Monday, May 25, 2015

Remember Them This Memorial Day


Technically the calendar says summer doesn't start until June, but Memorial Day weekend is an unofficial start to a summer of barbecues, parades, and all-around fun. But let's not forget what the holiday is really all about: a patriotic tribute to our fallen, the men and women who gave their lives so we might be free.

As opposed to Veterans Day, which honors living veterans, Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have died while in military service. The holiday originally started as Decoration Day, where the graves of soldiers were decorated with flowers and flags. At the first ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, 5,000 people participated in decorating the graves of fallen soldiers from the Civil War. It wasn’t until after World War I, when the holiday changed from recognizing Civil War soldiers to honoring all dead military. In 1971, Congress declared the last Monday in May Memorial Day, a national holiday.

Memorial Day is a day of reflection and remembrance. It is a day to remember all of our Fallen Heroes from all of the wars. It is a day to think about the families that will forever grieve for their lost loved one. It is a day to be thankful to those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice. They fought and died to win the freedom and democracy that we Americans cherish so dearly. They also fought and died to bring that same freedom and democracy to the people of other countries as well.

In the words of Thomas Sherlock, Arlington National Cemetery Historian, “the most important thing parents can tell their children is that we, as Americans, are able to enjoy the freedoms we do because there have been men and women willing to sacrifice their lives so that we can be free.  We should all stop and remember this on Memorial Day.”

 The true meaning is to remember and honor veterans of all wars and peacetime service who paid the ultimate price to keep America free. They will long be remembered in our hearts.

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Take a moment this Memorial Day to remember all those men and women who have so bravely and honorably served this country. The courage and sacrifice of all who died in military service will not be forgotten.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Lean Quote: Taking Action Means Getting Things Done

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.

"A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.— General George Patton

Often managers spot a chance to do something valuable for their company, but for some reason, they cannot get started. Even if they begin the project, they give up when they see the first big hurdle. The inability to take purposeful action seems to be pervasive across companies. Managers tend to ignore or postpone dealing with crucial issues which require reflection, systematic planning, creative thinking, and above all, time.

If you do nothing, nothing changes. Things at rest have a tendency to remain at rest. Be aware of items that stall your action. It's better to have a 50-percent improvement right away than it is to take no action and hope for a 100-percent improvement sometime in the future.

The only cure for inactivity is action. That’s why the first step in creating a successful culture of execution is creating a bias toward action. People who make things happen need to be praised and rewarded. People who don’t should be coached to change, or weeded out. Failure cannot be unduly punished. Unless people feel free to make mistakes, they will not feel free to take bold actions.

For leaders, action is one of the most important traits they can embody.  Taking action means getting things done.  It means seizing the initiative.  It conveys momentum, and energy, and creating something new, something that didn’t exist before.  And this excites followers and others who understand that going towards something is always better than sitting around staring at the wall.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

6th Anniversary of A Lean Journey Blog


Today marks the 6th anniversary of A Lean Journey Blog and as tradition here each year I take the opportunity to reflect. The act of "self-reflection" is called Hansei is Japanese. It is the practice of continuous improvement that consists of looking back and thinking about how a process can be improved.

I’d like to think that I turned my naive endeavor to share learning along my own journey into a successful contribution in the Lean community. As I have said before this labor of love has been a tremendous learning process both from the great fans and other colleagues online that I exchange with and from the process of distilling my own learning with you.

I love statistics, so with this milestone, here are some numbers from the blog:

Total Posts: 1215

Most read post:  DOWNTIME and the Eight Wastes with over 21,000 views

followed by The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process (with over 20,000 views)

Least read post: You Won’t Get Lean, Until You Get Visual

Number of countries/territories who have visited this blog:  216

Top 3 Countries with the most views:
U.S.A.
United Kingdom
Canada

Total views:  Over 737,000 and climbing

Unique visits: Over 550,000

Total comments:  Over 1,500

Total Facebook Fans: Over 1,355

Total Twiter Followers: Over 2,700

LinkedIn Members: Over 1,100


Top 5 posts this past year:
The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process 
What Lean is Not - 10 Things That Are Not Lean
5 Tips for Implementing 5S
Carrots and Sticks Don’t Motivate in a Thinking Environment
Walt Disney, The Lean Thinker


I would like to thank all the visitors and contributors to A Lean Journey Blog this past year.  It has been a successful Journey this past year. Please, share your feedback so that A Lean Journey can be even more successful next year.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Guest Post: GM Ignition Switch Recall vs. Sunroof Recall: An ISO 9001 Case Study

Today I am pleased to be able share a guest post sponsored by one of our sponsors 9001 Academy. This post compares two product recalls in terms of a quality management system.


