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In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to work established defense industry programs as well as starting up new products and factories. This has given me many opportunities to see problems and do something to fix them. I’ve used many Lean tools over the course of my career and I would like to explore these tools with real world examples of how they were applied and the results they produced.
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.
One of the most important aspects of a successful lean journey is leadership. Lean brings powerful changes to each and every organization the strategy is implemented into. Any Lean practitioner who has seen a few projects or benchmarked various organizations has most likely witnessed a unique culture that somehow just happens naturally in lean companies. For this reason leadership often times takes on a more servant style of leading, afterall they exist to help the people they serve succeed.
Here are a few important concepts that will help leaders keep moving forward.
1. Pareto Leaders- As a leader you may start off in an improvement project, in fact you probably should. Experiencing kaizen and improvement events first hand will help you understand what happens in the events and experience first hand the spirit of kaizen. In many organizations as much as 80% of Kaizen is driven by those who are closest to the work. Finding out where those 80% of improvements are coming from can give you insight regarding the areas your mentorship is needed in. As a leader application of the pareto principle can also help you identify:
2. Genchi Genbutsu- Many years ago "the Gallow" would drop and everyone in the company knew that leadership had made a directive. We have all seen it and felt it, but in today's day and age the "dictator" approach doesn't yield such great results. Today Leaders are responsible for developing, training, discovering and mentoring future leaders. This most often times involves "Leader Standard work" and frequent Gemba walks where you can "Go and See" (Genchi Genbutsu).
- Often times employees are considered resources amongst machines and equipment. This sort of mindset will certainly place your lean journey at a stand still if your employees are just "resources." As a leaders one of the most important things you can do for your organization is empower others. Those people should feel empowered and prepared for success and if they stumble they should know exactly who to look to for mentoring and guidance.
- Training, Training, Training. Did we mention training? One of the most important aspects of developing the organization is developing the people who work their. Like any "Sports Team" every individual must be prepared to carry and support their weight. For this reason helping individuals develop their skills will certainly press your strategies forward. Establishing a standard onboarding process which includes basic training like learning foundational concepts of a lean strategy can help ensure all employees start of on similar ground. Even if employees are at advanced levels, we can all agree, review still helps.
- Building a solid foundation for any strategy is quite the task and as a leader it should be a top priority. One common mistake is passing the orders down from the top and interpreting value as the amount of direct labor your projects absorb. This is known as the underutilization of skills or more commonly the eighth form of waste. You need to build a solid support system amongst team members. Part of this process is creating a culture where people are confident that they are part of decisions being made. It will not happen overnight. Some things you can do to support your teams and people are:
3. Lead by example - Above all else lead by example. For many employees leadership is someone they look up to. Whether you carry the title of owner, C-level director or front line we all have different levels of "leadership" we are responsible. Setting a good example for those that follow is a sure fire way to influence others in a positive way.
There will be many different things that you can do for your organizations as the year progresses, but if there is one key element to driving effective change, it's the way we Lead, Support and develop one another. Effective Change agents whether in manufacturing or service commonly spring from a culture and leadership that supports the people not just the projects.
**What concepts, ideals, examples or behaviors do you appreciate most in a leader?
This guy is perfect! Kind, team player, technical skills and desire to grow in the organization. It's like a dream come true finding this type of employee. Then the final interview question is presented, "how do you feel about lean six sigma?" They respond, "I've only heard of it." With the ever growing "popularity" of both lean and six sigma it almost feels like a game changer if a new employee or existing individual has not sought out lean six sigma education or joined a group to become more familiar with these two powerful strategies. Then of course there is the "gap." Yes the gap, it's that ever increasing distance between those with "master black belts" and lean six sigma expertise and those who "missed the boat" for training or were part of "next years group." How do we bring those individuals up to speed so that the changing dynamics of an organization or job market of a career does not continue to drift further and further apart?
The answer to that question has remained the same for hundreds if not thousands of years; education, training and experience.
