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Back to Basics! ‘Go See’ for Yourself!

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself thinking about some of the Lean basics. Maybe because there was a lot of great discussion about ‘Back to Basics’ at the Portugal Lean Summit 2018, or maybe it’s because I’ve been focused on writing my next book How to Coach for Creativity and Service Excellence: A Workbook for Lean Coaches.

Today, as I was writing about one of the most basic lean practices – ‘going to see’ – I wondered how many leaders really make the time to ‘go see’ on a regular basis? And then I wondered, for those leaders that do, do they just ‘go to see’ how the work is being done, or are they also ‘going to see’ how the people who are doing the work are feeling? Going to see how the work is done is great! But, if leaders don’t take the time, while they’re in gemba (the place where the work for customers is actually performed), to ‘check-in’ with the people who are doing the work, they’ve missed an important opportunity! Because most people come to work each day, eager to get all the work done that their customers need. When they are overwhelmed by more than they can handle, or when there are problems that they can’t resolve, they feel frustrated and stressed. And, that’s not how they should feel, because unhappy, stressed employees don’t make for happy customers. And overwhelmed, unhappy and stressed employees are more likely to make mistakes and to become disengaged. When we ‘go’ to where people are really working and find employees who aren’t ‘feeling’ happy and satisfied, it gives us the wonderful opportunity to find out what’s hard for them in the process, and to help them, right then and there, create easier, more effective and efficient ways to work. Then they – and their customers – will be happier.

Looking back on statistics and metrics about yesterday’s work, and at emoji’s showing how people are feeling can be helpful. Even more helpful, though, is making the time to go ‘back to basics’ and ‘go see’ for yourself!



Are you a gifted leader?


How many of you who read the title of this post immediately thought of yourself? Thought that the question applied to your leadership ability? If we’re really truthful with ourselves, probably most of us did. That’s because, as human beings, it’s simply second nature to put ourselves first. To think about ourselves and how everything applies to us.

Great thing is, if you’re a leader, the one thing I can guarantee you is that you are gifted. Because all leaders, no matter who they are, or at what level they are leading, are gifted: gifted with employees! Gifted with the wonderful joy and corresponding responsibility of caring for and nurturing the fabulous human beings who give the gift of their precious time to their company and their customers each and every day.

If you haven’t thought of it this way, I’m not surprised. But think about it. Each day, your employees come to work, eager and ready to give of their time and talent. Of course, people expect compensation for their efforts, but most people aren’t just working for a paycheck. They’re working because they care about their customers and about helping their team, department, company – and YOU, their leader – be successful. And that’s an unbelievably special gift.

So, if you’re a leader, and aren’t thinking of the people who work for you as a gift, it’s time to start! And you can start simply: by saying thank you! By treating people kindly! And by spending your time, not behind your computer reading reports, but with your team members, finding ways to help them develop their creativity and problem-solving skills! By removing obstacles and improving the system so that they can do their work effectively and serve your customers efficiently. And, most importantly, by thinking of them, not yourself, first.

Leaders, your employees are the biggest – and best – gift you’ll ever receive! Please make sure you’re treating – and thinking of them – this way!

I’m Thinking About Generosity…Are You?

The past few days, for a number of reasons, I’ve found myself thinking about the topic of generosity. So, I’m wondering, have you been thinking about ‘generosity’? If you haven’t been, maybe you should. Because in our busy lives its easy to get so caught up in thinking about what we want to (or ‘deserve to’ as so many commercials remind us) get, that it’s easy to forget about the many, many, many things that each of us has to give. Like time. The time it takes, as a leader, a coach (or a spouse or parent or friend) to sit down and actually listen. To ask and find out why something unexpected happened. To help someone figure out a creative solution or the next small step to take. And although it might seem like a lot to give at the time, when you look back on it, the fifteen or thirty minutes or one hour you spend will seem so small to you, but so large to the person you’ve helped!

Another thing that each of us can give generously of is the answer of ‘yes’. In fact, saying ‘yes’ is one of the practices that I use to help me consciously practice generosity. Here’s why. Often, when something is asked of us, our first impulse is to say ‘no’. Perhaps because it seems like it will take too much of our time, isn’t something that we’d think of doing, or isn’t convenient for us. What if instead of saying ‘no’, though, we said ‘yes’! And then did it! From simply making a conscious decision to say ‘yes’ instead of no, I’ve been given wonderful opportunities to experience things I’d never imagined (like swimming in the Amazon River with pink dolphins), to travel to amazing places and to learn how to do all kinds of things that have helped me in unexpected ways – and in ways that turned out to be much more than the help that I gave! For me, saying ‘yes’ helps make generosity conscious, and a habit!

