Asking Jamie Flinchbaugh – What’s Going Well with Lean? What’s a Lean Zealot?


Joining me for Episode #261 is an old friend and trusted mentor, Jamie Flinchbaugh. Among other things, he's the co-author of the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to Lean. He writes for a number of publications, has his own blog, and was previously a guest blogger here on He's a speaker, investor (including in KaiNexus), and a great guy.

Jamie was previously a guest on episodes #5, #6, #10#50 (where he interviewed me), and #64. We were long overdue for another one. This episode is intentionally more conversational than most, with no more of a plan than me asking Jamie, “What's new?”

He's also in the final editing of a chapter for the book Practicing Lean, so I'm happy to be adding that to the book. Jamie will also be giving a keynote talk at our upcoming KaiNexus User Conference.

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For a link to this episode, refer people to

  • What are you thinking about and working on these days?
  • What's not working in the Lean community?
  • What's going well in the Lean community?
  • Lean is about behaviors, capabilities, not just tools
  • What's a “Lean zealot?”
  • A book you're read recently NOT about Lean
  • A movie or TV show people might be surprised that you love
  • Lessons from soccer coaching?
  • An unpopular or lesser known whiskey you enjoy?
  • The eBook Practicing Lean (Jamie is finishing up a chapter for the book)
  • The 2016 KaiNexus User Conference

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android appsor via Apple Podcasts.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher.

Thanks for listening!

Videos of Jamie Flinchbaugh:



Announcer (42s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog podcast. Visit our Now, here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (53s):
Hi, this is Mark Graban. Welcome to episode 261 of the podcast for August 30th, 2016. Joining me today is an old friend and a trusted mentor, Jamie Flinchbaugh among other things. He's the co-author of the book, the Hitchhikers Guide to Lean. He writes for a number of publications, has his own blog, and was previously a guest blogger here on He's a speaker and an investor, including companies like KaiNexus and just all around great guy. Now, Jamie was previously a guest on episodes number 5, 6, 10, 50, and 64 Were long overdue for another one.

Mark Graban (1m 35s):
This episode is intentionally more conversational than most, with no more of a plan coming into it, you know, than me asking Jamie what's new. So I hope you'll enjoy the chat that we had and the issues that are raised and discussed. Jamie's also in the process of doing the final editing of a chapter for the book Practicing Lean, so I'm happy to be adding that to the book in the near future. Jamie is also going to be giving a keynote talk at our upcoming KaiNexus user conference. So to find links to all of that, including the old episodes, go to lean 261. So today's podcast is gonna be a little bit different than most.

Mark Graban (2m 16s):
You know, normally there is, you know, sort of diligent planning of teeing up some questions and, you know, while I keep things conversational with our guests, we're gonna do something a little bit different today with her good friend Jamie Flinchbaugh. Hey Jamie, thanks for being here.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (2m 31s):
Thanks for having me.

Mark Graban (2m 32s):
So what we're gonna do different today, and Jamie and I have kind of pretty specifically said we're gonna do just kind of a free form, open conversation. We know each other pretty well and you know, think we'll have a good chat here. So just to tee things up, Jamie, what are you thinking about these days? What are, what are some things you've been working on?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (2m 51s):
Well, it's, I've had some opportunities to reflect, spent 15 years with Andy Carino in the Lean Learning Center. And now that I've left and looking at, looking at what else I'm doing, there's, it gives me a chance to reflect on what's, what's working, what's not working in the, in the lean world, not just the lean consulting world, but the lean world in general. So kind of a big step back and join some conclusions around where, where companies and organizations are with their lean journeys and, and also where the support infrastructure is for, for the Lean journey.

Mark Graban (3m 34s):
I mean, I, I guess it's sort of a lean style to, to start with the problems first. I mean, what, what's something in that category of, you know, kind of broadly speaking, what, what's not working in the lean world in, in certain instances we can come back and talk about things that are working, but what, what's something you see that's not working

Jamie Flinchbaugh (3m 55s):
Well? I think one thing that's not working is we're we've been too focused on training versus practice and, and, you know, training is necessary, training is good. How do you learn these things without some mech training mechanism? But, but too much of the, the plans are, are really based heavily on training first. And I've, I've said for a long time, you first need your, your application plan, what are you trying to do, what skill sets, what areas before you start building your training plan. But as I really look around, I, I see that we're almost further down the wrong path on a lot of applications.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (4m 41s):
So, you know, we train people without a clear expectation of the ability to support them. Yeah. And so, you know, we've seen that with organizations over the years, but it's one that I, I haven't seen yet a whole lot better.

