Lean Frontiers: Are they differences in getting middle management on board from getting executive management support?
Are there differences in getting middle management from executive management on board for 1) developing the lean enterprise and 2) direct engagement on their part? What are the differences, if any?
Posted on May 9, 2015
Archives by Tag 'Karen'
Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Realizing there is space for change

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Interesting question (especially the first one) and one that all consultants and internal improvement leaders wrestle with (or should be wrestling with). In my experience, any type of personal behavior change starts with awareness that the current behavior may not be the most effective choice to yield whatever result is desired. Getting clear on the target condition is key. Then identify the gap and root causes for it. Then experiment with potential countermeasures. You know the drill. In my experience, many “traditional managers” don't realize that alternative forms of management exist. So I typically begin in a more fact-based, ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Begin where you’re at, seek 50% gains with every improvement, and never stop

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Tuesday, February 10, 2015
It truly does depend on the setting, industry, etc. In manufacturing production, there's no reason to not get well above 50%. In offices, 40% starts being respectable unless the org has implemented cross-functional work cells, technology solutions, sustainable pull systems, work segmentation, etc. (Most pre-improvement office value streams hover in the 5-10% range.) In many patient care settings, you can get above 50% fairly easily. Bottom line: Begin where you're at, seek 50% gains with every improvement, and never stop.
Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Technical proficiency and leadership acumen – can you nail the problem statement first time right?

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
This is a great question and one that nags at me a lot. However, instead of answering the question directly, I’d like to share some fodder for considering whether a KPO is an effective structure for supporting Lean transformation. I’ll begin by sharing some real-world experience… At the Lean Coaching Summit in July, I had the opportunity to watch over 100 people attempt problem solving (one workshop and two extended concurrent sessions). Most of the participants said they were “leading” Lean at their companies. Only 2 of the 100+ nailed the problem statement out of the gate. At least 1/3 ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Sit down with resisters and ask “Why?”

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, August 3, 2014
I'm with Orry re: the "mandate Lean" message. And I've never seen a large-scale transformation where one of the senior leaders simply couldn't get on the bus and needed to find a new home. However, there are all types of resistance for all types of reasons. And "mandating" can be done with finesse, reason, data, etc. or it can be heavy-handed, command-and-control, etc. So I'd need more details to understand the nature of the resistance and what led to it before I could answer any more specifically.   BTW, for what it's worth, I always sit down with the perceived resisters and ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Start the conversation

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, March 30, 2014
The Lean Edge: How do you make time for improvements? As CEO of my company I have a grasp of lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I'm CEO, I find it difficult to ask my people to make time for improvement work. They’re already completely busy doing their regular work. Moreover, this company is in the outdoor sports industry, and many people join these companies because they want time to climb, backpack, canoe, etc., and I'm reluctant to ask them to work more hours and sacrifice time for these activities. Any advice?" When clients say they have ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Start with a demonstration activity and engage the leadership team

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Saturday, February 8, 2014
While I agree whole heartedly with all of the responses so far, I'm going to offer an alternative viewpoint from pragmatic perspective. Many of the organizations I've worked with that have made significant progress on the Lean journey, didn't begin with the ideal: "what problem do you want/need to solve?" In several cases, they had no idea what Lean was; they simply knew that they wanted to improve their performance. So I've often started with a "demonstration activity" to get their feet wet, expose them to Lean thinking, and show them the world they could head into. In most of ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Cells are rare in service environments because Flow is hard to achieve

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, December 15, 2013
Cells—and a looser version that I refer to as co-location—are still rare in the service and knowledge work sectors. Part of the reason is that individuals, work teams and departments in these environments typically juggle many processes that support many value stream. To create flow and, therefore, reap the benefits of cellular structure, the first thing that has to happen is what I refer to as “work segmentation.” People have to be available to do the work in a process or value stream that a cell supports. Until an organization organizes work into “swim-lanes” and realigns staff accordingly, flow is ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: A3 to instill system thinking in the DNA of the organization

