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Strategy A3 Downloadable Template

If you look at the page links above you will see that a new 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 three worksheets in the template.

  • SWI – Intent of Use – This is meant to explain the best way I have learned to use the strategy A3.  It tries to answer the questions of what is the purpose of the strategy A3 and how to use it.  It also, gives a standard operating procedure to go about using it.
  • Strategy A3 – This is the template to start with.  It leads you through several discussions on what is your mission, metrics, targets, current business conditions and actions to take to reach your targets in the upcoming year.
  • Goal 1 Tactics – There are 6 of these sheets.  Only use the ones that you need.  It is based off the number of high level goals you have on our Strategy A3.  These sheets help take the initiatives from the Strategy A3 and go another level deeper to develop a tactical plan to complete the initiative and achieve the goal.

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

New Downloadable Section on Beyond Lean

If you look at the page links above you will see that a new 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.

Currently there is only one file there with plans to add more.  The first file is a skills matrix template.  My intent is not for it to be a template to fill in skills for people learn.  I want it to be a tool that can be helpful to understanding lean and facilitated conversations.

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

  • SWI – Intent of Use – This is meant to explain the best way I have learned to use the skill matrix.  It tries to answer the questions of what is the purpose of the skill matrix and how to use it.  It also, gives a standard operating procedure to go about using it.
  • Profile – Skills – This sheet is a place to list the different roles in an organization across the top and set the goal for the ideal rating for that role against the skills listed down the side.  This will help to describe the gap to be closed during the learning process.
  • Assessment – Skills – This sheet is where the names of the individuals are listed and rated for each skill.  Just shade in the appropriate boxes to rate an individual.
  • Ratings – Skills – This sheet has a definition of what the ratings are.
  • Development Plan – This sheet is where you can list the skill to improve, the target rating to achieve, and a plan to achieve it.  Under the Name column, either a specific person’s name can go there or you can enter ‘Group’ that shows this is something the entire group is working on improving.

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

No More Lean Reading!

I have decided to try something different for 2012.  I am not going to read a single lean or leadership book for the entire year.  I read my first book on lean and/or leadership about 5 years ago.  The Hitchhker’s Guide to Lean by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino was a gift to me as I left one job for another.  Being the avid learner, I was hooked.  I kept reading more and more books on lean.   As I’m sure many of yours are, my completed reading list on lean and leadership is a mile long.

So why stop reading books on the subject this year?

Not because of burn out or because I want to stop learning.  On the contrary, I want to learn but by putting more of what I have read into practice.

I have used some of what I have read over the years when the time was right, but recently I seem to have read so much especially about leadership and lean that I am jumping from on thing to another without giving anything a serious try.  This year is going to be dedicated to trying to put some of what I have learned about into practice without diluting it with more information.

I plan on continuing to read blogs and non-fictional and a few fictional books this year, but my lean book reading will be on hold.

My learning is going to come from doing.  I will have to dig back through some of my books to refresh myself and I am looking forward to that.  I am looking forward to the challenge and seeing the results.

Is there anything from your past reading that you want to learn more about?

Don’t Shortchange An Improvement Opportunity

The kaizen event is a great way to start to get people engaged in improving processes.  The kaizen event is an improvement event that focuses on a particular process during a dedicated and concentrated period of time.  Typically, these events last 3-5 days depending on the process that is being improved.  During the events, it is asked that the participants dedicate their full attention to the team.

Dedicating a full 3-5 days to work on a single process seems like a lot to most people.  Especially, people who have not participated in a kazien event.  This leads to a fun game of “Name That Tune” starring the kaizen event.  Managers will push back and ask if the event can be done in less time, “What about 1.5 days?”  One time I even had someone ask if we could do a 5-day event in 4 hours.

Speaking from experience, the timeline for a kaizen event is something that should not be negotiated.  Plan the minimum amount of time needed and stick to it.  If it is a 3-day event, don’t plan it for 5 days and if it is a 5-day event don’t squeeze it into 3 days.  This is a stake in the ground that a facilitator and leader should not move.  As the facilitator it is your responsibility to make sure the event is a success and you can’t do that if you are compromising the timeline right off the bat.

