Gemba Academy interviews me

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on July 25, 2014 · 0 comments

Our friend from Gemba Academy, Ron Pereira, recently interviewed me for his Gemba Academy podcasts. Here’s a brief synopsis of what is covered.

  • Jamie’s lean career history (2:42)
  • The quote that has inspired Jamie for over 15 years (4:08)

  • Jamie’s definition of a Lean Leader, and why it’s a verb, not a noun (6:07)
  • Why Lean Leadership is often overlooked (9:05)
  • How Lean Accounting fits into Lean Leadership (10:14)
  • The best way to coach leaders, in Jamie’s opinion (13:43)
  • How lower level practitioners can succeed without leadership support (15:56)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Jamie (19:13)
  • The one problem Jamie is really trying to solve at the moment (20:51)
  • The best and most unique advice Jamie has ever received (21:52)
  • Jamie’s simple but effective personal productivity habit (22:49)
  • Jamie’s final words of wisdom (28:58)

I hope you’ll check it out. Please let me know what you think.

Keep Calm 605

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Innovation VLOG 1300694269969Boards of directors are usually associated with governance issues such as risk management and financial controls. They of course have a major role in strategic direction, either in establishing it, approving, or hiring the right executives who will establish the strategic vision.

But does that extend all the way into such amorphous topics such as innovation?

I suggest it does, as innovation becomes a more crucial capability for continuous regeneration of a company’s strength. Wharton School professor and author of Boards That Lead Michael Useem agrees.

Useem, in his article How Board Can Innovate, states:

All that is true, or least should be so, but companies are also forever having to reinvent themselves — IBM, Nucor, and Wipro bear only the faintest resemblance to their founding forms — and boards ought to be at the forefront of those transformations, not rearguard or resistant. New products are, of course, the province of R&D teams or research partners. But new strategies and structures are squarely in the board’s domain, and we have seen any number of governing boards innovating with, not just monitoring, management.

His suggestion as to how they should engage is through an innovation committee. It certain companies where product innovation is the centerpiece of innovation, I believe this model can be effective. It service innovation is just as core a part of the need to innovate, then perhaps it belongs more to the strategy committee. Useem expands on the innovation committee idea with an example from Diebold:

Diebold’s innovation committee members are on call for everything from brainstorming to networking. When Diebold executives began looking for new technologies it might buy, Crandall and his two colleagues — rooted in tech start-up and venture capital communities — helped the CEO and his staff connect with those who would know or own the emergent technologies that could allow Diebold to strengthen its current lines and buy into the right adjacent lines.

When innovation is specific enough, and big enough, to be presented and reviewed and encouraged, then this can help enable innovation. But it should not be its source. Its source should come from building a culture of innovation.

I wrote about making innovation a core company-wide capability through lean for my IndustryWeek column, in Making Innovation a Capability. So then leads to the question, should boards have a role in building a culture of innovation?

I still believe the answer is yes.

Boards cannot establish the culture, as they engagement points with the rest of the organization are not plentiful enough to initiate such a change. But they can help support the behaviors that lead to innovation. They can do this through the questions that they ask, the focus they provide, the recognition they offer.

Boards can have a greater impact on culture than they often realize. But only if acting deliberately towards a specific culture. And if a board of directors wants to have an impact on innovation, they should focus more on the culture of innovation than any discrete innovation actions.

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Role Modeling for Change [Lessons from the Road]

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on June 8, 2014 · 0 comments

My last two Lessons from the Road columns [Building Behaviors Bedrock of Lean Success and Build a Deliberate Culture, Not an Accidental One] focused on the tactics and strategies of culture change, which is crucial for a successful lean journey. One of those tactics is to role model the right behaviors, and so I have taken my next column to focus on role modeling.

Before you read this column answer these questions for yourself first.

1. Do you think you role model?

2. Name 10 specific instances in the last month where you role modeled a specific behavior in a specific way.

3. Do you still think you role model?

For many, the answers will be Yes, Uhhhhhhh…, No.

Lessons promoHere is an excerpt from the column:

Direct observation. Some people call this going to the gemba, or go and see, but the behavior is being able to observe work as it occurs in its true form. You observe what actually happens, not what is supposed to happen. This is one of those behaviors that’s all too easy to say that you do without actually having to demonstrate it.

At a BMW plant, after each daily quality meeting, time is reserved for direct observation. The time is reserved, but the topic and participants aren’t determined until the meeting. The observation is focused on which problem appears to be the least well understood. The leader in the room participates in the observation and often makes the decision about what observation needs to be done. Because everyone has reserved the time on their schedule, there are no excuses for not doing it immediately.

You can read the entire IndustryWeek column here.

I’m sure many of you do have good examples of role modeling, especially those who easily answered my second question. I would encourage you to share some of your examples for others in the comments section below.

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Kainexus logoI recently published a new post on the KaiNexus blog site titled The single best way leaders support cultures of continuous improvement. Here is an excerpt:

In working with one VP responsible for supporting 3,000 people, she found a small change in her email use habits that turned out to be a productivity improvement. If kept to herself, then it’s a nice idea. When she shared through the system for managing improvements, it both encouraged others to adopt the same improvement, and encouraged others to find their own improvements.

I recommend reading the entire blog post here.

Some of you know that I support KaiNexus as an advisor, as I believe in their mission, their solutions, and their team. You might also check out a webinar coming up that they are hosting titled Leadership Behaviors That Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement. Hopefully I didn’t step on their toes with my post.

