Podcast Bonus Episode: Jamie Flinchbaugh, Revisited from 2006
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We've been on hiatus over the summer here, so I've taken a look back at some of the older episodes from the podcast archives, while being on a bit of a hiatus from recording new episodes.
Today we're looking back at my first episodes with my good friend, Jamie Flinchbaugh.
My voice has gone on hiatus this week… since I can't talk, I asked him to record this intro for a podcast where we look back at some episodes he's been involved in.
Jamie was my guest for Episodes 5 and 6 back in 2006, then again for Episode 10 that year. In 2008, he turned the tables and interviewed me in Episode 50. Then, I interviewed Jamie in Episodes 64 and 261, and Jamie turned the tables once again to interview me, in Episode 316, about my book Measures of Success.
In April 2019, Jamie and I started the “Lean Whiskey” podcast and we plan on recording episode #29 of that series on Sunday… if my voice is back to normal.
Today, we're sharing Episodes 5 and 6 together. The episodes were shorter back then, so combined it's just under 30 minutes of audio, talking about Waste and the Role of Leadership.
I hope you enjoy our discussion from 2006, almost exactly 15 years ago. As always, thanks for listening, and please do check out “Lean Whiskey.”
The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in their 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.
This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network.
Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)
Jamie Flinchbaugh (0s):
Hi everyone. It's not Mark Graban. This is Jamie Flinchbaugh This summer, the lean blog podcast has been pretty much on hiatus. And mark has been releasing some of the older episodes with newly recorded introductions. Well, Mark's voice is pretty much gone on hiatus this week. And since he can't talk with a lost voice, he asked me to record this intro for a podcast where we look back at some of the episodes I've been involved in. I was his guest for episodes five and six back in 2006. And then again, in episode 10 later that year in 2008, I turned the tables and interviewed mark in episode 50.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (43s):
And then mark interviewed me in episodes 64 and 261. I then turned the tables again to interview Mark in episode 316, about his book Measures of Success and April, 2019 Mark and I started the Lean Whiskey podcast together, and we plan on recording episode 29 of that series on Sunday. If his voice is back to normal, but isn't whiskey the cure all? Today, we're sharing episodes five and six together, back then the episodes were shorter. So it's combined just under 30 minutes and we talk about waste and the role of leadership.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (1m 25s):
I hope you enjoy our 2006 discussion almost exactly 15 years ago. And as always, thanks for listening. And please do check out Lean Whiskey.
Announcer (1m 30s):
Welcome to the lean blog podcast. Visit our website www.leanblog.org. Now here's your host Mark Graban.
Mark Graban (1m 41s):
This is Mark Graban of the lean blog. Today is September 10th, 2016. And this is episode number five of the lean blog podcast. Today we have the first part of a conversation with Jamie Flinchbaugh, founder and partner with the lean learning center and co-author of the book, the Hitchhiker's Guide to Lean prior to starting the center. Jamie has had a long career as a lean manufacturing leader with Chrysler, with DTE Energy, as well as Rev Motorcycles, another company he helped start. Jamie is also a regular contributor to the lean blog, and I'm very happy to have him here today. We talk about waste is defined in lean manufacturing and the specific language of waste elimination. Our second podcast will focus on leadership's role in waste elimination.
Mark Graban (2m 21s):
So you can subscribe to the podcast or stay tuned to the lean blog to learn about when that will be available. Jamie, once again, thanks for being here on the podcast with us today.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (2m 34s):
Thank you Mark.
Mark Graban (2m 36s):
One thing I wanted to talk about today, our topic is going to be waste. And in reading your book, Hitchhiker's Guide to Lean one of the things that jumped out at me as kind of an interesting idea, you used some terminology to talk about the notion of hatred for waste and wanted to kind of get your thoughts on why you chose that terminology and why that's an important distinction and how we former attitudes about waste.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (3m 2s):
Sure. I think I always say that word hatred for waste it's, it's certainly drawn some reactions from folks and, you know, hatred isn't usually considered a positive thing, but I think the, the, the important distinction is that the word hatred compels action, you know, when you hate something, it should compel you to some kind of action. If you hate the way you look, you might be compelled to go on a diet. If you hate waste, you might be compelled to do something about eliminating it. I think everybody's dissatisfied with waste. They see around them in business. And, you know, it's hard to have many conversations about work without someone expressing some kind of dissatisfaction, but that doesn't compel very much action.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (3m 44s):
And we, we care about waste elimination. It's not wasted. Identification is only a means to the elimination and it's that compelling action that we really care about.
