Posts Tagged kaizen event

PDCA – So Simple, It’s Child’s Play [Guest Post]

I was recently working in Indonesia at one of the largest pulp and paper mills in the world. One evening we were invited to the company’s continuous improvement awards ceremony.

On a quarterly basis they recognize kaizen teams that have excelled.

Halfway through the ceremony, two girls from the local grade school took the stage to present the results from the kaizen event that they had led at their school…


In a simple and logical manner they explained how they followed Plan, Do, Check, Act.

The problem was congestion in the hallways between classes. This caused students to be late for the next class, damage to property on shelves, and, in a few cases, injury.

Through direct observation they documented the current state with “noodle” diagrams and time observations. They identified a solution and tested it. They made a few modifications and implemented the final solution with standard work and a method to measure results. The results were no one was late for class, and damage and injuries were eliminated.

Talk about humbling! GRADE SCHOOL!

I think of the excuses that I routinely hear; it won’t work for our problem/business, we do not have the time, it is too hard, no one wants to change.

Blah, blah, blah….

Remember that even kids are using PDCA.

Stop making excuses and go and fix something.

John Rizzo authored this blog post. He is a fellow Lean Six Sigma implementation consultant and friend of Mark Hamel.

Related posts: Guest Post: Beyond Toast Kaizen – Lean Breakfast Concepts, Circa 1937, “Do” Only Gets You Half the Way There, or…“No Pie for You!”, Want a Kaizen Culture? Take Your Vitamin C!

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Kaizen: From System to Principle-Driven [Lean Thinker Webinar Series]

Last month, I teamed up with Gemba Academy’s Ron Pereira and presented a two-part webinar on the subject of kaizen. Both sessions were recorded and are right here for your viewing.

The description of the webinar went something like this:

Many folks share an anti-kaizen event sentiment. Daily kaizen is the only way to go, right?

The truth is most successful lean organizations jump-started their transformation through the effective application of kaizen events…and then they transitioned to a sustainable kaizen culture by balancing daily kaizen and events.

Join Mark Hamel, author of the Shingo Award-winning book, Kaizen Event Fieldbook, and Gemba Tales blogger, for some insight on how to do both well.

While I have a face for radio and a voice for silent movies, I think there’s some value-added stuff in these webinars. Of course, the fact that the recordings, accessible now only to Gemba Academy subscribers of their Complete Lean Package, are free to you should lessen the pain.

Speaking of Gemba Academy, I cannot say enough about their lean training offerings – including the scope, content, value, and state of the art HD video delivery method! Please check them out.

I hope you enjoy the webinars.

Related post: How to Avoid Kaizen Event Malpractice [Webinar]

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How to Avoid Kaizen Event Malpractice

I recently conducted a free one hour webinar on the subject of kaizen event malpractice, its causes, effects and how to avoid them. More positively, the topic was largely on how to side-step the snares of tool-driven kaizen, how to securely apply, grow into and sustain system-driven kaizen and ultimately set the foundation for principle-driven kaizen.

The webinar was graciously hosted by Society of Manufacturing Engineer’s Chapter 7 from Hartford, CT with the assistance of SME National. The SME webinar library link is right HERE if you would like to view the slides and listen to the audio.

By the way, my less than clinical definition of kaizen event malpractice is the “dereliction of duty due to negligence or incompetence by a leader, practitioner or organization.” Malpractice has a number of effects, including the following:

  • poor linkage to strategic and value stream imperatives
  • little or no measurable business impact
  • unsustainable results
  • unfavorable employee experience
  • limited organizational learning and growth, and an
  • insufficient foundation for daily kaizen.

I hope the webinar adds value for those who access the library.

In conjunction with SME National, I’ll be conducting a three-part webinar series on kaizen in October. Please refer to SME Webinar Central under the October 19 and 21 offerings.

Related posts: The Post-Value Stream Analysis Hangover, There Is No Kaizen Bus Stop!

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Book Review: Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation

Business travel is a drag. One of the painfully few benefits, if you’re flying (and waiting), is that you can catch up on some reading. Recently, I finished reading George Koenigsaecker’s Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation, published by Productivity Press. In my humble opinion, it’s a future classic…and it’s brief – 162 pages!

This book addresses the number one reason for lean implementation failure – ineffective transformation leadership.

Keonigsaecker is a lean scion. He was there at lean’s first American beachhead – as President of Danaher’s Jake Brake in Bloomfield, CT. All told he has led 10 or so successful lean conversions as president or group president, including that of Hon Industries. He is the real deal as a lean leader and practitioner and, no surprise, as a profoundly committed student. Trust him.

