Crystal Davis on Courageous Leadership and Pandemic Supply Chains


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My guest for Episode #442 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Crystal Davis, the Founder, CEO & Principal Lean Practitioner at her firm, The Lean Coach, Inc. She was previously a guest in Episode 363 of the series, at the start of the pandemic.

Crystal Davis is an experienced business management consultant with twenty years of experience in the design, development, and implementation of Lean Business System solutions. She has extensive domestic and international expertise in the design and implementation of solutions for automotive and healthcare manufacturing, and consumer packaged industries. 

Her podcast is “Lead Lean with Crystal Y. Davis

Today, we discuss topics and questions including:

  • Reflections back on Covid times, in general?
  • How do we move from crisis mode, to survival mode, to recovery mode?
  • How long was the crisis mode? CPG supply chains — hoarding
  • Why do we need courageous leadership during these challenging times?
  • Courageous to do something everyone else isn't doing 
  • Eric Dickson – UMass Memorial Health, link to latest episode
  • Principles — Toyota vs GM during this current shutdown
  • Principles and values are scaleable
  • Principles vs. biz decisions
  • Focused on honing in on what it takes for Leaders to make a shift with all of these supply chain challenges?
  • What leadership characteristics are needed?
  • How do you define a “Lean Business System”?
  • People, process, and infrastructure and how that works together
  • Using the Socratic method?
  • People sometimes get annoyed by this?

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

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (2s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog Podcast. Visit our website Now here's your host Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (13s):
Hi everybody. It's Mark Graban here. Welcome to episode 442 of the podcast. It's March 2nd, 2022. My guest today is Crystal Davis. We're going to be talking about a number of things, including courageous leadership. We're going to be talking about supply chains and the effects of the pandemic and thinking about supply chains in a post-pandemic world. So for links to Crystal's website and her work and more, you can look in the show notes in your podcast app, or you can go to Thanks for listening Again. Our guest today is Crystal Davis.

Mark Graban (54s):
She is a strategy consultant and executive coach, a speaker, and a podcast host. She was a podcast guest here in this series, episode 363, April, 2020, which seems like forever ago. We were a little bit into these pandemic times and that episode we talked about the business impact of COVID. So before I tell you more first off, Crystal, thank you for being here. Welcome back.

Crystal Davis (1m 22s):
It's awesome to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Mark Graban (1m 26s):
So we're gonna, you know, look back a little bit and ask for Crystal spots of reflections on how things play it out. The role of leadership, not just at the beginning of the pandemic, as things have played out where as we're recording this February 11th, 2022, we're not quite to the end of it. Maybe we see light at the end of the tunnel, but we're going to talk about the supply chain impacts that we're still doing still dealing with and all sorts of other topics today. So Crystal is a founder, CEO and principal lean practitioner at her firm The Lean Coach Inc, or website is theleancoachinc.Com.

Mark Graban (2m 5s):
Her podcast is Lead Lean with Crystal Y. Davis. So I encourage you to check that out and we share a number of things in common, Crystal and I are both bachelor's in industrial engineering graduates. We both have MBAs and she has a lot of experience with lean business systems. I want to ask about that later on, Crystal has worked domestically and internationally in automotive and healthcare manufacturing, consumer packaged goods industries. She's done a lot of work in logistics and supply chain. She's trained and coached globally and operational excellence and various levels of different organizations and final thing.

Mark Graban (2m 50s):
And I'm just kind of skimming from, you know, highlights and key phrases from, from your bio. But, you know, it says you use the Socratic teaching approach to engage, activate and add value. So I've jotted that down. If we have time, I'd love to hear some of your thoughts about using the Socratic method.

Crystal Davis (3m 10s):
It really, it wears a lot of people down, but it works

Mark Graban (3m 13s):
Well. That's part of what we will be able to talk about later. So let's leave that as a teaser there's good and bad, or I shouldn't be saying I should be asking. So I'll ask you open-ended questions about the Socratic method later. So we've got a, we've got a full agenda for us here. How's

Crystal Davis (3m 37s):
That we do.

Mark Graban (3m 38s):
So, you know, again, back in April 2020, almost two years ago, we had a conversation about leading in COVID times as you'd framed it shifting from a crisis mode. I think we were mean April 2020 was still definitely

Crystal Davis (3m 57s):
Crisis crisis.

Mark Graban (3m 58s):
It's a survival mode to recovery. Open-ended big open-ended question here. I'm curious to hear some of your reflections on both the crisis mode. How, how long do you think that was until we shifted into kind of surviving in that new normal?

Crystal Davis (4m 18s):
So for, for, I'll say for a lot of like CPG companies, it felt like the crisis may have been six months, six to eight months. And you know, you can definitely tell that they started to find their groove because people weren't panicking in, in terms of, of buying or being concerned about things on the grocery store shelves, people started setting minimum quantities and people started to get into a rhythm and trust that the supply chain was going to respond and whether they know it or not, they really started to understand that that hoarding actually amplified the problem.

Crystal Davis (4m 58s):
Right? So it doesn't mean that things were perfect, but people started to find their rhythm, whereas like industrial manufacturing, it's still, to me somewhat in a crisis, particularly those industries that serve more of the electronic and the automotive industry, where they have connected and joint kind of common problems around the semiconductor.

Mark Graban (5m 24s):
I wonder, is that a part of a consumer packaged goods being a little bit faster in their supply chain cycles? You know, manufacturing is dealing with many countries, slow boat rides here in California, boats being stacked up offshore. Is, is, is there more of sort of a fast turn domestic flow of, of imagined food as much more domestic than manufacturing?

Crystal Davis (5m 51s):
Yeah, I would say for some, for some like for perishable food items, definitely a more domestic resources and resource base doesn't mean that they still didn't have like, you know, some core product challenges, particularly those things that were related to commodities like aluminum and so forth and so on. However, I think they've been able to manage and then they w they also have a faster turnaround in rationalizing stews. Right. They could just say, we're just gonna talk, talk, talk, I can't even talk today, mark. We're going to just tackle our top 20, right.