Mark Graban (4m 55s):
Yeah, I mean, I, I would say, I mean, I think, you know, training, you know, to me it's, it's in that category of necessary but not fully sufficient. I mean, I think I see a lot of, i in the healthcare land, the, the tone or sometimes even very directly stated from executives is, you know, they think Lean is all about training the employees cuz the, it must be the, you know, the employees are the problem. They're not being lean, so we'll train them and now they're gonna be lean. I'm like, well wait a minute. It's not, no, I don't think that's not really it. Like what, what, maybe it kind of falls along the lines of not defining a problem statement. You know, say, well, somebody said lean training and they said Lean was good and our mental model says we, we learned stuff through training, so I'm gonna hire a trainer.

Mark Graban (5m 40s):
I see a lot of that.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (5m 41s):
Absolutely. Yeah. It's the first, it's the first thought and, and it's easy and it's easy to package and there's benefits. Oh sure. The training is, it's easy to control, it's very scalable. There's a lot of benefits, but we've, we've just been too centered on, on that. And I think one, one extension of that point that really gets to one of my other conclusions is that we've really done still a, a relatively poor job of integrating the lean mindset into the daily rhythm of the organization. And I don't mean just the ability to see waste and solve problems and do problem solving, but we still do every, everything still has lean in front of it as it's as a, as a denominator that says, well here's the Lean newsletter instead of just the communication plan.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (6m 37s):
Yeah. There's a lean training instead of just the manager training. And, and we're, we, we still have, you know, said lots of lean steering committees instead of just the executive management team and they're planning around how they lead the cultural transformation of the organization. And so getting this into the, the Daily fabric and saying we're what do we need to do to lean, lean, and then where does it fit from a touchpoint, from a cadence, from a decision making rights, where does it fit in the organization? Yeah. And that integration, I think is still many steps away.

Mark Graban (7m 12s):
Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, there's, there's difficult transitions from awareness to practice to understanding, trying to work toward mastery, but then also trying to go, you know, transitions from lean being something new and almost by definition having to be a program and, and transitioning or trying, you know, is, is it a matter of managing a transition or just waiting until it becomes the way we do things around here? A lot of organizations don't make those jumps, unfortunately.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (7m 49s):
Yeah. They, they don't. And, and you know, a lot of those, a lot of those journeys are very dependent upon one company learning from another. And so, I I, I saw this in fact today of an organization where there's somebody new, they had a strong lean program at their last company and it's the only company they've ever worked at. So they just picked up the package lock, stock and barrel. But the, the tangible package, not the whole thing because you can't, but the, the templates and the models and the agendas and the assessments and just brings it over and says, here's, here's the package, here's how we do it.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (8m 32s):
And, and that in many ways keeps it, keeps it separate. It also, I think leads to a lot of copycat and a lot of progression within certain industries, but lack of penetration into others. And so you still see a lot of different fields of work where there's very little efforts at really understanding how lean applies.

Mark Graban (8m 58s):
Yeah. And I think, you know, there's, I think, you know, there's a difference between being part of a really good lean system and making that leap out into other organizations and, and trying to help them turn around. So yeah, I know you, you and I both have, you know, been in organizations that were trying to go from bad to Good. I've seen, you know, back when I was in manufacturing 12 years ago, you know, a couple people I, and you know, I've, I've learned a ton from former Toyota people, so I'm not trying to fault them or, or generalize, but there was one guy I worked with at Honeywell who was a former Toyota guy, and he was just miserable cuz I, you know, I think he was hired in partly cuz well, you're gonna help us be more like Toyota.

Mark Graban (9m 46s):
And he got wound up in the cycle where he was just really miserable because Honeywell was not Toyota. And he would get really sidetracked, you know, and get really, really upset. And I, I think sometimes he just lost hope. Like he, it wasn't Toyota, so part of his brain just sort of shut off and it, and it started feeling kind of hopeless to him. And I've, I've seen similar things in healthcare where I've talked to people who had been at Theta Care for a long time, that was their only lean experience and, and they felt like, okay, well here's a smoothly functioning system and they got hired in somewhere else and, and they feel kind of lost maybe in a different way. Like, well, this place is not Theta Care. What do I do next?

Mark Graban (10m 27s):
I mean, you've you've probably worked with people who were trying to help organizations that way. What, what kind of, what, what have you done to help people who there could be a listener out there who feel similarly lost? I'm, I'm curious what your thoughts are.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (10m 40s):
Sure. Well, I'm sure there is. I think one, one phrase that we adopted a long time ago was, if you're not frustrated, you're, you're probably not working on the right problem. Yeah. And so, you know, that's, that's more empathy than it is actually solving it. But I, I do think I, I do think there's some truth in that is that if you, if you really do want to make an impact, it's going to be frustrating. I mean, just that's what you signed up for when you said you wanted to make a difference. Yeah. So I think there's some realization in that, but as far as why we get so trapped into that, you know, in very good lean thinkers, and it's certainly many of the, the, the lean pundits, if you will, the gurus have a very idealistic view.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (11m 26s):
We think about what the ideal state looks like. We think about how the world should work and what we're trying to make it work like, and we can't get there. At least we can't get there very quickly. And, and I think setting more sensible and pragmatic goals along the way of, well, you know what, I'm not trying to change the culture. I'm just trying to change Bob, you know, and I'm gonna work on Bob and get Bob to, to a point where he's engaged and then I'll work on the next goal and, and celebrate and, and recognize the progress made in that way. Yeah. Because it, it doesn't happen all at once. And when you're ideal, when you have a very powerful and and far out ideal state vision, you can't measure.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (12m 16s):
It's, it's, it's such a distance. You can make huge progress, but it looks like 1% and it feels very useless. So you need to be able to measure progress for yourself and, and see do the look back as well as the look forward.

