Almost every project will include brainstorming of some kind at some point in the project lifecycle. Brainstorming sessions can be a powerful gateway to unlock solutions, make issues visible, prioritize actions and bring experienced minds together. When individuals come together as a team, innovative ideas can be born. One of the struggles of being a part of a powerful and productive brainstorming session is that they generate many great ideas and often reveal a large amount of issues. This can leave a group feeling overwhelmed. Often times, the wide array of ideas can be hard to organize, understand, validate and act on. Worse yet, many members of a team might leave feeling invalidated, unheard or completely shut down.
The first day on the job is always an exciting experience for any new employee. A new chance to show your skills, meet new people and grow in a new organization. Excited to learn something new in training you get thrown to the wolves and here the phrase "you will figure it out." That can be a bit scary to say the least. Surprisingly as you start figuring out everything has procedures connected to it. Three days later and you have mastered erp, assembly and every office function in the organization. A bit surprised by this you're off to a great start!
Have you ever gotten into a discussion of why? because. Why? because. Last weekend I had the great pleasure of this discussion for what seemed to be the first time. I never really put much thought into it but asking why never really was a difficulty for me.
Oftentimes when we want to use the 5 whys to drill from issue to root cause we end up in a pattern of why, because. Why, because. Or, we conduct a long analysis only to find out that none of our levels of causation matched at all. One of the best known examples of a 5 why analysis was performed by the master Taiichi Ohno. He used the example of a welding robot stopping in the middle of its operation. Like a sensei does he naturally went from initial issue to root cause with almost no difficulty at all. So, how do we begin developing this level of mastery with regards to root cause analysis? Here are a few important things to keep in mind when looking for the ROOT cause.
For years now teams have come together on baseball fields, football fields, soccer fields, race tracks, offices and homes in what has become known as the huddle. These quick and spirited standups often last no more than 5 minutes and help team members refocus their efforts while planning for things to come. Whether the purpose is to realign or align team members focus towards an objective, the daily 10 - 15 minute scrum, stand - up or huddle works.
Jesse Allred - email@example.com
Lean manufacturing offers a number of tools and strategies to complete projects, streamline processes, identify wastes, and improve efficiency. One tool that’s often overlooked is the project management concept known as the Obeya room.
Obeya, sometimes spelled Oobeya, is a Japanese term translating to the "big room." These physical rooms utilize visual management and collaboration to ensure projects are seen through completion and in a timely manner. Using posters, charts, and graphs allows everyone who enters the room to quickly understand thought processes, plans, and offers a space for people to review the relevant information easily. An Obeya room is a great area for managers, workers, and planners to get in the zone when working on projects. Obeya rooms foster an environment that will help keep the project on track.
Many years ago, newspapers lined the streets of almost every city in the world. People would gather at the "newspaper stands" and browse each page while sharing a story or two. Word of mouth and the rugged ink stained paper were the main drivers of news, suggestions and ideas.
Today we still have ideas and suggestions, but things aren't quite as simple as the good ole days. Today making a suggestion often involves filling out a tedious small slip with more information than you can even read, shoving it in a bin that nobody collects and then hoping it gets "approved." Here's the idea! Workers see it all, touch it all and often have the closest connection with a process. Why is this significant? That connection can act as the perfect vehicle when looking to identify issues, collect improvement suggestions and or come up with innovative new ideas. The best part is, you don't have to walk to a newspaper stand to do it.
The Kaizen template or improvement newspaper is a powerful tool that can be used with employees. They can suggest improvements, possible solutions and even create opportunities for improvements without necessarily having any idea of a solution. Sounds a bit crazy doesn't it? Well it is! We’ve all been there before, a problem you see all the time and no ideas on how to solve it. The Kaizen template enables employees to support improvements whether they have a fix or not. So how will this tool help employees? To start, the suggestion or person filling out the kaizen template will need to capture a few pieces of information and document the information on the kaizen sheet.
Here's the important thing to understand, no matter how much information you capture, it will do no good if it's shoved in a box waiting for review or hidden on a desktop only to become trapped in cyberspace.
Like any other lean tool, the kaizen template works best when it is made visible. Here are a few important things to keep in mind when using improvement newspapers for a suggestion system.