Product recalls are something we have become used to in our society. As I argued in my article Does a QMS ensure 100% quality?, product recalls do not mean that there is a complete failure of the quality management system. In fact, the existence of requirements for a process to deal with non-conforming products is evidence that the ISO 9001 standard expects that an organization will need to deal with products that do not meet requirements; however, this process can either work well or be flawed. This article looks at two recent examples of the non-conforming product process as it deals with product recalls in the automotive industry.

What is needed in a non-conforming product process?

First, lets look quickly at the requirements for a non-conforming material process, in particular, the requirements of what needs to be done to deal with a non-conformance when one is identified. In Section 8.3, the ISO 9001 standard requires that the organization take action to deal with an identified non-conforming product in one of four ways:

1.    Take actions to eliminate the non-conformance
2.    Authorize use with acceptance from the customer when needed (intended for non-conformances that do not hinder the operation of the product or service)
3.    Take action to preclude original use (scrap or use as “seconds” where this is acceptable)
4.    Take action to eliminate the effects of the non-conformity when it is detected after delivery, or when use of the product has started

It is requirement 4 that could trigger a product recall if a repair needed to be made to the delivered product. The next two examples demonstrate where this failed to happen quickly enough, and when it has happened in a timely manner.

For more information on the process for non-conforming material, see this blog post on Five Steps for ISO 9001 Nonconforming Products and this blog post on Understanding dispositions for ISO 9001 nonconforming product.

GM ignition switch defects: When the process failed

In February 2014, General Motors (GM) instituted a recall of 2.6 million vehicles worldwide for a problem with defective ignition switches. The defect with this product is that the ignition switch can slip out of the “on” position while driving, which can lead to the car stalling and the air bags turning off. As of October 2014, this has caused 27 deaths and many more injuries, leading to compensation claims against the company along with the expense of the recall itself.

News reports state that GM has acknowledged that it knew about the faulty ignition switches in several of its small cars for over a decade before the recall was initiated. It is clear that in this case, the decision on taking action on non-conformities that were already delivered was not timely.

GM sunroof recall: When the process works

Just over a year later, in March 2015, GM issued a recall for Chevrolet Malibu models due to overly sensitive controls. This followed a recall of Cadillac ATS models in February 2014 for the same issue. The controls in question would cause the sunroof to close with only a slight touch of the controls. According to the company, it does not take much force on the controls for the power sunroof button to make the sunroof close, which could pose a safety hazard such as fingers being caught in the closing unit.

In this case, there are currently no known injuries from the defect, nor has GM received any customer complaints, but still the recall was issued to address the problem. Clearly, the process to address non-conforming products has addressed delivered product as it is intended to do.

Make sure you address all non-conforming products or services

The key point is that a process for non-conforming products needs to address all products or services when your company identifies a problem. Sometimes it is easy to forget that products or services that are already delivered need to be included when you are making your decisions on how to address a problem. In many cases, there may be no action needed for a product or service already delivered, but the decision on these products and services that are already in the hands of your customers needs to be made and properly recorded. You owe it to your customers to consider them in your dispositions, and customer satisfaction is a key reason to have a quality management system in place.

About the Author:
Mark Hammar is a Product Assurance Manager and freelance author. Positions include working in all aspects of Product Assurance, including Supplier Quality Engineer, Quality Engineer, Product Assurance Program Manager, and Quality System Auditor. He is certified with the American Society of Quality as a Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence. His goal is to work more in Quality Management including supervision and people management.



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Friday, May 15, 2015

Lean Quote: Power of Many

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.

