Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lean Roundup #33 – February, 2012


A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of February, 2012.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Signs – Bruce Hamilton has a comical piece on signs with an important message about them just warning employees about problems that haven't been fixed.

No Plan Goes According to Plan – All Norval says no plan goes according to plan which is why it is important to have a quick check process to be able to adjust.

Show Me Respect, Not Just the Money – Liz Gutheridge writes about showing respect to people especially when you are not the boss of them but lead them.

Some Tips & Advice for Young Change Agents – Christina Kach a young change agent herself shares some advice about getting started with Lean thinking.

 6 Ways to Improve Problem Solving in Your Company – Jeff Hajek shares 6 ways that you can improve the problem solving approach at your company.

What to Do With the "Extra People"? - Dragan Bosnjak writes about what to do with the surplus people we free from the process at the end of improvement.

Making Your Own Path – Matt Wrye says sometime you need to make your own path to move forward.

What Do The 4Ps Have To Do With Lean? Tracey Richardson explains how the 4p's (purpose, people, processes, and problems) can be used to counter Lean is just for manufacturing argument.

What's Wrong With Being Wrong? – David Kasprzak presents three questions to help you assess how well your failures are working to build your future successes.

Lean Leadership Excuse#2 – Al Norval says leaders need lead by example because what you do is what you get.

(Dis)Respect For People, Hospital Edition – Dan Markovitz shares a story that explains the need see for yourself what's going on where the work is being done.

Why Use Lean If So Many Fail To Do So Effectively – John Hunter shares his thoughts on why you should use Lean as your business strategy for improvement.

12 Narrow Lean Gates – Mark Hamel presents 12 tests that many leaders end up encountering early in their journey and why you need to stick to the principles.

10 Tips From a Hospital CEO – Mark Graban shares 10 tips for Dr. Stephen Markovich on Lean CEO Thinking from Society For Health Systems Conference.

Lean Principles For Complex Times Part 2 – Christian Paulsen discusses 3 more points that explain Lean Leadership especially in complex times like these.

It's Not Too Late To Change Your Habits – Leo Babautu says changing bad habits is not impossible and shares several steps to get you started but you only need to start with one.

What We Can Learn From A Giraffe About Dealing With Change – Jamie Flinchbaugh explains the stages of denial in terms of Lean implementation.

Reader Questions: Lean and Process Improvement in Healthcare – Mark Graban answers a readers questions on process improvement in context of Lean Healthcare.

Building Excellent Systems: Top-down or Bottom-up? – Jon Miller is answers the age old question but says it is not an or but rather an and.

Leading and Learning – Tracey Richardson shares her experience as a first time leader at Toyota and what is means to be a leader in a Lean environment.


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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guest Post: ROWE v. Lean – My Two Cents

My good friend Mark Hamel, author, blogger, and Shingo Prize Examiner joined the conversation on ROWE.  Mark takes on the David's point linking ROWE with Shingo's respect for people in a counterpoint. I am happy to share Mark's thoughts on the Shingo Prize principles and their relevance to ROWE.
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Recently, fellow-blogger David Kasprzak, introduced me to the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) strategy. ROWE, created at Best Buy’s Minneapolis headquarters, espouses a philosophy under which employees can work where they want, when they want, and how they want – as long as the work gets done.

I love meritocratic thinking!

Of course, there’s nothing like a brand new philosophy or system to challenge, and/or sharpen, one’s personal belief systems. You can’t defend that which you don’t understand.

Admittedly, I am more than a bit fuzzy about ROWE. I’ve done some reading on the internet, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m considering buying the seminal book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution, but haven’t pulled the trigger.

In any event, here’s my two cents on what I think I know about ROWE. I could break into the Donald Rumsfeld spiel about known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns…you get the point. So, in the end, what I have to say is worth just about $0.02. Definitely, nothing more.

As you read this, or perhaps more appropriately, after you read this, check out Kasprzk’s latest post on ROWE. It’s right here on Tim McMahon’s A Lean Journey blog. Consider this a type of good-natured point/counterpoint between the two of us.

Here it goes…


ROWE ostensibly engages and empowers the workforce. It strips away some of the organizationally and self-imposed muda of rigidity and silly limitations and focuses on accountability and results. It’s tough to argue with that.

Of course, this almost seems too easy. The “Free Love” days of the 1960’s sounded great, but were not necessarily the best thing from a socio-ethics perspective.

Stupid analogy!? Maybe.

