GA 043 | Making Mistakes with Mike Grogan

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Today’s guest is Mike Grogan, who you may remember from another episode we recorded this past July. Mike is an incredibly insightful and passionate lean practitioner who has spent the past two years bringing continuous improvement to CCBRT, a health clinic in Tanzania.

Mike and I discuss his three biggest mistakes and what he learned from each one. This is one of our deepest and most emotional conversations to date, and I think you’ll find what Mike has to say incredibly powerful.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Mike has been doing since our first podcast (3:44)
  • The message Mike hopes listeners will take away from this episode (5:50)
  • Mike’s first big mistake (6:03)
  • Mike’s second big mistake (13:45)
  • The definition of “real lean” (20:18)
  • Mike’s third big mistake (23:25)
  • Why Mike wouldn’t go back and give advice to his younger self (30:52)
  • What’s next for Mike (33:14)

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What Do You Think?

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made to date? What did you learn from them?

Lean Thinker Challenge #7

iStock_000026514261XLargeWelcome to another edition of the Lean Thinker Challenge!

The Situation

Your boss, the Senior VP of Operations, has approached you about starting to practice 5S throughout your 350 person manufacturing company.

His reasoning is quite straight forward… he feels disorganization and lack of standardization is directly related to the poor company performance of late.

He also senses employee morale is at an all time low and wonders if a cleaner, more organized, workplace will help.

Your boss has also made it clear that there is far more to lean than 5S… but feels this may be the best way to build some momentum.

The Challenge

Two years ago your company attempted to practice 5S.  All you really remember is that these super intense consultants came in to lead the charge, cheesy 5S banners were hung from the ceilings, and employees were told they could only have 1 personal picture/item on their desk.  In short, it was a disaster and the initiative died a quick, and painful, death.

So, now, even though you feel your boss has good intentions you have no idea how to approach these same employees who, you’re confident, will be skeptical and likely upset about having to do all this “5S stuff” again.

What should you do?

GA 042 | Lean for Retail & Service Organizations with Josh Howell

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This episode’s guest is Josh Howell, a Senior Coach at the Lean Enterprise Institute. Josh’s role at LEI involves supporting co-learning partnerships, developing workshops, and running experiments to solve business problems across various industries.

Josh also spent nine years working for Starbucks, starting as a barista and ending up as a member of the company’s continuous improvement task force. The combination of his impressive background and accessible examples makes this episode appropriate for anyone at any stage of their lean journey.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Josh’s background and how he first learned about lean (2:50)
  • The quote that inspires Josh (5:46)
  • Why the retail sector is interested in lean (6:56)
  • Examples of improvements Josh made at Starbucks (9:05)
  • Other challenges Josh faced working in the retail sector (19:11)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Josh (24:17)
  • The best advice Josh has ever received (31:07)
  • Josh’s personal productivity habit (32:06)
  • Josh’s final words of wisdom (39:02)

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

In what other ways does lean apply to the retail sector?

GA 041 | FedEx Office’s Lean Journey with Jamie Parker

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Today’s guest is Jamie Parker, one of my all-time favorite lean thinkers. Jamie is a District Manager for FedEx Office and her and her team are doing incredible work over there. I think you’ll find our conversation provides an interesting look into what continuous improvement is like at such a large, influential organization.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Jamie’s background at FedEx Office (2:50)
  • How Jamie first discovered lean (3:22)
  • The quote that most inspires Jamie and what it means to her (4:40)
  • A detailed account of Jamie’s lean journey (6:29)
  • Jamie’s vision of an ideal lean culture at FedEx Office (8:24)
  • What this cultural change entails (10:17)
  • What Jamie and her team have learned (11:55)
  • Their biggest failure so far (16:55)
  • Jamie’s biggest accomplishment of 2014 (18:36)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Jamie (20:14)
  • The best advice Jamie has ever received (22:35)
  • Jamie’s personal productivity habit (24:40)
  • Jamie’s final words of wisdom (29:48)

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

Can you relate to FedEx Office’s lean journey? How so?

GA 040 | Lean Safety with Robert Hafey

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This episode’s guest is Robert Hafey. Robert has an impressive corporate background including many years at the U.S. Steel Corporation and later conveyor belt solutions manufacturer Flexco.

Bob and I explored how he goes about improving safety performance using the principles of lean. I think you’ll find that the concept of Lean Safety is applicable to all industries, not just manufacturing.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • The quote that inspires Robert (2:17)
  • Bob’s extensive manufacturing background (3:01)
  • What Lean Safety is, and what it isn’t (4:37)
  • All about Robert’s Lean Safety books and workshops (14:49)
  • The lean tools Robert uses to implement Lean Safety (17:10)
  • Robert’s advice for those interested in Lean Safety (19:26)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Robert (20:54)
  • The best advice Robert has ever received (23:22)
  • Robert’s personal productivity habit (24:31)

Podcast Resources

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Click to Subscribe in iTunes

If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

What is your experience, if any, with Lean Safety?

Why Habits Could Be the Secret to Your Success in 2015

habits“All our life, so far as it has a definite form, is but a mass of habits.” – William James

It’s the new year and just about everyone I know has some sort of resolution.