It's no secret that education for employees or learning for yourself yields: improved performance, consistent knowledge and a specialized skill set. But along with these benefits education can influence a group of behaviors in a positive way too. Imagine for a second an individual who had absolutely no understanding of soccer (I know it's hard to imagine) going with you to a soccer game. While fans are cheering, eating good food and actively engaged in the game, they just sit there with absolutely no connection with the game or anything going on around them. Worse yet they may feel left out and never want to be a part of a soccer game again. A tragedy indeed. Now let's imagine that for a few minutes, maybe an hour before you share with them important moments in the sport of soccer's history, you briefly explain to them the rules of soccer and you help them understand the general strategy of the game. Flashback to our soccer game and this time when everyone is cheering, screaming and excited they understand a few things. Soon they begin asking you more questions and shortly thereafter they want more knowledge. Similar to this most employees and individuals may feel discouraged in environments where they don't understand what is going on around them. Whether it's technical or philosophical it is hard to be a part of something you haven't ever heard about. Why would anyone see the value in eliminating waste when they could crank the machine up and sweat themselves to death creating more value? How would anybody understand the difference between creating value and non-value? They can't unless they have some knowledge or education where they can then begin to wrap their minds around the concept. In our recent release of the brand new completely remade 8 forms of waste course students first participate in an educational experience learning about general aspects of lean, waste and then moving on to the specifics of waste. Like a soccer game the community is now completely open to posting in each of the 15 lectures. This gives students an opportunity to discuss with one another the knowledge they are acquiring. Additionally they gain a firm understanding of fundamental lean concepts helping them to join or be a part of groups, strategies and initiatives that will surely cross their path sooner or later.
Educate someone on the strategy or direction of the organization and they are off to a good start. Now instead of "I've only heard of it," we might hear, "oh yeah, I was lucky enough to take a class on that." Place the individual in a community with others and now they can discuss, share thoughts and learn from others. Add a little training to their already educated mind and talking transforms into doing. That was the focus of the transformed 8 forms of waste course giving people the opportunity to take education and engage themselves or employees within an organization in activities that provide a real training experience. The benefit to this of course is that everyone knows what is going on around them and nobody "misses the boat."
With education and training under one's belt the last piece of the puzzle is experience. As the saying goes "if you don't use it, you'll lose it," the same is true for education and training. If all you do is sit through a course and complete a few reports then after obtaining your prized certification you set aside your new found knowledge you will surely forget what it is you've learned. Like kaizen a good way to continue developing skills in a field or closing gaps between expertise and novice is to practice everyday. whether it's a large scaled project or touching up on a recently read book try to stay engaged so that you don't have to start the process all over again.
There are many ways to onboard new employees and close gaps in the skill sets of current individuals. Whether it's a 2 hour course like the newly released 8 forms of waste course or a training program like the introduction to lean finding an effective and affordable way to welcome new faces to your organization and graft them into the field comfortably will empower and enable employees to be a part of your improvement journey and may possibly set them up as a future leader.
Going to the gemba is one of the essential activities of Lean and Six Sigma that we all must do. Every project requires it, every issue needs it and every person should do it. Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho once said "go see, ask why, show respect." A perfect summary of going to the gemba, but what are some of the basic items a lean practitioner can take with them for their trip to "go and see?"
Amongst the various reasons we "go and see” are the objectives to understand or observe what is going on at the gemba. It won't always be a problem and you may not always find an opportunity, but if we take the time to go, then we should take the time to try and remember the gemba too.
Pencil and Paper
One of the most basic tools you can take to the gemba is a sheet of paper and a pencil. Although there will be times when you need more, you don't need to resize PowerPoint slides, copy and paste excel sheets or shove a laptop in your pocket every single time you get marching orders to go to the gemba, just grab a simple sheet of paper and write a few notes. One thing to be aware of is that the notes you take do not get prioritized over the people you engage with. Keeping things organized is important, but you don't always have to draw a Picasso portrait while you are at the gemba. A simple list of the steps you walk will get you very far when you return from the gemba.
Depending on your objective a phone can be either good or bad. If you are going to "ask why" it's probably safe to say your phone should stay in your pocket. One of the purposes we ask "why” is to develop and stretch others capability to problem solve for themselves. This would not be a time to break your phone out. A few times when your phone would come in very handy are:
1. Gathering data - Most phones are equipped with stopwatches that you can use to gather data such as cycle times while you are at the gemba.
2. Photo/Video - Sometimes while you are at the gemba you will see something that you will need to remember or would like to watch again (slower/faster, closer/further) later on, the phones of today's day and age are a perfect tool for this.
