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Red Sox Lean Way To Title

4 min read

Red Sox Win Their Way

The 2013 Major League Baseball season came to a roaring end in Boston last week, crowning its 106th World Series Champion on the sacred Fenway Park grounds. For the Boston Red Sox, it was their third title in ten years and eighth overall, fourth behind the Oakland Athletics (9), St. Louis Cardinals (11), and New York Yankees (27). It was also the first time they clinched a title at home since 1918, which made it that much sweeter for one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of sports.

Boston Red SoxBut does this all have to do with Lean?

What is Lean?

Simply put, Lean is about creating the most value for your customers with the fewest resources. There are several processes and methodologies behind Lean that give companies the tools necessary to pursue such goals. However, for the purpose of this analogy, we will stick to the basics and break down how the Red Sox went from worst to first in a little over a year, using the most basic Lean concept of all –eliminating waste.

Epic Collapse

To understand exactly how the Red Sox went from a laughing stock cellar dweller, to one of the best sporting stories of 2013, you have to go back to the 2011 season.

On August 27, 2011, the Red Sox held a two game lead over their rival New York Yankees in the division and a nine game lead in the wild card (final playoff spot) race over the Tampa Bay Rays. The season was nearly over and looking great when the team literally self destructed. They went on to lose 21 of their final 29 games in what was one of the biggest late season collapses in sports history.

Stories of beer drinking in the clubhouse during games, players who didn’t care, and a manager who had lost control of his team all surfaced throughout the media.

How did management respond?

About half way through the slump they decided to buy all the players $300 headphones and have them out on the owner’s yacht for a private night to “re-group.” Surprisingly enough, this was not the motivation the team with a $161 million payroll needed.

The season ended terribly for the Red Sox. They spent money like it was growing on trees in 2011 and had nothing to show to their fans (customers) for it.

First elimination of waste: Part ways with manager and bring in a fresh face to try and change the culture.


The 2012 season brought new life to the Red Sox. The offseason was spent in turmoil and mostly answering questions about the previous seasons collapse. Needless to say, just getting back on the field again was a win for the club. They were a preseason favorite and with the third highest payroll in baseball at just over $173 million, the fans were expecting big things.

The new manager was tough and hard-nosed, a complete opposite to the previous manager. Upper management felt the club house needed this change to eliminate the “waste” that formed at the end of the 2011 season.

Quickly though, 2012 started much like how the 2011 season ended and was not looking good for Red Sox nation. The 2012 season was looking like a complete waste and the fans were left feeling like they were not getting the product they anticipated.

The Trade

Most trade deadlines in sports come and go in sports with a few trades here and there, but nothing to out of the ordinary. However, on August 25, 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox managed to pull off one of the biggest trades in sports history. The Red Sox sent four players (some of which who were at the front of the 2011 waste issues) to the Dodgers and more importantly, cleared up nearly $270 million in payroll –massive waste elimination.

The team finished in last place and lost its most games in a season since 1965. To some, this trade was seen as a sign that they had given up and were about to enter a long rebuilding phase, but the Sox would have the last laugh. The Red Sox also wasted no time firing their first year manager.  –more waste eliminated.


For the first time in years, the Red Sox were on no one’s radar to win a pennant. They had their lowest payroll in years ($159 million) and a manager that few had even heard of. They stayed away from the big name free agents and instead, brought in pieces they felt could help them win while building a culture that was sustainable throughout a season. The fans had low expectations for win totals, but were desperate for a good product on the field.

What happened next was one of the biggest surprise stories the world of sports had seen in years. Even at the halfway point in the season, skeptics doubted the Red Sox hot start and predicted them to fall out of their first place position before the season was over.

The Sox never did look back though. They finished tied for the leagues best record and stormed through the playoffs, eventually defeating the St. Louis Cardinals four games to two, in route to their eighth and  maybe most unprecedented title in franchise history.

Red Sox and Lean

Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that no one in the Red Sox organization picked up a Lean handbook or attended a Lean conference and decided to start running things differently as a result. However, the idea is still the same. It’s a true testament to how powerful a transformation can be when you start dedicating yourself to eliminating waste and improving the culture around you.