Mark Graban (3m 56s):
So did you see companies out there that get kind of hung up on maybe an analysis phase of lean where, you know, they've gone through and whether it's through value stream mapping or brainstorming or, or are they getting hung up on creating lists of waste that they're not necessarily doing anything about?
Jamie Flinchbaugh (4m 10s):
I think that's a part of it. You know, part of it is it comes to waste itself actually even goes before the analysis part. And that is I see an awful lot in books and in classes and in companies where we talk about waste simply as a reason for doing all the other stuff. So we do pull and we do 5S and we do all this stuff for the benefit of eliminating waste, but we don't actually treat waste as a tool or method unto itself. And waste elimination should be a daily activity. People should put on a pair of glasses, a waste elimination, and look around at what they have in front of them and do something about it that day.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (4m 52s):
So I think it starts even before most companies are too many companies. They're not even using waste to do analysis, let alone elimination. And then once it gets to the analysis phase, you can, we can really get, get hung up around, especially, you know, what should we focus on first what's first, second, and third. And you know, there's, there's certainly, you don't want to waste time. You want to get as much progress as possible and you want people to take the right action, but you don't learn much looking at a piece of paper. You only learn by doing something. And so we've seen companies that, you know, might spend three months discussing what to do. And the reason they're there arguing about it is because they don't want to waste three months doing the wrong thing, but you just wasted three months doing nothing, which is much, much worse, right?
Mark Graban (5m 39s):
It's better to, to jump in and work on eliminating lace waste and learn something in the process I would imagine. And it's interesting, you mentioned waste as a tool and maybe you can talk about that a little more because I guess I hadn't thought of waste elimination as a tool know, 5S and Kanban are things that jumped to mind as, as lean tools where, you know, with wastes, that seems more of more of a concept than a tool. And I mean, is there any, if you could elaborate on that and then, you know, is there any risk of maybe focusing on waste to the detriment of what would be important for the customer or, you know, focusing on waste so much that you're ignoring, maybe the value creation side of lean?
Mark Graban (6m 26s):
What are your thoughts on that?
Jamie Flinchbaugh (6m 27s):
Sure. So let me, let me address those separately. So-so lean is a tool. You know, I think, I think the way you've heard it is the way it's most often communicated or lets us do value stream mapping or, or visual management or any of these things in order to eliminate waste, but really waste waste elimination should be an act into itself. I mean, people didn't create these tools. These tools were created to eliminate waste, right? They don't by themselves eliminate all forms of ways. And so we need to, we need to actually go out and look at our own processes or organizations find a way to eliminate it. And so when we talk about things like wastewater, I always hate any, any absolutes when it comes to lean where people say, well, if you don't have ice cream apps and you're not doing weed, or you don't have 5s, or you're not doing green, if I had anything, if I was going to say, well, you must have this, I at least say it was probably wastewater.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (7m 26s):
And just taking time out of your day or every week, whatever to go out and just look at work to identify what airway where waste exists and whether it's an individual or a team or, or, or, or group, and the actual act of going out, putting on the waste pair of glasses and looking at waste and then saying, okay, what do we see? What can we do about it? Just that in itself is a huge part of what I would call daily or genuine lean work would actually be. So I think lean way when it comes to waste, it's really should be part of, part of not just a reason for me, but a part of, and part of that also is the language itself or the seven ways.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (8m 12s):
And people, you know, we spend a lot of time worrying about eight ways for the ninth waste or the 15 other ways that somebody might come up with. But the point is, is that it's really meant to be a language. And I like to use the comparison of a language of, of, of snow that Eskimos have. And I've, I've heard several different numbers of sensors. I don't speak the language. I don't know what the right one is, but there's, there's dozens of different words for snow. And he ask them the language and because they have words to describe it, they can actually see it differently. Well, most people that learn about waste, they go on their own organizations and they see waste, but they really can't be specific about it. And so using the seven types of waste actually helps us see it whole lot better.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (8m 57s):
So if I go look at snow and all I can see is a couple of different types of snow, I can't see that much, same thing with ways to call. I just say, as well, there's waste it. Doesn't help me see it at a fine enough level of detail to do something about it. So I believe lean should be waste elimination the seven ways and all of that should be part of the daily vernacular and daily activity of an organization. Yeah.
