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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lean Roundup #7

Selected highlights from the Lean Blog Community from the month of December, 2009.

Psychology of Lean – Jeff Hajek explains some of psychological concepts and how they affect workplace behaviors in a Lean company.

How Much Time in the Gemba - Lee Fried shares some thoughts on the balance of time senior leadership needs for strategic thinking and time spent in the Gemba.

The Advantages of A1 Thinking OverA3 Thinking – Jon Miller talks about using a white board instead of paper for your PDCA problem solving.

Lean as a Way to Save Manufacturing – Mark Graban shares a video from CNN on a company that is using Lean to save manufacturing jobs in the US.

Six Principles of Influence – Paul Cary explains six methodologies to influence people in an effective way.

P is the first S and O is the last S in 5S - Alex Maldonado says you need to "Cultivate a plan that will set in order ownership in your 5S program that will shine throughout the workplace".

Habits – John Hunter explains the importance of creating habits in culture change and shares two ways you know things are becoming habit.

Quit Groveling and Get Lean – Bill Waddell says business need to use lean to generate cash instead of relying on others to do it for them.

Being Lean: Not Just for Fat People – Ankit Patel relates being Lean in a company to that of being lean physically and draws a number of similarities.

The Positive Tension Between SMART and Stretch Goals – Jon Miller explains the importance and relationship between SMART goals and STRETCH goals.

Thank You God for Giving Me Problems - Mike Wroblewski shares a prayer from the book "Play to Win, The Make a Difference Gameplan" by Tom Karbowski called "Thank You God for Giving Me Problems".

Can't Get No Dissatisfaction - Rob Worth talks about the need for some dissatisfaction to implement change to avoid content or acceptance of the current situation.

4 Steps for Small Daily Investments – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains 4 steps to start making improvements with small daily action.

The Lean Ratio – Bill Waddell shares a Lean measure of value added expenses to total expenses which was followed by a post Value Or Not To Value That Is The Question where the discussion of what is value added came up.

The Be Cause and Other Inhibitors to Good Problem Solving – Bob explains the other causes that can prevent us from getting to the root cause of a problem so they can be avoided.

 US Companies Competing With China Using Lean – Mark Graban reviews an article about companies using Lean as a strategy for competing against cheap labor in China.

Idea kaizen, PDCA-B6, mini-PDCA – JC Gatlin shares several problems solving tools and explains how to use them.

Communication Tips For Lean Leaders – Liz Guthridge shares communication tips from a recent leadership communications study of employee communication professionals.

Kaizen: It's Good for What Ails You – Dan Markovitz reviews an upcoming HBR article on the benefits of improvement on the company and individuals.

Joy, Hope, and Lean – Karen Wilhelm reminds us to remember the joy of past lean practices as we get ready to renew hopes along the lean journey.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sustainability: Ten Factors for Making Culture Change Stick

Previously, I discussed creating a Lean culture and characteristics of effective change management and I am going to talk about sustaining this change.  Simply, sustainability is about lasting change. Sustainability is discussed often and one of the great issues in management, never mind Lean.  We have all seen facts related to the low rates of sustaining change or seen news about a company who lost its way.


Charles Darwin said "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change" which holds true for culture change.


Below are ten factors that will help any organization make the change they make lasting.


Capability – Management must employ the time and resources necessary for change.


Intention – Determination and drive for the cause is required.  You must insist we make the change and be determined to keep it up.


Success – People feel happier and perform better when there is a feeling of success and vice versa.  Attitude drives performance so managers must project confidence.


Hard Work – It is hard to keep it going.  This is entropy.  Without it, the system runs down.


Emphasis on the team not the individual – In the US we love heroes, but actually teams are more fundamental for long-term survival.  Teams need to be mentored and developed.


Many small wins, rather than the occasional big win – Small wins keep up the enthusiasm, and certainly add up.  Management needs to continually recognize small wins.


