Archive for category Value Stream Analysis

Lean Space – Some Thoughts and 10 Questions

Lean is applied within time and space. That’s where we “live” and add value, or not. Organizations often don’t rigorously consider critical lean implications when designing new spaces – whether brand new buildings, additions or modifications to existing structures.

The fact is that spaces need to support and facilitate a leaner value stream. Too often we design new spaces to accommodate old, waste-laden, value-inhibiting ways…because the architectural and construction process often has its own inertia. Lean thinking can end up taking the back seat. This is a big fail!

So, whether we: 1) believe (careful of that) that we have squeezed out much of the improvement opportunity within a given value stream and now anticipate that an improved space will bring us to the next level, or  2) have just begun our lean journey and think a new or redesigned space will give us some serious performance lift, or 3) are somewhere in between, there are some fundamental considerations before the architects design, the demo guys demolish, the contractors…you get the point.

Few things go together as well as value stream analysis and new layout development. It’s an opportunity to define a leaner future state, at both a conceptual and physical level. Of course, these activities are what we would call paper kaizen. While we can challenge one another on how to get to continuous flow, apply supermarket pull, incorporate new/improved standard work, etc., it’s still just captured on paper. It’s not real yet.

This is where 3P (production preparation process, or perhaps, more appropriately 2P – preparation process) is powerful stuff. Within the context of certain weighted design criteria (see below for some questions that might help identify key criteria), 3P facilitates: 1) the formulation of many different design alternatives, 2) down-selection to a critical few design concepts, 3) trystorming/PDCA of the critical few using open space, chalk lines, cardboard, PVC, etc., sometimes aided by 3D design, and ultimately, 4) the selection of a final design.

Now, that may sound too easy, and often it is. If the new space is supposed to accommodate a bunch of “improved” flows, standard work, visual controls, etc…heck, a brand new system, the likelihood that it will all work without a bunch of real PDCA, applied over many weeks, is about ZERO.

So, you need to evaluate the risk of going too fast and perhaps spending lots of money and then determining that the new space is far from what is needed. Most times, depending upon the depth of change, it may make sense to live the new system, as best you can, in your old space and do PDCA. While you do this, PDCA the design of the space.

To spur some thought around lean space design, here are a handful of questions to consider. In no specific order:

  1. Will the new space facilitate the least waste physical flow of the material, information, person, supplies, scrap, equipment, tooling, etc.?
  2. Will the new space facilitate and even enhance visual management by means of clear line of sight – no obstructions (high features, corners, stairs, etc.)?
  3. Will the new space have desirable acoustics to facilitate audible communication (musical andons, team discussions, etc.) and provide sufficient quiet/privacy to do the job (like in a call center)?
  4. Will the space facilitate 5S and work place organization? For example, how can we better accomplish the 4th S, standardized clean-up, by keeping things from getting messy in the first place?
  5. PDCA is forever and business dynamics evolve – is the space flexible enough to accommodate improved layouts, forecasted growth, normal demand variation? Avoid “roots or vines” so that equipment, furniture, workstations and even walls can be easily moved.
  6. Will the space facilitate tiered team meetings and accommodate the related performance metrics boards, suggestion boards, task accountability boards, etc.?
  7. Will the space be something that you would be proud to show you customers, something that your employees will feel makes their job easier and more satisfying?
  8. Will the space facilitate standard work and, with that, avoid isolated islands while promoting appropriate multi-process operations?
  9. Will the space generate a sufficient ROI?
  10. Will the stakeholders “own” the new space, because they were appropriately engaged in developing it?

What are your space design considerations?

Related posts: Telling “How” Removes Responsibility, Without Defined Criteria, (Almost) Everything Looks Good

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The Power of Mapping

Mapping, whether it’s process mapping or value stream mapping can be powerful stuff. It should be a familiar and trusted weapon within your continuous improvement arsenal.

When mapping is deployed properly, right tool, right situation, it facilitates a handful of important team dynamics, including:

  • Physical engagement. Team members hang paper on the wall, record data on Post-It notes, position the Post-It notes, draw lines, figures, data, hang copies of documents, and hopefully, and most importantly, go to the gemba to directly observe reality. As one of my colleagues likes to say about facilitating teams, “Get ’em up, keep ’em moving.” If the blood does not move, the brain gets sluggish.
  • Shared understanding. Maps reflect a common visual language through the use of standard formats, icons, linkages and the like. Teams “see” the same thing, front and center, and can better confront differing perspectives, interpretations and concerns. This “billboard,” both during and after its creation,  should prompt effective discussion, closure and consensus. Try having different team members “read” the map to the team to see if it makes sense and to test the reader’s understanding.
  • Broader and appropriately deeper view. Rarely do folks have a substantive grasp of an entire value stream or a complex process. Mapping forces the team to flesh out the salient details of the target. Whether or not team members have the humility to admit it or not, there are typically more than a few “ah-ha” moments during the mapping experience. Better insight into the current condition, within the context of lean thinking, yields better results.
  • Dissatisfaction with the current state. Current state maps are typically ugly, both from a visually aesthetic perspective (hey, the goal is NOT to make a pretty map, it’s to understand and make meaningful improvements!) and from the perspective of the reality of the current state – where things don’t flow, where there’s multiple and unnecessary hand-offs, reversals, re-work, long queues, etc. This ugliness should prompt some serious dissatisfaction and hopefully, readiness to attack the future state.

