Archive for March, 2010

Kaizen Event Supplies – Basic Stuff for Effective Events

airdrop picThe kaizen pre-event planning phase is critical to event effectiveness. It includes the obvious – event definition from the perspective of scope and targets, team selection, communication and certain acceptable pre-work, but sometimes the simple stuff gets missed. The simple stuff includes kaizen supplies – well organized, in a 5S way!

It’s definitely muda if a kaizen event team(s) is hamstrung, mid-event, while they’re waiting for a handful of cheap stopwatches to get picked up from the local giant box store or waiting for someone to track down some standard operations forms because they were all consumed during the last event and never replaced. The list of possible annoyances is pretty long.

Kaizen events are finite in length, typically three to five days in duration. If it’s a mini-event, it may be a day or so. Time is of the essence! Lost time means delayed or lost improvements and frustrated team members.

So, while we’re trying to implement lean, doesn’t it make sense that the kaizen event supplies are designated, sized, stored, presented and replenished in a lean manner? Of course it does. It just happens that it’s important, but not urgent. At least until that uh-oh moment, when a team determines that they’re missing a necessary supply item.

Sometimes, the reason for this phenomenon is that the organization is just cheap (penny-wise and pound foolish), there is no KPO to worry about this stuff or the KPO isn’t quite up to speed. The kaizen principle of “bias for action” is not an excuse for sloppiness.

See below for a basic list of kaizen event supplies. (Here, I am not talking about the typical 3P-type supplies – cardboard, PVC, plywood, Creform, etc.) Most should be specified, stored and presented point of use in the team’s break-out room. Some things, like laminators, may be shared amongst multiple teams. The KPO should make use of a kaizen team supply list which specifies the standard quantity of each item, item description, a field for an end-of-event inventory count and a field to reflect the quantity which needs to be replenished before the next event.

Of course, some things are difficult to anticipate that they will be needed for the event. For example, a 3X4′ magnetic dry erase board is usually not inventoried. These non-“supermarket” items will have to be bought-to-order during the event.

Stored within Plastic Storage Bin
  • 6 clipboards
  • 1 set of laminated copies of standard forms (5S audit sheet, time observation form, standard work sheet, etc.)
  • 6 stopwatches
  • 1 pedometer
  • 1 25′ tape measure
  • 1 box of pencils (pre-sharpened)
  • 3 white erasers
  • 1 box of pens
  • 1 box of flip chart markers (multi-colors)
  • 1 box dry erase markers (multi-colors)
  • 1 dry eraser
  • 1 18″ ruler
  • 6 8.5X11″ legal pads
  • 2 calculators
  • 1 stapler
  • 2 rolls of scotch tape in dispenser
  • 2 rolls of masking tape
  • 1 box blank overhead projector sheets (for us dinosaurs)
  • 1 box paper clips
  • 1 box rubber bands
  • 3 pkg of yellow sticky notes 3X3″
  • 3 pkg of orange sticky notes 3X3″
  • 3 pkg of green sticky notes 3X3″
  • 1 scissors
  • 1 pkg 8.5X11″ multi-color paper
  • 1 pkg 11X17″ multi-color paper
  • 1 pkg 8.5X11″ laminating pouches
  • 1 pkg 11X17″ laminating pouches
  • 1 box Sharpies (multi-colored)
  • 1 box push pins
  • 1 adjustable 3-hole punch
Not Stored within Plastic Bin
  • 3 flip chart pads
  • 1 box flip chart markers
Shared among Teams
  • 1 digital camera
  • 1 video camera
  • 1 label maker
  • 1 laminator
  • 1 measuring wheel
  • 1 roll 36″ wide kraft paper or white plotter paper
  • 1 LCD projector (located in presentation room)
  • 1 overhead projector (located in presentation room)
  • 1 color printer (11X17″ capable)

Am I missing anything?

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

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Ineffective Visual Controls – 9 Root Causes

visitor badgeI just had an experience that prompted me  to think about the effectiveness, or sometimes lack thereof, of visual controls. Yesterday I was at a client site. No kaizen, just training. I was sporting a vistor’s badge (see picture), when one of  the class participants said something like, “Hey, you’re expired!” I came back with an intelligent, “Huh?”

It seems that the badge uses a time sensitive sticker that is white when the badge is first given to the visitor. After 24 hours or so it displays a red tiger stripe to indicate that it’s expired – meaning you need to show your ID and sign in again. Presumably, it’s a visual control to better identify the normal versus abnormal (unapproved) visitor.

Didn’t know that. I was walking around the facility for three days with my expired badge. I routinely walked right by the security folks and everyone else. No one said a word until the fourth day! Why didn’t the visually controlled badge  “work?” Why do visual controls fail consistently or intermittently?