Project Management is Important for Continuous Improvement

2 min read

Most businesses are run with a series of ongoing projects. The breaking up of tasks into projects results in manageable workloads with specific assignments, making them more likely to get accomplished in a timely manner. By definition, projects are sets of interconnected tasks that are targeted at meeting a certain goal. Many organizations rely on steady project completion to lead to the achievement of broader company goals.

Project Phases

Projects are run, overseen and monitored by project managers in charge of making sure that things remain on track and that important deadlines are met. Projects can typically be broken down into five major steps. The first step is initiation and involves project evaluation. A project evaluation is accomplished by performing a cost and benefit analysis and, essentially, deciding whether or not the project should be continued. The second step is referred to as the “planning phase,” and is made up of goal setting and the assembly of a project team. The third step in a project is the launch. During this phase team members are given their respective tasks and assignments. The fourth step is the monitoring phase and involves the project manager overseeing the actual work being done. The fifth, and final, phase is project completion and marks the termination of the project and evaluation of the degree to which goals were met.

Project Managers

The strengths and qualities of the project manager are crucial to the success of the overall project. It is essential that project managers are effective communicators and can relay to project members what is expected of them in a constructive and encouraging manner. Effective project managers typically have extensive knowledge regarding the scope of the project and how it relates to the broad goals and values of the company as a whole.

Project Management Tools

30 Day Action List

30 Day Action List

There are a series of different tools and techniques that are valuable for project managers to utilize with their team members. Brainstorming is a creative tool designed to encourage team members to suggest and feed off of each others ideas. Another tool is the Critical Path Analysis technique aimed at creating a flow chart and timeline of the project, outlining major milestones. Lets take for instance you are managing a 5s project, and you need to keep track of problems found during the project and the progress that has been made. A simple 30 Day Action list can be used to keep track of the activities and who is assigned to each one along with the progress. In addition, a component located within this technique is PERT or Program/Programme/Project Evaluation and Review Technique. Both of these tools are helpful in creating a visual representation for the tasks that need to be accomplished to complete the project.

Projects are an essential aspect of the operations of any business or organization. Regardless of the product or service supplied by the company, it can benefit from the delegation of projects. The project manager role demands the extensive knowledge of each phase of the project and proper utilization of tools and techniques. The project manager is an important part of the success of a completed project. The better someone is at managing projects, the more success your continuous projects will be.

Why Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)?

3 min read

The path towards continuous improvement in your lean journey is not always as clear as you’d like it to be. Many of the processes and methodologies behind Lean take time before your organization has success with them. It’s a learning process well worth the investment, but can be frustrating at times. Same goes for the Lean process known as Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED). The increased efficiency and reduction of costly inventory that results from SMED, only comes when your organization has fully committed and dedicated the time to fully understand the process.

Background of Single Minute Exchange of Die or SMED

SMEDThe SMED process was developed by Dr. Shigeo Shingo in Japan during the sixties and early seventies at Toyota. Dr. Shingo was given the challenge of increasing production capacity without purchasing new equipment. His research at first was mostly spent observing machines in action and trying to understand how to make them run faster. However, this was not giving him the information he was looking for.

To his surprise, his aha moment came when he observed a machine sitting idle. While spending all the time focused on the machine in action, he failed to realize the lack of emphasis on the machine’s cycle time. When a production order was complete the machine would lay idle while workers slowly gathered the materials for the next order. Dr. Shingo then realized that in order to achieve full production capacity, you have to reduce setup and changeover time.

His new focus led him to realize that changing production equipment from the last good piece to the first good piece, should take less than 10 minutes. Which is where the term “Single Minute Exchange of Dies” (SMED) came from.

What Can SMED Do For You?

Most people refer to SMED today as “quick changeover” or “setup reduction.” Even though it was originally developed to improve die-press and machine-tool setups, the concept applies to all changeovers in all types of product setups.

