People Solve Problems Episode 5 with Special Guest Elisabeth Swan

In this episode of the People Solve Problems podcast, host Jamie Flinchbaugh interviews Elisabeth Swan, co-founder of the Just-in-Time Café and a seasoned expert in continuous improvement with over 30 years of experience in the industry. As a consultant, coach, instructor, and podcast host, Elisabeth brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. In their conversation, they explore collaboration, ideation, role clarity, and identifying blind spots in problem-solving efforts.

Elisabeth discusses the importance of collaboration in problem solving and shares her research on what fosters the best idea flow. Turns out people don’t do their best thinking at work, so it’s key to allow them the time and space for ideation on their own. Then you can engage team members to expand on innovative solutions together. She emphasizes the value of diverse input and encourages everyone to participate in the process.

Elisabeth also shares a compelling story from her work with Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Marriott, where a shift in problem-solving roles led to a lasting positive impact on workplace safety. She emphasizes the significance of event-driven roles, where the focus is on addressing the immediate situation rather than adhering to rigid job titles.

On the topic of identifying and addressing blind spots, Elisabeth highlights the importance of one-on-one conversations to uncover unspoken concerns and challenges. She mentions a fishbowl approach, where difficult topics were brought to the forefront for open discussion, creating a culture of transparency and open communication.

Elisabeth’s insights and real-life examples in this podcast episode underscore the importance of collaboration, ideation, role clarity, and open communication in successful problem-solving efforts. Check out her LinkedIn profile for more information about her and her latest book, Picture Yourself a Leader: Illustrated Micro-Lessons for Navigating Change.



Lean Whiskey Episode 41

Episode 41: “Should lean be forced?” 

In Episode 41, Mark Graban and Jamie Flinchbaugh try a couple of experiments, in the spirit of continuous improvement. You’ll first notice that we moved the whiskey talk to the end. The hypothesis here is that some people don’t want to hear the whiskey talk, so they can just exit the podcast when we finish the lean talk. We also used a different platform for recording, so it may affect your listening or viewing experience. We would really appreciate any feedback at all on these experiments.

In lean talk, we explore the question of whether lean can and should be forced. We examine this from different angles, including terms like accountability and quotas. We even evoke the words of Dr. Deming in the process. We quote Toyota’s Jamie Bonini who said “If the employees are upset by it, it’s not really TPS.” We explore 5S, audits, incentives, and more. 

We finally get around to talking about the whiskey that we were sipping on during the episode. After all, this is kinda the point. For this episode’s theme, we are pulling the bottle off our shelf that is the least expensive, but still worth sipping on its own. Mark is drinking Benchmark, and Jamie went with Rebel. Cheers! 


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People Solve Problems Episode 4 with Special Guest Justin Max

In a recent podcast episode, host Jamie Flinchbaugh sits down with Justin Max, founder of Spark DSG. Spark DSG is a standout digital design and development agency, and under Justin’s leadership, the team employs their unique IDEAS process to address and solve complex business challenges with clear results.

During the conversation, Justin captures his journey from a practitioner to a leader and trying to get out of the weeds of his firm’s work. The IDEAS process helped him do that, to help him scale the business by addressing key process gaps. The way of doing things was too custom and poorly documented. IDEAS was the outcome which stands for Initiate, Discover, Execute, Assess, and Support. 

The problems Spark DSG solves for clients are complex digital experience problems. A lot of their problem-solving happens in Discover and understanding the client and their needs, but their engagements can include all elements of the IDEAS process or just sub-elements broken off and provided directly.  

Justin also covered his role, his value, and how important culture was to the transformation. That culture includes an environment where people aren’t afraid to try things. 

For those interested in learning more about the innovative solutions offered by Justin and his team, further information can be found on their website,  If you’d like to connect directly with Justin Max, you can do so via his LinkedIn profile 

To sum it up, this episode provides valuable takeaways on problem-solving through a client-facing digital design process, all enriched by Justin Max’s expert insights.