Part of my concern has to do with interdependence. In an enterprise, we can’t all be free actors all of the time – whether we are part of a natural work team or are individual contributors.
Virtually no one in an organization is self-directed (even the C-level executives, just ask them!). What we can be is self-managed within the aligning context of deployed breakthrough objectives (think strategy or policy deployment), key performance indicators, value stream focus, standard work, problem-solving, etc.

So, one burning question I have is where and how does “do[ing] whatever you want, whenever you want as long as you get your work done” intersect with this notion of interdependency and self-management? And, with that, how does it square with the Shingo Model principles?

I bring up the Shingo model (yet again, I know) because David did first…and because it’s a great place to start.

Here’s a quick list of some of the Shingo principles, from bottom to top, and my ROWE relevant questions/comments.

Respect for every individual. Freedom without accountability is license (not good). Accountability without freedom is repressive (also not good). ROWE seems to get that. But, back to the interdependence – can my focus on getting my work done trump the value stream performance and/or that of my natural work team members?

  • Lead with humility. Certainly leaders must have a certain deference to workers in ROWE.
  • Seek perfection. I hope that folks seek to make things easier, better, faster and cheaper, NOT at a sub-optimized level, but for the broader business. There is no kaizen without standard work. So, one question is whether or not ROWE facilitates standard work, its development, adherence to and constant adjustment (improvement). I hope that ROWE fosters team-based problem-solving and alignment of that problem-solving. 
  • Assure quality at the source. Cool, as long as “getting your work done” ensures that it meets customer requirements and that jidoka is regularly applied.
  • Flow and pull value. My biggest concern (and it’s not trivial) with ROWE is whether or not it promotes continuous flow or if it is subordinated to “non-levelized” schedules of empowered workers. Also, if it does not promote adherence to standard work, how do you ensure that the system performs as designed relative to timing, output, etc? Human systems are fragile! That’s why we apply lean management systems.
  • Embrace scientific thinking. Good process = good output. Same goes for the rigorous application of PDCA and SDCA (standardize-do-check-adjust). Hopefully, “getting your work done” includes embracing and following the pragmatic rigor of PDCA and SDCA.
  • Focus on process. See above for my points on interdependency, alignment, and improvement…
  • Think systemically. Ditto… Plus, I hope that ROWE promotes long-term focus as well as short-term. This means that “getting my work done” is for now AND the future. Also, if we recall Imaii’s kaizen diagram, everyone’s job (“work”) includes maintenance and improvement.
  • Create constancy of purpose. Ditto…
  • Create value for the customer. Hopefully, ROWE promotes and facilitates the necessary “line of sight” and mechanisms for the employees so that they understand stakeholder value objectives and effectively work to satisfy them. This is achieved well only if we live all of the principles identified above. 
OK, that’s my $0.02. Please keep the change.

I’d love to learn more about ROWE and explore how it can enhance the lean business system and vice versa. If you can, please help with my ROWE education. No, I’m not looking for tuition assistance; just share your experience and insight.

About the Author:

Mark R. Hamel is a lean implementation consultant, blogger at Gemba Tales, and award-winning author. His book, Kaizen Event Fieldbook: Foundation, Framework, and Standard Work for Effective Events (Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 2009), received a 2010 Shingo Research and Professional Publications Award. Hamel can be reached at mark@kaizenfieldbook.com.


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Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest Post: Shingo and ROWE

Recently, David Kasprzak, of My Flexible Blog, and I had a conversation about ROWE. ROWE - Results Only Work Environment is a human resource management strategy co-created by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler wherein employees are paid for results (output) rather than the number of hours worked. ROWE was detailed in Daniel Pink's bestselling book DRIVE. I asked David if he would author a guest post in which he connects ROWE and Shingo's "Respect for People" foundation.
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The Shingo model, while relatively unknown outside of manufacturing, is not just a model for understanding or improving manufacturing processes. It is a comprehensive system of management that incorporates both cultural and tactical, operational elements to bring about culture change and improved effectiveness. In the Shingo model, Guiding Principles determine the values of the organization, which lead to the development of processes and the usage of tools, as needed, to deliver results. It is not the just the implementation of tools to get a specified result – it is a reinforcing dynamic between both tools and culture. The two are taken together to form a comprehensive paradigm for workplace transformation that addresses, directly, both the need for culture to change and the need for the business to perform so that one may sustain the other. In fact, it was in a workshop put on by the Shingo prize organization where I first heard the term “Old culture plus new tools = same results.”

