefs Against Data

I like this quote because it touches on a couple of other ideas I have read before. One author I like (Joiner) states that all leaders need to treat decisions as experiments.  Lean challenges HiPPOs (Highest Paid Persons Opinion) to use data in decision making instead of through assertiveness or by being charismatic. The quote below is a good reminder to always experiment with theories to be able to show data if the theory is true or not. It also helps me really notice when opinions are made verses asking for objective data to support.

“In a world without data, opinion prevails…Most managerial dictums are hypotheses. A hypothesis by nature is useless unless proven by data…Asserting an opinion as a fact is a lot easier. Pretending that our assuredness reflects objective truth is certainly convenient …we need to test our beliefs against data…Managers must see themselves as experimenters who lead learning, not dictators who impose control.” – Peter Scholtes “The Leader’s Handbook pages 29,33

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

1 Comment

Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Data & Charts, Gemba, Health Care, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Kaizen, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Plan-Do-Check-Act

Seek Multiple Views

This quote has been sitting with me a while and I hope it is relevant for you too.  So often, even a gemba experience may be different for people.  Even though facts are found at gemba, people may only see certain things and not the whole picture (like the four men & elephant story).  I think the Respect For People principle is at play here too because it suggests to mutually respect multiple perspectives and put together into one common view.

“Most disagreements about the right solution, decision, or course of action are really disagreements about the interpretation of current reality…Most statements about current reality are not wrong; they are incomplete. The person who adopts this principle seeks to put multiple views of current reality together to build one common and more complete view of it.”  – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean: Lessons from the Road by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

1 Comment

Filed under Business, Communication, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Productivity, Respect For People

Change Through Repeated Action

“Beliefs, behaviors, assumptions, and attitudes do not change through study, conferences, seminars, and training classes; they change through repeated action. This is not dissimilar to breaking unhealthy habits such as smoking or overeating. The consistently repeated lean actions and restraint from doing old non-lean things are undoubtedly ‘painful’ in the beginning(source: The Kaizen Event Fieldbook by Hamel pages 61-62)

1 Comment

Filed under Change Management, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization

PDSA Is The Ultimate Success Formula

I recently uncovered a box of books I thought was lost years ago (before I knew about 5S!)  This time capsule contained material I read about 15 years ago while still in college and managing my own direct sales business during summer breaks.  It was fun to flip through my dusty paperbacks and read my notes.  One of these books was “Unlimited Power” by Tony Robbins.  Little did I know it at the time, this influential book was my first introduction to Plan-Do-Study-Adjust thinking!

Robbins writes about what he refers to as the Ultimate success Formula and points out that this is the consistent path of people who have attained excellence.  Here are the steps:

  1. Know your outcome
  2. Take action
  3. Recognize if your actions are taking you closer to your goal or farther away
  4. Develop the flexibility to change your behavior until you get what you want

These steps directly reflect the Shewhart PDSA Cycle which is a core principle for Lean practitioners.  I truly think it is the ultimate success formula!

By following PDSA, you will save yourself the waste that comes from doing an activity without knowing the outcome you want. You won’t be stuck in analysis paralysis and will actually do something to make improvements.  You will continuously improve when you seek evidence from your actions to see if they are producing what you expect. Being able to adjust and change your approach in order to achieve the results you want will put you miles ahead of someone who keeps trying different variations of the same thing but never getting different outcomes.

One big learning I had from re-discovering this book is that I have been drawn to this kind of improvement thinking for my entire professional working career.  Even tough I didn’t know what Lean was, I was getting a little glimpse of it!

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

Leave a comment

Filed under Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Plan-Do-Check-Act

The Waste Of “Managing Up”

Time spent trying to please your boss is processing waste and provides no value to your customers.  Leaders and staff need to recognize this as a major cultural problem because it will negatively affect the long-term success for your organization.

