Friday, May 31, 2013

Lean Quote: Use PDCA to Develop People

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.

"For Toyota, PDCA is more than a way to get results from process improvement. It is a way of developing people." — Liker and Franz, The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership


Developing people means challenging people. But just issuing challenges isn’t enough. You must also teach a systematic, common means of creating solutions and meeting those challenges.

To get people across an organization to systematically work on improvement every day requires teaching the skills behind the solution. And for that to happen, their leaders and mangers also need to practice and learn those skills.

A simple, pragmatic problem solving methodology is the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) approach. It begins with a Planning phase in which the problem is clearly identified and understood. Potential solutions are then generated and tested on a small scale in the "Do" phase, and the outcome of this testing is evaluated during the Check phase. "Do" and "Check" phases can be iterated as many times as is necessary before the full, polished solution is implemented in the "Act" phase.

One of the advantages of developing and following a proper PDCA cycle is the ability to learn and acquire wisdom.  Wisdom requires that we arrange what we observe and know, and create meaning from it; it also requires that we consider what we need to unlearn as well. 

The purpose of PDCA is to generate surprises and thus opportunities for learning & progress toward the target condition. Unexpected results (surprises) lead to valuable learning experiences. When a hypothesis is refuted this is in particular when you can gain new insight that helps you learn, improve, adapt and innovate. When a result is as-predicted it confirms something you already thought.

The PDCA procedure is specified, but the path is not. Things will occur along the way that shift your thinking and cause you to revise your ideas. That’s normal. The target condition remains the same, but the path shifts as you learn.

The steps of PDCA constitute a scientific process of acquiring knowledge. The PDCA cycle model is built as a continuous loop and this loop ensures frequent iteration. This is very beneficial because this is the learning cycle that is necessary in solving problems as well as developing problem solvers and leaders alike.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lean Roundup #48 - May, 2013







A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of May, 2013.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

The Role of The Sensei in Learning – Gregg Stocker explains why the role of a specialist, or sensei, is to guide people in the new way of thinking not to do things.

Hoshin Kanri is Direction Management – David Meier says that while Lean is not a pre-requisite PDCA and leaders that can set effective targets are.

A Practical Approach for Attaining Strategic Objectives – Mike Rother shares a practical approach to hoshin Kanri based on future state mapping.

Where to Start with Hoshin Kanri – Tracey Richardson says you don’t have to be a totally Lean company to benefit or start thinking Lean by focusing on strategy deployment as an example.

Lovejoy, Airlines, and Big Data – Evan Durant explains how the Lovejoy triangle of inventory, information, and capacity applies to service not just manufacturing.

6 Actions to Help Mid Level Managers Transition Into Lean Leaders – Jim Vatalaro shares advice/support/tips that you can provide your middle managers to make them successful in a Lean transition.

PDSA Over PDCA – Michael Lombard makes his case why PDCA should be PDSA where Study and Act are integral to the methodology.

An Overly Simplistic View of PI – Glenn Whitfield says that the Lean Journey must start with process identification (current state) which leads to process improvement (future state) where as too many jump to the latter without understanding the first.

5 Ways to Support Work Force Science to Engage and Change Behavior – Liz Guthridge shares 5 ways to be an activist in your organization that we can all do.

Does Standard Work Destroy Creativity? – Janet Dozier explains what standard work means and how is perpetuates creativity.

Rapid PDCA – Mark Rosenthal shares the story (with photos) of an actual kaizen that demonstrates the PDCA cycle.

Learning Comes First – Matthew E. May explain the difference between learning and training and why learning and innovation go hand in hand, but learning comes first.

Going to the Gemba vs Statistical Analysis – Ron Pereira says an either or attitude on Lean and Six Sigma is not necessary we can learn everything about making things better.

Kaizen At All Levels – Gregg Stocker explains that kaizen is not just for the factory floor it must be done at all levels to be successful.

What is Culture and Why is it so Hard? – Karen Wilhelm looks at what defines culture and what lessons we can learn from this definition.

Hoshin and Purpose – Dan Jones shares three sets of questions that shed light on your business problems as a starting place for Hoshin planning.