So, what does Koenigsaecker’s book share? Among other things, he discusses:

  • True North metrics. True North metrics – quality improvement, delivery/lead time/flow improvement, cost/productivity improvement, human development provide the enterprise with a handful of  clear and simple measurable outputs that will help drive meaningful results. Koenigsaecker shares that annual double digit improvements within each of these measurement categories is the norm during an effective lean implementation. Targets should be set accordingly.
  • Value stream analysis and kaizen events. Value stream analysis (VSA) establishes much of the roadmap for lean implementation.  The importance of VSA, and its power for identifying waste, necessitates heavy lean leader involvement and linkage to True North metrics.  The resultant value stream improvement plan is comprised largely by high impact kaizen events.
  • Implementation pace and required infrastructure. In order to drive double-digit True North metric performance, the implementation pace must be aggressive and must have sufficient resources to support the transformation. Accordingly, the book explores how to establish the kaizen promotion office, kaizen event effectiveness and lean training for the different levels within the organization.
  • Governance. Lean transformation leadership or, in George’s parlance, “governance” encompasses the application of change management best practices (guiding coalition, communication, dealing with change resistant “antibodies,” etc.) and the rigor of strategy deployment and related monthly checkpoints. In order to establish a cadre of effective lean leaders, Koenigsaecker is a convincing proponent of  the mentored lean immersion of executives and senior managers. This recommended (three month) immersion consists largely of kaizen event participation (VSA, standard work, 3P, administrative, etc.) lean business system training and participation in strategy deployment sessions.
  • Lean culture. Koenigsaecker saves the hardest, most critical and most elusive for last – building a lean culture. He discusses the building blocks of a lean/Toyota culture (serve the customer, seek what’s right…regardless, decide carefully, implement quickly, etc.) and the related action plan for achieving that. The action plan includes giving the leadership team personal experience, introducing daily kaizen (about two years AFTER basic lean training and experience through kaizen events) and challenging the team to build (experiential) knowledge.

Leading the Lean Enterprise Transformation is value-added and a must read for every lean leader. It is especially relevant for those who seek to implement sustainable step-function improvement in an enterprise that does not have fourth generation lean leaders (i.e., Toyota)…and that’s a pretty big population.

Related post: The Post-Value Stream Analysis Hangover, Why Bowling Charts? Trajectory Matters!

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Mark Hamel Interviewed by Business901’s Joe Dager

Joe Dager, an expert in lean marketing and founder of the Business901 blog, was gracious (and perhaps crazy?) enough to interview me last week. The interview is captured in a podcast and covers my SME published book, Kaizen Event Fieldbook: Foundation, Framework, and Standard Work for Effective Events.

Joe asked many excellent questions about how to sustain kaizen event gains…and hopefully, I provided some value-added answers and insight. We covered, among other things, topics like lean management systems and the specifics of leader standard work as well as the multi-phase kaizen event approach.

Please check out the podcast and Business 901’s social media release here.

Related posts: Leader Standard Work – Chock that PDCA Wheel,Kaizen Event Supplies – Basic Stuff for Effective Events, Kaizen Event Team Selection – No Yo-Yos Needed, Leader Standard Work Should Be…Work!, Ready! Fire! Aim!…Maybe, We Should Have REALLY Simulated First!?, The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders, The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – Part II

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Why Bowling Charts? Trajectory Matters!

trajectory picStrange name, “bowling chart,” but it’s a simple and powerful tool. It forces critical thinking around breakthrough objectives and facilitates typically monthly checkpoints that help drive accountability, PDCA and ultimately execution. When matched up with a Gantt chart (the combination is cleverly called a “bowling and Gantt chart”), it’s pretty cool stuff.

So, what’s a bowling chart? It’s essentially a matrix that, among other things:

  • reflects one or more metrics (i.e., productivity – parts/person/hour),
  • establishes a baseline or “jumping off point” (JOP) for each metric (i.e., 52 parts/person/hour),
  • ties the metric to a time-bounded target (i.e., 85 parts/person/hour by 10/31/2010),
  • interpolates the monthly targets (“plan”)  between the JOP and the final target,
  • easily and visually compares monthly performance (plan vs. actual) and highlights when a monthly period meets or beats the plan (shaded in green) and when it does not meet the plan (shaded in red), and
  • if lean leaders are doing their job, compels the “owner” of the chart and the related execution to generate a “get to green plan.” Think PDCA.

But the thing I would like to focus on right here is trajectory – the improvement path between the JOP and the final target. Many folks don’t even worry about the periods between these two points. This type of “focus” often produces the sames results as those experienced by high school students. Who cares about midterms…?

No interim targets, no chance for real PDCA. Think management time frame. Think pitch. The smaller the time frame, the more likely and quickly we will identify when we are drifting off target and the more responsive we can be in identifying root causes and applying effective countermeasures.

If your people are required to create bowling charts, whether it’s part of the strategy deployment process, A3 preparation or even value stream improvement plan creation, they have to think about trajectory. Improved performance is rarely linear. The bowling chart begs consideration of the implementation process, it’s timing and sustainability. Using the example introduced earlier, if the productivity improvement is expected to be largely driven by a kaizen event focused on standard work and continuous flow and that event isn’t happening until 2 months after the JOP, then the plan for the first two months after the JOP probably shouldn’t be too much different than the JOP.

The trajectory exercise is a good thing. It prompts deep thinking about implementation steps,  sequence, timing and impact. Talking trajectory with lean leaders and other stakeholders should facilitate some good “catchball” and help identify and address unreasonable expectations, timid expectations, resource shortfalls, etc.

So, oftentimes it’s not all about the destination, it’s also about the path…or the trajectory.

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

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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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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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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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