Friday, March 24, 2017

Lean Quote: Leadership Emphasizes Asking the Right Questions Not Finding the Right Answers

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The most common source of mistakes in management decisions is the emphasis on finding the right answer rather than the right question." — Peter Drucker

Ability of leaders to ask the right questions is critical to the success of a project. The type of questions will determine the quality of process improvements. If leaders do not know what to look for, teams would get the message that they can get away with whatever is possible.

All management should learn to ask these three simple questions:
       1) What is the process?
       2) How can you tell it is working?
       3) What are you doing to improve it (if it is working)?

Nothing sustains itself, certainly not Lean manufacturing or Lean management. So, establish and stick to a routine including regular visits to the Gemba, check the status of visual controls, follow-up on daily accountability assignments, and ask the three simple questions everywhere. Lean management is, as much as anything, a way of thinking.

Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do. People generally know the right answers if they have the opportunity to produce them.

When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "what do you think you should do to solve this problem?" Or, ask, "what action steps do you recommend?" Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.

If you don't ask the right questions, you don't get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lean Tips Edition #107 (1606-1620)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #1606 - Hire or Develop Lean Leaders and Develop a Succession System
The key here is not to take ownership of the plan but to provide conditions in which the team can implement Lean. The aim of this approach is to create a nucleus of people who are trained in the Lean tools and techniques, who have experienced Lean through hands-on application and who can then with some external support move on to help others create lean processes by transferring their knowledge.

Lean Tip #1607 - Create a Positive Atmosphere
Be tolerant towards mistakes committed in lean environment with a supportive and learning attitude. Have patience with progress as this will be key to get results and also try to create a blame free supportive environment. Have courage to take risks at crucial stages to push things and resources to meet the plan and achieve results.

Lean Tip #1608 - Benchmark With Other Companies
Visit other companies that have successfully implemented lean to get ideas and understanding; other companies are often delighted to present their lean implementation progress. Networking is key to ensure global understanding with other companies implementing Lean.

Lean Tip #1609 - Set up a Lean Enterprise Steering Team
This team would be responsible to provide support in the planning, resourcing, implementation, and follow-up accountability for implementation. The steering team is often identical to the normal line management team. The internal resources and external consultants would provide consulting support to the team. This infrastructure would resolve inter-departmental issues.

Lean Tip #1610 - Use Experts for Teaching and Getting Quick Results
The word "sensei" is used in Japan with some reverence to refer to a teacher who has mastered the subject. A company needs a sensei to provide technical assistance and change management advice when it is trying something for the first time to help facilitate the transformation, get quick results, and keep the momentum building.

A good teacher will not do it all for you. You need to get lean knowledge into your company, either by hiring experts or by hiring outside experts as consultants. To develop a lean learning enterprise you need to build internal expertise—senior executives, improvement experts, and group leaders who believe in the philosophy and will spread lean throughout the organization over time.

Lean Tip #1611 - Complete Most Important Tasks First.
This is the golden rule of time management. Each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to complete, and do those first.

Once you’re done, the day has already been a success. You can move on to other things, or you can let them wait until tomorrow. You’ve finished the essential.

Lean Tip #1612 - Get An Early Start.
Nearly all of us are plagued by the impulse to procrastinate. It seems so easy, and you always manage to get it done eventually, so why not?

Take it from a recovering chronic procrastinator — it’s so much nicer and less stressful to get an earlier start on something. It isn’t that difficult either, if you just decide firmly to do it.

Lean Tip #1613 - Don’t Allow Unimportant Details to Drag You Down.
We often allow projects to take much, much longer than they could by getting too hung up on small details. I’m guilty of this. I’ve always been a perfectionist.

What I’ve found, though, is that it is possible to push past the desire to constantly examine what I’ve done so far. I’m much better off pressing onward, getting the bulk completed, and revising things afterward.

Lean Tip #1614 - Turn Key Tasks into Habits.
Writing is a regular task for me. I have to write all the time — for work, my hockey organization, my blog, etc. I probably write 5,000 – 7,000 words per week.

The amount of writing I do may seem like a lot to most people, but it’s very manageable for me, because it’s habitual. I’ve made it a point to write something every day for a long time.

I rarely break this routine. Because of this, my mind is in the habit of doing the work of writing. It has become quite natural and enjoyable. Could you do something similar?

Lean Tip #1615 - Create Organizing Systems.
Being organized saves tons of time, and you don’t have to be the most ultra-organized person in the world either. Systems aren’t complicated to implement.

Create a filing system for documents. Make sure all items have a place to be stored in your dwelling. Unsubscribe from e-mail lists if you don’t want to receive their content. Streamline, streamline, streamline.

Lean Tip #1616 - Promote a Culture of Learning.
In today’s fast-paced economy, if a business isn’t learning, it’s going to fall behind. A business learns as its people learn. Communicate your expectations that all employees should take the necessary steps to hone their skills and stay on top of their professions or fields of work. Make sure you support those efforts by providing the resources needed to accomplish this goal.

Lean Tip #1617 - Stress Training as Investment.
The reason training is often considered optional at many companies is because it is thought of as an expense rather than an investment. While it’s true that training can be costly up front, it’s a long-term investment in the growth and development of your human resources.

