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Lean Culture Change

Recently, I had the opportunity to tour a local company that does sheet metal work.  The company does not advertise being lean, although they are a part of our lean consortium.  When you walk in the manufacturing facility you would be surprised at what you DON’T see.  There aren’t 5S markings or visual production boards or kanban levels anywhere to be seen.

What the company is doing is the hard work.  The are working to change their culture.  They are focusing on it everyday from the leadership down to the floor.

The company is Webco Manufacturing.

What they have done is come up with The Webco Way.  Thirty-one fundamentals for everyone to focus on improving.  Here are just a few:

  1. Do the right thing
  2. Check your ego at the door
  3. Take ownership
  4. Practice blameless problem solving
  5. Be process oriented
  6. Continuously improve everything you do
  7. Embrace change

These are just a few.  I encourage you to visit Webco’s website to see the complete list and a description of each.

You might think 31 is a lot to remember.  I did too, but it is working for them.  They focus on one fundamental every single day.

A fundamental is chosen for the week.  A member of the leadership team sends out their perspective of the fundamental for the week every Sunday night to everyone with e-mail in the company.  During the week, every meeting consisting of more than 2 people is started by reading the quick description of the fundamental and giving an example of how it is brought to life.

This includes meetings with supplier and customers.  The meeting could be 1 Webco employee and 5 suppliers but they will start the meeting with the fundamental of the week.  This is to let customers and suppliers know what they are trying to do and helps to drive the same expectations from their customers and suppliers.

Webco may not claim to be lean, but the culture they are driving and the way they are going about it sure seems like a lean culture to me.

What are your thoughts?

It’s About Knowing Your Audience

Decisions Don’t Start with Data.  This was a post found on the Harvard Business Review Blog.  This is another attempt to explain how marketers are the kings of the world telling us what we should buy and we are too stupid to know otherwise.

We buy goods and services because we believe the stories marketers build around them:  “A diamond is forever” (De Beers), “Real Beauty” (Dove), “Think different” (Apple), “Just do it” (Nike).

That was my favorite excerpt from the post.  Thanks marketers, because I wasn’t sure what running shoe I wanted but “Just Do It” has now made up my mind.

The point I got from the post was that people don’t make decisions based on data, it is based on emotions.

To influence human decision making, you have to get to the place where decisions are really made — in the unconscious mind, where emotions rule, and data is mostly absent. Yes, even the most savvy executives begin to make choices this way. They get an intent, or a desire, or a want in their unconscious minds, then decide to pursue it and act on that decision. Only after that do they become consciously aware of what they’ve decided and start to justify it with rational argument.

While I do believe this is true.  It does not mean it is right.  Just because executives do this does not mean we should succumb to their ridiculous decisions and not present the data.

I do believe we make decisions on data, whether it is consciously or subconsciously.

Apple may say “Think Different”, but if their product is crap and is breaking all the time a person wouldn’t buy it.

“A diamond is forever” doesn’t make me buy from DeBeers.  It is there customer service and quality.

There was some form of information that is driving the decision.

I do agree with the author that when presenting a group with a new and possible radical idea that a person should approach his audience in a way that will get their attention.

For some that may mean presenting straight data.  For others, presenting a story or a “what’s in it for me?” point of view and weaving the data in.

This isn’t about data and decision making.  It is about knowing your audience and adjusting your approach to help meet the audience see your point of view.

Reflection Types

During my work, I have seen people learn and reflect in two different ways.  One is to learn something through reading, doing, listening or any other way and spend time reflecting on it right then and there.  They take the time to deeply understand what they learned and how it applies to them before they move on to something else.

A second way of reflection I have seen I call the information gatherer.  It is learning something new in all the ways I listed above and just letting it sit.  The person moves on and gathers more information on many other things.  They just let the information simmer in their mind and an hour, a day, a week or even a month later BAM!  It hits.  They understand how it applies to them and their situation.  They understand the learning deeply and can apply it anywhere.

Neither way is right.  Neither way is wrong.

In fact, a person may be a combination of both depending on the situation and what they are learning.

I am a combination of both.  If it is a situation where I need to learn and apply something now, I will be very intentional about reflecting and trying to figure out how what I learned applies to what I am working on.

If it is just learning for my learning, I will take in as much information as possible and keep gathering it.  Eventually, sometime down the road it will click and a huge learning will occur.

What type of reflection do you most often apply?

True Coaching Takes Investment

The term coach is thrown around a lot in a business setting.  Too much in my opinion.  Any time spent with someone giving advice or direction is called coaching nowadays.  It sounds great when you say you spent time “coaching” someone.

