Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Looking at Service in the Terms of Cycle Time

Total Cycle Time is the actual time elapsed from when a customer expresses a need for a product until customer's need is satisfied. It includes all the time spend by managers in directing the business, by office personnel in handling and processing the paperwork, by engineers in creating and developing new products and technologies, by direct labor in manufacturing the products, and by marketing and sales staff in generating customer interest in the products. It also includes all wait time; i.e., queue and transport time.


The easiest way to conceptualize Total Cycle Time is to think of a stopwatch in the hands of a customer. Imagine that at the very moment a customer describes a need or desire for a product to any customer representative, that customer presses the button to start the stopwatch. It continues to run until the time the customer receives the product, determines that the product is usable, and sends payment to company.  When the company receives payment, the customer pushes the button to stop the watch. The amount of time recorded on the stopwatch is the Total Cycle Time.

We tend to think of cycle time only as the time that our department or function works on a product. Furthermore, we do not usually count the time that the product just sits and nothing is being done to it at all by anyone. The customer's stopwatch keeps ticking through all the work functions and the wait time.

We realize in today's highly competitive market we cannot survive without creating a strong company culture focused on the customer. Customers demand quality service, attention on the spot, and commitment to solving problems if things go wrong.

If we are not taking care of our customers, we will not be competitive today and beyond.

Some of our existing processes might require a great deal of coordination among departments. Every time there is a hand-off from one department to another, there is a chance for a mistake that can make a negative impression on customers.

One term frequently heard in discussing cycle time is cycle of service. A cycle of service is defined as a complete sequence of events the customer experiences in getting his or her needs met. It starts wit the first moment of truth and continues through a series of related moments of truth until the customer is satisfied with the result and requests products and services again.

Looking at service in terms of a cycle of service is really looking at it from the customer's point of view, not the organization's.  The customer doesn't care about the internal silos, segregation of functions in a business to the point where there is little or no communication between functions. The only thing that matters to the customer is getting his or her needs met.

Analyzing and streamlining our processes are excellent ways for us to think in customer-first terms.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Changing the Culture


The animal kingdom has survived for millions of years on a simple concept: Adapt or disappear.

So why do we, the more intelligent of species (big assumption), seem to have such a difficult time with change? The answer is fear. And, what do we fear? If you think about it, all fear is born out of a sense of losing control. For control. For example, it would seem irrational to fear standing on a solid structure, say a park bench, two feet off the ground. However, it seems quite normal to fear standing on solid structure eighty feet off the ground.

Why the difference? Do we fear the instability of the structure? Usually, not. Our fear is our own instability. We might lose control and fall, or even worse yet, jump!

Change takes away our sense of control. Change brings a situation that is usually new and unfamiliar territory. Consider the proverb…

“For the timid, change is something to be feared; for the complacent, change is a threat, but to the confident, change represents opportunity.”

The greatest barriers to innovation and possibilities are in our own minds. These barriers are known as paradigms. Paradigms are rules or mindsets that govern and define how we perceive and interpret a given situation. Paradigm shifts are fundamental changes to these rules or mindsets. They are revolutionary rather than evolutionary.

Here are some steps to more your organization through the cultural change of implementing lean.

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Make the change as transparent as possible.
  2. Leverage your intellectual and creative capital. Listen to what people say. Implement their ideas.
  3. Be in a constant state of learning. Investment in the training and education of your workforce will pay big dividends.
  4. Live by good organizational habits. Reinforce the discipline of making high standards a way of life.
  5. Focus on organizational goals. Your initiatives should be realistic and aligned with the goals of the organization.
  6. Be obsessed with customer service. If you’re not, someone else will.
  7. Encourage intelligent risk taking. Challenge the organization to reach out beyond the comfort zone.
  8. Work hard at building trust. It’s difficult to gain, but easy to lose.
  9. Constantly improve. Benchmark an absolute standard of perfection.

