Category Archives: Communication

Fun With Post-Its

We use Post Its a lot for teaching people how to improve processes and understand the current state.  I thought this 1.5 minute video was fun and creative (RSS viewers will need to open post to view video).  Thanks to the Visual Management Blog for alerting me about this video!

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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The Perfect Pitch

How do you show your customers you are competent about your product/service?

My wife and I noticed a small leak near our chimney recently and was advised it most likely was coming from our roof.  We called for three roofing quotes to validate if it was truly a roof issue or if it was something else.

The first contractor came out and pointed out things on our 15 year roof to look for.  He showed me where the previous homeowner did a bad job near some pipes and that we most likely were leaking but can’t see it due to three layers of roof.  He showed where some of the roofing is curling which is a sign of needing replacing.  He inspected around the chimney (even on the side of the house away from the roof) to see where our water was coming from.  He explained how water runs around a house and what signs to look for.  He went onto our roof and measured the pitch.  The contractor gave me a quote and said I should consider replacing in a year.  The transaction was about 35-40 minutes.

The second contractor pulled up to our house and walked immediately to the door.  He sat down with me and said I needed a new roof.  I asked him how he knew since I did not see him stand and look at the roof and didn’t even look at it from the back yard.  He said he can tell because the shiny surface was missing from the front tiles.  He gave me a quote.  The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

The third contractor never came out.

The first contractor provided a lot of value added service to me.  He educated me.  Measuring the pitch made me feel the quote was more accurate.  He provided advice on the real problem why I called him but still explained that the roof will need replacing.  He actually looked at our entire roof before he provided the diagnosis.

The second contractor approached me as though he was the expert and I should just trust him.  He did not demonstrate anything to make me believe he was competent like the first contractor did.  A roof is not cheap so do not discount time spent to build credibility with your potential customers!

Do your actions help your customers see that you are competent and credible?  Do your processes allow value added time for your customers?  Do you think the first contractor wasted time with what he did to give me a quote since the second contractor was more efficient (not effective though)?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Communication, Improve With Lean, Value Added

Making Robots Out Of People

“All of this standard work is just turning us into robots”.

Have you heard this before when you improved a process and made standard work?  A recent workshop team was concerned this would be the response from some of their peers.  In true sensei fashion, we asked the rest of the team how they would respond to their nursing peers.  Here are some of their responses:

  • We watched the current process across the hospital and it was different everywhere.  The standard will help our float nurses be sucessful since they work across many units.
  • The data we have shows not every nurse has been completing the process in the allotted 30 minutes which is causing overtime.  The standard was designed to ensure we don’t go past 30 minutes but still get everything done.
  • The nurses we spoke to said they can get too much or too little information at handoff depending on who they are partnering with.  The standard work will be less frustrating for those in this position because we will all get consistent information from now on.

 I really like these responses because they discuss the problem with data and observations.  They do not just explain the benefits of the change but clearly explain the current situation which led to the standardization.

What would your response be to a comment like this?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Change Management, Communication, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Respect For People, Standard Work

Psychological Impact of Change

“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.”King Whitney Jr, President, Personnel Laboratory Inc

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Making Costs Visual For Customers

This weekend I went out for fish and chips and saw this fantastic sign.  The restaurant is very nicely helping their customers recognize the costs associated with taking excess inventoryof straws, tartar sauce, napkins, and other condiments.  I am not sure how much savings they have seen since posting this sign, but as a customer I was more aware of how much I was taking (I happen to be a ketsup maniac). 

Do you think this is a good way to help lower waste or is a sign like this is too much to ask customers?

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Filed under Improve With Lean, Improvements, Visual Communication, Visual Language, Visual Systems, Waste

Book Review: In Pursuit Of Elegance

In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew E. May



rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved “In Pursuit Of Elegance” by Matthew E. May. This book will provide a basis for a whole new kind of thinking. I can not think of an audience that would not benefit from reading this book because it can apply to business, art, home-life, and many other ventures.

One thing I found brilliant about the book is that it doesn’t offer specific steps to follow. This is not a “go and do” kind of book. What is NOT in the book is what makes this powerful (and elegant). May provides many case examples with different perspectives of elegant thinking without telling the reader what do make of them. After reading chapters, I found myself applying the thinking to my own situations. Powerful stuff started popping in my head based on the principles I learned about in the book. This is a highly interactive book if you plan to daydream a little bit after you read it.

I am a big fan of his last book “The Elegant Solution” and noticed a lot of similar ideas and concepts from that book. What the author did was shake loose the Lean/Toyota anchor and make this new book more open and accessible for a wider audience. There is a lot of freedom from that decision that will make this a better book for non-Lean practitioners while still providing relevant thoughts for those who are on the Lean journey.

