Friday, February 28, 2014

Lean Quote: Quality Controls Requires Effective Tools

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.

"Quality control is more than just a state of mind. It requires effective tools.— McCormack

Most organizations use quality tools for various purposes related to controlling and assuring quality. Although there are a good number of quality tools specific to certain domains, fields, and practices, some of the quality tools can be used across such domains. These quality tools are quite generic and can be applied to any condition.

The Seven Basic Tools of Quality is a designation given to a fixed set of graphical techniques identified as being most helpful in troubleshooting issues related to quality. They are called basic because they are suitable for people with little formal training in statistics and because they can be used to solve the vast majority of quality-related issues.

The tools are:

  1. Check Sheets – A generic Tool which can be used for collection and analysis of data. A structured and prepared form that can be adapted for wide variety of issues
  2. Control Charts – This is a graphical technique,which can be used to study the changes to a process over time
  3. Pareto Chart – This is another graphical technique, which can be used to identify the significance of individual factors
  4. Scatter Chart – This is used to identify the relation between variables, by plotting pairs of numerical data, with one variable on each axis. The points will be falling on a line or a curve, if the variables are related.
  5. Cause and Effect Diagram (Also called as Ishikawa Diagram or Fishbone Diagram) – This can be used to structure the brain Storming Sessions. It is used to sort ideas into useful categories. Many Possible Causes are identified for a stated problem and the effect on the problem are identified
  6. Flow Chart (Stratification Charts) - This tool is used to identify the patterns within the data collected from multiple sources and clubbed together. It is used to identify the meaning of the vast data by identifying patterns.
  7. Histogram – It looks very much like a bar chart. it is used to identify the frequency of occurrence of a variable in a set of data.


The seven basic tools of quality can be used singularly or in tandem to investigate a process and identify areas for improvement, although they do not all necessarily need to be used. If a process is simple enough – or the solution obvious enough – any one may be all that is needed for improvement. They provide a means for doing so based on facts, not just personal knowledge, which of course can be tainted or inaccurate. Ishikawa advocated teaching these seven basic tools to every member of a company as a means to making quality endemic throughout the organization.


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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lean Survey: Adding Value to the Lean Blog Community


Recently, I’ve gotten involved in a series of conversations with a small group of those individuals. One of the topics we’ve been discussing is what was missing from the Lean community, and what we could do about it. Being a group that practices what we preach, we decided to avoid sitting around talking about something that could be measured.

So, we put together a brief survey about what you think would make the Lean community more valuable. And since we know your time is limited, we thought it might be a good idea to bribe you with a freebie to say thanks for investing a few minutes to help us out. We'll give you a free gift for your time -- find articles in zip files from Jeff Hajek, Chad Walters and Matt Wrye as a thank you for taking our survey.The URL for the free content is at the top of the survey.

Thanks in advance for letting us know what you think!


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lean Roundup Edition #57 - February, 2014



A selection of highlighted blog posts from Lean bloggers from the month of February, 2014.  You can also view the previous monthly Lean Roundups here.

Supplier Collaboration – John Szoke explains the importance of supplier collaboration and how to go about doing it.

What's the Problem? – Bill Waddell says the way managers define problems are an indication how they will support Lean thinking/improvement.

How Peyton Manning Demonstrates PDSA – Chad Walter explains the concept of PDSA with a sport example of a quarter back in football.

Toyota Kata “A3 Problem Solving” – Mark Rosenthal discusses A3 and the improvement kata with Mike Rother, Jeffery Liker, and Jenny Snow-Boscolo.

6-Sigma - A Common Cause of Failure – Gregg Stocker shares signs that a lean deployment is being driven by a 6-sigma focus instead of Lean.

Jumping to Improvement – Matt Wrye talks about using direct observations to gain improvement.

Better Than Best Practice – Tom Stoffel says the true “best practice” to implement is to create an environment where teams quickly analyze a problem when it occurs; this means digging in and learning from how things happen when they do not go as ideally planned.

