Process Improvement Blog


Looking for ways for your organization to increase productivity and trim budgets? You’ve come to the right place.

DocuPhase’s “Business Process Automation” blog will provide valuable insight into how your company can benefit from implementing document management and workflow automation into existing processes.

Working for Anonymous Funds

February 11, 2014

There is a company I know well that will remain nameless that has about 300 employees, and they manufacture stuff on Vancouver Island - Just outside of Victoria, British Columbia. The major markets for their products are gradually shifting from the Northwestern USA and western Canada to the Southeastern USA. That puts them about 2,400 miles as the crow flies from more and more of their customers,...

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Avoiding Scattershot Management

February 10, 2014

In Toyota Kata Mike Rother wrote, “When we hunt for wastes or opportunities to improve and make a list of action items, we are focusing on the question, ‘What can we do to improve?’ That question is actually too easy, and it automatically leads us to lists and a scattershot approach. The more focused question is, ‘What do we need to do to improve this process?’ Admittedly, this is a more...

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Lean Accounting - Just another vehicle for managing by the numbers?

February 04, 2014

A good and wise friend recently asked me, “Isn’t lean accounting an attempt to change the numbers, but still just a destructive vehicle enabling managing by the numbers?

The quick answer is, “Yes”, that is exactly what it is; albeit a less destructive way of managing because it provides better numbers.

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Plan - Sit - Check - Act Won't Cut It

January 31, 2014

In his book “Ackoff’s F/laws The Cake” Russell Ackoff writes, “Organizations fail more often because of what they have not done than because of what they have done.” The reason: “Since errors of commission are the only type of mistake accounted for, a security-seeking manager’s optimal strategy is to avoid such errors by doing as little as possible, including nothing. The most successful...

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What's the problem?

January 30, 2014

A wrong solution to the right problem is generally better than the right solution to the wrong problem. [One] usually gets feedback that enables one to correct wrong solutions, but not wrong problems. Wrong problems are perpetuated by right solutions to them.”

-Russell Ackoff

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Thai Excellence

January 23, 2014

Thailand is probably not the first place anyone would look for examples of high-powered lean companies from which we can learn – but that may be a big mistake. Thailand has lots of problems – no doubt about that – and far be it from me to give the impression that all Thai companies are any good … but a couple of them certainly are; and one of them is downright over the top.

That over the top...

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It starts with respect for the product

January 14, 2014

When you spend as much time on the road as I do, any opportunity to break the airport, hotel chain restaurant routine is golden. That being the case I recently arranged to stay in a hotel that was part of a big complex of shops, exhibits and restaurants celebrating Amish culture – a bit of a tourist spot but different and a chance for me to see and learn something new. I was greeted at the...

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The Training - Culture Conundrum

January 02, 2014

Quite a bit of the most interesting and thought provoking ideas concerning the knotty transformation from a traditional business model to a lean one comes from rather out of the way places. Brain Pickings is often one of those places for me. In a recent post, Maria Popova – the woman who runs the site – listed her most interesting books of 2013, and one of them (scroll down to #13) is “Don’t Go...

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If MBA's Ran the NFL

December 30, 2013

If the MBA’s ran the National Football League no player would make more than the league minimum salary of $405,000 except for the handful playing the ‘skilled’ positions – quarterbacks, running backs and so forth. The rest would be paid the least legally allowable, and if any of them wanted more they would soon find out that the colleges crank out plenty of guys big enough to play their position....

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A Style of Life

December 26, 2013

I am a fan of Robert Barron, a Catholic priest who is a teacher and a master communicator as much as anything else. In reading his book, The Strangest Way I came across a passage that struck me as perhaps the best wordsmithed explanation of Lean I have ever read. Barron, of course, could care less about Lean; so to get there I had to take the liberty of taking his words and substituting ‘Lean’...

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Teaching by Example

December 23, 2013

There are few places notoriously less lean than college campuses. Buried in bureaucracy and paper work, massive amounts of money spent on just about anything and everything other than educating students and a culture of arrogance and superiority among tenured faculty it is not too surprising that the quality of lean thinking instilled in a typical college graduate is generally pathetic.

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The Shared Purpose

December 20, 2013

There is a lot out there about culture. Much of it like this recent piece from Michael Mankins from Bain is good, but like most it is very incomplete. He describes cultures that might make work more interesting, or fun, or unusual but those are hardly the things that drive people to dig deep and collaborate to take things to new heights … and sustain them. People need more than that if they are...

