Monday, June 27, 2016

There is No Silver Bullet But There is an Answer. Lean Thinking.

American businesses are undergoing its most profound transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Everyone is familiar with the litany of external marketplace factors causing chaos in American business – global competition, technology, and demographic and political changes. These have resulted in the elimination of millions of jobs, drastic restructuring, and new business relationships.

Most of us are either in denial about the impact of all this change, do not know what to do, or are still trying to figure out how we get back in control. Unfortunately, the result so far has been more of the same, a potpourri of programs designed to change the structure of our workplaces but not their essence – their culture. Downsizing, reengineering, and restructuring programs have succeeded in altering the employment base and cost structure of our companies, but do not offer us a new cultural framework. One round of structural change often leads to another, with the focus almost exclusively on the cost side of the ledger. In fact, structural changes often produce precisely the opposite result than intended by increasing instability, fear, and reduced productivity.

There is no silver bullet that will solve the complex of issues we face. Programs that focus on organizational effectiveness, empowerment, total quality, and/ or self-directed work teams provide a much more powerful tool for change. Lean Thinking is that program that can make all the difference.

Lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets, and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets, and departments to customers. It encourages collaboration between customers, suppliers, employees and management in a positive approch to efficiency that spans the value chain.

Without this fundamental cultural change and the adoption of this new approach to leading and managing, American businesses will continue to experience significant difficulties in sustaining a competitive advantage.

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Lean Quote: Communication is the Glue that Binds an Organization Together

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.

"Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.— Dianne Feinstein

Communication is the glue that binds an organization together but do not assume that several announcements and a note on the notice board is sufficient to get the story out. Some say to communicate seven times and seven ways but that does not mean seven months apart. Develop and implement a robust communication plan and check to see if the total target audience has received the unfiltered message. If you want to know if your message is getting out clearly why not ask the most obscure person on the night shift if he or she heard the message? The day shift is easy but how about the rest of the folks?

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.

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." 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

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

5S Factory Game Teaches the Basic Benefits in a Fun Exercise

5S is a prerequisite for most other Lean tools.  Well-implemented, 5S can open up entry points into flow and pull, equipment reliability, standardized work, and value analysis. 5S is a process and method for creating and maintaining an organized, clean, and high performance workplace.  It enables anyone to distinguish between normal and abnormal conditions at a glance.  5S can be the foundation for continuous improvement, zero defects, cost reductions and a more productive work space.  The 5S methodology is a systematic way to improve the workplace, processes and products through employee involvement.

The five S’s basically stand for seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke. Have I lost you? I hope not. Let’s briefly go over these five terms in English for better understanding.

1. Sorting: The first “S” stands for sorting, this essentially means to get rid of unnecessary items or tools and to prioritize the items that are used so they can be stored more efficiently and within accessible areas.

2. Straightening: The second “S” is for straightening or setting things in order. The main objective here is to organize the workspace to be most efficient and productive by locating tools and equipment most often used in easy to access areas. Not only does this better utilize the space within the work area, but it also helps to save time that may be lost in trying to locate specific items or tools.

3. Shine or Sweeping: The third “S” focuses on cleanliness. Having a clean and tidy workplace encourages others to also keep the area clean and helps contribute to a more productive and effective work environment.

4. Standardizing: The forth “S” helps with standardization, the goal with this strategy is to keep workstations that do the same jobs more uniformly organized. For example, if an employee does a particular job and there are multiple work stations doing that same job, the employee should be able to move effortlessly from workstation to workstation since they all function in the same manner.

5. Sustain: The fifth “S” is for sustaining the practice. This step basically includes the monitoring and sustaining of the four previously mentioned 5S tactics. The focus should be to move forward with the 5S methodology and not fall back into old ways and habits that are potentially not as beneficial and effective for the organization.

Insite Solutions recently created a game to help people learn Lean and 5S principles.  The seen is a factory setting where you need to drive a fork truck to pick up certain loads.  As you can see from below it is very difficult with the disorganized work space.  You are timed for which you earn points for completed loads and loose points for hitting objects.

In the next step of the game you go through the factory and red tag items that aren't needed or don't have a home.  This makes the area less crowded.

Then, the game makes your organize the work area by changing the layout and tapping the floor where items are to be stored. 