Mark Graban (12m 31s):
I think that's a good reminder. I mean, what, what are the old, the, the circle the circle of interest? The circle of influence? No, what you said resonates with me because, you know, there are good things going on in, in healthcare. People are changing cultures. They're, they're putting a management system in place where what existed before, arguably what, you know, it just wasn't, wasn't a management system and they're making progress on patient safety. But yeah, I mean, I'm, I'm guilty of this as well. You see, well, you know, the ideal, kinda like people in manufacturing talk about zero defects and healthcare, we talk about zero harm and yeah, it seems a long way off sometimes.

Mark Graban (13m 13s):
So it's good to step back and make progress with something somewhere at least feel like there's some forward momentum. Right?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (13m 21s):
Absolutely. And you know, you never know. I mean, the organization there is organizational science, but it's not a, it's not a precise machine and you never know which step of progress is going to lead to other breakthroughs. So you make one step of progress, it might lead to one other step of progress. You also might make a step of progress, and all of a sudden there's 40 things going on at once. And it is, it's, there's ways in advance to sort of analyze the potential of those different steps. But there's, there's no way to really know which one or ones are going to in total actually work.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (14m 1s):
So the more you keep moving forward, you never know when that's gonna start triggering a whole bunch of, of breakthroughs.

Mark Graban (14m 8s):
Yeah. And it's not even as simple as two steps forward, one step or yeah, two steps forward, one step back or that step back, back leads to steps forward. Lots of little steps sometimes lead to a big leap forward. I mean, I'm reminded, when I was in Japan a couple years ago as a hospital ceo, they'd been doing TQM and quality and he was early engaged in that and lean terminology and method was still pretty new to them. But yeah, they, they had this great foundation and they had a leadership, a leader, a CEO who realized and you know, said, Hey, you know, quality is my responsibility. This is my organization. And he was talking about, you know, you know, the side, this approach, you know, he talked, he was basically saying the in the center, like, you know, the US he said, you know, innovation is really a trendy thing to talk about here in Japan, but you know, nobody really, you can't really plan to innovate.

Mark Graban (14m 60s):
All you can do is do lots and lots of improvement and you stumble across innovation, which, you know, seems, seems really like kind of the classic kaizen message. It's not even lots of little ideas lead to a big impact, but little ideas sometimes, you know, striving for li little ideas, you, you stumble across a big idea occasionally. I thought it was a really interesting point that he made.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (15m 22s):
Yeah. And I think that idea, the, the, the efforts to get your arms around it, whether it's innovation or lean, a lot of the advice ends up being very similar in that you need your Kaizen promotion office, you need your, your lean team, you need your innovation function because it's, it's very easy to then get your arms around the work, you know, who you need to talk to, you know, who owns the plan. And I think in some ways it's one of the failures of outside organizations, consultants, educators, gurus. Because, you know, we can't touch every part of the organization. It is, it, it's, it's, it's too nebulous.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (16m 6s):
It's too large, it's too little bandwidth. And I'm not saying that those are bad things to have a Kaizen promotion office or a lean team. No, it's not that they're bad things have, it's just that we've tried to channel so much of the efforts through one set of resources and, and that's not the embodiment of your Lean journey.

Mark Graban (16m 27s):
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, Kaizen Promotion Office or lean department, it, I think to me it comes back to that theme of necessary but not sufficient where, you know, sometimes people overly rely on that department, anytime's a problem, well write up a charter, send it to the, the lean department, and they're maybe, you know, short changing the process of trying to build capabilities. Now, you know, the lean team may come in and say, well, you know, our goal is not just to solve this for you, but to build capabilities, you know, if they're a good lean team. But, you know, I guess, you know, if we're making, if we're making someone's taking notes here, you know, there can be an overreliance on training, there can be an overreliance on the KPO or the Lean office.

Mark Graban (17m 10s):
There can be an overreliance on lean events. I mean, I guess there's these, these are old stories, I guess, or cautionary tales even from manufacturing. I see people doing that in healthcare even.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (17m 23s):
Yeah, absolutely. It's, you know, it's, they, they aren't necessarily new problems, it's just how far have we made progress on, on getting past 'em? And they'll, they'll always be there to some degree. But we need to, we, I I think we, we do need some creative solutions and some different approaches to, to start thinking about them differently. Yeah.

