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Lean Leadership – The Dance to the Rhythm of Challenge and Response

Lean Leadership – The Dance to the Rhythm of Challenge and Response

Lean Leadership – A Response to Challenge

Leadership is the courageous and creative response to challenge. Lean leadership is no different. No significant change happens in the absence of challenge. There is no Martin Luther King in the absence of racism; no Churchill absent fascism; and, no Lincoln absent slavery. One could argue that all progress is in the dance to the rhythm of challenge-and-response.

In business the challenge is different. It is the challenge of innovation – new technologies, new markets, and new economic conditions. There is no Henry Ford absent the challenge presented by the internal combustion engine; no Bill Gates absent the microprocessor; and no Mark Zuckerberg absent the internet. Lean leadership is the response to the challenge of innovative methods and the potential of human creativity. The task of the lean leader is to define the strategic challenge for his or her organization and present that challenge in a way that creates a response that results in significant change and continuous improvement.

It would be wonderful to believe that simply sharing knowledge of a better way would result in the adoption of that better way. If only we were rational beings. But after assisting dozens of companies with their efforts to institute a lean culture, it is very obvious that the success of those efforts is directly linked to the quality and constancy of lean leadership. Lean Leadership and Lean Culture  require very specific actions on the part of leaders and I do not think those actions of been well articulated in previous books and articles. I have attempted to define these actions in my new course on Lean Leadership and Lean Culture and I want to summarize them here.

To Challenge and to Serve

Leaders define the mountain to be climbed, the worthy purpose that will motivate followers to sacrifice. They then recognize the task to serve the needs of their followers by enabling them, providing the tools, the guidance, the skills, the path toward success, and finally, celebrating that success. Challenging employees and then serving them may seem to be almost contradictory functions, but they are both necessary sides to the same coin.

The Challenge is Strategy

The challenge is strategy… it is where we are going and why we are going there, and it is only the leaders of the organization who can set that strategy and establish the challenge. It is the primary function of leadership in every organization, whether an army or an entrepreneurial start-up company. Too many leaders set their sights too low. They are too practical. They establish a target, a challenge, of improving operating efficiency by ten percent. Or, reducing cycle time by twenty percent. Do those goals inspire you? Do you seriously think they inspire employees to sacrifice for “the cause?” I doubt it. Because we are too often punished for the failure to achieve goals we reduce our vision to that which is easily understood and achieved. Toyota’s global vision states:

“Toyota will lead the way to the future of mobility, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.

Through our commitment to quality, constant innovation and respect for the planet, we aim to exceed expectations and be rewarded with a smile.”

That’s big! Toyota isn’t in the car business, they are in the mobility business, and their job is to enrich lives around the world! From that challenge may flow ten thousand more specific challenges, targets or goals, that lead to the fulfillment of the big vision. But, you must start with a motivating challenge that gives people dignity and purpose. That is the root cause of motivation and change.

Lean Leaders are “Servant Leaders”

I have identified six specific functions of lean leaders, each of which are essential to implementing lean principles in an organization. Here is a quick overview of those six functions. (These are explained in some detail in my course.)

1. Develop External/Business Strategy

Business strategy is a response to external threats and opportunities, both employing and then developing internal capabilities. Lean leadership and culture is not divorced from business strategy, but is rather a means of developing the internal capabilities that will enable the organization to execute business strategy.

2. Develop Internal Culture Strategy

External strategy defines where we are going. Internal strategy defines what we need to get there. Strategy is only achieved if there is alignment of internal culture and capabilities to the strategy. Peter Drucker is reported to have said that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The point is that you can’t achieve a business strategy if you don’t have the necessary culture and capabilities. The absence of this alignment creates friction, and friction is waste… not lean!

3. Lead System Design

Too many lean consultants think you can simply go into an organization and start doing PDCA problem solving at the first level and create a lean culture. This is too easy! Too often the barriers that create interruptions and waste in the process are determined at a higher level. They are both social and technical. They are the relationships with suppliers, the layout of the plant, the existence of warehouses and staffs. They are layers of management that suck decision up and rob employees of dignity and the ability to solve problems. In short, they are system problems that require design thinking! The lean leader recognizes the need for systems and structure to align with strategy and creates a process of redesign.

4. Be the Model

Leadership is modeling the behavior desired of others. If you have sat in a meeting of senior managers at Honda or Toyota, as I have, you would witness the practice of effective team management, problem-solving and consensus reaching. You would also witness leaders asking if they have “been on the spot” (the Gemba) to directly observe the work and listen to the “world’s greatest experts.” In other words, they are practicing Respect for People and Continuous Improvement, the two core principles of lean culture. Your ability to institute culture change is directly related to your ability to be a model of that culture.

5. Coach & Develop Others

A leader is a coach. A leader knows that his or her job is to develop the capacity of others. The greater the capacity of others the easier is the job of the leader. At Toyota every manager has a coach, an internal coach, a peer. I developed my course on Coaching Leaders for Continuous Improvement to aid in the development of this internal capacity. Continuous improvement is not only about the production line. It is about personal development, the desire to personally improve our own skills. This is the job of a coach and we need to develop a culture of coaching others, which is a form of service to others.

6. Motivation and Accountability

In our desire to develop a positive culture it may be easy to put aside the reality that it is the manager’s job to hold others accountable. Even in an environment of self-directed teams, the manager is responsible for assuring that those teams are accountable for performance. Toyota practices “Four-to-One” which is the practice of four positive comments to one negative. Research in the 1960’s by Dr. Ogden Lindsley demonstrated that the optimum learning environment sees more positive than negative interactions. The actual ratio he found was 3.57 to one. While the exact number is not important, it is important that we recognize that motivation to continuously improve must be reinforced positively.