Probably the most important item you can take with you to the gemba is a positive attitude. Greet everyone with a warm welcoming spirit and be ready to listen to anything that people have to say. Additionally, having a positive attitude in all situations will help show others that you are welcome to challenges and opportunities in both good and bad situations.
There are many other items, attitudes and tools we can take to the gemba. Templates can be very helpful in standardizing activities and formats but should be easily accessible and quick to grab. Check out our upcoming course called the ©WASTES methodology for waste walking.
Discussion Opportunities (leave in the comments below):
1. What items do you take with you when you go to the gemba?
2. What are some best practices you have used when going to the gemba?
3. What struggles have you experienced associated with going to the gemba?
One of My Favorite quotes from a great Manufacturing legend says "If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you have always got." This saying rings true today years after Mr. Henry Ford has passed away. Why is that? That saying doesn't note that what you've always got is bad nor does it say that what you've always done is not the right way either, but it does give heed that if we try something new we will get something different. This can be a troubling thought for some. Maybe what you will get, is not quite as good as what you've always got. Maybe you just don't know any different way to do what you've always done. So how do we make sure that what we are about to do yields results that are better than what we have always done?
1. First Define where it is you want to be
This is actually not quite as hard as it sounds. We often times think of defining where we want to be at a strategic level, you know visions and alignment and much larger scaled initiatives. But this concept is applicable to just about anything that we do in life. " I am here, but I would like to be there." Maybe it is as simple as my profit has always been this much but I would like to increase it to this much. Wherever you want to be just make sure that your "Vision" or your "Target" is at a level that is appropriate and accomplishable. Some ways that you can define where you want to be are; Setting visions, defining charters, strategic planning or outcome statements. Whatever the method you use, just be sure to define where you are headed.
2. Where am I at?
Now that we know where you want to be, it's time to figure out where you are at? A variety of lean tools can assist at this point in the Journey, but one of the most useful tools you can use is the value stream map. Understanding where it is we want to be and clarifying the gap between where we are and where we would like to be, is often a variety of issues. Mapping the current state, will help you grasp the entire situation and plan the best route to get where you want to be. Some other tools you can use to clearly reveal the current state are: Process charts, SIPOC maps, organizational value streams, implementation plans or just your memory and the Gemba. Just make sure you are honest and open with where you currently are.
3. How do we get there?
Now we have defined where we want to be and what it is we are currently doing. The next step is to figure out how do we do it? How do we reach our goal? Whatever method you used for the "current state" you should have revealed multiple issues that are impairing you from getting where you want to be. Now it is time to map out your future state (immediately after the current State). You now know where you want to be and where you currently are so you can properly plan how you are going to get where you want to go. Keep in mind as you document your future state map, you will need to create counter measures that remove all the "issues" you found in the current state. This will ensure that the future state map is an improved version of the current state practices and in many cases might yield a complete and total transformation.
4. Help your Team Get the Wins
Of Course with any transformation of what is normal there is always the risk that people will go back to “the way things are always done.” This is where tools such as standard operating procedures, updated policies and company training come into play. We want to make sure that people know what changes will occur and set them up to enjoy the journey in getting there. A few ideas that may help manage the change as you go from where you are to where you want to be are:
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The mistake many make, perhaps believing in the superhuman qualities of their leaders, is to leave strategy formulation in the C-suite, in corporate strategy departments, or with high-end consulting firms. The far better approach is to harness the creativity and sense of purpose of employees and develop strategic thinking across the organization.
You may be thinking about implementing a Lean Strategy in your organization. Or maybe you just you haven't heard much about lean and you want to find out what everyone is talking about.
Wherever you are on your journey here are a few of the most common reasons organizations and individuals embark on the "lean journey".
Some of the small and medium sized organizations have realized that in today's global market it is not only tough to compete but very hard to survive. With the internet now reaching all around the world our competitors can research and access information with the click of a button. Along with the digital power of the internet many markets have been forced to be cheaper and quicker with no spared expense of quality. This means long lead times, safety stock, batches of inventory and excessive queue times must be eliminated. Whether you're in manufacturing or service the solution is lean. Lean is a continuous improvement strategy that a company embarks on to maximize customer value and minimize waste. The term "Lean" was first used in the book The Machine That Changed the World by James Womack. A lean organization focuses on providing complete value or Value added activities to their customers. Lean truly enables a company to focus on what customers want, while increasing satisfaction, improving a company's competitive market and ultimately enabling anybody to change for the better. What are those changes that we refer to as better?