People Solve Problems Episode 3 with Special Guest Jim Huntzinger

In a thought-provoking episode of the People Solve Problems Podcast, host Jamie Flinchbaugh has an engaging conversation with Jim Huntzinger, Founder and President of Lean Frontiers. Jim’s background is in manufacturing, engineering, and the lean enterprise. Jim’s understanding and experience provide listeners with a wealth of knowledge applicable to a wide range of professional fields.

The conversation begins with Jim sharing a detailed overview of the history and evolution of problem-solving techniques. Tracing the journey from the era of World War II’s Training Within Industry (TWI) program, to the genesis of the Toyota Production System, and finally into the modern world of Lean and Kaizen practices, Jim offers an enlightening perspective on the historical context of these methods. His narration showcases how these techniques have been continuously adapted over the decades to align with the evolving needs of organizations and industries.

Progressing further into the dialogue, Jim explains the interconnected nature of various Lean techniques. In his view, elements such as TWI, Kata, and coaching are not independent entities; instead, they form an intertwined framework within the broader Lean ecosystem. Understanding this interconnectedness is crucial for anyone striving to effectively apply and maximize the benefits of Lean methodologies.

As the episode draws to a close, Jim and Jamie delve into the future prospects of Lean Frontiers. Through this exploration, Jim’s commitment to nurturing and promoting Lean methodologies on a global scale comes through clearly. His vision places Lean Frontiers at the forefront of Lean thinking and practice, making it a beacon for practitioners around the world.

This podcast episode with Jim Huntzinger is filled with insights into Lean methodologies, steeped in historical context, current practices, and future possibilities. Anyone interested in problem-solving techniques and Lean methodologies will find immense value in this discussion.

Make sure to connect with Jim on LinkedIn  and learn more about his work through the Lean Frontiers website

Don’t miss this episode with Jim, where his insights offer a fresh and inspiring perspective on the applications and potential of Lean methodologies.

More about Lean Frontiers:

Lean Frontiers develops communities within the lean community to bring together practitioners, thought leaders, and others to share, learn, and network to grow and develop the community. Jim’s background is in manufacturing, engineering, and the lean enterprise.




People Solve Problems Episode 2 with Special Guest Mark Graban





In an engaging episode of the podcast, host Jamie Flinchbaugh welcomes distinguished guest, Mark Graban. The conversation provides invaluable insights into management, problem-solving, and risk mitigation methodologies, drawing from Mark’s wealth of experience and expertise.

Mark begins the discussion by emphasizing the importance of failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), a tool used to identify potential failures in a system, product, or process. He stresses the value of FMEA in evaluating the likelihood of a mistake, its severity, and its detectability, which can help organizations prioritize and manage risks. The method, despite its subjective nature, can help companies avoid mistakes that could be detrimental to their business or clients. 

Further into the discussion, Mark brings up the concept of “lean startup” and the idea of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). He argues that while an MVP approach may be suitable for low-risk ventures like music discovery platforms, it might not be the best choice for high-stakes industries like banking or healthcare where the cost of failure can be extraordinarily high.

The conversation then steers toward the idea of psychological safety, where Mark cites Amy Edmondson, a renowned scholar in the field. According to Mark, Edmondson categorizes mistakes into three distinct types: those that shouldn’t occur in routine processes, those that are unanticipated due to differing circumstances, and those that happen at the frontiers of innovation where there is a high level of uncertainty. The ability to distinguish between these types can be crucial for businesses to learn from their mistakes and foster a culture of innovation.

As the dialogue winds down, Jamie and Mark discuss the implications of their discussion for startups. They agree that it’s crucial for companies, especially new ones, to understand the severity of the risks they’re taking, ensuring that investors are on the same page with them about the potential for failure.

This episode with Mark Graban offers a deep dive into the mechanisms of risk management, offering useful perspectives for any organization striving to improve its problem-solving and innovation processes.

Be sure to connect with Mark on LinkedIn and check out his website for more insights. 