Mark Graban (9m 19s):
And given limited time. And we all have limited time throughout our day. It seems like if you were given the choice of spending an hour sitting in a conference room, arguing about, should we include an eighth type of waste or is that embedded in all the others? Or it seemed like you'd be a lot better off spending that hour actually out in the floor, actually looking at your process and working on the elimination of waste that we all agree on making it more of a practical action driven exercise as opposed to an academic discussion,
Jamie Flinchbaugh (9m 48s):
Right? Yeah, absolutely. And I've, I've seen a lot of conversations with people. Well, is this the waste of this type of waste of that type? And it, it does matter to a point, but there's a limit. And if we spend, spend an hour talking about it, we probably just wasted an hour. Sure.
Mark Graban (10m 4s):
So back to the idea of value though, because I think a lot of times identifying when I'm teaching people, you know, waste among other things, is something that doesn't create value for the customer waste to transportation. If you're moving a plastic auto part across a shop floor, or, you know, in healthcare, if you're spending time moving a tube of blood along distance across the laboratory, you know, th the customer's not, not willing to pay for that. So can you talk a little more about your experiences and tying the idea of, of waste into value? And again, you know, is there a proper balance between eliminating waste and creating value or do they just kind of
Jamie Flinchbaugh (10m 43s):
Go hand in hand? I think they should go hand in hand. I think they rarely do. Fortunately to me, the, the waste is just when we should be looking at the entire value of something we're doing for the customer and waste is just a piece of that pie of work that isn't adding value. And so we kind of focus on the definition of lean is focused on waste elimination. I don't think that's all the right definition because it's really only one half of that single equation of value and waste and adding value to the customer. And we've seen companies that have eliminated a lot of waste, but they ceased to also add value because they weren't focused on understanding their customer, understanding what they need, understanding their problems and understanding how their services or products would actually deliver value.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (11m 31s):
Has just to give you an example, I had a conversation with some folks at Alaska that were dealing with the lumber industry, and there's only so much you can do with, with manufacturing in Alaska, but they started looking at the value side. Thank you, mark, basically chopping down trees, cutting into lumber and shipping it. And then other folks, you know, home Depot couldn't even buy that because it wasn't playing. So then they decided to start playing it. So, yeah, it's kind of vertical integration forward, but they added more value to the product by adding a step of the process.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (12m 12s):
Then they went another step further and went into engineered wood. So they could actually sell to, to end users of wood products. And so they really looked at it from the customer back and said, not just where can we eliminate waste, but also how can we add value? And at the end of the day, you know, you can, you can cease to become profitable by not focusing on waste elimination. You can cease to become relevant. Why not focus on the value? Add? Yeah,
Mark Graban (12m 37s):
I mean, it sounds like what you're describing there, they were actually insourcing steps within the value stream that, that were previously done by separate companies.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (12m 46s):
Is that right? Yeah. Basically. And I don't, I don't want to presume that that vertical integration is inherently good or bad, but they are at least asking the question around, how do we add more value? And, and those steps were, or much more value added than simply just cutting down a tree.
