Tag Archives: Lean


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Thanks to the brilliant Andy Kefford for the above image

As a Lean practitioner I am always speaking with my colleagues about how Lean is a journey and that this journey with it’s highs and lows is never ending. We have our ‘True North’ which is what we are working towards but we do not have a concrete date or destination at which we need to be at or a timeframe to adhere to as the road is long and nobody knows what the future holds or what the Lean path will bring.

Treating every change we make in our personal and professional lives as a journey allows us to enjoy the process of change without the stress and anxiety of constantly thinking about the destination. Of course we need to know where we are going and more importantly why we are going in that direction, however the more we focus on the journey the less stressful change will be and the more we allow ourselves to enjoy the process of change.

I love this way of looking at change and use the analogy of a journey for all change in my professional and personal life.

There is a Chinese proverb that says ‘ The journey is the reward’ – this is something I keep in mind when I am enjoying the journey of change and even more so when I am finding the journey of change challenging.

Pinky in the image above is at the start of his journey of change, he feels a little nervous as he is unable to see the destination along his chosen path. The best thing he can do next is to take the first step and continue making progress step by step allowing himself time and space to enjoy the journey even though he can’t see his final destination.

Are you slowing down long enough to enjoy each step along the journey of change?

Where is your focus? On the destination or the journey?

This post is part of a 26 blog post blog series on the ‘A-Z Of Effective Change’. You can read all the published blog posts in the series here

The Complete A-Z Of Effective Change’

Keeping it Simple,


x x x

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The Virtual Gemba Walk in Barcelona

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Photo Credit – Mink Mingle (Unsplash)

Last year I attended the UK Lean Enterprise Academy Summit. This Summit is always an amazing event – 3 days packed with presentations, learning sessions and masterclasses solely focused on Lean and the immense business and personal benefits a Lean culture brings.

My 2 favourite sessions were from industries both based in Barcelona.

The first learning session introduced us to Augustin Tena Leon (Head of Sales, 365 Cafe) and Oriol Cuatrecasas (Founder and Lean Development  – Instituto Lean Management).

Augustin and Oriol held our attention throughout the presentation with their high energy, obvious passion for Lean and pride in what they have achieved through their Lean journey with Cafe 365. Augustin and Oriol made it very clear that culture change was at the heart of their Lean transformation as they spoke about

‘The most important part of our company is our people’, ‘The joy never has to be lost’ and ‘Customer first’

Their presentation took us through their Lean journey starting with their factory where their delicious products are created through to their shops where their products are sold. They involved us all in a hilarious simulation of the bakery shops pre 2009. This simulation highlighted the chaos, waste, unhappy customers and unhappy employees that used to be part of the daily operations of Cafe 365.

In contrast to this chaos Augustin and Oriol invited us to see what their business is like now that they work in a Lean environment. I expected a presentation or maybe another simulation but no….in true genius style  Augustin and Oriol connected us to one of their shops in Barcelona via web link! And so a virtual Gemba Walk in Barcelona began!

Photo Credit – Leon Ephraim (Unsplash)

The staff of Cafe 365 in Barcelona were as excited to be part of this virtual Gemba Walk as we were, they welcomed us to their cafe and introduced us to their Standard Work, Kanban system, Audit system and their problem identification, escalation and resolution system. They showed us their storage area which was tiny but hugely sufficient and their refrigeration area  that was also tiny but hugely sufficient.

This was a most impressive Gemba Walk – to see the simple tools of Lean implemented into a bakery and cafe environment instilled in me more confidence that Lean can be used and taken advantage of in absolutely every area of business no matter what the industry is.

The tools and principles implemented were obviously making Cafe 365’s business more profitable and sustainable and set them up for growth of which they have enjoyed at an exponential rate. More than this and what really stood out for me was the positive culture we were lucky enough to be witnessing.

As we moved from one area to the next of this virtual Gemba Walk it was the employees who spoke to us, it was the employees who answered all of our questions and it was the employees to whom gratitude and recognition was given by Augustin and Oriol and each other. Everyone was so proud to  show us how they work for the company and for each other.

Photo Credit – Kari Shea (Unsplash)

Cafe 365 is a supreme example of what a Lean culture is. Lean tools and principles can be learned from any of the many amazing books available on Lean, however it is the deep respect that is shown for each and every employee that will bring the real sustainable and transformational change that is required for a business to fully embed and enjoy a Lean culture.

When asked if there was any employee currently in the shop that was also there pre 2009 (pre Lean implementation) and what the transformation had meant to them,  one lady stepped forward from the back of the crowd of employees and with a beaming smile and said

‘Before things were difficult and hard, now they are enjoyable and simple’ .

These words were softly spoken, however the message was profoundly loud.

Augustin and Oriol left us with this statement

 ‘Lean brought us one of the most extraordinary and radicle changes we have witnessed in a  business’

This learning session with Augustin, Oriol and Cafe 365 left me with confidence that the career path I have chosen is completely the right one for me and that Lean is even more powerful than I had previously envisioned.

Could Lean transform your business?

Keeping it Simple,


x x x


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Dr. Deming’s Gift To The World

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Who was Dr W. Edwards Deming?

William Edwards Deming (October 14, 1900 – December 20, 1993) was an American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant.

Dr Deming’s philosophy below (thanks Wikipedia) will give you an insight into his profound wisdom and deep understanding of systems and operations and how they work efficiently, effectively and optimally.

‘Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty). The key is to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as bits and pieces.”

See ‘Wikipedia’ for more information on Dr Deming and his great work.

What is the Deming cycle?

