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The Joy of Lean With Dodd Starbird -

This month, we’ll be interviewing Dodd Starbird whose new book, The Joy of Lean, gives us new recipes for happiness and workplace efficiency.

For today’s appetizer we’re going to find out what tomatoes have to do with productivity. We’ll discuss how Lean can go “Meta” with cleaning services and we’ll visit Cape Cod, Massachusetts to find out how even little kids are benefitting from Lean Six Sigma. For Tools of the Trade we’ll discuss a new book that takes a lesson from the famous chef Julia Child and we’ll answer a subscriber’s question that leads us into some classic sports analogies. Join us as we add some whipped cream to our February coffees at the Just-In-Time Cafe!

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome to Just-In-Time Café,’s official podcast where we help you build your problem-solving muscles. We share best practices from over 20 years of success helping organizations from the Fortune 500 to small and medium-size business to government achieve their goals using Lean Six Sigma.


Elisabeth: Well hello, Tracy.

Tracy: Hey, Elisabeth. Are you keeping warm these days?

Elisabeth: February, it’s a little chilly here in the island so we still going to need some nice warm clothing.

Tracy: Yay! Good. And I have a few blankets too because we do have think blood.

Elisabeth: How about I meet you in the conference room where we can get little quiet and then talk about what’s on the menu?

Tracy: Sounds good. See you in a bit. So Elisabeth, what’s on the menu today?

What’s on the Menu (Podcast Agenda)

Elisabeth: I’m glad you’re asking, Tracy. I am totally psyched about today’s menu. It’s a very good one. Today’s Appetizer, we’re going to find out how tomatoes make you more productive. I know that sounds weird, Tracy. We’re going to find that out.

On today’s Bulletin Board, we’re going to discuss how Lean went meta at a manufacturing plant. We’re going to find out how – we’re going to go to Cape Cod and find out how even kids benefit from Lean Six Sigma.

And then Tools of the Trade, we’re going to discuss a new Lean book that takes a lesson from the famous chef, Julia Child.

And then today’s Q&A leads us into some classic sports analogies.

And then finally for today’s Special, we’re going to find out how a Lean practitioner finds joy.

Tracy: Well, that’s important. Joy in our work is very important.

Appetizer: Tomato Timer

Tracy: So, tell me Elisabeth, I’m a little curious. What the heck do tomatoes have to do with productivity?

Elisabeth: Good question, Tracy. So this is interesting. I found this – reference to this in a book about productivity and this is an app called the Tomato Timer. And it’s online. It’s free.

And it was created to support something called the Pomodoro Technique. And I think you can get the connection between tomato and pomodoro. This was developed in the ‘80s by Francesco Cirillo and he named it after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer. So the technique if I can paraphrase, you decide on a task you have to get done for our process improvement people. Maybe the task is something like brainstorm voice of the customer. What are the customers are saying? You set the timer. Now, the default at Tomato Timer is 25 minutes and we call that a pomodoro. That little 25-minute task time, that’s one pomodoro.

And I use it to create this agenda, Tracy. So I practice with the Tomato Timer today. So you do that. You set the timer and then you work on the task until the timer rings. And if during that time you’re tempted to do something else like at one point, I was like, “You know what? I think I’ll make some tea.” It said, “No, don’t go do it.”

Just write down what your little distraction idea was and keep working until it rings. And then you put a checkmark on the piece of paper and if you have less than four checkmarks, you’ve done fewer than four pomodoros then you’re given 3 to 5-minute break. That’s a short break. And there’s a little short break button on the Tomato Timer.

And then if you’ve done four of them, it’s time for you to get a longer break at 15 to 20 minutes. So after four pomodoros, you get a long break and you hit the other button.

And this is just a great way to incorporate body breaks. Have you heard that expression that, “Sitting is the new smoking?” Have you heard that?

Tracy: Yes, I have. I teach my kids that every day.

Elisabeth: Yes, you got to get up. And a lot of people set timers and this is a technique that goes a little deeper. So it’s timer that’s telling you to get up, telling you to go take a break. So you got that improved blood flow. But it also improves your focus. It stops you from being externally distracted which is introduces waste into your process.