Mark Graban (13m 1s):
Yeah, I would agree. I mean, there's no absolutes in that regard, but I think it's a fair point for analysis where a lot, it seemed like a lot of times people think, well, we're going to get rid of waste and we don't know how to do that. So they kind of waved the white flag and said, we're going to outsource that. Or, you know, get out of manufacturing altogether instead of maybe using lean to not only figure out how do we reduce waste within our current operations. But I could see a lot of cases where it might be the right thing to do to, to integrate and reduce time delays or reduce inventory, give better coordination, you know, that that would maybe add better service to the customer, which sounds like you're saying that's something that needs to be looked at as much as just being completely internally focused at, at your notions.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (13m 49s):
Well, and one of the reasons is that, although it started to change is that the large number of managers of lean efforts out there in the world are still manufacturing centric and, and manufacturing has limits to how much they can do for adding value to the customer because they're not really driving the product or offering, or they're not driving the relationship with the customer. And so it's hard. It's, it's hard from an organizational standpoint for manufacturing alone to drive the question of how do we add value. And I actually wrote a column about this a little bit in my assembly magazine column earlier this year, but at least within manufacturing organizations, they can start to develop as they use lean efforts, start to develop new capabilities and then start to challenge.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (14m 41s):
Okay, how do those capabilities now allow us to go do something new for the customer. Great,
Mark Graban (14m 47s):
Good advice. Well, thank you Jamie, for being here. I appreciate your time and joining us on
Announcer (14m 51s):
The podcast. Thank you. Hi, this
Mark Graban (14m 54s):
Is Mark Graban and the lean blog today is September 17th, 2006. And you're listening to episode number six of the lean blog podcast. This is the second part of a conversation with Jamie Flinchbaugh, founder, and partner with the lean learning center and also the coauthor of the book, the Hitchhiker's guide to lean and the first part of our discussion, Jamie and I talked about the specific language of waste reduction. Today. We focus on leadership's role in identifying waste and driving it out of your organization. If you'd like to hear the first part of the discussion with Jamie or earlier podcasts with Norman Bodek or Jeffrey Liker, you can visit www that lean podcast.org for more information.
Mark Graban (15m 35s):
So, Jamie, how do you get started with eliminating waste in the organization? It seems like one pitfall would be having senior management pointing down in the organization saying to everyone else, you know, there's a lot of waste on the shop floor. It's your fault. You go fix it. How do you get everybody on board in terms of eliminating waste, particularly the leaders.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (15m 53s):
So the first thing I think of when we start talking about actually getting out and getting organizations to eliminate waste is getting the language right. And, and that's you know, starts with the seven ways language. And it's not often, I would say that it's really important to memorize the words, but in this particular case, I think it is important because without, without having understanding the seven waste as a languages, it's really hard to actually see stuff, right? So I'll go go, I've gone to many organizations and actually given folks pop quizzes. And these are people that should be teaching lean inside their own organization. And they don't even, I get somewhere between two and seven, right? Some of them get nine and then they're adding stuff into it.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (16m 35s):
So if I can't get the language right, it's hard to go off, see it. So it starts with the language and then it's getting people out and doing it, doing the learning by doing actually being able to, to go out and physically eliminate waste from a leadership standpoint, whether it's frontline supervision or managers or executives, it's, it's really understanding first eliminating waste in your own role. So, so many people think about waste. So they say, okay, let's go down with the shop floor and help the folks on the floor eliminating waste, right? And granted that's where a lot of the dollars are. But, you know, when I start, when I start looking at an organization there's a whole lot more waste and miscommunications and missed alignments and meetings that have to happen three times or have to have take three hours instead of one hour.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (17m 23s):
And if I add up all the waste that goes around those processes, it's a whole lot more than trying to squeeze 10 seconds out of the operator on the floor. And so I think it starts with using lean to eliminate waste in your own work and only then can you start to help someone else?
Mark Graban (17m 38s):
And I bet that would go a long way. And you're trying to anticipate maybe what the success of lean is going to be within that organization. If you start working with the executives and if they're maybe so closed minded, they're not willing to admit waste within their own personal realm. Maybe that would be an indicator that, that, you know, they're, they're not willing to really embrace this and move forward with it. If it's just, they want to use it as a finger-pointing or an excuse making exercise.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (18m 4s):
Yeah. I think, I think, again, it goes to the con the compelling someone to act, if there's, I don't know if I've ever found anybody that says there isn't a place, so it's not necessarily an admittance standpoint, but
Mark Graban (18m 18s):
It might be, you know, well, there's somebody else's waste. There's plenty of waste, but not because of me,
Jamie Flinchbaugh (18m 24s):
There's, there's certainly finger pointing. And then there's also just, okay, where do we want to start? And, and getting someone to actually do something about wasting their own process, if it is, I think there are limits to how far an organization can go. If you, you can't get some of those leaders to just say, Hey, where's the waste immediately around me. And here's what I'm going to do about that waste. And, and I don't care what it is. I don't care how small it is because it's really a mindset for it rather than a, an ROI kind of evaluation. But if I start looking at my, my own role and I don't hate the waste around it enough to do something about it, it's going to be hard for me to support someone else's hatred of that waste that they see around them.
