Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Value Stream Mapping

In a nutshell, value stream mapping is a lean-management method for analyzing the current state and designing a future state for the series of events that take a product or service from its beginning through to the customer.  Now I'm not typically too big on theories, statistics, mapping, etc.  But when I read Value Stream Mapping: How to Visualize Work and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation, I had to rethink a bit as I started to compare it to storyboarding - which I DO like.

Karen Martin and Mike Osterling have taken the confusion out of value stream mapping (VSM) and show how to utilize it in an easy and effective way.  They show us that VSM can not only be used with manufacturing, but also in logistics, supply chain, service oriented industries, healthcare, software development, product development, and even administrative and office processes.  Have you ever thought of using VSM as an effective means to orient new hires?  It can also "provide a clear line of sight to the external customer from every function and work area involved in the value stream".  How can that possibly not be good?

Hey, here's a novel idea from Karen and Mike - go the Gemba.  I love that term/idea.  Gemba, as they describe it, is a Japanese word for "the real place, where the work is actually done".  A critical step in VSM is physically walking the value stream.  I believe that's where most organizations fail right off the bat.  You must be willing to walk the talk.

You don't need to be a big statistics geek to understand what Karen and Mike are talking about here.  The book is well written and easily understood which will help you to quickly understand the basics of VSM all the way through the execution steps.  The historical problem with VSM is that people just don't understand it.  Well after reading this book, that will no longer be a valid excuse.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I'm Not Accountable

Most people view accountability as something that happens to them when performance
falls off, problems arise, or results fail to come about.  The fact is, many think accountability only crops up when something goes wrong or when someone else wants to pinpoint the cause of the problem - all for the sake of pinning blame and pointing the finger.  When things are sailing along smoothly, people rarely ask, “Who's accountable for this success?”  Typically, no one starts looking around for the responsible party until something adverse happens.

If you take a look at dictionaries, most provide a definition of accountability that promotes a pretty negative view.  Webster’s defines accountability as: “subject to having to report, explain, or justify; being answerable, responsible.”  Notice how the definition begins with the words, subject to, implying little choice in the matter.  This confession and powerless definition suggests that accountability is viewed as a consequence for poor performance, something you should fear because it can only end up hurting you.

Since most people experience accountability this way, it’s no wonder they spend so much time shunning it and explaining and justifying poor results.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Idea-Driven Organization

Finally!  Someone wrote a great book about what I’m always talking about.  Alan Robinson
and Dean Schroeder’s new book, The Idea-Driven Organization should be read by all managers, executives and business owners.

The authors start out stating that, “Most managers have difficulty believing that there is enough value in employee ideas to justify the effort of going after them”.  But, “some 80 percent of an organization’s potential for improvement lies in front-line ideas”.

Hellooooo.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is totally off-base.  The people that know the most are on the front lines – the people doing the jobs.  They see the everyday in’s and out’s – what doesn’t work or how it could work better.

I’m not bashing consultant’s (most of them anyway), but your own people have far more working knowledge.  Start there.  Great leaders make great things happen and Robinson and Schroeder show HOW to make things happen by implementing employee generated ideas.

The key is in creating an environment in which employee’s feel comfortable submitting ideas.  Not just one, but multiple ideas.  This book shows you how to take off the blinders to become open to ideas.  For one, take a look at those stuffy, idea-quelling SOP’s to see what kind of impact (positively OR negatively) they’re actually making.


There are so many great stories/examples from around the world, and thought provoking ideas to implement, that you’ll be ready to make drastic changes to your organization before you’re half way done reading.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Your Leadership Life Map

Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Kathryn Cramer as my guest blogger. Her recent release of Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders, See, Say, and Do, was one of the easiest to read and implement leadership books I've read. I highly recommend you running out (or to your computer) and getting your own copy.

YOUR LEADERSHIP LIFE MAP: DISCOVERING YOUR MIGHTY CAUSE
What is your mighty cause?  People crave a greater sense of purpose, and being able to
link your goals to a noble and mighty cause is inspiring.
Authentic communication, what I call “saying it with soul” is about meaning what you say–and saying something meaningful. When you can speak soulfully about your values and your personal investment in the vision, your mighty cause, it builds trust and commitment. It lowers the bar for your team to get on board.
Your Leadership Life Map
It is not as difficult as you may think to discover the mighty cause underlying your vision for your organization. Using the Leadership Life Map tool from my upcoming book Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders, See, Say, and Do, you can start by identifying patterns in your leadership path about what most motivates and inspires you.
For example, when I worked with my client Matthew, an operations manager, to develop his Leadership Life Map, we discovered that his deepest passion was from mentoring others, not efficient operations. Getting results was of course rewarding, but his greatest satisfaction came from watching people grow and excel.
From there, it was a short step for Matthew to identify his noble cause of employee growth and to link it to his organization’s vision of higher performance. His ability to speak soulfully about his dedication to this noble cause did more to inspire those he served than a powerpoint presentation on operational improvement goals ever could.
The Leadership Life Map exercise, which I have provided here as a free resource from the Lead Positive book, asks you to:
  •  Map the chapters of your life as a leader
  • Identify the major life-shaping forces in your leadership career
  • List your most significant leadership experiences–positive and negative–and the key assets you used or noticed in others
Once it is all laid out, you can begin to identify themes and patterns regarding your leadership values, your mighty cause.