1. Make it Visible
Like we mentioned earlier improvement newspapers should not be contained within a network or hard drive, they need to be visible. Think for a second to a problem you’ve had before but couldn’t solve. Eventually you share with a friend and they share a possible solution. Immediately you think, “why didn’t I think of that?” When opportunities are visible everyone can see, understand and help each other. One advantage when using a computer to fill out the suggestion is that there will be no sorting through legible and illegible papers. You can fill the paper out and print it out, placing it in an area where everyone can see the idea and before you know it someone is there to support you in finding a possible solution.
2. Keep them Alive
About the era when tv was in full swing and computers began to emerge newspaper stands were laid to rest. Now we get quarter machines by selected restaurants and no more standing with our friends talking and sharing the latest news on the front page. Fortunately, Kaizen templates are far from dead. They are in fact one very effective way to obtain opportunities for improvement but they must be kept alive. Monitoring the suggestions during a huddle is one way to keep status up to date and ensure that each suggestion is moving forward. In a huddle you can address the needs of the suggestion and help ensure ideas continue moving forward. Possibly the most valuable aspect of this constant and continuous activity is that the people who make the suggestions will begin to understand that they are part of a team and their ideas mean something to others. When people get a sense of belonging, support, action and appreciation your possible improvements will increase sufficiently.
If you have ever used a new tv changer there is a bit of a learning curve to it. Directions in hand and a thousand different settings to program it will never be as simple as walking to the newspaper stand to get some information. The same principle should apply to our kaizen templates or improvement papers. Not everyone knows how to use excel and not everyone will understand the process right from the start. That makes it the perfect opportunity to train employees and go for a Gemba walk. The bottom line, make it easy for the people filling the papers out. The only thing that employees should be responsible for is filling out the template and doing their best to discover the root cause.
Although we may never see newspaper stands lining the streets again, kaizen templates or improvement newspapers could line the huddle boards of your organization. They could fill white boards, line the walls and flow from the mouths of team huddles. All while capturing innovative ideas from talented employees and driving improvement initiatives day in and day out. The best part about this great tool is that it won't even cost you a quarter.
If you would like a template for a Kaizen/Improvement newspaper to get started click on the button below and begin experimenting with different tools that will help transfer improvements from idea to action.
Almost every organization in the world knows by now that the 5S system is an efficient, low maintenance and high impact means of driving continuous improvement. The system itself can be used in offices, shop floors and software systems. So why is it that many who have tried this powerful tool only yield small returns or feel as though something is hiding?
1. Missed sorting or tagging of items - "We'll use it someday." If you have heard that phrase before chances are you didn't capture all the benefits of your 5S initiative. Be sure that if an item has been collecting dust for over 30 days and an agreement can't be reached the item is tagged and addressed in a 5S auction.
2. Unsure what to look for - Another very common reason why the 5S feels like a cleaning event that yields minimal returns, is that people are not exactly sure what to look for or where to look. Here is a fun little list of some things to look for in your 5S event:
3. 5S removes waste and cleans - There are no two ways about it; some people will say spring cleaning and other people will say waste removal. Can't we all just get along? It does both. Move a tool that is used everyday from one side of the shop to the point of use and your transportation is minimized. Shine a machine up and discover not leaks, breaks or malfunctions; well, you've got a sanitary area that invites the spirit. Whether you're removing waste or shining for inspection, hygiene or sustainment both are beneficial so why not do both?
There are many ways to squeeze hidden waste out of an area with the 5S system. The more events you conduct and are a part of the more hidden waste and "top secret" items will become visible. What are some unique things that you have found during a 5S event?
When it comes to understanding a process, few tools are as powerful as the SIPOC map. The SIPOC can be used in both process mapping and value stream mapping. When used as part of a value stream initiative the map shows material and information flow in forward and backwards loops, this allows teams to identify potential gaps from a systemic view which helps us understand the effects of activities both upstream and downstream. Today we will look at the SIPOC map from a process mapping perspective.
What does SIPOC mean?
