Endless hours of training go by every week on track fields around the world. The teammates are focused on only one thing getting better for competition; Call it passion, maybe desire or even just the want to claim a gold medal most athletes understand that with every event they must continuously improve to become better.
The definition of Continuous Improvement has been translated many different ways but in general it can be summed up by saying " It is the act of making incremental, consistent improvements or advancements/upgrades to a product or service." Although Continuous Improvement is almost always in one way or another associated with Lean some of the earliest relations of a CI strategy deal directly with Total Quality Management. Total Quality Management is a Strategic approach that focuses on the satisfaction of the "customer" (internal/external). TQM does this by harnessing the support of an organization and relentlessly working to improve; processes, goods, services and even organizational culture.
When we look at the photo of a high jumper shown above we may think; "wow she is jumping quite high!" She is, but as the story becomes revealed we realize that she did not always jump that high, rather the consistent inch by inch improvements are what eventually trained her body to consistently "make the mark."
As with our dedicated high jumper our organizations do the same; it's the relentless pursuit of perfection that we are trying to achieve. Some of the purposes of Continuous Improvement are;
1. To define clear objectives along with metrics to show organizational improvements.
2. To continuously improve processes, services, quality and the culture of organizations
3. To not just "audit" processes but identify the bottlenecks and constraints there in and take action to correct and eliminate those elements of waste.
4. To improve worker satisfaction through the elimination of Muda, Muri and Mura.
5. To empower the organization by empowering the people who work there through involvement and consensus.
In a more general parable, our high jumpers purpose is to jump higher then she did before in an attempt to win a medal. In order to do this she must first look at her overall training and previous competitions to determine where she may have the opportunity to evolve. This is the analysis stage. She may discover that leading up to the jump she simply does not have enough energy to explode and that is affecting her ability to accomplish her objective of jumping higher than before.
After our athlete has analyzed opportunities for the improvement of her objective she will most likely want to attach some key performance indicators to the opportunities she has. These key performance indicators will assist her in measuring how she is performing and plan out the most effective route to "jumping higher." At this stage she is assessing the opportunities at hand. This is a perfect time to do some benchmarking and gather the best possible metrics to shoot for. In the case of our high jumper she may wish to use the previous gold medalist in her class or just the best jumper in general as her benchmarks.
Now that there is a clear view of what we are shooting for and benchmarks to make the objective and metrics tangible we need to plan out how we are going to achieve the objective. We now must plan out who does what, how many resources we need and what our budget for implementation is set at. It is helpful whether it is an organization or a high jumper, to set specific points in your planning to review at. This way you can ensure that you are always moving towards the goal or correct anything that may have pushed you off path.
Last but not least implementation. This for our high jumper is the actual Implementation of the plan. She will always need to be aware and structure some methods of change management. For example with the newly set key performance indicators it is a given that for some time she may be sore from the intense training, well that means her husband should be ready to rub her feet or the team should increase her protein amounts. In an organization this transformation and change management ensures that everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are and enables them to fulfill them.
In looking at our high jumper we can realize that Continuous Improvement is as simple as learning to jump higher. Through analyzing, assessing, planning and Implementation you can pinpoint where improvement is needed and create executable plans for implementation. Remember though Continuous Improvement is no different than our high jumper, Small, incremental and consistent repetition can leave you looking back on huge results.
"Through Small and Simple things, Great things come to Pass."
Houses are built most often on a Solid Foundation. Houses that are not built on Solid foundations or the dirt has not been prepared over time, stress or resistance begin to tear, split, cave and eventually the house it supports will crumble and fall. So how do we ensure that a solid foundation for Lean is in place and ready to support the resistance it will face time and time again?
Lean for the most part is a people centric strategy that is largely dependant on the development and willingness to support a Lean culture of the people who work in an Organization. That's right much of a Company's Lean Strategy, start-up and initiative will require your most important resources buy in and Support, but there are other elements of a Lean initiative that will help build a foundation for Lean in your Organization.