Attitude toward failure – Everyone fails from time to time, but what is crucial is the attitude toward failure: do you punish or do you treat it as part of learning?


Motivation – Sustainability requires interest and involvement of all employees.  Ask "What gets rewarded around here?  Build a culture to support improvement.


Discipline – Make it a habit.  Without good disciple the system will not be maintained.  Management must teach discipline and correct lapses with respect for people as they occur.


Performance measures – It is true you get what you measure, drive good behavior.  Performance measures need to be aligned with what you want to achieve.  Think long term.


There is no such thing as self-sustainability, it requires ongoing effort. To quote Jack Welch, 'People always ask, 'Is the change over, can we stop now?' You've got to tell them, 'No, it's just begun!''

Friday, December 25, 2009

Quote of the Day December 25, 2009

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

"Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business and to provide jobs." - Deming

Reivew this post on on Adam Zak's Six Strategies for Change Leaders as we refocus efforts on improvement again in the new calendar.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Post: Happy Employees = Happy Share Holders

This is a guest blog post by Ankit Patel, CEO of The Lean Way Consulting. You can follow Ankit's thoughts on his blog or find him on Twitter @AnkitTheLeanWay.

Only 1 in 5 employees is willing to go the extra mile for the company. Many times we look at lean from the P&L aspect and forget the most important part about lean, the people. It is commonly known that if you do a lean implementation correctly you will have great financial results. The thing that doesn't get publicized is the fact that part (I would argue all) of the success comes from having a happier and more engaged work force. But why are people happier? Are you paying them more? Are you giving them more rewards?

I'm a big fan of continuous improvement on everything including my own life. I have listened and practiced to Tony Robbins materials and the way he models human satisfaction and happiness is by the six human needs:

1) Certainty
2) Variety
3) Significance
4) Connection
5) Growth
6) Contribution

In other words if you have all six then you will be a pretty happy individual.

We like to have a certain amount of stability to what we do. With lean we measure to certain outcomes so stability and certainty are a major part.

Ironically we don't like too much certainty. We need some spice by adding in variety. Continuous improvement is a way of life with lean so if you aren't constantly changing and trying to get better you are not practicing lean. Lean also encourages cross training so you may not work in the same area all the time.

Everyone wants recognition and the feeling of importance. Lean turns the work area over to the people who run the work area. They have control and feel like they have ownership of the area and the responsibility to take care and improve their area. Their roles become 100x more significant once they have those responsibilities.

We want a connection with others; we are after all social creatures. With lean we have a more team oriented approach that tends to bond team members together. People have to communicate more with each other and once the system is viewed as the problem then it stops the finger pointing and helps with bringing people closer together.

We want to grow and develop from our current state. Most companies that implement lean implement cross training that gives people growth opportunities. People also grow by learning new skill sets that come with a lean environment.

We like to give back and throw in our two cents. In a lean environment this is an expectation of everyone. Contribution is rewarded even if it isn't fruitful.

You can see why lean is so great for employee satisfaction. You notice pay isn't on the list and in fact if you look at other lists money is never the #1 factor. If you want to improve your bottom line look to make your workforce happier.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Characteristics of Effective Change Management

The other day I posted about the steps necessary to Create a Lean Culture and mentioned the important role leaders have in this process. Changing the culture of an organization requires effective management. Peter Drucker, one of the most influential management thinkers of the past century, said ‘management is about human beings’ and advocated leadership by effective management.

"Management Effectiveness" means having the perspective and judgment to do the right things. It is about leveraging the power of people and their creativity in doing so throughout the repeating cycle of vision, execution, and outcome. Far from blind execution of orders, effectiveness requires synthesizing information and stepping up to challenge conventional wisdom. Effectiveness is the wholeness of the decisions - it's synthesizing and balancing multiple, often competing, objectives in a manner that enhances individuals and society with no negative impact. Effectiveness also means the ability to make mistakes and learn from them.