The tools name SIPOC is rather catchy. Each of the letters provide us with insight as to portions of a process we should review when mapping from a high level. SIPOC map keep in mind that the suppliers provide the inputs to the process. The process which is what you are trying to improve should in some way provide value or transformation to the inputs which results in an output that needs to at minimum meet your customer's expectations.
When do we use a SIPOC Map?
The SIPOC diagram is most often used to identify opportunities for improvements before a project begins. Because the tool shows us all relevant aspects of a process it can also be useful when a team needs to:
What does a SIPOC Map look like?
How do I use a SIPOC Map?
One of the added benefits of a SIPOC diagram is how easy they are to create. Follow these simple steps and you will be able to create a SIPOC map:
1. Find an area as close to the process you are mapping as possible so that you can see the process happening and engage with people at the gemba.
2. Start by mapping the process out. You should map no less than 4 steps and no more than 7 high level steps.
3. Next identify the process outputs.
4. Now identify customers (internal/external) that will receive the outputs.
5. After you have identified customers, document the inputs of the process. These are the X's that are transformed into outputs or Y's by the process.
6. Lastly Identify any suppliers of the inputs.
7. If at all possible identify requirements that might be known already. If you are following the DMAIC method these CTQ's will be verified in the measure phase.
After using a SIPOC map we can now see all the elements of the process clearly.
1. There was an inquiry for a bike repair which resulted in a scheduled appointment date and time.
2. Next the owner came with his bicycle ready for a diagnosis which resulted in a recommendation and an estimate to the bike owner.
3. The bike rep. then received permission for the order and prepared his purchase order for the bike mechanic.
4. The parts were then ordered by the manager which was the internal approval for the bike rep.
5. The vendor then delivered the parts which was the approval for the bike mechanic to perform the repairs and ultimately resulted in the customer being called.
6. Then through observation the bike was repaired.
If you would like to download a free SIPOC template simply click on the link below.
One of the most effective tools any process orientated employee can use is the process map. The process map has been around since the dawn of time and has evolved into many different iterations in order to meet users needs. Along with the flexibility of a process map it's quite effective at showing a user where pain points in a process might be.
What is a process map?
Process mapping refers to a tool used to make business processes visual. The process map documents an entire process step by step which allows us to see relationships between inputs and outputs of a process along with clear identification of decision points and many other steps in the process series. The process map is generally used towards the beginning of initiatives in order to understand the flow of a process but it can also be used in support of almost every phase of improvement projects.
Different Types of process maps:
Traditionally there are many different types of process maps that have been developed and used. For example a SIPOC and a value stream map are forms of process maps but generally provide a much deeper level of understanding as they identify information flows too. In general there are three different categories of process maps:
Why do we process map?
In general process maps provide us with a visual display of the sequence of steps within a process. They can also be used as a method of communication. We have all been a part of a project that goes around and around in circles trying to remember and figure out what actually happens in a process. When we make those steps visible the process is communicated to everyone in a more understandable language. There may be times where you need to add in steps here and there but with the map visual and near the area where the process actually occurs, the communication of the process is much more accurately defined. Another very common reason for process mapping is that a visual map can aid us in the analysis of a business process. Some of the ways we can use process maps to analyze are:
How do we build a process map?
Process mapping is a fairly simple process to learn. But there are a few general rules to follow when you build a process map.
Different Tools for Building your Map:
Process maps can be built with stickie notes and butcher paper, excel, powerpoint, word or in vizio. Over the years I have grown to love stickies and butcher paper because it is much less restrictive and can be built anywhere. For our purposes today though we will use excel to build our process map. Today we will cover three types of process maps: The top down flow chart, the linear flow chart and the swimlane or cross functional flow chart. If you haven't downloaded a template yet, you can do so by clicking here.
The first thing you will want to look over is the first tab of the template. Excel makes it very simple to choose your symbols by simply clicking on the insert tab and selecting shapes. At the bottom of the shapes you will notice symbols for building a flowchart. You can try to memorize them right away but there is also a reminder of the symbols meaning in the first tab.