Each of these six components of lean leadership deserve serious study and practice by the leader or manager wishing to implement lean management and culture. I have tried to aid that study with my Udemy course on Lean Leadership and Lean Culture.


Lean Culture, Lean Leadership and Change Management

Lean Culture, Lean Leadership and Change Management

High Value Lean Leadership Training

For the past several months I have been working to fill what I believe has been a gap in the available training in Lean Culture, Lean Leadership and Change Management. I have covered some aspects of lean in my Team Leadership course, but not provided a thorough description of lean culture or the critical role of leaders in leading a change process. There has also not been a course priced economically enough to enable companies to provide the training to large numbers of employees. This is the purpose of my latest course on Lean Culture, Lean Leadership and Change Management, priced at only $12.99 for six and a half hours of training that includes two complete books (each worth more than that price), thirteen activities and case studies.

Since I was involved at Honda when they first came to the U.S., I have been engaged with dozens of clients implementing lean or Toyota Production System. For me, lean is not an academic exercise. I have been hands on in both manufacturing and health care creating significant change in the work processes and the culture. I have the published case studies to prove it. I know what it takes because I have done it, repeatedly! I also know the important role that leaders must play for change to succeed. I have spelled that out in this course.

The House of Lean

To illustrate what I believe are the critical components of lean, both the social and technical systems, I have created this “house of lean” and the course covers each of these components. If you take this course you will know lean culture and leadership.

There are six major sections of the course.

  • The first section covers the process of knowledge integration upon which lean is founded; the work of Shigeo Shingo and the die press, quick change over process, a trip to Honda to understand the basic components of both social and technical systems.
  • The second section covers an overview of the components of lean.
  • The third section covers the principles and practices of lean culture (elimination of waste, the scientific method, kaizen, heijunka, etc.)
  • The fourth section is focused on lean leadership and describes what lean leaders do to model the behavior that reinforces continuous improvement. I have framed this in terms of the leadership responsibility to define the strategic challenge toward which everyone  should be working, and to serve the needs of employees in achieving continuous improvement toward that strategy.
  • The fifth section describes the process of designing the house of lean in your organization, the systems and structures upon which a lean culture can be built.
  • And,  the final section describes the habits of daily management and continuous improvement, what I have called the Team Kata.

I am confident that this is my best course yet and will serve as a good introduction to lean for all of your employees. Just click on this link and it will take you to the course.

Leading Virtual Teams

Leading Virtual Teams

The Challenge of Virtual Teams

“Of 1,700 knowledge workers surveyed, 79% reported working always or frequently in dispersed teams. Armed with laptops, Wi-Fi, and mobile phones, most professionals can do their jobs from anywhere.” Harvard Business Review, Dec 2014

As someone who does much of his consulting and training in virtual space, the issue of how best to manage virtual teams has become a significant issue for many organizations. It was one of the topics that Udemy for Business customers indicated was a high priority. You may have received a request to participate in an online survey on your experience with virtual teams a couple months back. I promised to share the results of that survey and I have developed an online course to train managers and facilitators to manage virtual or dispersed teams.

Here is a coupon for the course, Leading Virtual Teams, for a cheap $9.99 ;-).

You can see the complete results of the survey here: Virtual Team Survey

Here are some of the highlights from the survey:

The survey asked “What one piece of advice do you have for others leading virtual teams?”

  • Make sure the team has a clear charter.
  • The agenda is key
  • Send agenda, send reminders, send action plans before and after meetings.
  • Rotate facilitation
  • Ensure engagement and ownership of tasks
  • Pause and wait for others to respond
  • Spell out the guidelines and enforce them
  • Distinguish between “review/update” meetings vs. “problem solving.”
  • Be as inclusive as possible.
  • Make sure you can SEE each other.
  • Keep and publish attendance record.

Somewhat to my surprise, those responding indicated that the technology was more problematic than the behavior of members.

I also asked about the software they were using and how satisfied they were with that software. The software that received the highest satisfaction was Zoom.

By far the biggest problem reported by those leading virtual meetings is simply keeping participants focused and engaged, rather than multi-tasking and distracted. In my course I recommend a number of strategies to maintain engagement of those participating in virtual team meetings.

“Also make it clear that multitasking on calls isn’t OK. According to a recent study,82% of people admit to doing other things—from surfing the web to using the bathroom—during team calls. But virtual collaboration requires that everyone be mentally present and engaged. Explain your policy, and when the group has a virtual meeting, regularly call on people to share their thoughts. Better yet, switch to video, which can essentially eliminate multitasking.” HBR Dec 2014

Many of the issues faced by leaders of virtual teams are the same as those facilitating in-person meetings. I have tried to address the key facilitaton skills that apply to both virtual and non-virtual meetings in my online course.

On Retirement… Or, Not!

Today Inc. Magazine published this nice little article on retirement (or NOT!) featuring me and my Udemy courses.

Want to Be Happy in Retirement? Don’t Stop Doing This 1 Thing

Like all of us do, Lawrence Miller aimed to be happy in retirement. And when he was 54, he decided it was time. He would quit working and, according to conventional wisdom, finally start really enjoying himself. He sold his consulting firm and was ready to let enormous life satisfaction pump him up.

Except it didn’t. Once Miller was free from the daily grind, the only thing he felt was unfulfilled, even though he was literally living the stereotypical retirement dream of sailing the world. He missed helping his clients, and he missed improving himself, too. Some solo consulting for a while helped, but he soon realized he wanted something different.