Some time after my introduction to Lean and the Shingo model, I discovered the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) concept. ROWE is a practice created at Best Buy’s headquarters in Minneapolis that allows employees to work where they want, when they want, and how they want – as long as the work gets done. In their book, “Work Sucks and How to Fix It” Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson describe the reasons why they developed ROWE and how it was implemented. In the book, they state:

“We’re offering not a new way of working, but a new way of living. This new way of living is based on the radical idea that you are an adult. It’s based on the radical idea that even though you owe your company your best work, you do not owe them your time or your life…..

In a Results-Only Work Environment, people can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. Many companies say their people can telecommute or work a flexible schedule. But these arrangements often still include core hours, or can be dissolved should business needs change or are doled out stingily as a perk for the privileged few. In a ROWE, you can literally do whatever you want whenever you want as long as your work is getting done. You have complete control over your life as long as your work gets done.”
The book goes on to lay out the rest of what ROWE is based on, at its core: The myth that time + physical presence = results. The authors also identify several things that make a ROWE work, centering on building behaviors that create trust between managers and employees. Among these are things such as all meetings are optional, people will stop doing anything that wastes time - theirs, the company’s, or the customers’, there are no last-minute fire drills and nobody brags about how many hours they work (and especially not about how many hours they worked for the sake of just showing up and looking good without producing much of anything.)

Those aspects of ROWE sound a lot like what Lean thinkers would easily and readily identify as waste, and it is encouraging to see that wasteful practices are so easily spotted by people with no Lean or manufacturing background. Although ROWE, in my mind, has a weakness in that it doesn’t offer a system for continuous improvement such that the tremendous cultural awakening it generates can be sustained, I don’t think that ROWE is inconsistent with Shingo’s teachings, either. In fact, I think ROWE in many ways takes the cultural aspects of these teachings, especially the Respect for People foundation of the Shingo model, to a whole new level of understanding.

Respect for People needs to be an absolute. It’s not just Respect for Workers (meaning we only offer respect to a person when they walk in the door to go to work), it’s respect for the person. The person, of course, has needs, wants and desires that existed long before they ever came in to work and that will go on long after. If Lean and Shingo are about trusting front-line workers to the point that they can determine for themselves the best way to go about their work, then ROWE is simply taking that concept further. It is saying that not only should workers be given the respect and freedom to optimize their own work, but their lives as well – which may very well mean that individuals can also decide when and where they get their work done, too.

Obviously, the ROWE concept is easier to conceive of in knowledge work environments, where work products are a bit more intangible, less dependent upon facilities and large capital equipment, and where technology has developed to the point that work products can be transferred from producer to customer from nearly anywhere. Given that ROWE was created in white-collar space by Human Resources professionals, it is strongest in that area, much as Shingo, which began in manufacturing, is strongest in that area. There is nothing to say, however, that the concepts can’t be applied to other areas. In a manufacturing setting, for example, trusting the personnel in the supply chain, assembly, and shipping functions to coordinate, carry out their tasks, arrive at the plant, produce the units and deliver 10,000 widgets by the 18th of the month is entirely consistent with ROWE’s teaching. ROWE is not entirely about working any time, any where, it is about trusting people to do their jobs without being baby sat.

Other concepts that form the basis of ROWE are very similar to those in the Shingo model, particularly with regards to Culture, Guiding Principles and Results. The Shingo model is much stronger, however, when it comes to identifying the specific systems and tools that help to reinforce and build up the cultural elements. In this respect, the ROWE concept feels a bit incomplete. While it certainly embraces and evolves the humanistic concerns and personal motivations that result in employee engagement, the Shingo Model’s greater emphasis on methods for Continuous Process Improvement and Enterprise Alignment offer guidance on how to sustain it.


About the Author:
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 and schedule metrics for the past 12 years, David has now turned his attention towards understanding the behaviors that create high-performing organizations. In May of 2011, he received my MBA degree with a concentration in Marketing & Strategy.


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Friday, February 24, 2012

Lean Quote: Everything is Possible with the Right Attitude


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.



"Life is 10% of What Happens to Me and 90% of How I React to It" — Charles R. Swindoll quotes (American Writer and Clergyman, b.1934)


We are often not in control of the issues we face at work or home. Problems just present themselves. And chances are the issues you're facing aren't so cut and dry. The solution to the problem might just be your attitude.

That's what pastor and educator Charles R. Swindoll believes:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

In determining how we face our challenges it is our attitude that is the key. You are not responsible for everything that happens to you, but you are responsible for how you react to what does happen to you. You have a choice as to what your attitude will be.