Lean Accounting – Just another vehicle for managing by the numbers? – Bill Waddell shares his thoughts on the dangers of management by numbers.

Visual Management and “Go See” Leadership – Leancor provides four tips for effective visual management in warehousing and distribution.

Reader Question: Pros & Cons of Observing in the Workplace -  Mark Graban explains the importance of having coworkers observing not just managers or consultants.

One of the first aims should be to develop people to use a systematic process for improvement – Jeffery Liker explains how to start Lean by sharing types of Lean deployments and says learning is the only way.

Start with a ‘model line’ so that leadership can learn to see and solve problems – Steven Spear says exceptional performance depends on exceptional learning dynamics.

What Makes Great Coach? – Al Norval describes the PDCA cycle that makes good a coach in the context of an example with a golf coach.

The Missing Link - Dwayne Keller says the most overlooked part of Lean is the management system required.

What is a Kata? – Hakan Forss explains the Lean term Kata and how you learn a new habit.

The Thinking Behind Toyota's Hiring Process - Tracey Richardson shares competencies that Toyota looks for when hiring and explains why you should too.

Managing By Not Wandering Around – Chet Marchwinski says there is more to management than walking around, you must have a purpose.

My Top 10 Lessons Learned from Practicing the Toyota Kata Approach – Michael Lombard after about six months of real-world application including several hundred coaching cycles has some lessons learned that he'd like to share.

Lead Lean by Being Lean – Jim Luckman says leaders must lead transformation my example and shares some ways to be inspirational.

Starting The Leadership Journey – Dan Jones explains from experience his approach to starting Lean by developing problem solving capabilities.


Effective Leaders Tackle Challenges Systematically – Dario Spinola explains the scientific, systematic approach to improvement that is Kata.


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Monday, February 24, 2014

Daily Lean Tips Edition #60 (886-900)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call 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.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.


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

Lean Tip #886 – Doing It Right Costs A Lot Less Than Doing It Over
Why does it seem that there is never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do something over?  If you want to be a proactive organization it will pay huge dividends if everyone concentrates on doing their job right the first time - even if it takes a little longer to make sure it is right.  And by doing it right the first time, you not only increase your company's efficiencies, but you can also have an immediate impact on customer loyalty, retention and overall profits.

Lean Tip #887 - Break The Daily Grind
Most every employee is assigned a task according to his/her skill set; however, it is important to consider rotating people throughout an organization.  This will give them two things: One, a better appreciation of what others do and two, it will help break the daily complacency, monotony and boredom of a job.  You can do this by and giving people new tasks/job functions within the company or other divisions -- which adds to their skill set and a better overall view of the organization.

Lean Tip #888 - Make it Easier to Get Things Done
After removing distractions, you want to make working as easy as possible. In general, make sure that tools for completing jobs are nearby the workers. Fewer distractions will increase productivity.

Lean Tip #889 – Don’t Work Hard, Work Smart
This is somewhat of a cliché, but it has to be mentioned. We aspire to instill this in all employees. On the long run this can make all the difference. Think about this scenario, would you rather spend thirty minutes everyday on a specific task, or implement a system that will require you to invest 2 hours for one day then a couple of minutes every day instead of the thirty? I think the choice is simple and this is an example of working smart.

Lean Tip #890 - Offer Training to Build Employees Skills and Engage Them.
No one wants to get stuck doing the same thing every day for the rest of their lives. Encourage employees to take courses that expand their skill sets. Imagine how much more productive your business will be when employees have enhanced their ability to better communicate, solve problems, and find improvements. Engaged employees are enthusiastic about their jobs, confident in their ability to achieve excellence and motivated to have a greater impact on the success of the business.

Lean Tip #891 - Don’t Talk About It, Just Do It.
Lean requires a bias for action. Just like the Nike tagline, you should go ahead and just do it. Deploying Lean means you're following a PDCA (plan-do-check-act) cycle and that it's okay to fail. Whether you succeed or fail, you're following through on Lean.

