In an earlier post I mentioned the similarities in agile and lean from a problem solving perspective. Lean and agile are also the same when it comes to the learning cycle.
One of the principles of lean that I have learned is Create a Learning Organization through Learn-Apply-Reflect. This principle helps drive home the importance of reflection. Many people and organizations do a great job of learning something new and then trying to apply it. Where most people and organizations fail is forgetting to reflect. The reflection step is where all the learning and applying comes together to understand how what was learned can best be applied in the organization. What worked? What didn’t work? What should be kept? What should be changed?
A sign an organization is doing this well, is the reflection is planned and not a reaction because something went wrong. The reflection is part of the project plan and will is scheduled upfront with no agenda but to learn and improve.
Agile has a methodology and a term it uses for this reflection and learning. It is retrospectives.
Agile uses planned retrospectives, usually once a week, to take a time out and gather the team to understand what is working and they should continue doing. As well as what is not working and should be changed or thrown out. It takes a monumental act to cancel a retrospective. These retrospectives are ingrained in the methodology and help the agile teams continue to improve on their process and work.
This is a great of example of Lean-Apply-Reflect. The agile team takes the learnings from the week, apply them and then have a planned reflection time a week later. The agile methodology does a great job of fostering the principle of creating a learning organization.
Do you have any examples of planned reflection in your organization?
H&H Color Lab began in the basement of Wayne and Shirley Haub’s residence in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, in 1970. Wayne and his brother, Ted Haub, owned a portrait studio that had just landed its first high school senior contract. With a background in and love for color printing, Wayne chose to install his own color processing equipment in the basement of his home.
Business increased, and so did the need for additional space and employees. What began with Wayne doing everything from his basement has grown to 165 people and 55,000 square feet of space over 40 years later.
H&H customers are primarily school/portrait/wedding photographers. The offer a wide range of products from photo prints to books to Leather bound albums and digital products.
In 1999, H&H Color Lab started is Lean journey led by Lee Gabbert. Lee had been with the company for 5 years at the time and was chosen to learn more about lean and teach others at H&H. They started by reading “Lean Thinking” by James Womack and Daniel Jones. H&H also decided to get a sensei to help them learn as they traveled the bumpy road down the lean path.
H&H Color Lab started by setting up work cells, going away from a department mentality. H&H moved to smaller batches, moving cells closer to the monuments (that they couldn’t move), standard work, and lots and lots of 5S.
Muda (waste), lead times, late work and quality all had improved. In fact, the gains from lean had now freed up space that was once occupied by manufacturing departments. It allowed H&H to take the space and use it as a training facility to help customers from all over the United States. Thus, H&H University was born. Roughly 3,000 square feet of space was now designed and transformed into a learning center, working photographic studio with equipment, mock up photography sales room, photography studio work area, kitchen to host all day training, library sitting room with sample products that H&H produce on the book shelves and restrooms. By providing training for customers (mostly free of charge), you truly can engage in a partnership that can grow.
All of this work allowed H&H Color Lab to make a success transition from the “Age of Film” to the “Digital Age”. Understanding their customers and providing training and education others companies do not, shows how the most important part of lean, focusing on the customer, helps you innovate, grow and thrive.
Here are results that H&H Color Lab have seen from their lean implementation.
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Last year I tried again. I had great success with the board. I have been using it for a year and a half.
Now, I have a new role where I have multiple desks. I am constantly in different areas of the building. I may not be back to my desk for several days or even a couple of weeks. I wasn’t able to keep my board up and I had work to do written in several places.
I went searching for an electronic solution that may help me. I wanted a solution that would be portable and I could add tasks at any location that I was at. I wanted to be able to move my tasks from stage-to-stage when needed and not try and keep up when I got back to my regular desk.
I discovered Portable Kanban by Dmitry Ivanov. It is a free downloadable software for your computer. It allows you to setup the board with the columns you desire. Each column has the capability of putting a limit as to the number of tasks allowed. Below is a snapshot of my physical board and below it my portable kanban board.
(Click on images to enlarge)
The portable kanban allows you to color code your “post-its” as well as assign a priority and a completion date. There is a reporting function also.
This software from Dmitry is meeting my needs very well. I am back on track with using my personal kanban again.
If you are a team looking for a portable kanban board online so many people can see it and use it simultaneously, this is not the software for you. There are some good online options.
If you are an individual that needs a board that you can have just about anywhere, this is a great tool.
Are you using a personal kanban?