"Many hands make light work.— John Heywood

A common saying we have all heard about teamwork that means the more people that do a job, the easier the job for each person.  This is true in Lean.

Continuous improvement is about small changes on a daily basis to make your job easier.  Small step-by-step improvements are more effective over time than occasional kaizen bursts, and have a significantly greater impact on the organization culture - creating an environment of involvement and improvement.

Lean is meant to involve the whole company. It is not intended to be put into action in only one area. It is a management philosophy which should include every part of your organization. This helps promote the concept that everyone in the company is part of the team. True Lean manufacturing needs the involvement of everyone coming into contact with the company’s product and its customer.

Improvement should be ongoing and employees should be a critical part of that process so there is not fear of change but a willingness to embrace it because it’s a part of the everyday process in the organization. As employees begin to demonstrate a willingness to assimilate change into their daily routine, they develop a commitment to the change, a willingness to stick to the plan of action.  The change actually becomes integrated into the work environment, and employees begin to feel a sense of satisfaction in accomplishment.  They readily see the payoffs associated with the change.  They enjoy, and may even take credit for, their participation in the process.  Employees can view their efforts to bring about change with personal respect and pride. The change becomes a part of their routine, and any lingering concerns vanish.


In Lean we strive for a culture in which everyone in the company makes small improvements to their work environment everyday.  Many organizations start with large activities with titles like Kaizen or improvement events.  This is necessary in the beginning to create the conditions for change.  You need to teach people how and why to improve.  The Kaizened area then serves as a powerful example for the rest of the organization to learn from.  But as we strive for "True North" we want to create an environment where continuous improvement occurs regularly as part of the work.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Daily Lean Tips Edition #78 (1171 - 1185)

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 #1171 - Take Your Time When Doing a VSM
There is a lot to think about when undertaking value stream mapping for the first time so be sure not to rush – create a check list of items that should be included in the map and cross them off as you go along – check out Value stream mapping guide for more information on how to run a VSM program.

Lean Tip #1172 - Don’t be Shy – Visit the Workplace When Mapping
A key element of Value stream mapping is accuracy – an incorrect VSM can lead to wrong conclusions being drawn and can waste valuable time of improvement teams. Spend time at the workplace to ensure that what you map is accurate.

Lean Tip #1173 – Validate Your Map
When you think you’ve got your map complete – validate it with your stakeholders – ensure its representative of what actually happens – use this to iron out any problems with the map. Don’t take this stage for granted – get it wrong and you can find your improvement suggestions shot down in flames as stakeholders rubbish your map!

Lean Tip #1174 - Ask Lots of Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask! – To document the process ensure the team asks stakeholders what happens, why it happens, what are the inputs – what are the results – remember – a value stream mapping program is a data and information gathering exercise.

Lean Tip #1175 – Don’t Do the Current State Map and Future State Map at the Same Time.
Don’t be tempted to produce the “current state” and “future state” maps at the same time – we can all see improvements but capture them (perhaps in a list) and go back to producing your “current state” map. Remember that you may not have the whole picture until the “current state” is complete.

Lean Tip #1176 – Making Mistakes is Part of Improvement
Help employees realize that making mistakes is an acceptable part of becoming Lean. The mantra should be: “Let’s try it. The worst that can happen is we’re wrong.” As this approach is sinking in, help employees understand that unstable systems that allow variation cause most mistakes. Employees are doing their best. If something goes wrong, the idea is to determine the root cause and fix that, not criticize the worker. Understand errors more; punish less. Focus on the tools of mistake-proofing, standard work, poka-yoke, and elf-check to prevent mistakes.

Lean Tip #1177 – Perfection is Not an Impossible Target
If people are told that perfection is the goal, but that it is impossible, they will rightly think that management has not quite thought this one through. They will mistrust much of what else is said. Instead, people should be told that perfection is the goal and we simply don’t know enough at the moment to reach it.

Lean Tip #1178 – Encourage Keeping The Goal Always In Sight
Distractions and setbacks are bound to happen. To prevent them from thwarting your efforts, remind employees (and yourself) of the vision on a regular basis. Have employees consistently survey if what they are doing throughout their work day is moving them towards that desired destination, and if not, re-evaluate their efforts to get back on track. Encourage positive steps taken in the right direction and recognize individuals for making them.

