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Wonder Women of Quality: Crystal Davis -

They’re delivering a one-two punch to defects. They’re ridding the earth of process waste. They’re on the front lines delivering customer service perfection. They’re in leadership striving to make a difference in the world. They’re kicking process improvement butt! The Wonder Women of Quality are here!

This month in the Wonder Women of Quality pantheon we are honored to highlight Crystal Davis!

As CEO of The Lean Coach, Inc., Crystal Davis helps leaders create a culture of problem solvers. Specializing in the “Toyota Way” Lean model, her career spans over 20 years within automotive, beverage and supply chain industries. Her client roster consists of Fortune 500/1000 Companies and she has worked around the world including Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Sweden and beyond.

Crystal has become a thought leader on Lean Six Sigma, The Toyota Way, leadership, and thriving in diverse work environments. Formally mentored by Toyota Senseis, she has led companies to award-winning results — recognized for operational excellence at the “Lean Enterprise Institute Summit” and “Industry Week Best Plant.” After leading teams throughout her career, Crystal launched The Lean Coach, Inc., a boutique Lean Six Sigma and Leadership Development consulting firm in 2009.

Here are Crystal’s answers to a few of our questions:

What is your Quality Mission?

My Quality Mission is to develop good people into great leaders. I believe that every person has value to offer, yet many people feel that if they don’t have the title they are not a leader. I love John Maxwell’s philosophy that leadership is not about title or position, but influence.

In addition to developing problem-solving cultures, we can develop leaders at every level of the organization. Imagine an organization where everyone leads with a focus on bringing the best out of everyone.

What is your Quality Superpower?

One of my top five Strengthsfinder 2.0 characteristics is that I’m a “Relater.” In the Continuous Improvement world, we talk about the importance of focusing on people and relating to their situation. Seeking to understand before seeking to be understood shows people that you care about what’s important to them. Relating helps when engaging people in problem solving and learning. I leverage these traits and my leadership developing certification to study how people behave and respond in situations of discomfort. That allows me to help them navigate to a position of comfort that keeps them engaged and willing to move forward.

Secondly, I am futuristic and visionary. I often joke that I have the ‘Jedi mind’ for waste and improvement. I am able to help my clients create breakthrough, future-state visions that energize their efforts and provide laser-focused alignment.

What do you see as Quality Kryptonite?

Organizations put so much emphasis on Lean and Lean tools, but not the purpose or the problem, causing them to lose people along the way. One of my Crystalisms is “Don’t make Lean a thing. Focus on the issue, gain consensus on prioritizing the solution, and why the solution works best to resolve the issue.” As an example, don’t make level scheduling the main thing. Make sure everyone understands what implementing a level schedule will solve for the organization instead.

Secondly, organizations underestimate the level of change management required for transformation. Two of my favorite Crystalisms to combat this obstacle are 1) Get comfortable being uncomfortable and 2) for leaders it’s okay to say, “I don’t know, but…”. Developing a learning organization means that people will experience several phases of discovery. In most organizations, people are rewarded for having the answers which means they experience discomfort while they are learning and experimenting. It is important to prepare the organization for these experiences and coach them through the process.

What are some of your Quality Victories?

  • Having our case study shared at the LEI, Lean Transformation Summit, 2011 — In about  18 months, the supply chain business unit transformation saw double digit million dollar returns, increased productivity, increased on-time, in-full customer deliveries, significantly reduced/right-sized inventory and a reduction in returned and damaged product. The greatest reward was having these strategies adopted by the entire company.
  • Recognition as Delphi’s Lean Supplier Development Engineer of the Year — leading this supplier from good to great was so rewarding because not only did they exceed the normal operational metrics, they were awarded new business that utilized the freed-up space created through improvement. They were presented with an opportunity to enter additional manufacturing space. Our focus was on creating continuous flow throughout the factory and eliminating waste through cellular manufacturing.
  • Industry Week’s Best Plant Award recognition was a sheer honor. This particular facility won the award in the past, but had lost their Continuous Improvement mojo. With new leadership in place, the team set a stretch goal to position themselves as contenders again. Just imagine the challenges they had convincing the culture to recommit to a Continuous Improvement transformation. A lot of work was centered around ways to sustain and to truly develop a problem-solving culture that would survive regardless of those in senior leadership positions. The level of pride shown when the teams were selected was simply priceless.
  • Personally, my most rewarding accomplishment was being a student of Mr. Yamada’s teachings. I learned precious and valuable lessons about respect for people, developing a strong company and community that I will cherish and teach for a lifetime. After working with him, I no longer needed to debate whether Lean works or even why Lean fails. I simply focus on doing the work, seeking to learn and developing how we think.

Do you have any Words of Wisdom?

  • Trust your voice — don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • Own your seat at the table — it is no longer good enough to just be in the room. Take a seat at the table; engage in the conversation; be part of the solution.
  • Don’t assume it is solely your responsibility to convince people/leaders to support Lean — uncover the problems and pain points that are most troubling for people and help them through discovering the solution. Another Crystalism: “I’ve never met a problem that didn’t want to be solved.” If you help them, you don’t have to convince them. They will appreciate the value you bring to the solution and value your thought leadership.

Thanks again to Crystal Davis for her quality thoughts!