Archive for January, 2010

Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people

stretch armstrong pic Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the renowned Hungarian psychology professor is noted for, among other things, his research on work and flow (continuous flow from the perspective of the worker being completely absorbed in a task and within a state of intrinsic motivation – “being in the groove”). He addresses the dynamic between the level of skill and challenge. For example, if an employee’s skill level is high for a task in which the challenge is low, there’s a real risk of boredom. If the challenge is very high and the skill level is low, then we end up in the realm of anxiety – usually not very productive!

So, one test for lean leaders is how to match the skill or readiness with a given challenge. How do we stretch the employee, so that they learn and grow…without breaking them? In other words, how can we effectively straddle the zone of anxiety and the zone of boredom or frustration?

There’s at least five things that the lean leader can do:

  1. Provide the employees with an understanding of the challenge. Think change management basics – proof of the need, vision, strategy, impact on them, etc.
  2. Train and coach the employees in order to increase their skill level and readiness. In Lean, there are new ways of thinking, a new language and a host of tools, systems and principles. A large part of an effective lean leader’s job is to humbly deliver teaching. And, by the way, we can’t expect people to become experts right away. Frankly, most everyone does not have to become an expert, but they need basic competency.
  3. Provide a safe, but appropriately challenging forum to apply the new skills. Kaizen events are a great real life place to learn the art and science of continuous improvement. I often tell kaizen team members that the greatest skill that they can bring to a kaizen event is common sense and a passion for improvement and that we will learn together. No use wigging out.
  4. Make people think. Don’t give people the answers. Help guide and challenge them to apply PDCA thinking – to become experimentalists. This means that people will often fail. Lean leaders must see these failures as learning opportunities.
  5. Apply emotional intelligence.  Lean leaders must be attuned to the emotions of their employees.  Using something like Chuck Wolfe’s Emotion Roadmap, they can identify the current feelings (i.e., anxiety), understand the gap between them and the ideal feelings (i.e., enthusiasm) and then work to close the gap.

So, what do you think? What are some of your strategies for effectively stretching people?

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Kaizen Principle: Be like MacGyver, use creativity before capital!

MacGyver picRemember Angus MacGyver? He was the star of the old MacGyver TV series and used science and the inventive application of common items (gum wrappers, duct tape, etc. – kind of a one person moonshine shop) to solve desperate problems. Well, MacGyver should be an unofficial kaizen hero for his real-time creativity and frugality.

Are we saying that lean practitioners are cheap? Well, yes from the standpoint that it is muda to spend or use more than is required to implement an effective countermeasure. But, the real driver behind the principle here is trystorming (the dynamic, real-time cycle of try-observe-improve-repeat through which individuals and teams identify and validate the best improvement idea) as much as possible before, if need be, committing some real capital. As Taiichi Ohno was credited with saying, “Quick and dirty is better than slow and fancy.”

And with the notion of “dirty” there is need for kaizeners to get their hands dirty – planning, doing, checking and adjusting. This requires the use of often simple, readily available materials (wood, cardboard, PVC, etc.) and “re-purposed” equipment, furniture, materials and supplies. So, what are some examples where people effectively reached for their brains before their wallets:

  • Re-purposed discarded rooftop air conditioner attached to a cooling vessel increased the compounding line rate ($0.9 million annual savings),
  • Urinal flush valve used to quickly dispense the requisite amount of water to a dry material so that it could be safely shipped,
  • Residential dishwasher serving as a right-sized, line-side parts washer.

So, what are some of your favorite MacGyver moments?

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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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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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The Truth Will Set You Free!

truth will set you freeLean thinking may not have been big in the first century, but there’s at least one quote that can be applied to Lean, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So, in a Lean context how do you know the truth and how will it set you free? Here are three steps.

1. Identify the waste through direct observation. Start with genchi genbutsu, Japanese for “go and see for yourself.” Go the gemba. Improvement begins with a deep understanding of what is called the current condition, current situation or current reality. In short, the truth. Truth can be obtained through personal direct observation. Anecdotal evidence is typically incomplete and often just plain wrong. It allows for the introduction of bias, whether purposeful or accidental.

In Lean we often employ the use of certain tools (and methods) to better force and focus us in our direct observation. They also facilitate the identification of waste and help uncover the root causes of that waste. The tools, depending upon the situation,  include current state value stream maps, time observation forms, standard worksheets, standard work combination sheets, % load charts, operations analysis tables, etc. When properly applied, their format forces a presentation of the data in such a way that waste and related issues are more easily identified for the observer and for others (the more, the merrier!).

2. Acknowledge the waste. Easier said than done. Direct observation can identify the truth, but it does not mean that everyone will acknowledge it. In other words, identification is largely a technical exercise, acknowledgment is mostly behavioral in nature. While the truth is the truth whether known or acknowledged, waste can’t be eliminated unless it is both identified AND acknowledged. As such, effective Lean cultures repudiate problem hiding. No problem is a big problem…heck, can anyone find a place where there are no problems? In order to facilitate the right environment there must be a large measure of trust where the focus is on fixing processes and not targeting people for blame. The principle of respect for the individual and a data-driven mentality must be front and center.