So, those are some of my thoughts on generosity. I’d love to hear yours. And if you haven’t thought about ‘generosity’ in a while, now is a good time to start! Because every little bit of generosity helps people improve the world!

Why Does it Have to Be About Money?

The other day, I was reading an article about purpose (something that you all know I’m unbelievably passionate about). Although I enjoyed and agreed with a lot of the article, part of the article worried me. And the reason it worried me was that it suggested that the importance of finding one’s purpose was to ‘monetize’ it. And it really made me wonder if others thought that was the ‘purpose’ of ‘purpose’. The way I see it, working on fulfilling your purpose has a host of benefits for people, the community and the world. Benefits that include solving existing problems big and small, creating new ways to work cooperatively and collaboratively with each other and finding better ways to take care of people, animals and our planet, to name a few. And while there may be a monetary outcome as a bi-product of the work each of us can do to fulfill our purpose, I don’t think it’s the most important outcome.

Money simply isn’t everything.

Kindness, caring, compassion and making a better world are priceless.

And fulfilling your purpose doesn’t have to be ‘monetized’.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

What are you creating?

Good morning! “What are you creating?” That’s the question that I ask myself every morning, so today, I’m asking you “What are you creating?” Some of you may think, “I’m not an artist, a writer, a musician…I enter orders…I’m a nurse…I’m an engineer…I’m working, I’m not creating!” Thing is, as human beings, we’re all creating, each and every day, whoever we are, whatever role we have, whatever job we do. We’re creating the culture of our organization, our work and family environment, our community (and more!). With every choice we make, with every answer we give someone (think about the difference we create when we say “Yes. I can take some time to help you” instead of “Well, that’s not my problem”) we create the world that we live in, now and for the future.

Because many people don’t even recognize that they’re creating, they’re often not very deliberate (thinking carefully and deeply about ‘what should be happening’, for our customers, our organizations, our families, our communities and the world) about what they’re creating and how they’re creating it! That means that oftentimes we leave things to chance. But there’s too much at stake in our world, too many problems to solve, too many ways to make things better, to leave what we’re creating to chance!

So, please remember! As a human being you (yes you!) are innately creative and constantly creating! So please create deliberately!

It’s Earth Day…Every Day!!!

It’s Earth Day tomorrow! Well, at least the ‘official’ day that’s been designated on the calendar for celebrating. The reason I’m posting this today is to remind everyone (including myself!), that really, when you get right down to it, every day is Earth Day. That’s because, every single one of us, no matter who we are, where we live, or what we believe in, share – and are connected together by – our wonderful Earth. And we’re not just connected with people, we’re connected with the myriad plants and animals, mountains, deserts, sky and water too! We all share this Beautiful home of Earth together.

And although this might sound simplistic, it’s up to all of us to take care of our home in the best ways that each of us can. For me personally, and for KRC, “Helping people improve the world”, means actively finding ways to care for and improve our Earth. I drive a hybrid car, am in the midst of having solar panels installed on my house (they’ll be here on Tuesday!) and I’m vegan. People often comment that being vegan must be difficult. For me, it really isn’t. It’s simply a deliberate choice I’ve made to help “improve the world”. Sometimes we think that making the change to do things in different ways – like being vegan – will be too hard for us, or that our small effort won’t count. But it will! Even just eating one less meal that has meat in it, walking somewhere instead of driving or bringing your own reusable bag to the grocery store. Because every single act of kindness and compassion, every single effort to “Help people improve the world” counts, to people, to animals, and to our Earth!

So, from KRC to all of you, Happy Earth Day! Today, tomorrow and every day!

(And thanks to my daughter, Serena, for painting this beautiful painting for me for my birthday!)

Every Little Bit (Button) Counts!

Did you know that over the past year and a half I’ve given out over 3,000 KRC Love and Kindness Buttons?

Many have been left anonymously. In airports, restaurants, stores, art galleries…any place I’ve been, I’ve left a button, along with a small slip of paper: “Plant Kindness. Grow Love”… “Practice Kindness” … “Choose Love”… “Help People. Improve the World”. I never know what happens to those buttons. Maybe people smile when they find them. Maybe they keep them or give them away to a friend or loved one. Maybe some are never found. Or maybe they’re thrown away. I’ll never know.

Sometimes I give a button as a “thank you” to someone I see treating another person kindly. Or to someone who’s treated me kindly! I know what happens with those. I’ve been treated to gate attendants at airports hopping over the counter to hug me in thanks! I’ve had people cry as they tell me their life story – or the current difficulty they’re facing – and thank me for the opportunity for connection that receiving the small button has given them. And I’ve had people who’ve connected with me later on to tell me how meaningful their small button is to them – for many, many reasons.