What really stopped me from sort of losing track in checking email or answering a phone call and I really stayed with my task today. I was actually pretty impressed. I’ve already adapted the technique of turning off emails which is a distraction. So now, I just give it a 25-minute pomodoro.

Tracy: Yeah. That’s a great technique. I think it’s so easy to get distracted these days with an email popping up on your window or a text popping into your phone. I think it is harder today to stay focused than it was in the past.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: So I think that’s a great tool to help people get focused again.

Elisabeth: Yeah. And I think you’re right. This is a modern solution to a modern plague which is distractions. So it is the perfect thing.

Tracy: And I love the fact that they brought in some history around the way they call it, the Tomato Timer. So that’s really cute.

Elisabeth: It is. It has got a little picture of the Tomato Timer right in the corner when you go get it. So Tomato Timer, I highly recommend it. I think I love it. I think I’m going to keep using it.

Tracy: Cool.

Elisabeth: So next up is our Bulletin Board.

Bulletin Board

Elisabeth: So Tracy, how did Lean go meta in terms of cleaning up?

Tracy: So this was an interesting article that came up in our Lean Six Sigma news. So this is really about an article about using Lean principles to make your plant cleaner and more efficient. And I really like this article because it talks – it gives you a little history about Lean and how it was founded and where it came from.

It tells a little bit more about what Lean is and what it’s not and how that can help obviously people apply it. And it talks a little bit more about the pursuit of perfection and Lean being a war on waste. So it gives you a little bit of insight.

And then it moves into have you Lean cleaning? And what can we do to make it Lean? And it’s really talking specifically about the 5S principles with cleaning, with shine being one of the steps but also, the 5 steps for workplace organization and how a lot of these organizations on the surface look like they are implementing 5S but when you peel the layers back a little bit more, it looks like they could be doing a little bit better.

So it talks about this case study about how on the surface it looked as though they were implementing 5S but upon closer scrutiny, some of the SOPs were dated 2003 for some of the cleaning. And the schedule is outdated as well.

So that was an issue. And when they looked in the closet, they were disorganized. They didn’t have anything in a particular place. And so, they were really spending some time revisiting this concept and making sure and it’s I guess the fourth and fifth steps for 5S which is standardize and sustain.

And I think those are the pieces that really get lost in 5S sometimes is, we do a really good job of sorting, setting in order, and then shining. But then we don’t put into place the fourth and fifth steps that really keep this Lean in the long term.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: So interesting discussion around some of that application. And I know I struggle with this too honestly. I 5S my garage all the time and I shouldn’t be. I should be just doing four and five, not one, two, and three all the time. But with a busy family, it gets really hard to get in there and do some of this upkeep. And so, I can really appreciate how in a work environment, it could take a lot of time and a lot of fine tuning with standardize and sustain.

Elisabeth: Yeah. In terms of 5S in the home, Tracy, you just need to train your kids on Lean Six Sigma. I know they’re young but get them going.

Tracy: True. True. That’s the key right there.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: So what about you?

Elisabeth: Well, for my story I found in the news, it’s close to home. This month’s story comes from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which a peninsula south of Austin, for those of you unfamiliar with this part of the terrain. Cape Cod Child Development is a 50-year-old nonprofit and their focus or their mission is to provide world-class child and family-focused programs that nurture each child’s potential.

And what that translates into is they’ve got – they see about 3,000 children a year and they pioneered the head start program, so pre-school education. They work with teenage parents. They provide childcare centers. They do a lot of early intervention for families in need.

And they’ve got a relatively new CEO. She comes from the private sector. She has done also nonprofit. But she got her Lean Six Sigma training and certification in the for profit world. And she decided to bring that training to this nonprofit and to her team and to Cape Cod Child Care Development.

So, she has already had significant results with cycle time of her accounts receivables and she had reached out to other local nonprofits. She would like to have the rising tide lift all the boats to participate with her. Her goal is to transfer the savings to the child education, to parent experience, to staff satisfaction.

And Tracy, truth be told, I have connected with these guys and I am excited to help them. It’s very exciting. It’s local. It’s nonprofit. It’s going to make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. So it’s great to see Lean Six Sigma at work in this world.