This book is difficult to explain the highlights because most of them came from my personal application once I understood the concepts explained. What great ideas will come to you while you read the book?

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Filed under Book Review, Business, Communication, Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Reflection, Respect For People

Book Review: Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?

Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? Building the bridge from job satisfaction to corporate profit Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? Building the bridge from job satisfaction to corporate profit by Jeff Hajek



rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jeff Hajek’s “Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean” is a must-read for front line workers in a organization that is going through a Lean transformation. It is a highly suggested book for managers, supervisors, and Human Resources in Lean enterprises. I also think the book has value for unsatisfied workers in any field.

The book has some great advice for helping people cope with Lean changes. It is laid out in a way that you don’t have to read it cover-to-cover but can turn right to the section that you are currently struggling with. I think the description of how people think and then decide to take action is fundamental for people to grasp in any organization (Lean or not). Recognizing how your interpretations bring emotions which can fuel your decision to act is something I have had mentors teach me in the past but I have experienced many people who do not understand this or practice it. This part of the book will really help anybody looking for more job satisfaction.

The value for managers and supervisors is to really understand what your staff may be thinking. There are things in this book I never considered before that affects staff-satisfaction such as how it feels to people with seniority that end up on an even playing field as newcomers due to standard work. While the changes make sense, it can be difficult to consider all of the personal reactions for your staff. This book helps you reflect on what people are going through and more importantly provides advice that you can use while coaching.

Hajek’s chapter on the basics of Lean is outstanding. The concepts are explained in a very relatable way such as a lemonade stand used to describe wastes or linking Lean tools to common things we use like Netflix as example of Kanban.

The “Hard Truths About Lean” chapter is a good “tough love” discussion. I am an overly positive person (the cup is half-full and I know where the pitcher is to refill it) so this chapter really helped me recognize the difficulties faced in Lean transformations. While I knew them already, this book served as a reminder of what it is like in the beginning. I may work with people farther down the path but Lean is still only in beginning stages some parts. This chapter is helpful when you work throughout your enterprise and people are at different stages.

I highly recommend this book.

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Lean Times Require Lean Thinking

Vodpod videos no longer available. Jason Yip & Paul Heaton created this outstanding SlideShare presentation “Lean Times Require Lean Thinking(RSS readers might need to visit improvewithme.com to view).  I love the sketches throughout and really like the cartoon of 3 wastes.  The description of wastes are mostly hospital based which is nice to see.  The slide describing the difference between authority-based vs responsibility-based focus is a great reminder of the culture we are trying to create in Lean enterprises.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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more about “Lean Times Require Lean Thinking“, posted with vodpod

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Filed under Basic Drawing, Health Care, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Mura, Muri, Visual Communication, Visual Language

Free Visual Storytelling

I love comic books and they have played a huge part in helping me understand how to communicate visually.  This Saturday is Free Comic Book Day where you can explore this medium for free.  The comic book art form has evolved past superheros and many different kinds of stories will be available for you this weekend. Visit http://www.freecomicbookday.com/ to find your local store and to see what titles will be offered.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Lean and Dental Floss

One of the things I love about Lean is the philosophy to make things more visual. 

This weekend our household dental floss ran out unexpectedly due to the classic white plastic container.  My wife commented that you can never know when you will run out of it. 

We replaced it with Oral B Dental Floss because the plastic is clear and you can see how much you have left (the attached photo shows how easy it is to see).  From looking at their website, they still use plastic you can’t see through on one of their products but the rest are clear.  We found the clear plastic to be value added.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Communication, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Value Added, Visual Communication

Drawing: Treasure Map To Find Truth

Royce Willard said something via Twitter (@Rwilliard) a while ago that really stuck with me when I asked about executives at gemba.  He said “The truth is not in their office.

I created this drawing to show places people try to find the treasure of truth instead of seeing where “X” marks the spot in gemba.

  • Afar Land:  This is the office or conference room where people decide what the solution is without ever seeing the problem.  An Ivory Tower is too far removed from the reality.  Think of Hall ‘N Oats “You’re Out Of Touch”.
  • Report Mountains: Taiichi Ohno states “Data is of course important in manufacturing, but I place the greatest emphasis on facts.”  Many people associate using the scientific method because they are driven by reports and graphs but miss out on the empirical aspect.  Reports only suggest facts/truths but they still need to be validated.
  • Ear-ie Canal: When someone tells you about a problem, it is usually from a subjective perspective based on their interpretation of facts.  This method becomes increasingly unreliable the more it is passed around before it reaches you.  
  • Past-Ville: Using “how it it used to be” as your basis for truth is dangerous because things may have changed since you last visited.
  • Gemba Jungles: The truth is only found when you go and see the actual work being done.  Like a criminal investigator, gathering real-time evidence in the space of the crime will paint a more accurate picture of the situation.  The wild gemba jungles do not have the limitations of the other locations on the map.  The next time you need truth, take the direct route to the gemba jungles. 