In the book Quick Changeover Simplified, authors Fletcher Birmingham and Jim Jelinek offer six reasons why a quick changeover process like SMED will help benefit your company. They are as follows:

  • Simplify your manufacturing process. A quick setup and changeover program simplifies processes and makes manufacturing jobs easier and more fulfilling for employees. This leads to happier employees, which leads to a lower turn-over rate.
  • Improve the quality of products. When you define, simplify, and control your manufacturing processes, the end result will be a better, higher quality product.
  • Increase throughput. A quick setup program allows an increase in throughput, helping to improve deliveries. Improved deliveries help customers sell more products, thus increasing their need to order more products from you to keep up with demand.
  • Permit smaller lots. The old rule of thumb was to produce goods in large lots because long setup times make it costly to change the process frequently. However producing large lots for this reason has several disadvantages, including:

~Inventory waste: storing what doesn’t sell costs money and ties up company resources without adding value.
~Quality loss: storing unsold inventory increases the chance that it will have to be scrapped or reworked.
~Delay waste: customers must wait for the company to produce entire lots, rather than the quantity they need.
~Non-standardized setups: Infrequent setups often aren’t standardized; thus they are difficult and risky.

  • Make your company more competitive. A quick setup and changeover program reduces the time , cost, and resources associated with switching from one manufacturing job to the next. Any savings you have can then be passed along to your customer to make you that much more competitive.
  • Save jobs. Not implementing a quick setup program makes your company noncompetitive because it needs to absorb the cost of lost potential savings that could have benefited your company and customers.

These benefits of SMED are just the start of the continued improvement you will see to your facility in the long and short term. Stay tuned for more on SMED, including tips on how to implement SMED into your Lean facility.

An Engaged Employee is a Productive Employee

3 min read

Get the most out of each employee

To measure the success of an organization, you don’t have to look much further than the employees that make it go. Are they happy to be there? Do they take pride in their work? Can they acknowledge they’re a part of something bigger? The answer to these questions will more often than not, be dependent upon your employee’s level of engagement.

Employee If you’re a Lean organization, then you know first hand how import an employee’s level of engagement is to your culture and success of your business. Creating a culture where each and every employee is equally engaged is a challenge that few have the answers for, but all are in search of.

So what do you do? First off, you need to have a complete understanding of the dynamics that make up your organization’s population. You don’t need statistics, raw data, charts, or any kind of number for that matter. In fact, just throw the numbers out the window and engage your employees with the same energy that you expect from them.

To get started, seek out the employees who are visibly the most productive and find out what makes them tick. Find the disinterested employee and ask them what’s on their mind. This is the type of information that moving forward, will help you develop the tools to get the engagement you need from each employee and increase productivity along the way.

Easier Said Than Done

Maybe, but in a Lean organization, every employee is a valuable asset and should be treated as such. This type of respect and trust goes a long way when you’re trying to build a culture that everyone feels equally a part of.

A culture, like any ecosystem has many dynamic parts that are always changing and evolving. In order to understand its needs and help it thrive, you need to be on the ground level to help push it along. You can’t do this from an office or a cell phone, you need to get to the “gemba,” get to the front lines and be the motivator that employees want to model themselves after.

Bring People Together

The difference between the employee who does the minimum amount of work to the one who puts in everything they have every day, may be smaller than you think once you start digging.

These same two employees may despise each other on the job because of their differences in work ethic, but given the opportunity outside the typical work setting, and you might find the two have more in common than they thought.

The more company functions you can promote, will go a long way in building your culture and engagement among your employees. From the company softball team, to the Friday BBQ, these type of events bring employees together that might have never spoken to one another. This allows them the opportunity to engage with one another, building solid relationships that can help motivate and improve effort in the workplace.

Providing opportunities that bring employees together not only builds employee moral, but shows that you care about your employees. You can’t expect an employee to fully engage themselves into your organization if they feel like just another body. Make them feel a part of something bigger and watch the transformation unfold.

Interesting Numbers

A survey by the consulting firm BlessingWhite shows the value of an engaged employee to your organization.

  • 40 percent of employees reported feeling engaged in 2012. A 33 percent increase from 2011.
  • 55 percent said they “definitely” intend to stay in their jobs. With “intent to stay” being an indicator of their commitment to company success. 12 percent said “no way.”
  • 48 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they have career opportunities with their employer.
  • 74 percent of engaged workers agree or strongly agree that they trust their manager. For disengaged workers, the number was just 14 percent.

It stands to reason that managers who develop awareness of trust and how to earn it will have much greater success in engaging their team members.




Lean Layout Fundamentals

3 min read

Designing a layout for your facility is a hefty project that really takes both sides of the brain to draw out all your creativity and scientific knowledge in order to be successful. The growth of Lean concepts and processes over the past decade has shifted many facilities to adopt a Lean layout on their floors. The results of a successful Lean layout can dramatically improve your facilities efficiency and flexibility when it comes to production swings.