Buy In From The Top
Whether it's Executive support or the owner who "swears" to understand, provide and assist in driving Lean, Gaining support from the top will be a valuable asset to have. One reason is that a Lean initiative requires many elements of a company; everyone from Supply Chain, to Production even the Administrative and Sales staff that operate primarily out of an office need to understand that at some point or another they will be part of the journey of Lean, when the Executive and Ownership have a deep conviction of the strategy it sets the tone for the rest of the Organization's success and Support.
Communicate your Commitment
Now that you have received Buy in from the top, it's time to align the Organization with your new Strategy. One of the key ways of creating alignment in an Organization is opening up the lines of Communication. Communication show not only the importance to the Strategy but that the Company is behind the Lean initiatives. Top Management and Executives should in some way explain to the organization what Lean focuses on and why the Organization chose to deploy the strategy. You can do this via; Townhalls, Celebrations, Email, newsletters, video messages just make sure that whatever line of communication you open up it shows those receiving it how supportive you are of Lean.
Find Your Champions and Leaders
If you haven't seen Derek Sivers Ted talk on Leadership Lessons it is certainly worth watching. Although it is not often easy to make the decision who champions and future leaders will be if the first few steps are performed correctly you may find that people will scout you out. That is what you want, not necessarily the Master's degree or the 20 year veteran although it may be them. You will want excited, passionate and ready to develop leaders to become your future leaders, in short it's the leaders who want to develop other leaders that may become your leaders and champions.
Develop and Reward the team
Now that the foundation has been leveled and the concrete poured, it's time to let the material cure and become solid. A key portion to this stage is the time, however Tactics like "Train the Trainer" courses and the necessary authority to support your new strategy will speak value to the new team. One last important thing that may help to keep energy in the newly forming "Core Team" is to put in place a reward and recognition program. A few positive things will develop from this; It will show appreciation, It will give people an opportunity to recommend others for appreciation and finally a clear criteria regarding what constitutes "rewards and recognition" will help in driving proper behaviors that are in alignment with the overall Company Strategy.
Often times after building a house the Contractor must hire an "inspector" to verify and advise that what has been done meets both the Criteria set by the future homeowner and safety measures. These inspectors can be interpreted as your Change agents and or Consultants and are key to helping the house develop as time goes on. With these few Elements in place you will have laid a very solid foundation for your new and improved home to be built on.
The Seven deadly wastes come across our mind just about everyday. We can see Transportation on every street corner in Logistics, we witness waiting every time a community printer spits out 5 different pages and Defects in manufacturing become very obvious when the re-work has standard routings for repair operations, But how often do we stop and think about the Move, Wait or Queue of information flowing through your organization.
70% of all the waste found can typically be found in an office environment, but where do you look when you are discovering the office Waste? Well let's jump into this really quick with the hopes that today in your office you can discover new opportunities to move the bar up a little More.
First Let's start by clearly identifying the need to look with very narrow eyes when identifying Information waste. It is not uncommon for there to be no tangible evidence of the form of waste visible so that requires us to do some digging. Often times by going to the Gemba or following a Process from start to finish you can identify many points in the process where the Flow of Information Bottlenecks. Be aware to,that information waste does not always come from the Origin of Muda but often times will include the Origins of Mura and Muri; as with any other Gemba walk, be respectful and humble when walking informative process lines. So what do we want to look for?
Although we are looking for Information waste, the elements will be no different then Material waste. Information must be transported from one place to another and it is quite often placed in excessive inventory points like E-mails waiting to be read, notepads or excel sheets stashed on computers. Don't forget that any time information is transferred and the action can not be completed due to inaccurate information or information that was not be included it is very likely that you will see the wastes of Overprocessing and Defects following close behind.
Signs of Stress
Now let's admit, we don't always know how much everyone has on their plate or what they are dealing with on a daily basis, that doesn't mean you need to run out and become a therapist but if you find that someone is saying things like "I've got to run my email is full" or you see a worker plowing away through lunch and breaks there is a good possibility that they are both a hard worker and they are experiencing what we know as Overburden, It won't be long before the gas runs dry. This is a great opportunity to see just how much is being placed in other people's lap there may be opportunities for some load leveling or balancing of the line, nevertheless these always working always rushing moments are often a sign that some origin of waste is creeping behind the rushing actions.