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Doin’ the Gemba Strut

December 18, 2013


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The best comeback since Scrooge

December 18, 2013

Everyone loves a good redemption story around the holidays, and this one comes as near to Ebenezer Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning, realizing he has been on the wrong path and resolving to change his evil ways as the lean world gets.

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No place for mercenaries

December 10, 2013

At the last Lean Accounting Summit they had a table with a half dozen or so large glass vials, each labeled with a different function: Accounting, HR, Sales, etc… There was a bowl of small rubber balls and, when people passed by, they were asked to drop one of the balls into the vial representing the function most needed to get on board with the lean vision. When I last saw it, Sales & Marketing...

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He got the map upside down

December 03, 2013

If you are following a complicated list of directions to get somewhere, and you make a wrong turn late in the journey you can easily ask directions and get to your destination. However, if the first turn you make is wrong – you go the wrong way right out of your driveway, you are doomed. When you make the last turn you are so far from your destination no one can help you. That is the sad case...

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The Pope Comes Close - but No Cigar

November 27, 2013

The new Pope – Francis – weighed in on a number of issues, including economics in a controversial document called “APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION EVANGELII GAUDIUM OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY, CONSECRATED PERSONS AND THE LAY FAITHFUL ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL IN TODAY’S WORLD”. He came close to the heart of the lean culture – but ended up missing the central point.

He wrote:

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Dysfunctional Silos

November 27, 2013

If “you have a) ambitious people with a variety of visions, b) limited resources, and c) serious flaws with decision tools,” “and any strategic decision is largely an outcome of power plays and politics,” then it seems apparent you have a big problem.

Perhaps we are making the problem more difficult than it needs to be, as Arthur Conan Doyle observed: “There is nothing more deceptive than an...

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Thoughts on Thanksgiving Week

November 25, 2013

As we enter Thanksgiving week it seems to me this should be a very good week for a little cultural introspection and soul searching. The cultural message of lean is heavy with concern for all of the stakeholders, and not merely the stockholders – not to turn the business into some sort of charitable institution but in recognition of the fact that it takes the contribution of the community, the...

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Management is Dead; Only Practical Leadership Remains

November 21, 2013

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a Harvard professor who spends a lot of time thinking about management. By my gauge about 10% of her stuff is worthwhile, which puts her way out in front of the bulk of the academic pack. In the HBR today she writes about leadership versus management. I suggest she is wasting her time, as management – at least as she and most folks define it – is on its deathbed.


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If You Can See It, It Isn't Lean

November 19, 2013

This is a highly effective Value Stream office at Aluminum Trailer. It would be a serious mistake for anyone to see it, then run back to their business and kick everyone out of their cubicles and offices and put them into an open space like this. In fact, according to this guy at The Guardian – quoting a Harvard study – it would most likely be” bad for concentration, motivation, stress – and...

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The Angels are in the Details

November 14, 2013

The latest edition of the Thinkers 50 is out – “the essential guide to which thinkers and which ideas matter now”, so they claim. It is an academic-heavy list of folks thinking grand thoughts on a grand scale. I’m not sure exactly who the Thinkers influence, but I can easily imagine the list of influencees is chock full of similarly academic credentialed executives from Dow Jones listees. (Hint –...

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The Think System

November 11, 2013

For the few who haven’t seen it, The Music Man is a classic musical comedy from back in the 60’s. “Masquerading as a traveling band instructor, Professor Hill plans to con the citizens of River City into paying him to create a boys' marching band, including instruments, uniforms, and music instruction. Once he has collected the money and the instruments and uniforms have arrived, he will hop...

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Lean Jazz Bands

November 07, 2013

I was talking to a company president the other day and he related a story of a customer needing a spare part at 3:00 Am on a Saturday. The company had a weekend customer support operation and the customers both understood and were willing to pay a $300 surcharge for weekend support. Computers acted up, however, as they are wont to do, and the customer order information was lost and the service...

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To Blame or Not to Blame

November 04, 2013

There is a short article on Business Insider called “We Should Stop Telling Entrepreneurs To 'Fail Fast'” that is well worth a couple of minutes to read. On the surface – and in the title – it seems like a feel good piece centered on the line, "I don't like the word 'fail.' It leads to a negative reaction."

That brings up the whole idea of blaming the process, rather than the person, which is...

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