Mark Graban (17m 49s):
Well, so let, let's shift and, and you know, I think we've pointed out, you know, kind of in the spirit of continuous improvement, you know, what are some things that we see or a problem, you know, you, you and I individually and listeners as individuals, you know, we can, we can do something about some of those problems or, or concerns turn that into improvement or a better path. But, you know, if I'm curious from your reflection, I mean, what are some things that you see that are working, or is there any, any, any, any trends that kind of excites you about what you see going on out there in the practice of Lane?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (18m 27s):
Well, I think, I, I think we are significantly not past, but made a lot of progress on the idea that Lean is about behaviors, lean is about capabilities, and it's not just about tools. So, so that, that's a drum I've been beating for a very long time and I'm not, I'm not done with it, but it certainly right, has, has come a long way, whether it's the consultant community or the, the book writing and author community or the internal leaders that see lean in a certain way. I think we've come a very long way in that, in that particular area.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (19m 7s):
But I think as that once, once it's about behaviors and capabilities, then it's about where do we start to deploy them? And, and thinking, thinking big instead of thinking small, meaning are we truly integrating this into our strategy and saying, this is where we want to go, this is how we're going to get there. And that's all one conversation, that's all one thought process as opposed to the, the idea that we, you know, we develop a strategy and then everybody figures out how they can use lean to help them get there as a, as a, as an afterthought.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (19m 48s):
Mm. So I think, I think that's, I've seen a lot of improvement in that particular area where when, when the lean, the center of the lean conversation is not finding trivial problems to solve, it is really trying to find important problems to solve and change the organization. Again, part of that, where is our strategy going and how do we have to operate differently? I think one of the other interesting trends that, that helps enable that is that we're also seeing an awful lot of people who, who grew up with lean and now in leadership roles.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (20m 29s):
So one of the biggest challenges in the past was how do I convince my plant manager, c e o whatever leadership position you wanted, and now more than ever, they're the ones leading it. They, they might have, they, it came up through the ranks. They might have even done a stint on a, a lean team and now they're the plant manager. Now they're the VP of ops, now they're the, the, the ceo. And, and you know, they might not be a lean zealot, but they're, they're, they're certainly a lean thinker and a lean leader. And, and they naturally work that way more because of their ability to practice with high repetition and high focus and coaching earlier in their career.

Mark Graban (21m 15s):
So, lemme take a detour cuz you used a phrase that always fascinates me and I've got mixed feelings about it. Lean zealot, like, you know, that that, that word, it's, it's a loaded word in different ways. I mean, how, how do you define a lean zealot? Do you, do you view that as generally a positive thing or are there downsides sometimes where someone's lean zealotry is a problem?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (21m 38s):
Well, absolutely. So if you, if you go back to the definition, it is, you know, as passionate but uncompromising and, and, and it's the uncompromising where it causes problems. Yeah. Because you kind of say, no, this is, we gotta do it this way. If we don't do it this way, then we can't call it lean. It's not right. It's not the way Toyota would do it. It's not the way these guys would do it. And so it's wrong, therefore you're wrong. And they go off on a tangent. So, so zealot is, is passion, but uncompromising passion. One of the most interesting compliments I ever got, somebody called me a pragmatic zealot.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (22m 19s):
Yeah. Which I, I like, cuz I, I do like, I am passionate. I do like to hold myself, my clients, people around me to a higher standard. But there's still a pragmatism to what, you know, what you can do when and where and how. Yeah. But I think I, I think you have to be careful with the Zelle. I think we need them, and I think the reason they need them, we need them, is that without them, we would compromise our way down to nothing. Right. So if we, if we just kept compromising and saying, well, we probably can't do that, so let's just do a little bit less. And yeah. Oh, that's pretty hard too. Let's just do a little bit less.

Mark Graban (22m 56s):
Or if you say, ah, you know, who cares? Do whatever you want. I mean, yeah, that too much of that can get things off in a bad path. I mean, I I've, I've been guilty at times. I mean, I, or you know, the good and the bad of Lean Zealotry. I mean, there's times where I've gone down maybe a path that's not helpful or, you know, it's not always, or you know, it's, you know, it probably turns some people off. I guess that's the risk of zealotry. Some people say, yeah, thanks, thanks for sticking up for that point. And then sometimes people might look at that and say, well, that's not real attractive way to be. Or it may turn peop may turn people off.