Use these four steps to have a super attitude:
Focus On The Future
Focus On The Solution
Look For The Good
Look For The Valuable Lesson

Having the right attitude can make the difference between success and failure. A positive attitude can motivate other people to change their negative thinking and come over to your side. Everything is possible with right attitude behind you to push you forward. And since you do have a choice, most of the time you'll be better off if you choose to react in a positive rather than a negative way.



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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

10 Characteristics of a Good Measure and 7 Pitfalls to Avoid


It is not enough to simply create a numeric measure. The measure should accurately reflect the process. We use metrics to base decisions on and to focus our actions. It is not only important to measure the right indicators, it is important to measure them well.

To be effective and reliable, the metrics we choose to use need to have ten key characteristics. The following table was adapted from Keebler (1999) which suggest the qualitites to look for in indicators


A good measure:
Description:
Is quantitative
The measure can be expressed as an objective value
Is easy to understand
The measure conveys at a glance what it is measuring, and how it is derived
Encourages appropriate behavior
The measure is balanced to reward productive behavior and discourage “game playing”
Is visible
The effects of the measure are readily apparent to all involved in the process being measured
Is defined and mutually understood
The measure has been defined by and/or agreed to by all key process participants (internally and externally)
Encompasses both outputs and inputs
The measure integrates factors from all aspects of the process measured
Measures only what is important
The measure focuses on a key performance indicator that is of real value to managing the process
Is multidimensional
The measure is properly balanced between utilization, productivity, and performance, and shows the trade-offs
Uses economies of effort
The benefits of the measure outweigh the costs of collection and analysis
Facilitates trust
The measure validates the participation among the various parties

Choosing the right metrics is critical to success, but the road to good metrics is fraught with pitfalls. As your endeavors to become more metrics-driven, beware of errors in the design and use of metrics.

Common mistakes include:

  • Metrics for the sake of metrics (not aligned)
  • Too many metrics (no action)
  • Metrics not driving the intended action
  • Lack of follow up
  • No record of methodology
  • No benchmark
  • Underestimation of the data extraction
Although there may never be a single perfect measure, it is certainly possible to create a measure or even multiple measures which reflect the performance of your system. If the metrics are chosen carefully, then, in the process of achieving their metrics, managers and employees will make the right decisions and take the right actions that enable the organization to maximize its performance. These guidelines will make sure you pick the right indicators and measure them well.



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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Need for STEM in Quality and Business


A couple weeks ago I mentioned a new series that will focus on spreading the word of quality.  Today's post is the first in this series. In Paul Borawski’s post this month on ASQ's blog he advocates the need for STEM careers in business. STEM represents the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education encourages a curriculum that is driven by problem solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and student-centered development of ideas and solutions. The saturation of technology in most fields means that all students – not just those who plan to pursue a STEM profession – will require a solid foundation in STEM to be productive members of the workforce.

I couldn't agree with Paul more myself. I am an engineer (chemical) by formal education so this hits home for me. STEM fields have become increasingly central to U.S. economic competitiveness and growth. Education in math and science is critical to our nation’s future success. Our nation needs to increase the supply and quality of “knowledge workers” whose specialized skills enable them to work productively within the STEM industries and occupations.

There is broad consensus that the long-term key to continued U.S. competitiveness in an increasingly global economic environment is the adequacy of supply and the quality of the workforce in the STEM fields. Scientific innovation has produced roughly half of all U.S. economic growth in the last 50 years (National Science Foundation 2004). The STEM fields and those who work in them are critical engines of innovation and growth: according to one recent estimate, while only about five percent of the U.S. workforce is employed in STEM fields, the STEM workforce accounts for more than fifty percent of the nation’s sustained economic growth (Babco 2004).

Everyone needs a strong foundation in science and mathematics accompanied by familiarity with their applications to engineering and technology to be productive contributors in business and society. Since the 1960s, the demand for skills has changed significantly – the demand for routine manual task skills have decreased, while the demand for non-routine interactive task skills have increased significantly. However, as jobs requiring a solid background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are growing – more students are choosing not to major in these areas. If students continue to pursue degrees and careers in fields other than STEM related areas, the U.S. will find it difficult to compete in the global economy.

Here in the U.S. we are observing National Engineers Week this week, February 19-25. This gives us a unique opportunity to recognize the achievements of those in STEM fields and raise awareness for the continual need for these individuals in the future. There is probably no greater gift you can give someone than the ability to solve problems based on a foundation of math, science, and technology. 
As leaders in business we have a responsibility to develop our people.  As good stewards in our community we need to foster this belief in our youth.

I encourage you to take some time to think about how you encourage the need for STEM related fields.  Is there more we can do?  


I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.



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