New Year’s Wishes – To Be Challenged – Not “Happy”!

_LMD3983I hope you all had a great Christmas, or any Holiday you celebrate. And, I hope you are ready for a wonderful New Year. Not a “happy” New Year, but a New Year filled with great challenges. More about that in a minute.

I have been very quiet on this blog for the last several months because my attention has been very focused on the challenge of creating great online learning courses. I first published my Team Kata course this year and I am now breaking that down into more manageable pieces and expanding on the topics that make up the Team Kata. I have published Problem-Solving Made Easy and Learn to Motivate Yourself and Others. Next up are Learn to Facilitate Great Team Meetings, How to Lead Value-Stream Mapping, and From Forming to Performing – The Basics of Team Management. My intention is that together these will form a comprehensive training program for team leaders and team members.

For my friends (that means you if you read my blog) I am offering both courses for free between now and the end of January. Here are the “coupon codes” to sign up:

Problem-Solving Made Easy

Learn to Motivate Yourself and Others

Team Leadership: Facilitation and Communication Essentials

Your feedback on these courses if very valuable to me. Every day I am learning more about how to make these courses the best that they can be. For me, this is like a new business requiring new skills and with new opportunities. Creating the best possible online learning experience is my great challenge for the coming year.

Seek Challenge – Not Happiness!

Why do we always say “Have a happy New Year?” We are a culture that has become rather obsessed with the happiness thing. We are all supposed to be happy, or desperately seeking happiness. I have reached that age, and achieved enough milestones, to know that real happiness is found in the struggle to achieve a significant challenge. Growth comes from challenge. Happiness is not an end-state, but the result of the process of overcoming challenges.

Those of you who know me, know that I am fan of Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History and his conclusion that civilizations emerge and progress in a series of challenges and creative responses to challenge. The greater the challenge, the greater the stimulus to growth. Decline in civilization is preceded by a “condition of ease” at which point the muscles of growth atrophy and bureaucracy, rigidity of bones or organization, lead to the decline of creativity and ultimate decay. In this, all organizations are the same.

The exact same cycle of growth and decline occur in our own personal lives. Therefore, I wish you great challenges in the coming year.I wish you the exercise of the muscle, the creative response to challenge, not the condition of ease.

I hope you seek the personal challenge of learning new skills and exploring new territory in your own life. I hope your organization seeks the challenge of new markets, employing new technologies, and achieving higher levels of customer satisfaction. I hope your team pursues the challenge of greater unity and shared learning.

Having married a Lebanese-Egyptian wife, I think a lot about the state of our world. On the one hand there is less war, less famine, and greater access to technology, information and learning than ever before in human history. We are living longer and more peacefully. On the other hand, political leaders in more than one country, appear to have lost any ability to respond creatively to challenge, but repetitively pull the same lever, harder and faster, all the while knowing it only produces the same disappointing result. It is more than slightly ironic that the birthplace of the world’s major religions, holy ground to all, is the most dysfunctional, disunited, fractured, deadly and miserable place on earth!

I pray for creative leaders in the coming year who can imagine a new and creative response to some very old challenges.


Toyota Kata, Team Kata, and Levels of Complexity

Implementing lean management, or any other change in the culture of organizations, requires a zoom lens to see the different levels of complexity required. Toyota Kata, lean tools, and other methods operate at some focal lengths and not at others. The well informed manager will have the ability to understand complexity and to use simple methods when appropriate. If you are photographer with only a 300mm lens you will miss a lot of great photos.

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Engaging Everyone in Lean! A Cost Effective Solution

Let’s be honest about lean implementation and training. In most organizations lean training is for a select few. These same few may engage a few more. But, the dominant culture, the dominant habits of working and managing too often do not change.

What if you had an effective method, and a low cost method, of training and engaging everyone in the organization? This is now available through an partnership of Lean Leadership Institute and myself.

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The Coaching Kata

I developed my Team Kata training course to provide a solution to training a large number of people, self-paced and over an extended period of time. But, coaching is essential to the learning process. Here are examples of the coaching kata that follow well proven methods of behavior based training.

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The Lean System of Motivation

One aspect of lean that has not been given enough attention, in my opinion, is how lean is an organization wide system of motivation that creates a high performance culture. Too many lean implementations suffer from a focus on problem solving skills, but a failure to attend to the system or culture of motivation. Too many rely on the “they oughtta wanna” assumption which usually results in disappointment.

A highly motivated work force is not an accident. It is not the result of being in one part of the country or another, have having a union or non-union. It is the result of systematic efforts on the part of management to design and improve a system of motivation. The most effective systems optimize both an ennobling purpose, the social bonds of strong teamwork, and the availability of individual incentives. They all contribute unique elements to a holistic system of motivation.

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New Year’s Wishes for All Leaders – Corporate and Country

Two years ago I published what I thought would be worthy New Year’s resolutions for managers. Below I am both repeating some of those and adding a few new thoughts. I hope they are worthy of your consideration. You might want to challenge your management team to agree on some collective resolutions for the New Year. It may promote a useful dialogue. First, Promote Unity of Thought and Action in the New Year: We live in a world of competition in which false dichotomies are promoted to gain advantage over others. The recent NY Times article on Benghazi, in great detail (for those who have the patience to actually read in-depth research) describes the complexity of militias with competing and changing interests and their varied reactions to American policy that led to the assault. Reality is often confusing and complex so we immediately dump reality into familiar buckets that give … Continue reading

Leading Change: Nine Keys to Success

There are plenty of books that hold up Toyota or other great companies as a model and essentially say “Be like that!” But for many companies this is a bit like holding up a picture of a bare chested Arnold Schwarzenegger or a bikini clad model and saying “There it is. Be like that!” It should only be so easy. Having a model of a great culture or great body is fine, but getting there is something entirely different. Here are nine keys to successfully leading change.

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