Sometimes I give buttons to people I see arguing or treating other people in a not so kind manner. I hope the surprise of silently being handed the button – and then reading the words on the slip of paper – will be enough of an interruption (and disruption) to end the dispute. Because really, when it comes right down to it, there is nothing (and yes, I really do mean nothing) worth treating anyone unkindly about.

And even though that seems like such a small and simple thing – like my buttons – or giving out one button at a time – for me, it’s unbelievably important. The basis of my personal and professional purpose and practice.

So, I keep giving out buttons. Because with each small button I give out, I’m deliberately creating the world that I want to live in. And the world that I want my children…and their children…and their children’s children to live in. A world in which each of us treats others with love and kindness – and is treated with love and kindness.

Often, I’ve found that many people feel that they’re passive acceptors of the world around them. And that even if they’re not happy with what they’re seeing, they think that who they are, and whatever they can do is – and will be – too small. That in today’s “bigger is always better” world, small can’t – and won’t – do anything. If it’s not ‘scalable’ (or a big money-maker), it’s not worth doing.

But that’s just simply wrong thinking. Every act of love and kindness counts. Every single effort to help someone, no matter what it is, counts. Everything you do to care for a customer or a team-member, to treat people, animals and the earth kindly, no matter how small it seems, counts. Both to the person receiving and the person giving the kindness. Because every single act of love and kindness, at work or at home, is never too small.

When I came up with the idea to create the buttons, a small voice inside my head said, “That’s a crazy idea. How could something so small possibly help?” But I said to myself, “Self, until you try it, you’ll never know.” And here I am, one and a half years and 3,000 buttons, 3,000 small acts of love and kindness, later. And every single one of them has counted.

So, here’s this week’s challenge. And, as you can imagine, it’s a ‘small’ one!

I give out buttons. That’s me. What “small” thing can you do to deliberately create a better world? No matter how ‘crazy’ the voice inside your head says it is! Because, I’ll remind you again, you don’t have to be a passive acceptor of the world as it is today. With each small choice you make, with each small act of love and kindness you choose to do, whatever form it takes, you can be an active creator of a better world, now and for the future.

So, what one small thing will you choose to do today?

Because every little bit (button) counts.

And, so do you.

(And, if you post a response of what you choose to do, I’ll be happy to send you a KRC Love and Kindness Button in return!)

CSAT scores…or happy customers?

I went out for dinner last night. At the end of the meal, after processing our payment, the server handed my husband the table-top computer and somewhat sheepishly pointed out the short, 5-question survey, including where the place for ‘good’ scores was – on the right. Nervously, she asked my husband to please fill out the survey and said she hoped she’d been attentive enough and that we were satisfied with the service. Having worked in customer service myself for many years and having been in the same position – basically forced to ask customers to fill out surveys – and give me positive results – I felt sorry for the server. “Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll give you a good survey. And the service was very nice!” As the server looked on, my husband filled out the form. After she left, I turned to him and said, “Disrespectful. Disrespectful. Disrespectful. Disrespectful to the server, and disrespectful to us, the customers!” Here’s why I think that:

  • Before servers are servers, they are human beings! Asking them to basically beg for a good survey, so that they can keep their job, get a raise, or help their particular location meet its CSAT (customer satisfaction) goals is demeaning and degrading. Servers aren’t numbers…a 3 or a 5 on a survey…they’re human beings!
  • As a customer, being asked to fill out a survey while the person who created the experience I’m commenting on is standing beside me is very unpleasant. In fact, it’s downright awkward. Feeling forced to fill out a survey positively doesn’t respect my right to fill out the survey or not in the first place, and, if I do want to fill it out, to comment honestly.

In my view, having the server point-blank ask us to fill out the survey with the highest score possible, shows that the restaurant doesn’t actually care about whether we, as customers, were happy or not! What is shows me is that they are really concerned about how their CSAT scores look on a corporate dashboard!

So, what could the restaurant have done differently? Well, to start with, the manager could have spent time watching the server do their job! Then, based on those observations, the manager could have come and asked my husband and I how the service was…what we enjoyed…and what would have made the experience better for us! We could have had an actual dialogue, and a real, personal human connection! If the service hadn’t been good, the manager would have the opportunity, right there and then, to fix any problems and make sure that we left the restaurant feeling happy and satisfied.  Which brings me to the point of this podcast.