Mark Graban (23m 37s):
But I I I sometimes also hear the phrase Lean purist and that makes me scratch my head sometimes. Like, what, what, what does that mean mean is is is that just a different flavor of Lean zealot? What, what's that phrase mean to you?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (23m 51s):
I think it can be of a form of lean zealot, but I, I think it, it might very much mean the context in what, how, why somebody's describing themselves that way. And, and the reason I say that is that there's, there's a lot of very derivative products, if you will, very strange deviations in the lean journey that people don't know where they came from. And so it's, I think it's, to some, it means that I don't try to follow this nice little packaged version. I try to go back to the original version. Yeah. The true version, the pure version.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (24m 31s):
So I think, you know, there's certainly a hint of elitism in it, but I think probably more than not, there's some, some goodness in it. They are seeking a, a, a good effective and true version of, of Lean as opposed to a manipulated packaged. And, and, and to use your phrase, lame version of Lean

Mark Graban (24m 57s):
Is the, as the acronym for those who aren't familiar with my incredibly awkward acronym, you know, lame la Lean as Misguidedly executed or lean as mistakenly explained. I mean, you're, you're making me reflect a little bit, and I think I, you know, I do get a bit zealous when, when I hear people say, and I've blogged about this a bunch, I won't go on and on about it now, but you know, when, when people in the Lean Six Sigma crowd say, you know, lean is for speed and you need Six Sigma for quality, I'm like, well, wait a minute. I think, I think that's demonstrably a false statement. And you know, I think there, there's an uncompromising principle there that the core of lean and TPS is about flow and quality that they go hand in hand.

Mark Graban (25m 43s):
And, you know, no, I don't think someone's entitled to a different set of facts about their, about that. But, you know, I try not to be dogmatic in ways where, you know, I, I, you know, sing, like, to me a single piece flow is a direction. Like, I would never label a process as well. Well that's not lean because they're doing batches of four. Like, well, they used to do batches of 40, so, you know, I'll take it for what it is. It's way better than it used to be. You know, I'm not dogmatic about saying, well, you know, you always have to start with 5s. Well, well why? Like, wait a minute, you know, we can, we can challenge that. And, you know, so I I I think there's a difference between, you know, I think there, there's room for debate in some areas, and then I think there's certain things where I think we have to be uncompromising, such as the idea of, you know, sticking up for Lean and Toyota when people say, you know, as I heard a guy once say, well, if you apply lean to a quality problem, you'll make defects faster.

Mark Graban (26m 41s):
I'm like, man, that's, that's just bs. And if, if saying so gets me labeled a zealot or a purist, okay, I, I can sleep with, you know, I can sleep well at night with that, you know?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (26m 52s):
Yeah. And I think, I think some of it is, you know, there's opportunities to educate people in those moments because Yeah, it is, it is from a sense of ignorance and, and, you know, most ignorances were, were blind to, and I'm sure I'm blind to my, my moments of ignorance, but I, I recently commented on somebody who was really sort of chastising, lean, kind of using a very, very weak effort, in my opinion, to, to talk about solving really complex problems with spaghetti diagrams and value stream maps. And, and it was, it was really just, it, it's one thing to be wrong about it, it's another thing to stand up and say it on a stage.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (27m 38s):
And, and I think if you try to, which I've seen people are Yeah. Which we see plenty of, which people are trying to promote just a flawed understanding. That's when I think it's worth, not worth criticizing, but at least worth trying to correct or at least squeeze into the same conversation, at least an opposing view. At least get it out there and not allow it to go unchallenged.

Mark Graban (28m 3s):
Yeah. And I think I react differently to it where, let's say if I was working with a client or if I was doing training and, and somebody said kind of in the spirit of like, well, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm new to this and it seems like blah, blah, blah. And they say one of those things. I I would be a lot more patient in teaching and coaching mode. I react differently when I hear somebody label themselves an expert, a word blah, you know, I don't like that word. Or, you know, guru or whatever. And, you know, and they're standing up in sort of, in, in a spirit of expertise or I'm a world-class something or other, but they think they're a world-class expert. They end up sounding like a world class something else.

Mark Graban (28m 45s):
But, you know, I think, yeah, when, when someone's speaking from authority and, and they're, they're kind of spouting, like you said, you know, ignorance is like, is is it their fault that they haven't been taught something? Or is it their fault that they've been taught the wrong thing? Maybe not. I, I try to be a little patient, but it's harder.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (29m 6s):
It, it's hard. And, and you know, I think it, it's one thing to stand up on a stage and, and, and spew the wrong understanding. But then if, if you aren't willing to at least listen to other viewpoints, the then it, that's, that's a whole different different problem to me. And I've tried to, there's a lot of things, this is my opportunity to reflect, having, having kind of run a business with, with some fundamental principles. Not just about lean, but around how I run a business, how I do things from a business standpoint. And there's a lot of them that, you know, I, I've, I kind of held true.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (29m 48s):
I just said, this is how we do things. And I operated that way for a long time. And now I'm, I'm looking at and say, you know, I'm open to challenges, open to new ideas, open to reconsideration. And I think that's, you know, it's a nice opportunity to reflect. And a lot of the changes are, or, or, or opportunities to, to think differently is just because, you know, the world changes, it matures, it, it all sorts of context around it changes.