Mark Graban (19m 7s):
W what kind of things would you recommend to, let's say a plant manager, who's working with lean to try to help drive people from identifying waste to action. It seems to me a lot of times the thing holding people back from, you know, sheets of paper on the wall to actually changing things, maybe some element of fear, you know, that they're afraid, you know, it either afraid of admitting the waste, or even once they've got it up on the wall, you know, fear of they're not going to do the right things to fix it. W what are some things that you've seen that have been successful from, from that leadership standpoint?
Jamie Flinchbaugh (19m 41s):
I think, I think one of the important things is, is being able to jump down a few layers and get down and actually start to do something that people can see. So be visible about it. Now there's a danger in that because you don't want to make that a permanent part of how waste elimination happens. And we've seen, we've seen situations where, you know, if you want to eliminate some waste, do you go straight to the COO because he's out there all the time and he's, he's willing to do something about it. And every other layer isn't. So you just skip to cut to the chase and go to where the action is going to be. And that's not very productive, but, but almost really adopting an area or a team or a person, and just very visibly for people demonstrating the type of behaviors that, that are expected.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (20m 27s):
I, I, I talk about the, the management support myth, and I got a lot of organizations that say management is a hundred percent behind us. And the problem is that behind is still behind leadership is being out in front. And so if someone can't actually jump out and do something that they're asking everyone else to do themselves and, and show people how to do it, and actually do it and take some risks and put yourself out there, then it's really hard to ask anyone else to do it. And so taking that, taking a leap and getting out of the comfort zone and doing something yourself in a way that people can see is important. I think that visibility, it's not showmanship, but if you tried something new and no one else saw it, well, it might've been good for you, but it wasn't necessarily good for the organization.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (21m 14s):
And so it's not showmanship, but demonstrating it, making it visible, letting everyone know that you're doing something it's hard for them to follow your lead if they don't know. Yeah.
Mark Graban (21m 24s):
Is it a matter of being out in the factory floor and maybe asking questions pointing out and asking people, you know, is this waste, what can we do to fix this problem?
Jamie Flinchbaugh (21m 36s):
I think the question part, I mean, you know, great leaders ask great questions and questions are an important point of, of helping others. But at some point it's also just, okay, here's what I see and pulling people together and making some decisions and doing something about it. So I think because can sometimes ask too many questions and sometimes just need to, okay, here, here's the waste we see. Right. Okay. What can we do? So we about it, well, let me suggest this and let's do it. And, and I think it depends on what you're trying to achieve. If you're trying to achieve coaching and learning questions are very powerful. If you're just trying to demonstrate action. Well, sometimes asking questions just takes a whole lot longer.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (22m 19s):
You just want to go out and do something and show people that we need to start making some decisions. We need to start taking some action and making
Mark Graban (22m 27s):
It. And I've seen a couple of different organizations that sometimes even though you might say, in theory, I want, you know, the people on coaching to figure it out themselves, but sometimes there's such inertia or lack of lack of energy, lack of change within an organization I've found sometimes it does help to jump in and say, you know what, we're working on five ass. We've taught the principles. People aren't exactly jumping to start rearranging their areas. You know, I find it's helpful sometimes to jump in, you know, get roll up your sleeves, start, you know, physically, you know, grabbing things off the shelf and asking people, do you need this? How often do you use that? You know, crawling down and putting taper on the floor.