Don’t miss this informative episode with Mark, where his insightful ideas are bound to spark thought and foster new ways of thinking about how to approach risks in your organization.



Lean Whiskey Episode 40

Episode 40: “New Riff, a new book, and exploring lessons from examples of pivots” 

In Episode 40, Mark Graban and Jamie Flinchbaugh get back together after their in-person visit where they enjoyed the origins of this podcast: talking about lean stuff while enjoying some whiskey. We get to celebrate the launch of Mark’s new book, The Mistakes That Make Us, as well as Jamie’s new podcast titled People Solve Problems. We recap our in-person visit and some of the great whiskey we were able to try. And we taste one of the expressions we were able to try at the distillery, New Riff’s Straight Bottled-in-Bond Malted Rye. 

We then pivoted to talking about pivots, starting with the example of how Instagram originally started as Burbn check-in app to share your drinking experiences with others. It then pivoted to photo sharing, and the rest is history. We compare and contrast other pivots, including Play-Doh, the pacemaker, Slack and Twitter, 3M Post-its, and a purple dye found when trying to cure malaria. We share some lessons from each of our books about how to enable and/or embrace the pivot when the opportunity presents itself. 


We wrap up by talking a bit about the book-writing process, and the joys and pains that accompany it. Cheers! 


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People Solve Problems Episode 1 with Special Guest Andy Carlino

In this episode, guest Andy Carlino and host Jamie Flinchbaugh delve into an intricate discussion on the complexities of problem-solving within organizations and the crucial role of precise language in defining problems and solutions. They emphasize the importance of a clear problem statement, underlining that without one, efforts to solve problems often result in unsatisfactory outcomes. They assert that an ideal problem statement doesn’t merely define what’s wrong but also encompasses a description of the problem’s impact and the potential value of its resolution.

The conversation evolves towards the dynamic nature of problem statements, emphasizing their necessity to be fluid and adaptable as new information is learned during the problem-solving process. Carlino challenges the common misconception that everyone in an organization should be equipped to solve complex problems. He argues that while not everyone has the capability to master complex problem-solving, all members of an organization can contribute to a problem-solving structure that’s tiered to match varying degrees of complexity.

The discussion also addresses the critical aspect of problem-solving: the necessity to have different structures and models to tackle different types of problems. Carlino proposes that having a differentiated approach for complex, simple, and “just do it” problems can help engage everyone in the organization in problem-solving at their level of capability. Carlino particularly favors the concept of “ideal state” thinking, which involves envisioning the best possible outcome or state to expose potential barriers and identify additional problems, which in turn leads to the realization of progressive future states. The episode wraps up with the two agreeing that ideal state thinking adds an element of inspiration and motivation to the challenging process of problem-solving.

Listen Here or on your favorite podcast platform

You can learn more about Andy Carlino at his website or his LinkedIn page.

The Two Kinds Of Visionary Leader You Can Be

Sharing my third article for Forbes: The Two Kinds Of Visionary Leader You Can Be

Very often, when a leader is highlighted in the press, “visionary” is used as a descriptor. But what exactly does that mean? We use it so often that, perhaps, it’s lost all meaning.

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Problem-Solving in an AI-Enabled World

Is problem-solving more or less important in an AI-enabled world? There is a lot of talk about AI, and ChatGPT in particular, and mostly whether it is inherently good or inherently bad. But let’s accept the premise that it is part of our future.

We’ve actually been heading here for a long time. How will AI affect problem-solving? Will it be more or less important, and why? Hear my take in this video.


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Rigorous Thinking and the Business Model Canvas

Why is rigorous thinking and the Business Model Canvas vital for entrepreneurs? The BMC has been a popular tool and method for the entrepreneurial world. Books are written, workshops are attended, and people talk about it. Yet hardly anyone seems to do one, and many who do will not maintain it. This bothers me, and it probably shouldn’t, but there’s a reason it bothers me and should be amended, which I cover in this video.

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