Crystal Davis (6m 31s):
And not even produce those other things. And so it's a little bit easier now, not in every case, but it's a little bit easier. So if you go to the grocery store and you've seen your main staples, and that's kind of all you've seen, then, you know, that's the decision that they made.

Mark Graban (6m 46s):
So let's say a producer of images, just pick a brand that has had a lot of like flavor differentiation, like Oreos. There, there are all these different oddball flavors of Oreos, a company like that might say, you know what, we're going to focus our resources and simplify the business to like play in Oreos and maybe a couple other kinds. Yeah. It's not a time to be introducing more oddball flavors kind of.

Crystal Davis (7m 21s):
Yeah. You can tell like around Christmas time they were able to shift more into a few eyeballs. So you, you definitely can see that that was part of the strategy.

Mark Graban (7m 31s):
Did, did you see a shift in some cases of, of trying to produce more locally as a way of addressing some of the uncertainties between illness spreading around the world and, and, and long supply chains and ports and things like that?

Crystal Davis (7m 48s):
Now, I can't, I can't say that personally with, with my clients that I saw that, but I did, I actually attended a supply chain summit and there was an executive there won't call the company name, but in her and the CEO in her presentation, she talked about how they did this analysis of their, their vendor risk. And in her case, their vendor risk was the vendors in their backyard in close proximity. And that could or could not have some relation to the close in proximity. You are probably the more just in time. And they may or may not have had as much say emergency stock available, but that was something they started to dig into.

Crystal Davis (8m 33s):
And it doesn't mean that just in time doesn't work. Right. It just means that you've got to readjust your, your stocking capabilities around your safety stock and either the pace or frequency in which you get product, or just decide to take the inventory up. And right-size it for the now times, right?

Mark Graban (8m 52s):
Yeah. Well, I'm glad you mentioned that there's this notion and we probably shook our heads at the same articles during the pandemic about, oh, look, this shows Justin time doesn't work. And then what they're describing in the article is quite literally a slow boat from China. And like, well, to me, just in time, a better reflection of that would be, let's say, in San Antonio, where Toyota has a lot of their suppliers, like kind of literally in the same building that that is just in time. And a lot of these articles really, really miss that point. They're they're criticizing something, but I would say, well, they're there.

Mark Graban (9m 35s):
They could say these long slow global supply chains can be risky, right. Is really the

Crystal Davis (9m 44s):
That's the issue. Right. And then determining what do you have onshore? And what do you have offshore as a matter of your risk portfolio, rather than, you know, some concept that you want to diminish right now, what I will say about that really quickly is that a lot, one of the levers that I've been talking about on the radio show and with clients is there is an opportunity to reevaluate your portfolio, your portfolio, and do so in a couple of different ways. One is red. One is of course the longer lead time items. And if you can substitute in, in some of your lower skews where you have all of the components, right, it's a great solution.

Crystal Davis (10m 31s):
You keep revenue flowing, you keep a client happy, or your customer happy. And then secondly, just determining in this world that we're living in now, do you really need a thousand skews?

Mark Graban (10m 42s):
So yeah, so there's, there's product complexity, risk there's supply chain risk. And, you know, these things keep coming, whether it's a pandemic or not, it's, you know, a tsunami that hits Japan and knocks some key auto suppliers offline, it's a ship getting stuck in the Suez canal, had nothing to do with the pandemic. I don't think like, you know, right now, well, you know, you've, you've got the ports being clogged up for different reasons. And, and even right now, this week in the news, as we're recording this, you know, you, you have, I don't know what the right word is. Social disruption, you have truckers and Canada blocking accesses access to bridges, which has knocked some auto plants offline, not just in Canada, but in Michigan, Toyota in Kentucky announced they're dropping some shifts.

Mark Graban (11m 35s):
So the more complex the supply chain is, and the longer the supply chain is there, there are more things that could go wrong.

Crystal Davis (11m 43s):
That's right. That's right. I'm glad you mentioned that. I don't know if you saw this one, the funny post I had about the Suez Canal, There was this TikTok video where, where they created this little bridge for it to jump over.

Mark Graban (12m 2s):
Is that a free, is that a Free Willy reference for that?

Crystal Davis (12m 10s):
It's just like, yeah. But anyway, you know, to your point, I think the other thing about the pandemic, it is that it has brought so many social and, and social impact issues, but also like mental health issues, burnout that leaders are having to face it unprecedented levels. Right. And they have to figure out how do you lead people through this level of complexity and uncertainty and where no Anders insight.

Mark Graban (12m 45s):
Yeah. It seems like that some days, and some of that may depend on where you are in the US or where you are in the world. Well, let's, let's talk more about leadership, you know, so back in April 2020, when we did the episode, you, you talked about the need for what you framed as courageous leadership. So maybe, you know, first as a recap, I mean, what, what, what, what would be an example or definition either way of, of courageous leadership and, and what, what are some examples maybe that you saw of that during the pandemic? That was helpful?

Crystal Davis (13m 19s):
No. Great, great question. So back then, you know, we were talking about this notion where leaders were still struggling with how to measure productivity. Some of them had some practices that were very much micromanagement practices and things that just illustrated that they didn't trust their workforce. And then there've been a litany of conversations about whether or not remote people working from working remotely are more productive, less productive, are they gaming the system so forth and so on? And so what I'll say is particularly in my space where manufacturing for a lot of people never really stopped it. Didn't see. It may have, they may have scaled back.

Crystal Davis (14m 1s):
I would say that I have seen leaders get more and more patient, and I'm using that word loosely, right. Patients, but demonstrate patience and empathy, knowing that, you know, one positive COVID test can impact multiple departments and their families. Right. And so there's this greater focus on, okay. Oh my God, you tested positive too. Okay. You tested positive, you know, who have you been around? There's there protocols in place that respect people's privacy, but also respect the safety of those that they have work they may have been around.

