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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lean Roundup #16 – September, 2010

Selected highlights from the Lean Blog Community from the month of September, 2010.

Coach'em Up! – Dave Krebs takes time to explain what Lean coaching means and the desirable traits of a coach.

Find a Factory Whisperer – Jeff Hajek shares 7 ways to find a mentor, someone who really understands the behavior of a production system.

Getting Support from Support Functions – Greg Stocker reminds us that its about the value to the customer no matter what part of the supply chain you are.

Daily Huddles – Lee Fried gives some advice on running daily huddles (or stand-up meetings).

The Importance of the Daily Meeting – Kevin Meyer continues the dialogue by others on the daily stand-up meeting with his take.

Labor Density - When Dense is Good – Mark Hamel discusses labor density, a measure of value-add intensity relative to total worker motion.

Don't Copy: There is No Instant Pudding – Mark Graban explains there is no quick solution for learning, it takes commitment not copying.

Lean Management and Cost Reduction – Pete Abilla explains why the traditional corporate finance worldview prevents Lean and or Six Sigma from effectively helping the organization in the long-run.

Developing a Lean Thinking Workforce – Tom Southworth defines what a lean thinking workforce is and the process by which you can create it.

It's all in the computer, but can the computer learn? - Michael Ballé shares a story explaining why our compute systems need lean, too.

When to Coach the Process, and When to Coach the Solution – Jamie Flinchbaugh examines when to coach someone on the process or method, or coach them on the solution.

Kaizen and Chemistry – Mark Hamel shares some advice on what to do when a kaizen team has poor chemistry.

Leaders Pull – Jon Miller analyzes whether leaders pull, as in getting people to follow them.

3 Questions to Ask Before Starting with Lean – Mark Graban suggests that you answer these fundamental questions when considering turning to Lean for improvement.

What kind of leadership it takes to change an organization? – Dragan Bosnjak explains four basic leadership principles needed to improve your organization.

How to Sustain a Lean Culture After 10 Years – Jon Miller shares lessons learned on how to operate a lean management system and sustain a lean culture.

Teach Your People Well... – Gary Bergmiller breaks down the mystery of managing a Lean organization to that of taking the time to teach employees.

Automating the Coaching Questions – Mark Rosenthal covers 3 key questions from Toyota Kata about process coaching.

First Time Quality = Lean Homebuilding – JC Gatlin explains his approach to lean in terms of doing the job right the first time.

Fast Does Not Mean Cutting Corners –Gregg Stocker says being faster and more flexible actually requires improving focus and perfecting processes on a continual basis.

5 Reasons You Need to do DMAIC – Christian Paulsen shares a personal story explaining why you need to use DMAIC.

Overlooked Waste Reduction of Kanban – Matt Wrye reminds us that kanban can reduce information flow not just inventory but the real goal is about flow.

Establishing a Classroom Culture – David Kasprzak explores the question of “what id work was like going to school?”

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Continuous Improvement is about Small Daily Changes

Continuous improvement is about small changes on a daily basis to make your job easier.  Many organization start with more formal kaizen events to create energy around changing the culture and making dramatic changes.  While there is always a place for these types of events Kaizen means change for the better. which implies continuous.  Kaizen calls for never-ending efforts for improvement involving everyone in the organization - managers and workers alike.  In a previous post I talked about Lean improvement the FastCap way which demonstrates this idea well.

I have found in many improvement activities especially working for a high tech manufacturer that people want to jump to some sort of technological or computerized solution.  While I am not against that I prefer to keep things simple.  I like to try things manually to prove out the concept first.  It helps with the learning process of solving a problems and it can be implemented immediately.  A recent video from FastCap's YouTube Channel shows how small simple improvements can make a big impact.

As Paul Akers, the founder of FastCap, says at the end of the video:
"That is stopping the struggle, what bugs you, and elminating waste.  Kaizen style at FastCap. That's thinking Lean."

