Posts Tagged Value Stream Analysis

Point of Use Storage and Looking Upstream

During my recent travels, I came upon a somewhat bizarre sight. There was a paper towel dispenser mounted on a stairwell wall!?!

Actually, there were at least two in the stairwell.

Being a (hopefully) typically curious lean thinker, I had to ask one of the managers within the office complex about the origin and purpose of the dispensers.

It seems that some time ago, a manager, who is no longer with the company, had them installed. The said manager would regularly ascend and descend the stairs while holding a cup of coffee.

Actually, the stairwell is next to the complex’ basement level cafeteria, so I’m guessing we’re talking mostly about ascending… with a full cup.

In any event, occasionally, the manager would spill his coffee in the stairwell. Not a safe or clean situation.

A spill in the stairwell requires a means to clean up the stairwell. It’s easier to take care of a spill with a paper towel. So, obviously, we need some point of use paper towels. Right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking a coffee cup lid might have been a more effective countermeasure.

Why not keep the coffee from spilling in the first place?

One lesson. Lean thinkers should, by habit, look upstream of the value stream (in this case the procuring, transporting, and drinking coffee value stream) when assessing improvement opportunities. It’s generally more effective to address problems/potential problems before they happen than after. Or at least when the problems are smaller, easier, and cheaper to deal with.

As for the point of use paper towel dispensers, curiously, there were no point of use trash cans. Nothing like carrying your hot, wet paper towels with you and your partially filled coffee cup up the stairwell…

But, I’m guessing the dispensers get very little use, anyway. Most folks use lids.

Related posts: Lean Space – Some Thoughts and 10 Questions, Point of Use Storage – Sometimes It’s REALLY Important!

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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?


Kaizen Principle: Bias for Action

Several days ago, during a health care value stream analysis, I was impressed with the team’s bias for action. Now we know that value stream mapping is typically a “paper” activity, but it was refreshing to see that one of the future state’s kaizen bursts, identified as a “just-do-it,” couldn’t wait. The team completed the just-do-it right before the wrap-up presentation. Outstanding!

Kaizen is founded on certain principles, one of which is a bias for action. This bias for action is largely a behavioral thing, but it can be facilitated by effective coaching, formal training, and the application of lean management systems and related visual controls that should absolutely scream for action.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning my “short list” of kaizen principles (see the Kaizen Event Fieldbook), because I think we need to have a holistic perspective and because together they should drive the right kind of bias for action. I call this my 10 + 1 list. I’m pretty sure that other lean practitioners can make some  great arguments for a few more, but I wanted to keep the list relatively short.

  1. Think PDCA and SDCA, the basic scientific methods.
  2. Go to the gemba; observe and document reality.
  3. Ask “why?” five times to identify root causes.
  4. Be dissatisfied with the status quo.
  5. Kaizen what matters.
  6. Have a bias for action.
  7. Frequent, small incremental improvements drive big, sustainable improvements.
  8. Be like MacGyver; use creativity before capital.
  9. Kaizen is everyone’s job.
  10. No transformation without transformation leadership.

Plus – Do everything with humility and respect for the individual.

The combined dissatisfaction with the status quo (eyes for waste  “see” the current state and the ideal state) and the existence of explicit performance gaps that are targeted for closure (kaizen what matters) should be unbearable enough to drive action. And, our action should be focused on appropriately and economically (MacGyver was a creative cheapskate) addressing the root causes (5 why’s and PDCA thinking) and then sustaining the performance (SDCA).

So, I’ll leave you with another bias for action story, surprisingly also within a value stream analysis backdrop. Tony, the plant manager, was participating in a combined value stream analysis/plant lay-out/3P activity for a brand new line. As we developed pro forma standard work and were doing table top and plant floor simulations applying, among other things continuous flow, he had a eureka moment. Actually, I noticed that he was becoming quite agitated and then…he disappeared. Over an hour later, Tony returned. He informed the team that he couldn’t stand it when he realized that the same principles needed to be applied to existing lines. So, right away, he made sure that the other lines (granted, without standard work at the time) stop their evil batch and queue ways and go to single piece flow. By the next day, the old lines had demonstrated an 18% productivity improvement (and yes, this was sustained). Now, that’s bias for action!

Related posts: Ready! Fire! Aim!…Maybe, We Should Have REALLY Simulated First!?, Kaizen Principle: Be Like MacGyver, Use Creativity before Capital!

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Model Lines – Federal Government Take Note

model line picModel lines (a.k.a. pilot) are a proven method to initiate a lean launch. The model, typically one specific “line” or value stream within a single facility or operation, provides a small, focused and controlled playground for implementing lean. The pilot represents a low risk venue within which lean leaders can experiment, learn and (hopefully) successfully build a much leaner line or value stream. The effort  also provides valuable opportunities for showcasing what lean “looks” and “feels” like; an important element in the change management process.

Pilot lessons learned encompass the technical aspects of lean implementation from a tools, systems and deployment perspective, while providing critical insight into the necessary cultural and human resource requirements. The model line’s foundation must be built upon lean leader alignment and effective change management as well as a rigorously developed value stream improvement plan. Of course,  prudent pilot selection is absolutely essential. Selection criteria must include the potential impact of the pilot, strength of pilot leadership and implementation degree of difficulty (technical and cultural).

Once the model line has demonstrated elevated performance through the appropriate application of lean, then (after a formal checkpoint process) the organization will typically move to an initial deployment phase. Within this phase, the organization seeks to replicate the model to another line (same value stream/processes) either in the same facility (if there are multiple ones) or another facility. Here the organization applies the lessons learned from the pilot and begins to learn new ones relative to technical scalability and human resources issues (you can’t stack the team with your best players once you start having more than one team) while verifying the business impact.

Ultimately, after any related issues (and there will be plenty) have been successfully addressed, initial deployment transitions into full scale deployment. Full scale deployment expands the model to all lines/identical value streams throughout the organization. Here the company should enjoy the full business impact of what was tested out in the model line and have an excellent technical and cultural foundation for further lean deployment throughout other portions of the business.

Model lines are a thoughtful and measured method to deploy lean, or virtually any system for that matter. Perhaps the purveyors of health care reform should have made use of the concept…in fact, Massachusetts may be a pilot that offers some profound lessons learned.

What do you think?

Related post: Value (Stream) Delivery – What about the family?

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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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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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