The solution? Teaching online through Udemy.

Enjoying life through the gig economy

“Udemy does two things for me,” Miller explains. “First, it allows me to share my knowledge and experience without the demands of travel. I have 47 years of experience helping organizations change their culture and performance. I can now share that online. Second, it has forced me to develop new skills. It is a new challenge to develop the skills of developing effective online presentations and courses. This is a new muscle to exercise, a new opportunity for growth and experimentation.”

And Miller isn’t the only baby boomer using the gig economy to find happiness later in life. A Prudential survey showed that a third of people working exclusively in the gig economy are boomers, and that 3 out of 4 of them like and don’t want to change their work situation. Miller hypothesizes this might be because the gig economy allows individuals to use their strengths and gain self-esteem from contributing, minus the demands to conform to bureaucratic pressures. He further asserts that Americans need to face the reality that systems like Social Security and Medicare will collapse if every boomer calls it quits at the “nonsensical” age of 65. There’s zero reason to stop sharing, he says, if you’re physically and mentally able to give.

“I am essentially against retirement as it is promoted in our culture. When you shut down your brain, when you cease exercising the intellectual muscle, you begin the process of death. Most of us will live well into our eighties. The idea that at the magical age of 65 you are supposed to shut down your brain is an insane waste of human capital. Most of us who are in the knowledge economy are at our peak of intellectual skills and value when we are condemned to retirement. One could argue that this is a form of age-based genocide.

Other cultures, like the Native American cultures, have honored and valued the elderly and sought their wisdom. Current western culture has worshipped youth and dismissed what I will call the “mature” generation. There is great value in the energy of youth. But, there is also great value in lessons well learned by those of an older generation.”

A statistical portrait of need–and hope

Frank Visciano, Udemy’s VP of Marketplace Content and Operations, says that the world’s best teachers aren’t always found in traditional classrooms. Diversity, he says, makes Udemy better, and the company welcomes expertise from all ages and backgrounds. And with Udemy now serving 17 million students through 55,000 classes and 60 different languages, Visciano acknowledges that the platform is in a good position to make a positive difference for older workers.

“More and more Americans are finding they need to spend their golden years working because of longer lifespans and increased expenses,” Visciano says. “Almost 19% of people 65 of older were working at least part time according to a recent U.S. jobs report. It may be hard for workers nearing the age of retirement to find employment in their chosen careers (even those with a college degree have less than a 50% chance of finding a job as compared with 35% for those without degrees), and Udemy offers a flexible opportunity to remain vital and productive in a retiree’s respective field.  For many, retirement is a welcome opportunity to focus on your true passion and still make a contribution to society, on your terms. On Udemy, we see retirees refining their skills for various pursuits, deeping writing skills–or coding–and increasingly, those with the motivation and time are creating online courses, teaching and sharing their expertise.”

Visciano adds that about 70 percent of Udemy content relates to professional skills. While this means young individuals can get a great foundation for their careers, it also means that there are many different options for those with experience to help out while earning a paycheck. And personal transformation classes–for example, a class that teaches you how to play piano–are growing in popularity, too. This demonstrates that people don’t just want to gain skills. They want to be better and keep exploring, no matter their age.

Many of us look forward to retirement as a time when we can slow down and take life in leisure. It’s that leisure and choice that’s supposed to satisfy. But cases like Miller’s suggest that happiness when you’re older comes from feeling confident that you still have a purpose, from continuing to discover and connect with others. Meaningful work can be a way to access that confidence. The wonderful thing is, what you do and how, when and where you work can be entirely up to you.


Fast Company Interview on Hiring

You might find this interesting:


This Is Why Job Candidates Should Interview Each Other

In a traditional job interview, the interviewer is in the driver’s seat, controlling the questions, pace, and format of the meeting. This may be standard operating procedure, but it’s the worst possible way of identifying a good fit, says Udemy leadership coach Lawrence Miller.

“That’s a terrible environment and exercise for making judgments about people,” he says. “The interviewer is a poor observer because he or she is performing at the same time. You are a much better observer of behavior when you can sit back and watch the candidates perform in a simulation that calls on the same skills required in the job.”

Miller found the best employees for his Maryland-based management-consulting firm when he turned the interview process upside down, bringing in candidates in small groups, and asking them to interview him and his team and then each other.

The first step—allowing candidates to interview you—is a good indicator of fit, says Miller. “It helps them decide whether they want to work for us; a job is, after all, a marriage,” he says. “They could ask absolutely any question that they felt was important to their decision.”

The most common questions were about finances, management practices, work methods, and expectations, and Miller looked for honesty behind their questions. “We most appreciated when they asked questions like, ‘What happens when a client is unhappy with your performance?’ Or, ‘How do we know that you are financially secure?’ If they’re not curious about anything, it’s not a good sign.”

The next step was having the candidates interview each other. “I told them, ‘You’re probably as qualified as we are to do this interview, so we are going to ask you to interview each other and then recommend to us who we should hire—somebody other than yourself,” he says. “I deliberately folded my arms and pushed my chair away from the table, clearly indicating that the ball was now in their court.”

In each group, Miller says someone would always start a conversation, asking the others what they thought would be the best way to proceed. “One candidate, a former Army captain, immediately tried to take charge and plan how they would proceed. It didn’t go over well,” says Miller. “The candidate who listened well, made suggestions, and brought the group gently to a consensus was the most likely to be selected.”

When they completed their interviews, Miller gave each person a piece of paper that had these four questions:

  1. Who would you hire and why?
  2. Who do you think is most technically competent to do this job?
  3. Who has the best skills?
  4. Who would you choose to be stranded with in an airport during a snowstorm?