So, while I strongly caution you against plugging any sort of electrical device through your map (as depicted in the picture – can you believe it?!), recognize that mapping brings power well beyond just the obvious. Yes,  the maps and related improvement plans are absolutely critical, but the mapping team dynamics and learned lean thinking are, in may ways, equally powerful.

Related post: CSI Kaizen – When Forensics Supplement Direct Observation


The Post-Value Stream Analysis Hangover

Let’s set the stage. The team has just completed what many call a flow kaizen – in which the focus is the flow of materials, patients, customers, etc. and information. Hopefully, the team has generated certain outputs, including a current and future state value stream map and the all important value stream improvement plan (VSIP).

We know that the value stream analysis isn’t about making pretty maps and plans. It’s about defining, at about a 20,000 foot altitude and 80% accuracy, a future state for a specific date (typically 6 or 12 months out or so) and the roadmap for getting there. The roadmap is the VSIP (think Gantt chart plus) and it should be comprised of specific kaizen events, projects and “just-do-its.”

Often, sometime after the flow kaizen report-out, the hangover kicks in. It might not be instantaneous. Heck, it might take weeks or months to manifest itself. But, when it does come, it lasts a lot longer than the hangover induced by drinking too many adult beverages.

So, if you think that you’ve never experienced the hangover, let me explain some of the symptoms. They might ring a bell.

Amnesia. As in who am I, how did I get here and what the heck am I supposed to do? These are questions often expressed by the value stream manager. Too often this person is “anointed” sometime during the actual value stream analysis. You know, when leadership finally figures out that this value stream analysis seems like a pretty big deal and the book or the coach says that we should have a value stream manager. This manager is typically a line person with ownership of a portion of the value stream (but often not the whole thing). Their job is to drive VSIP execution and make the future state map a reality. No small task. It’s a really good idea for the executive lean leaders to carefully select the value stream manager BEFORE the value stream analysis based upon certain core (think change management, focus and accountability, etc.) and technical competencies (some level of lean expertise, process knowledge, project management skills, etc.). The value stream manager will also need coaching, resources and support (including the steering committee).

Apathy. Question: If you ignore the VSIP, does it execute itself? Answer: No! The value stream manager and other lean leaders need to apply at least monthly checkpoints and other rigor to ensure that the accountable folks (yes, the VSIP has to have names and dates) are getting the right stuff done at the right time. Will the VSIP need to be retooled because you didn’t know what you didn’t know when you developed it? Yes! So you have to be flexible, but dogged. And you’ll have to deal with human resource development issues along with the technical.

Confusion and Disorientation. This symptom really kicks in when the value stream analysis was not performed well or thoroughly. For example, it’s not rare for folks to map more than one product or service family on one map (confusing!), blow off the time ladder, rolled throughput line, data boxes, and/or VSIP, post fuzzy, ill-defined kaizen bursts, develop a future state map that’s really not very lean, not anticipate the best sequence of activities within the VSIP, not assign owners to the VSIP elements, etc. You get the picture. It’s like drinking lots of bad tequila AND eating the worm.

Fixation. Sometimes the organization will become fixated with the VSIP, put their head down and just execute it. It may not sound like a bad thing, but the lean leaders must also be cognizant of the outputs…as in we’re executing to drive the numbers (compress lead times, increase rolled throughput yield, etc.) It’s a “both and” type of thing. Often it makes sense to use bowling charts to help people also focus on the numbers.

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? I’m sure that I’m missing some. Feel free to share your experiences. Remember, value stream map responsibly.

Related posts: Why Bowling Charts? Trajectory Matters, Value (Stream) Delivery – What about the family?


Value (Stream) Delivery – What about the family?

family picRecently, someone shared that a multi-national company with a  good Lean pedigree was looking to rationalize their facilities so that each facility served only market “A” or market “B,” but not both, like many do now.  This makes very little sense, especially in light of the fact that the same value stream serves both markets and there is no substantial difference in  “A” or “B’s” design tolerances, required process capabilities, delivery channel, service levels, etc. In other words, value, as defined by “A” and “B,” relative to the order to delivery phase, is the same! Here value delivery should be considered market agnostic.

Value stream management and improvement should be focused by product or service family. The families are traditionally identified by the use of a matrix that shows the intersection of products (or services) with processes. These matrices go by different names, but they’re the same thing – product family analysis matrix, product family matrix, process routing matrix or product quantity proces (PQPr) matrix.

While the production folks who work within the company referenced above should understand and care about the different markets that they serve, the value stream must be their primary lens and lever for making value flow. The sales and marketing guys,  R&D people, field support, etc. must be concerned about the markets and their specific needs but there has to be some very compelling reasons to split up the family in other portions of the value stream… and there must be critical mass.

What are your thoughts? When does it make sense to split the family?

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