Mark Lovas, one of the best leaders I have ever worked with, blogged in “Being on purpose and off self“:

Leadership: how much time do your people spend trying to please you versus getting the desired results? Are they experts at managing their leaders and mediocre at doing the actual thing? Are they getting good at the job or managing up? I’ve found a tremendous amount of time can be wasted by approval seeking within a company. Powerpoint, meetings, and calls devoted to finding a sense of confidence in the organization, not doing the actual thing.

In my experience, most leaders are not people who consciously demand this sort of activity, but it often persists because those that manage up often receive public praise and promotions.  You would be surprised how much time is spent when staff feel the need to game the system to look good for the boss.  Think about how that time could be better spent doing Kaizen!

Spend time assessing for “managing up” behavior.  It will be a challenging improvement because the causes will be deeply embedded in the system.  The benefit will be a clearer focus on the customer, freed up time to use in creating value, and capacity for future improvements.

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter: @brianbuck


Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, customers, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity, Waste

Be A Difference Maker

2012 is the year to be a difference maker for all of us.  We have a lot of opportunity to make things better for our customers and better engage our teams.  Here are some tips to make a deep impact this year:

  • Embrace The Kaizen Spirit: Masaaki Imai says “The Kaizen spirit encourages thinking about how to change, rather than why it can’t be done.”  Don’t let the excuses (even really good ones) hold you back from looking to find a way to make a difference.  As Mark Graban suggested recently, let the identified barriers become your first problem statement.
  • See How Your Role Makes A Difference: Seek to discover how your role directly makes things better for customers or how it supports those that interact with them.  Also consider what you can do to make a difference with the people on your team by being a better listener, encourager, or other things that help people make improvements.
  • Be Approachable: If people avoid talking with you, you can’t make a difference because you will not understand the current situation.  Being inclusive allows you to build trust and begin to help influence positive changes.

I am sure many of my readers are already making huge impacts on people’s lives and in the organizations they work with.  What other suggestions do you have for people to be a difference maker this year?

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, customers, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity

World Class Blog Post

Have you dreamed of eating the Grove Café’s world famous pancakes or been lucky enough to try them yourself?  What?  You never heard of them before now?  It almost sounds like a classic Onion article.

Many hospitals aspire to be “World Class” but there is no measure to know if they succeed at it.  Just like the pancakes, only that hospital seems to define themselves as achieving that level of success.  For that matter, I am not sure what would make them stand out with that definition since a Google search of “world class” and hospital returned 47,300,000 results.

Do patients choose a hospital based on a world class definition?  Similarly, do local “top doctor” magazines drive patients to hospitals or is the US NEWS” Top Hospitals” issue a key deciding factor (despite its questionable criteria)?

I would worry about achieving the level of “World Class” (whatever that actually means) since being at the top of  a benchmark usually does not inspire people to improve once attained. 

I think a better mission for hospitals is to strive for “perfect care”.  Patients deserve predictable clinical outcomes and they shouldn’t get harmed or sicker by being in a hospital.  Patients want better customer service and should not have to experience any unnecessary waits.  Lastly, healthcare should have a fair and reasonable price for their co-pay and insurance.

Hospitals need to ask their patients if they want to be treated at someplace famous or where they will receive perfect care.  If forced to choose one over the other, which would they pick?  Focusing on the means (providing perfect care) will help hospitals achieve outcome of being deemed world class.

If you liked this post, then try:

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter


Filed under Consulting, customers, Data & Charts, Gemba, Hansei, Health Care, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Kanban, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Problem Solving, Quality, Respect For People

Relieving Workplace Mayhem

Does your workday frequently feel like mayhem?  I have talked with many people who feel like their job is filled with unnecessary chaos.  I believe a lot of organizations self-inflict themselves with craziness.  There is a way to stop the mayhem!

Overburdening people (and equipment) is a form of waste.  Your organization must first identify where people experience this waste.  Usually it is very easy to find just by asking who feels they are overwhelmed. 