“The last question was a good indicator of likeability,” says Miller. “We found that question to be the most reliable, because in the kind of consulting we did, it was a really good predictor of who would succeed.”


Having candidates interview each other in a group setting is a method that should be used strategically, recommends Bert Miller, CEO of Protis Global, an executive recruitment firm. “Not as a standard of process, but only when it’s conducive to the particular functionality and role,” he says. “For example, [it would work in a] sales or a product-development dynamic where both collaboration and competitiveness are essential to being successful.”

Candidates also get insight into the team dynamic among the hiring team, says Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi. “Typically when there’s a panel interview with several candidates, there’s not only one interviewer, there are several,” she says. “[Candidates should] pay attention to camaraderie, and how respectful they are to one another. [They’ll] gain more insight into the organization and prospective team you’ll be working with than if everyone interviewed you separately and barely had any interaction.”

But this type of interview strategy has drawbacks, adds Salemi. “Introvert candidates may be at a disadvantage,” she says. “Extroverts may capitalize on the spotlight, and introverts may not be as vocal, even though they may be a valuable asset.”

A group situation can affect a candidate’s ability to answer thoughtfully. “Instead of a typical interview situation where they can pause before they speak to craft an articulate answer, they now have the additional responsibility of, ‘Okay, I need to jump in quickly before someone else does,’” says Salemi.

A group interview also limits the opportunity for candidates to engage organically with the hiring authority, says Bert Miller. “When dealing with top talent, they want the interview process to reflect a genuine look into an organization, and that may not be facilitated when grouped around other potential candidates,” he says.

And it puts candidates in a pressure cooker, adding unnecessary stress, says Salemi. “If they normally get nervous for one interview, imagine that magnified when they’re literally sitting among their competition,” she says.

Lawrence Miller says using this interview structure helped him make good hiring choices. “It was a good indication on how the candidates would handle real-life situations,” he says. “I’ll admit that it was anxiety provoking for the candidates, but that’s our world where you go into a conference room with five clients. You need to respond in a healthy way, and we got to see how they handle a challenge firsthand.”

See article:


The Power of Principles

The Power of Principles

Dear Friends,

Over the past year I have had increasing concern in regard to what I must call a crisis in leadership. It is not only in the U.S., but a global crisis. We desperately need to raise a generation of ethical, principled and positive leaders to move our institutions, corporate and governments, into the twenty-first century. I think it is time that we all examine our principles and call upon managers and aspiring managers and entrepreneurs to think deeply about those principles that will unite and not divide, that will uplift and not tear down, and that will energize the members of their organizations toward a worthy purpose.

For this reason I have created a new course, Leadership: The Transforming Power of Principle, to help leaders think about their own principles and to develop plans of action to institute a course of principled leadership in their organization. I would like you to have this course for the lowest possible price of $10.

I hope you will find this to be a helpful contribution toward what I believe is a critical need. I would love hear your thoughts about these principles or others that you feel are important.

I would love to hear your thoughts on both this course and the larger issue of the crisis in leadership that we are facing.


Larry Miller

The Ten Virtues of Leadership for a Collaborative World

The Ten Virtues of Leadership for a Collaborative World

Our political leaders present models of behavior that are likely to be imitated. Their example may be interpreted as defining the characteristics of success itself. For this reason, it is imperative that those of us who write about leadership give voice to the necessary virtues of success that will sustain our culture, companies and country, particularly when they are different from those on display today. Many Americans are losing faith in our nation’s leadership while those outside our country are losing faith in America’s ability to provide leadership to a world longing for those very freedoms we enjoy.

For this reason, I want to explStages of cultural integrationore the virtues of leaders, the principles and characteristics that are a necessity for a world that requires collaboration and suffers from conflict.  I won’t bother to point out the variance between current behavior of our leaders and these virtues. That will be obvious.

In its most simple form, leaders throughout history have created order and mobilized energy and effort of their followers in only two fundamental ways. The first is by authoritarian control, dominance and fear. The second is by creating trust and loyalty – the force of attraction. You could describe these as “soft power” or “hard power.” Every leader tends to rely more on one or the other and to some degree every organization requires a measure of each. The need for hard or soft power shifts with a transition from crisis to stability, from war to peace, and from the simple to complex systems of organization.

The flow of history demands a shift from authoritarian control and the motivation of fear to the virtues that lead to attraction, trust and loyalty. In a simple organization, such as the primitive hunting party, the family farm, or small craft shop, it was possible for a leader to rule by force or hard power. The members of that organization had few or no options. They could not put their resume on a website and search the “100 Best Companies” to work for. But, as the circle of human activity expanded to include more members, specialized organizations, and higher levels of skill, the options of the individual increased. Mobility increased with complexity and the virtues of soft power became a competitive advantage.

The Logic of Non-Zero Sum Behavior

The logic of human destinyRobert Wright, in his excellent book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny[1] argues that a Darwinian selection process is hard wiring into our genetic code a capacity and requirement for cooperative behavior. The more complex the organization or society, the greater the need for inter-dependence, and therefore the greater the requirement for what he calls non-zero sum behavior. For much of human history wars were fought to increase the ownership of land, a fixed or inelastic commodity. The game was zero sum: if I captured half of your land I would be more wealthy and powerful and you would lose an equivalent amount of wealth or power. This zero-sum logic a pre-capitalist assumption. It is an assumption of capitalist economics that the ability to create wealth is elastic, not fixed. You may invest in my company and I may invest in your company and we may cooperate and both become more successful by capturing greater market share or even creating new markets that did not previously exist. This is a non-zero-sum assumption and it requires collaborative behavior. It requires trust or soft-power. Zero-sum assumptions and behavior are destructive of cooperative behavior and therefore of the creation of new wealth.

