Archive for category Kaizen Promotion Office

Eight Ways to Mess up the Lean Function…and Sabotage the Transformation

The lean function, a.k.a. kaizen promotion office (KPO), operation excellence group, JIT promotion office, company (fill in the name here) lean business system office, continuous improvement office, etc., is a critical resource in any successful lean transformation effort. The KPO does and supports a bunch of necessary stuff, including: change management, people development, daily kaizen deployment, kaizen event management, lean business system curriculum development, and kaizen office management.

If that’s the case, why does leadership get the KPO so wrong, so often?

Often the root cause lies somewhere in the leadership doesn’t know what it doesn’t know region. True transformation is expansive and very, very hard.

Deploying the lean function in Seal Team 6 style, with little or no attention to the rest of lean implementation “details,” and expecting great things is fantasy stuff. Consistent with that notion, there are a bunch of ways to misapply the KPO and screw up the lean transformation. Here are eight ways, among many:

  • Skimp on staffing the lean team. A “rule of thumb” for staffing the KPO is 1%-2% of total company/site headcount. George Koenigsaecker even suggests that the KPO complement should be as much as 3% of the population. For non-lean thinkers, this seems like an outrageous misappropriation of resources.
  • Resource the lean function “late” in the transformation. This one is akin to skimping. When the KPO team is built well after the lean launch, there’s a lot catching up to do in the area of selection, training and development, and deployment. The lean function needs to be ahead of the curve, not behind it.
  • Pick the wrong folks for the group. The quality assurance guy does not necessarily always equal the KPO guy. KPO members should be selected based upon core competencies (like group leadership, change management, etc.), passion and, absent lean technical skills, lean technical aptitude. Poor selection means a lack of lean function effectiveness and, eventually, a “do-over.” Do it right the first time.
  • Abdicate lean leadership to the KPO. Leadership, while often a shared responsibility, cannot be abdicated…especially when it comes to a lean transformation. Stakeholders can smell superficial leadership a mile away. A good OpEx team will serve as effective change agents, but they can’t be the only ones. Batch-head leaders are batch-heads, even if the lean function reports to them.
  • Have the CI guys deliver all of the lean training. It’s powerful stuff when the leader learns and then trains their team in lean principles (at least the basics). When it’s all outsourced to the KPO, there’s little skin in the game.
  • Stick the OpEx team with the kaizen newspaper items. Pretty obvious here – transferring follow-through on post kaizen activity to the CI team instead of the stakeholders kills ownership, engagement and learning.
  • Turn the lean business system office into auditors. When the JIT Promotion folks serve as the routine 5S or lean assessment auditors, without stakeholder engagement, they may be seen more as “gotcha” guys, a plain nuisance, or even worse, totally inconsequential purveyors of the program of the month.
  • Hold the KPO, and only the KPO, accountable. There’s nothing like it when the lean function, and only the lean function, takes the heat for a lack of lean implementation progress. All of the other leaders quickly understand that their commitment is optional and there is always a designated scapegoat when the going gets tough.

So, what am I missing?

Related posts: Who’s Most Responsible for KPO Development? The KPO!, The Kaizen Promotion Office Does What? 8 Critical Deliverables

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Who’s Most Responsible for KPO Development? The KPO!

mirror picThe KPO, short for kaizen promotion office or officer (a.k.a. lean promotion office, JIT promotion office, operational excellence, company business system office, continuous improvement office…you get the picture) represents an organization’s “lean function.” That lean function has at least 8 key result areas including change management, kaizen event management and daily kaizen deployment. The KPO has an extremely important role in every lean transformation, so the folks in that group need to have a certain set of core and technical competencies.

The competency requirements vary depending upon the KPO’s role or position within the organization. For example, the requirements for a corporate KPO, typically a VP or director level, will have a different weighting or emphasis than say, a business unit or value stream KPO. Makes sense, right?

That said, core competencies, really “how” people get their job done, include: 1) strategic orientation, 2) change leadership, 3) group leadership/facilitation, 4) focus and accountability, 5) talent development, 6) flexibility, 7) interpersonal understanding, and 8 ) self-management. Admittedly, these “soft” skills are hard to develop and hone, but through experience, coaching and study a person can progress.