Tracy: Oh, that is wonderful to hear, Elisabeth. So I guess that it really shows how Lean Six Sigma and kids intersect. And that is great purpose work, right? It feels good probably for you to be helping a nonprofit in this type of application which just makes us realize why we do what we do.

Elisabeth: Yeah. No, that’s a really true statement. I think you and I are both driven to help people but then I think when you have a mission-driven organization, it’s another layer of you’re helping people because they are really helping people. So it’s a big deal. Thank you.

Tracy: Yes, very nice.

Tools of the Trade: The Joy of Lean by Dodd Starbird

Tracy: So up next is a little talk about a book. And this is – Julia Child wrote the Joy of Cooking. But today, we’re talking about a new book, The Joy of Lean. And Elisabeth, I’d love to hear what you consider the key recipes are in this book.

Elisabeth: Yeah, it’s a fun title. It definitely brings back the book I think I was raised on in terms of how to cook everything. This was written by Dodd Starbird. He runs a firm called Implementation Partners. And this is his second book. And he is blending the Lean tools with something he calls Engaged Team Performance.

The underlying method he is using are time studies. And the book goes into great detail about how they set these studies up. If you’re not familiar, people self-report each task. They give their start and stop times. They use it to figure out average task durations. So they really get a very accurate look at how long it takes to do individuals tasks.

Ultimately, they use this information and they work with the team to right size the workforce, which is always – can be a scary topic. But throughout his examples, all show that people either get pulled into where they’re needed where there’s not enough capacity or they leave by attrition. So ultimately, you get a super productive workforce.

And the focus is how the teams then use the Lean tools to change how work is done. They find waste in the process. They see a lot of handoffs. And they get engaged in the work as the title suggests. And a lot of times, they go from a departmental view, Tracy, how we constantly see people work in silos, and they actually physically move and get together in these work teams with total insight to the customer. So, great examples. And he provides detailed displays of whiteboard examples, of on-going counts so that teams can see what their status is. Good visual management, visual controls.

Each chapter, you get provocative questions for leadership. Are you really on this path? Do you really want to change your culture? And then he combines that in quotes from people in the case studies. And these companies, Ecova, Principal Financial, and a few others, they’re incredibly generous. They’re incredibly honest and forthright about what was going on.

And he also includes quotes from thought leaders so there are great bits in there from new people, from people as kind of real stalwarts like Deming. But he gives great recipes for I would say seasoned Lean Six Sigma practitioners. But these are some very detailed roadmaps for folks that want to get into this.

Tracy: Yes. I was able to read the book as well. And I would absolutely agree with you. There is a lot of detailed information on time studies. It’s obvious that Dodd has a lot of experience applying this stuff and very successful. And the fact that there is so much information on these case studies that has been shared just talks about the level of trust in the relationship that he has built with these organizations.

It’s always great to hear success stories and the challenges that people run into as well with applying Lean and Six Sigma and process improvement because that’s where people learn. That’s where we really see other people’s challenges and hopefully can learn from them too.

It’s always great to hear success stories and the challenges that people run into as well with applying Lean and Six Sigma and process improvement because that’s where people learn.

Elisabeth: Yeah. Yeah. There was a point where you got a feeling he wasn’t sugarcoating. He acknowledged it doesn’t all work. It’s not all super successful. Some things are successful and then fall back. So I do like that that he’s candid.

One, that book is small. It’s – some of the graphics I felt like I really need to be able to see more because there was such great detail but it is packed with information. So it’s a good one.

Tracy: Yes. And I’ll just add one more kudos about a framework. He talks about a framework for achieving Lean culture, and that’s really how the book is organized. And I would say it’s very much around specifically developing a process-driven culture. So everything he talks about, all those steps are very much about process and how do we build a process-driven culture. And that can really be successful in a lot of ways.

Elisabeth: Yeah, good point. Good point. Good book. The Joy of Lean.

Special Request

Elisabeth: Next up, we’ve got our Special Request, a little Q&A from one of our subscribers. Tracy, here’s the question for you that just came in. How do you integrate Lean Six Sigma with the balanced scorecard?