“The psychic unity of humankind is the reason that around the world, on every continent, cultural evolution has moved in the same direction. The arrow of human history begins with the biology of human nature…. The arrow, as I’ve noted, points toward larger quantities of non-zero-sumness. As history progresses, human beings find themselves playing non-zero-sum games with more and more other human beings. Interdependence expands, and social complexity grows in scope and depth.”[2]

The degree of non-zero-sum behavior varies by industry. If you are a real estate developer much of your success is based on single transactions. You deal in hard capital and hard labor. If you buy a property for a good price and build a building that you then sell, there are only two time bound transactions. One party may have little trust in the other, but they may be convinced that the “deal” is a good deal. On the other hand, manufacturing automobiles is entirely different. Success is based on building brand loyalty and developing a network of suppliers, a supply chain, that you can trust to partner in continuous improvement. That is not a singular transaction, but a marriage, an ongoing relationship that requires high levels of trust and years of close collaboration to succeed. Designing and manufacturing automobiles requires intellectual capital more than material capital. The real estate developer may learn to rely on zero-sum transactions and hard power where the auto executive must learn to rely on collaborative behavior and soft power.

The development of business organizations, from the family farm to public corporations and more complex diversified and multi-national organizations required the progressive development of collaborative behavior and systems. This development exactly parallels the development from tribes to city and nation states to international treaties and organizations. It should not surprise us that a leader drawn from a more primitive transactional business, a zero-sum mindset, would find himself uncomfortable in an inter-dependent global economic system. Retreating from the Trans Pacific Partnership and questioning other multi-national treaties and organizations has little to do with the reality of job creation or economic advantage and much more to do with a psychological insecurity brought on by complexity and the requirements of inter-dependence and trust.

Possibly the greatest asset of the United States is the two great oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific, that have provided a significant measure of security not available to a European nation. For this reason, European nations and the European Union, following two world wars that destroyed their continent, are more appreciative of the power of cooperation and inter-dependence than are Americans. It is a luxury of our geography to proclaim “America First” as if we did not depend on other nations. To a European ear, it sounds much too close to the sound of “Deutschland Uber Alles,” a rallying cry to cheering populist crowds that led to the death of fifty million people and the destruction of the continent. The Third Reich and the wars of Europe for several hundred preceding years were based on zero-sum thinking and the reliance on hard power. The European Union, as well as other international treaties, are all built on the assumption of collaboration and non-zero-sum logic. They are consistent with the seeming inevitable march of human destiny.

The nature of work itself has also transformed the requirement of leadership from hard to soft power and collaboration. The industrial age moved us to a new age of capital in which ownership was shared and traded on open markets and increasingly the essential labor became less manual and more intellectual or knowledge-based. The information economy has created a third stage of transformation that requires higher levels of intellectual capital, high levels of collaboration, and the ownership of the critical capital is neither money nor land, but the skills of software developers and engineers. This capital lies within the individual person who can move from one company to another with relative ease. This high personal control requires abandoning the motivation of fear or authoritarian control and demands creative means of building collaboration and trust into our organizational systems.


The Ten Virtues of Leadership in a Non-Zero Sum World

Every leader and every organization must decide what cultural attributes and what virtues of leadership will lead to success in a world of collaboration and interdependence. I suggest that if your organization and your leadership held itself to account for the pursuit of the following ten virtues, you would assure the creation of a high performing culture of collaboration that would attract the best possible talent.

Benjamin Franklin was famous for his self-improvement plan. Franklin was at the same time both self-assured and humble. He recognized his own weaknesses and set about the task of self-improvement in a systematic manner. He identified thirteen virtues and focused on only one each week. Each day he wrote in his diary whether or not he had behaved in a manner that reflected that week’s virtue. It is a good model of self-improvement and let me suggest you attempt the same. Some of his thirteen virtues are among those that follow.

  1. The Virtue of Worthy Purpose

The most fundamental form of motivation is a desire to be worthy, to have a meaningful life and legacy. We will sacrifice our time and energy, we will be attracted and loyal to an organization we believe to have a worthy purpose and to a leader who can communicate that purpose.

  1. The Virtue of Unity

To be united, to have social bonds and trust, is a psychological need as old as our life in the cave. The development of trust in our group is one of the first lessons that is learned in the family and the failure of this learning is likely to result in lifelong dysfunction. All organizational systems require the creation of unified effort, pulling in the same direction, and it is the function of leaders to create this unity. All conflict and war is the result of leaders who sought power through division, retreating to contracting circles, the fear of others, rather than expanding the circle of unity. Cultures in retreat shrink the circle of influence, building walls that signify their loss of faith in their own future.

  1. The Virtue of Justice

Justice is founded on the twin pillars of reward and punishment. A just society is one in which reward and punishment are dispensed with equity, independent of gender, race, or other accidents of birth. When justice equitably follows behavior or performance the organization or society will elicit trust and loyalty on the part of its members.

  1. The Virtue of Empathy

We will follow a leader who demonstrates that she understands our condition and concerns. Great generals, from Alexander forward, have demonstrated genuine love for their soldiers. John Adams said that “There is something unnatural and odious in a government a thousand leagues off. A whole government of our own choice, managed by persons whom we love, revere, and can confide in, has charms in it for which men will fight.” Empathic leaders create affection and affiliation with their followers, while those lacking empathy instill alienation and distrust.

