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KaiNexus Blog

Everything Continuous Improvement

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The Lean Linchpin: Middle Managers

Posted by Jake Sussman

Jul 29, 2019 3:07:21 PM

A linchpin is a fastener passed through the end of an axle to keep a wheel in position. The term is also used figuratively, according to Wikipedia, to describe, “something [or someone] that holds the various elements of a complicated structure together.” What an apt description of the role of middle managers in a Lean environment.

When we talk about the Lean business management approach or just continuous improvement in general, we often say that it involves everyone from the CEO to front line workers. In the literature about Lean, a lot of emphasis is put on what top leaders need to do to create a culture of improvement. There’s also much discussion about how to keep operational workers involved and engaged. Both are essential, but it is a huge mistake to underestimate the role of middle management.

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Topics: Lean, Leadership, Daily Lean Management

#TargetDown is an Opportunity for Improvement

Posted by Amber Newman

Jun 17, 2019 12:14:11 PM

I guess I picked a bad day to go to Target. I kind of knew it was a bad day to go to Target because it was a Saturday and the day before Father’s Day. I didn’t know it would be a really, really bad day to go to Target - an all systems are down sort of day. But it was.

Target’s inability (or near inability by some accounts) to process customer transactions for about two hours last Saturday represented a mild-to-moderate inconvenience for me, requiring two trips that took way longer than they should have to purchase my husband’s Father’s Day present. (It’s a bike. He loves it.) Of course, for the employees of Target, the inconvenience was way more than moderate.

One can only speculate about how much revenue, not to mention goodwill, was lost during the outage. As it does, the Twitterverse had a heyday making fun of the situation. Rivals Walmart and Amazon no doubt got a boost, and I suspect there was a spike in shrinkage. (Retail-speak for theft.) And although the company was quick to state that the problem was not a hack or data breach, Target’s already marred reputation for data integrity certainly was not helped.

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Topics: Leadership, HRO

Kaizen Program Management – The Fundamentals

Posted by Kade Jansson

Jun 7, 2019 7:32:00 AM

For many years, the continuous improvement philosophy of Kaizen was most closely associated with industrial manufacturing and high technology. That’s because it was developed by the Japanese auto industry and then later adopted by technology companies like GE and Motorola.

But if you’ve been hearing about Kaizen program management in other sectors over the last few years, you are not alone.

The principals of Kaizen apply to almost every industry and are now widespread in healthcare, construction, software development, education, logistics, and everything in between.

We can’t teach you everything you need to know in one blog post, but we can lay out the fundamentals of Kaizen program management and offer further reading recommendations.

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Topics: Kaizen, Leadership, Improvement Methodology

When Being Right is the Wrong Strategy for Change

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 16, 2019 8:32:00 AM

Frequent readers of this blog are probably familiar with Mark Graban. Mark has been an enormous contributor to the ideological foundation of the KaiNexus continuous improvement software.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Mark is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of “Lean Healthcare” and the author of LeanBlog.org and author of the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award-winning book Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement.

His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, is a management book about using simple, yet practical statistical methods that help leaders at all levels overreact less to their metrics, which frees up time for real, focused, sustainable improvement.

Mark joined us for a recent KaiNexus user group in Austin to share with the audience his thoughts on why being right isn’t always the best strategy for change. This post is a recap of the presentation, but we promise its worth your time to watch the whole thing.

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Topics: Leadership, Employee Engagement, Improvement Culture

Kaizen Process - Roles and Responsibilities

Posted by Kade Jansson

May 10, 2019 7:42:00 AM

The Kaizen process is a brilliantly simple approach to business operations. Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “good change.” The methodology is credited with helping the Japanese auto industry recover and outpace the competition following World War II. Organizations that embrace it can reduce errors and defects, speed up production, deliver more customer value, and improve employee satisfaction.

When the Kaizen process is implemented, every person in the organization has a role to play. Before we describe them, let’s revisit the philosophy of Kaizen.