The great thing about a top down chart is that we can still drill into each of the process steps below it. 2. We then can ask the subject matter expert, "what do you have to do to get the ingredients out?" The person baking the cake might say:
The next type of map you will find in your template is known as a linear flowchart. The linear flowchart is a diagram that displays the sequence of work steps that make up a process. It will show decision points, rework loops and a few other elements. Let's make a linear flow chart for our cake.
The final flow chart we will look at is the swimlane flowchart. These types of flowcharts are often referred to as deployment flowcharts too. The swimlane flowchart is used to distinguish what job function of the organization is performing what steps. They can be used to show back and forth activities between steps and unlevel workflows.
As you can tell in the swimlane diagram above we can see very clearly who is responsible for what process step. If there were overlapping steps we would see those stacked which may be a trigger that there is an opportunity for improvement.
What should process maps have?
Like any other map a process map has a few unspoken rules we should do our best to adhere to. First and foremost be sure to label the process name and the team somewhere on the map just in case there are any questions. You may also want to place a date on the map of when it was created. Next the process map should be very simple to read, it needs to go in one direction not up and down and side to side. Try to keep a flow that is either left to right or top to bottom. You will also need to identify start points and end point and keep all of your loops closed. Did I include all these unspoken rules?
Helpful things to look for in a map.
We mentioned a few items to look for in our process maps but let's summarize them here now that you are an expert.
Selecting a project in Lean Six Sigma can sometimes be a daunting task. But like any other project it is a necessary step that you will have to take at some point. One very important piece of this early decision comes in the form of a document called a project charter. The project charter is a very important piece of the puzzle that we have written about before in a post titled The Project Charter. The project charter is one of the first essential steps in many different types of projects. It acts as an informal contract between the organization and the team. The charter will set a clear outlook on what the team's objective is and how their success factors will be measured. Additionally it contains historical evidence for the project, a clearly defined problem statement, a goal statement, the boundaries associated with the project, team members, measurements and an estimation of the time needed to complete the project's implementation all on one sheet of paper.
Where does the charter come from?
In general a project charter will normally take one of two roads of development. The first is that a charter is developed by leadership or the top level management of the organization and then is presented to the team. The other very common way a charter can develop is through the team's discovery of opportunities or issues that might need to be solved or improved. The team then pieces together a project charter and presents their findings to upper management. No matter how the project charter is developed, consensus and buy in from upper management and the team is absolutely critical to the project's success. This agreement of the project's direction will show the rest of the organization that both the team and upper management approve and endorse the project moving forward and will provide the team with the support and empowerment they will eventually need.
What is included in a project charter?
Basic identifiers - The charter should always begin by defining basic elements such as the company name and the project title. Like a contract this identifies who the contract is between and a general title to keep projects organized.
Business Case (historical reasoning) - Next the charter should include a clearly written one or two sentence business case. This simple two sentence business case will define "why" the team has been formed and how the project aligns with the organization's strategic direction. In other words the charter will show how the project aligns with the vision and the mission of the company.
Problem Statement - After the business case is clearly defined the charter will very clearly tell us what the issue or opportunity is that the team is going to focus on. This is called the problem statement.
Goal Statement - The next important element is the goal statement. The goal statement lays out the objectives that the team is expected to achieve. These expectations or the goal statement should always be agreed upon by both the team and the team champion. A very important piece of the goal statement is to be sure that when it is written out, it is done in such a way that makes the statement measurable.
Scope - The project charter will also include the boundaries or the scope of the project. These boundaries make it clear what is acceptable and what is out of the project scope. It is very important that the boundaries are clearly defined in the scope. This part of the charter is what will empower and hold the team accountable for their actions. The scope will give team members the freedom and support they need to focus their energy on the important tasks at hand.
Measurements - As noted earlier the goal statement should be worded in such a way that makes the objective measurable. Those measurements or Key performance Indicators are placed on the charter so that the team can identify baselines of where they are starting from, where they are headed and eventually actuals that can be used for reflection or as a means to see how near or far the team landed in relation to their target.
Team Roles - Another important designation that is contained within the project charter are the roles of each of the team members. This simply lays out who's on the team, who the champion is and who the sponsors are along with any other members that might apply to the project.
Milestones (schedule) - Last but not least the charter will include a high level project schedule or a gantt chart.