Here’s my incomplete list of the root causes of ineffective visual controls (in no particular order):

  1. Introduced without training. Oftentimes new visual controls are deployed with nary a word to those who are supposed to manage them or respond to them. Stealth deployment is not successful.
  2. Not worker-managed. Visual controls are supposed to be worker managed. It’s silly to expect someone else (a supervisor or manager) who is not there real-time to reliably trigger a visual…in a timely manner. And it takes the worker out of the equation. So much for engagement and ownership.
  3. Not self-explaining. If a visual control cannot be immediately deciphered as to its purpose, operating rules and status, it ends up being a guessing game. No one has time for that and no one has a gemba decoder ring.
  4. Not visual/visible. Visual? What visual?  Some visual controls just are not very visual due to diminutive size, lack of color, poor location, etc.
  5. Too hard or complicated to use. Visual controls are designed to quickly, effectively and universally identify abnormal conditions so that those conditions can be addressed. They shouldn’t be adding muda. Visuals that are physically and/or intellectually a pain to maintain or trigger just won’t be reliably used.
  6. Obsolete. Sometimes the underlying system or process  is changed and the visual control is no longer used. Leaving it around is visual pollution and is confusing.
  7. Lack of discipline. It takes a level of discipline to maintain visual controls. Lean leaders must constantly reinforce their use and they should be an audit item within their leader standard work.
  8. Love of covert operations. Visual controls make things, well…visual. They promote an environment in which there are no secrets. For many reasons, some employees are not a big fan and purposely do not use the visual controls. Here, lean leaders need to hold folks accountable.
  9. Lack of faith. Oftentimes employees reliably maintain their visual controls and then give up when they determine that no one reliably responds to the abnormal conditions. Why the heck use a visual when no one seems to care?!  Apathy for abnormalities drive apathy for visual controls.

I’m guessing that I have missed some other root causes of ineffective visual controls. Any thoughts?

Related post: Visual of the Visual?

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Don’t Blindly Copy the TPS House. Build Your Own.

house picThe Toyota Production System (TPS) “house” is the model home within the lean business system neighborhood. Its roof of highest quality, lowest cost and shortest lead time is supported by the two pillars of JIT and jidoka. These pillars rest upon a solid foundation of heijunka, standard work and kaizen, which itself rests upon a foundation of stability. Of course, there’s a bit more to the house, not the least of which is the profound simplicity and synergy among these elements. It’s core principles of humility and respect for the individual make it a beautiful house.

But despite its functionality and beauty, don’t blindly copy the TPS house. It would be like trying to replicate the Mona Lisa with a paint-by-number set. How can you internalize something with such a sterile and mechanistic approach. Fujio Cho and others within Toyota have referred to TPS as the “Thinking Person’s System.”  Copying isn’t thinking.

So, study TPS, learn by doing and then tailor it to your culture and to your vernacular…without gutting it. In other words, keep the pillars and foundations, but make it your house. By undertaking this activity, lean leaders have to think deeply and critically about the principles, systems and  tools. It will force  engagement in and around transformation at a cultural and technical level. It will compel a meaningful dialogue about horizontal and vertical alignment within the organization (think strategy deployment) and it will ultimately require the lean leaders to articulate the company’s business system such that it can be understood by everyone within the organization. From this endeavor, the kaizen promotion office can develop the lean training curriculum and deliver it within perhaps a more relevant context.

Here’s a few examples of some “custom houses.” Of course, don’t expect too much detail due to their proprietary nature:

Building your house should only be done after you’ve rented the TPS house first. Consider enlisting the help of your sensei. Know that it will take time before you have enough (very) basic understanding and organizational lean commitment to even think about building, but don’t wait forever.

So, what’s been your lean home building experience?

Related post: Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!

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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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Leader Standard Work – Chock that PDCA Wheel

wheel chocks picRecently, I added a new step to my kaizen event standard work. Just to keep the event team leaders honest, I not only require them to develop leader standard work related to the new “systems” that they have implemented during the kaizen (my old standard work), I actually now make them walk me through the leader standard work, printed and in hand,…at the gemba. This is typically done on a Thursday afternoon if it’s a five day kaizen event.

Yes, I am a pain in the neck! But, what happens if the leader standard work is not completed or completed and not sufficient? Well, I’ll tell you, it’s called backsliding. The PDCA wheel rolls backward!

All of the team’s blood, sweat and tears come to naught. Not a great way to sustain the gains. Not a good way to create a lean culture. So, we need to chock the PDCA wheel with leader standard work (and of course, the related visual controls that make the leader standard work “drive-by” easy). Leader standard work is part of standardize-do-check-act or SDCA. Leader standard work is part of a lean management system, along with visual controls and a daily accountability process.