Company culture is important because it can make or break your company. Companies with an adaptive culture that is aligned to their business goals routinely outperform their competitors.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Lean Quote: Just Remember, You Can’t Climb the Ladder of Success With Your Hands in Your Pockets

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.

"Just remember, you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets." — Arnold Schwarzenegger

It is that time of year when student's are graduating and you hear of many commencement speeches. I wanted to share this one from a few years ago which has many points that I believe align to Lean Thinking.
Arnold’s 6 Rules to Success:
1. Trust yourself
Many young people are getting so much advice from their parents and from their teachers and from everyone. But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourselves, who do you want to be? Not what, but who. Figure out for yourselves what makes you happy, no matter how crazy it may sound to other people.
2. Break the Rules
Break the rules, not the law, but break the rules. It is impossible to be a maverick or a true original if you’re too well behaved and don’t want to break the rules. You have to think outside the box. That’s what I believe. After all, what is the point of being on this earth if all you want to do is be liked by everyone and avoid trouble?
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Anything I’ve ever attempted, I was always willing to fail. So you can’t always win, but don’t afraid of making decisions. You can’t be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself. You keep pushing because you believe in yourself and in your vision and you know that it is the right thing to do, and success will come. So don’t be afraid to fail.
4. Don’t Listen to the Naysayers
How many times have you heard that you can’t do this and you can’t do that and it’s never been done before? I love it when someone says that no one has ever done this before, because then when I do it that means that I’m the first one that has done it. So pay no attention to the people that say it can’t be done. I never listen to, “You can’t.” (Applause) I always listen to myself and say, “Yes, you can.”
5. Work Your Butt Off
You never want to fail because you didn’t work hard enough. Mohammed Ali, one of my great heroes, had a great line in the ’70s when he was asked, “How many sit-ups do you do?” He said, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts.” That’s what makes you a champion. No pain, no gain.
But when you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that. Now, if you want to coast through life, don’t pay attention to any of those rules. But if you want to win, there is absolutely no way around hard, hard work. Just remember, you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.
6. Give Back
Whatever path that you take in your lives, you must always find time to give something back, something back to your community, give something back to your state or to your country.
Remember these 6 rules. Trust yourself, break some rules, don’t be afraid to fail, ingore the naysayers, work like hell, and give something back.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Commencement Address
University of Southern California
May 15, 2009


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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lean Tips Edition #111 (1666-1680)

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 #1666 – Overcome Resistance By Addressing Personal Concerns First
Most organizations justify the need for change by telling their employees—the ultimate users of the change—all of the wonderful things the change will mean for the organization. This is a poor approach to getting audience buyin. When faced with a change, people react first with their own concerns: “What’s in it for me?” “Does this mean I’ll have a different schedule?” “Will this break up our department?” So, first things first. As a change agent, you should deal with the users’ personal concerns first and focus later (if at all) on the organizational benefits.  

Lean Tip #1667 – Improve Communication and Engagement to Prevent Resistance to Change
Communication solves all ills. But a lack of it creates more of them. This is another crucial reason why employees oppose change. How the change process itself is communicated to the employees is very important because it determines how they react. If the process of what needs to be changed, how it needs to be changed and what success would look like cannot be communicated, then resistance should be expected. Employees need to understand why there is a need for change, because if they are just thrown the notion that what they have been used to for a long time is going to be completely renovated, with that will come much backlash.

Lean Tip #1668 – Enable Trust to Overcome Resistance to Change
Trust is a vital tool to have when running a successful business. In organizations where there is a lot of trust in management, there is lower resistance to change. Mutual mistrust between management and employees will lead to the company going into a downward spiral, so trust is a must.

Lean Tip #1669 - Implement Change in Several Stages
Change doesn’t happen all at once. Companies should first prepare for the change, then take action on the change and make a plan for managing the change, and third, support the change and assure that all is going as planned.

