Posts Tagged lean

How’s Your Lean Conscience?

Cricket picI’m guessing very few have asked that question before. Conscience is a judgment of reason by which we recognize the quality of an act before, during or after we do it. It’s really not Jiminy Cricket, although his quote, “A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to,” isn’t too far off the mark.

So, what’s a lean conscience and who should have one? Well, a lean conscience is a judgment of reason by which we can tell whether we’re living lean principles (respect for the individual, humility, flow, pull, scientific thinking, integration of improvement with work, etc.). Lean leaders and practitioners should have a lean conscience.

Of course, with “ownership” (of a conscience) comes responsibility. Traditionally, there are three obligations people have when it comes to their conscience.

1. Act on it. If our conscience is well formed (see #2, below), we should act on our lean conscience. How many times do lean leaders walk by a process in which people are not working in accordance with standard work or there are defects and it’s business as usual (jidoka?…later, man) or perhaps there’s a situation where we could have coached someone so that they could have solved the problem, instead we “gave” them the answer because we didn’t have the patience, or…you get the point.

2. Form it. It’s possible to have an improperly formed lean conscience. Maybe there are some significant holes in the understanding of lean principles, systems or tools. Big gaps can cause big problems. Who hasn’t encountered issues when people who are supposed to know better are “serial batchers?” We are obligated to keep on studying and learning by doing so that we can continue to form and inform our lean conscience.

3. Don’t act if there is uncertainty. Well, maybe we should disregard this one. This does not mean that we should throw caution to the wind, but we need to be experimentalists, not with lean principles themselves, but in the application of the systems and tools within our own particular value streams. Of course, when in doubt, getting started, and/or when there is some real business risk, get a sensei.

So, here’s a call for some hansei (reflection). How’s your lean conscience? Does it bother you? Do you need to form it some more?

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

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Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!

barney picMy three children are well beyond the Barney years. It’s been about 10 years since I was subjected to that song, but unfortunately it is burned into my brain, “Everyone is special, special. Everyone is special…” Of course, I don’t disagree with that sentiment, just the inane song. However, when it comes to lean implementation, people seem to sing that very song, just with different words.

We’ve seen lean adoption successfully expand across a number of different industries, resistance slowly receding as new frontiers were explored and barriers breached. First (in very broad terms) lean was a Toyota thing, then it was perceived as something for the automotive industry (who hasn’t heard the plaintive cry from someone resisting lean that goes something like, “we aren’t making cars here!”), then a manufacturing thing, then lean started making inroads within transactional businesses, now health care, etc., etc.  Just the other day, I was reviewing a lean health care case study for a company that does a lot in the lab and manufacturing operations (long story). At the conclusion of the review a manufacturing engineer noted that lean seems to work in health care, but was skeptical as to whether it worked in manufacturing. Doh!!

There are mounds of empirical evidence that lean works and can work in virtually any value stream. The expectation is not that everyone has to be a carbon copy of Toyota or anyone else for that matter. It’s pretty much impossible and probably is not the most effective path. Companies are different (special) from the perspective of culture, strategic imperatives, value streams, etc. BUT lean principles are lean principles. They apply to everyone.

The Shingo Prize’s Transformation Model for Operational Excellence identifies, among other things, 10 basic principles. These principles transcend the lean tools and systems (the “know how”) and represent the “know why” of lean transformation. A deeper understanding of the principles, according the Shingo Prize model, “…empower[s] the organization to develop and deploy specific methodologies and practices unique to the organization.” Unique means “special” in Barney language.

Here are the 10 Shingo Prize model principles within four “dimensions.” I encourage you to go to the Shingo Prize website and read through the model. If you can’t agree that the principles apply to your business, well…you’re not going to successfully implement lean in a meaningful way.

  • Cultural Enablers – 1. respect for the individual, 2. humility
  • Continuous Process Improvement – 3. flow/pull, 4. process focus, 5. scientific thinking, 6. integration of improvement with work, 7. seek perfection
  • Consistent Lean Enterprise Culture – 8. systemic thinking, 9. constancy of purpose
  • Business Results – 10. create value

So, the question shouldn’t be whether lean will work in your corner of the world. It can. The question should be more about how are you going to best apply lean tools and systems within the context of (satisfying) the principles.

What do you think?