All of the information outlined above is normally documented on one piece of paper, with each category being very clearly defined, concise, accurate and to the point as possible. It's quite a bit of information I know, so let's list some of the advantages related to documenting all this project information.
Example and walkthrough
If you haven't downloaded the charter template yet you will need to do so now. You can click right here to get your template. Now that you have your template let's get started.
STEP 1 - As we noted earlier on the first thing we will need to document is the basic identifiers. Let's say our company name is Bob's machine house, I know original right? Next we will input our project title. Our title will be Accounting Cycle Time Reduction.
STEP 2 - Now we are ready to identify our business case or the historical reasoning for the project. This is a short summary of our strategic direction and reasons for the project. In general your short summary should include either quality, cost or scheduling issues or opportunities. Most of the time the business case will be directly related to either:
Step 3 - After our business case is documented we are ready to define our problem statement. This statement should be as detailed as possible. The problem statement should provide insight in the following ways:
One thing to keep in mind as you define your problem statement is that it should not be leading in any way. Make sure the statement is neutral and does not pass preconceived judgements or diagnosis.
Example - Problem Statement
Our cash to cash cycle at the accounting process has not been meeting the standard of 30 days. As a result of this our funds are invested in inventory 50% longer than we expect. It is crucial that we improve this because we are not getting a return on our investments quick enough.
With a neutral statement like this, the team has no preconceived notions, allowing them to work towards the project objectives with an open mind.
STEP 4 - Our next step is to gain consensus on a goal statement. As a general rule of thumb goal statements are generally in the realm of 50% improvement or reduction depending on the goal. We will again use the standard goal statement format in the template. The statement might sound like this: The Goal is to reduce the cash to cash cycle time by 50% resulting in a reduced, cash to cash cycle of 15 days.
STEP 5 - Once everyone including the project champion have agreed on the goal statement we then need to define our project boundaries or the scope of the project. There are two boundaries you will need to clarify here. The first is the longitudinal scope which tells us where the process starts and where the process ends. One example of our cash to cash cycle time might be:
Start - When materials are acquired and End - When we receive payment.
The other boundary we need to define in our scope is the lateral scope. This refers to the "width" of the process. One example of the lateral scope for our cash to cash cycle time might be:
The cash to cash cycle time for our accounting project only applies to the accounting and purchasing department but no other department is applicable in the entire organization.
After combining the two boundaries our scope tells us that we need to be empowered from the point materials are acquired to the point where we receive payment only within accounting and purchasing. One thing to note with scope is that you may want to include more specific level of authority than just lateral and longitudinal.
Step 6 - Next we need to define our measurements. There are at minimum three measurements you should establish and track. A baseline, A future state and the actual results after the project is complete. Since our goal statement and problem statement already defined the metrics we need, we just need to input them into our template in the measurement section. The one that I will use is the number of days for the cash to cash cycle time, you may want to use others too though. Since we know our standard of 30 days is being exceeded by 50% as defined in the problem statement, we can input a baseline of 45 days (30 days + 50% of 30) in the current state. Our future state measure was defined in our goal statement. So we can input 30 days (45 days baseline - 15 days improvement) in the future state which tells us we need to improve by 15 days. The actuals will be measured when the project is complete. Remember since you more than likely will have more than 1 measurement to input those too.
Step 7 - Your team roles should be somewhat self explanatory, just be sure to input your sponsor, coach or champion and each of the team members in the template.
Step 8 - Last but not least we need to establish a schedule for our project. This schedule defines the amount of time you think you will need from the start of the project to the complete and full implementation. The template includes a scheduling tab that you can enter in the stages you want to measure. The dates will automatically populate back to your charter, but let's look at one example just to be clear. If I were using the DMAIC method I would want to make my start and complete dates visible for the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control Phase. If you are using another methodology simply plan the high level steps of that methodology the same as we did with the DMAIC example.
Now you have all the necessary information on your project charter to move forward with your improvement. Be sure to remember though that the charter should be revisited every day of the event to adjust and monitor the charter. Even if you don't feel like doing it, just do it. There will be times where new people join the project and it will save you a lot of time and energy if you can hand them an up to date Project Charter to catch them up to speed.