Lean Tip #892 - Discard Conventional Fixed Ideas.
Part of problem solving is thinking outside of the box. Encourage people to think this way and not in the same old way that got them into the problem to begin with!

Lean Tip #893 - We Don't Have Bad People, Just Bad Processes.
For the most part, this is true. By concentrating on the process and building continuous improvement there, you will have the culture change that you're looking for.

Lean Tip #894 - Do Not Seek Perfection. Do It Right Away.
Taiichi Ohno used to regularly nag at people not to let a quality problem "escape" to the next customer. You've got to stop what you're doing, put a countermeasure on it and do it right away.

Lean Tip #895 - Correct Mistakes Immediately.
You've got to fix mistakes immediately. Don't wait for the next shift to do it. Don't wait for the weekend to do it. Don't wait for maintenance to do it. Quality depends on immediate action to correct mistakes.

Lean Tip #896 - Do Not Spend Money For Kaizen.
It is not necessary to spend money to fix every problem. All that proves is that you have a lot of money. I don't care whether you're in manufacturing or health care, you don't have "extra" money. Toyota says that they use their wits, not their wallets, for continuous improvement.

Lean Tip #897 - Question Everything. Ask "Why" Five Times.
A brilliantly simple root cause problem-solving tool, asking why five times becomes easier the more you do it. Adopting this as a default way of looking at things will aid, not only your problem solving, but other areas, too.

Lean Tip #898 - Ideas are Infinite. Execution is the Key.
This simple maxim is often overlooked as people get caught up in meetings and so on. You've got to be the change you want to see, not the change you'd like to see. It's the same as not confusing better with best. You want to move to better right away, not take forever working out what "best" looks like.
Lean Tip #899 - Take No Action and Nothing Will Happen.
If you do nothing, nothing changes. Be aware of items that stall your action. It's better to have a 50-percent reduction in waste right away than it is to take no action and hope for a 100-percent reduction in waste sometime in the future.

Lean Tip #900 - Kaizen Starts With Taking a Look at the Actual Place of Work. Continuous improvement efforts must start with a trip to the Gemba. The Gemba might often be the factory floor, but people forget about Lean in the office, where half of the work starts out being late! It's easy to see waste on the floor, but it's harder (at first) to see waste in the office or other value streams. Going to the Gemba will make it easier.


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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lean Leadership Lessons From The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics


Like millions of others from around the globe I have been glued to the TV watching the winter Olympics from Sochi. Once again the eyes of the world are on its best and brightest athletes as they attempt to push the human body to new limits, and remind us that our best human qualities — determination, perseverance, innovation, sacrifice, and camaraderie – know no bounds.

As much as the Olympics represent the pinnacle of the sporting world, they are also the source of a number of inspiring stories that showcase both the human spirit and what we can accomplish when we strive to be our best.

To that end, I’d like to share some important lessons for leaders on how to guide their organization to succeed and thrive, regardless of the challenges that stand before them.

Lesson 1: Olympians know no goal is impossible with the right mindset. If you want to succeed, don’t lose sight of your goals. Stay unwaveringly motivated. Your focus determines your results. Focus on the right things.

Lesson 2: When Olympians suffer an inevitable setback, they don’t let themselves succumb to doubts. You can’t compete at the highest levels without inner-confidence. And when you do get a taste of success, don’t rest on your laurels. You have to pivot, hone in on the strengths that have carried you so far, and overcome adversity with perseverance.

Lesson 3: There’s no substitute for surrounding yourself with the best possible team. With the right players, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish. Don’t compromise on talent, and hold yourself to the lofty expectations people will place on you.

Lesson 4: Olympians break through excuses. Many businesses will face immense challenges on the road to success. They will also be presented with opportunities to overcome these challenges. Don’t squander your potential with self-imposed limitations. Don’t make excuses for why you cannot engage more fully. Capitalizing on your chances is a matter of being dedicated and sacrificing for the greater good of the business.