Executive Leadership – John Hunter explains the importance of getting the c-level to understand their role in improving the management system.

Avoid Undersharing at Work – Liz Guthridge shares the dangers of undersharing information at work and what you can do to combat this.

Which Came First - The System or the Tools? Building a Lean Management System – Dave Krebs provides specific strategies to help leadership transform a management system to a lean management system.

Use the Right Visual – Matt Wyre uses a real example to illustrate why visual need to be designed to your need and that not all visuals are standard.

Shifting The Learning Zone – Mark Rosenthal shares a cool extension of the Toyota Kata model for establishing target conditions.

Why Do Companies Think They Are Lean When in Fact They Are Not? – Dragan Bosnjak explains that implementing some tools does not make you Lean.

Absence of "Value Added" In The TPS Literature – Michel Baudin analyzes the idea of value added in TPS and America Lean literature.

Is Inventory A Waste Or Cover Up Of Deeper Waste? – Al Norval shares his thoughts on the waste of excess inventory and why it hides other problems.

Live By The Forecast Die By The Forecast – Bill Waddell explains the dangers of managing your supply chain by a forecast with Walmart as a the case study.




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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Learn Any New Skill in 20 Hours With 4 Simple Steps

With just 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice, you can go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well. Josh Kaufman offers a systematic approach for acquiring new skills quickly with a small amount of practice each day. He shows how to deconstruct complex skills, maximize productive practice, and remove common learning barriers, creating a realistic framework for drastically cutting the time it takes to acquire any skill.


In the video above, he reveals the four steps to learning any new skill, fast.

The four steps in Kaufman's method are:

  1. Deconstruct the skill: Break down the parts and find the most important things to practice first. If you were learning to play a musical instrument, for example, knowing just a few chords gives you access to tons of songs. If you want to learn a new language, learn the most common 2,000 words and you'll have 80% text coverage.
  2. Self-correct: Use reference materials to learn enough that you know when you make a mistake so you can correct yourself.
  3. Remove barriers to learning: Identify and remove anything that distracts you from focusing on the skill you want to learn.
  4. Practice at least 20 hours.

If you are interested in learning more you can read Kaufman’s practitioner's guide to rapid skill acquisition, “The First 20 Hours, How to Learn Anything…Fast!”





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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reader Question: Management Involvement In Lean


A long time reader, Dave, recently asked me for advice on leadership commitment for Lean implementation:
Can Lean be successful if you don’t have top down commitment? I currently work for a midsize manufacturer that only like to say they are Lean, when in reality they only have one division attempting. Any advice?
In my experience I have learned that the single most important element for success in Lean is the human element.   First and foremost Lean managers have the critical role of motivating and engaging all people to work together toward a common goal. Management must define and explain what that goal is, share a path to achieve it, motivate people to take the journey with them, and assist them by removing obstacles.

Lean requires top-to-bottom leadership of a special kind. Lean leaders are firm and inspiring, relentless and resilient, demanding and forgiving, focused and flexible. Above all, they have to be smart and highly respected in the organization. Every successful company has at least one of these leaders. These people must be a passionate part of the Lean leadership team.

All managers are teachers, and their actions determine company capability. Whether consciously or not, with their everyday words and actions all managers are teaching their people a mindset and approach.

The level of involvement in Lean by the management team often shapes the Lean implementation and those who may lead it. In my experience the less knowledgeable the management about REAL Lean (Bob Emiliani’s term) the more they think of it as a set of tools the more they want you to just do it. These are the managers that are usually hands-off with Lean and want to see the short term gains to demonstrate they are improving the process. They are focused on the results and outcomes and not the means by which we achieve them. This task oriented approach to management unfortunately is only sustainable while the doer is doing.

Most management teams don’t understand Lean. When we don’t understand something it is next to impossible to support it. This lack of understanding of Lean by management allows even the most subtle of things to derail Lean efforts.

However those managers who truly know Lean understand the benefit comes from developing people to think and improve their own process the more they define the role as influencing or coaching. As Mike Rother said in Toyota Kata management must focus on how solutions are developed. Develop, via practice with coaching, the capability in people to develop new solutions. In this view the Lean leader can have the biggest impact coaching or influencing the process of improvement to capture the ingenuity of those in the organization.