With this backdrop from Peter Drucker I propose that there are six C’s for effective change management:

Commitment – Empathy and support from the top levels with the ability to persevere through the inevitable resistance to change. The willingness to assign good personal and the time and money required for the improvement effort.

Communication – The skill to communicate to the entire workforce on how, when and why change is going to occur, combined with the ability to gain their input, ownership and buy-in. Clear and frequent communication is the key to dissipate uncertainty and fear.

Consensus – An agreement on the best path to take forward for success. Involvement of the people concerned to create ownership and alignment of vision. The greater the connection to the change the greater the willingness to change will be.

Consistency – People need to understand that this is not just a fad that will pass, but that you are serious about sticking to it. Repeated desirable thinking, behaviors, and practices form the basis of an organization’s culture.

Cultivation – Encourage and foster learning and teaching at all levels in the organization. Refine the culture of the organization as needs and opportunities change. Make the change relevant to everyone within the organization

Constantly – Regular uninterrupted activity is required for all people in the organization for all the C’s above. Always looking to improve all aspects of what we do to add value and eliminate waste.

The effectiveness of change (E) is the product of the quality of change (Q), time the acceptance of change (A) : E = Q x A. Excelling in either quality or acceptance is not all it takes; both factors complement each other.

There is no quick solution for changing the culture of an organization. With effective management to focus on the quality of change and the six C’s to aid in the acceptance of change you will be well on your way to transforming your organization.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quote of the Day December 18, 2009

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem – Theodore Rubin”

Check out this post on how to Stop Fighting Fires and learn how to create a problem solving culture.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do Your Holiday Shopping At LEI (Get Special Discount)

The Lean Enterprise Institute is giving a Christmas present to everyone in the Lean Community this year by offering a special discount on purchases at their Bookstore.

To receive the special discount just go to the Lean Enterprise Institute’s Online Store and enter THANKYOU09 in the discount code field at checkout. The discount code is worth $10 off your purcahse, limit one per customer.  The offer is good through Jan 31, 2010.

This is a good time to start a Lean library or supplement your library with new materials to help get you moving forward again in the new year.  Check out Jamie Flinchbaugh's post "Start A Lean Library" or Jon Miller's Taiichi Ohnos Workplace Management  if you are looking for book ideas.  Continue learning along your Lean Journey. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What Really Motivates Employees

Zig Ziglar, the popular American motivational speaker and self help author, said “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.”

In a recent article several employee motivational myths are debunked:

  1. Many think money motivates but studies show that motivating with money is not effective because it is short lived. Receiving money is periodic in nature and therefore does not continuously motivate individuals.

  2. Keeping employees happy with perks at break time is also not effective since employees want a break. However, enjoyment at breaks does not support to improved performance.

  3. Some try to avoid conflict but this doesn't help anyone. It can result in dissatisfaction and discipline.

  4. There are those that believe some employees can never be motivated. This simply is not true. The reasons people are motivated do vary and the challenge for managers are to find what works for all employees

  5. Some believe that your achievers; those workers who quickly learn, adapt, and produce; don’t need motivation. All employees need motivation. If you don’t motivate those individuals than they will get bored.

It is recognition, not money, which is the real motivator in a down economy. The author David Javitch offers 10 quick ways to motivate your employees. All of which are easy to do and cost nothing. What is missing and probably most important is the frequency with which we motivate people as the quote above highlights.

All you have to do to understand your company’s culture is to ask “What gets rewarded around here?” Because what get’s rewarded gets done. It is important for leaders to ensure their employees are not only working on the right things but that they do so productively. When motivating employees consider what you reward and how you reward it because employees want to be recognized for doing a good job.

If you enjoy this post and want to continue learning you can subscribe to A Lean Journey, join the discussion on LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter with links on the right hand side of this page.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Creating a Lean Culture

Culture can be defined as the day-to-day experience of the ordinary worker.  Many think culture creates successful results but the contrary is true.  Performance drives culture.  If there is success, people tend to exhibit enthusiasm for change, great support, great teamwork, and great management.