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Topics: Kaizen, Leadership

What is Leader Standard Work?

Posted by Matt Banna

Feb 21, 2019 8:42:00 AM

Standard work is the documented and current best way to do a particular task, procedure or process. Workers develop the standard and follow it until an improvement process results in a new standard. Standard work ensures that results are consistent and forms the foundation upon which improvements are made. Leader standard work applies this same concept to the task of driving Lean thinking and behavior throughout the organization.

Many organizations have little in the way of documented best practices for leaders. Supervisors, managers, and directors are left with only their job description to guide their daily activities. Given this reality, it's not surprising that many fail to start, spread, and sustain the continuous improvement mindset.

The alternative is leader standard work which is a set of actions, tools, and behaviors that are incorporated into the daily activities of leaders at all levels. Like the standard work for any process, leader standard work must be documented, practiced consistently, and changed only with reflection and experimentation.

Although the specifics of leader standard work vary across organizations, some practices are universally useful and commonly included.

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Topics: Lean, Leadership

How Software Enables Lean Leadership

Posted by Maggie Millard

Sep 19, 2018 9:45:00 AM

It’s 2018, and if you haven’t heard, there’s an app for that. We use software to manage almost every aspect of business today from HR to accounting. You’ve got systems for inventory management, sales performance, customer communications, social media monitoring, and even conference room scheduling.

That’s why we are not surprised that more and more organizations are implementing Lean software to support their critical objectives of increasing customer value and reducing waste.

Not only does Lean software make your team more productive at continuous improvement, but it also increases your strength as a Lean leader. Here’s how.

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Topics: Lean, Leadership, Software

Meet Some of the Pioneers of Lean Leadership

Posted by Maggie Millard

Nov 17, 2017 3:51:34 PM

We spend a lot of time in this blog focused on the “what” and “why” of Lean and continuous improvement. Today, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the “who" (and we don't mean the classic band).

The term Lean was first coined by John Krafcik in his 1988 Sloan Management Review article “Triumph of the Lean Production System.”  The approach gained traction after the publication of The Machine That Changed the World, by James Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos in 1990.

The term Lean manufacturing may be less than 30 years old, but the thinking that inspired it has been around since the pre-industrial age. The leaders who developed this approach understood the need for continuous improvement and empowered employees. They learned from each other, eventually building our modern approach to business process improvement and management. Here’s some background on a few of the most important contributors to Lean leadership.

Free Webinar: Leadership Behaviors that Create an Improvement Culture

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Topics: Lean, Leadership

Previewing How to Coach for Creativity and Service Excellence [Upcoming Webinar]

Posted by Maggie Millard

Mar 10, 2017 1:03:59 PM

On March 28, KaiNexus will be hosting a webinar with Karyn Ross, who recently published the Shingo Award-winning book The Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations, which she co-wrote with Jeff Liker. Ross is a purpose-driven consultant and Lean coach, and will be speaking to our own Mark Graban about how to coach for creativity and service excellence. Graban just had a conversation with Ross about what webinar viewers can expect to learn in the webinar, which you can listen to here:

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Topics: Leadership

How to Lead an Improvement Culture without Being a Huge Jerk

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jan 13, 2017 10:52:11 AM

A common mistake companies make when rolling out a new culture of continuous improvement is to fail to provide leadership training to the people leading it. When you're responsible for leading a cultural transformation, there are a lot of unique leadership skills that you need to employ.

You need to be firm and empathetic, have high but reasonable expectations, communicate effectively, be present - the list goes on and on. It's a hard balance to strike, particularly for people who don't have a lot of experience in a leadership position to fall back on. As such, many leaders cave under the pressure and are either too hesitant to be effective or else become huge jerks that no one likes or respects.

Here are some tips for how to be a strong leader without being a jerk:

Listen to this post or subscribe to the podcast:

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Topics: Leadership

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