Commitment from management is a “MUST”. In fact, it is the driving force. Procedures, tools, and database are all useless if the management does not want to see an improvement culture in the organization. The employees of the organization will not care, if the management themselves do not show the attitude to follow the right path.

The truth is demonstrating commitment is hard work. Wavering commitment is usually seen as no commitment at all. The only way to achieve a reputation for commitment is through determination and persistence. Genuine commitment stands the test of time.

Ways you can develop a successful Lean culture and demonstrate your commitment as a leader include:

  • Allocating time, money, and resources to continuous improvement
  • Eliminating road blocks that prevent progress
  • Providing effective training and knowledge in problem solving methodology and countermeasure tools
  • Encouraging and empowering opportunities for improvement
  • Valuing employees ideas and contributions
  • Involving employees in decisions
  • Frequent open and honest 2-way communication
  • Set standards and create systems of work
  • Go to the Gemba where the action is
Commitment is demonstrated by a combination of two actions. The first action is called supporting. The second action underlying commitment is called improving. It is the combination of both supporting and improving behaviors that makes up the practice of commitment. Company leaders demonstrate their commitment to change and improvement by making these behaviors visible to everyone. Leading by example is the ultimate demonstration of your commitment.

Getting executives in your company to want to support and then adopt Lean Thinking may be difficult but not impossible. We would all like to work at a company where the top people in the organization don’t just do Lean but live Lean but many of us work at a place where they don’t even necessarily do Lean. Since every company culture is different the way to get executive buy-in will be different. Here is a list of ideas to help you convince your management to start thinking Lean:

• Bring Executives to customers who are implementing Lean to benchmark and understand how to better service these customer.
• Define core guiding principles from which common ground and a common vision set the basis for improvement.
• Understand what your leaders are supposed to do not what they are doing. The improvement you make must “replace” not be “additive”.
• How to get leaders “Doing” the right things – Focus on capabilities
       o Have them concentration on what they can do, not what
          they can’t do.
                 How is your process working?
                 Where is your process broken?
                 What doesn’t work well?
                 What can you do about it?
• Survey the workforce- solve their problems.
        o What do you like? (in Company, Department, Daily Job)
        o What do you wish you could change? (in Company,
           Department, Daily Job)
• All the manager should understand they are leaders.
        o Example of engineers not thinking they are leaders.
        o Need to lead up and down the organization.
• Understand where you are in the organization.
        o You can’t change it all by yourself- teamwork.
        o Everyone’s input is valuable – listen and let them be
           heard.
• Get quick, easy wins (Someone gave example of the companies first Kanban was in the break room for sugar).

If you want to learn more about educating Executives in Lean you should read Bob Emiliani’s book Moving Forward Faster.  I recommended this book in a review a few months ago if you want to understand what REAL Lean is and how to support it or lead it in your organization.
















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Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day is a Day of Reflection and Remembrance

Memorial Day has come to signify the start of summer for many Americans and is often celebrated with cookouts, family get-togethers, road races and concerts. But the real meaning of Memorial Day has, for too many Americans, gotten lost in holiday hoopla.

Memorial Day is a day of reflection and remembrance. It is a day to remember all of our Fallen Heroes from all of the wars. It is a day to think about the families that will forever grieve for their lost loved one. It is a day to be thankful to those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice. They fought and died to win the freedom and democracy that we Americans cherish so dearly. They also fought and died to bring that same freedom and democracy to the people of other countries as well.

The true meaning is to remember and honor veterans of all wars and peacetime service who paid the ultimate price to keep America free. They will long be remembered in our hearts

This Memorial Day, enjoy burgers and hot dogs with loved ones, but take a moment to remember those who can’t do the same. Remember those families who will have an empty seat at their table and the men and women who used to occupy it.

Take a moment this Memorial Day to remember all those men and women who have so bravely and honorably served this country. The courage and sacrifice of all who died in military service will not be forgotten.

We can't say enough for your kind deeds and dedication. God bless you and God bless America.



