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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exhilarating Learning - "Northeast" Shingo Style

Last week I spent a couple days at The Sixth Annual Northeast Shingo Prize Conference in Providence, RI.  The conference was an exhilarating learning experience for me so I thought I would share some of those nuggets with you.

It is probably makes the most sense to start with some thoughts from Ritsuo Shingo, son of Shigeo Shingo whom the prize is named after, since he started the conference.  Mr. Shingo talked about Lean management.  He encouraged the audience to do more than "Go and See" but rather "Go and Watch".  We must observe with a purpose.  Something he called "Genbaism".  Don't just take a plant tour.  That is what i would call MBWA (Mangament By Walking Around).  For me that is nothing more than a plant or department tour which doesn't encourage improvement or develop people.  All problem solving starts with grasping the facts.  To make this point Ritsuo asked the audience which is more serious a small fire or a big fire?  Well, it depends.  We need further information.  The question you need to ask is if you leave it alone what will happend next?  The most severe consequence is the bigger problem.  Ritsuo had a saying that really stuck with me, "Show them your back!"  This is really about the attitude you bring every day to everything you do.  Leader must lead by example.  Everyone is watching what you are doing. 

Mike Wroblewski had a great talk on kaizen improvement events.  There is no one size fits all.  Kaizen is really a means to involve the people of the organization in improvement.  The main goal of kaizen is to develop people to think Lean.  Mike used a teaching example that everyone can relate to in their daily lives.  Got Milk!  He asked the audience to explain lean concepts in terms of milk in their home.  An example I am going to have to use in my teaching. 

Alice Lee had an inspirational speak on both a personal and professional Lean journey.  She starts with a human development model which symbolizes a 3 legged stool - Tools, Philosophy, and Management.  The discussion centered around the philosophy needed to change from a traditional organization to a transitional organization through to a transformational organization.  There are several key elements needed to become a transformational organization:  1) Direction and focus 2) Disciplined approach, avoid distractions 3) Total participation (everyone) and 4) Strive for "True North". 

David Meier also talked about kaizen from personal experience.  He said human beings love tools and we know tools are easier to learn.  He says people often think kaizen mean quick or rapid improvement but that is not necessary.  The countermeasure must match the problem.  He challenge the audience to find solutions by asking what can be done right now.  Don't stop at the first solution continue to find another solution.  The first answer is not always the best answer.  Using PDCA ensure the problem is solved.  According to David the top 5 mistakes in Kaizen are: 1) Jumping to solutions 2) Bias toward a particular idea (usually your own) 3) Stop at first workable solution 4) Failure to deeply explore alternatives and 5) Continue to pursue an idea without merit.

Lesa Nichols says Muri is the new Muda.  If we get rid of Muri (overburden) which is caused by Mura (uneveness) we can get rid of muda (waste).  We tend to go about this in the wrong order.  We must look for the visual signs of Muri in the forms of physical and mental stress.  Look at the eyes, ears, fingers, back, neck, and shoulders to find Muri within your process. 

Bruce Hamilton, a.k.a. Mr. Toast, closed the conference by reminding Lean Thinkers about conceptual blindspots.  Where do we look for improvement?  Process improvement leads to operational improvement not the other way round. We often find apparent efficiency by being productive on things we don't need.  Don't automate the waste, eliminate the waste.  Bruce defined 3 steps for improvement:  1) Basic concepts 2) Systems to give shape to those concepts and 3) Techniques for implementing those systems.  He encouraged everyone to avoid being one of the 3 types of engineers Shingo despised:  1) Table Engineer - sits around table and discusses ideas 2) Catalog Engineer - looks in catalog and buys solution and 3) Not Engineer - says you can't do that.  Bruce encouraged us to be "Can Do Engineers".  He concluded with Dr. Shigeo Shingo words and the theme of the conference this year, "Easier, Better, Faster, and Cheaper."  As with everything Shingo did or said this order was deliberate.  We often make the mistake of starting backwards.  Make the job easier, then better, then faster and it will be cheaper.

The best part of the conference was meeting the truly wonderful Lean Thinkers.  There was about 550 Lean advocates and thinkers all together with one purpose and that was sharing best practices.  It is from this that we can all improve and raise the bar of Lean Thinking.  I had the pleasure of meeting some favorite Lean bloggers at the conference and you can see their take on the conference below: 

Shingo Prize winning author and blogger at Gemba Tales Mark Hamel on Easier, Better, Faster, and Cheaper.
Mike Wroblewski, who inspired me to start my own blog, from Got Boondoggle? wrote a couple pieces If air travel worked like healthcare, Inspired by Shingo again, and Lean bloggers at Shingo Conference.

and David Kasprzak who blogs at My Flexible Pencil, wrote a review from the conference like I did. 

I am already looking forward to next year's conference on October 5-6 in Springfield, MA. not only for the fact is 20 minutes from my house but for the people and the learning experience. 

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