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

It's no secret that collaboration helps in the formation of good ideas, but this charming little video from writer Steven Johnson explains why it works.

Here are some key points from the video:

■To identify the spaces that have historically led to unusual rates of creativity and innovation, we can observe and analyze recurring patterns in creating environments that are unusually innovative

■For instance, the slow hunch: most ground-breaking ideas don’t come in a single moment of ‘a-ha’ – they spend a lot of time dormant, in the background, until they surface into consciousness; sometimes, it takes years for the idea to become accessible and useful to you

■Good ideas spend a lot of time, even years, incubating – for instance, stemming from side projects of varying degrees of success or completion – before they can take the form of a full vision; the invention of the world wide web is a classic example

■When ideas take form in the ‘hunch’ stage, they need to collide with other hunches, which may exist in someone else’s mind; Good ideas often stem from the collision of smaller hunches

■We therefore need to create systems that will allow these independent hunches to come together in a way that exceeds the sum of their parts

■Regarding the current debate over innovation & creativity – and whether our always on, overwhelmingly informed and connected world is going to take away from those moments of quieter contemplation associated with fostering creativity – Johnson believes this is unlikely

■While it’s true we’re more distracted over the last 15 years, we also have increased possibilities to connect and collaborate with others, or to stumble onto that piece of information that may provide the the missing piece to our ‘hunch’, which may yield that ultimate idea or innovation

■The main point in analyzing where good ideas come from? Chance favors the connected mind

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Lean Quote: Perception

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.

“To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else. Rather than speaking badly about people and in ways that will produce friction and unrest in their lives, we should practice a purer perception of them, and when we speak of others, speak of their good qualities.” - Dalai Lama

Perception is the awareness of objects or other data through the senses; knowledge, etc. gained by perceiving, insight, and intuition.  Awareness is the foundation of effective communication.  The following principles may help you in understanding others.

1.  No two people see things the same way.

2.  Each person thinks, feels, and sees things based on their own past experience.
3.  A person does not see things the same way at different times.
4.  People learn to see things as they do.
5.  People often see things not as they are, but as they want to see them.
6.  People tend to complete, fill in the gaps, those things they do not understand.
7.  People tend to simplify those things, which they do not understand.
8.  A person's self-image will largerly determine what the person sees.
9.  The way a person perceives another person is determined largerly by what the person expects to see in the other person.
10. People's emotional reation to others and to themselves often is the barriers to effective communication.
11. A person gains new perceptions only through new experiences.
12. Perception accounts for individual differences.
13. One's perception is highly selective and highly subjective.

Perception is a process through which humans attend to, select, organize, interpret, and remember stimulating phenomena. Although all people are constantly involved in perception and aspects of the process are sometimes similar across individuals (especially among closely related members of families or cultural groups), each person perceives the world in unique ways that are open to a number of influences. It is difficult for us to know what and how each other perceives. Making our perceptions clear to others is an important part of effective communication and mutual understanding.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Daily Lean Tips From Facebook Edition 3

For my Facebook fans you have probably already read these Daily Lean Tips. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I started a new feature which I call Daily 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.

Click this link for A Lean Journey's Facebook Page Notes Feed.

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

The keys to quick changeover are found in changing your thinking about changeover as in the following:

1. Rethink the idea that machines can be idle, but workers cannot be idle.     
2. The ideal setup change is no setup at all or within seconds.    

3. Ensure that all tools are always ready and in perfect condition.    

4. Blow a whistle and have a team of workers respond to each changeover.      

5. Establish goals to reduce changeover times, record al changeover times and display them near the machine.       

6. Distinguish between internal and external setup activities and try to convert internal to external setup.

Lean Tip #32 - Changeover is defined as the time from the last good product to the next good products, not just set-up.

Changeover can be divided into the 3 Ups:

     Clean-up - the removal of previous product, materials and components from the line.     
     Set-up    -  the process of actually converting the equipment.    
     Start-up  -  the time spent fine tuning the equipment after it has been restarted.