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Friday, May 24, 2013

Lean Quote: Stay Motivated, Celebrate Accomplishments Along the Journey

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.

"Accomplishments will prove to be a journey, not a destination." — Dwight D. Eisenhower


If you want to reach your goal it is important to look at your accomplishments along the way. Most goals have challenges that need to be overcome to be successful. Each hurdle that you overcome gets you one step closer to your goal. Ongoing data analysis and regular celebration of achievement are essential components of the continuous-improvement model. Recognition of successes and refocusing of goals lay the path for moving forward.

If big picture success seems too lofty of a goal, focus on what you can achieve each day. Take time to recall what you accomplished and contributed to the success of the goal. Keep focused on that ultimate goal and you will get there with help along the way.

Instead of waiting to celebrate the final achievement of your objectives, seek small ways to celebrate each little victory. Rewards remind you that you are coming along and achieving your goal. These small rewards will spur you on to more action that will ultimately lead you to the doorstep of the destiny you deserve. Overcoming the challenges in front of you will create a sense of pride and joy in your accomplishments.

Stay motivated and reach your goals by celebrating small achievements along the way and remember to enjoy the process along the journey!

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy 4th Blog Anniversary A Lean Journey

Today marks the 4th anniversary of A Lean Journey Blog and as tradition here each year I take the opportunity to reflect. The act of "self-reflection" is called Hansei is Japanese. It is the practice of continuous improvement that consists of looking back and thinking about how a process can be improved.

I’d like to think that I turned my naive endeavor to share learning along my own journey into a successful contribution in the Lean community. As I have said before this labor of love has been a tremendous learning process both from the great fans and other colleagues online that I exchange with and from the process of distilling my own learning with you.

Some may be asking how do you define success for a blog?  I think like most publications it is basically about audience.  Are you growing followers? Are people reading your posts? So like in previous years we can look at the number visitors, Facebook fan, tweeps on Twitter, and LinkedIn members as an indication of growth.

The number of returning visitors to the site shows some level of satisfaction with the content.


Year over year growth indicates a positive trend with readers.

This past year the number of Facebook fans increased 45% to 840 people. The number of Twitter followers increased about 30% to 1650 people. Our LinkedIn group saw growth of 50% to about 575 members. This past year exhibited a number of new sponsors like LeanKit Kanban, Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), Kogan Page Publishers, and Creative Safety Supply.

The “Top 3 Posts” of the past year were:

If I revisit last year’s goals they centered on bringing some new features (content) to the blog.  First, was a concept I called the “Meet-up” which introduced various Lean leaders to us practitioners, many of them friends and contributors to A Lean Journey.  I asked them 5 questions in order to get their perspective on Lean.  There were about 25 posts over the summer highlighting these authors.

Another, feature was to highlight previous posts and present a summary of these for easy review by readers. This series was called “A Year Ago”.  There were only 8 such posts this past year. This proved to be quite manual intensive so I decided to spend more energy on new content.

The last area of focus this past year was to increase guest blogger posts.  I feel it is important to provide an opportunity to new voices. We all can learn from others if we will just listen. Sharing others opinions, lessons, and thinking can teach us all something. This past year there were about 20 guest posts on the site.

As look into my 5th year of blogging I foresee a number of potential milestones.  As this post marks my 901 post my 1000th post is not far behind. Further, based on the number of visitors and projected growth there is a real possibly to reach 500,000 visitors to A Lean Journey. All these milestones are cause for refocus. As such I am going to reach out my audience to hear the voice of the customer.  It is important to understand after all this time what people like and dislike. This will allow me to provide the value readers are looking for. This may come in the form of a survey but I am always open to feedback because in the end your opinion has a great deal to do with content and the success of A Lean Journey Blog. Another activity I have in the works is an overhaul of the site. It has been some time since the design has been reviewed.  With the additions overtime it has become more evident a simpler cleaner layout will be more beneficial.

I would like to thank all the visitors and contributors to A Lean Journey Blog this past year.  It has been a successful Journey this past year. Please, share your feedback so that A Lean Journey can be even more successful next year.


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