Some want to lose weight so they’re committed to eating better and exercising more. Others want to be more productive so they’re doing their best to cut out the wasteful aspects of their lives.

And while most resolutions are good… just about everyone will fail to meet their goals. Sorry to be a killjoy… but it’s the truth.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. Why? One word. Habits.

You see, if we learn how to develop good habits while also modifying bad ones… 2015 can be the best year of our lives.

Now, in our soon to be released Culture of Kaizen Course, we spend a lot of time exploring the topic of habits. What they are, how they’re formed, and how to modify them when needed.

One of the resources we leveraged during the creation of these habit focused modules is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This is, without doubt, one of the best books on the topic of habits and we highly recommend reading it.

So, in this article I want to explore this topic.  We don’t have enough time to cover the topic as deeply as we do in the course… but we intend to provide more than enough information to get you started!

What are Habits?

OK, so let’s start things off by talking about what a habit is.

If you think back to this morning… I’m confident most of us knew to put the toothpaste on our toothbrush before brushing our teeth. I also think it’s safe to say none of us really had to think this process through… it was pretty much automatic.

Well, the reason this was automatic, was because – for most of us – the process of putting toothpaste onto the toothbrush is a well-defined, solidified, habit.

Obviously, I could go on and on with how so many aspects of our lives are nothing more than habits – both good and bad – repeated over and over (i.e. think about how you effortlessly back out of your driveway).

In fact, William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, may have summed this up best when he said, “All our life, so far as it has a definite form, is but a mass of habits.”

Why Do Habits Form?

basalSo, the question is, why do habits form? To answer this we need to understand how our brains work.

You see, our brains are naturally lean… they’re constantly trying to find ways to save time and effort… so, left to their own devices, our brains will do their very best to turn any routine into a habit.

But how does it do this? Are there triggers? And, if so, how do we make this habit forming process work to our advantage?

Well, as it turns out, researchers at MIT have done a tremendous amount of research on this topic and discovered a mysterious area of the brain called the basal ganglia.

Now I say mysterious, since, before this research was done, little was known about this area of our brain aside from the suspicions that it may play an important role in diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

To summarize, the basal ganglia plays an important role in how habits are created and how they can stick with us for the rest of our lives. The process our brains use to do this is actually quite straightforward.

First, our brains receive a cue or trigger. This basically alerts our brains to transition into automatic mode while also telling the brain what habit to call upon and use. Cues can consist of many things including a certain time of day, a place, the presence of certain people, an emotion, or some sort of preceding action.

Next, once the cue, or trigger, has been set there’s a routine, which is the second step of the habit loop. Now, this routine can be physical like smoking a cigarette, or mental like doing addition or subtraction in our minds, or even emotional like how many of us react when we hear the voice of someone we like or dislike since we associate good or bad memories of that person.

And, last, but certainly not least there’s a reward at the end of the habit loop, which basically tells our brains whether this particular habit loop is worth remembering.

Keystone Habits

So, the question you may be asking yourself is what habits have to do with creating strong cultures of kaizen? Well, to answer this we need to explore what are known as keystone habits.

Simply put, keystone habits are small changes, or habits, that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their daily lives at home or work. Put another way, keystone habits have a ripple effect into other aspects of our lives that, in many cases, create positive change unexpectedly.

For example, research has shown that people attempting to lose weight are typically more successful when they maintain a hand written food journal of everything they eat. As people form the habit, and discipline, of writing down what they eat, and what they plan to eat, their willpower actually increases as they begin to see results.

And, in many cases, these same people soon begin to exercise which often acts as another keystone habit that further impacts other aspects of their lives… in fact, did you know that regular exercisers tend to use their credit cards less since they often times have far more willpower than non exercisers? Well this is exactly what research has shown.

I personally formed a strong keystone habit once I began to track my personal finances using Mint.com.  By tracking exactly where our money was being spent my wife and I were able to take complete control of our finances… this then impacted other aspects of our lives including making healthier meals for our family at home instead of eating out so much!

So, what starts as the simple practice of writing down what you eat – or tracking where your money is being spent – actually begins to permeate throughout many other aspects of that person’s life.

With this said, while this is all well and good for us individuals… how can keystone habits impact entire organizations?

Keystone Habits Impact on Culture

Perhaps the easiest way to explain this is by summarizing the story of how Paul O’Neill approached his first days as CEO of Alcoa back in 1987.

To the surprise of all in attendance at his opening press conference, Mr. O’Neil didn’t begin his tenure as CEO by talking about complicated profit and loss topics or waxing poetic about how he was going to begin focus groups to better understand the challenges they faced… instead he talked about how he, and all Alcoa associates, were going to focus on one thing and one thing only – employee safety.

Now, as you might imagine, many of the reporters in attendance thought Mr. O’Neill was a little crazy. After all, what CEO starts his reign of a major corporation by talking about safety.

Well, as it turns out, what Mr. O’Neill actually began to form that day was an incredibly powerful keystone habit.

You see, in order to achieve world-class safety performance, Alcoa would have to address all aspects of their business. In other words, the relentless focus on improving safety performance ultimately rippled throughout all aspects of Alcoa’s business.