Lean Tip #1618 - Choose Quality Instructors and Materials.
As you probably don’t have unlimited time or funds to execute an employee training program, you should decide early on what the focus of your training program should be. Determine what skills are most pertinent to address current or future company needs or ones that will provide the biggest payback.

Who you select to conduct the training will make a major difference in the success of your efforts, whether it’s a professional educator or simply a knowledgeable staff member. Having the right training materials is also important — after the training is over, these materials become valuable resources for trainees.

Lean Tip #1619 - Clarify the Connections of Training and Their Job.
Some employees may feel that the training they’re receiving isn’t relevant to their job. It’s important to help them understand the connection early on, so they don’t view the training sessions as a waste of valuable time. Employees should see the training as an important addition to their professional portfolios. Award people with completion certificates at the end of the program.

Lean Tip #1620 – Make Training Ongoing and Measure the Results.
Don’t limit training solely to new employees. Organized, ongoing training programs will maintain all employees’ skill levels, and continually motivate them to grow and improve professionally.

Without measurable results, it’s almost impossible to view training as anything but an expense. Decide how you’re going to obtain an acceptable rate of return on your investment. Determine what kind of growth or other measure is a reasonable result of the training you provide. You’ll have an easier time budgeting funds for future training if you can demonstrate concrete results.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Benefits of Trystorming

A recent fortune cookie fortune reminded me of an important Lean lesson. The fortune says:
“The best angle from which to approach any problem is the TRYangle.”

I’ve learned at Wiremold, originating from Art Byrne, the fundamentals of trystorming. This method consists of, “Rapid cycles of real-time experimentation, used to test and adjust improvement ideas before establishing standard work or implementing processes broadly.” In plain language this means – try it out! Try Storming incorporates physical actions that can engage other senses and give testers a better sense of whether an idea is viable or not.

Trystorming is different from brainstorming in that it encourages the rapid development and test of an idea rather than merely thinking about the possible solutions. It allows people to visualize, touch and further improve on an initial idea. It also models action rather than talk. Often in our desire to design the perfect Future State we forget that the best way to build a process that works is through the iterative process of trying, adjusting/correcting, and trying again.

The process is built on three basic principles:
  • It is not important to create perfect solutions.
  • Be action-oriented.
  • Keep solutions simple.

These principles work hand-in-hand to develop effective solutions. When implemented correctly, Try-Storming can be used to continuously improve any business process.

One of the key reasons to utilize trystorming as part of any process design activity is that it models action rather than talk. By leaving the conference room and actually trying ideas during the course of the work, your team will quickly realize that your activity is more than just a meeting or an exercise in theory. 

In addition, taking action typically increases the level of idea generation and team engagement exponentially. By mocking up and trying concepts the team will be able to visualize their ideas and transform plans into tangible improvements quickly. While trystorming requires much more energy than the traditional design approach, use of this methodology will significantly reduce the overall time needed to reach a workable solution.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Lean Quote: Spend Time on Root Cause Analysis

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them." — Henry Ford

When it come to problem solving some like band-aids and temporary solutions rather than to solve the root cause. Root cause analysis is the process of methodically gathering and ordering or ranking data about the causes of counter-quality within an organization, then identifying and assessing prevention options for implementability and effectiveness.

The following definitions are important to understand when finding the root cause.

PROBLEM is the situation that you are primarily concerned about. Example: copy machine malfunction.
SYMPTOM is the result or consequence of the problem. Example: blurred copies.
CAUSE is the reason you have the problem. Example: a worn out part.
SOLUTION is what you decide to do about the problem. Example: replace the part.

Keep in mind:
Corrective Action - Addresses the PROBLEM at hand
Root Cause Analysis - Addresses the RECURRENCE
Preventive Action - Addresses the OCCURRENCE

Root cause analysis determines the underlying cause(s) that need to be addressed to effectively prevent or to lower the probability of a recurrence of the problem. If we do a poor job of identifying the root causes of our problems, we will waste time and resources putting band-aids on the symptoms of
the problem.

Symptom Approach                     Root Cause
• “Errors are often a result of         • “Errors are the result of
worker carelessness.”                   defects in the system.
                                                       People are only part of the 

• “We need to train and                  • “We don’t have the time or
motivate workers to be                   resources to really get to the
more careful.”                                 bottom of this problem.”

• “We need to find out why this      • “This is critical. We need to 
is happening, and implement         fix it for good, or it will come
mistake proofs so it won’t              back and burn us."
happen again.”

Root cause analysis helps us reduce turnbacks and frustration, maintain customer satisfaction, and reduce costs significantly. Put your time and energy into solving problems by identifying the root causes and preventing them from occurring

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Consequences of Not Doing Jidoka

Jidoka is very popular with the product quality inspectors, who check items at the end of the production process. That’s because Jidoka ensures that a defect is identified and corrected immediately and not at the end of the process. This, therefore, reduces the pressure on a process engineers relying on final inspection.