A veteran Lean practitioner may understand the essentials that go into this design process, but for those struggling with this concept, it may be helpful to understand the fundamentals of a Lean layout to help get started.

Lean Layout 101

Lean layout 101 For starters, it is important to separate a Lean layout from other design templates like functional and line layouts. The goal of a Lean layout is to increase efficiency and allow for flexibility in your production process. This is done by focusing on the sequences in the process and linking them together, not the function in which they operate.

In a functional layout, products have to move through several departments before completion. This adds several processes to the overall production. This decreases your efficiency and adds a lot more handling of each individual part in the process. Also, parts have to wait for other parts to be finished in order to be completed, slowing the process down.

Through the use of U-shaped cells, a lean layout aligns work stations to work hand in hand with each other. By taking a piece of equipment and the step in the process and locating them next to each other creates an efficient flow in the process. A series of U-shaped cells is called a cellular layout.

A line layout may be more efficient than a functional layout, but it lacks two things that a Lean layout thrives on; individual effort and creativity. Both of these concepts are completely eliminated from the products design and finished product in a line layout.

Three Parts to a Lean Layout

Since the first manufacturing plant opened, engineers have been working towards designing a more efficient method to manufacture goods. This mindset falls right in line with Lean thinking. Improvement should always be at the forefront, but understanding the fundamentals for what you’re trying to improve is essential to the process. For a proper Lean layout, there are three main fundamentals that need to be addressed.

  1. One-Piece Flow: This type of system focuses specifically on the sequences in the process. Workers only work on one unit or product at a time and then pass it along to the next process. This has had a significant impact on reducing time, wastes, and improving value-added activities in many Lean organizations.
  2. Reducing Transportation of Parts and Motion: The minimization of movement is always going to increase efficiency. This is done by placing equipment in the proper sequence in the process. By reducing the amount of movement needed by your workers to complete their task, you will also reduce the strain on them, reducing possible health issues over time.
  3. Minimization of Space: Poorly utilized space is wasteful and can be costly to your improvement efforts. All objects within your facility need to be evaluated to determine the least amount of space needed to be efficient and keep production levels flexible.

There is no specific blueprint to a Lean layout that everyone must follow in order to be considered Lean. However, by following the methodology behind a Lean layout, you can design a layout that works for your facility, under your constraints, that still fits the mold for a Lean layout.

Go Lean – Visual Factory

2 min read

Lean Manufacturing Visual Factory refers to lean manufacturing theory. It describes visual methods a factory or any manufacturing plant can use to communicate information about a process to everyone who needs to understand it as they work.

What Exactly Is It?

A visual factory uses a collection of conceptual tools that will convey information in a clear, accurate, efficient, and organized way to those who need to know it. Since this visual information is easier to comprehend than verbal or mathematical symbols, information is conveyed via signs, graphics, photographs and charts. This information is quickly comprehensible and easily accessible to those who need to understand the status of a process. Moreover, this way of communication becomes even more valuable when processes evolve and become increasing complex. Using this method, even complex information can still be quickly grasped and put to use.

How Does It Work?

Lean Manufacturing procedures seek to answer one straightforward question: What is the information necessary to move from the current state of a process to a future state? Evaluating the current state of a process becomes meaningful through contrast, comparing what is happening now to what is desirable in the future. This information is kept relevant by considering process metrics, work instructions, and general plant information.

1. Process Metrics

Metrics are placed at the machine or operating unit to deliver information in real time. When there is instant information, adjustments can be made immediately to a process. A metric that communicates information through light is called an andon, and this is usually a central feature in a visual factory because it provides instant feedback on the state of a process.

2. Work instructions

These give workers information on what to do and when to do it. Instead of verbal descriptions, graphics and photographs are preferred as they give clear instructions and minimize errors in production. The more accurate the graphic reflects the process, the higher the level of communication. Words and numbers can be interpreted in many ways because they are constrained by rules of grammar and style or mathematical sequence and logic, but a clear visual representation offers a literal description that can be immediately understood.

3. General plant information

This is usually posted in a central location and stimulates two-way information exchanges. This information raises awareness, alerts about changes, posts warnings about how to handle potentially dangerous manufacturing processes, and motivates production.