There are examples of visual management everywhere. Walk into a store and the departments are labeled so you know where to go. Go to a Subway restaurant and the ingredients available to put on your sandwich are displayed right in front of you. Or look all around the U.S. road system. It is filled with visual cues and information.
This one is simple and can be handy.
Gatorade’s water bottle has a transparent stripe down the side that allows you to see how full the water bottle is. This conveys a single message (how much fluid is in the bottle?) simply. Sure you can pick it up and easily tell by the weight. What if you are an equipment manager for a sports team and you have 10 more of these to manage during a game. Instead of picking each bottle up several times to see if it is close to empty, a quick glance allows the equipment manager to know which ones to fill immediately.
It may seem like such a small improvement, but that is part of the essence of lean. Improving everyday. Saving even two seconds will amount to significant time as that process is repeated over and over again. This is something Paul Akers stresses at his company, FastCap.
What have you done to save 2 seconds?
I read a blog post from Dan Markovitz a couple weeks about about some of the practices Nick Saban has. Being a college football fan and following Nick Saban since his Michigan State days, I found it very interesting to see how he saved time.
I do some of the same stuff. I eat the same thing everyday for lunch. It is a running joke around my workplace. But I don’t have to think about what to make the night before and no decisions have to be made when it is time for lunch. The nights I do make something different for my lunch the next day it takes over twice as long. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I want and if it is easily suitable for a packed lunch.
Another thing I do, I lay out all of my clothes for the week including clothes for working out in the morning. I spend a few minutes Sunday evening preparing for Monday thru Thursday (Friday can range to much based on what I have going on at work so I do that one on Thursday night). My kids even got me a cubby-hole shelf to put my clothes into to be even more organized. With two kids involved in everything under the sun, this saves me time during the week. I don’t have to think about what I am going to wear. I just reach for the cubby-hole and put the clothes in my gym bag and my gym clothes I lay out for the next morning. It takes me less than 60 seconds to be prepared for the next day.
I know. It seems anal-retentive (because I don’t make millions like Nick Saban, then it would be innovative or smart). These two routines save me several minutes a day that I use to make sure I get the kids to where they need to be on-time and frees up time to spend with my wife at night.
What do you do to save time in your routine?
Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M. She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.
My friends said I worked in the Black Hole. In the lunchroom, people moved away because of the smell of solvents in my work clothes. Let me tell you how that changed.
Working in the Black Hole a.k.a. Screen Print Prepress
We were in the business of screen printing. My job was to get the screens ready, which means cleaning off the old stencil and applying the new image. I used quite a few chemicals and yes, it did get messy.
One time I was measuring out the emulsion remover when Greg moved into the room, and I didn’t hear him until he was close. I jumped, and the solvent went all over my shoes and the floor. And the fumes were so strong!
Another time I was carting off the old ink and I realized the waste tub was outside. By this time, I had both hands full, so I ended up using my foot to open the door and nearly tripped myself.
Bad for Business
Sometimes we’d run out of a chemical and I wouldn’t be able to clean any screens until new supplies arrived. Terry, the supervisor, would complain about orders being late, but there wasn’t anything I could do.
The delivery would eventually come in (often at high shipping costs for expedited delivery), but always in barrels so big I could hardly move them. I’d have no space to put them, either, so I’d pour the chemicals into smaller bottles. That was okay, so long as I didn’t spill much, but sometimes I’d forget to write on the side what was in them.
The other problem was I couldn’t tell how much was in each bottle, so I’d run out. And sometimes I’d mix up the wrong proportions so I had to throw it away and start again.
As you can see, things were pretty disorganized.
Terry had been taking a Lean Manufacturing training course when he came in and said, “Danielle, we need to make you lean.”
Well I knew I was carrying a few pounds, but really! Terry explained that if we organized the chemicals I use there’d be fewer stoppages, less waste, and I’d find the Black Hole a nicer place to work. He called it “visual management.” Here’s what we did:
- Installed a yellow “Point-of-Use Storage” cabinet. (The EPA has a lot of information about POUS on their website.)
- Labeled the POUS shelves so there’s “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”
- Stopped buying big barrels once in a great while and arranged for smaller, 1 gallon deliveries more frequently. This is called vendor-managed inventory, or a “milk run”.
- Used clear containers so I could see how much was left.
- John got special diamond pattern labels for the containers and showed me how to fill them in with the chemical name and date.