Here are some examples of what you may find (also note that most below do not have a paying customer waiting for the outcome):

  • Leaders asking for non-standard reports with quick deadlines (usually to sit on their desks for weeks before they look at them)
  • Constant edits or change of direction to documents because planning is often done after the content was created
  • Support departments get projects dumped on them without ever problem solving around their ability to have capacity to do the work
  • Somebody’s procrastination or lack of planning becomes another person’s urgent priority

The next step is to acknowledge this kind of mayhem is a problem.  This step is difficult because firefighting heroics and the rush of adrenaline from last-minute deadlines becomes “how things are done around here”. 

As an outside observer, I usually see little need for subjecting employees to this kind of work condition and believe it lowers engagement.  Until teams align that overburdening staff is a problem, it will continue unabated.

The final step is to identify the root causes of the mayhem and eliminate them. 

What sort of unnecessary mayhem do you experience in the workplace?

(NOTE: The attached video is only related to this post because of the title and I thought it was a cool rockabilly song!)

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter


Filed under Alignment, Change Management, Communication, Encouragement, Five Whys, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Muri, Plan-Do-Check-Act, Problem Solving, Productivity, Quality, Reflection, Respect For People, Root Cause, Waste

Check Out My @TimALeanJourney Guest Post

I have written about my thoughts around the need for service excellence in hospitals to be competitive on Tim McMahon’s great blog A LEAN JOURNEY.  It is titled “How Does Your Hospital Give Excellent Service?”

If you liked this post, then try:

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Walk The Talk

I learned a lot at the recent Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit and will blog my reflections from it.  The first thing that stands out to me was the consistent effort leaders were making to walk the talk.  I think the list below is a great start of what will help leaders help transform and sustain their organizations.

  • Go see, ask why, show respect, and learn
  • Practice respect for people as individuals, engage their heads & hearts, and don’t shame or blame.
  • Be humble
  • Lead as though you have no authority
  • Teach and ask questions
  • Persevere
  • Experiment
  • Be inclusive of everyone
  • Be free from the “smartest society” trap and don’t fear appearing to be outed as incompetent

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

1 Comment

Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Consulting, Encouragement, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Respect For People, Standard Work

Book Review: Toyota Under Fire


“Toyota Under Fire” by Jeffrey Liker and Timothy Ogden is a highly recommended book for leaders, Lean-thinkers, and people interested in media criticism.

I initially thought it would solely be about the recall crisis which NASA has already vindicated the company.  The book also details the challenges faced by Toyota during the recession.  The authors provide candid information about how the company could have done better and show how they turned the crisis into an opportunity to become stronger.

The final chapter transforms Toyota’s story during the crisis into lessons other organizations can use to help them be prepared for a crisis.

The book helped understand the power of the Toyota Way and reaffirms why they are a company to be admired.  There are many great insights into the thinking of the people in the organization.  Some of my favorites were about how deeply respect for people is practiced, the examples of how important it is to be close to the problem to be able to improve it, the importance of culture, and how the five why’s were used to accept responsibility of the problem.

For those interested in media criticism, this book provides a lot of data that was distorted or omitted in the news during the recalls.  The examples of sensationalized reports with no follow-through once disproven will serve as a reminder to take what we consume from the news with a grain of salt.

One thing I found surprising in the book is that many cited sources were from bloggers and websites.  Since the traditional media seemed slanted against Toyota, these other sources appear more neutral.

Liker and Ogden’s book show how Toyota practices the Toyota Way.  It is not just about theory and philosophy but a demonstration of how it was recently done.  This was an excellent book.

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

If you liked this post, then try:

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Business, Change Management, Communication, customers, Five Whys, Gemba, Hansei, Improve With Lean, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Problem Solving, Quality, Reflection, Respect For People, Root Cause

Do You Have A Play Lab?

While cleaning up various packaging after my son’s first birthday, I noticed an interesting pamphlet from toy manufacturer Fisher-Price.  They have a “Play Lab” where they observe kids and families using their products to determine how to make them better!