Finally, you create walk ways, add visuals for ease of communication, and create storage locations by grid.  This makes moving through the factory very easy and quick. Picking the orders are simple because everything is easy to find.

I think this game illustrates a wonderful real world example.  Frankly, one the that I see on a daily basis.  This is a great learning tool for anyone in manufacturing and of course if is fun, too.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Mentoring: The Origin and Meaning

The word mentor is an example of the way in which the great works of literature live on without our knowing it. The story of Mentor comes from Homer's Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War and entrusts the care of his household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus' son, Telemachus.

After the war, Odysseus is condemned to wander vainly for ten years in his attempt to return home. In time, Telemachus, now grown, ventures in search of his father. Athena, Goddess of War and patroness of the arts and industry, assumes the form of Mentor and accompanies Telemachus on his quest. Father and son reunite and cast down would-be usurpers of Odysseus' throne and Telemachus's birthright.

The word Mentor evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person. Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person. Today mentors provide expertise to less experienced individuals to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. In many different arenas people have benefited from being part of a mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive. The focus of mentoring is to develop the whole person and so the techniques are broad and require wisdom in order to be used appropriately. The two types of mentoring are natural mentoring and planned mentoring. Natural mentoring occurs through friendship, collegiality, teaching, coaching, and counseling. In contrast, planned mentoring occurs through structured programs in which mentors and participants are selected and matched through formal processes.

The mentor has a deep personal interest, personally involved—a friend who cares about you and your long term development. Mentoring is a power free, two-way mutually beneficial relationship. Mentors are facilitators and teachers allowing the partners to discover their own direction.

Mentoring is an essential component in Lean manufacturing and the transformation from traditional thinking. Toyota's mentoring process,(loosely called Senpai and Kohai, which is Japanese for senior and junior), is one of the best ways to foster Lean Thinking up and down the organizational structure. This is the process undertaken by Toyota as it helps its suppliers improve their own production. A close equivalent to Toyota's mentoring process is the concept of "Lean Sensei," which encourages companies, organizations, and teams to seek experts, who can provide advice and coaching.

How has mentoring helped you and your organization on the Lean journey? Share your mentoring story like that from it's origin and meaning.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Lean Quote: Courage Inspires Others

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.

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.— Eleanor Roosevelt

When things are difficult, unknown, and perhaps unattainable we may turn the other direction. We must find the inner strength to overcome these perceived barriers. History has proven time after time that the power of a thought is the beginning for actions that will alter the future positively. Understanding this, and having the courage to keep going even in the face of all obstacles, allows us to accomplish anything we want. 

Recognizing these truths about courage will assist you in overcoming any challenge that you face:

1. Courage Begins with an Inward Battle - Courage isn't an absence of fear. It's doing what you are afraid to do. It's having the power to let go of the familiar and forge ahead into new territory.

2. Courage Is Making Things Right, Not Just Smoothing Them Over - Courage deals with principle, not perception. It's knowing when to stand up and having the conviction to do so.

3. Courage in a Leader Inspires Commitment from Followers - A show of courage by any person encourages others. But a show of courage by a leader inspires. It makes people want to follow them.

4. Your Life Expands in Proportion to Your Courage - Fear limits a leader. But courage has the opposite effect. Courage not only gives you a good beginning, but it also provides a better future.

Courage means trusting yourself to overcome your fears and doing what you are afraid to do. Courage increases conviction and inspires others to confront their fears.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lean Tips Edition #96 (Tip 1441-1455)

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 #1441 - Approach Goal Setting Holistically
View goal-setting from the top down, bottom up, and across the organization to ensure alignment. Leaders can plan together and communicate organizational goals and objectives, then empower managers and employees to work together to draft departmental and individual goals that align with their partners in other parts of the organization to support the overall strategy.

Encourage goal-setters to focus on how all the parts fit together. When goals are set collaboratively, employees are motivated by having a stake in planning their own work priorities and being trusted to understand and contribute to the organizational strategy.

Lean Tip #1442 - Communicate Consistently and Regularly on Goals
Organizational alignment can only occur when goals set at the top of the organization are consistently communicated, and committed to, from the top of the organization through each level of management. Take steps to ensure that messages are not being distorted and that front line employees are receiving the proper direction to help employees set individual goals fully aligned with those set at the top of the organization.