Tracy: Yeah, that’s a great question. And for those of you who don’t know, The Balance Scorecard is a book that actually came out by Robert Kaplan and it really talks about how do you actually measure success for an organization, and it actually basically instead of just using financial data, it basically says there are really four categories or balance categories that you should be using to measure success for your organization. And those are categories like financial measures which is typically been the main measurement category for all businesses. But it says focus on the customer, focus on operations, focus on your employees.

So it’s not saying anymore, “Don’t just focus on numbers because it could be – you could be doing really well revenue wise or financially but your employees have very low morale or your customers are not very happy and that could be very much a short term.” So it’s really saying how about take a balanced approach with how you’re growing your organization.

So how does Lean Six Sigma apply to that? In my opinion, because you have customers as a category and operations as a category and employees as a category, there could be lots of opportunity with how you want to apply Lean Six Sigma or process improvement to those areas.

If you’re not doing so great on any of these measures for your balanced scorecard, often you’re going to have to apply root cause analysis to find out why those measures aren’t performing in the way that you want. And not only does it help drive what process improvement should be working on, it helps to make sure that your efforts for Lean Six Sigma are aligned with strategic goals but then also you can use these efforts to make things more visual with huddle boards or visual management boards.

You can have the balanced scorecard measures on these boards and then you can show from a continuous improvement perspective how you’re doing or what you’re working on to try to improve those measures. So that’s a little – that’s basically what I think how they can be integrated together.

Do you have any additional thoughts on that, Elisabeth that I didn’t talk to?

Elisabeth: I think that that idea of a scorecard immediately brings sports to mind. And I love the idea that the scorecard tells you how you’re doing. And Lean Six Sigma is where you can mind the method for some plays. You’re looking for what’s the play to work this metric here? How do I use this method, this Lean Six Sigma process, to move the dial, to move the scoreboard in the direction I want to go?

Tracy: Definitely.

Elisabeth: That’s my sports analogy, as good as I am at sports, which amount to just making analogies I think at this point.

Tracy: All right. Well, coming up next is Elisabeth tells us about today’s special, and this is an interview with Dodd Starbird, right?

Elisabeth: Yeah. So this is the author of the book that we just talked about, Dodd Starbird, was generous with his time and we got to interview him. He is the author of The Joy of Lean and he gives some great background and he shares what he learned.

He also made some great references just like you did, Tracy, this is what he does in his life but of all the research he did and the work that he did led him into some thought leadership that made his wish he’d done a different job with his kids. And that I think is fascinating listening to him sort of apply it to his own life. But it’s a great informative interview. I highly recommend.

Tracy: Wonderful. I can’t wait to hear it.

Today’s Special: Interview with Dodd Starbird, Managing Partner at Implementation Partners

Elisabeth: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Today’s Special. I’m speaking with Dodd Starbird, the Managing Partner of the Implementation Partners and the author of a new book, The Joy of Lean: Transforming, Leading, and Sustaining a Culture of Engaged Team Performance.

So, Dodd, tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve worked in Implementation Partners.

Dodd: Hi, Elisabeth. Yeah, I’m Dodd Starbird. I’ve been in Implementation Partners since 2004. And before that, I did process and performance improvement for Coors Brewing Company and for Johnson & Johnson. So I’ve actually been in the industry, gosh, it’s almost 20 years now. It’s kind of scary.

Elisabeth: It is scary because it means other things too, right?

Dodd: Yeah. I started when I was 12.

Elisabeth: Yeah, and that’s good to always remind people. So you’ve got a bit of a pedigree, Dodd. You got two family members with pages in Wikipedia and you chose a different path. So how did you get your start in the world of process improvement?

Dodd: Gosh! So I would not speak to all my family members. But certainly, I did start process improvement back at Coors Brewing Company, I’m going to say it was 1998 or something like that. And I was privileged to be a part of a rollout of an idea system. So if you remember, some companies still have these things but we rolled out an idea system that was called Coors Wins: Winning Ideas, New Solutions.

And basically what happened was we started turning in these ideas and of course, sometimes the classic idea system, people turn in ideas and the concept is just management says no to the ideas and things don’t go anywhere. And so, one of the things that myself and a couple of other partners did was we started turning in ideas that we were actually doing and completing and then turning in the idea once it was done.