How long does the Value-added activity take?
Value added activities are the element of Work that we do that Transforms the activity being completed. This applies to Information flow too. if you look deep enough you will come to understand that there are some information; may be services that a customer is willing to pay for. You will also see that Information can be Transformed too. One example would be looking at the Inputs of a process and asking "Is the Information that's going in Transforming this point of the Value stream?" When we actually see that often times cutting the PO, sending the email, or having a conversation doesn't take that long we discover that the added time usually lurks in the realm of Non-Value. This is a good opportunity to take a look at the Information going in to the value added activity and what it is producing or the Output.
These are only a few key elements to finding and discovering opportunities to Transform processes by attacking information; Some other ways may require analyzation of ERP/MRP systems, evaluating what metrics are driving and searching through word documents, excel sheets and powerpoint presentations and every other network drive or connection you can imagine, the point is attacking Information flow will yield hidden gold and provide many opportunities for Kaizen.
Try and push a chain from one side of the room to the other, What happens? Now take that same chain and pull it from one side of the room to the other, Now what happens? You might have experienced what is shown in the picture above. When we try to push the chain it tangles, coils and eventually bunches up to where the links move rather inefficiently. But if we pull the chain from one side to the other, the links become tight and move at the pull of the chain. This analogy is very much the same as a work environment. Let's take a deeper look at each one of these systems and Find out exactly what is so great about the Pulling Concept.
The push system has been used for years in traditional manufacturing and forecasting environments, we see it fairly frequently in Make to Stock environments, although not 100% make to stock businesses are Push Systems only. The easiest way to understand what a Push system actually is, is to think of it this way.... In a push system there is no Order attached to the Product, that means that we make the product prior to any demand being created. As you may have guessed this requires very accurate forecasting techniques and often times can create a severe "bullwhip effect" as the forecasting travels up the supply chain. The other element as you can imagine that can distinguish a push system is the direction that Information flows through the Value Stream. In the Push environment information and product chases after the customer in hopes of attaching a sales order to the system in some way shape or form.
As you can probably imagine two of the most notable forms of waste associated with a push system are Overproduction and Excess Inventory although quite honestly any time product is produced before an order is maintained there is much more waste than that in the value stream. Often times in a true Push system there are absolutely no limits on the amount of Work In Progress which as you may have guessed creates a lot of unbalanced workload and unnecessary burdens on your team.
Even though the Push system tends to get a bad rap nowadays there are a few benefits to the Push system however the benefits really almost never outweigh the costs when you dig deep into it.
As you may have imagined in our Chain experiment there are many advantages to a Pull system or a "demand" driven Organization. The first that you may have been able to visualize dragging your chain around is that the chain tightens and the links stay in line, much like the chain when you pull the work down through the supply chain often times it is much easier to keep your "links" in line.
The pull system is only activated by a Customer order, which means that the large majority of WIP has an order attached to it in one way or another. One Example of a pull system might be in a Kanban system, when one bin is empty it triggers the production or replenishment of that item in "need". Essentially the Pull system is set up for items that in one way or another have a "Customer Order" attached to them. Keep in mind that although the Kanban system is an easy way to understand a pull system the goal is not Kanban the goal should always be true one piece flow.
True Pull set's limitations based on customer desires and the demand being driven, if there is no limitations in place there is a good chance that you may be looking at a push system.
To Push or Pull? that is the question, Ideally we always want to create what the customer wants and has committed to, but often times it's not either or, it is when? You see most environments are at some point in the overall system push and then transition into pull. The point at which this happens is a strategic decision that an Organization must decide on. One Key element in deciding where the transition happens is in the visibility that other partners have, that one element can help the switch from push to pull much easier. Remember too, that in a push system you are paying all the time with no guarantee of repayment so if at all possible try to pull much more than you push.
Overall the widely accepted better practice certainly is a Pull system, So why is it that so many people still push in today's day and age? Well there are quite a few reasons why, next week we will talk about a few elements of Inventory control and why some companies still operate on somewhat of a "pushy" basis.