Crystal Davis (14m 45s):
And there's just this patience of, well, yes, our output is, is important, but so are our employees and they're safe. Right? And so that for me, I think is a big one is the shift that typically when a family is impacted by a health challenge, it's isolated to that family. Now you have your broader sense of family in terms of the shift. You work on the department, you were in, et cetera, et cetera. And so I've seen a lot of resilience, a lot of empathy, a lot of open communication. And it's it parallels to me in comparison for what I've seen for what you hear and see on the news.

Mark Graban (15m 30s):
Yeah. Well, there there've been so many opportunities for people to, to practice what Toyota would frame is respect for people or respect for humanity, empathy, you know, trying to, and I think a decent definition of empathy is like the ability to put yourself in somebody else's shoes, whether that's family stresses related to COVID or schools or childcare or balancing the I've done a couple of podcasts in a row where like, you know, I can't wandered into the spring and I'm like, that's the least disruptive thing that that could happen.

Mark Graban (16m 12s):
Cause cats are quiet. They just want to get in the way. But, you know, we, I think, you know, hopefully people have been maybe not, not just patient, but understanding empathetic to what people are dealing with just to navigate and get by whether it's related to COVID summer of 2020, you know, thinking of how different people were reacting, you know, to, to the murder of George Floyd and, and, and how that could be upsetting to different people in different ways and to show some grace and to be empathetic about that. And, you know, there's, there's, there's been a lot going on. And, but back to that point of like, I, I, you know, there's that phrase that's translated sometimes as respect for humanity, which I've heard people say is a richer way of describing it, of realizing that, you know, we, we, we, we are full complex human beings and that's who you've hired to be part of your team.

Mark Graban (17m 14s):
And we need to respect and honor that and realize like, you know, we're, we're not robots, even those of us like you and I who have technical educations and may be quite logical that we're, we're full, complete people. So I'm curious to hear some of your thoughts or reflections on, you know, leaders embracing that in different ways in the last two years, what would have you seen or what would you hope to see more of?

Crystal Davis (17m 39s):
Yeah. So, so what I've seen is, you know, being more open to allow people to have a safe environment to share that they, that they may not be okay, and also to share in a way that suggest that I'm not holding you responsible for the fact that I may not feel okay, but I at least want you to give me some grace and find a way to have a conversation to either give me the time that I need, or invite me into a conversation and say, well, okay, understand that. But from a work perspective, what do you feel that you are capable to sustain during this period?

Crystal Davis (18m 24s):
Right. So I think that's, I think that's one that I have seen. I have a very good friend of mine and she had invited me in to just have a talk with her, her team. And then our boss invited me to have a team, have a talk with his team, you know, just to talk about some of those things. And you know, here in Georgia, we had the Ahmaud Abery case recently. Right. And then, you know, now in Minnesota, we've got Amir Locke. And so through that, she's the only, African-American on the team through that. She's been able to now communicate, you know, very clearly to her boss.

Crystal Davis (19m 5s):
I'm not okay. And he unders he's, he has a better understanding. I did this exercise with them and I asked all of the people in the room, how they will respond to the situation. And I asked her not to respond. And so they did. And then I asked her, after they all shared, I said, now you please share how you will respond. And she said in her response, completely shocked all of them because they had never walked in her shoes as an African-American woman. And so, but that taught them how to be able to position. It's not about understanding and having to take up that ball, but it taught them that their perception and perspective was extremely different because they were coming from a different place.

Crystal Davis (19m 51s):
So, so that's probably the most courageous thing that I've seen is to create an environment where someone can say, they're not okay.

Mark Graban (19m 59s):
Yeah. It can be courageous for somebody to share that. And it is the, you know, what, I think what we would not want to see, you know, sort of a disrespectful response, which unfortunately, you know, I saw some of this in, even on LinkedIn, which is, you know, a quote unquote professional social network of somebody sharing their pain. And then, you know, I'm old and not old ish, I'll say, you know, an old white dude, old, straight white dude, like me basically saying, well, that's not a workplace topic. That's unprofessional. What's that have to deal with whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, don't diminish. I think it comes back to respect for people, right?

Mark Graban (20m 41s):
Don't diminish someone else's feelings or their, their, their need and their right to share how they're doing. That's part that's that is their workplace. That's them, right.

Crystal Davis (20m 53s):
I mean, let's be clear, right? The moment that we needed to work from home. And we invited our colleagues into our homes, virtually the lines of, you know, workplace and home became very blurry. Very great. But I do think that, you know, what, what this person may have been trying to say is like my generation and above, and I'm over 50, my generation and above, we were just, it was ingrained in us that you kept personal things out of the workplace, as much as you could. And you just focused on the doc and the generation younger, the generations younger than me are just like, look, I can't focus.

Crystal Davis (21m 40s):
Something's not right. I need a mental health day. And I applaud them for being able to say that because I can remember so many things that I carry, particularly being the only African-American woman in lots of spaces that I carry that had I not discovered my authentic self and how to really communicate that to people that it could have broke me. It could have really discouraged me from wanting to pursue other opportunities, wanting to even pursue moving up the career ladder. And I think that happens to a lot of people. So, yeah, so that to me is part of what I see in terms of courageous leaders.

Crystal Davis (22m 22s):
I see them learning and finding their way into the last part that I would add is that I see, I just did this on my talk about this, on my show, agile C-suite leadership, right? And those executives are now starting to exhibit the behaviors that require organizations to be more open, to change and designing new solutions and testing and so forth and so on. And so I'll say that's the second part that I'm excited about and that I'm looking forward to more of, and in this article that I referenced, this is a Harvard business review article from 20, from may, June, 2020, that the CEO talks about how frustrated he and his C-suite leaders would get when they were running against these, these bureaucratic brick walls.

Crystal Davis (23m 11s):
And they were like, oh, we've got to change this. And I was like, oh, thank God you get it, You get it. But I'm looking forward to more of that.

Mark Graban (23m 23s):
Yeah. These are important questions about, you know, trust and respect. You know, I hate to see or read reports of companies that responded to this work from home era, with a distrust of like spite more, more spiting software on their computer, or, you know, things that, yeah, that that's, that's one response. But like I I'm thinking back, this is a different scenario. And I think sometimes it will say maybe it's courageous when a leader does something that other organizations aren't doing based on some sort of principle. Right? So one example is going back probably a decade ago, Paul Levy was the CEO of a hospital system in Boston.