Coaching is more than giving advice.  Coaching is an investment in time to really help them along.

Think of any athletic coach you may have had.  Basketball, football, tennis, golf, swimming, etc..  Did you ever spend 30 minutes with that person in a café getting advice on a rare occasion and end up calling them coach?  Of course not.

Why? Because coaching takes time.  You have to spend time in the with the person in the environment you are coaching on and observe and make suggestions as you go along.

Anything else is advice.  There is a big difference between giving advice and coaching.

Because of the time investment, a person can’t coach many people in the business environment.  The best thing to do is focus on coaching a person or two.  Don’t spread yourself thin as a coach because then no one wins.  The learner doesn’t get your full attention and does not learn and grow nearly as much.  The coach will never see the fruit of their labor come to fruition because the learner never reaches their full potential.

Think about this before taking someone on as their coach.  Are you going to be able to devote the time truly necessary to help them along?

Practice with a Coach

Last week I got to spend some time with my coach, Jamie Flinchbaugh.  It has been awhile since I have seen him and the time was very well spent.

He met with the entire group I work with.  During that time, we talked about problem solving and how important it is to have a coach when learning good problem solving.

The quote that stuck with me was:

“Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.”

He reiterated that this is why practicing with a coach is so important.  Just like in sports, a player practices with a coach so he knows he is doing the right things.  The same is true for problem solving and lean.

My first coach was Dennis Mouser.  He spent about 3 days a week with me helping me learn a good problem solving methodology and making sure I practiced it correctly.  It has been eight years since we have worked together but what he taught me is embedded in what I do when solving a problem.

Speaking from experience, a coach is an investment that everyone learning lean and problem solving should make.  They will help you practice the right things so it becomes permanent.

Coaching Takes Personal Investment

“I don’t feel like a coach anymore.  We are friends and I care about what happens.”

—Usher on The Voice

I know what you are thinking right now, “Did he really just quote Usher on a lean website?”

The answer is yes I did.  Usher made that comment about a week ago when asked about his thoughts on coaching his last remaining team member.

The comment struck me because I have had the same experience when being coached and when coaching.  The people that have coached me I feel that we have become friends as well as the people that I have coached.

Being a coach is more than just giving instruction, whether it is in business, sports or life.  When you are fully vested in coaching you care about what happens to the other person.  When you truly care it is hard not to become friends or develop a more lasting relationship.

We may say we are coaching a lot of different people but when it comes right down to it we really only coach a few people at a time.  It becomes too intense to do anything more.  We may instruct or guide others, but when it comes to coaching there is much more of a personal investment.

Usher wasn’t the only coach to make similar comments.  I noticed that other coaches on The Voice have said the same thing about caring for their team members they coach.

Who has coached you?  Do you still talk with the ones that really had an impact on you whether it be sports or business?

 

You Must Teach a Man to Fish

“Give a man fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

This quote comes to mind when thinking about my role as a lean transformation leader.  Lean is about how we think and behave.  I don’t want to just do things differently.  I want to teach and coach others how to think and behave in a way that aligns with the lean principles.  There are two major reason for this.

Reason 1

I want the changes that I make to be sustainable.  If the people involved in the changes don’t think in a lean way then at some point the changes will not be sustained.  The metrics/results/process will slide backwards.  In my experience, it slides at least to the previous state if not even further backwards.

The best example is a manufacturing facility that Joe and I worked at together.  At one point, the facility was in the red with revenue over $100 million.  The company decided to “go lean”.  Joe and I, as well as another friend of ours, were tasked with leading the lean initiative in our facility.  We became part of the plant staff.  The plant manager and the department managers listened to what we had to say.  They let us lead the lean initiative. Joe and I did a lot of great things from a lean perspective.  In three years, the plant was in the seven figure profit range while revenue had dropped 25%.

This was a collaborative effort to use lean.  Everyone played a part in the success.  But in a big way, Joe and I failed.  We both moved on to bigger and better opportunities.  During the turnaround of the facility we did not change the way the plant manager and department managers thought.  When some traditional mindsets started to creep back in, we were there to guide back to a lean mindset, but we never really changed their beliefs.  We hadn’t taught them to fish.  Within a couple of years, the facility was back in the red and back to traditional batch-and-queue mass production manufacturing.  The results were not sustainable.

Reason 2

The second reason overlaps with the first.  When you transform another person’s thinking, not only will results be sustainable, you have another person who can educate and transform the thinking of others.  The lean thinking allegiance starts to spread.  Instead of one person trying to transform thinking, you now have two.  And so it spreads.