And so, we got credit for doing those things. And actually, there was financial reward associated with this and we capped out twice in the first three months or so. Our team got the max payout of $10,000 per idea so we all split about $20,000 together.

And I remember I got called in to the Process Improvement Director’s office and he says, “I got good news and bad news for you. The good news is I’m going to promote you and you’re going to be our new Manager of Continuous Improvement and you’re going to do kaizen blitzes which sounded like a whole bunch of fun. You’re going to do kaizen blitzes for two years and we’re going to improve processes all over the plant.”

And I was like, “What could possibly be the bad news?” He says, “The bad news is managers are ineligible for the idea system.”

Elisabeth: There’s no money anymore.

Dodd: No more money.

Elisabeth: Well, that’s great. I mean you guys were rebels and you recognized that what’s the point of just submitting ideas? Why don’t we just make it happen and see what they do? I think there’s an expression to that which is just instead of asking permission, what is it? You apologize later?

Dodd: Beg forgiveness, yeah. And the great thing about this is we didn’t know any about this. We were doing kaizen blitzes from an article that we read in a magazine. We didn’t know anything about Lean. We had to learn it as we went. And this was in the late ‘90s. But the really cool thing about it was that I got the experience to run a kaizen every week for 18 months. It was just an amazing experience. And we were trying new stuff and doing it the way without knowing it, doing it the way that Toyota does.

The concept of an A3 right now is not to turn in the idea. It’s to turn in the solution. And we didn’t know that. But it turned out to be the way to do it.

Elisabeth: That’s nice. I think that kind of trial by fire is the best ways to learn. Your mistakes are emblazoned and just spear you on to get it right the next time. But what an incredible experience! That’s really nice.

Dodd: Absolutely.

Elisabeth: No, you’re lucky. So you’ve written in the past. You’ve got a great earlier book with Implementation Partners. But what inspired you to write this book and why did you call it The Joy of Lean?

Dodd: Great. Well, I absolutely enjoyed writing the previous too. That one was called Building Engaged Team Performance. And that was 2010. And of course, The Joy of Lean just came out in 2016. But the thing that really sparked my interest here was that if you’ve grown up in the, I know you have, Elisabeth too, grown up in the process improvement industry and for 20 years or longer we’ve been always saying it’s the process, it’s the process. We always have to fix the process. And that’s very true.

But there’s a combination of process and people going on that’s so important. And if you look at the books that started it all, look at Lean, look at Womack and Jones’ Lean thinking, they coined the term Lean and I know others coined it before them or you can argue where the term came from, but the term was really to orient on waste elimination. The whole concept of Lean is the idea of eliminating waste.

Unfortunately what happened was as that was promulgated through the industry, it became about the process of eliminating waste instead of about creating a culture of waste elimination. If you look at where the books were written about, they were written about Toyota. And Toyota had a culture of waste elimination. But it was not necessarily misinterpreted but oversimplified to say, “Hey, let’s just go streamline processes.” And so, you’ve got folks running around for the last 20 years streamlining processes and getting great results.

And then the other thing that really sparked it for me was there was a 2007 article in Business Insider from a guy named Rick Pay, and the article basically, they did a survey. They got a bunch of data. And the article was called Everybody’s Jumping on the Lean Bandwagon, But Many Are Being Taken for a Ride. And the idea was that they surveyed how many companies had actually done Lean and whether if they’d done it, how many said they were achieving their intended results? And 2%, 2 out of 100, 2% of the companies said they were achieving their intended results.

And the challenges were all leadership related. They were all related to the idea that we’re streamlining processes but we’re really not changing and creating a sustainable culture.

So the idea of The Joy of Lean is Lean can actually be joyful. Business process improvement can be joyful. And a great process can create a great culture. And a great culture can actually be joyful to work in for the employees.

Business process improvement can be joyful.

Elisabeth: It’s such a nice concept and it’s a really good focus. And I know what you’re talking about. I’ve heard it in other terms. People say Lean isn’t a tools-only approach. It doesn’t really work if you’re just saying, “Hey, remove these steps.” Well, who is removing those steps? And are they going to do it again? This is part of the way they work.