Mark Graban (23m 7s):
But I always tell people, you know, that, you know, this first time is sort of a freebie, you know, I'm, I'm demonstrating it. Don't get dependent on me doing this for you all the time that I've seen, you know, even, you know, just kind of seating, a couple of examples to show people, you know, if they're maybe afraid they're going to do it wrong here, I'll, I'll show you. Here's a good example. And I'm going to come back in a couple of days and let me see what you've been able to accomplish. I've, I've seen that, especially in, in kind of stagnant organizations, that that's a helpful method. Sometimes. I don't know what your thoughts are on that.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (23m 39s):
I think you're right. I think, you know, doing it with them is different than doing for them. You know, if it's, if it's, you know, you know what, we'll go ahead and clean up your area for you and come back in a couple of days and you'll see how it's nice. That's one thing doing it with someone is very different. And I don't see, I don't see why any, any harm in that. I think, I think the important thing is, is that you have to assess how much resistance there is in the organization, whether it's stagnation, whether it's outright resistance, whether it's simply just don't even know where to go, because they haven't done anything yet. I think you need to, to create, you need to break some of that ice. And if someone's had the same routine every single day for 10 years, well, it's, it's hard to just ask them, you kind of need to break it for them.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (24m 27s):
And so changing something about how they do that is, oh, I can go a long way to freeing them up to try something too. Yeah.
Mark Graban (24m 35s):
And I don't know if you have any examples of this, but I've seen different types of organizations where sometimes there's such a effort made to rationalize the waste that's there in the organization either, because of like you, you said we've been doing it the same way for 10 years, you know, talk about inspections and double checks and people are so convinced, well, we have to do this. What are some methods you've used to sort of try to, you know, snap people out of their inertia and thinking that something really was necessary and trying to convince them that that's something was waste.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (25m 8s):
Well, I think, I think that drives a couple of things. One is really helping people see the ideal state and helping them understand where are they really trying to go? And if they start looking at that, that way, at least they're willing to at least say, okay, what would it take to get there if you asked them to just change something? Well, okay. That's, that's, that's really specific, but if he asks me, how are we going to get there? At least I'm allowed to engage in thinking about it a little more. And I think the other thing is that people really look at problems as, you know, something that might have sort of a binary solution. So we, we tried solving that before we couldn't. So therefore it can't be solved. And to me, a lot of, a lot of waste elimination, a lot of getting pull in place.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (25m 53s):
A lot of these things is about surfacing problems to then go about solving those problems in a different way. And we can go on to that for a whole nother whole nother hour. But, but, you know, I, I think it's, it's helping them see, see new solutions to old problems.
Mark Graban (26m 9s):
Great. Well, and well, hopefully we will have other discussions here in the future. I think we're about hitting our time in our discussion on waste. W there are plenty of other topics that we touched on today that I think we can build off of for a future discussion. But do you have any final thoughts to kind of wrap up the discussion here on waste today?
Jamie Flinchbaugh (26m 30s):
Well, I think just getting back to what I said in the beginning is that lean is not synonymous with waste elimination, but waste elimination certainly is a big driver, but it's not just a reason for doing lean it's action. We should be taking herself. And so I think I just encourage everyone to get out, learn waste, and do something about it.
Mark Graban (26m 50s):
Great, good advice. Well, thank you Jamie, for being here. I appreciate your time and joining us on the podcast. Thank you, Mark. It's again, the Jamie Flinchbaugh, the lean learning center for joining us here on the podcast. I really liked what Jamie said we hear all the time about how leaders are behind lean quote unquote. That sounds very passive. That terminology leaders really need to be more actively involved with lean and teaching coaching, and supporting their employees on a day-to-day basis. I assume you're listening to this because you're a lean leader, some level and lean leaders exist at all levels of the organization, or at least we hope they do. If you have a up question for Jamie about being a lean leader or any challenges with your lean work that you do, email me through the lean blog or calling leave a voicemail on the Lean Line.
Mark Graban (27m 46s):
If you're an international listener, you can contact me and leave a message through the Skype and service details about that or on the blog and the main page about the podcast. The next guest on the podcast probably in about a week will be Norm Bodek. Who's been with us before here on the podcast. And we're certainly looking forward to talking to him again about lean and Toyota production system concepts.
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