Lean Tip #1670 - Do Change Right the First Time
Failed attempts to change aspects of your business process will have a negative effect on how employees view future initiatives. If you’re going to make a change, make sure you’re doing everything in your power to ensure it’s successful and set realistic timelines. Many companies fail to successfully implement change because they overload employees and expect near-immediate gratification. The reality of change management boils down to one fact: It takes time.
Break the initiative down into stages and guide employees through the process to ensure, at each mile marker, adaptations are unfolding correctly to support the next stage of change.

Lean Tip #1671 - Establish an Enduring Culture
Adaptability and an action oriented leadership team are inherent components of a continuous improvement culture. Resistance to change exists in all organizations to a degree and it must be recognized for what it is, an impediment to improvement.

Lean Tip #1672 - Facilitate Process-Centric Thinking
Process-centric thinking does not have to be overly complex. Sometimes, all it takes is a thoughtful examination to uncover significant areas for improvement. Rather than tolerating mistakes and repeat errors, facilitate process-centric thinking to continually improve, correct, and overcome execution difficulties.

Lean Tip #1673 - Ensure a Penalty-free Exchange of Ideas
Ensuring a penalty-free exchange of ideas is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver of new ideas and approaches and will ensure a safe two way exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Lean Tip #1674 – Measure Your Performance
It is not possible to improve what is not measured. Determine in advance the approach and techniques to be used in measurements. Scorecards can be useful to monitor the key performance indicators of processes that support capability and performance.

Lean Tip #1675 - Establish Core Values
Establish the core values that comprise the continuous improvement culture such as a focus on supporting the customer, teamwork throughout the extended enterprise, receptivity to evolving continuous improvement concepts and tools. These core values will create a sense of belonging and a common vision for all involved.

Lean Tip #1676 - Don’t Measure Everything that can be Measured
Don’t measure everything that can be measured and don’t blindly trust an analytics tool to collect the right data. Instead, use the business goals to choose a small amount of metrics that truly help you understand how your product performs. Otherwise you take the risk of wasting time and effort analyzing data that creates little or no insights. In the worst case, you action irrelevant data and make the wrong decisions.

Lean Tip #1677 - Employ Lagging and Leading Indicators
Lagging indicators, such as revenue, profit, and cost, are backward-focused and tell you about the outcome of past actions. Leading indicators help you understand how likely it is that your product will meet a goal in the future. Take product quality as an example. If the code is becoming increasingly complex, then adding new features will become more expensive and require more time. Meeting profit targets and delivery dates will therefore become harder. Using backward and forward-focused indicators allows you to tell you if you have met the business goals and helps you anticipate if the product is likely to meet the goals in the future.

Lean Tip #1678 - Make Only a Few Measures the Priority at any One Time.
Usually you’re measuring a goal or result because you’re NOT currently achieving it to the level you really want or need. And that means that your business or organization doesn’t yet have the innate capability to do it well. When you can’t yet do something well, trying to focus on dozens of things is like trying to learn to swim in a giant washing machine.

The more priorities you have, the fewer of them (if any) you will do justice. Each month or quarter, choose just your 3 to 5 highest performance priorities and give your attention to them first.

Lean Tip #1679 – KPI’s Start at the Top, But Cannot be Imposed
KPI’s should reflect the larger picture of what the business is trying to accomplish, and therefore should be defined top-down. But if the KPI has to be actionable, it has to be measured bottom-up. For a Performance management program to be successful and effective, it undoubtedly needs senior leadership commitment, but it also needs to trickle down through the layers through a focused organizational change management and communication exercise. People should take ownership for the KPI’s, and it will only happen if they also feel that they are part of the KPI creation process. Make it a collaborative exercise. It doesn’t end there. Nothing speaks louder than results. If your performance measurement program starts yielding favorable results (as it should), make sure everybody knows about it; the buy-in will happen automatically.

