Category: Culture

A Lesson in Lean Over a Long Holiday Weekend

English: An Act to Prevent the further Introdu...
English: An Act to Prevent the further Introduction of Slaves and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude within this Province (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What? Another long weekend?

That’s right! The first Monday of August is a civic holiday here in Ontario, Canada. However, if you ask people what we’re supposed to be celebrating you may be surprised by the vast array of answers – including “I don’t know.”

Some of the confusion begins with its declaration – the provincial government has not defined this day as a statutory holiday although it is given to all federal and municipal government employees, In other words, this holiday is “optional”.

Having one long weekend per month has now turned into one of expectation. We only need to scramble for a cause to justify its existence as this excerpt from Wikipedia clearly demonstrates:

In Ontario, the day may be known as Simcoe Day in honour of the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and the promulgator of the Act Against Slavery; the Scotiabank Caribbean Cultural Festival, formerly known as Caribana, is held this holiday weekend in Toronto, coinciding with Emancipation Day. Civic Holiday may also be known by one of a number of local appellations such as Mountie Day in North York, Colonel By Day in Ottawa, George Hamilton Day in Hamilton, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, Founders’ Day in Brantford, McLaughlin Day in Oshawa, Alexander Mackenzie Day in Sarnia, James Cockburn Day in Cobourg, Peter Robinson Day in Peterborough, and John GaltDay in Guelph, as well as numerous other names in smaller municipalities.[citation needed]

Another example with a more specific cause is Family Day – first introduced as an election promise and subsequently established in 2007 by our provincial government to cure the long weekend void of February. Once again, Wikipedia provides a more thorough review:

During the Ontario provincial election in 2007, Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal Party promised that if re-elected premier he would establish a provincial holiday in February. On 12 October 2007, the provincial government established Family Day, with the first being observed on 18 February 2008. Its creation raised Ontario’s number of public holidays to nine per year.[7] However, this holiday does not necessarily add to the number of holidays Ontarians receive, as employers can substitute any non-statutory holidays that employees may already be receiving in lieu of this day. Many employers have substituted the popular Civic Holiday, which falls on the first Monday in August. Although the Civic Holiday is enjoyed by millions every year, it is not public (statutory), and workers may have to choose one holiday or the other, based on their contract, union negotiations, service requirements, etc.[8]

There has been much debate as to whether Family day was introduced as a means for our Premier to gain re-election or a necessary measure to assure the continued well being of Ontario families across the province.

The relationship to leadership and lean

On the breach of trust

Not all leaders are elected and we seldom have an opportunity to express our real opinions of them. As for government however, our levels of satisfaction can be measured in votes. Our intentions may be challenged and as leaders we must be transparent, accountable, and serve with integrity. Was injecting the “Family Day” holiday into a platform of many “to be broken promises” an expression of real concern for families in our province or simply a means of swaying votes? The manner for delivering on such a promise seems unprecedented as are many promises made during election campaigns.

As for business, the effects of leadership are more immediate and direct. For public companies, share prices rise and fall with the mere utterance of good or bad news and is evidenced by the ever-present volatility of the stock markets. Local economies are increasingly affected by global events as never experienced before.

Leading on Purpose

Our civic holiday is indicative of the confusion that continues to resonate throughout an organization long after a program or measure has been introduced without a specific purpose. As I review the many names that define this civic holiday and the excitement that accompanies each of them, I am reminded of how many organizations perceive a common sense of purpose among the ranks, only to learn that reasons for all those smiling faces are as diverse as the number of employees working there.

As leaders, we are challenged to foster a culture where the efforts of our teams are focused toward a greater common vision that is clearly defined, understood, and embraced by all. If there is at least one common thread for the civic holiday, it is to honor local heroes and people in our communities who played a much larger role in shaping our communities, our country, and our world for the betterment of humanity.

The last word

We all need a break from routine and, next to vacations, a long weekend certainly tops the list. There are many people who don’t really care why they are getting an extra day off while others are very much “in the know”. Being a leader, its our business to know. Oddly, after I finished this post, someone asked, “Do you know why Monday is a holiday?” I said, “You’re not going to believe this but that’s the topic of my post today!” As leaders, we make it our business to know “why” and “what”. As for the “how”, I’ll leave that to the experts.