Here are four changes you can expect as a result of a lean implementation:
1. The first and most obvious reason we will list is that a Lean Strategy Removes waste. Lean places a strong focus on what is known as Muda and the elimination of the 8 forms of waste. Those 8 forms of waste are Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over Processing, Over Production, Defects and underutilized Skills. By eliminating waste a company spends more time creating value and less time on wasteful activities. Let's look at an example. Valentine's day you're looking to go out to dinner with your family. When you place your wallet in your pocket do you put it their to wait in line? probably not. How about for the restaurant to rework your food? Hopefully not. No you probably put your wallet in your pocket to purchase food that you're going to eat and contribute to the transformation of the ingredients into the food you're going to eat. Those activities that you the customer are not willing to pay for are what we call waste. Lean works to drive these hidden costs out of processes.
2. Lean Brings People together. In order to build a lean organization a company must recognize the need for change. The strategy requires buy in from every level of an organization and asks that all team members are focused on doing their part. Principle number 10 in The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles, Dr. Jeffrey Liker writes: "use cross-functional teams to improve quality and productivity and enhance flow by solving difficult technical problems." He goes on to say: "empowerment occurs when people use the company's tools to improve the company." While it's true individuals create value the simple idea that lean tools require interaction and teamwork helps us begin to understand why the development of people and healthy culture is so important to the strategies success.
3. The Pursuit of Perfection. One of the best part about a continuous improvement strategy like lean is the continued focus on improving. The term kaizen suggests that it is through small incremental improvements that breakthrough results are created. If we look into the North American definition of kaizen we see the word "continuous" used alongside the word improvement. One synonym for the word continuous is constant. Constant means to happened all the time or very often over a period of time. By understanding this definition, we understand that Kaizen or continuous improvement is not so much an activity or a project as it is a part of our work ethic and culture that helps us to pursuit perfection and never give up.
4. Streamlines Processes, implementing lean helps companies dramatically streamline their processes. This includes office functions, manufacturing tasks, educational organizations and healthcare environments. If you have a process it can be improved, if you don’t it can be created and standardized. This enables companies to work to their full potential which results in a reduced operational expenditure along with increased speed and service to the market.
In Short a Lean Strategy really is the improvement strategy. Although these are only four reasons a company might embark on a lean journey, there really is no question that if you are looking to grow, transform and survive in today's global market lean must be a part of your organization or skill set.
What reasons can you think of that may cause a company or an individual to shy away from lean?
By: Steve Murphy
Mr. Murphy frequently writes about "Six Sigma in the real world." Mr. Murphy can be contacted via email by clicking here: Steve Murphy To submit your post on listen to the gemba visit: Submit a Post on Listen to the Gemba.
Like a lot of university students of my era when I wasn’t “working on the post at Christmas” I worked on factory production lines. One local factory used excess yeast produced by Burton’s brewing industry to produce stock cubes. No not OXO another brand using a modern technique to produce a crumbly cube. The production machines were modified sweet making machines and operating one was a black art. The correct process depended on getting the right balance of gloop and water to produce cubes of the right weight and strength to allow the wrapping machine to individually foil wrap them.
The term yokoten refers to the sharing of best practices and learning laterally throughout an organization. Could you imagine if the news did not report anything they learned? What if the radio never shared insights based on experience and what if the internet was controlled by one brain? Well we probably would not know about a lot of things.
While the term yokoten is mostly associated with "horizontal deployment" it is a much broader sharing than just strategically. The term can also be interpreted in a technical, methodical and philosophical way. When the principle of yokoten is effectively embraced by many, yokoten can transform a process, organization, online community and the world. Let's use 5S as a simplified example. It is quite common for areas of an organization to take a "liking" to 5S, at least in the early stages. As teams, departments and employees mimic and improve upon the original 5S (first performed internally) they not only gain the same benefits, but they gather new and innovative ways of improving the way the 5S system is executed. Now let's imagine some areas of an organization decided that they were not going to wait for others to notice the successful implementation of their 5S and so, like good students of an art, they shared what they did with other areas of the organization. Knowledge would then spread far and wide... Fast.
Of course we all want the positive benefits of improved performance but yokoten also contributes to a positive open culture. Here are a few ways you can begin using the powerful principle of yokoten in your organization:
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