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Here again is an issue that has both a philosophical element to it (we're one company, not a series of departments), but it also speaks to the real, pragmatic needs organizations have for getting results. Applying the scientific method across disparate silos requires that the functions/departments first have consensus (and perhaps a sense of urgency) that the problem is worth solving and that the time is "now" to solve it. A wonderful means for driving the conversations that lead to both consensus around priorities and actual results is value stream mapping. In our book that's coming out in December, co-author Mike Osterling and I address how we use value ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: The best way to assure sustainability is to establish a strong process management culture with clearly defined processes

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Friday, June 28, 2013
I frequently work with large organizations with dispersed workforces and nearly always begin with tried-and-true value stream mapping to provide clarity about the interconnectedness between various work teams and to, ultimately, shift siloed thinking and behaving from function-centric to customer-centric. The next step I take is situational. It's often helpful to organize the company around value streams, while building the means to assure policy consistency within specific functions. In a highly structured company that's organization chart-dependent, this can often be accomplished by creating solid-line reporting across the value stream and dotted-line reporting to functional leaders. It's sometimes beneficial to centralize certain functions to create greater organizational flexibility (e.g., call centers with significant ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Let’s focus on similarities and not differences and see Lean as a whole

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, June 2, 2013
Great question! I'm happy to have a venue to share some thoughts I've been having myself about this subject. At its core, Lean Startup and "the original Lean" (as I call it) have a lot in common. And, in some ways, the Lean Startup movement has surpassed most companies' attempts to adopt Lean principles, practices, and tools. BUT... and it's a big but...I feel the movement is producing a fair amount of confusion in the marketplace due to the word "Lean." And I don't think it serves anyone well to have two separate "Lean" movements. There's a lot to learn in the Universe and it seems to me ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Start with 4-step “Hoshin Lite” to gain consensus on priorities

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, April 28, 2013
In The Outstanding Organization, I address my concern that companies often attempt Hoshin planning prematurely, before they’ve established a strong foundation for success. I describe a 4-step “Hoshin-lite” approach I use for clients who aren’t ready for the full monty as it were. The significant behavioral changes that are needed for the successful and full deployment of Hoshin Kanri often take years to develop–and that’s if the leadership team is committed and stable. My “lite” version (which I obviously recommend) focuses on identifying problems vs. solutions, gaining consensus around the priorities, reducing the number of priorities, using a modified version of ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Managers must walk the talk and not blame when someone falls behind or deviates from standard work

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Saturday, April 6, 2013
I work nearly 100% in office environments and the challenges are many for introducing Lean practices into a setting that is green with both measurement and continuous improvement, lacks standard work, and is often disconnected from external customers. Fear around being measured and seeking out variation is nearly always tied to experience with blame. I spend a significant amount of time with both front-line staff and leadership to shift the environment from a problem-hiding to a problem-surfacing one. Putting visuals in place is particularly challenging, but it can and must be ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: The rate of improvement dependends on the culture and maturity of the organization, leadership alignment around priorities, and workforce involvement rather than training being any type of constraint.

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Monday, March 25, 2013
Like Jeff, my question is whether you mean “work standards” or “standardized (standard) work.” I view them as two different animals. A standard might be, for example, that you always insert a needle with the bevel up. Or that you always apply X amount of torque to a bolt. Or that a legal document always includes a confidentiality clause. Standardized work, on the other hand, is the process by which work gets done. The sequence of activities. Standardized work may or may not include defined standards. “The best known way” could apply ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Once product priorities are established, map the new product value stream

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
My advice is two-fold: First, applying a healthy dose of focus is the stuff champions are made of, so, yes, prioritizing is wise. In choosing which products to improve, there are many factors, such as margin (why spend your time on low margin or, worse, loss leader products?), technology (is this product’s technology being rendered obsolete in the short term?), customer relationships (put more effort into products that your best customers like), and so forth. Second, once your priorities are established (and you’ve reached leadership consensus, a key step in maintaining focus), ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Revenue growth is a key part of lean thinking

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, December 9, 2012
This is an excellent question. I work with sales teams in at least 80% of the improvement work I lead, so it can and must be done. I agree with several of the Lean Edge team that part of the reason why Lean has been slow to capture the imagination of sales teams lies with Lean’s early, erroneous spin as solely a “manufacturing thing ” versus a broad and deep business management strategy that applies to all facets of an organization and to all industries. But I believe there are at least there two additional root causes. First, the financial focus ...

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