I wish you all a happy Civic Holiday Monday – whatever your reason may be!

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Vergence Analytics

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Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here!

Mother's Day card

What my Mother taught me about Lean

Today is Mother’s day and gives me cause to reflect on what my Mother taught me about lean. From an early age, my mother managed to instill an innate ability for lean thinking. Managing a household and being able to orchestrate a host of tasks and demands, all the while keeping the place clean, is by no means an easy task. As if by instinct, I learned about 5S and the 7 types of waste, although at the time I didn’t recognize them as such.

I’m always amused when I see “Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here” signs posted in cafeterias and kitchens in the workplace. The most fundamental principles of 5S – a place for everything and everything in its place – and Kaizen were ingrained in me at home. My mother taught me to keep things organized, clean, and to ever improve on what was, is, or could be. Could it be that my mother inspired “There’s always a better way and more than one solution” or “What you see is how we think”? Perhaps so.

More importantly, my mother taught me that life and leadership is about people, relationships, and love.  All is for not without them.  My mother is the very essence of what it means to love and lead with a “servant heart” and that is why I think “people are first and business is second nature.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Vergence Analytics

Anticipation – Wait For It!

Anticipation

We’ve all said it, “I just can’t wait!”  We look forward to certain events, both big and small, with eager anticipation. We carefully plan for vacations, family events, a get together with friends, or major purchases like a new car or home.  Our minds race, eagerly waiting for that magic moment to arrive.

Anticipation instills excitement and expectation in the present moment with regard to a future event. Anticipation introduces an emotional quotient to an outcome that has yet to be realized. Is “anticipation” an inherent part of the culture where you work? Do you look forward to Monday mornings? Do you create opportunities to experience anticipation? What are some of the events you look forward to? In contrast, what are some of the events you dread?

Putting Metrics in Perspective

Key performance indicators (KPI’s) or metrics are used to measure our progress toward achieving goals and objectives.  Overall Equipment Effectiveness is one such key performance indicator used by many companies and provides a means to monitor and improve operational performance. Timely corrective actions and improvement measures should be accompanied by expected outcomes. In other words, we should anticipate increasing returns for our efforts.

Unfortunately when results begin to plateau, a perceived “point of no return” is reached, support on all fronts begins to wane, and apathy sets in. A vision that extends beyond the current “process as we know it” coupled with effective leadership is required to strive for even greater achievements. Some companies use the term “stretch targets” or “stretch goals” to ensure a gap between current and ideal performance exists. For lean practitioners, there is always a gap between the current and ideal state and as a result “pursuing perfection and pure value through the relentless elimination of waste” is a never ending journey.

Kaizen – Continuous Improvement

Daily Kaizen embraces the ideology that there is always a better way and more than one solution. We anticipate improved performance as we continue to understand and learn more from our experiences. We appreciate and learn from our failures and successes recognizing that each brings greater understanding of the process at hand. A missed target is a learning opportunity – whether expectations were exceeded or not.

While some would consider success as exceeding the target, doing so actually demonstrates that we did not fully understand all of the influences or elements of the process. As such, even hitting the target should be cause for review to validate our initial assumptions.  We may discover that some elements or combination of elements outside of our initial “assumptions” were actually responsible for hitting the target.

Kaizen is an integral part of a learning environment where lean thinking flourishes. Anticipation brings an element of excitement to the work place that keeps us wanting to come back to do it all over again.

“Anticipation” – Carly Simon sang it right – its keeping me waiting!

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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Unplugged – Earth Hour – 2012

The Earth – Unplugged

EARTH HOUR is now an annual event that is embraced around the globe.  For at least one hour, we will have the opportunity to “unplug” ourselves from the world to ponder and increase our awareness of how our “activities of daily living” can make a difference to the environment we live in.

Measuring Change

While the benefits of turning off the world for an hour are difficult to measure in the immediate sense, the longer term affect or impact will be determined and governed by our thinking first and actions second.