Lean Tip #1179 - Leadership is a Service and Not a Destination.
Sometimes people seek a position of leadership for the position itself. They may desire the power or the acclaim that goes with the position. However, a leader that seeks to serve rather than to be served will always be more effective.

Lean Tip #1180 – Leaders Must Empower Excellence
Look around you sometime with this in mind - people are trying their best to do an excellent job at something. That something may or may not be what you "grade performance" on, but nevertheless, people feel better and accomplish more when their leaders take the time to not only notice, but encourage and empower them to be excellent in what they strive toward. Empowering excellence is different than expecting or demanding it because it starts with the ambitions of the led, rather than the leader.

Lean Tip #1181 – Lean Leaders First Envision Success
Leaders know that every problem has an answer; it just needs to be found. Worrying about the problem gets you nowhere, while working towards the answer will get you everywhere. Leaders control their attitude and focus on results.

Lean Tip #1182 – Lean Leaders Get the Facts
Leaders collect all the facts about the problem because they know that some problems are not as big as they seem. Fact-finding is an analytical, rather than an emotional task, so it is useful in other ways, too. When a follower comes to a leader with a problem, a good leader will start asking questions and gather the facts, rather than engage in an emotional discussion.  Fact-finding is a process and you may have to dig deep to get to the real problem. Leaders are great at asking the right fact-finding questions. They’re also adept at listening to the answers and “hearing” any sub-text that could illuminate the situation.

Lean Tip #1183 – Lean Leaders Follow Through
Effective leaders don’t just implement the solution and turn away. They follow through with making sure necessary team members are also doing their part (if required). And they ask everyone involved how they think the “solution” is working out now that it’s actually being used.

Lean Tip #1184 – Lean Leaders Don’t Just Know How to Solve Problems; They Know How to Find Them
Great leaders can detect smoke, rather than simply trying to fight raging fires. That’s the type of leader you should groom your employees to be. And it’s critical they have a good rapport with their team to encourage them to share bad news, red flags, or concerns with them quickly!

Lean Tip #1185 – Lean Leaders Continually Self-Evaluate
Leaders pick a solution and implement it. They may start with a quick-fix solution and follow up with a more long-lasting fix, but they decide what needs to be done…and they do it. Leaders constantly assess whether the process is going well, if the solutions being discussed make sense, and if they are doing everything they can to solve the issue.



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Monday, May 11, 2015

The Role of Communication In Lean


Communication is the glue that binds an organization together but you can’t assume that several announcements and a note on the notice board is sufficient to get the story out.
However, when employees feel connected to the company mission or feel their work is contributing to a goal that is greater than profits, they feel like their work has purpose. A sense of meaning is priceless and costs nothing for an employer to cultivate.

Good communication is vital. Reasons for change must be explained beforehand. Clear communication is the best investment, since resistance is often due to misinterpretations, half-truths, and rumors that recede the change. Easy to understand written and verbal communication should reach all layers of the company.

Communication is a key ingredient for empowerment. Give every employee equal and direct access to information. Many companies have developed a trickle-down style of communication that alienates those employees who may not be "in the loop."

Let them in on what is going on within the company as well as how their jobs contribute to the big picture. When you keep you employees informed they tend to feel a greater sense of worth. Keep communication hopeful and truthful – do not be afraid to share bad news, instead be more strategic about how you deliver it. The more informed employees are and the more communication is open, honest, direct and complete, the more likely employees are to feel empowered and connected to the daily operations and overall goals of their company.

Open communication is at the center of Lean and Respect for People. Employees need to know what is expected of them and how they’re performing. Visual displays such as scoreboards, scheduling charts, team communication boards, and recognition displays all help to keep information flowing between employees, departments and upper management.


Developing advanced communication skills begins with simple interactions. Communication skills can be practiced every day in settings that range from the social to the professional. New skills take time to refine, but each time you use your communication skills, you open yourself to opportunities and future partnerships.

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