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Filed under Basic Drawing, Business, Charts, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Reflection, Visual Communication, Visual Language

A Song About Charts (really…seriously)

Dan Pink posted this 2 minute PBS Video aimed at kids to teach them about charts (RSS readers will need to open post to view).  Am I the only one who thinks this song is catchy?  Too bad they couldn’t think of something that rhymed with qualitative!

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Book Review: Managing To Learn

Managing to Learn Managing to Learn by Shook



rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Managing to Learn” is an excellent book for managers and coaches of A3 authors/advocates. John Shook is a true sensei with 11 years of Toyota history and real world experience in helping organizations with Lean transformations. I have been learning a lot from his incredible blog posts recently as well.

My organization is about 5 months into our A3 launch so I have been researching a lot for best practices and ideas. I initially thought this book was going to be a “how to” guide for the author of the A3.  You can probably understand how to write an A3 from this book but it is not as explicit as Sobek/Smalley’s bookI believe managers and coaches should read both books.

Where this book truly shines is getting into the head of the A3 mentor.  A lot of Lean books are written from an academic standpoint but this book feels more like a day in the life of someone actually doing the work.  The pressure the manager feels organizationally to get things completed in contrast to allowing the A3 author time to learn is a true struggle I have seen in Lean transformations.  The book has a part where the manager is dealing with multiple A3 authors all at different stages in their learning.  I know these are true mental challenges for coaches so it is nice to relate to a character going through the same things.

Coaches can learn a lot from this book to help the A3 author’s growth and deep understanding.

Some great things I learned from the book is how to encourage more than one counter-measure, using respect through conflict, helping the author make valid decisions and transition from author to advocate, pull-based authority, using 5 whys after implementing in the check/act cycle, and how to help the A3 writer become a coach themselves.

I think this book would be interesting to Project Managers as well.  The last few chapters offer some great insight on how to deal with iterative changes and dealing with cultural resistance.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under A3, Book Review, Business, Communication, Improve With Lean, Project Management

Why Don’t Old Processes Die?

Have you ever improved a process and were suprised that workers end up doing BOTH the new way and the old way? 

I have seen data that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a new process has removed frustrating waste and increases value for the customer, but still the old way persists. 

I recently talked with a friend who’s business was acquired by another company five years ago.   My friend’s business was strong in the US while the other company reigned in Europe & Asia.  Seems like a good fit right? 

The company is no longer doing business in USA.  My friend’s opinion: the new company never fully integrated in the five years since the acquisition.  They continued to ride the fence of both their old way of work while adopting the practices of my friend’s business at the same time.

Here are some of the reasons why I think people do not let old processes die:

  1. Leadership Support & Alignment – With all change, leaders need to support improvements and be aligned.  If one leader is perceived to think differently about the new process, workers who want to keep the old process will reach that leader.  Once that happens, you will have people doing both old and new!
  2. Nemawashi Skipped – Consensus was not reached amongst stakeholders and those doing the work. 
  3. No Reinforcement Built Into New Process– I recently saw a great example where 5S was included during of a point improvement project.  Things like shadow boards and having a place for the right tools at the right time will help reinforce people to keep up the new process because it will be convenient.
  4. Failure to “Turn Out the Light”– Once an improvement project becomes part of operations, CLOSE the project.  If a project manager is always working on the same thing, staff never get the impression the change is finished and complete.  Yes, we do continuous improvement but the last go-round is over and the new process is finalized until we revisit later. 

 What other things do you think keep old processes from going away after a change?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Alignment, Business, Communication, Data & Charts, Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Project Management

Visual Thinking Tips – Basic Drawing, Nodes, and Storytelling

Vodpod videos no longer available.  

An Introduction to Visual Thinking slideshare by Ryan Coleman offers great tips for communicating visually (RSS Readers will need to open post to view presentation).  It shows how to identify and label nodes in your drawing to make simple pictures more meaningful.  It also shows another visual way of explaining things using just shapes and words.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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more about “An Introduction to Visual Thinking“, posted with vodpod

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Filed under Basic Drawing, Nodes, Storytelling, Visual Language