Seven of Our Favorite Helpful Questions

Businesswoman with question mark

A leader’s role is to develop their people to solve problems. Asking open-ended, helpful questions will help draw out deeper thinking and strengthen the problem-solving muscles. Many times, the best helpful questions begin with ‘what’ and ‘how,’ rather than ‘who’ and ‘why.’ For a question to truly be helpful it must be delivered in a humble way.

Here is a list of some of our favorite helpful questions:

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How to Encourage Systemic Thinking

Jigsaw is a harmony among the group will not be impossible.

When I was asked to write about one of the Shingo Principles, I immediately thought of my favorite– “Think Systemically.” I’ll explain why it’s one of my favorites at the end.

How many times have you heard colleagues talking about their improvement work, excitement in their voice, but then begin to wonder if this work was done in a silo? Why? Because sometimes what has improved for them or their portion of the value stream can create more work for you or others that is not value added.  Or the work can sometimes impact work you do, and you were not queried about possible impacts or input into the process. When thinking systemically, this sort of occurrence and frustration is minimized or eliminated.  Continue reading →

Five Leader Behaviors That Show Respect for Every Individual

Posted on by Paul Pejsa


To me, respect for every individual means to have empathy for those around you; to think about the impact of your actions and behavior on others.  I believe that in order to have empathy for someone you need to be able to walk in their shoes and understand their perspective.

The Shingo Model shows respect every individual at the base of the pyramid and lists it as a cultural enabler; meaning that it is part of the foundation that all other principles are built on. If your organization is not living this principle you will not truly be able to demonstrate any of the other Shingo principles.

So how do you show respect for someone?

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Achieve Enterprise Alignment by Creating Constancy of Purpose

rowing team race

Enterprise alignment means getting every person in the organization to row in the same direction, which makes the organization stronger and allows achievement of better results. Creating constancy of purpose is fundamental to attaining enterprise alignment. Senior leadership must define the purpose of the organization, align the strategy and True North metrics to the purpose, and communicate this consistently with the entire organization. This will enable staff at all levels to connect their daily work with the organization’s mission. Creating constancy of purpose will help staff feel more connected to the mission and in turn they will likely feel more ownership and pride in their work.

Here is some advice for creating constancy of purpose in your organization:

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Simple Steps for Creating a Status Sheet

Posted on by Patsy Engel

Female feet with arrow painted on the asphalt.

The goal of a lean management system is to develop people to solve problems and improve performance. But how can you do that if you don’t really know what your problems are? That is why we developed the status sheet. (commonly called the stat sheet).   A stat sheet is one element of a lean management system that is intended to enable leaders to learn the business, proactively plan/mitigate risk, and develop people. Over time it will also allow leaders to gain insights for future problem solving.

A stat sheet is often one of the first components organizations adopt when initiating a lean management system. Think of the stat sheet as a tool to encourage structured, meaningful dialogue between a staff member and their leader. This conversation will allow you to gather information on the current state of your business. Trust me, you will be surprised at what you learn!

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How to Be a Better Leader

Group of people on peak mountain climbing helping team work , travel trekking success business concept

Lead with Humility is one of the ten Shingo Guiding Principles that is foundational to establishing culture at any organization. (It’s also one of the principles that my organization, Catalysis, espouses.) This principle is considered a cultural enabler, meaning it is critical for the success and sustainment of cultural change.

Throughout my career, I have strived to practice leading with humility. Here are some things that I do to work at becoming a better leader by leading with humility:  Continue reading →

Improving Healthcare is a Global Phenomenon

Posted on by Elaine Mead

Earth City Lights Bokeh - Europe

The Eurovision Song Contest has grown to be a phenomenon which you either love or hate, but whatever your views, it is amazing to see how it has become a symbol of a shared endeavour across the world.  I know that the music might be a bit too pop, the costumes a bit crazy, and the voting still a bit political but it is the extravagant coming together of cultures, with clear joy and expectation across the boundaries of countries, policies and religions which has fascinated me over the years. It seems there is a similar phenomenon with healthcare improvement.

There is a growing movement across Europe of leaders who have been intrigued to see the adaptation of lean methods to deliver operational excellence across the US health system.  Many of us have been inspired, not just by Toyota, but by those many brave leaders who have taken the idea of changing the whole culture of healthcare delivery and have made it their own.  Continue reading →

What Do Kata and Softball Have in Common?

Sabrina Softball banner

In my time here at Catalysis I have been able to learn a bit about kata. Kata means a way of doing something; a pattern, routine, or method. When I think about kata, there are some key words that come to mind: routine, alignment, experimentation, and coaching.

These concepts relate well to softball. Here is how I think about the concepts of kata and how they manifest themselves on a typical softball team.  Continue reading →

Take Action with a Problem-Solving Process

Posted on by Kim Barnas

Big Deep Pothole

If you encourage staff to identify defects, you better have a process to solve them. Often the first step is to bring those defects forward to a huddle. In the book Beyond Heroes, we recommend that this conversation occurs at a huddle board (visual management) with your staff. During this huddle, you identify and discuss defects which have been brought forward from various sources—status sheets, staff, ancillary areas, or physicians. A system to prioritize these opportunities is essential.  Continue reading →

Did You See the Canaries?

Posted on by Brian Veara

Yellow bird sitting on a branch

Did you know that back in the early underground mining days, miners were dying because of deadly gases that would seep into the mines?  They learned that canaries, hanging in cages within the mines, would die long before the levels of gas were deadly to humans.  This was their early warning system for action. This is the purpose of a process measure.

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