3. Eliminate the waste. Well, if you’ve identified the waste AND acknowledged it, then you know the truth.  You are now free to act upon it. Of course, this is a mixture of both technical (how) and behavioral (willpower, aggressiveness and stamina) elements. The truth has helped lead you to the PLAN, now it is time to DO!

What do you think?

Related posts: CSI Kaizen – When Forensics Supplement Direct Observation, Time Observations – 10 Common Mistakes

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Visual of the Visual?

eye picEffective visual controls are, among other things, self-explaining. What does that mean? It means that someone with no inside knowledge of a process should be able to quickly understand the “system” without human assistance. This understanding should extend to the purpose of the system, the operating rules and the owner. From that, the casual observer should be able to easily discern a normal versus abnormal condition. The non-casual observer should be able to do the same and then start thinking about identifying root causes and implementing countermeasures.

Many people think I’m crazy when I suggest that they create a “visual of the visual.” Sounds redundant right? Sounds like muda. However, how many times have you been in a plant, office, lab, clinic, etc. and wondered what the heck that thing is, how it works, and/or whether it is working? That “thing” could be a heijunka box, kanban batch board, TPM autonomous maintenance board, document aging bin system…fill in the blank.

A simple test at the gemba can often reveal how UNself-explaining systems can be. Simply ask employees to explain the system. Often, they can’t. So much for engaged workers, so much for sustainability. If the system is not self-explaining, then it certainly can’t be, like all good visual systems, worker managed.

One more point. The very task of creating a visual of the visual requires the creator(s) to think through the operating rules (essentially the standard work) and how best to articulate them so others understand. The same goes for the defined purpose and for the selection and identification of the process owner.

Does this make sense?

Plus Delta – The Kaizen Team’s Sunrise Reflection

plus delta pic

With the exception of the first, every kaizen event day should start with a “plus delta” activity. This simple 15 minute activity is one of reflection on the last 24 hours (think hansei) in which the team identifies the positive things (plus) and that which they would like to change (delta). It’s one of several kaizen event work strategy elements (another being daily team leader meetings). Essentially, it is an opportunity for the team to briefly check, take some brief satisfaction in the good, recognize opportunities for improvement and then make necessary adjustments. It is all about kaizen team effectiveness and learning.

So, how does the plus delta work? It’s pretty basic. At the beginning of each day, usually immediately after the event facilitator has refreshed everyone’s memory relative to the day’s plan, each team member, based on the last 24 hours, individually records pluses on green Post-Its and things they would like to change on pink Post-Its. One item per Post-It. The team members then place the Post-Its on a flip chart. Pluses on the left side, deltas on the right.

After everyone has attached their Post-Its to the flip chart, the facilitator will review several pluses, then several deltas, then several pluses, then several deltas, etc. Pluses usually include things like, “Sub-team activities were very productive,” and “Everyone candidly shared their thoughts and ideas,” while deltas can include things like, “The break-out room was too cold,” or “The team often got off track/scope.”

Reading the deltas is not enough, the team needs to determine appropriate countermeasure(s) for the substantive deltas. For example, in order to ensure that the team does not get off track, all team members should exercise their responsibility to monitor the process. It can’t only be the job of the facilitator, team leader or co-leader! Engaged and responsible team members should flag when the team is off track and help it get back on track.

The plus delta activity is a simple, quick and powerful means of increasing kaizen team effectiveness. What do you think of this tool? How do you facilitate team effectiveness during your kaizen events?

Check Please! Without it, PDCA and SDCA do NOT work.

check please pic The best intentioned try to apply PDCA as well as SDCA (standardize-do-check-act), but often fall far short on the check side. Of course, this means that the likelihood they will act/adjust appropriately is slim. So much for the heart of Lean scientific thought! So much for true kaizen!

Doing is fun. Checking, at least thoroughly, does not appear to be as stimulating and is often an afterthought.

I recently stayed a week at a hotel (an industry leader). The accommodations were nice, been there before, etc. However, their heating system obviously had issues – as in my room was always cold. 68 degrees when I returned to my room in the evening and, despite my cranking up the thermostat to 90 degrees, my morning temps were 65, 66, 66, 65 and 63. Good sleeping weather if the bedspread is thicker than a T-shirt. I wore my jacket when I slept. I complained each morning, but not too vociferously because I was interested to see how and what they would do (in the end they made it up to me).

Well, the front desk always had a plan (yes, Mr. Hamel we’ll look at the system) and I am sure that they executed the plan (do) by dispatching maintenance to my room. Maintenance, I am guessing, tested the unit during the middle of the day when the sun was up and the overmatched HVAC could actually keep up and determined everything was fine. Just another crazy customer – the hotel checked and found that their is no need for adjustment. Of course, their means of checking were flawed (you also need to check  when the abnormal condition is alleged to be found) and they never closed the loop to check with me. Bad check or no check means either there is no adjustment or improper adjustment.

Improvement requires us to spin the PDCA wheel properly, completely and frequently. Maintenance (think Masaaki Imai’s kaizen diagram) requires us to frequently and rigorously spin the SDCA wheel to ensure that the standard work is being followed and it is sufficient. The PDCA and the SDCA wheel without the C does NOT roll.

What are your thoughts?

Related post: “Do” Only Gets You Half the Way There, or…“No Pie for You!”

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