Lean Communication – 3 Teaching Tips to Steer Clear

Today, Dec. 30, is my birthday.  It also happens to be my mom and dad’s anniversary.  Happy Birthday to me.  Happy Anniversary mom and dad.

I remember telling this fact to a school teacher of mine (when I was young and naive), but never could quite get the story to be told in the ‘proper’ way.

“My mom and dad got married on the same day I was born”, I told my teacher.  Although I was telling the truth by stating what I knew to be an obvious fact, the message I was trying to convey was not being heard in the context mom and dad would have preferred.

“Oh…really?…Stevie”, would be the normal reply.  “Well I guess that makes you a special little boy, now doesn’t it, Stevie?”

Darn straight I’m special. Continue reading

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Lean Baseball – Playing For Keeps (Revisited)

As I type this post, the San Francisco Giants are up 3-0 on the Texas Rangers in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series…7th inning.

theThinkShack’s very first post, written in May 2010, was Lean Baseball – Playing For Keeps.

I just re-read the post and still feel the message is worth promoting and still relevant (still 3-0, now in the 8th inning.)  With theThinkShack being a new blog on the lean block, this first post never received any comments.  I’m hoping things can be different the second time around.

Any thoughts? (Update…now 4-0, bottom of the 8th)

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Lean Navigation Blunders (a.k.a. Why You Can’t Find Santa’s Workshop Using a Compass)

When I was ten years old, I had a dream.  No, not the ‘sound asleep on my pillow’ kind of dream.  More like a ‘Martin Luther King Jr.’ kind of dream.  Yes, I had a dream.  My dream was to travel to the North Pole and tour Santa’s workshop.  It may sound silly to you, but to a wildly imaginative ten-year old boy (soon to embark on his career journey experimenting with electricity, blown fuses, tripped circuit breakers, and the occasional small fire) this was the real deal.

Phase I of my dream was, of course, the planning stage.  Not wanting to take this step lightly, I committed serious time to ensuring every potential situation being painstakingly thought out and debugged.  Five minutes later, my list of required provisions was complete:

  1. Assortment of snacks (my assumption was this may be a lengthy trip)
  2. A flashlight (for traveling at night – this would enable me to make good time)
  3. A compass (I knew I needed to keep heading North)

Looking back, I’m glad I never made the trip.  I can’t quite recall what stopped me from pursuing such a noble task…maybe when I woke up I realized it was a school day.  Regardless, I likely would have been very cold and traversing Northern Canada would have proven a significant challenge. Continue reading

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My Personal ‘SPIN’ on PDCA


PDCA…Plan, Do, Check, Act

I like the PDCA cycle for three reasons:

  • It’s simple
  • It provides a pathway for teaching
  • It works

I love teaching. For me, seeing the light bulb over a lean student’s head illuminate for the first time is highly rewarding. Because of this disposition, early years of my lean journey were filled with many moments of frustration. If co-workers entrusted to me by management did not become fully engaged with the topics at hand, training sessions would lack enough enthusiasm to gain success. Without proper training and understanding of key concepts, lean initiatives would oftentimes stagnate. As a lean leader, this trend became personal…a little learning only gives a little reward.

During my years of learning, sharing, and teaching lean concepts, these situations led me to an important discovery. Not everyone asked to become part of a lean transformation is personally on-board …especially at the beginning.

Thinking through this over time, I found that my teaching/coaching success could be greatly increased by purposefully ‘tweaking’ what I was teaching so it could be absorbed by those involved personally. Continue reading

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Masking Problems and the Illusion of Progress

It’s been two weeks since theThinkShack post It’s Time to Stop and Fix Something was featured on the WordPress.com homepage.  Since then, I can’t seem to get Principle #5 of the 14 Principles from the Toyota Way out of my mind…

Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.

Please get this: It doesn’t say, “Stop and fix the problems”.  It does say…Build a culture.

Check out this video on China addressing Beijing’s pollution issue: (you may need to click link into YouTube – video is 1:37)

Beijing officials are not solving the pollution problem.  They’re masking it.  Also, they have a culture problem.  They have not built a culture where people are taught to methodically study problems (my guess is the garbage is piling up so quickly, they’ve fallen behind on respect for people concerns).  So what’s the result?  Rather than focus on the root cause(s) of the bad smell, they spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and money trying to mask the problem. Continue reading

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Jumping the Gun: Social Media and Lean

We’ve all heard the popular quote,

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Implementing lean can be lots of fun.  Challenges with improving and simplifying complicated processes or achieving a balanced mixed model flow, bring satisfaction when teams work together toward a common goal.



Writing for webdesignerdepot.com, Cameron Chapman opens her article on “The History and Evolution of Social Media” by stating,

Social media has become an integral part of modern society.

Uhh…yeah.  The article was written in October, 2009.  Reading through the timeline from beginning to end makes one realize just how far, and how quickly, social media has come.  Time has flown, but it hasn’t been all fun.  Personally, I’ve jumped onto quite a bit of the social media band wagon over the past couple of years…all with good intentions of course.

The 8th principle from The Toyota Way – 14 principles states,

Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts regarding whether the principle applies to the use of social media in supporting lean efforts.

How do we balance taking advantage of the latest SM opportunity vs. ensuring reliable, time-tested technology?  As lean leaders, what are the risks?

Posted in Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments