Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lean Roundup #9 – February, 2010

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

Lean is Not and Never Will Be – John Miller tries to define Lean as something other than being like Toyota.

The Human Side of the Kaizen Event - 11 Questions for Lean Leaders – Mark Hamel shares 11 questions that all lean leaders must answer in order to enjoy kaizen event success and ultimately drive a lean transformation.

Improving your Consulting Voice through Experimentation Off the Clock – Connor Shea shares a personal story of using Hoshin Kanri to focus on the New Year's goals.

Quick Wins on a Green Journey – Micahel Sinocchi talks with author Bret Wills about some things you can do right now to conserve energy and save money.

How to Make Time for Kaizen – John Miller shares some ways to find time for Kaizen activities in your organization.

My Scrum Infatuation – Michael Lombard writes about a process called Scrum which focuses on short time increments, rapid feedback, frequent course corrections, and continuous planning for changing requirements.

Are you prepared for an Upswing in Your Business? Part 1 – Rob Jones talks about the need for strategic partners in your supply chain.

Circle of Influence – John Hunter writes about developing others and making them successful as a way to increase your circle of influence.

The Role of Purpose and Your Role – Mark Graban provides some food for thought on your role and your purpose at work in a Lean Enterprise.

Andons and Problems at Nummi – Kevin Meyer talks about difference in US and Japanese approaches to andons and problems fro the Toyota and GM joint venture at Nummi.

Lean on TV: Kitchen Nightmares - Gordon Ramsay from Hell's Kitchen a change agent? – Jon Wetzel explains a lean transformation process as seen from Gordon Ramsay's restaurant makeovers.

What Not to Learn from the Undercover Boss – Jamie Flinchbaugh talks about the right way to go source and observe which is in contrast to the show "The Undercover Boss."

When in doubt, Shoot it Out: Lean vs Taylorism – JC Gatlin explains the difference between Taylorism and Lean from a real life learning experience.

Get Your Ducks in a Row Before Lean Accounting – Mark Rosenthal has a guest post by Russ Field on Lean Accounting and 4 enabling processes.

Go with The (Single Piece) Flow  - Ankit Patel explains single piece flow in transaction service orientated world of business.

Mission Impossible: Finding a Lean Facilitator – Marshall Leslie from Lean Healthcare Exchange posts about key character traits need in the search for a lean facilitator.

5 Questions to Ask Before You Attempt to Implement Kanban – Ron Pereira shares 5 items to consider before you jump to a kanban solution to your production system problems.

If Not ROI, Then What? – Bill Waddell highlights several financial measures that can be used to measure the "leanness" of your business.

Advice for First Time A3 Authors – Brian Buck gives several tips on writing an A3.

Function Assessment: A Basis for Improvement – Gregg Stocker provides his basic approach for assessing the effectiveness of a department, function, or team.

My Thoughts on Standardized Work – Mark Graban consolidates all his thoughts on the Lean concept of "standardized work" in a single place.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lean Quote of the Day, February 26, 2010

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.

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

All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy."
-- Wayne Dyer

 One of the biggest areas of concern is the Behavioral waste and blaming which some leadership utilize on a daily basis.  Blame is a what I call a "fat" behavior.  Bob Emiliani who has studied lean transformations and lean behaviors was the first to use the term “fat” behavior.  Check out this post called No "Fat" Behavior, Please to learn about the difference between lean behaviors and "fat" behaviors.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Employee Recognition

People basically work for rewards. There are numerous forms of rewards and not everyone enjoys the same rewards. I have found this book by Bob Nelson a great source for ideas on different ways to reward employees.














When it comes to rewards in the workplace public employee recognition is one most powerful in terms of cultural transformation. It is especially important to engage in good employee recognition practices when you want to develop a productive workplace. Unfortunately, many either don’t do this or don’t do this well.

The best formula I have found for recognizing employees for their efforts is:

1) Thank them by name.

2) Specifically state what they did that is being recognized. It is vital to be specific because it identifies and reinforces the desired behavior.

3) Explain how the behavior or activity made you feel (assuming you felt some pride or respect for their accomplishment!).

4) Point out the value created by the behavior or activity to the team or organization.

5) Thank the people again by name for their contribution.

Every time you make life at work more satisfying for your employees, you are increasing the rewards they reap from doing their jobs well – and you make them want to continue to do so.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meeting Codes of Conduct

In a previous post I talked about the use of 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.


Today, I want to discuss codes of conduct in more detail. 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).
This is just a sampling of common sense ideas to give an idea as to what team meeting guidelines can be like. As you adopt your own codes of conduct it may be beneficial to frame and post these in meeting rooms. This will provide a simple visual reminder that will encourage people to abide to the guidelines in an effort not to waste other people’s time.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Lean Quote of the Day February 19, 2010

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.

"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."  — Dwight D. Eisenhower

There are a lot of definitions of Leadership.  Ultimately for me it comes down to people.  Check out the 6 qualities of Leadership that start with the letter P for People in this post.

Don't forget to subscribe to this blog via email or feed under the right hand column. You can also follow on Twitter or LinkedIn as well.







Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mistake Proofing Help

We all make mistakes, to err is human.  The questions are why does it happen and how can you prevent it.  Mistake-proofing is the use of process design features to facilitate correct actions, prevent simple errors, or mitigate the negative impact of errors Poka-yoke is Japanese slang for mistake-proofing, a term coined by Shigeo Shingo.

John Grout has researched mistake-proofing extensively for the past 17 years. John is dean of the Campbell School of Business at Berry College, Rome, Georgia, and the David C. Garrett Jr. Professor of Business Administration. In May 2007, John's book "Mistake-Proofing the Design of Healthcare Processes" was published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as a government document that is distributed free to the public and can be downloaded here (pdf). In 2004 John received the Shingo Prize for his paper, The Human Side of Mistake-Proofing with Douglas Stewart.

For resources on mistake proofing visit John Grout's Mistake-Proofing Center.  John's suggests, starting by looking at some everyday examples, then taking a look at the Brief Poka-Yoke Tutorial.  I would suggesting following this up with a review of bad designs, a scrapbook of illustrated examples of things that are hard to use because they do not follow human factors principles.

I think is particularly worthwhile highlighting this section from Grout's tutorial which originated from Shigeo Shingo who formalized poka-yoke:


The ability to find mistakes at a glance is essential because, as Shingo writes, "The causes of defects lie in worker errors, and defects are the results of neglecting those errors. It follows that mistakes will not turn into defects if worker errors are discovered and eliminated beforehand"[Shingo 1986, p.50]. He later continues that "Defects arise because errors are made; the two have a cause-and-effect relationship. ... Yet errors will not turn into defects if feedback and action take place at the error stage"[Shingo, 1986, p. 82].
According to Shingo [Shingo, 1986, p.71], "Defects will never be reduced if the workers involved do not modify operating methods when defects occur." The willingness to take corrective action is a function of the attitude and commitment of both managers and workers, not an intrinsic attribute of a particular approach to quality management.

You should also visit The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) to view Grout's healthcare webinar on mistake proofing to reduce medical errors (or view slides).

John suggests there is a new attitude to preventing errors requiring a new remedy:


"Think of an object's user as attempting to do a task, getting there by imperfect approximations. Don't think of the user as making errors; think of the actions as approximations of what is desired." Source: Norman, The design of everyday things. Doubleday 1988.

"The remedy is in changing systems of work. The remedy is in design." Donald Berwick hopes "that normal, human errors can be made irrelevant to outcome, continually found, and skillfully mitigated."

John Grout says you need to think about how to stop mistakes like your life depends on it because it just might. Get started today learning how you can stop mistakes with these great resources.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lean Demonstrated at Subway

Last week while visiting one of our plants I had lunch at a Subway restaurant.  During lunch I had the opportunity to observe many Lean concepts in practice.  I don’t believe Subway advertises themselves as a Lean corporation but their restaurants seem to employ some basic Lean principles.

For starters they make their sandwiches to customer demand.  Subway makes the exact sandwich the customer wants at the time the customer orders it.  They process one customer at a time in what is referred to as 1 by 1 or single piece flow.  This method dramatically reduces defective product and overproduction of sandwiches.

During higher volume meal times Subway utilizes teamwork. Several people will assembly parts of the sandwich passing it from one another along the line.  Each person performs a specified sequence which we often refer to as standard work. 

Now think of the layout and organization of the restaurant.  The sandwich area is laid out in the form of an assembly line from taking your order to paying for your order.  There are signs with pictures along the assembly process to support the customer order.  Everything used to make the sandwich is displayed on the line through clear viewing panels.  This concept is an element of visual factory and 5S organization.

While the sandwich is made just in time the materials to make all the sandwiches have been prepared before hand.  Due to the need for freshness and longer cycle times the bread is baked, cheese is sliced, and vegetables are cut prior to the store opening.  The raw materials are stored at the point of use in bins in the assembly line.  They are placed in the order in which the sandwich is prepared creating a standard while mistake proofing the preparation sequence.  The amount of the vegetables prepared and the location in the line is based on the popularity of the produce.  For example, lettuce and tomatoes will be found closest to the “sandwich artist” in multiple large size bins while the hot peppers and olives will be in smaller bins further away.

Some of the inventory is kited for accuracy and efficiency like the meat.  This allows Subway to produce the same size sandwich every time for a 12 inch or 6 inch sandwich in every restaurant.  The kit also helps control inventory by knowing how much is consumed for each sandwich enabling a simple replenishment scheme.

I even observed a kanban and FIFO system at work during this visit.  As the sandwich artist was preparing my sandwich he consumed the last lettuce leafs in the bin he was using and turned to the refrigerator behind him to replace the lettuce bin.  He slid the older bins closest to him and placed the newest bin in back of the others.  This technique meant the customer was getting the freshest produce while not spoiling their inventory.

As I was there eating my sandwich I saw an experienced employee training a new employee from the customer’s viewpoint.  During orientation of the sandwich preparation process the experienced employee had the new employee stand in front of the counter, where the customer would stand, while demonstrating the process.  This gave the new employee the perspective of the customer which is so important to understand. 

While not all of Subway’s practices are Lean in nature this is a good case study.  If you want to reflect on some basic lean principles or could use an outlet to teach others some basic lean principles try a visit to your local Subway restaurant.  Food is always a good motivator.


If you enjoy this post you may want to connect with me on Linkedin or follow me on Twitter.  You can also subscribe to this feed or email to stay updated on all posts.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lean Quote of the Day February 12, 2010

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 rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades."

— John P. Kotter, Leading Change

This quote reminds me of the Bear Story.  Not familiar with the Bear Story then check out this post on Lean, Competition, and the Bear Story from last fall.

Don't forget to subscribe to this blog via email or feed under the right hand column.  You can also follow on Twitter or LinkedIn as well.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lean Roundup - Toyota Recall

I have learned a great deal from Toyota and their highly documented production system.  While I like to think of TPS as the "Thinking People System" it still proves to be a successful business system.  In light of Toyota's recent quality issues there is a new lesson to learn, "you can never be too big to fail."  It is not a question of success or failure but really a question on how you react to the situation.  I would like to think that Toyota will come out of this stronger since they will learn from this failure and work hard to eliminate it. 

There are a number of great posts about this Toyota recall that can serve as a learning experience for us all so I have chosen to highlight several of these in the special Lean Roundup.

Learning From Toyota's Stumble – Steven Spear says you can learn from Toyota that competitive success is fluid.

Toyota Stops Lines -Lots of Lines – John Hunter talks about Toyota stopping sales and production lines during this recall.

Toyota pulls The Big Andon Cord, Finally – Kevin Meyer highlights the historic action by Toyota to stop and put emphasis on problem solving.

A New Critical Japanese Lean Term Oushikuso – Bill Waddell reminds us that excellent manufacturing in complicated and can't be copied from Toyota.

Just How Low has Toyota Sunk – Bill Waddell talks about the failure of Toyota to pull the Andon cord earlier.

Former Toyota Quality Manager's Thoughts on Historic Recall – Jon Miller talks with former Toyota inside about quality and Toyota's action during recall.

We Learn Nothing From History – Jon Miller talks about VW aim to surpass Toyota and is that a good goal.

The Impact of Toyota's Quality Problems on Lean Healthcare – Mark Graban talks about how Toyota's quality issue affects the public perception and how this impacts our efforts to spread the Toyota Production System and "Lean" to healthcare.

What Are Your Thoughts About Toyota's Situation? – Ron Pereira shares his thoughts on Toyota recall from a followers questioning.

Don't Let The Door Hit You in the Ass – Ron Pereira talks about why he is not jumping off the Lean bandwagon.

What Can We Learn From The Toyota Recall? – Paul Cary shares some lessons to learn from the Toyota mishap.

The Biggest, Most Public Line Stop Ever – Joe Ely writes about the reasoning for line stops and what is probably occurring at Toyota because of this.

The Pig Pile on Toyota – TWI talks about gaining up on Toyota and Lean as reasoning for such a quality issue and sets the record straight.

Spear Discusses Toyota's Ability to Recover from Recalls: Video - Steven J. Spear, of MIT, speaking about Toyota's quality problems and recovery on Bloomberg radio.

Wall Street Journal Comments on How Lean Can Back Fire – Tom Southworth states that Toyota failed not Lean because the stopped being Lean.

The Toyota Recall, Satisfaction and Value – Six Sigma IQ talks about the impact of Toyota's recall on customer satisfaction and furthermore on customer value.

It's Not the Crisis; It's How You Respond To It – John Shook shares his thoughts on the Toyota Recall.

What is to be learned from Toyota now? – Tom Ehrenfeld raises the question about learning from this mishap at Toyota

Toyota Recall and the Lean Movement – Jeff Liker shares his thoughts on companies needed to continue Lean despite Toyota's recent misfortune.

A heroic "line stop" or has Toyota lost its way? – Michael Balle talks about what he has learned from Toyota and this historic countermeasure to protect customers.

Still Lots to Learn from Toyota – Art Smalley answers the question about what can be learned from Toyota and this quality issue.

Learning Beyond Toyota – Daniel Jones shares thoughts on ways lean thinking goes beyond modern management.

What Did Toyota Lose Sight Of? – Mike Rother says the Toyota lost site of Kata, routine day-to-day management.

Toyota Bashing – Gregg Stocker talks about Lean, CEO visibility, and politics in the wake of Toyota's recall.

Womack Says Toyota Needs to Engage Public Over Recall: Video – Jim Womack, chairman of the Lean Enterprise Institute, talks with Bloomberg's Lori Rothman and Matt Miller about Toyota Motor Corp's handling of its vehicle recalls.

What is Going On With Toyota? - Hall Macomber answers the question of what Toyota is doing and what improvements they will likely make from this recent recall issue.

Toyota Recall - Paul Cary talks about standardization, the recall, and how Toyota will be better for this problem.

Learn from the Right Mistakes - Bill Waddell writes about Toyoda's plan for resolving Toyota's quality problem and questions if they will learn the right lesson.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Think Systems to Avoid Pitfalls in Lean Management

A management system is the framework of processes and procedures used to ensure that an organization can fulfill all tasks required to achieve its objectives.  A Lean management system consists of the discipline, daily practices, and tools you need to establish and maintain a persistent, intensive focus on process.  It is this process focus that sustains and extends lean implementations.

Peter Senge, an influential systems thinker from MIT and author of book "The Fifth Discipline", suggested 11 systems laws that help us understand systems better.  The laws are:

1. Today's problems come from yesterday's solutions.
We, humans, are happy when we solve problems. We often don't think much about consequences. Surprisingly, our solutions could strike back and create new problems.
2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back.
We have this stubborn reaction to push our way through when things are not working out as we want. We charge without time to stop, think and find better alternatives. Sometimes we solve problems, but often we find ourselves up to ears in the swamp of other problems.
3. Behavior grows better before it grows worse.
Short-term solutions give us a short break and temporary improvement, but don't eliminate fundamental problems. These problems will make situation worse in the long run.
4. The easy way out usually leads back in.
We learn few solutions in our life, which brought easy success earlier. We try to vigorously apply them in any situation disregarding particular context and people.
5. The cure can be worse than the disease.
Sometimes the easy or familiar solution is not only ineffective; sometimes it is addictive and dangerous.  They may even induce dependency.
6. Faster is slower.
When we get a taste of success we start to advance at the full speed without much caution. However, the optimal rate of growth usually is much slower than the fastest growth possible.
7. Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space.
We are good at finding causes to our problems, even if they are just symptoms and far from real root causes.
8. Small changes can produce big results-but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious.
Most obvious grand solutions like changing company policy, vision or tag line often don't work. Small ordinary, but consistent changes could make a huge difference.
9. You can have your cake and eat it too - but not at once.
We often face rigid "either-or" choices. Sometimes they are not dilemmas if we change our perspective and rules of the system.
10. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants.
Inability to see the system as a whole could often lead to suboptimal decisions.
11. There is no blame.
We like to blame and point fingers to other people or circumstances, sometimes we even believe in this. But we and the cause of our problems are part of the System.

Lean management is a thinking system where much the same rules apply. These laws serve as an excellent aid to avoid Lean implementation pitfalls.  As we implement Lean solutions we need to learn and understand the processes involved. There are many challenges to this way of thinking.  Many can be defeated by gaining and using knowledge of how systems work.  But the most serious challenge is our own contradictory human nature.  Our passions, emotions, and instincts could easily defy this rational and systematic way of thinking. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lean Quote of the Day - February 5th, 2010

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.

"Change has a bad reputation in our society. But it isn't all bad — not by any means. In fact, change is necessary in life — to keep us moving ... to keep us growing ... to keep us interested . ... Imagine life without change. It would be static ... boring ... dull."

— Dr. Dennis O'Grady in Bottom Line - Personal

Effectively managing the change is a challenge for many leaders.  Follow these six strategies for change leaders and you will improve your ability and outcome.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Proofreading Tips

During a recent all employee email I wrote within my company I made a typo. I wrote 3 ½ hours instead of 3 ½ years when describing some positive results. I decided I would take this opportunity for improvement and learn some proofreading skills.

It’s difficult to proofread your own work because you’re so close to it – you know what’s coming next which often means you unconsciously skip along, missing typos and misspellings completely. With my experience making typos I think it's nearly impossible for someone to accurately proofread their own writing and be consistently successful.

Think about it: If you produce 1,000 words a day, and you let 1 typo slip by every week, that's actually a 99.986% success rate. If you think about it in terms of letters rather than words, since most typos happen at the level of letters, that 1 typo a week equates to about a 99.997% success rate.

Consider the common exercise often used in demonstrating the weaknesses of 100% manual quality inspection. Count the number of F’s in the paragraph below:

THE NECESSITY OF TRAINING HANDS FOR FIRST-CLASS FARMS IN THE FATHERLY HANDLING OF FRIENDLY FARM LIVESTOCK IS FOREMOST IN THE MINDS OF FARM OWNERS. SINCE THE FOREFATHERS OF THE FARM OWNERS TRAINED THE FARM HANDS FOR THE FIRST-CLASS FARMS IN THE FATHERLY HANDLING OF FARM LIVESTOCK, THE OWNERS OF THE FARMS FEEL THEY SHOULD CARRY ON WITH THE FAMILY TRADITION OF TRAINING FARM HANDS IN THE FATHERLY HANDLING OF FARM STOCK BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE IT IS THE BASIS OF GOOD FUTURE FARMING.

How many did you get?

Don’t beat yourself up too badly human error is inevitable. However, there are some steps you can take to help.

1) Use spell-checker on your computer, but be careful the computer can often make errors.
2) Set aside time to proofread without interruptions or distractions.
3) Print out a copy to proofread instead of reading on screen.
4) Read it aloud, read it slowly – stimulate another sense.
5) Read it backwards looking for surface elements rather than the meaning of document.
6) Use a ruler to focus on one line at a time.
7) Check the numbers in your document.
9) Take a break between writing and proofreading – at least 20 minutes.
10) Most important – Get someone else to proofread.

What tips or techniques do you use to proofread your emails, articles, white papers, presentations, procedures and instructions?

I tried these tips with this post. Did it work?