We have all learned to embrace the three (3) R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – as evidenced by the blue bins that regularly grace our streets on “recycling” day. We all make a personal effort to painstakingly separate items into various categories of “waste” to better serve the recycling process.

Companies have also taken a greater sense of responsibility for providing “green” or “earth friendly” products although, in many cases, the effort has more to do with the packaging than that of the product itself. Here in Ontario, Canada, our provincial government has imposed “environmental fees” on various products – such as electronics – to further support recycling programs. Locally, in and around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), plastic bags are subject to a fee of $0.05 each to curb consumers from using them.

From an energy perspective, we have been introduced to fully electric and hybrid cars. Nuclear energy and new sources of electricity such as wind mills and solar panels have replaced coal fired plants. Even my Logitech K750 keyboard is solar powered!

Behavior Changes

Sporadic record breaking high temperatures have marked this past winter as anything but Canadian. For some, climate change is cause enough to be an Earth Hour participant. I, however, believe that managing our finite resources in a more efficient and effective manner is something to think about and worthy of an hour of my time.

Behaviors must change, however, to do so requires us to first change our thinking. From a lean perspective, Earth Hour serves as a reminder to pursue perfection and pure value through the relentless elimination of waste. We can do so much more and all we need to do is take at least one hour to think about it – starting now.  There is always and better way and more than one solution.

Earth Hour will commence from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm EST on Saturday, March 31, 2012.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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Sustainability or Meltdown?

Created in Photoshop, based on "Sustainab...
Image via Wikipedia

For as many years as I have been blogging here on Lean Execution, I have been increasingly concerned with the sustainability of our economy, business, and government at all levels – locally, nationally, and globally. To this day, these same interests are all struggling to define and establish models that will allow them to recover, sustain, and flourish in the foreseeable future.

The word “meltdown” entered my mind as the summer heat continued to beat down on us over this past week. As we have witnessed over the past few months and years, many governments and businesses alike have collapsed and there are many questions that have yet to be answered.  How did it happen? Was prevention even possible? As I listen to the radio and read the newspapers, I find it interesting that “cuts” are the resounding theme to reduce costs.

I would argue that the real opportunity to reduce costs is to review and identify what is truly essential and then examine whether these products and services are being delivered in the most efficient and effective manner.  I have always contended that there is always a better way and more than one solution with the premise that anything’s possible.

Sustainability requires us to continually and rapidly adapt to an ever-changing environment.  In this context I again find myself turning to the wisdom of Toyota.  “The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement – Linking Strategy and Operational Excellence To Achieve Superior Performance” by Jeffrey K. Liker and James K. Franz is one such resource that is the most recent addition to my library of recommended lean reading and learning.

The economy is extremely dynamic and infinitely variable.  Our ability to sustain and succeed depends on our ability to stay ahead of the curve and set market trends rather than follow them. Apple is one such company that continually raises the bar by defining new market niches and creating the products required to fulfill them.

We also have a social responsibility to ensure that people are gainfully employed to afford the very products and services we provide.  As we consider current employment levels here in Ontario, Canada, and other countries around the world, it is becoming increasingly clear that cutting “jobs” is not a solution that will propel our economy forward.  We must be accountable to create affordable products and services that can be provided and sustained by our own “home based” resources.

Accountability for a sustainable business model requires us to forego future growth projections and deal with our present reality.  Expanding markets are not to be ignored, however, we can no longer use the “lack of growth” as an excuse for failing to meet our current obligations and stakeholder expectations.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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Vergence Analytics

Are you Winning? A Hockey Lesson for Lean Metrics.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Image via Wikipedia

The world of sports is rife with statistics and hockey is no exception, especially here in Canada.  Over the past few weeks, local Toronto hockey fans anxiously watched or listened for the results of every Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game – all the while hoping for a win and a shot at making into the playoffs.

As has been the case for the past many years, the Leaf’s contention for a playoff spot was equally dependent on their own performance and that of their competitors.  The Leaf’s finally started to win games as did their competitors.  In the end they didn’t make it.

