Steve pointed out to the production area, with neat rows of workers smoothly assembling a complex product. Each product required many steps and many people. There were parts bins everywhere on the line. Then Steve pointed out the key: Some bins were yellow, and some were clear plastic. The answer: They were shifting to see-through bins to help their replenishment folks see what to fill next!

No instructions, no checklists, no reports, no conversation, no nothing. Simple: Never have an empty bin. Look and do.

Steve’s business depends on innovation and constantly improving ways to do everything. The bins were way more convincing than any speech.

What Steve’s innovating organization produces is speed. He’s found the secret: small steps, easy to teach, easy to learn, easy to do……steps that speed throughput and cut mistakes. And yes, that cut waste, too.

There was no conversation about “work pace”. Instead, Steve found a better way to deliver speed:

  • Be sure workers have what they need to do their jobs
  • Use production flow to help folks want to “keep up”

Essential: Get your people to find their version of see-through bins, and do it.

Sometimes reporting throughput and recognizing little improvements is all it takes.

What’s your version of See-Through Bins?

Send me yours, and I’ll try to publish it. Please tell me what it is, how it helped, and the result you got.

2013 blog sig0001

© Jim Grew 2014

Contact me to learn more about Do Business Faster™ or to receive my blogs:

jim@grewco.biz          503 544 8857

http://www.grewco.biz            Twitter@grewj

You may reprint and excerpt this blog if you include our copyright, the source, the author, and “reprinted with permission.” Our subscriber lists are NEVER rented, sold or loaned to anyone.

Posted in SPEED | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


It’s easy to start a management team, but hard to make it as effective as you hope.
Here are some difference-makers, if you’re willing to do the work as leader.
1. The obvious need for collective goals and regular power-sharing isn’t obvious in the reality, especially when the CEO realizes that success requires her to give her personal power to the group. Unless the rule is to question the data behind conclusions, or balance missing data with wisdom shared openly, the group quickly will wait to be told want to do.
2. It’s more work for the CEO than just driving the business. Telling folks what to do is easier than helping them to apply their strengths to the business problem in front of them.
3. It requires a conductor who’s willing to let everyone play their part, with the skill to maintain collective pace and focus. It’s like 10 special initiative teams in one, with a cacophony of topics and opinions about best paths to success. Each member brings his perspective and his department problems to the session, believing either that his problems are most important, or that they don’t matter at all. It’s easy to ask, “What does the business need?”, but not so easy to push away all but the most critical activities in the interest of forward motion.
4. The flooding inbox problem is multiplied into the meeting; it is not diluted or reduced. Success requires a system of choosing priorities both in the moment and toward future success. Meeting future goals requires ignoring or band-aiding many immediate problems that seem to cry for quick solution.
5. A few simple measures of company performance, available weekly, provide early warning of success and obstacles, if there’s a way in the meeting to consider them every week.
Building a winning Management Team is like developing a well-trained dog. It takes years, patience and love. And it’s worth it. Are you willing to invest?

2013 blog sig0001
©Jim Grew 2014

Posted in EFFECTIVE ORGANIZATION | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Yes, some ignorance is worse than others, especially when you’re leading an organization. That ignorance is surprisingly available, seeping into the minds of employees and corrupting their motivation and performance. The more successful a leader is, the more dangerous and insistent this ignorance is…..and the harder it is to overcome.
What is it? It is the ignorance of thinking that we know something that we don’t know.

Yes, it’s being wrong without knowing it, compounded by hubris that disallows data that conflicts with our gut and experience. Yes, some hubris accompanies the ability to make “tough decisions”, or to launch a vital initiative without “proof”.
All this doesn’t change the fact that in some vital cases, our “truth” just isn’t true.

What’s a leader to do?
1. Allow the idea that your truth may not always be true.
2. Let go of your fantasy that you must be right, because you’re the leader.
3. When your gut twinkles, stop and check your assumptions with the most competent other person available.
4. Make learning a habit, on topics in and out of your business.
5. Decide to build your skill as a questioner, rather than as an answerer.
6. Let yourself be wrong in public.
Start now: What big decision are you facing, and what is the central truth in your approach? I dare you to test that truth.

2013 blog sig0001
©Jim Grew 2014.

Posted in COMMUNICATION | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


The split in planning can cripple an organization. Planners want to think out loud in detail, and “doers” want to “just pick one and do it.” Sadly, truth is not just some of each. I little planning goes a long way. In fact, Jack Welch’s quote may be more vital than ever: “Just pick a strategy and execute the hell out of it.”

That doesn’t mean pick it up like gum on the sidewalk, but it looks ahead past the end of the planning session (which went too long, by the way).

The problem with the output of strategy or tactics work sessions is pivoting from thinking to action. The planning output is usually huge, vaguely indigestible bites. Because solution often requires several teams, success can look like a jungle.

Here’s a path out of the jungle:

Within a week of the planning session, conduct an action work session to convert the concepts into a path forward.
Make all the planners join this session, along with critical execution folks.