Lean Tip #33 - Categorize the steps in the changeover process by External set-up, Internal set-up, and non-essential operations

To start identify and separate the changeover process into key operations – External Setup involves operations that can be done while the machine is running and before the changeover process begins, Internal Setup are those that must take place when the equipment is stopped.  Aside from that, there may also be non-essential operations. Use the following steps to attack the quick changeover:

Eliminate non-essential operations – Adjust only one side of guard rails instead of both, replace only necessary parts and make all others as universal as possible.

Perform External Set-up – Gather parts and tools, pre-heat dies, have the correct new product material at the line… there's nothing worse than completing a changeover only to find that a key product component is missing.

Simplify Internal Set-up – Use pins, cams, and jigs to reduce adjustments, replace nuts and bolts with hand knobs, levers and toggle clamps… remember that no matter how long the screw or bolt only the last turn tightens it.

Measure, measure, measure – The only way to know if changeover time and startup waste is reduced is to measure it!

Lean Tip #34 - Use Inventory Reduction as a Measure for Success, Not as a Goal

Many people pursue inventory reduction as a primary goal of Lean activities.  There are numerous ways to achieve this goal, including manipulation of the inventory.  It is better to establish a goal to create connected flow and to use inventory as a measure of success. 

The problem with communication is that it is hard to understand why others misunderstand what we clearly understand.  The point of an agreement on a standard is for everyone to have the same understanding.  One simple way to test this is to find someone who is not familiar with the work area, show them the standard, and ask them to explain the agreement.  You may be surprised to discover how challenging it is to clearly communicate agreements visually! 

Be wary of comments such as, "There is only one way to solve this problem."  There will always be more than one solution for every problem.  There is a tendency toward "fancy" of "high-tech" solutions to problems.  Invariably the latest technology or machine is suggested.  In rare cases the technology is needed; however, while waiting for the "ultimate" solution, consider short-term improvement that can be implemented immediately. 

Use SPACER (Safety, Purpose, Agenda, Conduct, Expectations, and Roles & Responsibilities) as a technique to improve team meeting efficiency and effectiveness.

Safety – is always the top priority, discuss safety protocols like evacuation, PPE or safety equipment needed in the facility, bathroom location, etc.

Purpose – "what is the meeting for?", discuss what is in scope and what might not be.

Agenda – no matter what type of meeting or for how long there should be some sort of plan.

Conduct – what are the rules the team participants should adhere to while in the meeting like cell phone us, side discussions, etc.

Expectations – what do we expect to get out of this meeting especially if it is a training session?

Roles – what are the roles of the participants in the meeting, is there a note taker or time keeper for example. 

Lean Tip #38 - Establish a meeting code of conduct to make meetings more efficient.

Codes of conduct are merely a set of guidelines by which a team agrees to operate. Such codes are guidelines designed to enhance the productivity of team meetings. The following are a few common examples of codes of conduct:

  • Arrive on time for scheduled meetings.
  • Stick to the agenda.
  • "3 Knock" rule if any team member deviates from the agenda (this is when a person politely knocks on the table to provide an audio indicator that the speaker is going off track of the agenda topic being discussed).
  • Everyone's ideas will be heard.
  • One person speaks at a time.
  • No sidebars.
  • "Parking Lot" for out of scope ideas (this is a place on the easel pad where topics are placed for consideration on the next meeting agenda because they are not appropriate for the meeting at hand).

FMEA studies can yield significant savings for a company as well as reduce the potential liability of a process or product that does not perform as promised.

FMEA means Failure Mode and Effects Analysis:

  • Every product or process has modes of failure.
  • The effects represent the impact of the failures.
An FMEA is a tool to:

  • Indentify the relative risks designed into a product or process.
  • Initiate action to reduce those risks with the highest potential impact.
  • Track the results of the action plan in terms of risk reduction. 
Lean Tip #40 - The first step in finding true cause is careful observation of the phenomenon of the defect.