Technical competencies, the “what” people need to know and be good at, encompass lean principles, systems and tools. For these, experience is the best teacher, along with instruction from a good sensei. But, let’s not forgot good old-fashioned study.  Often KPO’s, and other lean leaders for that matter, have a tough time picking up a book! It’s weird. Heck, a lot of times they’ll BUY the books, but won’t even crack the binding! So, here’s where a little direction and positive pressure may be beneficial.

The SME/Shingo/Shingo Prize Lean Certification Body of Knowledge serves as a great study outline. Similarly, the pursuit of the various Lean Certification levels (Knowledge, Bronze, Silver and Gold) is an excellent way to drive a rigorous program of study (with recommended reading) and application.  Additionally, the Bronze, Silver and Gold certifications require specific experience portfolios that include things like value stream analysis and kaizen event participation or facilitation. Furthermore, Silver and Gold requires the candidate to demonstrate that they have mentored others – knowledge is meant to be shared.

To the Lean Certification or similar courses of study,  formal or informal, the KPO can often do well by pursuing six sigma certification (green belt in most cases is probably sufficient) and other supplemental study in areas like project management. Add also networking, touring other lean operations, exploring the many lean blogs, attending conferences and seminars, etc.

Guess what? As a KPO, the person who is most responsible for your development is you. Intellectual curiosity, to the point of obsession is not a bad thing. Study, apply, learn and teach.  Remember, you can’t share what you don’t have!

So, what do you think? How should KPO’s best develop their capabilities?

Related post: The Kaizen Promotion Office Does What? 8 Critical Deliverables.

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The Kaizen Promotion Office Does What? 8 Critical Deliverables.

kaizen promo picThe Kaizen Promotion Office (KPO) really has nothing to do with advertising or promotion in the traditional sense, but it does play a major role in any successful Lean transformation. The KPO, also known as the JIT Promotion Office, Lean function, Lean office, company or business production system office, continuous improvement office, operational excellence group, etc. is a necessary resource for making an enterprise kaizen-ready.

Rather than getting into the KPO job description, organizational design and required KPO technical and behavioral skills as well as development strategies (we’ll get into these important things in future posts), let’s focus on the KPO’s deliverables. In my humble opinion, I think that there are at least 8 major KPO responsibilities or outputs. Of course, the emphasis may vary for different members of the KPO, depending upon exactly where they are in the organization and the maturity of the Lean transformation.

In no particular order, the deliverables are as follows:

  1. Change management. The KPO is in the business of change management as an adviser, trainer, coach and catalyst.
  2. Business system and curriculum development. The KPO is the organization’s dedicated Lean technical experts. Among other things, they should help define, conceptualize and tailor a business specific business system (think TPS) and the related curriculum and training modules.
  3. People development. The kaizen promotion office must help shift from a sensei-dependent enterprise to an employee-driven kaizen enterprise. This encompasses formal and informal training and development of the workforce at all levels in both the technical and behavioral realm.
  4. Kaizen event management. The KPO is the subject matter expert, guardian and facilitator of event standard work – extending to strategy, pre-event planning, execution and follow-through.
  5. Daily kaizen deployment. The KPO must help the organization transition for system-driven kaizen (events only) to principle-driven kaizen (events and daily kaizen). This means that they must help facilitate the adoption of a Lean management system, assist in the training and development of problem-solving employees, facilitate activities such as mini-kaizens and kaizen circles, and train others to train, facilitate and propagate a daily kaizen culture.
  6. Kaizen office management. The “office” encompasses the physical and virtual space in which the KPO operates. It includes the typically dotted line reporting relationships with other (decentralized) KPO resources, any temporary kaizen pool resources (those redeployed workers who are working on continuous improvement activities), “moonshine” operations and training resources and materials.
  7. Kaizen office/Lean deployment improvement. The KPO should facilitate the “kaizening” of the organization’s kaizen process – both event-based and daily kaizen.
  8. Kaizen promotion office ROI. While the first seven items are qualitative in nature, it is expected that the KPO will earn a very sizable return on investment.

I probably missed something. What do you think are the KPO’s deliverables?

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