Mark Graban (30m 18s):
Yeah. We talk about people standing on stage spouting ignorance and being unwilling to learn. It sounds like we're suddenly talking about politics, but we're,

Jamie Flinchbaugh (30m 30s):
Well, somebody cuts in there, they might think that, but of course that's, that's been true for, for generations.

Mark Graban (30m 36s):
I, I I and, and, and my, my, I think I'm a nonpartisan cynic or a, a bipartisan cynic. I don't know, but any, so let, let's, let's do, I, I jotted out a few questions. May, let's do a little bit more rapid fire, random topics. Greg Jacobson and I from Conexus, we just, we sometimes do an ask us anything. And, and sometimes that, that leads to unusual questions. So what, what's a book you've read recently that's not about lean, that you really enjoyed and would recommend to people?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (31m 10s):
So, easy choice is Deep Work.

Mark Graban (31m 13s):
Say, say that again, I'm sorry. Cut out the,

Jamie Flinchbaugh (31m 15s):
The, the book is Deep Work. Deep work. And it's, you know, it's, it's really about how, how difficult it is to think creatively, deeply, effectively about a topic, a problem or whatever. When we're, we're basically constantly just responding, reacting, and immersed in information flows and emails and meetings and everything else, then it partly lays out the problem, but also gives ideas for how to start to fix it. And I've already, you know, it is not a new problem. And it, and most of the prescriptions aren't, aren't aren't that creative in the sense that some of it's, you know, common sense, you know, it's very hard to think creatively Yeah.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (32m 1s):
In five minute intervals if that's all you're gonna give yourself. So you've gotta find a way to peel away. Yeah. You've gotta find a way to, to blog out other stuff and focus. And so I've, I've started to adjust some of my own habits and routines and, and other planning on my calendar to make sure I have the opportunity for, for Deep Work. Yeah.

Mark Graban (32m 27s):
I think a book, and I'm not fully finished with it yet, but I've really been enjoying it. And it, it mentions Lean and Toyota, but it's not a book about lean per se, the book team of teams by retired general Stanley McChrystal. It, you know, it's a business book. It's about leadership and the need for organizations to be more nimble and less top down, you know, lessons from the way the military has evolved with the way the world has changed. That, that's a book I've really enjoyed. Have, have you, have you read that one or?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (33m 2s):
I haven't read that one, but I, I, I enjoy, I almost always have a history book, often a biography going at the same time as I'm reading more educational books. I, I recently finished one on Ku Vanderbilt and sticking with the theme of industrial era of moguls and reading about biography about John d Rockefeller Now, and both, both were, were were long but fascinating stories.

Mark Graban (33m 32s):
What's a, what's a movie or a TV show that you really love that might surprise people that, that you love? So there's probably, you know what, what's something that might be surprising?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (33m 45s):
Yeah, I'm not, that's, that's a tough one. You know, I, I do like things like the profit on cnbc, which,

Mark Graban (33m 53s):
Well, that probably wouldn't surprise people, which

Jamie Flinchbaugh (33m 55s):
Wouldn't surprise people, right? So I

Mark Graban (33m 56s):
Love Bar Rescue. That probably doesn't surprise people either.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (33m 60s):
Probably not. So, so that's, that's a, that's a tough one of what would surprise people. I don't, I don't tend to watch a whole lot of television anymore, but boy, you know, a movie. A lot of people that know me know I like, I like saw her, but there's a, a movie, it's hard to find good movies about soccer, but there's one that's also a historical movie called The Damned United. It's been out a long time. It's about Brian cloth in, in England and his turmoil going through matching up his ego with odors of clubs. And it's a, a fairly profane movie, but, but an interesting story, especially knowing some of the, the context that led into it.

Mark Graban (34m 48s):
Yeah. Well you, you did a good job coming up with an answer cuz I, I, I was struggling, I was listening to what you were saying, but I was also thinking, gosh, how would I answer that? You, you can sayer that doesn't surprise anyone. My, my my favorite movie of all time is the, the, the fa you know, it, it created the genre of the fake mock documentary. This is Spinal Tap is Oh yes. My favorite movie. I've, I've probably watched that a hundred times and every time I watch it, there's some little detail that makes me laugh in a different way than the other 99 times I've watched that movie.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (35m 26s):
It's been a long time since I saw that one.