It is interesting to note that, despite their lack luster record, the Maple Leafs are one of the top franchises in the National Hockey League (NHL).  Thanks to the Toronto Star, I learned that we have 45 reasons to hope.

What is the lesson here?

All the statistics or metrics in the world won’t change the final outcome for the Toronto Maple Leafs and neither will any of the excuses for their poor performance.

These players are paid professionals, hired for the specific purpose of contributing to the overall performance of their team to win hockey games.  In the end, no one cares about player performance data, injuries, shots on net, penalties, goals against, or any other metric.

To me it really comes down to one question:

Are you Winning?

The answer to this question is either Yes or No.  There is no room for excuses or “it depends”.  You either know or you don’t.  In hockey, it’s easy.  The metric that matters is the final score at the end of the game.

We are all paid to peform – excuses don’t count.  Determine which metric defines winning performance and be ready when someone asks:

Are you Winning?

As any rainmaker knows, customers expect a quality, low cost product or solution, delivered on time, and in full.  To do anything less is inexcusable.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter:  @Versalytics

Toyota #1 for a Reason

Experience is often gained by making mistakes, however, we don’t have to repeat them for the sake of experience.  This is one of the reasons I decided to read “Toyota Under Fire” by Jeffrey K. Liker and Timothy N. Ogden.  Aside from the many positive reviews this book has already received, it claims to present “The definitive inside account of Toyota’s greatest crisis – and lesson you can apply to your own company.”

Just as interesting though are two very strong statements or “subtitles” that appear on the front cover.  At first I thought these statements were quite bold considering that Toyota’s most troubling times are not that far behind us:

  1. Lessons For Turning Crisis Into Opportunity, and
  2. How Toyota Faced the Challenges of the Recall and the Recession to Come Out Stronger

I don’t think any company would savor the opportunity to experience the crises that Toyota has been subjected to over the past few years.  It is certainly easier and much cheaper to learn from the experiences and “mistakes” of others.  Each crisis that Toyota faced was compounded by the presence of new ones,  namely,

  1. Sudden Acceleration concerns and the recall of over 10 million vehicles,
  2. Enduring significant media and government scrutiny while being subject to the most intensive investigation in many years,
  3. Defamation of the Toyota brand and loss of consumer confidence in the company and it’s products, and
  4. An economic downturn that affected every manufacturer around the world.

These were certainly very difficult times and the lessons to be learned from them are sure to be of value to every business.  In the typical Toyota style, they once again have opened the doors to share their lessons learned – an opportunity that few companies dare to offer.

Endorsements

The statements supporting this book imply that successes have already been realized.  I, like you, would be more than a little concerned if these were Self-Proclaimed statements issued by Toyota’s leadership.  The good news is they aren’t.

An article published in the Toronto Star, “Toyota Bags 3rd Consecutive Reader’s Digest ‘Most Trusted Brand’ Award“, presents the best endorsement of all – it’s from us – the consumer.  The Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands program awarded Toyota ‘Most Trusted Passenger Car Brand” for the third year in a row and the 2011 Most Trusted Hybrid Brand.

Toyota is the number selling car brand in Canada and is recognized for having the most fuel-efficient car fleet and providing the greatest value to customers.  I was surprised to learn that 80% of Toyota’s sold in the past 20 years are still on the road.

Respect is Earned

As the expression goes, “Respect is Earned”.  I contend that the same is true for Trust.  Perhaps the realization that Toyota is as concerned about people, employees and customers alike, that the very culture that defines the company has extended to its customers as well.

As such, Toyota’s resilience and sustainability through these crises is further evidence of the unique and powerful culture upon which the company itself was founded.  I’m excited by the opportunity to learn more about this amazing company.  Toyota Under Fire will certainly prove to be a good read.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter:  @Versalytics

Reality Undercover

Undercover Boss logo
Image via Wikipedia

One of the few Reality TV programs I enjoy watching is Undercover Boss on CBS.  This program exemplifies all the reasons why it is so important for executive leadership and senior management to keep in touch with the front lines of the company.    As a lean practitioner I consider the culture of the company to be the defining difference between the success and failure of any improvement initiatives including lean, quality, or implementing new metrics to manage performance such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and Labour Efficiency.