Managing CSAT scores isn’t the same thing as making sure that you have happy customers.

And in this day and age, with so much choice in service options, it’s essential to have happy customers! Because unhappy customers are likely to switch service providers after even just one bad service experience.

I’m not a big fan of customer satisfaction surveys in general. Not just because they reduce our customers and service reps to numbers, but because they present ‘data’ versus actual facts that we can learn for ourselves, from our customers, simply by connecting with them personally and observing and asking.

Taiichi Ohno said, “I much prefer facts over data”, and especially when it comes to finding out how our customers really feel about our service, so do I!

Email? Or the joy of personal, human connection!?

Good morning! Happy Monday! I have a question for you! What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get into to work this morning? If you’re like many, I bet the answer is, “Check my email!” For many of us, arriving at work and logging into the computer to send and answer emails is such a common way to start our day that we don’t think about it anymore. We just do it. What I wonder though, is how much joy does it give you? How excited do you get thinking about facing the email inventory that built up over the weekend…or…to searching your inbox for that one email a client said they sent but you just can’t find? Chances are, if you answer truthfully, what you’re really feeling is probably something closer to…dread. Honestly, I think that’s the way many of us feel. And not just because although, somehow, email was supposed to make us more efficient…it really doesn’t. (Think about all that waiting for answers, and then the other questions that arrive…or the time wasted scrolling down seventeen emails in one strand searching for the one piece of information that YOU need.) But, because, in the end, email doesn’t create the kind of real, personal connection that we, as human beings, want. Reading an email is just not the same as talking to someone on the phone…or even better…spending time with someone face to face. And often, instead of creating a connection, email actually separates us. Think about the times that you’ve tried to figure out whether the underlying tone of an email is one that you should be worried about.

So, this lovely Monday morning, I have a challenge for you! Take a look at your email, and then, instead of responding with an email of your own, either pick up the phone or go and talk to the person who sent you the message. And, if you have a question or need help, instead of sending an email, give them a call! You never know, you might even be able to meet and have coffee while getting your question answered. Works great to improve team work and employee engagement, and…if it’s a customer you’re responding to…even better! You’ll be able to ask them directly how your service is and skip the survey…all while creating the personal, human connection that each of us craves. The personal, human connection that gives us the joy that we’re looking for in whatever work we do!

‘Check in’ with people…to show you respect them!

‘Respect for people’ is one of the foundational practices of Lean. As well, the topic of ‘respect’ is one I hear discussed often in all types of organizations. But what does ‘respect’ and ‘respect for people’ really mean? In many of the organizations I’ve worked with (and for) and in many business-related articles I read, respect for people at work seems to be defined as ‘hire great people and get out of their way and let them do their job’. I’ve also heard a version of this from employees working in a variety of organizations: “I know my boss respects and trusts me because they leave me alone to do my work.”

Although this might sound good on the outside (and a lot less work for managers and leaders!), I find it quite problematic. And here’s why:

Because, in most of the organizations I’ve worked with, the other most-often discussed topic is ‘accountability’. How do we make sure that things are getting done, and that people are doing what they need to do? If there’s no ‘accountability’ then leaders are frustrated because work doesn’t get done and goals are unmet, and employees are equally frustrated because new initiatives seem to come along, get going and then fizzle out, often without success.

And why do they fizzle out unsuccessfully? Often because leadership has simply failed to ‘check-in with’ people. Not check on them, to point a finger or blame them if they’re not ‘hitting the target’ or getting results, but to ‘check-in with’ them, to help them learn to work in new ways, put new concepts into practice and remove obstacles and barriers success.

‘Checking in with’ people shows them that you care about them. Not just as employees, but as human beings! Because the people who work for us aren’t ‘resources’ or FTE’s (full-time-equivalents) or ‘heads’…they’re human beings who come to work each day eager to satisfy customers and to contribute their particular and unique strengths, skills and perspectives to help their organization reach its goals and fulfill its purpose.

So, if you’re a leader, here’s your challenge! How can you ‘check-in’ frequently (yes – even every day!) with each of your team members? ‘Check in with’ them to show them that you care about them and value their work (as I so often say: what we spend our time on is what we value)? ‘Check-in with’ them to show them that you are accountable for making sure they have what they need to be successful? ‘Check-in with’ them to help them develop their critical thinking and creative problem-solving abilities so they can continuously learn and grow – as employees and human beings?

‘Checking in’ frequently is one of the best ways that I know to show your people that you truly respect them!

And special thanks to Doug Wotherspoon at Algonquin College for inspiring this post! You’re doing a great job ‘checking in’!

Karyn Ross Consulting

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