Here are critical steps in that work session:

1. Name and describe each initiative in 120 seconds.
2. Name the action team for each, and its leader.
3. Cut the action into monthly parts.
4. Set review dates for each part.
5. Name week one actions.
6. Light the fuse and Adjourn.

Hopefully someone outlined Who, What and When, to hold the process into the future.

2013 blog sig0001

©Jim Grew 2014.

Posted in Implementation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


If a leader’s job is to enable getting the right things done, how can that happen with other people who have different skills and outlooks? It’s difficult, which is why learning and applying new leadership tools is essential for success.
One of those tools is “Incubator Leadership”, which is creating space for a team to hatch better approaches together. It’s the opposite of checking off the to-do list, which can consume the capacity for great answers. Here are some examples of the kinds of work that an incubator discussion can awaken:
• Align and apply talents: This allows the slower thinker and the more withdrawn personality to contribute, as opportunities appear.
• Disagreement: Surfaces different ideas, and in the churn better solutions may appear.
• Dissention: Personal worry that distracts and separates a team member from others. The silent spaces in an incubator session may allow talking through the concern, which can help reduce it to manageable size.
• Find the seams: Most unsolvable problems can be solved by looking for seams in the wall, rather than up, over or down.
• Do nothing but talk: Sometimes no agenda pops up the real agenda, with space to consider it effectively.
• Unlocks the step between plan and action. Dramatic change can promise mind-numbing choices, which can blind leader to the next small step toward action.
When this week will you dare to try incubator leadership with your team?

2013 blog sig0001
© Jim Grew 2014
Contact me to learn more about this ‘Winning-CEO’ stuff or to receive my blogs:
jim@grewco.biz http://www.grewco.biz Twitter@grewj
You may reprint and excerpt this blog if you include our copyright, the source, the author, and “reprinted with permission.” Our subscriber lists are NEVER rented, sold or loaned to anyone.

Posted in CHANGE | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


“Screens” in meetings (with one exception), are like a live grenade in a classroom: they divert attention and cut performance immediately.
“Screens” are laptops, iPads and cell phones. They ooze into work sessions without resistance, sucking away the vitality and excellence that the group was assembled for.
Why are meetings held? To improve understanding and commitment on the way to solving a problem or two. Sometimes they deliver these results with remarkable value and enduring improvement. Usually the members are there because working together will produce better results than working alone.
Everyone knows this, right? Then why the screens?
• “So I won’t miss a call or text that won’t wait.”
• “So I can take notes quickly, and have them ready to use later.”
Screens do this damage to work groups immediately:
• Divert attention
• Interrupt problem solving flow
• Distance relationships, crippling the teamwork that can deliver winning results.
If screens are so great, why don’t basketball players don’t carry them into their games?
Here’s what’s true:
• Unless folks in the room are firemen or emergency docs, phones aren’t needed.
• Typing notes in a computer is worse, way worse, than hand notes.
A new study compared understanding, retention, future application, and creativity between college students who took class notes by computer, and those who took notes by hand. The hand writers were clearly ahead of the computer note takers, presumably because hand written notes require thinking and synthesis, proven boosters to learning and retention.

Read the article at the link below for more. Here’s a summary:
“…to synthesize material, draw inferences, see new connections, evaluate evidence, and apply concepts in novel situations, we need to encourage the deep, effortful cognitive processes that underlie these abilities.*
You’ll do better, and meetings could be faster and better if you put down your screen and go to work. The few minutes it takes to transcribe your notes later won’t kill you.

2013 blog sig0001
*Scientific American, June 3, 2014. Author Cindi May is a Professor of Psychology at the College of Charleston.

Posted in Effectiveness | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


The two big reasons people don’t use goals are fear and fear:
• Fear of failing to do something that they committed to do.
• Fear of losing comfortable activity that prevents reaching their goals.
Setting goals that you actually mean to reach always means loss. The point of goals is to direct behavior, both toward an end and away from distractions. Most distractions give pleasure (why else do them), so goals mean giving up pleasure now. The canard that big pleasure later overcomes little pleasure now is fine for everyone except those giving up the pleasures.
Moving toward goals includes rough spots that can be slap-in-the-face hard, and the pain multiplies when the goals are really for someone else.
Goals are worthwhile for folks who want the payoff of reaching them. Seems simple, but if there’s no powerful payoff, goals are unlikely (either to be set or to work).
Stretch Goals are an oxymoron, promoted by lazy leaders who won’t do the digging that’s needed to come up with realistic goals. Stretch goals are the fantasy replacement for real leadership, imagining that getting people to lie to themselves about what they’ll do will be motivating. It won’t. As soon as folks start to fall short of their goals, and realize that the goals are out of reach, their enthusiasm will sour into resentment for being fooled. The backlash can cripple leadership.
Instead, successful goals follow these rules:
1. No more than three goals
2. No more than three months to reach them
3. Some way to track some part of progress
4. Shared processing weekly about progress and blocks
5. No new goal unless an existing one is deleted

2013 blog sig0001
©Jim Grew 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in CHANGE | Tagged , , | Leave a comment