- Terry bought mixing jugs and put lines on them showing the appropriate fill level.
- John also set up a Safety Point. This has all the Material Safety Data Sheets in a binder along with a cabinet for safety equipment like goggles, a lab coat and gloves.
- We had the floor marked out to show where the waste containers should be. Now I can see at glance if they’re missing.
No more Black Hole
It took a while to get used to things, but it’s so much better. I don’t waste time looking for various chemicals. We never run out, so there are no stoppages. I don’t spill solvents and there’s less waste. Best of all, people don’t wrinkle their nose when I sit near them in the lunch room!
Email is a great thing. To be able to send a message instantly for free (sort of…I know there are charges for connection and data plans) is amazing. Now we can get email anywhere we are on smartphones, tablets or any other device. But, just because we can get a message instantly and anywhere does not mean we have to read or answer the message instantly anywhere we are.
I hear a lot of people talk about spending too much time with email. Email is keeping them from getting value added work completed. I spent some time looking at my own email practices and found it is very easy to get distracted by email. It is more of a hindrance than a help at times.
How many of you have your email notification turned on, so when you get an email you get a sound, a box in the corner pops up, a light flashes on your smartphone, etc…? I had notifications on everywhere. Why do we have them on? Because we want to read and answer the email as quickly as possible. Why don’t we turn off all of these audio/visual notifications? What percent of the emails you receive truly need immediate attention?
I experimented and turned off all audio and visual notifications of email on my PC. I turned off the audio notification on my smartphone, but left on my flashing light (which I am thinking about turning off). Since doing this, I feel less stressed about answering email and the need to jump right on it. I find that I am more productive also. I am not switching between something I am working on and email constantly. The thing I am working on has my full attention. I concentrate on the work and get it done and then check email. I have found that ZERO of my emails need my immediate attention.
My next step is to only open email at certain times of the day. Currently, I open it whenever I feel like it. Will this help me become even more productive? I don’t know if it will, but I won’t improve if I don’t try.
If you are not in a role where email is critical (i.e. order processor receiving orders through email or something of the like), I challenge you to turn off your notifications and not read/answer emails as they come in.
I have not been very high on GE as a company. I have dealt with too many command-and-control managers that came from GE and Jack Welch I think is the single most overrated CEO in history. He destroyed GE’s manufacturing to gain his golden parachute.
It has taken awhile but GE seems to be making strides in a great direction. A year or so ago, GE announced the building of a manufacturing complex in Louisville, KY dedicated to building their appliance lines using lean manufacturing.
An article last week highlighted some of the reasons and the results from the first venture in GE’s new dishwasher plant. My favorite heading in the article is “Washing Away Decades of Outdated Manufacturing Practices”. AMEN!!!
So what did GE hope to accomplish by investing $150 million in the new facility?
When planning to make GE’s newest dishwashers, the manufacturing leaders had several challenges: to build new production lines in a space-constrained factory where existing lines would keep providing about one in every five homes with a dishwasher; to create a process that would leverage Lean manufacturing principles to reduce the time it takes to make each dishwasher; to reduce operational costs and unnecessary work for employees to improve productivity while increasing quality.
They needed to reduce cost and delivery time and increase quality. Something lean can help improve all of. Not one while sacrificing others.
How was lean going to help?
Relying on a new culture of continuous improvement and a collaborative work environment, fostered by Lean manufacturing principles, GE took employees from every discipline needed to design, build and operate the new lines and co-located them in one location so communication could be instantaneous and fluid. Each member of the team had a voice and a role–from engineering, to advanced manufacturing to the operators who assemble the products – all were on one team with a common goal – to improve the processes and products.
Great ideas and they seem to be working very well. The results listed in the article are incredible. Here are just one bullet point listed as a result.
Included production workers in the designing of work stations and processes, improving efficiency and ergonomics by reducing parts inventories and movements to complete tasks; in developing new job instructions to help eliminate quality issues and improve safety; and in improving the timely supply of parts to work stations. As a result, the overall production time per unit was reduced by about 65 percent.
Great to see the employees doing the work involved in the improvement process. With all the great results this is what I was the most happy to read.
Now, their dishwashers will be loaded with more U.S. parts than ever before. In fact, about 85 percent of the parts in GE new dishwashers will be made in the U.S. — including an increased number made at Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky
It shows that manufacturing close to the consumer in a “high cost” country can be competitive in any industry. Kudos to GE for attempting to change their manufacturing ways.