People often try to reduce productions defects by tracing directly back to the cause of the defect.  That is a straightforward approach and, at first glance, it seems to be efficient.  But, in most cases, the causes obtained from that approach are not true ones.  If remedies are taken for defects based on the knowledge of those false causes, the attempt may be abortive, the effort wasted.  The first step in finding true cause is careful observation of the phenomenon of the defect.  After such careful observation, true cause becomes apparent. 

Lean Tip #41 - The use of statistical tools lend objectivity and accuracy to observations.

The maxims of statistical way of thinking are:

  • Give greater importance to facts than abstract concepts.
  • Do not express facts in terms of senses or ideas.  Use figures derived from specific observational results.
  • Observational results, accompanied as they are by error and variation, are part of a hidden whole.  Finding that hidden whole is observation's ultimate goal.
  • Accept regular tendency which appears in a large number of observational results as reliable information.
Lean Tip #42 - Machine guarding can create a barrier to prevent dangerous situations but only by meeting minimum requirements.

To be effective guards must meet these minimum requirements:

Prevent contact: The guard must prevent hands, arms, or any part of your body or clothing from making contact with dangerous moving parts.

Secure: Guards should not be easy to remove or alter; a guard that can easily be made ineffective is no guard at all.

Protect from falling objects:  The guard should ensure that no objects can fall into moving parts.

Create no new hazards: A guard defeats its own purpose if it creates a hazard of its own.

Create no interference: You might soon override or disregard any guard which keeps you from doing your job quickly and comfortably. 

Lean Tip #43 - Use Key Points to Positively State the Correct Way to Do a Task

Key points should be "how to's" rather than "don't do's."  Positive reinforcement is more effective.  For example, if there is risk of injury on a job from a pinch pint, rather than stating, "Avoid the pinch point," try stating, "You hands should be places here and here when working." Then during the next step of the training, when the reasons behind they key points are explained, it can be said that the purpose of the key point is to "avoid the pinch point."

Lean Tip #44 - A process with too many restrictions will limit participation

There are very few restrictions placed on continuous improvement at Toyota. At many other companies management places 'guidelines" or "restrictions" on ideas.  Restrictions send the message that some ideas are acceptable, but only when management decides so.  If the idea is safe for you and others and will not adversely affect quality, then why not try.  The only way to know if an idea will work is to try it.

Many trainers make the mistake of asking the trainee, "Do you think you're ready to try the job now?"  The trainer should make this important decision only after careful observation of the trainee.  Most trainees will say they are ready because they're afraid they will be perceived as incapable if they say no, they're not ready to do the job.  Asking the trainee also places responsibility for understanding on him or her.  The trainer must assume responsibility for the outcome of the training.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guest Post: How would you explain Lean to an executive for the first time?

I recently posted this question on A Lean Journey LinkedIn Group:

If you had 2-3 hours to give an overview of what lean means for an executive where would you start and what would you say?

A friend and fellow Lean blogger David Kasprzak answered this question which is displayed here as a guest post:

David M. Kasprzak is the author and creator of the My Flexible Blog, where he shares his thoughts on improving workplace culture through the use of Lean concepts.  While working as an analyst to develop and analyze program-level cost & schedule metrics for the past 10 years, David has now turned his attention towards understanding the behaviors that create high-performing organizations.  He currently lives in Nashua, NH with his wife and 2 sons, and expects to finish his MBA degree in the summer of 2011.

Great question, Tim! Here's how I'd approach it:

No doubt, they have heard about lean as a cost-reducing tool, and are aware of Lean uses the terms "Waste" and "Value." What I would do, is introduce them to what these terms mean in a Lean context.