Mark Graban (35m 28s):
It's, it, it, it, I think it holds up. It, you know, it's from 30 years ago, but I, I think that's one that holds up. Well, you, you mentioned soccer. I was gonna ask you, and, and I have no answer for this because I've never played soccer other than on the playground in elementary school, and I don't have kids, you spent a lot of time playing and coaching and watching soccer. Is there a lesson from coaching your kids about leadership or anything that, that you would pass on to people?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (35m 58s):
Well, there's, there's, there's a lot. I've actually been thinking more about this lately, partly just to advance my own coaching mindset, but also just because I, I'd like to integrate those two worlds a bit. So working on an article that lays out one of the leadership models I use and examples from, from coaching. But I, I'd say the first, the biggest thing for me is really being able to check your decisions against your intentions. So for me, player development and human development is why I coach.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (36m 40s):
Yeah. So it, it, what that means is that if, if somebody's in a situation where, you know, we might lose the game or at least create a risk, but taking them out of a position is gonna hurt them or miss a really good opportunity to develop them, for them to learn a lesson that goes beyond soccer, but also will make them a better soccer player. Yeah. And if I don't take that opportunity to, to give that person that opportunity to learn and change how they think and how they act, and both on and off the field, then I'm a hypocrite, then I'm not about, I am about winning the game more than I am about player development.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (37m 24s):
So I think that the lesson for me has been to be very, very aware of my decisions and how are they consistent with my espoused values, which is first and foremost about player in human development.

Mark Graban (37m 40s):
Yeah. I mean, what, what you said there really reinforces, I think classic lean principles, the idea of not just solving the problem or hitting your metrics, but developing people and, and really putting heavy emphasis on that people development. And I know people, I've, I've never heard this directly from, from Toyota, but I know people have toured Toyota plants and been surprised by a message where somebody said, well, you know, we really make developing people the primary goal. And I think that's kind of what you're saying though, maybe it's okay to not win every day. Like in terms of, you know, what, what's, what are your production goals? Hopefully you don't compromise too much on quality and I wouldn't accuse them of that, but sometimes you lose the day to set yourself up for future success, right.

Mark Graban (38m 29s):
I mean, it seems like, yep. Maybe there's a parallel and John Shook always talks about, you know, that that old leadership habit of jumping in and giving people an answer or solving the problem for them, that you've, like you were saying, you've, you've stolen an opportunity for somebody to learn if, if you do that. And I guess sounds like similar things can happen out on, what do you call it, the pitch

Jamie Flinchbaugh (38m 52s):
Out on the pitch on the pitch. Yeah. It's, it's, I I think of course, winning is part of learning and you have to learn how to win too in the end. But if, if, if you have a really long-term metric or, or way to evaluate, even if you can't get the feedback, it helps keep you true to how would I know if I was successful in what I really set out to do. So, yeah. So for me, what I always tell people is my ultimate measure of success is how many of the players I coach now grow up and is as adults, whether as a parent or otherwise.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (39m 32s):
They continue, they coach themselves because they developed an association for the sport itself. They developed an appreciation for the role of coaching and they, they go on to do some of that themselves. I'm not pretending I'm developing the next pro players, but if I can develop them to have a relationship with a sport for their lives, that's, that's long-term deal. I'll never be able to measure that. But that's how I look at it.

Mark Graban (39m 58s):
Okay. Well maybe one other question here and, and for the listeners, Jamie and I have brainstormed a little bit. I've brainstormed with, with Michael Lombard, who's a, a good friend of the blog and the podcast. Some of you may know of doing maybe a different podcast series, not exactly like we've been doing today. A little bit more structured, but, but definitely conversational around kinda a variation of the conversation meeting method called Lean Coffee. For people who, who are familiar with that method. It's a way of sort of, you know, getting group voting on different topics and setting time limits and going through those different topics. So, you know, go to lean if you are not familiar with this method, but Jamie and I have been talking about doing something called Lean Whiskey where, you know, it's a little bit looser format, not in the interview, but we'll, we'll tee up topics.

Mark Graban (40m 50s):
Maybe we can take suggestions of topics from the listeners and, and do a little bit looser more conversational podcasts. So Jamie, I think I've sort of talked you into giving that a try maybe, right?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (41m 4s):
Well, absolutely, and I, I think about, you know, if I go to a conference, you know, when do I have my most interesting conversations where I learn and it's, it's, to me, it's tough to learn a whole lot just, just hanging out at a conference. But, but you know, you, you attend the right seminars or the right speakers or the right presentations and, and you get, you know, somebody comes up afterwards and gives you a five minute question, it's pretty hard to go deep. You, you give your best answer and then they're like, they thank you and they move on and somebody else steps up and asks a question. So it, it's not, it's tough to get a real flow going, but, but afterwards, at the end of the day when, depending on the conference, if a couple of us end up, end up off in a corner, over a drink and start talking shop, there's some really interesting conversations that that take place.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (41m 59s):
And, and you know, that's, that, that happens a lot of, a lot of places, but, you know, when we're online, when we're disconnected in person, it's, it's tough to go, it's tough to have those, every, every interaction has a purpose and it's tough to just kind of relax and have the conversation. So yeah, they gets a neat idea.

Mark Graban (42m 18s):
And I'm gonna be at the Lean Accounting Summit next week, Lean Management Summit in San Antonio, or it's next week from when we recorded this. If you're listening, it's, it's already happened, probably, but I think they were doing, I I'm trying to remember if it was an evening event, if they called it Lean Cocktails or I'm, I'm curious if it's structured in that same way. I'm, I'm not trying to trademark Lean Whiskey, but I think the idea is to have a, a conversation and we, we, we may sip on a little whiskey maybe when we're recording those future podcasts. I haven't been, today, I'm fighting allergies and drinking water, but, we'll, we'll give that a try. Maybe that's a bit of a teaser for the people listening. But last question for you, Jamie.