  1. The Virtue of Diversity

Diversity has become so associated with requirements and legalities that too many leaders have lost an understanding of its virtue. Give me a room of ten white male accountants discussing any problem and the matter will be decided quickly. Give me a room of ten individuals with different backgrounds, education and talents, and the discussion will take longer but the considerations will expand to include dozens of possibilities, and the result will be a creative solution with far more potential. Diversity of experience and talents is a competitive advantage in every group.

  1. The Virtue of Excellence

Those who achieve excellence in any field never consider themselves to be there. They are in motion. They are engaged in a pursuit that is never ending. They possess what I like to call creative dissatisfaction. This is the awareness of the gap between who I am, where I am and who I could be or where I could be. For every individual, or every company, there is always a gap between the current state and an ideal state in the future. Those who achieve excellence are dissatisfied and that dissatisfaction causes them to strive to close that gap. Leaders instill a sense of either complacency or excellence by engaging in continuous improvement and self-reflection.

  1. The Virtue of Inclusion

I will be loyal to that which I help to create. This is the fundamental law of democracy. Even a government with which we disagree, will gain our respect if we believe we had the opportunity to have our say, to register our vote. We will not gain the loyalty or trust of employees if they feel themselves to be mere labor, machines in somebody else’s sport. The purpose of creating an organization in which every member is on a team that contributes their mind as well as their labor is to instill this loyalty.

  1. The Virtue of Empiricism

Dr. Deming repeatedly called on managers to manage by the facts, to know the facts, to experiment and to observe changes in data. Empiricism is learning from what the environment is telling you. Science is based on empiricism, the discovery of what is true and what is not true by observing cause and effect relationships. All experiments are an exercise in empiricism. In the future managers and employees will be scientists. Rather than rely on someone “above” telling them what is best for them to do, they will be conducting experiments at their own work location to learn what will work and not work. They will then share this knowledge with others doing similar work.

  1. The Virtue of Integrity

Integrity is the foundation upon which must be built all other virtues and upon which rest the trust and relationship between individual and corporation. The ability to discriminate between what is honest and what lacks honesty is a skill that is critical to the establishment of the unity of people. We live in a society of law and legalism in which the lawyer has become the corporate high priest of right and wrong. That which is honest has become confused with that which is permissible by law. When managers are able to discern and act on that which is honest in spirit, trustful business relationships will be sustained.

  1. The Virtue of Humility

Arrogance is the enemy of improvement and the opposite of humility. To continuously improve, the practice the virtue of empiricism, one must be humble in one’s knowledge.  Arrogance suppresses the free expression of others, while humility invites free thought and creative acts.  “In a humble state, you learn better. I can’t find anything else very exciting about humility, but at least there’s that.” John Dooner. But, just that, is a very great deal and the root of all future success.

[1] Wright, Robert. NonZero – The Logic of Human Destiny. Vintage Books, New York, 2001.

[2] Ibid. p. 19.

New Manager Training – Leading People, Teams and Processes

New Manager Training – Leading People, Teams and Processes

The New Manager – Leading People, Teams and Processes

New manager training is a challenge for every company. I have just completed and published a new course to fulfill the need of training new managers (or those hoping to be) in the essential people and team management skills. It is based on principles and practices of lean culture. A lot of the material in this course is similar to my Team Leadership cournew-manager-title-3se, however, every lecture is new and hopefully improved. I have also included new topics specifically directed at the needs of the new manager. These include communication responsibilities, providing job instruction training, discipline and conflict resolution. It also include effective inter-personal communication, giving and receiving feedback, team facilitation, problem-solving (PDCA, A3, root cause) and process improvement.

blended-learningThe course includes thirteen action-learning exercises and quizzes. I also recommend to the student that they work with a coach within their organization who can give them feedback on their exercises and application of the material. I have tried to think of everything I would want to include if I were responsible for new manager training in an organization.

The course includes 82 lectures, 11 hours of material, plus the assignments and quizzes.

If someone else in your organization is responsible for new manager training please pass this on to them. If your company can use this on an ongoing basis for training new managers I will be happy to provide a discount for your company.

Please take a look and let me know what you think.

The Crisis of American Political Leadership

The Crisis of American Political Leadership

Over the past year I have had many thoughts on the political campaigns and their candidates, but to avoid becoming identified with political partisanship I have remained quiet in this space. But, now that the election is past and we know the outcome, I feel a need to speak out on what I believe to be a crisis in American leadership. This transcends party. I would be amazed if even one citizen believes that the political parties selected the two best possible candidates from our vast population of qualified and experienced executive talent. Both parties, and the American people, must reconsider how we go about selecting a candidate and the personal leadership qualities of those candidates.

My forty years working with many dozens of corporate executives does color my opinion. There are many highly ethical, wise and talented executives who could serve us well but who would not dream of entering the torture chamber of our political system. If we want the best talent, we must have a system that attracts that talent! The following are the key lessons that I derive from this election season.

The Power of Purpose

The Power of PurposeLeaders lead by giving to their followers an ennobling purpose and that purpose serves to create human energy and to unite that energy in a shared campaign to overcome challenge.  All great leaders since Alexander and probably before have understood this requirement of leadership. Following a leader is an act of sacrifice and we only sacrifice when we perceive the goal to be worthy.

The moment I saw Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” I had a positive reaction. That will sell! Without overlooking his faults, Donald Trump understood marketing and salesmanship. He knew that to attract followers, to sell himself, he had to have an emotional hook. He found it and it worked.