My Coffee Cup example:

What adds value to me? (I am willing to pay for a cup that):
• doesn't break
• Won't melt
• Doesn't leak
• Keeps coffee hot
• Has a handle
• Has an attractive color or picture
• Is safe (no sharp edges or toxic chemicals)

Things I am not paying for (they might be necessary to your business, but they add no value to me):
• Your accounting staff
• Your quality assurance inspectors
• The excess materials you throw out
• The time your workers spend waiting for broken machinery
• Your insurance and overhead costs
• Defective products you have to scrap or rework

When you get it "right," your company makes a fine coffee cup, so customers are happy. Unfortunately, not every cup you make can be sold because of defects and they don't always get to the customer on time. Plus, overhead costs are really eating into your margins.

On the other hand, if you could make a fine coffee cup and deliver it on time, every time, and OPTIMIZE your administrative functions so that they produced as little waste and added as much value as possible, what would happen?

• Margins would grow due to reductions in non-value-producing costs, PLUS
• Increased orders due to product quality & on-time delivery, PLUS
• Improved uses of Human Capital from employees working on fewer and fewer annoying and frustrating tasks become more engaged, PLUS
• Greater ability to innovate, compete & stay afloat during market downturns

Lean has many tools and methods for making this happen. One of these, that is applicable in both the factory and the office, is the concept of Single Piece Flow. (I'd then go on and demonstrate the time savings using any of the other simple games for introducing Lean that have been developed).

Lean transformations are about changing your organization's culture. I say Lean transformation, rather than implementation, because implementation tends to lead people to believe that becoming Lean is as simple as purchasing a box full of tools and then using them. While that is a part of Lean, it is similar to saying that buying a telescope makes you an astrophysicist.

Changing culture will require adopting new ways of thinking about work. As an example, try this exercise:

Place 16 red, 12 blue and 8 yellow poker ships (36 in total) on a piece of paper. It can be as complex or simple as you like, as long as you use all the chips. Then, develop instructions such that anyone, including someone who has never seen the finished product before, can reproduce the layout quickly and with no mistakes.

(I'd give the people 15 minutes or so to take this on. At the end of it, I'd show them my solution: A plain piece of paper with Red, Blue and Yellow circles on a 6X6 grid, and the words: "Make it Look Like This" written on the top.)

Lean is not about how much detail you can inject into a process in order to control people's behavior. It is about tapping into their native, natural abilities to explore, create and achieve. As you transform your culture, you will find people at all levels looking for ways to reduce stress and inefficiency. This will include helping each other overcome problems and collaborating in teams. It will also require breaking down barriers to communication, learning new ways to manage, and creating different forms of leadership.

As part of your Lean transformation, you will discover how to initiate engagement by removing the obstacles that are prohibiting it from forming naturally. As you remove those obstacles, you will find continuous, increasing improvement in pursuit of all your people, profit, and planet motives.

How would you answer this question?  What would you say to someone about Lean?

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Unhook the Old

Culture can be defined as the sum of individuals' work habits within an organization.  Culture is often invisible to the members within the group because it is "the way we do things around here."  One implication of culture as a collection of habits and practices is that it has incredible inertia and momentum.  Cultural inertia is like a body in motion tending to stay in motion in the same direction unless acted on by an external force.

Conventional habits and practices live on despite changes to layout, material, and information flows.  In traditional settings it is seen as important to be doing something tied directly to production.  In a Lean environment, many practices are related to the disciplined adherence to defined processes. Most of our old habits will not work in our new Lean system. I think Shigeo Shingo said it best, "Improvement usually means doing something that we have never done before."

Wouldn't it be simple to just "break" or "kick" these habits?  In reality, many habits bring some level of comfort to us because they are routine.  Instead, we need to learn to unhook the old "habits". 

When it comes to habits David Mann tells the story of Smokey the Bear's campfire rules.  Douse the fire with water, stir the coals and turn them over, then douse again.  Not following the rules of Smokey the Bear you risk the fire restarting itself from the live embers that remain.  Cultural habits are very much the same way.

A simple model for improvement could include unhook, change, and re-hook.  Where the 3 steps of the process are defined:

Unhook – is the process of learning to change the activities in an organization.  Create a situation whereby change is allowed to occur.
Change – this is where the actual improvement is implemented.
Re-hook – is about sustaining the new system by making new connections.  Use techniques like standard work, visual control, and visits to the Gemba build new ways of doing things.