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The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – Part II

human side pic 3Last week, Defense Industry Daily posted the first half of an article authored by yours truly and Chuck Wolfe. Well, the second half of “Want an Effective Kaizen Event? Don’t Forget the Human Side!” is now posted. Actually, the whole article is now posted.

Among other things, part two introduces the Transformation Leadership Model. This model, covered in chapter three of the Kaizen Event Fieldbook, explores the two-pronged leadership approach to lean transformation – one technical and the other more behavioral in nature. Both need to work in concert and both are founded upon humility and respect for the individual.

I think it’s good stuff. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Click here if you missed my post on the first half of the article.

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Sensei Facilitation Style – Scary or human?

dentist picI recently facilitated a five team, week long kaizen event. The teams made some very significant improvements (more kaikaku than kaizen). There was one team that I was especially concerned about from the very beginning – their scope was fairly expansive, the challenges not trivial by any means and the team members not exactly lean experts. So, I stayed on them quite a bit, coaching, cajoling, poking and prodding.

In the end, the team on the “watch list” implemented a number of great improvement ideas and transformed the target process from the perspective of flow, visual and capacity management, standard work and leader standard work. Frankly, I think they surprised themselves! They definitely progressed in lean understanding, kaizen, change management and confidence…all necessary things if you’re trying to create and sustain a lean culture.

After the report out, the team leader likened me to a dentist, “We hate [the experience] until the tooth is fixed and then it’s not so bad.” Not something I wish to put on my tombstone, but I’ll take it. I consider myself typically a “Cho-san style” facilitator.  Bob Emiliani, in his book Better Thinking, Better Results, differentiates between two basic facilitation styles. One being the “suzumura style,” ostensibly named after a zealous disciple of Taiichi Ohno, Kiko Suzumura and meaning “scary style.” Suzumura style is characterized by “strict, demanding, short-tempered, insulting and demeaning” behavior.  Cho style, after Fujio Cho, now Chairman of Toyota Motor Company, while still demanding, incorporates and even temper, respect, humility benevolence, and humor.  Of course, depending upon the predominant culture, resistance to change and size of the performance gaps, sometimes one style is more appropriate than the other.

So, what’s your experience with facilitation styles? What have you found to be the most effective?

Other relevant posts: Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people, The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

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

human side PicYesterday, Defense Industry Daily posted the first half of an article which I co-wrote with Chuck Wolfe, “Want an Effective Kaizen Event? Don’t Forget the Human Side!” The second half will be posted next week. Within the article, Chuck an I explore that which is beyond the more obvious technical side of kaizen event management. We delve into the realm of emotions (and emotional intelligence), respect for the individual, humility and lean transformation leadership – all which must be properly considered and leveraged in order to conduct effective kaizen events and, most importantly, develop a lean culture.

Now I don’t want to steal any thunder from the article, but I would like to share 11 questions that all lean leaders must answer in order to enjoy kaizen event success and ultimately drive a lean transformation. These questions are aligned within the basic phases of kaizen event management that are detailed in my Kaizen Event Fieldbook:

  • Strategy. 1) Why, how, where and when should lean leaders employ kaizen events to drive value stream improvements and satisfy strategic imperatives, while also positively exposing and engaging stakeholders within the process?
  • Pre-event planning. 2) How can lean leaders best select kaizen event team members for event, employee development and change management impact? 3) How should lean leaders communicate to event-affected employees the what, why, how and when of the planned event? 4) How can lean leaders best train event team leaders and participants so that they are ready for the challenge of the event (discomfort is expected, anxiety not so much . See Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people)? 5) How can lean leaders identify existing feelings in key stakeholders? 6) What feelings are likely to generate forces to push forward and what feelings are likely to hold back positive change? 7) How do lean leaders eliminate/manage negative feelings and create the ideal feelings supportive of changes they wish to make?
  • Event execution. 8 ) How will lean leaders conduct the kaizen event in order to best satisfy and then sustain the event targets while also engaging, challenging, stretching, supporting and developing team members and the organization?
  • Event follow-through. 9) How can lean leaders best recognize the event participants for their effort and accomplishments? 10) How can lean leaders ensure process adherence (to the new standard work) and process performance as well as completion of any “newspaper” items and therefore sustain the kaizen team’s hard earned gains? 11) How can lean leaders continuously improve the kaizen event process, its effectiveness and stakeholder satisfaction…so that they will want to participate in future kaizen events?

So, am I missing any relevant questions? What do you think?

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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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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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