Most buying decisions are emotional, not rational. While we like to believe that we decide to buy car A versus car B on a rational or logical basis, our logic is often a weak justification for our emotions. Pride, prestige, and image are often the motivations that we mask as logic. Trump knew this and Clinton did not understand it or was incapable of creating an emotional hook.

I repeatedly asked my wife, as we watch campaign coverage, “But what does she want to achieve for us? What is her purpose? Why am I supposed to care about her election?” Only midway into the campaign did she start using the slogan “Stronger Together.” It is a nice thought, but it did not elicit the emotional response and create the attraction of Trump’s slogan. It sounds like a slogan created by committee. It didn’t recognize the pain of many that felt left behind in this economy and felt a loss of respect.  

It is indisputable that Hillary Clinton was more knowledgeable, had more relevant experience and would have been a safer choice. But her purpose was never clear. In our media culture of rapid fire Tweets and loud television arguments, most voters are not reading policy papers. They are digesting marketing messages.

Confronting the New World Order

With the inventions of the telephone, radio, television, microprocessor and the Internet, a “new world order” and a new economy was created. When the world confronted, and recovered from the tragic collapse of world order after World War II, a new world order was created with the United States at its center. All things change. History will not stop and the order of the world will continue to be recreated. No election will change that.

Dealing with major economic shifts is always frightening and stressful, and leads to social and economic disruption. It happened when there was mass migration from agricultural areas of the US to the cities during the industrial revolution. No politician’s promise was going to change that. But, leaders must lead, and that often means educating their followers, not simply pandering to their fears.

Most Americans do not understand the emerging “new world order.” Many imagine some demonic conspiracy that must be resisted. In fear is the impulse to withdraw beyond walls. It is the same fear that propelled Brexit and other movements in Europe. The fact of global economic integration, the integration and globalization of supply chains, and the economic rise of so called third-world countries, is a positive reality that will not change, and if any country tries to force a trade war or build economic barriers, it will result in their own downfall. Great wars are most often preceded by restrictions on trade. The integration of the world economy and cultures is the single greatest assurance of peace and progress. The new world order iauto-productions not the prince of darkness; it is the prince of peace.

I believe in free enterprise and free markets. The assertion that the president is going to tell the CEO of Ford Motor Company where he can or cannot build a manufacturing plant is the ultimate contradiction to free enterprise and the greatest arrogance of “big government.” Ford Motor Company (just as an example) is not simply an American company. It is a global company and a global brand and its high growth markets are all outside of the United States. The same is true for most large companies. They have no choice but to both sell into those markets and to manufacture in those countries.

In 2014 U.S. manufactured automobile exports, yes, EXPORTS, rose to 2.1 million cars to Asia, the Middle East and even to Europe. Auto exports rose 73% from 2004, led by the U.S. manufacturing plants of Honda and Toyota. Do our politicians comprehend the meaning of this and are they willing to put all the thousands of jobs at risk that are supported by these exports? We are an “export economy” and that means trade agreements! This is part of the “new world order.” It is a lot more complex than the slogans would have you believe.

The auto industry is not the property of Detroit or Flint, Michigan (sorry, Michael Moore). U.S. auto production has moved to Greenville, South Carolina (BMW), Arlington, TX (GM) Alabama (Mercedes), Georgetown, KY (Toyota), and Marysville, OH (Honda). Free enterprise means companies move, change, experiment and this means workers must adapt to the changes and not expect politicians to keep things as they were!

We cannot go backwards, even if we try. The world is marching toward solar and other clean energies. We can pretend to live in the economic world of the 1950’s, but the rest of the world will leave us behind and we will be disadvantaged as a result.

There are close to ten thousand jobs in software development, writing code, that cannot be filled in the United States. Facebook has formed a company, Andela, that pays Nigerians to learn how to write code and then hires them to do web development. Why aren’t we training those in Appalachia to do the same?

If Donald Trump is going to be the great President he wants to be, he must have the wisdom to actually lead by informing his followers of the realities of the global economy and the new world order that is the economic reality of this age.

Successful Leaders Do Not Engage in Magical Thinking

If you are the CEO of a successful company, you have learned to be very skeptical of grandiose claims that are not backed up by detailed plans supported by data. They do not believe in magical thinking. Unfortunately, our media is saturated with magical fantasies.coal-production

There is a difference between selling or “making deals” and operating a company in a way that makes money. Donald Trump’s history is evidence that he is a great salesman and a terrible operator. After six bankruptcies, no major bank will lend him money. He opened the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City just as the market was becoming saturated, and his new casino drained business from his other two casinos. They all went bankrupt.

A good executive knows how to make money from operations, not simply from “deals” or promises. A successful operation is measured by more revenue coming in than expenses going out, and this is a result of effective process management and customer satisfaction. The truth is that none of our current generation of political leaders have demonstrated the discipline to rationalize revenue to expenses. That includes both parties and both executive and legislative branches. We need the basic business sense of someone who has successfully managed business operations!

Many of Trump’s promises are not based on reality. Just one example: He did a great job of appealing to the coal miners of Appalachia. He has promised to put miners back to work by reviving the coal industry. Of course, they voted for him.

I spent many years consulting in the energy industry and have some small understanding of the energy market. We are just about energy independent thanks to hydraulic fracturing technology. Vast amounts of natural gas have been made available and consequently the price of natural gas has not risen since 1998 when the pricoal-utilizationce was almost exactly what it is today. The world is awash with energy and prices will remain low. Oil and gas exploration is being cut back by the major oil companies because there is simply no market for new production.