Although Lean often involves revolutionary change, culture change is evolutionary, day by day.  A "Lean" culture is characterized by two learning elements: Humility and Respect.

Learning begins with humility.  The more you strive for Lean, the more you realize how little you know, and how much there is yet to learn.  A sure sign of impending failure is a manager who claims to "know it all" or says "we have tried that…"

Respect is to make every effort to understand others, accept responsibility, and build mutual trust.  Respect for people is the second pillar of the House of Toyota and means recognizing the value of your people through developing them. 

Leaders need to be mindful of their role in creating culture change.  Here are seven ways to initiate this evolution and learn respect and humility, day by day:

  1. Really Listen.  Look at people when they talk.  Give them your undivided attention. Ask follow-on questions during the conversation.

  2. Don't waste time.  If you keep employees or customers waiting you are saying to them "your time is not as important as mine"

  3. Go to the Gemba.  Go see for yourself at the place the work is done.  If you allow a worker to use a machine that produces defects, you are in effect telling the worker their work does not matter.

  4. Develop people.  Encourage learning, teamwork and continuous improvement.  Build knowledge in problem solving thinking and countermeasures.

  5. Acknowledge the accomplishments of others. If things go well, give away the credit. If things go poorly, take the fall. This humble approach will ensure your team rallies behind you.

  6. Temper authority. Don't use authority just because you have it. Encourage your people to make decisions, set their own goals, and take responsibility as often as possible.

  7. Promote others often. Grooming talent is good for your organization and for you as a leader. Promote people around you, giving them opportunities to match or even surpass your success.

Achieving a Lean culture with humility and respect requires constant demonstration over a long period of time.  Remember the shop floor is a reflection of management.  You can't listen and learn if you don't go to the Gemba.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quote of the Day December 11, 2009

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

"Continuous improvement is not about the things you do well - that's work. Continuous improvement is about removing the things that get in the way of your work. The headaches, the things that slow you down, that’s what continuous improvement is all about." - Bruce Hamilton
If you like this quote then check out an earlier post about Bruce's video "Toast Kaizen" and learn how making toast can teach you about lean.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Simple Visual Poka Yoke at a Hotel

While staying at a hotel recently I noticed a simple visual poka yoke. Poka yoke is the Japanese term for mistake proofing. In this case a two cable phone jack is color coded and labeled to indicate the phone line and the modem line.

This picture is a little hard to see but the phone line is colored black and the modem line is colored red. Below you can see the red line or modem line connecting into a desktop port.

This visual prevents mistakes of plugging the phone or a computer into the wrong line. The simplicity of this poka yoke illustrates that solutions don't need to be costly or complicated.  I am impressed to see the hotel management embrace problem solving in a way that allows their employees to get involved.  Now any employee can reconnect the lines should they become disconnected. 

Many of us have lines at our home or office that we could use a technique like this to prevent plugging devices into the wrong lines.  What type of poka yoke solutions do you use in your work and living spaces?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Coping with the Resistance to Change

Conditions within and outside organizations are constantly changing.    It follows, therefore, that the way work is organized and accomplished must change periodically to cope with changing conditions. The only constant is "change" itself and successful organizations by definition do this better than anyone else.

Anyone who has worked in or led an organization's transformation understands change is not easy.  People tend to resist change naturally.  This is especially true with organizational and infrastructure type changes.  To cope with resistance one needs to understand why it occurs and how it can be overcome.

Here are the most common reasons why people resist change:

  1. Self- Interest – People fear that change will cause them to lose something they once had.  For example, when a corporate president decided to create a new vice presidency for product development, the existing vice presidents for manufacturing and marketing resisted because they feared losing their right to approve or veto new product decisions.

  2. Misunderstanding and Lack of Trust – A change starts as a vision in the mind of its sponsor.   If people don't trust that individual, they will suspect that she or he has hidden and harmful motives for proposing the change.  For example, a union opposed a company's proposal of flexible scheduling (flextime) because they didn't trust the personnel manager who suggested it.