Free 5S guide and posterThere are numerous benefits to this methodology for communicating information:

  • It prevents errors arising from miscommunication. Often what is written or spoken can be interpreted in multiple ways.
  • It increases comprehension, even when describing complex processes.
  • It makes employees feel more competent and reduces friction due to misunderstanding about what needed to be done to run a process effectively.
  • It improves the way machines are used, improving up-time and increasing run rates.
  • It decreases how long work stays in progress.

A company that employs the standards and procedures outlined here will improve internal communication; reduce wastage of time, money, and materials; and provide optimum working conditions and efficient machine operations.

The Pitfalls of the Disinterested Employee

3 min read

For decades, the generation in charge has lamented about the day the youthful generation would come of age and wreck the world with their no good shenanigans and general sense of apathy. Historically, apathy is more a byproduct of adolescent hormones and growth than anything else, but there has been a phenomenon that researchers have been tracking since 2005.

According to Fortune magazine, in the stretch from 2005 to 2010, the number of people reporting that they wanted to leave their jobs went from 23% to 32%, and the New York Daily News cites statistics that show that a Gallup poll conducted in 2013 had 70% of respondents say they either hated their jobs or were otherwise completely disengaged.

While the causes behind such results are murky at best, the economic downturn that began with the Sub-prime Mortgage Crisis in 2007 drastically increased those looking for jobs and gave businesses a kind of buyers market that stressed that the average worker was an expendable asset. While no person have ever truly been immune from a habitual dread of Mondays, corporations have been fighting since the Industrial Revolution to keep employees motivated, and to help them avoid the overwhelming sense of dread that T.S. Eliot predicted for the modern human in his poem, The Wasteland. Companies have tried numerous methods, from offering stock options to motivational posters, but the question still remains on how exactly to keep employees engaged and inspired, and the research shows some very interesting results.

The Effect of Apathetic Employees

The true economic effect of the numerous disinterested employees in the workforce is a very nebulous calculation as the damages range from an employee who is checking college basketball scores rather than working to those who commit costly and dangerous errors due to their inattentiveness. With incidents ranging from patients who died from infections caused by improper hygiene to idiotic on-the-job injuries, and other factors that affect the bottom line, it is almost impossible to truly quantify the overall impact of these sour apples. There have still been attempts to calculate the total numbers, and the most prominent calculations were done by Gallup and it reported a grand cost of $550 billion per year due to a myriad of factors including sick days, stolen supplies, and decreased productivity.


While many businesses have tried to capture the magic Google seems to work on its employees by also providing above-and-beyond perks, they have missed the key point of Google’s successful employee-satisfaction theory: genuinely care about your employees.

According to the long-established theory of capitalist economics, it is in an employer’s best interest to get the most amount of labor from a worker while paying them the least amount possible. Google has turned this long-held notion on its head by lavishing its employees with on-the-job haircuts, bowling alleys, and on-site massages, as chronicled by journalist Mark Crowley.

While the amenities are incredible, the company claims that it is only the icing on the cake and the real difference is in focusing on employee’s needs and one prominent way Google does this is by allowing their employees to choose a substantial amount of what work they are doing, making them naturally more motivated. Additionally, Google’s executives constantly invite employees to participate in forums and answer their top 20 questions weekly and the results show that 90% of its 30,000+ employees participate in the surveys. Management emphasizes that these exceptional perks come with an exceptionally high level of expectations for employee work, but if Google’s $900 per share mark coupled with its high levels of employee and customer satisfaction are testaments to its business model.

Google, along with a few other progressive companies, have taken the road less traveled and actually placed their employees first, unlike all those “upside-down pyramid” pretenders, and the results are the proof that what they’re doing is working. Apathetic employees are an epidemic and it is time that corporate American makes increased efforts to truly involve their employees rather than alienate them from the products they create. Rather than crush their spirits, it is in everyone’s best interest to inspire workers and motivate them to take pride in what they do. It is important to help every worker discover something that the late Steve Jobs referred to as one of his most important revelations:

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

-Steve Jobs

Hansei 101

3 min read

We are reminded time and time again (and rightfully so), Lean is about culture. It is a crucial part and in most cases, the backbone of any Lean organization. A culture that believes in continuous improvement and practices what they preach day in and day out, is the key to sustaining Lean. What’s less talked about, is what goes into a culture that allows it to gain the strength needed to sustain an organization’s Lean processes. Enter hansei.