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The self-development of leadership development

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on June 3, 2014 · 6 comments

Leadership development has gone by many names over the last century and has evolved in many ways. It has come in the form of apprenticeships, to purposeful rotational assignments, to training, and executive coaches (which are about as generic today as accountants). But through this entire evolution, leadership development has almost always been about the masters teaching the students. This is either following the example of the guy who already “made it” or by internalizing the lessons of the instructor in a class, such as those run by the Center for Creative Leadership or even our own Leading Lean 3-day program (of which, I am still a believer and a fan).

But what has been slow to emerge is the leader who systematically develops themselves. Certainly, some individuals do this naturally. But it is not built into leadership development.

When I am coaching leaders in being more effective as leaders on the lean journey (allow me to keep this distinct from generic “executive coaching”), my focus is on getting the leader to articulate where they are, where they want to be, and what they can do close the gap. I developed a specific A3-format tool to help guide this process. Of course, I help with this process, whether it is feedback to help develop a more distinct and clear understanding of their current state, crafting a clear target, or helping execute the elements of their development plan. But…it is THEIR plan.

I’ll even end up having conversations with people in their organizations: “can you get my leader to do this or do that?” NO! It’s not what your objective is for them, it is the leader’s own objectives. It is self-development.

Why is self-development more important today than directed development? Because the starting point for leaders is more variable than ever before, and the needs of the future less anticipated than ever before. Each leader must have their own development vector, and that vector will change over time.

Roselinde Torres had a nice little TED talk (introduced to me by my mother, actually) about leadership development. The 3 questions she asks I think are intriguing, because they indicate whether the leader is prepared to continue changing their perspectives and themselves. The 3 questions are:

Where are you looking to anticipate change? Simply put, you cannot canvas the universe. Certainly, be well read and well informed, but about what? Where do you need to pay more attention?

What is the diversity measure of your network? Since she is from a large consultancy, I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually developed a tool to measure that, although I hope not. But are you set up to get a lot of opinions that are already like your own, or are you surrounded by inputs from people who have a different perspective? Many years ago I set up a Personal Advisory Board. I left several very smart and trusted people off because they wouldn’t give me anything new. I wanted a diverse set of inputs.

Are you courageous enough to abandon the past? The is more about remaking yourself, your organization, or whatever change is necessary. Who cares what the inputs are if you aren’t willing to act on them? In isolation, I don’t like this question, because I see plenty of “leaders” willing to abandon the past just to be able to say they are changing, for change’s sake. I don’t think this is the kind of “courage” we are looking for.

You can view Torres’ full TED video here.

Reflection question: Do you seek opportunities for others to develop you in their model, or do you own your own definition of a leader and your own path to achieve that vision?

If you are interested in our help in developing leaders for lean transformation, please contact us.

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This post originally appeared on the Lean Learning Center blog.

How do I get engaged communication going with my team? How do I reach them? How do we get people talking without it dragging into an endless venting session?

These are questions many leaders struggle with. In an effort to engage people, they open up Pandora’s Box of issues and get flooded with a bunch of crap they never intended to be dealing with.

Providing a simple communication structure can help sort through all the cloud of stuff and get to the meat. My attention was caught by a post on linked in, titled I Like, I Wish, I Wonder.

1fcc90bHere’s how it works:

The concept is simple. The team stands in a circle and discusses the past week, the only restriction being that each person must start his or her statement with “I like…”, “I wish…” or “I wonder…”. It is recommended to keep the statements succinct and to avoid responding till the end of debrief. Lastly, any topic of interest is fair game.

Simple. Elegant. Effective.

What makes it effective? It takes away the burden of how to say it, allowing the “user” to focus on what to say. So people want to bring forward ideas and concerns, but don’t even know how to start. This provides exactly that … a start.

Although towards a different end, a similar example is what I understand a first-year Naval Academy student is allowed. Only 5 acceptable responses exist. They are:

  • Yes Sir.
  • No Sir.
  • Aye Aye Sir.
  • I’ll find out sir.
  • No excuses sir.

Is the lack of structure in your communication getting in the way of its effectiveness? Sometimes, a little structure can go a long way.

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Build a deliberate culture, not an accidental one [Lessons from the Road]


In my last Lessons from the Road column, I introduced the the idea that culture is the most important element of lean transformation. I was fortunate to have the opportunity early in my lean journey to see just how important the correct behaviors would be, regardless of how well you designed the system. If you […]

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Building Behaviors Bedrock of Lean Success [Lessons from the Road]


For my latest column, I set out to write about culture change. I barely got through the introduction and realized I’m already out of room. Such is the restriction of a 1-page column. So, the introduction became the column. You can read the latest installment of Lessons from the Road, and here is an excerpt, […]

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A presentation on innovation


Today I am giving a presentation on behalf of the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center and hosted by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. I believe innovation is not just something a few insightful people do in a special innovation department. It happens at every level. And you don’t know where the next innovation, big or small, might […]

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Ambiguity of expected outcomes generates unneeded waste


“Clean your room” “I did” “It doesn’t look like it” Did they or did they not accomplish the task? It depends on who you ask because there are differences in the expected outcome. One person’s version of “clean” and another’s version are different. Ambiguity in outcome expectations, whether for a small task or an entire […]

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