Mark Graban (42m 60s):
What is sort of a, a lesser known whiskey that, that you've got on your shelf that, that you enjoy and recommend?

Jamie Flinchbaugh (43m 10s):
Boy, I've got a, I've, most of the whiskeys on my shelf are, are lesser known, but it's probably probably the two favorite that I'm, I'm working my way through the bottle now is Caol Illa. And Caol Illa is, from what I understand, is kind of been a long-term supplier for some of the, the big brands, but this is their own, yeah, their own model.

Mark Graban (43m 39s):
A lot of those whiskeys go into blends like Johnnie Walker or other Right. Other

Jamie Flinchbaugh (43m 44s):
Producers. This is Johnny Walker, I believe they're one of the major suppliers to Johnnie Walker for a long, long time. So this is their own, own low small batch offering.

Mark Graban (43m 55s):
Yeah. And those, those are both, I think really peaty whiskeys, right? I I know Lagavulin generally

Jamie Flinchbaugh (44m 3s):
Lagavulin is not so much, but Lagavulin certainly is. And I, I like mixing it up. I don't drink scotch, scotch or whiskey every day, but I like, I like variety in my life.

Mark Graban (44m 16s):
Yeah. I'm the same way. And, you know, so a scotch I would recommend for people is from a distillery called Ben Riach. It's b e n r i a c h. It's a little bit luster known. It's a Speyside whiskey. They've got a number of varieties and you, you can find it sometimes at a better liquor store or a bar. But I'll, I'll also make a recommendation occasionally, I, I like drinking, you know, bourbon, which is of course, you know, by definition an American product and, and not necessarily from Kentucky. So there is a Texas producer, I've, I've blogged about them and I'll, I'll, I'll make a plug. It's called Garrison Brothers.

Mark Graban (44m 57s):
They make what is legally classified federal designation, straight bourbon whiskey, even though it's made in Texas. And I really enjoy the product and the people there. And I've gotten to participate in the process, which, which I've blogged about recently too. So that's my other, other recommendation. So I don't know if I, oh, maybe I'll get a chance to share that with you sometime, Jamie.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (45m 20s):

Mark Graban (45m 21s):
But final thing, I'll just make a quick plug is we wrap up here. I, I think I used the phrase practicing lean earlier. I, I've had a ebook project. It's out there with about 15 or 16 chapters right now. The book is titled Practicing Lean. It's available if you go to practicing, or you can find it now on Amazon as a Kindle book. And the proceeds all go to a cause that I'm, I'm very passionate about the Louise Batz Patient Safety Foundation. Goodness, That thunder came right through the microphone. I bet. Sorry. But that, that book has been kind of a, a, a labor of love of people writing chapters about their early days of lean.

Mark Graban (46m 6s):
And Jamie, Jamie Flinchbaugh here is finishing up a chapter contribution to that book. So for those of you who have already bought the book, you'll get that update with Jamie's chapter. And if you haven't bought it yet, maybe Jamie's participation will get you into that. But you know what, gi give a a quick 32nd preview of your chapter if that's possible, Jamie.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (46m 29s):
Yeah, I think it's possible. And this goes back to my, my early days in Lean with Harley Davidson trying to solve some problems in our very complex and integrated poll system. Did some very deep dive observation and in the, in the chapter try to share, share some of the lessons from that, from that observation and how it really affected my lean life, my lean mindset as I've gone forward.

Mark Graban (47m 0s):
Yeah. So it's, it's, it's, it's a great chapter and I'm looking forward to that being part of the book. And I'm looking forward to doing some more podcasts with you, Jamie. You know, I always enjoy talking with you and, and I think it's good we can share that with an audience.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (47m 15s):
Excellent. I always like being involved. You've truly been sort of a, a curator of the lean community in many ways, finding things, sharing them, and keeping us all engaged. So I appreciate coming on anytime I

Mark Graban (47m 30s):
Can. Yeah. And I just wanna remind people and this, well, thank, thank you for that, Jamie. And I was gonna remind people that, that Jamie and I are gonna cross paths in early November. For those of you who are KaiNexus customers who are listening to this, we are doing our second annual KaiNexus user conference. And, and Jamie and I are both gonna be, we're kind of bookending the first day with sharing some thoughts and, and, and talks that we're each giving. So would definitely encourage people go, Ian, just do a Google search for KaiNexus user conference. If you are a customer or if you've been talking to us or working with us, I hope you will check that out. So Jamie, thanks again for doing that, and thanks again for having a good conversation today.

Jamie Flinchbaugh (48m 15s):
Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.



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