  3. Different Assessments – When people view a problem from different perspectives, they will perceive different causes and cures for it.   Therefore, they may see a change as tackling the wrong cause and proposing a fruitless solution.  For example, sanitation department employees felt their pick-up delays were due to equipment breakdowns so they resented the city replacing their supervisor – they felt the planned change was inappropriate.

  4. Low Tolerance For Change – People sometimes resist change because they fear they will be unable to handle the new conditions competently. They also may resist breaking up comfortable social relations with co-workers.  For example, individuals have turned down transfers and promotions because they weren't sure they could handle being supervisors and they didn't want to give up the friendships with co-workers that had developed over the years.

There are five major ways this resistance to change can be dealt with.  Each is especially appropriate when certain conditions exist as shown in the table below: 

When this occurs:
Use This Method:
Employees poorly understand or have little or inaccurate information about the problem.
Provide, in advance, as much information as possible about the change and your reasons for it.
You don't have all the information needed to design the change and where others have considerable power to resist.
Allow the people who will be affected by the change to participate in deciding what needs to be done and how to implement the changes to be made.
People are resisting because they feel put out and inconvenienced by having to change from familiar to new circumstances.
Help people adjust to the new conditions by making the change as comfortable as possible.
Someone (or a group) clearly will lose out in a change and they have considerable power to resist.
Negotiate with them so they feel somewhat compensated for what is to be lost due to change.
Speed is essential and you have considerable power to enforce your will.
Announce and enforce the change with certainty and firmness.

These methods usually are used in combination and they are successful when employed with realistic awareness of the situation in which change is to occur. 

The infrastructure of an organization often changes in a lean transformation.  When trying to empower employees in a flow environment it is necessary to break down traditional organizational silos and hierarchical structures.  If you understand people's resistance to these changes you will be better equipped to prevent their resistance to change.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Quote of the Day 12/4/09

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

“There are three kinds of leaders. Those that tell you what to do. Those that allow you to do what you want. And Lean leaders that come down to the work and help you figure it out.” – John Shook

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Take Xtreme Lean's 5S Quiz Then Try the Videos to Learn More

I recently came across a great little 5S quiz to test your knowledge on 5S. You can even get a certificate of your accomplishment. How well do you know the 5 S’s?

This quiz was created by Jeff Hofstetter. Jeff is the President of Xtreme Lean Consulting with over 24 years' experience in Lean and Six Sigma Consulting. On their website you will find valuable information about Lean Business practices, Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma Quality, and how to implement solutions to improve your business

While checking out the Xtreme Lean Consulting webpage I came across a number of engaging and simply illustrated videos that everyone can comprehend. The animated videos cover a wide range of topics including 5S visual workplace, six sigma tools, and lean business.

Check out Jeff’s newest video on water spiders. Water spiders is a lean manufacturing techniques used to keep value added tasks functioning in an efficient and effective way.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lean Roundup #6

Highlights from the Lean Blog Community for the month of November, 2009.

Connect the Lean Dots – TWI stresses using the Gemba as a source for training through small kaizens such that people learn to see the opportunities.

The 5 Universal Laws of Gemba Management – Jon Miller exposes the 5 universal laws that affect the success or failure of a lean transformation and sustainability of Gemba management.

Lesson from Japanese Consultants – Jeff Hajek shares some 17 lessons he has learned from consultants from Japan.

Ritz Carlton's Focus on the Customer – Kevin Meyer examines the success of Ritz Carlton which is summarized by training, empowerment, and trust.

Purpose of Kaizen Events – Mark Graban explains what the real purpose of formal kaizen events are for and how Toyota uses both formal and informal kaizens.

Are You Ready For The Upturn? – Mark Rosenthal provides several steps you can take to be better prepared for upside of the economic recovery.

Is TPS the Best System? – David Meier answers this question by explaining that the Toyota way in not the best or most efficient but rather an effective system of improving for the long term.