Mark Graban (24m 9s):
And this is as a, you know, a time when smartphone use was proliferating and the, the trust factor around how people use the internet was one thing on the computers, in the workstations. They could block Facebook, right? And so it's a, time-waster so unprofessional or, you know, whatever, okay, fair enough. That's company, computer, your rules, your workplace. But then Paul Levy kind of took a stance. He said, you know what, I'm not going to play this game of chasing. Cause if you block Facebook, then where do people go? You're going to block YouTube. We're going to block Reddit. What are you going to block? And Paul said, well, you know, when people have smartphones, if, if people are going to spend time on Facebook during the day, they can take their smartphone into the bathroom.

Mark Graban (24m 56s):
And he frankly said, the problem is not the technology. The problem is not quote unquote, wasting time. You know, he framed it, that that's an engagement problem. Yeah. That's a workplace culture problem that we need to address in a more indirect way. So he was probably one of the few hospitals, even to this date when he was CEO. Anyway, I wonder what they're doing now. But like, yeah, we're not gonna, we're not going to block Facebook. We trust you. We're going to be responsible. We're going to create an environment where you want to do your best work. And that probably doesn't involve time on Facebook.

Crystal Davis (25m 29s):
Exactly, exactly. And they probably got an excellent response from people.

Mark Graban (25m 33s):
Yeah. Some people, you know, and if people are needing a temporary break or diversion or something like, I, I don't know, maybe, maybe there's a middle ground where there's a lot of problems with Facebook. I don't know if a couple of minutes on Facebook, is there a view to each person to decide, but like a more recent example during the pandemic here though? I think you would appreciate Crystal Eric Dickson, who is currently the CEO at UMass Memorial health in Worcester, Massachusetts. I had a chance to interview him in the habitual excellence podcast series. I'll link to it in the show notes where they were one of the few hospitals in the country, I think to come out and do this very Toyota, like thing of no furloughs, no layoffs, that was their mandate.

Mark Graban (26m 22s):
And they held to it through the pandemic. And I had a chance to interview Eric kind of early in the pandemic when they had announced that. And then afterwards, and he said, that was the best thing they ever did. The loyalty, the, the, the impact on the culture was, was enormous. I thought that was really courageous.

Crystal Davis (26m 43s):
I absolutely love, and I love something that you said, you said that these people may a decision based off of principles. Right. And I, and that takes us back to the Toyota way. There are 14 principles. And I think that's one of the things that more companies need to adopt many companies talk about vision, mission, right. And then they jump right to business. They need to understand the core principles that lead and guide how they make decisions, particularly in the tough times.

Mark Graban (27m 17s):
Yeah. Well, tell us more about that. Like what happens when there's pressure in your experience?

Crystal Davis (27m 23s):
So, I mean, when there's pressure, you cave to the person or the group that has the loudest voice, whether it's your shareholders, whether it is your comp your competition, and you start to then try to chase them, or if that person, whether they have a position or title in any organization that has influence right. To either stall buy-in or, or strike up a protest. So it really is about establishing as a core. So if you think about an organization as, as you would a person, we have our core values and our core values as a human being are the things that we reflect on when we need to make a decision to do something that we know we shouldn't be doing, or, you know, if we do something that we know we shouldn't be doing to deal with the consequences and find our way back.

Crystal Davis (28m 15s):
But it's that, that, that keeps us grounded. So when organizations have that and you have, you know, hundreds or thousands of employees, you can drive them to that set of principles. As the thing that grounds us, if, if a manager has to make a tough decision and it's aligned with the core values that gives them the courage to make that decision, because they can say, well, I did it because this is who we are. This is who we are and how we operate. I'll never forget quick lean story. We were on a, at a, at an ISD conference, lean six Sigma conference. We had a tour scheduled at Toyota in San Antonio. It was going to be my first, in my entire career Toyota plant tour.

Crystal Davis (29m 1s):
We get to the center, they're checking us in. We watch our little safety video. We're looking at all of them, the memorabilia and the plant manager comes in and says, we had a car for the whole plant.

Mark Graban (29m 16s):
It cut out a little bit. The plant manager said

Crystal Davis (29m 18s):
What the plant manager came in. And he said, we had to pull the, and on for the entire plant, they had a problem. They had gone through their process of, you know, immediate counter measure, Bravo, the Kaizen team. And they tried to keep it going. It just didn't work. They started to work through, you know, their issue and Nope, we've got to shut everything down. And they said, we're so sorry that you've come here, but we're not going to be able to tour today. And they stuck to that.

Mark Graban (29m 55s):
So they didn't take you through the ideal factory.

Crystal Davis (29m 59s):

Mark Graban (29m 59s):
Not part of their standard.

Crystal Davis (30m 3s):
What purpose would that? They sit everybody home.

Mark Graban (30m 9s):
Wow. So they, yeah. I mean, cause you, you would still see a lot, you would see the structure structure and the layout of the facility, but maybe without the people, it's nothing.

Crystal Davis (30m 24s):
Exactly, exactly. And a lot of people that were there, you know, of course you look, you're disappointed. Right? So people were disappointed. I actually was telling my colleagues at the conference. I said, if they had done anything other than what we just said, I would have been so distraught, you'd have to just bury me right on the scene. Cause I had been preaching principles and I said, do you realize how many people they had to send home?

Mark Graban (30m 51s):
Right. I was going to add,

Crystal Davis (30m 55s):
And this was in the morning, our tool was in the morning. And then they started to explain to us that they have the limited supply with their just-in-time supplier. So they did, they wanted to be mindful of the impact on them. They didn't have a lot of room for excess storage, so they didn't want them to keep running. And, and they, they, they made good on it all. And I was so impressed. I was still disappointed, but I was so impressed. They, their principal in a tough time that these professionals coming in. Yeah.