Ice breakers are a good way for a facilitator to get to know the team they are facilitating, as well as help the team build a bond together.
I have always used ice breakers to start a day. It helps get the team engaged to start the day. Recently, I worked with a couple of guys who took the ice breaker to another level. They tied the ice breaker into the next phase of the improvement process.
Here are a couple examples:
1. Stranded on an Island: As we moved to the future state design of the process we used an ice breaker designed around a deserted island. The group was split into teams and given some time to come up with 5 things they would keep with them on a deserted island. After a few minutes, each team would state what they would keep and why.
My partner explained that as we move to a future state design there will be a lot of discuss on what to keep and what is extra. During this time, the team is going to have to come to high agreement of what they process needs and how it will work just like gaining high agreement on what items to keep on the island.
2. Untying the Knot: Half way through the first day of a kaizen event my partner ran an ice breaker designed to untie the human knot. Everyone bunches in as close as they can. Each person takes the hand of another person (two hands means each person should have the hand of two different people). The goal is to untangle the mess so the group is standing in a nice circle. The trick is no one is allowed to let go of the hands they have grabbed so it is people stepping over people and twisting around to get untangled.
The purpose was to explain that over the next few days the team will feel confused and frustrated but as they keep working as a team the solution will start present itself. In the end, the team will have a clear picture of the current and future processes and be linked as a team coming out of the event.
These are just a couple I have seen used and plan to incorporate into my portfolio.
Ice breakers can be something fun to loosen the group up also so pick and choose what makes sense for the audience and the situation.
What ice breakers have you used?
I am way behind on a couple of great blogs I saw on the Harvard Business Review Blog. One of them is Get Your Workers to Disrupt Their Jobs by Brad Power.
The blog is about engaging employees to improve their processes.
…start process innovation by asking front-line workers how to improve their jobs. Competition and customer demands mean that the most efficient and effective process should always be sought — but finding it requires contributions from the people doing the work. The benefits of the front-line driving improvements include pride of ownership that sustains the changes, less worry for managers about whether the changes will be adopted, and reduced costs for outside consultants. Changes that are imposed are at best accepted grudgingly and at worst sabotaged.
Bingo! I think Brad nailed it well. Then a friend of his asked a good question that I have also gotten in the past.
But a friend was skeptical that workers will identify radical, cross-functional changes to a process that will step on others’ turf or could eliminate their jobs. Is it really possible he asked, to create the conditions where workers will disrupt or even eliminate their jobs and the jobs of co-workers?
Short answer is yes, if there is no fear of losing their jobs do to continuous improvement. I have worked for companies that have made that promise and it has worked to engage the people. When I worked for an automotive supplier, three employees came to management and said they could get the work cell from 3 people to 1 person and meet the demand. The management said do it. It worked beautifully and the other two people were assigned to other work cells that needed help.
Brad got the same opinion from Orry Fuime.
Consider Wiremold, a manufacturer of cable management systems. In 1992 the company was in cost-cutting mode, and, as former CFO Orry Fiumetold me, it was consequently offering an early retirement package designed to reduce headcount. But the company also needed to make its processes more productive, and didn’t want employees overly focused on headcount reduction, so immediately following Fiume’s announcement, the new CEO Art Byrne told employees that nobody would lose employment due to process improvement activities. He felt this was necessary to encourage employees to identify all the changes the company needed, including those which might disrupt their jobs. W. Edwards Deming, the guru of total quality management, called this “driving out fear.”
But most CEOs will strenuously resist making a qualified job guarantee like Art Byrne. Why? Because they believe that nobody can guarantee employment. Notice, however, that Wiremold did not guarantee employment. It assured employees that they would not lose their job as a result of their participation in continuous improvement activities. It didn’t say their jobs wouldn’t change, or that the company wouldn’t lay off people for survival in the event of a major economic downturn, or that individuals couldn’t lose their job due to poor performance.
I found the blog interesting because all but one company/person mentioned were well respected lean companies/people (Orry, Art Byrne, Dr. Deming, Wiremold, Parker-Hannifin, Lantech). The overriding theme was the respect for people. Ask for their ideas to improve, share the big picture with them don’t hide it, reward them for their help. These all have to do with respecting the people of the business and organization.
I hope this blog gets circulated around. These are the behaviors to look for within a company. These are behaviors a lean company exhibits whether they use the term lean or not is not important. Respecting the people is. With their engagement in the continuous improvement process a company can make great strides in productivity and growth.