So what happens if you don’t employ Jidoka? Here are four consequences of not doing so:

1) Risk of Overproduction
Take a factory not using the Toyota Production System. The machinery maybe is state-of-the-art, but as the company hasn’t embraced Jidoka, there is a risk that it may produce more parts that is actually needs to.

Why? Well, imagine that a brake crank case assembly line develops a tiny defect. The problem is so small that it doesn’t stop production, but at the same time the machinery can no longer be relied upon to produce quality components. Worse still, because the machinery is not programmed to identify faults, the issue only comes to light after stringent testing at the end of the production process. All the components that have been produced have to be consigned to the bin at considerable cost to the company.

2) Lost Labor
There are other costs to consider too. Not only has the company lost money on its defective stock, it has also had to pay machine operators to carry out the work, which is additional waste.

3) Transportation Time
Imagine all the components that go into manufacturing a brake crank. Now imagine all the different journeys each defective component would have made before finally being scrapped.

4)  Re-Processing Time
Without a Jidoka system in place, it could be that the machinery cannot be used for a day or two until the original supplier sends one of its people to the plant to fix the faulty apparatus. Once back on line, there is no guarantee that the machinery won’t break again.

However, if the Jidoka method had been used, the facility project manager would have been able to access a database which would have helped him or her to identify why it malfunctioned in the first place, and when it is most vulnerable to break-down.

The sooner the problem is detected, the easier it is to fix and the smaller the impact.  Thus, one of the important parts of Lean is to be able to detect problems, raise them quickly, analyze and fix.
What are some of the other consequences of not using Jidoka to control quality?

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Improve Quality Control with Intelligence (Jidoka)

Courtesy of

There is no room for compromise in Lean when it comes to quality. Jidoka incorporates quality checks into every step of the production process by providing machines and operators the ability to detect when an abnormal condition has occurred and immediately stop work. This enables operations to build in quality at each process and to separate men and machines for more efficient work.

The term Jidoka used in TPS (Toyota Production System) can be defined as "automation with a human touch." At Toyota this usually means that if an abnormal situation arises the machine stops and the worker will stop the production line. Autonomation prevents the production of defective products, eliminates overproduction and focuses attention on understanding the problem and ensuring that it never recurs.

It is a quality control process that applies the following four principles:
  1. Detect that something has gone wrong.
  2. Stop.
  3. Fix the immediate condition.
  4. Investigate the root cause and install a countermeasure.

Jidoka highlights the causes of problems because work stops immediately when a problem first occurs. This leads to improvements in the processes that build in quality by eliminating the root causes of defects. In this way, Jidoka is often used in conjunction with structured problem-solving tools.

The implementation of Jidoka relies on a mix of cultural concepts and Lean tools that are summarized below.

Developing a Jidoka mindset. Many people are trained to react to problems and to put in place quick fixes. The concept is to keep things running for as long as possible and work around problems as quickly as possible. A Jidoka mindset is different in that it says that, in the long run, efficiency will come from addressing the root cause of problems and that investing time in solving problems is a valuable investment.

Empowering staff to ‘stop the line’. Do your staff feel that they are empowered to say ‘stop’ when they see an unsafe act or a problem occurring? Many organizational cultures, through the words and actions of managers, disempower staff from stopping a process. Developing a culture where people feel that they are able to raise a real issue – and that far from being penalized they will actually be thanked for raising the issue – is very important in jidoka.

Installing andons. Andons are audible, or more commonly visual, signals that something has happened.  The aim is that andons quickly alert managerial and technical staff to a problem having arisen so that they can get to the source of the problem and begin to investigate it.

Solving the root cause. Quick fixes are typically just that. Jidoka relies on the implementation of an immediate fix to stem the potential damage and on the longer-term fix that comes through root cause analysis.

Utilizing standard work. Having implemented the changes it is vital to document what has been done and to carry out any training required on the new process.

Selective automation. Selective automation is about investing in technology to detect – and more ideally prevent – errors arising wherever there is a business case to do so. This means wherever there is either a high probability that things will repeatedly go wrong, or where a problem arising has significant impact (such as the ability to cause harm), then it means investing in sensors and other systems to enable you to control the process and detect problems as early as possible.

As you can see, Jidoka combines the concepts of mistake proofing, TPM, standard work, structured problem solving and the creation of a Lean Culture – the clustering of concepts under one heading is a feature of many higher level Lean tools and concepts. Jidoka is about quality at source, or built in quality; no company can survive without excellent quality of product and service and Jidoka is the route through which this is achieved.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Lean Quote: Enjoyment Should Always Be The Goal

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Live and work but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it.— Eileen Caddy

Enjoyment should always be the goal. Work can be play.

We get so caught up in busyness that we forget to enjoy what we’re doing. Even when we focus on working smarter, we’re still often too focused on getting things done.

This should never be the point. Always ask yourself: What can I do to spend more time enjoying what I’m doing?

The goal should be to arrange your commitments in a way that you’re happy living out the details of your daily life, even while you’re working.

This may sound like a pipe dream, but it’s more possible than ever in today’s world. Be curious. Be open to opportunity. Know yourself. Embrace your passions.

Wonderful things will happen.

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