What does the leader standard work walk through look like? Picture the lean coach or sensei following the event team leader as they refer to the documented leader standard work.

For example, the kaizen event team leader reads off the first audit area within the leader standard work – an easy one, a FIFO lane.  We stop here on an hourly basis at the “XYZ FIFO lane” and, “Determine that the FIFO lane is maintained.”

“Maintained?” What the heck does that mean? So, the supervisor/team lead comes by here each hour, looks and says, “Yup, looks good! Looks maintained!”?? No, I think we need to be much more specific, otherwise things will get lost in translation, the leaders won’t understand and they won’t ensure process adherence and then the system will break down. The leaders will routinely mark the audit step complete and never, ever identify an abnormal condition…even when there is one.

We need to define this leader standard work step a bit more. It might read something like, “Review FIFO lane to ensure that it is being maintained: 1) carts are being fed in a first in, first out manner, 2) the maximum quantity of carts (as reflected in the visual)  is not exceeded, 3) if the maximum quantity is met, then the upstream operation is no longer producing…” Now, about that visual control…

Now this may seem like overkill, but I don’t think so. This kind of rigor is especially important when a company is relatively new in their lean journey and the lean leaders are immature. Their leader standard work needs to be very specific.

So, how do you chock your PDCA wheel?

Related posts: Leader Standard Work Should Be…Work!, Leader Standard Work – You Can Pay Me Now, or You Can Pay Me Later

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Plan Vs. Actual – The Swiss Army Knife of Charts

swiss army knifeImagine that you were only allowed one chart (or board) at the gemba. What would you pick? What is the Swiss Army knife (I’m more of a Leatherman Multitool fan myself) of charts that gives you insight into process adherence and process performance?

For me, it’s the plan vs. actual chart – also known as the production analysis board (or chart), day-by-the-hour chart, etc. It is typically a paper chart (my preference) or dry erase board that is positioned at the pacemaker process. It’s refreshingly low-tech and reflects, at a minimum, the line, cell or team name, output requirements (number of picks, assemblies, invoices, etc.) for the day or shift, the related takt time, the planned hourly (or smaller time increment) and cumulative outputs for the day or shift, the actual hourly and cumulative outputs (or in some practices the cumulative deficit or surplus) and fields to record the problem or reason for any hourly plan vs. actual deltas as well as a sign-off by lean leader(s) as proof of review.

So, why is the plan vs. actual so powerful? Here’s 5 reasons.

  1. Communicates customer requirements. The chart reflects the demand, by type or product, quantity, and timing and sequence. It reflects a takt image.
  2. Forces the matching of cycle time to takt time. Standard work should dictate the requisite staffing (and related cycle time, work sequence and standard WIP) to satisfy the customer requirements.
  3. Engages the employee and drives problem-solving. Like any visual control worth its salt, the plan vs. actual is worker-managed in a relatively real-time way. It highlights abnormal conditions (hourly and/or cumulative shortfalls or overproduction) and drives self-correction or at least notification/escalation and containment. The plan vs. actual also spurs PDCA in that the worker is required to identify the root cause of the abnormal condition and ultimately points the worker, team and leadership to effective countermeasures.
  4. Focuses lean leaders within the context of leader standard work. A good plan vs. actual will have fields for team leader/supervisor sign-offs on the hour and managers twice daily. This is essentially proof of the execution of leader standard work in which the leader should ensure that the plan vs. actual is maintained real-time, is complete (i.e., no unexplained abnormalities), and that countermeasures are being employed in order to effectively satisfy customer requirements.
  5. Focuses associates and lean leaders within the context of the daily accountability process. The prior day’s plan vs. actual and trended performance (including pitch logs) should be reviewed within daily tiered meetings. These meetings help drive the identification of improvement opportunities and countermeasures at the individual, team and value stream level.

So, what’s your Swiss Army Knife chart and why?

Related posts: Leader Standard Work Should Be…Work!, Leader Standard Work – You can pay me now, or you can pay me later

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Kaizen Event Team Selection – No Yo-Yos Needed

Yoyo pictureKaizen event team selection is a critical driver of event effectiveness. Selection criteria includes team representation (to promote diversity, perspective, ownership, and development opportunities), size, chemistry, kaizen experience, and behavioral and technical skills. In short, the team, typically six to eight members, should be picked around the event, not vice versa.

So, every member counts. The expectation is that team members are dedicated during the event. Truth of the matter, the team leader should be an integral part of the pre-event planning, execution and follow-through. Similarly, many team members must also support the follow-through phase of the event.