Developing Your Lean Education Plan – Jamie Flinchbaugh provides several key things to remember when creating your Lean education plan.

The Goal Statement: My Point Is and I Do Have One... – JC Gatlin describes 5 steps to create a goal statement, the most important part of PDCA problem solving.

Process Observation: Watch Before You Ask – Jeff Hajek explains an observation process commonly referred to as Ohno’s observation circle.

Helping Organizations OPT For Change – Carmen Brickner describes a system for helping organization OPT for change by providing OUTCOME, PLAN, and TRACKING.

Love or Lean: This Quote Rings True: Mark Graban takes time to provide a classic Lean leadership lesson.

Who owns Standard Work? Lee Fried teaches us that it is not the frontline workers who are responsible for standard work.

Lean Team Competes With Asia and Wins – Karen Wilhelm shares a story about a chair manufacturer who used lean to improve efficiency and create its own economic recovery.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to Make Better Decisions

Decision making is an essential part of business in all organizations. In traditional companies this power is typically held by few managers at the top of the organizational ladder. Lean companies however strive to empower their employees to make decisions at all levels through access to data, knowledge of evaluation methods, and defined standard processes. Nevertheless, decisions are necessary in all organizations and the following these guidelines can be beneficial.

  1. Timing. Neither making snap decisions nor always having to “sleep on it” is the best approach to the time factor involved in making decisions. Make your decisions based upon the circumstance and the time available. Within the realm of practicality, give yourself enough time to take the following decision-making steps.

  2. Define the problem. Be careful not to confuse symptoms of the problem with the real problem.

  3. Identify the options. Try to get at least four alternatives. Since you may be too close to the situation, seek others’ input.

  4. Gather the facts. In order to evaluate your options, you must gather the facts about the ramifications of choosing each option. List both the pros and cons of each option.

  5. Evaluate the options. Usually this will include a comparison of costs, time required to implement and the expected end result of each option.

  6. Choose and put into effect. Key, and often neglected, aspects of implementing decisions are to communicate the decision to the affected parties, outline why the decision was made, why the particular option was picked, what actions are required on their part and what beneficial results are expected.

There are several common pitfalls in decision making that should be avoided if you want to be effective.

  1. Deciding alone. There are many benefits to consulting with others on a decision: gaining different perspectives, more resources to draw upon and more commitment to the decision by those consulted.

  2. Every decision a major decision? Not every decision requires a lengthy decision-making process. Don’t get bogged down with minor problems. If they’re minor, make a reasonable decision and move on.

  3. The last time I was wrong was when I thought I made a mistake.” No one is always right. If you’ve made a bad decision, admit it and get started on fixing it. Remember – it’s impossible to force a bad decision into being a good one.

  4. “Boy! I sure wish I hadn’t.” Just the opposite of pitfall #3. Because no one can be right all the time, don’t waste your energy regretting bad decisions. Get on to current issues.

  5. Failing to use past precedent. Maybe the same problem has come up before and been effectively solved. Perhaps, if it has come up enough, there is a company policy that covers it.

Not every decision will be right but if you avoid these pitfalls and follow these six guidelines you will find you have many more right decisions than wrong decisions. Remember, the only thing worse than a wrong decision is no decision.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Quote of the Day 11/27/09

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

Watch the little things; a small leak will sink a great ship. ~Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Point of Use Storage for Shine

Whether you work in a factory or in an office we all have to clean our work spaces. I am sure many these day contract cleaning services to some degree. Nonetheless cleaning floors is a necessary part of a shine routine.

When mopping floors hopefully you use safe practices and utilize signs to signal the floor is wet. Can you find these signs? Are they centrally located in a cleaning closet? Are they available for spills or do you have to call someone to get a sign? Do you have to stack them up and bring the signs with you to do the cleaning. Only later to come back and re-collect them.

There is a better way. Store your wet floor signs at point of use. The picture below shows an example of this.