No one burns coal in their homes. The market for coal is the electric utility industry and it competes with natural gas. The only way you put miners back to work, in any sustainable way is to double the price of natural gas. That would mean somehow creating a natural gas shortage. Exactly how is any President going to do that? It is not going to happen, and it is a disservice to those in coal country to create this false hope. In four years there will be more anger at one more politician’s failed promise.

One of the more insightful recent opinion pieces was by Tom Friedman who pointed out that since 1984 manufacturing output has doubled in the United States, contrary to popular belief. Auto industry production is near to all-time highs. We produce more manufactured goods now than ever before. But, manufacturing employment is one third of what it was. Jobs haven’t gone overseas. Jobs have gone to microprocessors! Anyone who works in manufacturing (and I do) knows that automated control systems, robotics and other computer controlled devices are what has replaced manufacturing jobs. But, few voters understand this.

export-agricultureManufacturing jobs are not going to increase substantially, regardless of any trade policy. However, imposing tariffs (like a proposed 45% tariffs on Chinese manufactured goods) would be a tax on the average American consumer. Every dollar of tariff imposed on goods coming from China is a dollar out of the pockets of Wal-Mart customers. It would also set off a trade war that would result in China not buying our debt (therefore, increased interest rates on the national debt and all other debt), and they would buy less agricultural goods from the U.S. and more from Canada and Latin America. How many voters from Iowa and Kansas understand that half of all agricultural production is exported and those exports depend on trade agreements? If Asian buyers stop buying our commodities the prices will crash and we would all lose. Trade wars never end well.

Slogans and emotions can get you elected but they do not improve economic conditions unless they are backed up by realistic planning that considers the fact that for every action there is a reaction. That is how economies work. But, the emotions of the slogans trumped the logic of rational planning. Magical thinking won the election battle but will lose the war.

The Failure of Empathy

Leaders have empathy and even love for their followers. There is that great scene when General Patton got out of his jeep and marched through the mud and rain alongside the privates of the U.S. Army’s Third Army as they marched to relieve the surrounded troops in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. It was symbolic of Patton’s affection for his soldiers. Patton was mimicking Alexander the Great. He even thought he was the reincarnation of Alexander. He wasn’t crazy. In spirit, he was Alexander.

When leaders express their love and empathy for their followers, the emotion is returned in devotion and loyalty to that leader.

Whatever one thinks of Donald Trump, he intuitively understood that a large population of Americans needed to feel empathy from a leader. The cheering crowds at his rallies were not simply “deplorables” or racists, or ignorant. And, I am not excusing the racists among them. They were average Americans who felt that they had been ignored, and they were happy to respond to someone who expressed empathy for their situation. Make America Great Again meant that “you will be respected and loved again.”

Hillary Clinton expressed empathy for minorities, immigrants and women and she won their vote. But, that wasn’t enough.

A test of Donald Trump’s leadership now is whether he will be able to express empathy for those “others” who now fear his presidency. The recent protests are not by what he termed “professional protestors.” That demeans them and fails to understand their fears, just as Hillary’s comment about “deplorables” was a failure of her ability to empathize with Trump’s followers. They all have legitimate concerns to which a leader must respond.

This same requirement for empathy is no less important for leaders of corporations.

Corporate executives, as well as politicians, can learn from the leadership successes and failures of the past months. I honestly pray that this country can move forward and not backward, that our leaders can unite us, give us purpose, and help us confront the realities of the world as it is and will be.

Free Book and Discount Offer for Lean Leaders

Free Book and Discount Offer for Lean Leaders

Implementing Lean Organization & Leadership

Dear Friends, 

I have three online courses that I consider the core courses for implementing lean leadership and culture. I have published a book that corresponds with each of these three courses. I want you to not only have lifetime access to the courses, but I also want you to have the corresponding book. 

teamkatalogo2So… I will email you an ebook/epub version of the corresponding book if you will sign up for any of the following courses using these coupons. Just email me (lmmiller@lmmiller.com) to let me know you have signed up and I will send you a copy of the corresponding ebook.

Team Leadership – The Kata of Lean Culture: $37 for the course and the Team Kata book. (Normally $150 for the course. Fifteen hours of team leadership training).

Strategy Execution: The Agile Lean Way: $37 for the course and the Getting to Lean book.  (Normally $150 for the course. Eighteen hours of lean strategy and organization design instruction).

Coaching Leaders for Success: $20 for the course and the The Lean Coach book. (Normally $40 for the course alone. Five hours of coaching instruction)

I hope this will encourage you to take advantage of my forty years of experience implementing lean culture and share this with your associates. Don’t forget to send me an email to get a copy of the book. 

Best wishes,

Larry Miller

*****Five Stars for Team Leadership: “It was a wonderful experience learning the skills for effective team building… well the whole course has been put together in a step by step way… I loved the Assessments at the end of every section which is kind of score card, and the wonderful part was that we could retake our own quiz. Your body language, voice and words were excellently put together in a manner so the listener won’t be bored but will become more attentive.”  Maha Neakakhtar

*****Five Stars for Strategy Execution: This is a very comprehensive course with extensive support material and is presented by a practitioner who has used these philosophies both within his own business and as a consultant to other businesses in a range of industries. The course provides a great background to the human and cultural needs of bringing about change in any organisation and this is supported by many examples from Larry’s previous clients and work experience.” David Pring

*****Five Stars for Coaching Leaders for Success: “Wow, this class came up at the right time. This aligns to what I will be doing very soon. I definitely agrees with understanding the needs to clients to avoid unnecessary conflicts due to conflict of interest in priorities from different clients.” Wesley Tam