Team members often have specific roles to play, above and beyond “participant.” There is typically a team leader and co-leader and often there are, officially or unofficially, other roles:

  • “Navigator”  – one or more kaizen event veterans who are competent with the kaizen process, forms, etc.,
  • “Fresh eyes” – those who are not from the target area and are unencumbered by allegiance or intimate exposure to the process. They’re free to ask the “dumb questions,” like “WHY?,”
  • Operator or associate – stakeholders from the target area who have first-hand knowledge of the process and its people and who will (hopefully) help evangelize others and sustain the gains after the event,
  • Builder or technologist – multi-skilled maintenance person, machinist, IT person, analyst, etc. who will help the team safely make, modify, move and test things and/or serve as liaison with other support functions,
  • Compliance officer – typically someone who is product/service knowledgeable and will help the team comply with the various regulatory requirements.

So, where does  the yo-yo concept come into play? Team member commitment must be full time for the kaizen event, with only very rare exceptions. “Yo-yos” are team members who are repeatedly pulled out of the event for “important” meetings and projects by their supervisors. These in-again, out-again folks accomplish little other than to distract and demoralize their fellow members. They must constantly be brought up to speed relative to team progress and direction and do not deliver on their assigned countermeasures  – how can they, they’re never there!?

Yo-yos take a valuable spot on the team roster that would have been better filled by a dedicated member. Furthermore, effective lean leaders don’t tolerate yo-yo’s and don’t pull the string themselves.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Related post:  The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

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WWSD: What Would the Sensei Do?

WWSD pic

Several days ago a colleague was sharing how he bumped into Bob, his initial sensei (and mine) at the airport. My colleague told Bob that he thinks of him every day when he coaches his clients – “What would Bob do?” Not that we need to be handing out WWSD bracelets, but we should all think, “What would the sensei do?”

Of course, it depends on your sensei. Bob is lean Hall of Fame good. He started his lean journey as VP of Ops at Danaher’s Jake Brake in 1987, the veritable U.S. lean beachhead. Now, if you have any questions relative to the quality of your sensei, then perhaps ask, “What would Ohno do?” Not a bad choice.

So, when should you apply WWSD and on what should it make you reflect? I think WWSD is really a situational thing and has less to do with lean tools and more to do with lean principles and systems and lean transformation leadership. That’s where we usually get into trouble.

For example, when we encounter concrete heads and waffle about things like flow, pull, scientific thinking,  integrating improvement with work, respect for the worker and bias for action, we can really screw up a lean transformation. We can end up directly or indirectly teaching people that lean principles are subjective. Not a good thing!

So, think about your sensei and the lessons that he or she has imparted to you. How and when do you  (should you) apply WWSD?

Related posts: Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!, Sensei Facilitation Style – Scary or human?

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Time Observations – 10 Common Mistakes

Stopwatch picUnderstanding the current reality within the context of time and space is extremely critical. The time observation form is a powerful tool to facilitate direct observation. The form is instrumental in the identification and understanding of waste elimination and variation reduction opportunities.  It’s a staple of kaizen and feedstock for standard work combination sheets and process capacity tables.

If the time observation form is so important, then everyone knows how and when to use it, right? WRONG. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of common mistakes that practitioners regularly make. In no particular order, here’s an incomplete list of time observation mistakes:

  1. One form for multiple operators. It doesn’t get much more confusing than this. The individual operator’s work sequence and work content can’t be discerned.
  2. Component tasks not broken down into the smallest observable elements. Summary tasks like, “assemble part” or “room patient” does not give the observer usable insight.
  3. Incorrect or missing cumulative times. The lap button is on the stopwatch for a reason. And don’t pretend that you’re accurate enough to use decimal points.
  4. Insufficient number of cycles observed. Unless we’re talking about multi-hour cycles, the observer(s) should observe and document as many as 7 to 10 cycles. How else can you identify variation and understand most repeatable times?
  5. “Interviewing” operators during the observation. Not a good way to conduct accurate, real-life observations…unless their work normally includes responding to interview questions.
  6. Improperly determining component task times. No averages and throw out abnormal values (but try to understand them and the reasons for them). Make their sum equal to the lowest cycle time observed. Above all, use common sense.
  7. Not communicating the what, how and why to the operators and other stakeholders BEFORE the observations are conducted. This is respect for the worker and helps ensure that the observed cycles are reflective of reality (no rushing by someone out to impress the observer, no slow down to taint the observations, etc.).
  8. Not following the operator. If they leave the immediate area, go and follow them. How else will you directly observe?
  9. Not using the “Points Observed” column. This is the place on the form where you can record the reasons for abnormal times, variation and capture improvement ideas. These are pearls.
  10. Not completing the form header. Without this information, later on it may prove difficult to determine who made the observations, what process was being observed and when the observations were made.

So, do you have any additions or corrections to this list of common mistakes?

Related post: The Truth Will Set You Free!

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