And it reminds me of a point in your book where there are great results going on in one department and I forget why the manager left but he was either moved out of he left, he got another job, went to another division. Something happened. And it was amazing how fast the productivity decline. Everything was in place. It was working great. They had whiteboards for productivity.

And things just tumbled and got – immediately they got buried. The backlog grew. They dispensed with the whiteboard even saying, “The whiteboard takes too much time. Visual management takes too much time. We can’t even do that.” It was so sad.

Dodd: Yeah. We don’t have time to count all our work.

Elisabeth: No.

Dodd: The funny part of that story was why don’t you have time to count all your work? It’s because the backlog ballooned on them and nobody wanted to say that. So yeah, absolutely.

Elisabeth: It was a leader dependent. Like to your point, it hadn’t worked through the culture. It was that guy. And when you remove that guy, it was like dominos.

Dodd: Yeah. It’s funny. I’m with you. I agree with you. In that story, there was also another piece to it which was the people got the culture. But when they removed that guy, actually, two of them left at the same time. Two leaders in the chain of command left at the same time.

And what happened was the people were overruled by a new leader who told them that it was silly to get work done today that wasn’t due until next week. Wait until next week to do it. The leader was telling them like anti-Lean things to do. And they couldn’t fight it.

Elisabeth: Yeah. And I think you make that great point and you booked in the chapters with questions from leaders because you have been in this obviously for all these years and you’ve seen what depends on leadership. That if you don’t support it that that’s the kind of thing that happens regardless of how dedicated those folks were and how much they want to support that Lean culture. If leadership didn’t then they weren’t allowed. So I get that.

So you were generous. Your clients were generous. There is a great running case study through your book with Ecova, much of the book. It’s so helpful. I can appreciate how generous they were with that. But tell me about that company. Why did you include that story?

Dodd: Well, I certainly of course appreciate all the clients, all the people who were willing to put their name in it. And you’re right, that is a big step for a company to agree. They certainly have to make sure that the story cast them in an appropriate light and such. And they were very, Ecova and all the others were very candid so I really do appreciate their willingness to be included.

The cool thing about Ecova was that they implemented so many of the different pieces. And if you look at theory versus reality, the idea of doing this across the board of streamlining processes and then transforming organizations and then putting measurements in place and turning over empowerment to employees to run their own teams with the leader involved but the employees manage the daily work, all those concepts kind of have to go together. It’s hard to implement part of it and not the other part.

But Ecova did a massive transformation of, I’m going to say it was 18 teams that all do a variety of different kinds of work and they transformed from a functional organization broken into groups of 50 or 100 people that all had different functional roles into groups or teams of 20 people across functional teams that were customer-facing or customer-oriented. And we call them customer focused teams.

And so, they not only transformed their processes but they changed their org design and they put measures and collaborative norms in place to support the new org design and they sustained it for years. And so, they’ve been such a great example to show that steps work, that the steps that we talk about and I would not read them off to you but the idea of start with a classic Lean Six Sigma approach to streamlining processes, define and measure and analyze and put in new solutions, new streamlined processes, and put in work controls.

But then take it a step further and change your org design and set team goals related to customer, customer related performance. And then put in collaborative norms to enable the teams to get the most out of their processes and transition to a customer focused organization instead of a functional one. And that was – their company went through all those steps.

Elisabeth: It’s a big deal, and I don’t know if it comes through as you described it but I feel it so keenly that it’s a very big deal for organizations to go to that model to really form these cross-functional teams focused on customers as opposed to functional departments because departments are easier to manage. It’s harder to do so it’s not a natural thing and you usually get a big fight to go down that road.

But those are the biggest transformations I’ve seen. I saw that in a lot of different industries where things were just ping ponging to different departments and taking days for each group to do the handoff.

Dodd: Yup.

Elisabeth: And once you pull those folks together into a pod or however it looks, then that’s over. Those handoffs are done. And they have intense line of sight to the customer. And it changes not just the org chart but literally people have to move their bodies. They got to go into different places.

Dodd: They have to sit next to a different group of people. They have to get along with people that they used to argue with. Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing.

Elisabeth: Well, that’s impressive. That’s a really cool one. And I also appreciate, you tell of some great successes. They are great examples of Ecova, Principal. There are some really nice successes. But you don’t sugarcoat that there’s also failures. So I’m wondering what you didn’t include.