In fact, within a year of Mr. O’Neill’s strong safety comments, Alcoa had transformed themselves into one of the most profitable companies within the Dow Jones Industrial Average. And, when he stepped down in 1999, O’Neill had helped push Alcoa’s annual earnings from 20 cents per share in 1994 to $1.41 in 1999.

And if you’re curious about their safety performance… during O’Neill’s tenure, Alcoa went from 1.86 lost workdays to injury per 100 workers to 0.2 lost workdays to injury per 100 workers.

About Those New Years Resolutions

So, now that we know a bit more about habits… I’d like to challenge you to think about how you can create a keystone habit (or habits) that supports your 2015 goals.

I’d also encourage you to think of how any less than ideal habits may be holding you back from reaching your full potential.

Finally, like I mentioned earlier, we’re going to dive into the topic of habit formation – and modification – in more detail once our new Culture of Kaizen course releases later this month.

So, keep an eye out for that… you can even request a full access 3-day trial once the course is released in order to check it out free of charge.

GA 039 | Developing a Lean Culture with Drew Locher

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drew-locherToday’s guest is Drew Locher, author of one of my favorite Value Stream Mapping books. We sat down at the AME conference in Jacksonville to chat about the different books Drew has written, as well as what it takes to develop a lean culture.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Drew’s background and how he first got into lean (2:19)
  • The quote that inspires Drew (3:15)
  • Drew’s books and what you can learn from them (4:38)
  • How to develop a lean culture (6:55)
  • How to effectively coach your employees along the way (7:59)
  • Why you can implement lean using both long-term projects and small everyday improvements. (12:01)
  • Drew’s tips for strengthening your lean skill set (13:46)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Drew (15:53)
  • The best advice Drew has ever received (17:54)
  • Drew’s time-saving personal productivity habit (18:25)
  • Drew’s final words of wisdom (25:24)

Podcast Resources

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

How do you or would you go about establishing a lean culture at your organization?

GA 038 | The Lean Journey with Cedric Brown

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In today’s episode, we’re sharing a conversation we had with Cedric Brown at the AME conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Cedric is President and Managing Partner of CMB Global Partners LLC, a consulting firm that helps companies accelerate learning and maintain the resulting improvements.

Cedric has years of corporate experience with plenty of industry knowledge to share. I think you’ll find his approach to continuous improvement both refreshing and easily applicable.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Cedric’s background (2:51)
  • The quote that inspires Cedric (6:01)
  • How to convince senior management to adopt lean initiatives (7:25)
  • The differences between leader standard work versus more traditional standard work (10:10)
  • Cedric’s opinion on whether or not Lean and Six Sigma can coexist (13:55)
  • How Cedric addresses continuous improvement skeptics (15:25)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Cedric (18:53)
  • The best advice Cedric has ever received (20:02)
  • Cedric’s personal productivity habit (21:03)
  • Cedric’s final words of wisdom (29:33)

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

Can Lean and Six Sigma coexist? How so? If not, why?

GA 037 | The Evolution of Lean with Chet Marchwinski

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Today’s guest is Chet Marchwinski, the Communications Director of the Lean Enterprise Institute. We sat down at the International AME Conference in Jacksonville, Florida and talked about all things continuous improvement. This includes how lean has evolved over the years, where it’s going next, and some of Chet’s personal anecdotes of LEI leaders James Womack and John Shook.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Chet’s role at LEI (2:45)
  • Firsthand stories about LEI Founder James Womack (4:18)
  • Things you might not know about current LEI CEO Jim Shook (7:30)
  • Chet’s take on the evolution of lean over the years (10:59)
  • What Chet thinks will be the hot topic of continuous improvement in five years (16:10)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Chet (21:10)
  • The best advice Chet has ever received (22:07)
  • Chet’s favorite personal productivity habit (24:17)
  • The two procedures Chet always sees in the best manufacturing plants (29:32)
  • About LEI’s Lean Lexicon: A Graphical Glossary for Lean Thinkers (32:09)
  • Chet’s final words of wisdom (33:57)

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

Where will lean be in five years? What will we be talking about?

GA 036 | The Lean Startup with Eric Ries

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Today’s guest is Eric Ries, an entrepreneur and author famous for being at the forefront of the lean startup movement. This episode has plenty of great insight for those both in and outside of the lean startup realm, covering topics like consumer value, waste, and minimal viable products.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • The quote that inspires Eric (2:12)
  • Eric’s background, and why it’s unusual (3:06)
  • All about Eric’s book, The Lean Startup (14:20)
  • How the content of the book applies to those outside the startup realm (19:46)
  • Eric’s role in introducing lean to those who don’t understand its manufacturing roots (29:58)
  • The most common mistake made in the lean startup world (32:12)
  • Eric’s opinion on bootstrapping (35:47)
  • What’s next for Eric (37:59)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Eric (39:50)
  • The best advice Eric has ever received (40:27)
  • Why Eric doesn’t have a productivity habit (42:12)
  • Eric’s final words of wisdom (50:10)

Podcast Resources

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

Are you familiar with lean startup methodology? How does it differ from traditional lean? How is it similar?