The Plan, Do, Check, Act Cycle, or PDCA cycle, is a technique designed to facilitate continuous improvement in the workplace. It is also referred to as the Deming Cycle, as it was popularized under the instruction of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Deming, a statistician and quality revolutionary, was introduced to the concept by Walter Shewart, a statistical quality control expert. PDCA has also been referred to as PDSA (Plan, Do Study, Act), PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Adjust) and numerous variations in between.

Whichever version you decide to you the principles are the same.

Why is the PDCA cycle important to Continuous Improvement?

The below image I found on LinkedIn (origin unknown) sums up the PDCA cycle perfectly and the differences between traditional ways of working and the PDCA cycle. Does the traditional way of working sound familiar to you?

Dr Deming’s PDCA cycle has completely changed how I work and how I live. Everything I do in relation to projects and work now goes through this cycle or some variation of it. Let me give you an insight into how it works and the benefits it brings.


(Develop a plan re the changes that are going to be made)

This is the first step in the Deming cycle and it is here you determine exactly what the opportunity for improvement/change is identified.  In this first step, it is important to determine your goal, what problem you are solving, measurements of success, and methods of implementing the improvement/change.

It is here that you determine exactly what you need to achieve success and how you will know you are successful. The only way to know if something has improved is by measuring improvement. It is here in the ‘Plan’ phase that you determine what metrics will give you the evidence required to determine success.

When you are happy you have a detailed plan, know what metrics you will monitor (and how you will gather and monitor these), it’s time to move into the ‘Do’ phase.

The above sounds very simple but it’s not uncommon for people, departments and organisations to plough ahead with improvements/change without a detailed well thought out plan.


Implement the changes according to the plan above

Here it is time for action and time to use the plan developed above to put that action in place. The plan will serve as an excellent guide and reminder of exactly what it is you want to achieve. The metrics you will gather during the ‘Do’ phase will ensure you are continuously moving in the right direction towards success.


Evaluate results – is the change/improvement successful, do the metrics confirm this?

This phase reduces rework and provides clarity

 This step is sometimes referred to as the study phase. Here we are reviewing and analysing the results of the improvements implemented in the Do phase – Are they working? Are they not working?

In this phase you ‘Check’ if your initial goal from the ‘Plan’ phase has been reached and ‘Check’ if the metrics gathered support this goal achievement.


(Yes it is working – continuously improve, No it is not working -change and try again)

This step is our last in the cycle. What takes place at this phase depends greatly on the results achieved in the ‘Check’ phase. You may need to alter your methods of implementation, develop a new plan, or test your improvements on a larger scale.

When happy with the results – it’s time to standardise the process/improvement.

As this is a cycle, the PDCA process never really ends. Instead, it repeats itself providing the path to continual improvement.

Below is a really good image (origin unknown) outlining the importance of planning – this is a lesson I continuously learn on a daily basis!

Could the PDCA cycle help you transform how you live and work?

Keeping it simple,


x x

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Meeting Art and Understanding Lean

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Oprah calls it an ‘Aha’ moment – the moment when something falls into place, when the penny drops, when a lightbulb goes off in your brain and you understand something with an immense clarity that you previously didn’t have.

I experienced this ‘Aha’ moment over 3 years ago when Art Byrne delivered his keynote speech at the 2013 Lean Enterprise Academy Summit. As well as a great guy, Art is a powerhouse of Lean knowledge having lived Lean with it’s highs and lows for many decades. I have read Art’s wonderful book ‘The Lean Turnaround’ many times and knew I was in for something special as Art took to the stage.

My ‘Aha’ moment came in as short a time as 4 minutes into Art’s talk. I had always known that Lean enabled a better, more efficient, more inclusive way of working however after listening to and understanding Art’s simple explanation of Lean, the power of this methodology was finally clear to me. Key elements from these short 4 minutes of Art’s talk that helped me understand the power of Lean are as follows

  • Lean is not a bunch of tools
  • Lean is not a collection of projects or belts (Art in his fabulous honesty makes it clear that in running a business you are not running a karate class!!!)
  • Lean is ‘the biggest strategic business weapon you can ever have’  – a business being ‘a collection of people and processes trying to deliver value to a set of customers and always the best team wins’.
  • Lean is a growth strategy not a cost cutting strategy.

Art continued by explaining the key elements required to be successful at Lean which are that Lean and  Operational Excellence are your core strategy, that Lean is led from the top and that people are transformed. Without these elements, Art explains very honestly,  failure will be the outcome!

As Art spoke about transforming people, he explained that people are the only asset you have that appreciates and you want them to keep appreciating, that you also need to respect your people because the best improvement ideas come from the people doing the work. To do this you need to create a learning environment where people are learning every day and are excited to come to work. This then becomes your culture, the way things are done around here – this is Lean.

Art summed up all of the above by simply saying –  Lean is a people thing!

I met Art at one of the break out sessions. He was gracious, humble and generous with his time. I spoke with him around challenges I was having in implementing Lean in my role as I  did not have the influence of a CEO for Lean to ‘come from the top’. He smiled and gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. He said ‘be the CEO in your area’, excellent advice for anyone trying to make things better when it’s not coming from the top!

Art signed my copy of his book ‘The Lean Turnaround’ by using a popular phrase synonymous with Guinness – it was Art’s way of saying how much he loved Ireland and how much he respects Kaizen. And yes, I totally agree with him, Kaizen is good for you!!!!

I left the 2103 Lean Enterprise Academy Summit energetic, enthused and looking forward to the next steps on my Lean journey.

Almost 4 years later my Lean journey continues to experience highs and lows, I’m happy to say more highs than lows these days and always, always learning lessons which is at the core of what Lean is about, continuous learning!

Thanks for reading,

Keeping it Simple,




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