Watching how your customers interact with your products and services will help your organization be more successful.  You will be able to better understand their needs to create new things to satisfy them.  You will spend time improving what matters because you are able to improve based on what problems you see them experiencing.

Here are a few quotes from the flyer:

…start in our Play Lab, where thousands of children test our toys in a fun, nurturing environment.  And our product designers get right down on the floor with them.

Have more than the customer-facing staff observe your customers.  Help others see how their work supports your customers.  Have leaders gain first-hand knowledge of how your products and services are being experienced.

…Fisher-Price does thousands of in-home tests – so we can really grasp how kids interact with our toys, how toys fit into their lives and how they play.

While simulated environments can tell you a lot, there is even deeper learning when observing in a natural setting.

 …we created Mom Panels, informal groups where moms can see our toy development and let us know what works for them and their children, and what doesn’t.

Engaged and loyal customers will tell you what is broken about your system if you just ask.  They will also tell you what is valuable to them.

Does your organization have a “Play Lab”?  If not, create the opportunity for many different people to be able to watch your customers use your products and services. 

If you liked this post, then try:

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Communication, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Problem Solving, Quality, Respect For People, Value Added, Waste

Joiner’s Wisdom: Customer Centered Employees

“Employees will not be able to give customers the attention they deserve if they fear making a mistake, if they get blamed for problems that are outside of their control, if chaos prevents them from doing their work efficiently, if decisions depend on a manger’s whim instead of data and logic, or if managers focus more on figures than on customers.  They need to believe they are an important part of a team that operates to serve customers.”Brian Joiner: Fourth Generation Management, Chapter 6: Customer Focused Strategies, page 100

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Personal Development

Are You “Under New Management” Yet?

I often see restaurants and other businesses with signs outside advertising “Under New Management” and wonder why they need to advertise this to potential customers. It got me to thinking how Lean success requires new management as well to be successful.

I think local businesses hang announcements about a leadership change because they want to tell customers they will receive better service than before. Maybe they now offer better quality, improved customer service, superior product selection, friendlier employees because they are happier, safer conditions, or a combination of all. Lean transformations provide similar benefits but they require new management to achieve them.

The leadership team might be the same people as before, but their management practices will need to change. Remember, improved results were not being created and sustained under an old management model.

Below is not a comprehensive list, but here are some of the changes to traditional leadership:

  • Decisions are made based on data and observation, not just charisma and intuition
  • Leaders act as coaches and teachers to develop people to solve problems deeper in the organization instead of being the one to solve them
  • The voice of the customer is primary focus
  • Standardized work is followed by leaders and not just those in production
  • Credibility is earned by practicing Lean and not just sponsoring it or speaking positively about it
  • Ability to fire-fight is not a sign of great Lean leaders; removing root causes to prevent fires shows lean competency
  • Use long-term thinking for selecting activities and strategies
  • Practice Respect For People for all staff, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders
  • Manage both the means and results by understanding how processes produce outcomes

Becoming “under new management” is not an easy task but it will help your organization remain competitive in the years to come.

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter

Leave a comment

Filed under Business, Data & Charts, Five Whys, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Plan-Do-Check-Act, Problem Solving, Root Cause, Standard Work

Make Healthcare Awesome

I was pretty excited to come across this “Make Healthcare Better” SlideShare presentation from Drew Weilage (RSS readers may need to click link to view).  His message of focusing on the patient and moving away from mediocrity in hospitals is exactly the mission I have.  I think Lean helps hospitals work to make things convenient for the patient and not just the provider.  I hope you find this interesting as well.  He also has a blog that is worth checking out.

This presentation really fires me up about what I do and the potential for hospitals.  I love the ending line: “Good is not good enough”.

Please share your comments about the presentation.

If you liked this post, then try:

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader| Twitter


Filed under Business, Consulting, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Quality, Respect For People