What is Hansei?

The Japanese term “hansei,” can simply be translated into English as “reflection,” but in the Lean community and especially Toyota, it has a much bigger meaning.

Hansei is really much deeper than reflection. It is really being honest about your own weaknesses. If you are talking about only your strengths, you are bragging. If you are recognizing your weaknesses with sincerity, it is a high level of strength.

-Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way

Hansei is a method of reflectionOne of the keys to Toyota’s success throughout the years and what many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around, is the art of hansei. All to often, we overlook our weaknesses and attempt to cover them up with our strengths, as if they will eventually conquer our flaws in the end. But in reality, this is about as counterintuitive as you could be when promoting a continuous improvement philosophy.

An individual must accept the fact that they have flaws and weaknesses, Otherwise their ability to continuously improve and have a positive impact on the culture that surrounds them, is at a significant disadvantage.

The key elements to hansei:

  • Helps the individual recognize a problem.
  • Allows individual to accept responsibility of a problem with a high level of emotion.
  • Pushes the individual towards a plan of action to improve.

Everyone’s Reflection is Different

Hansei can be one of the most powerful concepts in your organization, if it’s accepted. Critical self analysis is always a tough pill to swallow in the American culture. Mike Masaki, president of the Toyota Technical Center from 1995-2000, found this out first hand.

Upon a visit to an American facility, Masaki pointed out some “very bad” parts to the American designers. This criticism was met with an uncomfortable reaction by most, which was unusual to Masaki, who spent a lot of time critiquing different elements of Toyota at the time.

In Japan the reaction is I should have designed this better I made a mistake! The U.S. designer’s expectation is that I did a good job so I should be rewarded. This is a big cultural difference.

-Mike Masaki, former president of Toyota Technical Center

It is well known and even self-criticized that Toyota spends little, if any, time celebrating success. Instead, they spend more time overcoming and more importantly, accepting weakness.

Man reflecting (hansei)No one expects (at least not overnight), a complete culture shift in the American workforce. It’s what makes us unique and allows us to create our own identity. However, when you’re able to least consider the fact that you have weaknesses and are willing to work on what it’s going to take to improve upon them, the possibilities are endless.

The problem is, it is a lot more work to find what you’re bad at, then it is to point out your strengths. It is all in the mindset though. I don’t necessarily feel you should completely take praise and recognition out all together like some suggest, but I do feel that a different mindset is needed to effectively use the hansei concept. Which is, no matter the success one has, there is always room for improvement.

This is not to say that what you did was wrong, but rather an opportunity to do something better. However the only way to present yourself with this valuable opportunity, is through the hansei process. When done immediately upon completion of a project or job, the possibility for value adding improvement is at it’s highest point. Some even have a regular hansei-kai (reflection meeting) to reflect on current events, progress, and even personnel issues.

When you are able to truly grasp the concept and intent of hansei, there really is no downside. If you are honest with yourself and are able to accept criticism as an opportunity, rather than a negative, your ability to lead a culture of continuous improvement will strengthen beyond imagine.

Without hansei it is impossible to have kaizen. In Japanese hansei, when you do something wrong, at first you must feel really, really sad. Then you must create a future plan to solve that problem and you must sincerely believe you will never make this type of mistake again.

-Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way

Money Can’t Buy Continuous Improvement

3 min read

Money Can’t Buy Me…

Money can buy a lot of things. Those with and without money, have various opinions on happiness, love and the power that wealth brings. Throughout time, money has allowed individuals and organizations to do both good and bad with their financial power. However, there are somethings in life and business that simply have no price tag.

From the outside looking in, the success of continuous improvement (Kaizen) is often mistaken for the company with the biggest budget, best gadgets, highest payrolls and so on. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and thankfully so.

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.

-Maya Angelou

Culture Wins Championships

Wasted MoneyFor a quick comparison lets look at American sports franchises. In 2012, of the 25 highest payrolls in American sports franchises, only one took home a title. In fact, more often than not the team with the highest payroll rarely gets fitted for a ring at the end of the season. Instead, the team with something much more valuable and sustainable tends to have the longest, most successful season.  Their secret is in their locker room not their wallets. A locker room that consists of a culture that believes in their ability to continuously improve day in and day out and a passion to do so.

