“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects the wind to change; the leader adjusts the sails.” – John Maxwell

I like this saying so much I have a copy of it next to our vision and mission statements. In these uncertain times it is easy to just complain about everything wrong that’s going on around you. It’s simple to point the finger of blame at the economy, customers, suppliers or someone else. That, of course is not going to help.

We also can’t just sit around hoping things are going to get easier. What have you done lately to help improve your organization? Have you adopted the kaizen philosophy trying to make things a little better each day? You can’t just sit in the sailboat wishing the wind would pick up.

I like to be an optimist, but I realize in business it is better for me to be adjusting the sails. Have you adjusted your strategic plan (or Hoshin plan)? What other opportunities are you looking for? Can you think of ways to provide more value for your customers? When the wind picks up, it will probably pick up for everyone. Are you positioned to lead the race when it does?

Try to do something this week that will eliminate or at least reduce some waste in your work area. Keep adjusting the sails (kaizen) and see what happens.

Let me know what you think. – Tony

P.S. Check out my dialogue with Capt Karl on The Lean Nation radio show Wednesday, June 23, 2010 on Value Stream Mapping and more.

Captain Karl

I know this is last minute, but I just found out that today I’ll be on the The Lean Nation radio show hosted by VIBCO President, Karl Wadensten, airs daily from 4-5pm on 790AM Talk and Business in Providence, RI. The Lean Nation is globally available via webstream. We’ll be talking about one of my favorite subjects – Value Stream Mapping. If you can’t tune in today, check Thursday for the download. – Tony

I apologize for not getting my posting up last week, my brother was in the hospital. This was an interesting experience for me as a family member of a patient in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). I have been helping hospitals with their Lean journey for quite some time now. But, I wasn’t there to see how they were implementing Lean. I was there to see how my brother would get better. As we all probably know, Lean is only ten percent about the tools and 90 percent about people. This last week I really got to see the people part of things.

E. M. Forster

“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.” – E. M. Forster

The reason I picked this quote is because I was amazed at the different level of care that I saw my brother receive from the nurses that were scheduled. I say ‘scheduled’ because that’s what it felt like sometimes. The nurses did their jobs technically well. Some may have been more ‘efficient’ than others. When it comes to healthcare the customer (the patient) is not only concerned with efficiency, they also want some amount of compassion. There was one nurse who stood out among the rest. She was caring, reassuring, funny and genuinely seemed to like her job and take care of my brother as if he were her family member. You could tell that she has a passion for her job, like many of us do. I understand that each person is unique and each has their own personality. Some people just make you feel good when they do their job. I also know that a hospital is a tough place to work in with all the rules, regulations, policies, etc. I also know that nurses are generally overworked. That’s where Lean has a role in hospitals. I noticed that they had applied some 5S to the unit by labeling racks and storerooms for supplies. By continuing on a good Lean journey we can reduce more waste and allow the nurses to do what they want to do – spend more time with the patients.

I will write more about my healthcare experience in upcoming blogs. For now, let’s see if we can find people with passion or rekindle passion for our work. – Tony

I picked this quote because of a commercial I’ve seen; you may have seen it too. It’s the one where the spokesman (for an insurance company) says “Will this be remembered as the great recession or the recession that made us great?”

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. – Albert Einstein

We all are striving to make it through these turbulent economic times. Some of us are starting to see the recovery, others are tentative, and still others are waiting for a sign that there is a recovery. Which ever your situation, you have to ask “What did we learn from this and how can it make us better?”

When things are going swimmingly, it can be hard to think of improvement. You might have heard people saying things like “We’re making money, so we must be doing something right.” But as we all learned, we have to learn to adapt and change to our environment in order to survive. But, do we just want to survive? Don’t we want to thrive? Any company that has been able to use continuous improvement during these hard times should be commended. I know that it is easy to give up on Kaizen when things are tough, but that in fact, is when we need it the most.

So as we start to pull out of these difficulties, did we identify and implement any opportunities? Send me your success stories and maybe we can share them with others.

Thanks – Tony

Keep up the good work!

Like most Americans I took yesterday off and reflected on the people that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. For Memorial Day, I decided to use a quote from General (Ret.) Colin Powell. Do you have the right people on your team?

“You give me the right people, and I don’t much care what organization you give me. Good things will happen.  Give me the wrong people, and it doesn’t matter what you do with the organization.  Bad things will happen.” – Colin Powell

That is a pretty powerful statement. Think about your organization – do you have the right people? Are they able to change with the times? This is akin to Jim Collin’s (author of “Good to Great”) notion of getting the right people on the bus. Another way I like to say it is “Hire for attitude, train for skills.” If you have people that have a great attitude (willing to learn, change, try new things, etc.) then, for the most part, you can train them achieve a great level of success. Of course, there are skills that are just natural gifts, but those too need to be coached and guided. Think about a surgeon with steady hands or Michael Jordan skills on the basketball court. So let’s get the right people on the team, train them correctly, and coach them.

So here’s to your team and that “Good things will happen.”

Here’s a salute to my fellow veteran’s that have served or are currently serving our country.