Dodd: Oh gosh! What we didn’t include, yeah, that’s a tricky one. I don’t know that – we obviously have to cast everything in an appropriate light. And so, we can’t tell stories and name names of people who did horrible things to mess up their organizations.

Elisabeth: Come on, Dodd. This will be like a lean gossip site.

Dodd: Yeah. We could start the story – actually, there were a couple of things in it. There was a couple of quotes from a person that I didn’t name and it was funny because she and I actually talked about having her company approved the quotes and put her company’s name in there and she went through the process of doing it and we actually had the approval but we decided not to do it anyway because of the things she was saying were critical. They were critical of past leadership.

And so the quotes are in there and she is not named. She is anonymous in there and the company is not named either. But the idea was talking about a leader that came in and started a Lean journey and then didn’t finish it for whatever reason. I think in this case, there was part of the quote was about a leader that came in with a vision and then left. And then the other people who implemented it kind of paid lip service to it. They saw it was working so they played along with it but they didn’t really own it. And so, it was kind of bottom up but not top supported.

Elisabeth: Well, well done. I mean it’s admirable because obviously, what you want are quotes and permission and be able to show people hey, this is real. This really happened. And here’s where it happened. So I’m impressed. You held back.

Dodd: Yeah. We try not to throw anybody into the bus. And certainly, it’s all from – there are always two sides to every story, right? So I’m sure that there are some other – and I could think of some here that didn’t make it into the book. Other stories from core clients of big departments that went through this kind of transformation and got to the brink of the customer focused teams’ thing and said, “We’d rather stay functional.” I can think of one right now; a thousand person team that decided not to go there when they should have.

Elisabeth: Yeah. And I know that is the norm more than not. I’ve seen it and it is – but it is transformational and you’ve seen it what it can be.

Dodd: Yeah.

Elisabeth: Another thing I appreciated throughout the book because you really blended the voices of people within the organizations and their experience as you walk us through case studies and the methods. But then you also quoted some other thought leaders. And some of them everybody knows like Deming. And you made a nice history at the backend, sort of a condensed history of process improvement.

But you also mentioned the author of Mindset and some other folks. And I’m wondering who influenced you as you sort of pull together your thoughts around this book?

Dodd: Yeah, it’s a wonderful question. I think I have two different groups of influences. I’d say the early influences and the recent influences. So the early ones were folks like Jack Stack, The Great Game of Business, the whole idea of make it miserable and turn it into a game and let the employees own it. And then Belasco and Stayer who had Flight of the Buffalo, great book about letting employees lead. Those are wonderful ones.

And then more recent ones, I’d say three more recent ones. One was Mindset. And honestly, if you haven’t read Mindset, go read my book first but go pick that one of Dweck because honestly, Mindset changed the way that I talk to my children before I was done reading it. And I sat there thinking, “Gosh! I wish I had read this book 15 years ago before my children were, a couple of them were fully grown.”

Because it talks about the idea of everything can be learned and you shouldn’t praise or criticize your children’s talents. You should criticize or improve their learning ability. You should focus on what they learned and how hard they tried as opposed to how good they are at something.

Elisabeth: Yeah, that failure is OK.

Dodd: Yup. Failure is actually a good thing because it taught you something.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Dodd: Yeah. And another great book that a number of quotes made it in to this book, to The Joy of Lean was David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around!. And Turn the Ship Around! is a submarine’s story. It’s a wonderful book about his time in the Navy commanding a submarine. But the beautiful thing about that is it isn’t couched in classic Lean terms. It doesn’t have the words in it. It doesn’t have the steps or the approach.

But all the things he did end up fitting into the framework. And so, we talk about collaborative norms for example. There are a number of great examples in his book and I tried to list some of them in The Joy of Lean but there are some great examples in his book about collaborative norms that they created, ways of working together that are pieces of their standard work.

So he wasn’t using the Lean words but it was all in there. It was wonderful to compare that kind of story to our Lean framework.

Elisabeth: That …

Dodd: And then …

Elisabeth: Go ahead.

Dodd: Go ahead. No. Sorry.