Without unhooking the old system we leave live embers that can be restarted at the first sign of difficulty.  Change is hard and there will be challenges.  To be successful and ensure the old fire doesn't restart we must learn to improve.  When you face a new problem in your new system don't break the rules or revert back to old thinking.  Use your Lean thinking to solve this new problem and improve your system.  And whatever you do don't run two systems in parallel.  Sometimes in an attempt to be cautious we are really just confusing the situation.  Be brave and embrace the change if you want to improve.

You should not expect the new ways to stick just because people have adhered to them for a day or week.  Old habits are waiting for the right condition to re-emerge.  Remember, nothing worth doing stays done forever without diligence, discipline, and hard work.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Lean Quote: The Winner

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.

"If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you like to win, but you think you can't,
It is almost certain you won't.

If you think you'll lose, you're lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow's will.
It's all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You've got to think high to rise,
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But soon or late the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can."

~ C. W. Longenecker

The way you think can affect the outcome - either positive or negative. If you haven’t produced the results you wanted, chances are good that you’ve been thinking limited thoughts.  If you’ve been expecting to lose more than to win, don’t worry. Because today is a new day and you can control and change what you put into your mind.

While it may be hard for you to believe you can actually change your thinking habits this easily, you really can.  It probably won't happen overnight, but if you start reconditioning your mind and expecting to achieve or win at whatever you do, your chance of succeeding will be greatly increased.

Try it. You’ll be surprised at the results.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Learning from Geese

Living in New England you become accustom to seeing the migration of Geese.  As the leaves start turning colors the Geese head south for the winter.  I came across the "Lesson from Geese" from a colleague this week.

The story was written in 1972 by Dr. Robert McNeish, a science teacher from Baltimore, Maryland  for a sermon in his church. Demonstrating the power of a good idea, his essay spread and has become a classic statement of the importance of teamwork.

We all know how important leadership and teamwork are in today’s organizations.  We can use the five principles presented in the “Lessons from Geese” story as inspiration to practice good leadership and teamwork skills as we implement Lean.

Fact 1: The Importance of Achieving Goals

As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: The Importance of Team Work

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: The Importance of Sharing 

When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The Importance of Empathy and Understanding

The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: The Importance of Encouragement

When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

"Lessons from Geese" provides a perfect example of the importance of team work and how it can have a profound and powerful effect on any endeavour. When we use these five principles in our personal and business life it will help us to foster and encourage a level of passion and energy in ourselves, as well as those who are our friends, associates, or team members.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Lean Way to Tie Your Shoes

Visual instructions on how to tie a "Ian knot" show six simple steps.

This is the world's fastest shoelace knot because there are fewer sequential steps and it all happens in a single, fluid movement.  It has been said that the reduction in time could add up to 4 days per lifetime.  Tying your shoes might be necessary but it is hardly value added.  Don't be complacent and take common practices for granted they can be time wasters. 

Even this simple example provides some Lean lessons - everything can be improved, small things can add up, and single piece flow is the ideal process.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

A Colorful Way of Solving Problems

Problem solving is a systematic thinking process to bring about change.  In ordinary thinking, the thinker leaps from critical thinking to neutrality to optimism and so on without structure or strategy.

Many successful people think from a very rational, positive viewpoint, and this is part of the reason that they are successful. Often, though, they may fail to look at problems from emotional, intuitive, creative or negative viewpoints. This can mean that they underestimate the problem, don't consider all consequences, and fail to understand the feasibility of the solution.

A colleague and friend (thanks Ken) recently introduced me to Six Thinking Hats.  This is a thinking tool for group discussion and individual thinking created by Edward de Bono. The premise of the method is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be identified, deliberately accessed and hence planned for use in a structured way allowing one to develop strategies for thinking about particular issues.