Lesson 5: Olympians never stop learning from mistakes. In business you need to measure everything so you can analyze how to be more effective, more productive, and more profitable in the future. What gets measured gets improved. You never settle for good. You always strive to be great. It’s an attitude of constant improvement.

Lesson 6: Olympians give 100% commitment to their goals. You have to give 100% commitment to what it is you want to achieve. Without a doubt those that are competing have committed themselves 100%. They don’t expect it to be easy and are ready and willing to do what it takes.


To achieve success businesses and leaders within them need to take a long term view. The reality is there is no shortcut to success. These lessons above show how we should approach our leadership and guiding the people we lead towards achieving our shared goals.


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Monday, February 17, 2014

Leadership Lessons From Abraham Lincoln


Today is President's Day in the US. A federal holiday originally to recognize George Washington, our first President, is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present. In honor of this I want to share some leadership lessons from one of these great leaders.  

President Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be a noble and great leader who shaped American history. However, he is not often looked to as an example of how to be an effective leader and business role model. But, there is actually a lot we can learn from one of our most well-known leaders.

Here are 10 leadership principles starting with P that Abe Lincoln exhibited that set an example for the type of leader that managers and executives should exemplify: 

1. Purpose – Answer the question “Why I am doing this?” Without purpose there is not direction. 
2. Probity – Demonstrate complete honesty if you want integrity. This is how leaders get people to follow them. 
3. People – This is the “Respect for People” element. Listen and show we care. The say Lincoln would go beyond just hearing your pain and actually absorb your pain for you. 
4. Preparation – Proper planning saves time. Never stop learning and improving. 
5. Persuasion – Show them how through doing. The use of stories to illustrate your point makes it more personal and memorable. 
6. Persistence – Never give up; keep going, especially when the road is not so clear. 
7. Process Thinking – Put a process in place. It is through this we can improve our current state. 
8. Problem Solving – PDCA, objectively study, build strong problem solving skills, and engage everyone everyday in the process.
9. Performance – Don’t focus on the results, focus on the process and the results will come. 
10. Possibilities – Take the impossible and make it possible. There is no limit to the possibilities if we open our mind.  

In my experience people don’t like to be told what to do. Lead them by asking the right questions. Challenge their thinking and develop them to constantly improve. Lean is a powerful way of thinking. I believe it is this thinking that can truly change the world. Lincoln was able to learn and grow amid great calamity. His story, like no other, demonstrates that leaders do not just make the moment; they meet it and, in the process, are changed by it. Like Abraham Lincoln be the role model for leadership in your organization by practicing these qualities.

Note: The source of the 10 leadership principles from Abe Lincoln comes from Jerry Bussell's book Anatomy of a Lean Leader

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Lean Quote: Successful Leaders Lead With the Heart, Not Just the Head.

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.

"Successful leaders lead with the heart, not just the head. They possess qualities like empathy, compassion and courage. They also have the ability to establish deep, long-term and genuine relationships where others trust them..— BIll George

It has been said, “You can’t truly love another before you learn to love yourself.” Organizations are no different. If we don’t love and respect and admire the people we work with every day, we can’t collectively give our customers the love they deserve. Empathy is an inside-out job.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes and walk a mile.  It’s the ability to imagine what it might be like to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, and experience of the other person. Empathy is more than simple sympathy, which is being able to understand and support others with compassion or sensitivity.

Some people naturally exude empathy and have an advantage over their peers who have difficulty expressing empathy. Most leaders fall in the middle and are sometimes or somewhat empathetic. Fortunately, empathy is not a fixed trait. It can be learned. If given enough time and support, leaders can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching, training, or developmental opportunities and initiatives.


Build a culture of empathy. Empathy is an essential component of caring about your customers, your employees, and your company, and its absence signals larger problems in organizational culture. Empathy can’t be plastered on like a fake smile, but it can be cultivated from within.


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