Kathryn D. Cramer, PhD, is passionate about possibilities and potential. Emmy-winner, business consultant, psychologist, and author, Dr. Cramer has written nine books, including the best-selling Change the Way You See Everything. She created and has dedicated her life to asset-based thinking (ABT), a way of looking at the world that helps leaders, influencers, and their teams make small shifts in thinking to produce extraordinary impact. Her latest book, Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say & Do (Jossey-Bass, 2014), shows leaders how to increase their effectiveness through her revolutionary mindset management process, Asset-Based Thinking.

Follow Kathy on Twitter @drkathycramer and connect on Facebook.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lead Positive

See, Say, and Do, had me from hello.  I don’t often spend too much time reading introductions prior to getting right into the book, but this time I found myself captivated.  Just from those first few pages I could have put the book down and been happy – but I was intrigued.

Within the first short page, she sets the tone with a quote that I’m going to find myself using (with acknowledgement of course) often, “When you Lead Positive, you offer a competing vision of the future by reframing problems into possibilities and appealing to a higher sense of purpose”.

The concepts of this book are so simple to understand and to put into play.  You’ll want to read it with a highlighter so you can go back to review and share.

Positive leaders aren’t as plentiful as one would think.  Many talk the talk but don’t quite walk the walk.  Using Kathy’s ideas will help you walk the talk.  Using asset-based thinking (I’ll leave that for you to read about), you will learn to use the Lead Positive framework of,
·         See – ‘zeroing in on what is working, strong, and possible’
·         Say – ‘speaking to the mind, heart, and spirit’
·         Do – ‘starting a positive ripple effect’.


Using the self-assessments throughout the book will help you and encourage you to better your own positive outlook and leadership ability so it can be passed on to and through others.  It’s a great playbook to use with leadership training or for refocusing your own leadership talents.

Friday, March 14, 2014

You CAN Be Successful

It’s easy to look at famous people and assume that they must have stumbled onto
overnight success somehow. We think they were born with amazing talent that was immediately appreciated by the world. Unfortunately, this makes it easy to think that if you’re not successful by now, there’s no point in trying.

Of course, this isn’t true, even though it may seem that way. It’s always good to be reminded that even the biggest successes are almost always preceded by numerous failures, and that persistence is the key to eventually being a success.

Not everyone who's on top today got there with success after success. More often than not, those who history best remembers were faced with numerous obstacles that forced them to work harder and show more determination than others.


Most of us live with the fear of failure. We’re afraid of attempting something and failing in front of our peers or our loved ones. We’re afraid of being embarrassed so instead of creating a situation in which we could fail again, we give up and stop trying, creating a comfort zone for ourselves. A comfort zone that limits what we can become and limits what we can do in life. It’s time to break out of your comfort zone and try again.

When you have a moment, Google some of these people with the word "failures":
Walt Disney
Abraham Lincoln
Harland Sanders
J.K. Rowling
Winston Churchill

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Age of the Customer

One of my favorite quotes in Jim Blasingame’s new book, The Age of the Customer, comes from Blasingame’s Law of Business Love, which reads, “It’s okay to fall in love with what you do, but it’s not okay to fall in love with how you do it”.

This IS the age of the customer and businesses cannot rest on the “normal”, or “what’s always worked”.  You have to start looking at what the customer wants and even knowing what they want before they do.

Cases in point:
Restaurants – posting daily menus and specials online.
Tire stores – creating a customer contact system to remind them when tires need to be checked, rotated and balanced.
Wholesale suppliers – figure out how to get more customers IN the door to get closer to the end user instead of just dropping merchandise off at their door.

One of my favorite quotes in the book . . . okay, I have more than one . . . is, “Remember, face-to-face is the original social media”.  You can, and should, demonstrate values and provide added resources online.  Build a community.  But face-to-face customer networking is still a very powerful tool.  Relationship building starts immediately.  Depending on the situation or business, when it comes to relationships, it may be lasting or even just long enough for that one interaction.

Jim shows us how customer relationships have been shifting and changing and we need to start thinking of our customers as partners.  The power has shifted from the seller to the customer.  He sets us up for continued change and success well into the future.  If you think you have a handle on customer expectations, you really need to read this book to set your ideas straight.