Lean Tip #1680 - If you Can’t measure, You Can’t Fix

Performance management measures are fairly useless if you have no way to measure and report them. It is also important to determine the correct frequency for reporting. A KPI has to be an invaluable aid in timely decision making. If you are not monitoring it frequently enough, you are not acting soon enough. While I am a great fan of Microsoft Excel, it is not a measurement tool. The process of report preparation in Excel is highly manual, so it can’t be frequent enough, and it is also prone to errors. A good measurement and reporting tool is invaluable in your performance management efforts. With the advent of cloud computing, technology has become ubiquitous. High quality tools are now available at a fraction of the cost. Affordable reporting and BI tools are accessible to businesses of all sizes. Choose a tool that can be easily configured to meet your local requirements.



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Monday, June 12, 2017

Kaizen Mindset: Key Principles of Continuous Improvement


Many business leaders envision lean initiatives as massive endeavors that require long training sessions, big meetings, and complete overhauls. Yet the reality is that some of the most successful lean initiatives begin with a commitment to creating a culture that’s focused on small, continuous improvements. It’s the only way to achieve the long term company goal. Continuous improvement refers to constant improvements of products, processes and services over time, with the goal of improving product performance, customer service and workplace productivity. You have to be aware that there is always room for improvement, there is always a way to do it better.

In business, continuous improvement especially refers to focusing on activities that add value, and reducing everything else (the so called waste). Value added activities are those things that customers are willing to pay for, while everything else is a waste. And all waste should be eliminated (deleted, delegated), simplified (automated, reduced) or integrated (merged) by the Kaizen mindset.

Kaizen is the Japanese word for a “good change” (Kai = change, Zen = good). It means continuous improvement of all company functions, at every hierarchical level, from CEO to the least paid employees. It doesn’t matter if the change happens one time or is constant, big or small, as long as it is a change for the better.

Kaizen is a philosophy of continuous improvement in which every aspect of the business can and must be improved. It is a process that engages the “human element,” while eliminating all forms of non-value added activity and waste. Your workers’ talents and perspective are your company’s most important assets. Through Kaizen, it’s possible to harness your team’s collective focus and systematically improve all areas of your business – from individual steps in the manufacturing process to behind-the-scenes administrative work.

When you implement Kaizen you:
  • Focus on standardizing your current work processes, and then developing incremental improvements on them over time
  • Create a culture of problem solving employees who are constantly on the lookout for waste, inefficiencies, and opportunities for change
  • Empower managers and employees at all levels of the organization to contribute their ideas on a regular bases
  • Set a new standard where the expectation is that the company’s operations get a little better each day

Ensuring your Kaizen is successful requires groundwork.  It begins by evaluating and understanding the current situation. Envisioning a project with a start and end date is easy; it’s how most companies operate. Make sure the process owner or sponsor is involved and in full agreement with the process improvement activity.  Also, make sure the employees understand the goal of the improvement is to “work smarter, not harder.”  Solicit their input and suggestions on how to make the process better. Getting everyone involved and in agreement that the process can be improved will help make your Kaizen event a success.

Follow these key Kaizen principles for success:
  • Continually improve.
  • No idea is too small.
  • Identify, report and solve individual problems.
  • Focus change on common sense, low-cost and low-risk improvements, not major innovations.
  • Collect, verify and analyze data to enact change.
  • Problems in the process are a major source of quality defects.
  • Decreasing variability in the process is vital to improving quality.
  • Identify and decrease non-value-added steps.
  • Every interaction is between a customer and a supplier.
  • Empower the worker to enact change.
  • All ideas are addressed and responded to in some way.
  • Decrease waste.
  • Address the workplace with good housekeeping discipline.

The result of Kaizen should be a better workplace, a safer environment, elimination of hard work, teaching people how to scientifically innovate and test new ideas, reducing waste, increasing productivity, optimizing the supply chain and sales channels, and so on.