Each "Thinking Hat" is a different style of thinking. These are explained below:

White Hat:
Objective, neutral thinking in terms of facts, numbers and information.  With this thinking hat, you focus on the data available. Look at the information you have, and see what you can learn from it.

Red Hat:
Emotional, with judgements, suspicions and intuitions.  'Wearing' the red hat, you look at problems using intuition, gut reaction and emotion. Also try to think how other people will react emotionally.

Black Hat:
Negative, sees risks and thinks about why something will not function. Using this hat, look cautiously and defensively at all the bad points of the decision. Try to see why ideas and approaches might not work.  Black Hat thinking helps to make your plans tougher and more resilient.

Yellow Hat:
Positive, optimistic, clear, effective and constructive. This hat helps you to think positively and to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it.  Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.

Green Hat:
Creative, seeks alternatives. The green hat is where you can develop creative solutions to a problem. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas.  A whole range of creativity tools can help you here.

Blue Hat:
Or Meta hat, thinking about thinking.  The blue thinker's role is to keep an overview of what thinking is necessary to scout the subject.  The Blue Hat stands for process control.

The Six Thinking Hats tool  can be a powerful technique used to look at problems from different points of view. All of these thinking hats help for thinking deeper.  This helps us move away from habitual thinking styles and towards a more rounded view of a situation.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Lean Quote: Character Matters!

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.

This post was inspired by Christian Paulsen's post on Character and Leadership.

"Character is the firm foundation stone upon which one must build to win respect. Just as no worthy building can be erected on a weak foundation, so no lasting reputation worthy of respect can be built on a weak character." — R. C. Samsel

Achieving short-term results doesn't require great leadership.  Those kinds of results are easy to get.  Some may threaten employees, pay more, entice with contests, or manipulate the politics.  But for employees to follow long term, the number one requirement is that a leader by trustworthy.  It's even more important than having a great vision, being a great communicator, or being innovative, wise, courageous, inspiring, intelligent, or any other trait.  The first question every employee asks is, "Do I trust my boss and the other members of management?"  If the answer is "no", then they start looking for someone else to follow - someone they can trust.  This trust issue is a big deal.  It's a by-product of leadership integrity.

Without integrity, a leader can never develop trust.  Without trust, a leader will never develop people. Without developing people, a leader will never maintain a following.  And without followers, there is no one to lead. It all begins with integrity.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Get More Done by Doing Less

Most of us get paralysed when faced with a large and complicated undertaking.  Jason Yip gives some tips on how to get it done from Ignite Sydney this past August.  Jason is a Principal Consultant with ThoughtWorks focused on Agile and Lean Software Development.

Stop Starting and Start Finishing

Some keypoints from the video:
1. The more projects you work on the less time you have for any one project. (A recent study showed that office employees who were interrupted while they worked took an average of 25 minutes to get back to what they started.)
2. Can make more mistakse mulititasking.
3. We can't see things piling up so the first step is to visualize the work load.
4. Next step is to limit the number of things we are going to do simultaneously.
5. Get stuff done quicker by doing less at one time.
6. Shoving more stuff into the process doesn't help anyone.
7. Limiting workload creates an environment of teamwork.
8. Measure cycle time of certain types of work so you can give a lead time.
9. Use root cause analysis to fix problems so they don't reoccur.
10. Doing more stuff is not important, finishing them is.

On Jason's blog he shared a version of the presentation from Sydney which he subtitled An Introduction to Kanban.

Jason expands on his previous steps adding several new points.  For performance measures he suggests several that are not just time based:

1. Productivity - cycle time, ROI
2. Quality - defects, customer satisfaction
3. Cost - burn rate, cost per item, total project cost
4. Morale - engagement, employee satisfaction. 

As you work to improve your efficiency and that of your organization I think Jason provides a number of great concepts to consider in your process.  Multitasking in this sense is really the essence of Muri.  Muri is a Japanese term for overburden, unreasonableness or absurdity.  Stop the maddness.  Start focusing.  Accomplish more.

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