The signs are stored on hooks in plain site along the side of walkways and work spaces. This ensures they are available when needed for cleaning tasks or to alert coworkers of a potentially dangerous situations like that of a spill.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Defining the Problem Statement

Einstein is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.

This quote illustrates an important point: before jumping right into solving a problem, we should step back and invest time and effort to improve our understanding of it.

The problem statement is a clear and concise statement that describes the symptoms of the problem to be addressed. Defining the problem statement provides three benefits for the team:
creates a sense of ownership for the team
focuses the team on an accepted problem
describes the symptoms in measurable terms

The following four guidelines are effective in creating a problem statement that is clear and concise:
Define the problem - In the problem statement, team members define the problem in specific terms. They present facts such as the product type and the error made.
Identify where the problem is appearing - Identifying where the problem is appearing, or manifesting, as specifically as possible helps the team focus its improvement efforts.
Describe the size of the problem - The size of the problem is described in measurable terms.
Describe the impact the problem is having on the organization - The description of the problem's impact on the organization should be as specific as possible.

The truth of the matter is that the more specific the statement, the better the chance the team has of solving the problem. An inadequate problem statement can lead the team down a dead-end path. When defining the problem statement try to avoid these four common pitfalls:

The problem statement should not address more than one problem.
The problem statement should not assign a cause.
The problem statement should not assign blame.
The problem statement should not offer a solution.

A simple and effective method of defining a problem is a series of questions using the five W’s and one H approach (5W1H: who, what, where, when, why, how).

Who - Who does the problem affect? Specific groups, organizations, customers, etc.
What - What are the boundaries of the problem, e.g. organizational, work flow, geographic, customer, segments, etc. - What is the issue? - What is the impact of the issue? - What impact is the issue causing? - What will happen when it is fixed? - What would happen if we didn’t solve the problem?
When - When does the issue occur? - When does it need to be fixed?
Where - Where is the issue occurring? Only in certain locations, processes, products, etc.
Why - Why is it important that we fix the problem? - What impact does it have on the business or customer? - What impact does it have on all stakeholders, e.g. employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, etc.
How - How many parts are involved? How are you going to solve the problem? Using what method or techniques?

Each of these answers will help to zero in on the specific issue(s) and define the problem statement. Your problem statement should be solvable. That is, it should take a reasonable amount of time to formulate, try and deploy a potential solution.

A well-stated problem statement speeds a robust corrective action process. It helps identify potential root causes and eliminate bias and noise. Accurate problem statements save time and effort by focusing the team on root cause identification. Continuous improvement happens when root causes are found and permanently eliminated. Defining the problem statement is the first step in this process.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quote of the Day 11/20/09

On Friday’s 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.

Feel free to share some of your favorites here as well.

“I say an hour lost at a bottleneck is an hour out of the entire system. I say an hour saved at a non-bottleneck is worthless. Bottlenecks govern both throughput and inventory.” - Eliyahu M. Goldratt, The Goal

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Lean Journey Now on Twitter and LinkedIn

There are now more ways to stay connected to A Lean Journey and keep informed of all the updates.

Join the newly created LinkedIn group A Lean Journey LinkedIn Group. All the posts from this blog will feed this group. This allows anyone in the group to post and/or discuss lean news items from any source promoting sharing within the lean community.

Follow A Lean Journey on Twitter @TimALeanJourney. The twitter feed will also be found on the right hand side of this blog so you can stay informed even if you don't use Twitter.

You can also sign up for RSS feed and/or Email updates at the links on the right hand side column under my profile.

As always you can connect directly to me on LinkedIn.com/in/timothyfmcmahon

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Key to Upcoming Retention Concerns is Recognition

A WSJ article yesterday talked about a growing concern for businesses to retain top talent. The author indicates that based on historical data workers will look elsewhere as the economy improves. This would pose a significant problem to those employers who may have weeded out weak performers while keeping top performers during this recession. A survey from last winter cites pay and benefits as the most important factors employees' value. Normally I would not concur with this but can understand with this recession why compensation is a top concern for workers.