Elisabeth: Well, that one I haven’t read. I totally agree with you on Mindset. That was a revelation reading that. I haven’t read the one you just described. But I love that when you see the crossovers. You see they’re using different language but it’s the same stuff and it just supports what you’re doing.

Dodd: Exactly. And it’s a great read too. I mean it’s a great story about improving a submarine and of course, it brings back some of my military background. I went to Army instead of Navy but I still like those guys. There’s only one day a year we fight with them and that’s on the football field.

Elisabeth: It’s OK.

Dodd: Yeah, we’re OK with that. And then the last book that was a really big influence and actually, it influenced my choice of the title too, was a book called Joy, Inc. from a person named Rich Sheridan. And I don’t know if you know Rich. I’ve actually worked with him. Actually, co-spoke at a couple of presentations and things like that.

Rich is the leader of the company called Menlo Innovations. And they have done just a radical change in what a software company looks like. And the company is entirely designed around engaged employees and the engaged employees come first and the processes and customers come next. And it’s just a wonderful to go see, if you ever get a chance to go visit in Ann Arbor. It’s an interesting thing.

And again, you see agile and lean all over the place even though they don’t use those words very much there. They have it in there. It’s all baked into their culture.

Elisabeth: Oh, that’s inspiring. That’s cool. Well, before I ask you for some stats where people can find you and your book, I want to ask you, is there anything I didn’t ask that you want to tell our listeners?

Dodd: One thing I think is when we talk about the title of joy or The Joy of Lean, why joy? A question would be, am I serious? Are you kidding me? People don’t go to work to be happy. They go to work to make money. And they don’t have to be joyful at work.

Well, I think they want to. I don’t think anybody wants to go to work to go and play Candy Crush or read a paperback novel while their machine is running. And people don’t want that. People want to be engaged at work. And we’re doing them a favor if we can help them do that. And we are doing them a disservice if we allow them to just be bored and throw their lives away while they sit there making money.

And if you look at that whole framework of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we talk about that a lot, but the Maslow’s hierarchy as five layers. And basically, the concept is people don’t work on the layers until they get the bottom layers taken care of, so their physiological needs and their safety needs come first and then comes belongingness and then the idea of esteem and then self-actualization.

And the cool thing about that is, and this was all shown to me by a person named Rachelle Gagnon from Assumption Life in Canada while I was in the process of writing the book, she shows me this triangle of Maslow’s hierarchy and says, “OK, where are pay? Where is pay on this list?” Well, it’s at the bottom. Pay is physiological and safety.

“OK, that’s pay that people work for pay. Where is recognition? We say the holy grail of employee engagement is recognition. Where is that?” Well, it’s under self-esteem. It’s actually the fourth thing on the list.

“Well, what’s the fifth thing? What’s the top thing?” Well, that’s self-actualization. And you don’t get self-actualize through recognition. You get self-actualize by wanting to be there and by liking what you’re doing. And that’s the joy that we’re missing at work sometimes. And people really need to find that joy.

Elisabeth: That’s nice. That’s nice, Dodd. Nice description. Nice focus. So, how can people find you and how they find your book?

Dodd: OK, awesome. Well, of course, you can find me on LinkedIn, that’s Dodd Starbird. You could also find my website which is And then the book, The Joy of Lean is actually easiest to find on if you just search for the title.

And then also, if you’re a member of ASQ, you can get a discount. But for some reason, it’s sold out on ASQ right now. They must have sold more than they thought they were going to sell. So the place to find it right now is Amazon. And you can get a Kindle version or a hard copy.

Elisabeth: Well, that’s a classy problem, Dodd. I’m glad to hear the sales are brisk.

Dodd: It’s a good problem to have.

Elisabeth: Well, thank you for joining us on today’s special request. And thanks everybody out there for joining us on the Just-In-Time Café. Please tune in again next month when we will interview another new author. Thank you, Dodd, and take care. Bye-bye.

Dodd: Thanks, Elisabeth.


Elisabeth: Well, thanks, Tracy. I’ll talk to you at the other side.

Tracy: OK, good. I can eat my pasta now, right?

Elisabeth: Yes! I saw that it just got delivered so enjoy your noodles.

Tracy: Alright. Bye-bye.

Thanks for Listening!

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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.