Mark Graban (31m 33s):
That's a different lesson. Learned a different thing. Now, have you had a chance to go back? Are you still trying to,

Crystal Davis (31m 41s):
No, I haven't. I have not arranged a tour yet,

Mark Graban (31m 44s):
But you, you, you mentioned Toyota and yes, they will in, in, in periods of supply shortage, like this happened after the tsunami and some suppliers, some parts that still come from Japan, even though they have all these local Justin Simon suppliers that shows, you know, the, the, the, the kink in their complete car supply chain was this risk of what happens to a factory in Japan being so far away or being a sole source or both during the great recession or during other times when sales have been really low.

Mark Graban (32m 28s):
I know for a fact that Toyota, I felt like I can say this very confidently because it was about the news reports and Toyota people I've talked to said that Toyota pays people when there's no production. Like so short term that might say, okay, everybody go home, rest the stinks. But you know, you're not going to lose your pay for the day. But then if it goes on for weeks or months, they will pay people to come in and do improvement work, cross training Toyotas, paid people to go build habitat for humanity homes, which is a leadership development activity, not just helping the community and those exact same circumstances, general motors will put people on short term layouts.

Mark Graban (33m 13s):
And I bet I, and I haven't had the chance yet to go look at articles. So here we are in February 2022 trucks, can't get across the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit near where I grew up. And I guarantee you Toyota is paying people GM, maybe, probably putting people in short-term layoff. And, you know, you can frame that in different ways. You could frame it as respect for people. You could frame it as long-term thinking, you know, in the loyalty that would be engendered by sticking with your employees in those times and saying, I don't view you just as this cog in a machine, right. To cast aside the minute I don't need you.

Crystal Davis (33m 52s):
Right. And you know, that, that brings up a good point there. I don't know if you're following closely, but there's so many debates about what's happening with the truckers and trying to blame the truckers and, you know, and then the truckers picking, doubling down on their side about how valuable they are to the supply chain. And just instead of just figuring out how can we meet in the middle? And then there was, of course the court case about the one trucker that the center, she was just, it was just insane.

Mark Graban (34m 23s):
I didn't hear about this. There

Crystal Davis (34m 24s):
Was a, there was, there was a trucking accident where there, there was an accident on a highway and there was a bypass ramp that the trucker, as he realized, I think he realized it may be too late, that there was an accident. He wasn't able to, to take the bypass to break, you know, to be able to, to break. And he wasn't able to stop. And it just, you know, caused worst accident. And when he went to court, the charges against him were just atrocious. I mean, it was like a hundred years

Mark Graban (35m 2s):
For by definition, an accident for an accident. Well, they, but then there's this question of, so while he was being reckless

Crystal Davis (35m 10s):
Yeah. And they were saying that he should have, you know, and right Monday morning quarterbacks can tell you how to win the game. Right. So, but my point is, I think it's one of those situations where we've politicized the issue. And at the same time nobody's talking about when a truck driver shows up at a port and has to sit there three days and he's losing three days of income for his family because the port is slow. Right. Or they can't get on. So it's, it's, it's a mixed bag of again, where if you could just come to the table and have a, a conversation based off of some four principles around, you know, the safety for the drivers and, and everyone around them.

Crystal Davis (35m 59s):
And also respecting the fact that you can't just treat them anyway, because they're here to pick up goods and treat them like, well, you're just another cog in the wheel and just pick up these boxes and drive them where they need to go.

Mark Graban (36m 11s):
And I think it's difficult. I mean, there are times when, you know, the arguments or debate or people it's like, it's my camp versus your camp. Yeah. And, and, but then there are times when there, there, there is a conflict in deeply held principles and that becomes really difficult to navigate. So let's say looking at workplaces requiring vaccination, the company could say, we are making this decision based on principles, involving safety and the long-term good of the company. And we want to reduce COVID outbreaks. There's a human perspective. There's a healthcare costs. There's a disruption to the business.

Mark Graban (36m 51s):
You know, you, you could make that principled stand and then somebody else might say, well, my principal say, you can't tell me what to put in my body. That's right.

Crystal Davis (37m 1s):
That's right.

Mark Graban (37m 1s):
It's really tough to navigate when somebody doesn't want to budge, like principals can be very helpful to accompany of saying they are lasting. And like, as you were talking about earlier, this example of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, principles and values are scalable, like infinitely scalable in a way that command and control decision-making is not

Crystal Davis (37m 26s):
Exactly, you know,

Mark Graban (37m 26s):
When we've got still millions of people making a decision that's different than the decision I would make. Part of my failings as a human being is, is falling into, you know, blame and othering them. If you, I don't know if that's even a word, you know? And, and, and, and there, there's, there's an empathy gap that all admit to and others have talked about, or there's empathy, empathy, empathy, fatigue.

Crystal Davis (37m 57s):
Yes. I think that there is also not just empathy, fatigue, but there's just fatigue for the sheer number of issues that are so divisive in our world. So I, you know, I have chosen our opted to disconnect from, from cable news. And at this point I've even disconnected somewhat from local news because I'm just kind of, I've reached my limit of this consistent bad news or replaying these, these stories of what's happening in the world. And, and the, the, the level of details about stories rather than talking about change.

Crystal Davis (38m 39s):
So I've just gotten to this place where it's not that I want to ignore things that happen in the world. I'm not, I don't want to be ignorant to what's happening even around me locally, but I'm choosing how I receive information. And that, that helps keep me grounded. And it helps how I, how I start in managed through an already heavy workload.

Mark Graban (39m 2s):
Yeah. Well, there's there's information. And then, so there's, there's a topic I would frame this in terms of principles versus short-term business motives. And I think this is where it's so powerful when Toyota talks about, as, you know, printing, a lot of our audience knows principle. Number one of the Toyota way is making decisions based on the longterm, even at the expense of the short-term. So the short-term, I'm sure in cable news is all about the ratings numbers and more and longer watching. And, you know, I, and there's a cost side where this is me not working in this industry, but it seems clear that having volunteers who want publicity coming on and arguing about stuff is far cheaper than sending reporters out to report.