While some companies struggle with how to financially reward their employees others are finding ways to involve their work force more in the business.

"We will not retain our staff if we can't get them to believe in us," Mr. Stack says. "If you value your employees, their trust will grow and they will not look around for another position."

According to the DOL, employee turnover cost American businesses about $5 trillion each year. Employee recognition is still one of the powerful strategies to combat turnover. A recent HR Daily Advisor Tip covered eight keys to successful retention. The advice includes exuding confidence in employee's ability, including significant others in praise, knowing what motivates and inspires employees, encouraging employees develop new skills, and simply saying thanks. Successful companies learn that you get what you reward.

In Lean retention and recognition come under the respect for people pillar of TPS. Respect for people comes from organizations building employee relationships that are fulfilling for their people as well as for the business.

How does your organization value employees and show appreciation?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What is Lean?

A reader studying quality management and researching Lean recently asked me, what is Lean really about? In realizing that I have never fully defined my view of Lean on this blog I thought I should.

Let me preface this by saying it is difficult to succinctly define Lean in way that would capture the breadth and depth of knowledge. There are volumes and volumes of written text on many aspects and concepts of Lean. I have been studying in this field for a dozen years and my learning will never be done.

Lean is all about respecting people while eliminating Muri (overburdening), Mura (unevenness), and Muda (non value added activity) in all business processes. It is a philosophy which embodies a manufacturing culture of continuous improvement based on setting standards aimed at eliminating waste through participation of all employees.

The originators of Lean include thinkers like Henry Ford but its most notable and well studied collection of thinkers comes from Toyota. The Toyota Production System (TSP) is comprised of two pillars being JIT and Jidoka. The JIT concept aims to produce and deliver the right parts, in the right quantity, at the right time using the minimum necessary resources. JIT includes but is not limited to concepts of flow, takt time, pull via kanban, and leveling (heijunka). Jidoka is all about building in quality at the process and separating man from machine. The goal is not to run continuously but to stop running automatically at the first sign of an abnormal condition. Jidoka concepts include standardized work, mistake proofing (poka-yoke), process control, and problem solving (six sigma techniques).

The Five Fundamental Principles:

1) Specify Value – End-use customer view

2) Indentify Value Stream – Activities that create value

3) Flow – Make value flow

4) Pull – Respond to customer demand

5) Perfection – Zero waste

The Lean Rules-in-Use:

1) Activity Rule – Specify all work to content, sequence, timing, and outcome.

2) Connection Rule – Customer-supplier connections must be direct & unambiguous.

3) Pathway Rule – Pathways for product/service must be simple & direct.

4) Improvement Rule – Improvements are made using scientific method (PDCA) at place of activity (Gemba) under the guidance of a teacher (Sensei)

It is the endless pursuit of perfection which I refer to in the title of this blog “A Lean Journey: A Quest for True North”. True North is making 1 by 1, defect free, on demand, immediately, safely, and at no cost. It is the ideal target condition not easily achieved. It is approached by eliminating waste, the opposite of value. Value-added activities are those activities that transform materials or information, increase the form or function of products or services, and the customer wants. All other activities are wasteful; add no value; and consume resources, time, and space. The eight wastes are characterized as:




Non-utilized Resources/Talent




Excess Processing

This is only made possible by believing people are the cornerstone. You must engage all human resources and provide knowledge. These two elements are the key drivers to the speed of continuous improvement.

Lean is creating and implementing processes throughout the entire organization that are highly responsive and flexible to customer demand. Lean paves the way for delivery high quality products and services, at the right location, at the right time, all in a cost effective and profitable manner.

Here are some other resources for Lean definitions:

Mark Graban's Lean definition

Lean Enterprise Institute's lean definition page

Lean Learning Center's definition

Wikipedia's Lean definition

Toyota's Production System defined

Art of Lean's learning page

This is a post that I will continue to reflect on (hansei) and update throughout my Lean Journey.