Similar to sports, continuous improvement takes a culture that has a unified belief in the process and the people to be successful. Without a lean culture that is fundamentally sound and involved in the daily process, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend trying to improve.

You don’t need to spend much money to improve something. Look around and your common sense shows you simple ways to rationalize your everyday work. Most problems can be solved by common sense, and not money or high-tech equipment.

-Masaaki Imai

Mr. Imai has been considered by many to be the father of continuous improvement. His teachings of Kaizen are focused on the people and not the financial investment your organization makes. He’s further added that Kaizen is about improving everyday, everybody and everywhere.

How Can I Do This Better?

Part of the 10 Commandments to Continuous Improvement is having a “yes we can” attitude. The ultimate obstacle in your continuous improvement path is having a member of your team who doesn’t believe a challenge can be met or a process can be improved.

The common sense approach Mr. Imai speaks of is possible when the mindset of every individual truly believes everything they do, can and will be done better. They look at every situation as one that can be made more efficient and productive for themselves and others as well. Challenge individuals to make suggestions and come up with ideas to improve their work. There is no monetary value or financial incentive you can put on an individuals willingness to want to do better. It is built into them and will spread like a wildfire within your culture.

Don’t Spend To Fix

This is the ultimate trap. When you begin your Lean journey and continuous improvement process keep it simple and inexpensive. The equipment and supplies you think you need are a common misconception among Lean first-timers. Instead, focus on the people, encouraging them to be creative and innovative. From the beginning, members of the organization have to feel like they are a part of something and that their opinion means something to the group.

Building a foundation on your people and ultimately the process over a capital investment is a major key to a sustained lean culture. When people have a passion and a belief that anything is possible, there are no limits to your improvement capabilities. New machines and expensive devices are nice to look at, but they are not what’s going to take your organization to the next level. Invest in your people, not with dollars, but with trust. Make them feel like the most valuable asset to your Lean culture and watch the transformation unfold.

Focus and Performance

2 min read

When you are looking to improve your performance, whether it be for your job, during workouts, or for life in general, it is important to understand the crucial role that focus plays. Too many people wonder why they are not exhibiting the type of performances they are capable of, without realizing that they lack the ultimate focus to take one task at a time.

Here we will take a look at the elements that make up complete focus, and how a person can ensure that they are always working at a level of optimum effectiveness.

Efficiency and Effectiveness:

People spend too long talking about completing a task efficiently. While getting work done in a rapid manner is always appreciated, it means nothing if the job is done incorrectly. The key to success is to combine effectiveness and efficiency. By being effective, a person will be completing tasks in the correct manner and in the right order. With efficiency, that worker will complete said tasks as fast as they can without letting their quality of work suffer. Instead of looking for more time to complete tasks, it is important to see how you can streamline the work that you are doing.

80/20 Principle:

If anyone is serious about improving their productivity and performances, they will take note of the 80/20 principle. This principle states that 80% of a person’s results are driven from 20% of their daily activities. In addition, the other 20% of results are driven from 80% of the effort put in. This means that a person is spending a lot of time doing work of substandard quality, with very little time spent in solid productivity.

This happens because people do not plan effectively, leaving them in a perpetual state of crisis management. Work assignments are given, and people do not plan ahead for how they will tackle these jobs. Instead, they will spend a lot of time arguing with co-workers, getting stressed out, taking breaks, and doing busy work. Then they will reach a point where the work must be completed no matter what, and it is in this phase where they will show their best productivity.

Plan First, Communicate Second, Complete Work Third:

Free Kaizen GuideIn order to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and ensure effectiveness, it is vital that the planning phase take place first. Work must be scheduled based on importance and priorities, communication with workers and other important people must take place, and then work can begin. This will ensure that less time is wasted, tasks are completed efficiently, and that the work environment is pleasant and productive.

These steps clearly outline why improving productivity is not necessarily achieved by working harder. As long as people plan better, execute their tasks efficiently, and do not waste time, productivity can be greatly improved despite people not working any harder than they used to. It is about working smarter, not working harder.

When workers know that there are payoffs associated with improved performances and results, they will exhibit ultimate focus on the tasks at hand. This focus will improve competition within an organization, and bring about better results in both the short and long term.