Lean Tip #1443 - Celebrate Success; Learn From Failure for Goal Achievement
Accountability for goal achievement is important, but if employees are afraid to fail they will tend to hide bad news or shift blame—which are potentially fatal conditions for an organization. Frequent feedback and monitoring will minimize the risk of failure. Encourage and equip managers to take a coaching role, including creating an open environment where employees can admit and learn from mistakes.

Lean Tip #1444 - Adjust Goals With Changing Needs
Situations change quickly and sometimes goals must also be adjusted, or completely changed, to adapt to shifting priorities; however, according to research, 54 percent of organizations revise goals once per year or not at all. Just as organizations act quickly with change, so too must their people when it comes to adjusting impacted goals. The better the communication from top to bottom and the less rigid the organization, the more nimble it will be in realigning efforts to new drivers.

Lean Tip #1445 - Setting Goals Builds Alignment and Keeps Employees Focused
Perhaps the most powerful aspect of goal setting is its potential use in building an aligned workforce, equipped, empowered, and motivated at all levels to work together to achieve its vision for the future. Setting goals can provide purpose and challenge to energize people to apply their efforts in a specific, planned direction. Well-set and monitored goals that are aligned holistically can put your organization on track for increased employee engagement, productivity, and progress toward achieving its vision.

Lean Tip #1446 - Honor Your Commitments To Earn Respect
A key element of earning respect is to honor your commitments. Always keep your words, be honest and deliver what you promised. This will boost your esteem in the eyes of others. Anybody who cannot be depended upon will find it hard to get others to respect them.

Lean Tip #1447 - Strive for Excellence in Everything You Do.
Always be the best you can be. When you deliver your 100%, others will look up to you and respect you. It is important to be sincere to your job and always strive for excellence. Even at home, it is important to try and be the best at the role you play in your family. Set your standards high and exceed them. It will work wonders for your self-respect and get others to respect you.

Lean Tip #1448 - Have Strong Values
All the well-respected people of the world have strong values. They stand by their principles no matter what happens. We should take a look deep within us and find out our true values. When our conscience tells us something is against our values and principles, we must stand firm and do the right thing.

Lean Tip #1449 - Maintain a Positive Attitude
People rarely respect negative leaders. Instead, they typically ridicule them behind their backs. Negativity sends the message that you're bitter or mean; it develops fear, not respect. Compliment your staff on a job well done. Make sure the compliment is sincere and personal. It is always best to share a compliment when the act is fresh.

Lean Tip #1450 - Tell Staff What to Do, Not How to Do It
Effective delegation is an important part of becoming a good leader. Understand that employees are looking to develop their skills, so when you delegate, give them an important task to accomplish. Then stand back and let them figure out how to do it. When you tell employees how to do the task, they feel mistrusted and perhaps worthless. It is difficult to trust a leader who can't let go.

Lean Tip #1451 - Be Available to Employees and Offer Help
Don't just have an open-door policy; make time to talk with employees and ask their opinions. Employees want to think they have the boss's ear and can come to you when they have issues. No matter how busy you are, when you walk through your work area and notice an employee who needs assistance, offer some. Step in and get your hands dirty. It won't go unnoticed.

Lean Tip #1452 - Be Relentlessly Proactive.
Don’t always wait for direction from others. Use your own skills and resources to start getting things done and solve problems. Get in the habit of figuring things out for yourself. Don’t be afraid of a challenge once in a while.

Lean Tip #1453 - Practice Humility, Learn from Others.
You’re not always going to be right, and you’re not the best at everything. Every person you meet can teach you something. Confidence doesn’t come from a place where you’re the best. True confidence comes from understanding humility, and that every person has something unique to offer to the world, including you.

Lean Tip #1454 – Become a Resource to the People You Work With.
Pay attention in meetings and be sure to read the company memos that circulate through the website and in the company mailbox. If you stay on top of company information, then people will recognize you as a resource and respect your professional approach to your job.

Lean Tip # 1455 - Be a Role Model to Others

Actions speak louder than words. Are you a role model to others by way of your behavior? Do you uphold yourself to the highest code of conduct? You gain respect by walking the talk. The most respected person is the one who inspires others to achieve their best and enables them to unlock their highest potential.

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