Transforming people for traditional ways of thinking to lean ways of thinking is not easy.  The better the support system that is built the easier it is to continue to transform people’s thinking.  There are times when a great support system is very reassuring.

These are the two biggest reasons why transforming the thinking is just as important as delivering the changes, driving results.

 

P.S. ……. K.I.S.S.

Problem Solving…Keep It Stupid Simple (as in really simple).

Recently, this is the valuable lesson I learned in coaching problem solving using an A3 to show the thinking.

Typically, when I have coached problem solving using the A3 I have had the A3 broken down into big sections (Background/Business Case, Current State, Problem Solving and Root Cause Analysis, Action Plan and Results).  Under each section there were more segments that broke down the process to help try to go through the problem solving step-by-step.

With another group, by necessity, a colleague and I informed them of what an A3 was, gave them a 20 minute high level explanation on the big sections and a single point lesson to help guide them.  A week later the three A3s we saw were probably the best first pass A3s I have ever seen.  There was still some learning and some tweaking to do to tell a good story but overall they were very good.

Upon reflection, people that got the minutia explanation were trying too hard to “fit the form” and not use the A3 to show there thinking.  The coaching became much harder and the people kept focusing on filling the A3 out correctly.  This cause frustration and in a lot of cases people didn’t want to use the A3.

The group that got the high level explanation felt the freedom to explain their thinking any way they saw fit.  The A3s were quite different but they all had the big segments (at least through the areas they have progressed).  The questions and coaching around these A3s were much different.  More around different modes of thought and next steps in the problem solving process.  Not what do I fill in here.

Just like physical processes…keep it simple when teaching and coaching problem solving using the A3 as a tool to make the thinking visual.

What are your experiences?  Is simple better in your eyes?

Learning A3 Downloadable Template

If you look at the page links above you will see a page that has been added labeled Downloads.

This page will have files you can download to keep and use. The initial thought is these will mostly be templates that can be used, but I am not limiting it to just templates.

My intent is not for it to be a template just to fill in but a way for people to learn. I want it to be a tool that can be helpful to understanding lean and facilitate conversations.

Here is the template. There are two worksheets in the template.

  • SWI – Intent of Use – This is meant to explain the best way I have learned to use the learning A3. It tries to answer the questions of what is the purpose of the learning A3 and how to use it. It also, gives a standard operating procedure to go about using it.
  • Learning A3 – This is the template to start with. It leads you through several discussions on what business need is the learning tied to, what is the purpose of the learning, what behaviors and concepts will be the focus on learning and actions to take to reach your targets in the upcoming year.

Please feel free to download and use it. Any feedback on the ease and clarity of use would be appreciated.

Work and Personality Types Redux

In my previous post, I dipped in to my highly unqualified opinion that a difference in introvert and extrovert skill sets may be holding back some Lean progress.  This post again is me drifting out of my lane to discuss this topic.  This time, I want to offer some ideas on how to help bridge the gap.

As a point of clarification, I don’t really think there is such a thing as a true introvert or true extrovert.  We all have tendencies to behave at different points on the scale for different behaviors.  There are social introverts and shy extroverts.  I’m mostly focused on the behavior of deeply reflecting and sharing of communications.  I think we all have experience with the Lean “salesman” type who seems to be good at whipping people in to frenzy, but doesn’t really deal with things past the surface or visual level.  On the other end are those that are the Lean “bookworms” who can critically produce and analyze any of the systems and their impact, but don’t seem to get much buy in or engagement.   The “salesman” types tend to get a lot of attention because they best fit in to the culture of American management because they share similar traits.

The “bookworm” types have half a library available to them.  Frankly, they could pick anything up from Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, or a dozen other authors.  I think the key here is the mental filter and realization that it is going to take some practice to build those skills.  I don’t think there is any value in trying to take a reflective, pensive introvert and turn them in to a clone of Robbins.  It seems like an inefficient use of talent.  However, it is very necessary for those with the skills to learn how to move the needle with other people.

The “salesman” types could use a very slow re-read of the works of Ohno, Imai, or one of Liker’s fine texts.  This should be done with the purpose of understanding before completion.   If practicality is more the goal, they could create their own Ohno circle type activities and force themselves to practice looking deep.  Again, it shouldn’t be about changing the underlying personality as much as it is about adding to the technical skill set.

In both cases, it may help to partner up with someone who may be seen as being a polar opposite to your style.  They may not even need the exact skill set that you are looking for, as long as they can share some of their tips and help coach and reinforce the behaviors.   If it helps, think about it as small scale mentoring to help spread the Lean message.

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