Mark Graban (39m 51s):
And whether, regardless of the channel, like I took to me, it's almost like it causes mental inflammation. I don't know if that's even a thing, but like, I, I can find calmer news from, from other sources where I feel like it's actually people reporting news instead of just arguing. Here's the one from this side. And here's someone from that side now go fight.

Crystal Davis (40m 15s):
And that was going to be my point. Right? You said that you've got people on that, you know, that come on and give their opinion. That's not the news that's

Mark Graban (40m 26s):
Advocating for something that's not necessarily

Crystal Davis (40m 30s):
News. So just give me the news and let me make my own decision and do my own research. So, yeah. So yeah,

Mark Graban (40m 36s):
But you know, there's these challenges of, you know, well, there there's, there's a outfit that sort of took over and outfit the business, or, you know, they were taking over the WGN superstation out of Chicago, the cable channel, and they were, they were trying to create a news network. Oh gosh. It's I don't watch it. I have a friend who talks about it's called News Nation. And they, they, they were trying to take this approach of we're going to do kind of like what the news used to be reporting news, less, arguing more fact-based and like, well, you know, I hope that works out for you. I know I'd have to go Google how that business has, or maybe it's a matter of breaking trade-offs of like, this is one thing that's fascinating to me about lean.

Mark Graban (41m 25s):
We'll try to bring it back to lean of like breaking down false trade-offs. I mean, people would say, well, we can't afford better quality. We'd say, wait a minute, time out. Yeah. Better quality actually costs less. We would agree. The audience would agree, but maybe there's this false trade-off of like, well, you know, people, people don't want to watch sober serious fact-based reporting. And we're like, well, maybe that could be human nature. It could be a false trade-off.

Crystal Davis (41m 54s):
Yeah. I think there is some element of entertainment, right. That people enjoy and they get wrapped up in it probably subconsciously and find that in the news. But I think from a mental health perspective, I also think it's something that people should check in on. Right. And no judgment. That's something that you enjoy, right? Yeah.

Mark Graban (42m 15s):
Yeah. But, you know, getting, getting riled up, whether you agree, whether you agree with the person or disagree with them, like there's a certain fatigue that comes from being just on edge riled up, fired up, whatever it is. Right.

Crystal Davis (42m 31s):
Yeah. It's like when you see on social media, right. People say trigger warning. I'm like past,

Mark Graban (42m 39s):
But to each their own. Right. So someone else may lean into that and you can, you can scroll on by, but, you know, I think, you know, so yeah, I've done that same counter measure of really limiting if not eliminating cable news viewing, unless there's like breaking news,

Crystal Davis (42m 58s):
That's going

Mark Graban (42m 58s):
On. So that, that is the time then when there's often real reporting,

Crystal Davis (43m 6s):

Mark Graban (43m 7s):
Truly breaking news. And then the boundaries of what gets labeled breaking news gets blurred. So well, Crystal, one of the things we wanted to talk about today was, you know, bringing it back to the supply chain challenges that are still ongoing, it's still may be crisis mode. It still might be survival mode. W w what is your thoughts about, you know, what's going on here in 2022, what companies and leaders can and should be doing

Crystal Davis (43m 38s):
Great question. It's a complex question. It's a complex question to answer, but here's kind of what I see happening and what I'm hoping that we'll see more of. So of course I am an advocate for lean approaches and typically in crisis, or when things are unstable, your first response or reaction from a lean perspective is to get to some level of stability before you can actually improve. And so I actually posted this question to our, to our fellow industrial engineers in our Institute of Industrial Engineers group page. And I said, with everything that's going on and the sheer amount of complexity happening, should we still be so dogmatic about our approach to lean and six Sigma, right?

Crystal Davis (44m 31s):
Because technically there's not, it won't say there's not a lot, but there are several instances where things are simply not stable, but yet there's so many problems that need to be solved. And so that's one of the things that I have have kind of, I've taken up this muscle with myself to learn how to be less dogmatic about, about how we approach certain things and just deal with it from the aspect of, well, here's the problem that we know. I don't have to have a perfect Ling solution, but I have to just seek to make things better. And if there are aspects of the framework that can work in order in sequence or out of sequence, I don't care.

Crystal Davis (45m 16s):
I literally had this argument out arguments, a strong word, but I said to the person, I said, listen, here's why I'm taking this stance. I said, yes, we as lean professionals could debate how this will be done. I said, but for me, these people have been operating in crisis for over two years. Every day, they show up to work, trying to make it to the end of the day, feeling like they made an impact and they can leave successful. They see red all across their KPI board every single day. That's not healthy. And I'm not going to come in and add to the stress and say, well, you've got to do your eight three first.

Crystal Davis (45m 56s):
You've got to do no. I'm going to meet them where they are. And I want to help them if I invited in a ha a plumber. And I said, oh, by the way, you know, this light fixture's giving me problems. Yes, he has a bunch of tools with him, but he can't,

Mark Graban (46m 14s):
He's not a licensed electrician

Crystal Davis (46m 19s):
Electrician. And if he's a nice man or woman, right, they may say, well, let me take a look at it. I might could help you out. But at the end of the day, right, just stick to the problem and find the best way to help people just move forward and feel a sense of accomplishment. So that's definitely, you know, a big challenge is how do you do lean with when things are, there's so much instability. And then the second one is this notion of digital solutions. Like one digital solution is going to save the day. And there's so many elements that come with that. How do you do lean? How can lean organizations leverage digital solutions?

Crystal Davis (47m 2s):
And it's not about having this, this dogmatic argument about whether or not you should do a value stream map with a pencil, or, you know, that's, that's just not where we need to be. Right?

Mark Graban (47m 15s):
Yeah. Well, I'm not looking for an, and this comes back to the Toyota way, principle, paraphrasing of not expecting a digital solution to solve everything like integrating technologies that support your people and your process. So for those who are just listening to, they don't realize, you know, on YouTube, I'm double dipping here with logos today, an extra shirt on, and I'm drinking water out of KaiNexus coffee mug. But that's, that's a digital solution that even the providers have said solution at KaiNexus and the founders of the company would agree. The software is something to facilitate human behavior. You don't automate problem solving you don't automate continuous improvement.