You can always do it better, make it better, and improve it, even if things are not broken. In Kaizen, problems are seen as opportunities to improve.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Lean Quote: Managers are the Lynchpin in the Success of Change

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.

"Management’s job is not to promote satisfaction with the way things are but to create dissatisfaction with the way things are and could be." — Edward M. Baker

Being responsible to generate results is one thing; knowing how to make the results more sustainable, profitable and multifaceted is another.   The new workplace requires everyone to lead and/or coordinate change in some shape or form – but very few have been formally trained to assure that it is effectively implemented.   Managers and supervisors are a lynchpin in the success of a change initiative. 

Employees look to their supervisors not only for direct communication messages about a change, but also to evaluate their level of support for the change effort. If a manager only passively supports or even resists a change, then you can expect the same from that person's direct reports. Managers and supervisors need to demonstrate their support in active and observable ways. The key is this: managers and supervisors must first be onboard with a change before they can support their employees. A change management team should create targeted and customized tactics for engaging and managing the change first with managers and supervisors, and only then charge this important group with leading change with their direct reports.

The role of the manager involves supporting employees through the process of change they experience when projects and initiatives impact their day-to-day work. The Prosci ADKAR Model describes this individual change process as five building blocks of successful change:

Awareness – making those who going to experience the change aware of what will be occurring, why, and how it is relevant to them (WIIFM)

Desire – galvanizing change targets to welcome, want and embrace the change

Knowledge – giving those experiencing change the information which enables them to enact the change

Ability – similar to knowledge, this gives those enacting the change the capability to put it into practice

Reinforcement – reiterating the rationale for change, celebrating successes, addressing weaknesses before they become a disease which cripples the embedding of change.

Help your employees understand the need for the change in the organization by discussing problems with the current system and soliciting advice in making the change successful. Present the big picture, by outlining the organization’s goals and illustrating how the change will help achieve them. Then break down the benefits as they apply directly to the employees.


Don’t expect your employees to adjust to the change right away. Help existing employees adapt to the change faster, and make sure new employees understand it right away by keeping material within the organization up-to-date. Remember that being flexible and collaborative will help you perfect the change even if you take a slightly different route to your goal.



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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Operational Discipline Leads to Operational Excellence


Linking your lean journey toward striving for operational excellence should be one of the organization’s key goals.  Operational discipline is the foundation for improving performance and achieving operational excellence. When done right, it can take years to develop and engrain into the company’s culture.

Operational discipline provides an organized way to accomplish tasks and implement operational changes through a fundamental set of procedures that are specific to a business’s unique products or service offerings. Operational Discipline is built on 1) knowing what the right thing to do is 2) being willing to always do the right thing and 3) ensuring others always do the right thing. Simply put, operational discipline means complying with a set of well-thought-out and well-defined processes, and consistently executing them correctly.

Companies with high organizational discipline are more competitive and leaders in their markets. Organizational discipline is performing business processes in a standard, repetitive fashion at a high level. Even when excellent systems are in place, degradation of system use occurs because of turnover and performing work outside the system. Continuous improvement of processes is also a key to organizational discipline.

Continuous improvement is a key to achieving high levels of organizational discipline because the whole organization is focused on performance and improvement of standardized business processes. Operational discipline improves the execution and performance of the work practices across an organization to a point where leaders and employees consistently and continuously address the day-to-day operational needs of the business in a timely, safe and efficient manner.

When companies employ operational discipline as a means of providing more predictability across their organizations, certain tasks reach higher levels of efficiency, contributing to fewer mistakes and better quality. As a result, time and opportunities open up for everyone to focus on elevating performance and results. There is a ripple effect of benefits, each having the power to unleash rapid and continuous improvement, as well as waves of innovation.

Getting an entire organization to excel at it isn’t easy, but as leaders show a commitment to achieving operational discipline, employees take up the challenge and deliver increasing levels of interdependence, innovation and sustainable growth.


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