Perhaps the greatest discovery that the CEO’s of these featured companies make is that it is the people behind the product that really define the company they work for.  While this may sound soft and far removed from what it really means to run a business, I contend that it is the very essence of what it means to make a company successful.  The latest Undercover Boss program featured Dennis R. Slagle, President and CEO of Mack Truck.  On one hand, the CEO’s learn some important and valuable lessons about the company and life in general.  On the other hand it is unfortunate that the these discoveries are based on the false premise of posing as a new employee competing for a position within the company.

An article featured on digtriad.com titled “Mack Trucks’ CEO Denny Slagle Featured on CBS’ Undercover Boss“, presents some behind the scenes details and insights from Slagle’s experience.  In Slagle’s words, “The show gave me a very deep understanding of what we do not only affects the employee and their families, but also affects their community.  Fortunately for many of us, we are able to routinely meet with our teams and employees – formally and informally.  The open door policy prevails in many companies today and many more CEO’s are beginning to appreciate that people are truly their greatest asset.

I have read and also recommend the book version of Undercover Boss by Stephen Lambert and Eli Holzman.  You can get your copy by clicking here:   Undercover Boss.  As of this writing, you can get a copy for only $2.41 plus Shipping & Handling.

In the spirit of this post – Happy Family Day Ontario!

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Toyota’s Culture – Inside Out

Comparing leadership cultures and creating change
Image by opensourceway via Flickr

As discussed on our Lean Roadmap page, the culture that exists inside your company will determine the success or failure of your lean initiatives in the long-term.  So, how do we cultivate and nurture this culture that we desire to achieve?

Fortunately, I found a great article,  How to implement “Lean Thinking” in a Business: Pathway to creating a “Lean Culture”, written by one of my recent twitter connections (lean practitioner and former Toyota employee) that briefly describes the process embraced by Toyota.

I will not paraphrase the content of the article if only to preserve the essence of the presentation and passion that is conveyed in its writing.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that Toyota does not typically refer to their methods as lean.  Lean is not a set of tools but rather a manner of thinking and focus on a seemingly elusive target to achieve one piece flow.

The spirit of Lean, like synergy, cannot be taught – only experienced.

An innate ability exists and continues to evolve where team members operate with a high level of synergy and are able to identify and respond to concerns in real-time.  Steven Spear also discusses various characteristics or attributes of high performance teams from a different perspective and much wider range of industries in his book “The High Velocity Edge“.

Toyota Recall – Update

Following the release of the NHTSA investigation, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article titled “Toyota, The Media Owe You an Apology“.  The article clarifies a number of allegations against Toyota, however, I am reminded that the government’s investigation did not completely exonerate Toyota from having any responsibility.

Whether the failure is mechanical or electronic is moot considering the tragic results that ensued for some.  I think the real concern is whether the problem itself has been identified and resolved regardless of fault.

Since we are on the topic of culture, consider the media’s role in reporting the events surrounding the recall.  What was your overall sense of the media’s reporting and perspective on this issue?

As you ponder this question, your answer will reveal how quickly events and people of influence can shape our culture.  On a much larger scale, consider the current events in Egypt or the last Presidential election in the United States.

As always, I appreciate your feedback – leave a comment or send us an e-mail.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Twitter:  @Versalytics

Superbowl 45 … and a new launch!

Super Bowl Sunday Crystal Ball
Image by circulating via Flickr

Today, February 6, 2011, is Super Bowl 45 (XLV) where the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the Green Bay Packers.  Historically, the commercials are just as entertaining as the game itself.  I thought this Application made for an interesting “message” delivery service.

We are also proud to announce the launch of our digital paper “Versalytics Today“, featuring articles on lean and related topics from our Selected Followers on Twitter.com.  Versalytics Today is updated every twenty-four hours and demonstrates the power of collaboration in the Lean community.

If you would like to be published in Versalytics Today then sign up for your free twitter account and follow us @Versalytics.  We will review your blog and if your content meets with our selection criteria, we will add you to our list of contributors.

It’s time to get ready for the game.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Twitter:  @Versalytics