Mark Graban (47m 57s):
Technology may make aspects of it easier, right? In terms of communication and visibility and things that are built on principles. Exactly. So, you know, you could have like, you know, different principles mapped to different technologies, like think of like the classic suggestion box system, right. With the locked box. And there are principles of like, we can't let employees see what the ideas are. Those ideas might be bad. We might need to reject those ideas. Like there's all kinds of mental models where with different mental models, you could have a bulletin board. Exactly. Transparency and empowerment and participation.

Mark Graban (48m 38s):
So people could digitize the suggestion box model. And we would say, no, no, no, no, no new technology often, you know, you could say the wrong principles or different principles as opposed to digital solution on top of

Crystal Davis (48m 56s):
Yep. And better. It's just, that's right. It's, it's, it's really my boggling to me though. You know, as people throw out, throw out these, these really broad solutions, how people don't think about them holistically, how does that fit into our culture? You know, does it align with our principles, our, our re art workers at a level where they can embrace this or do we need to re-skill them? Or do we actually have people thinking, well, we need to just bring in the people who already understand this, which is a threat to the people who've been there and had been lawyers. So there's so many nuances that you have to think about when you think about doing that.

Crystal Davis (49m 39s):
And then again, what's the purpose? What is the purpose? Are we looking at digital solutions and data science to help bring visibility to the people who are doing the work so that they can make better decisions, right. Yeah.

Mark Graban (49m 57s):
And so back to dogma decisions versus dogma, like there's supply chain, dogma that people will point to in lean that's maybe not even a dogma that Toyota would hold, right? So someone might say our dogma is we only have two hours of inventory because that's lean like, well, you know, there are articles recent times about, you know, Toyota stockpiled, semiconductors, they're moving away from just in time. Well, no, like there was this Lei book from years ago that talked about the practice, having a plan for every part. It doesn't mean the same plan for all the cards. It's a plan for each individual part and supplier and Toyota identified risks.

Mark Graban (50m 40s):
I would say there were smart principles there.

Crystal Davis (50m 44s):
Exactly. And part of the plan is to understand the risks and to right-size the inventory to minimize the impact until that risk factor has been solved or mitigated

Mark Graban (50m 59s):
Decisions, decisions,

Crystal Davis (50m 60s):
Decisions, decision. I think I've told this story before I was working with Mr. Yamada. And he said, I said, oh great. We had done, he had done this, this 83. And we picked a problem that we were going to go solve. And I was like, oh, great. We have to go through the value stream map. And he's like, Crystal, we know that I said, but we have to do the map, but we know the problem. And, you know, after saying that to me multiple times, I understood because I had been taught, you have to do the value stream map. And I think that was also in, not at that company, but at a previous company where I would have been chastised, had I not done?

Crystal Davis (51m 42s):
You know, it's kind of like checking the box. Right. Well, you didn't do a value stream map, but I know the problem. So

Mark Graban (51m 55s):
Yeah. Great example. So before we wrap up Crystal, I want to kind of come back to a couple of things. We said, we're going to talk about even briefly here. So, you know, how do you define a lean business system? Let's say you have a chance you're talking to an executive at a conference, or you're on an elevator with the CEO of a client Crystal. What's this lean business system I've been hearing about.

Crystal Davis (52m 20s):
All right. So this is probably gonna get me in trouble with my colleagues, but for me, okay. For me, lean business system focuses around people, process and infrastructure and how all of those three work in tandem. And then it has this foundation very similar to, to the lean transformation foundation that says, what are our behaviors? What are our skills? What are competencies? What, what are, what is our mental model around our culture? Like what is that foundation? And then what's the gap to where we want to be.

Crystal Davis (52m 60s):
And for me, there's no end point destination. It's this evolution of learning who you want to become as an organization. That's looking to balance people, process and infrastructure and, and within infrastructure, right? You have systems and you have whether they're electronic or technical systems or manual systems, but you have systems and policies and procedures, right. That support how engine churns. And then you have this foundation, this element of people where you have to build capability, you have to teach leaders, managers, supervisors, whomever, in a leadership role. You have to teach them how to lead people.

Crystal Davis (53m 41s):
And you have to teach them how to create an environment that is open to problems, being visible and provides them with the right support to attempt to just chip away at the problem. Continuously that for me, is how I define a lean business system. And at the core of that, you're always focused on our customers and delivering on our business objectives.

Mark Graban (54m 11s):
So I'm, I'm with you. I didn't hear anything there that was controversial. So what, what, what out of that might somebody take issue with,

Crystal Davis (54m 18s):
Again, some of my colleagues that are very dogmatic about their approach.

Mark Graban (54m 23s):
Okay. But is it just, is it just, are they, would they take issue with one part of it or it's just that it's articulated differently than they would say?

Crystal Davis (54m 34s):
Well, I think it's, it's probably articulated a little bit differently than they would say it. So, you know, I've worked with teams where, when we start to frame up what a Lean business system is to deploy process across the company, they're very focused on tools. They don't factor in leadership development. They don't factor in, you know, Hoshin or strategy deployment. They only focus on, like, I literally had someone telling me today, well, this is the, I can't say, I can't even say that. But anyway, they said, well, you know, we have our business plan. I'm like, well, I think there's a problem. And it's partly visible. Hopefully, hopefully. So let's not, let's not split hairs here.

Crystal Davis (55m 15s):
They're one in the same. Yeah. So they were like, well, you know, why is the continuous improvement group talking to us about our Hoshin? Okay. So anyway, it's that type of thing, you know? And, and so you still, I still see a lot of colleagues talking about true lean and I'm like, What does that mean? And for an organization that's starting, or for a mature organization that might now have a crisis that causes them to have to take a slightly different approach.

Crystal Davis (55m 55s):
You know, it's really just about how do we think about this and how does it align with, you know, who we are overall and going back to those principles, core values,

Mark Graban (56m 7s):
I think that's really well said. And then the other thing we're going to talk about was the Socratic method. So let's say, okay, we're on a different elevator ride now, how do you explain the Socratic method and how it applies to lean work?

Crystal Davis (56m 20s):
Yeah. So the way that I explain it and, and, you know, it's, it's related to like, you know, Socrates and the simplest way is to, to be able to teach in a way that, that you ask a sequence of questions that helps you as the teacher, understand how the student is thinking. And so it frames up the work that the teacher then needs to do to educate, but to allow this person to arrive at things themselves. And I can say that when I was younger, I went overboard. So I'm, I'm one of these people I made the black or white, I have very little gray. And when I go to the left, I go off to the left.

Crystal Davis (57m 3s):
And I remember a dear friend of mine. I talked to him last week that I worked with, he was, he was an SME and he was, he was working with me to learn more lean principles. And he said, Crystal, can you just answer a question? And I would say, well, Rick has never answered any of my questions. And he said, but now's the time where you can just answer the question. And so I, it took me a long time to learn when it's appropriate to teach and not every moment is a teaching moment. And then there are times when I can just answer the question or direct the person that doesn't mean that I'm a command and control kind of person, right? So it's this evolution of learning the appropriate time and space.

Crystal Davis (57m 46s):
And now that I've got learned more about coaching from the essence of, of leadership coaching, not necessarily lean coaching, I'm learning to even ask permission because it's not my job to make people feel less than, or put them on the spot or throw them under the bus for not knowing the answer is for me to really find an opportunity when I have observed that they have the answer or they're close to an answer and that there might not actually be a right answer and that they need to become more comfortable with the answer that they come up with. But that's an evolution of learning.

Mark Graban (58m 25s):
Yeah. Because as you were saying earlier in the episode, people do sometimes get annoyed by the questions and I've had clients even snap. Okay. I'll say they snapped at me or something close to that. Or like, you know, you, you let's say I was doing a lot of work at one point in hospital laboratories and somebody would lab director would say, look, you've done a bunch of these lean lab overhauls. Why don't you just tell us where we should put our analyzers? Like, but that's like, th that seems faster, but it's, it's not going to be a sustainable and the, your, your lab is different in some ways.

Mark Graban (59m 8s):
So, so what I was teaching was principles and methods for them to figure it out and as painful or as awkward, or as frustrated as they might've been, I, you know, it, it was for the best to hold to those principles. I'm not going to speed this up by drawing the layout for you.

Crystal Davis (59m 26s):
Yeah. And like, sometimes I'll use, like, I'll use real life situations to say, right. If there's a child standing at a crosswalk and this child is about to walk out in the street and I see that there's danger approaching, now's not the time for me to say, well, did you, did you look both ways? No, I need to protect the child. Right. And that's the time when you just make a decision or you inform someone about situation versus, you know, either after or when I'm talking to a child about going out, I can start to explain in a way by asking questions so that they can be thinking about how to be aware of your surroundings.

Crystal Davis (1h 0m 15s):
Why is important to look both ways before you take a step? What happens if you suddenly see a car approaching, how do you respond so that you don't freeze in the moment? Right? So you just, again, it it's common sense approach to when you need to do it, except for when you start out in your learning and you think that what you've seen other people do is how you need to do it.

Mark Graban (1h 0m 41s):
Right? It comes back to this question of what's scalable and what's sustainable, hovering over a child, constantly their entire life and telling them when they were about to do something dangerous, it's not, not, not sustainable. And you know, if I were standing too close to the edge of a cliff, I wouldn't want you to come up and say, mark, tell me what you know about gravity. Let's say careful, that cliff edge is unstable. You need the backup. I don't know why my mental image went to me, standing on the edge of the cliff about hiking, about sightseeing. What have you.

Mark Graban (1h 1m 22s):
So, but yeah, there there's, there's a time and a place, you know, you would say if, back to your point with Mr. Yamada, when a firetruck shows up to a burning building, they don't need to go back. It's not the time to do root cause analysis. It's the time to contain, literally contain the problem. And it's probably not a time to sit back and be dogmatic. Like, well, you need to brainstorm seven possible countermeasures first. Like no, no, put the fire out. And then we can go into causal analysis and prevention.

Crystal Davis (1h 1m 60s):
Yes, exactly. You're spot on. And, you know, I made the joke about when I say, you know, Rick, Rick cares to ever answered any of my questions, but here's, you know, now that I have having matured, I know I now know that Rick had a purview of how he was observing me. That gave him enough Intel to say, I need to ask her another thinking question or a powerful question. Right. And I'm sure had, I maybe demonstrated some other types of behaviors. He would have told me, right. If I wasn't, if I was way off course or something like that, he would have told me.

Crystal Davis (1h 2m 41s):
And it also takes me back to a question that I just did. I just asked my mentor from my early days of lean. And I said, why did you select me to be one of the team members to go over to Europe and help out some, some of our plants? And he said, because I saw in you that you were so resilient and persistent in figuring things out and getting it right. Like working until you found a viable solution. So that showed me that you were committed and sometimes crazy about finding a solution to the problem and helping the people out

Mark Graban (1h 3m 20s):
Crystal you, you're not the only one recently to sing the praises of Rick Harris. My guests back in episode 4 38, Kathy Miller and Shannon Karels both brought up and, and made reference to Rick Harris and Chris Harris as being mentored as Chris Harris has been a guest here on the podcast before. So, oh, Crystal, it has been really, really good to have another discussion, a conversation with you. Our guest again has been Crystal Davis. You can learn more about her and her work at her website, theleancoachInc.Com. If you go into the show notes, I'll link to the podcast and other, other things that Crystal does.

Mark Graban (1h 4m 3s):
So, and anything else that you want to share with the audience before we wrap up Crystal?

Crystal Davis (1h 4m 9s):
Not particularly. I just want to thank you for having me on and thank you for always being an advocate, you know, in a number of different ways to me and you know, also a mentor and teaching me things about business. So anytime that I have an opportunity to share with you and I will make time to come on.

Mark Graban (1h 4m 28s):
Thank you. First of all, it's a two-way street. I learned a lot from you and appreciate you being here as a guest. So, thanks again.

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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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