Some things that can work in negotiating the kaizen event, is to leave an hour or so at the beginning and end of the days for people to check email or get a chance to catch up on their day-to-day stuff.  Even planning several 1/2 days instead of a couple of full days.  This works well when improving a business process in an office area.  Another trick that works sometimes is to put a 1-day break between the 2nd and 3rd day if needed.  This gives people the chance to think about the work they have done so far and usually re-energizes them for the 3rd day.

When it comes to facilitating and leading improvement changes don’t shortchange yourself on the timeline to make people happy.  If you change the timeline then you should look at changing your scope.

Does anyone have any other helpful tips?

How to Use Group Learning Effectively

Group learning is becoming more popular today.  There are different forums for this such as consortiums, networking groups, non-profit organizations, conferences and symposiums to name a few.  At the beginning of the year, I highlight the Smith County Lean Consortium as an example of work being done and the range of organizations that can be involved.

In order to make this type of learning successful, a couple of elements and structure have to be there.  First and foremost, the companies have to be very open.  Open to letting other companies see the work they are doing.  Open to presenting the truth of what they are doing, not a dog and pony show.  Open to honest and candid feedback from outside eyes.  Open to accepting the candid feedback in order to help them improve.  And finally, open to giving honest and candid feedback when they visit another facility.

In short, a safe learning environment needs to be present.

Once a safe learning environment has been established, then the learning process needs to be followed.  Spend some time learning about a concept, a problem, or an organization.  After learning about it, go to where the work is done and understand how to apply the concept in that environment, come up with potential countermeasures for a problem, or give suggestions to move an organization forward.  Finally, discuss what was observed with the host organization.  Help them to improve.  Then discuss how what you learned and saw will help to improve your organization.

I know this sounds simple, but too many organizations create a dog and pony show where they just show off what they have been doing and don’t really address a problem when a learning group visits.  Or they will make it an unsafe learning environment.  Usually it is unintentional.  You will hear comments like, “But our business is different.” or “Great idea, but you haven’t seen the whole picture.”

Group learning can be very effective if done correctly.  It can be cost effective too.  So the next time you want have multiple organizations learning from one another make sure to provide a safe learning environment and follow the learning process.

Think Before Developing a Future State

One of the most common tools used in lean is a Value Stream Map (VSM).  During this process a team draws out the current state using certain mapping techniques.  The second step is to draw out a future or ideal state map, then add improvement ideas to the current state that would help to get to the future state.

I completely agree with the need to draw out the future state so you know what direction you are heading in.   It helps give guidance to the improvement ideas.

What if part of the future state is given to the team ahead of time?  An example might be, the lead time must be X.  What if you suspect the team will shoot for the target exactly, saving anything extra for the next year because they know they will have to keep improving?

I have found drawing the future state can impede stretching the limits of improvement.  When I suspect this to be the case, I have the team ‘empty their pockets’ of all their improvement ideas.  I do this after the current state map but before the future state map.

I then take the team through a vetting exercise.  What would be the benefits?   The hurdles?  What kind of resources would be needed?  Then as a team we decide on the top ideas to implement.

The next step is to draw the future state map showing all the benefits of the top improvement ideas.  Did we reach the goal given to us?  Or exceed it?  If so, we are done.  If we fell short then we go back to the ideas not selected and pick more to add to the future state map.  So far, in every case the future state map has shown bigger improvements than the targets that were set.  Now the team has a little wiggle room for error and still hit the target.

Like every lean tool, we have to think about the purpose of the tool and our situation in order to use it best.

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Leveraging My Strength

On Friday, Jamie Flinchbaugh had a great post about leveraging your strengths or developing your weaknesses.  As he mentioned, there is no easy answer to this question.

I have been thinking about this exact question for the last few months.  I am looking to change roles in order to gain more experience and knowledge about the business I’m in.  I also want to exhibit how a change agent can “run the business” with the principles/concepts/tools I have been teaching for several years.

I have spent all of my professional life working in manufacturing.  I have a true passion for seeing manufacturing surviving and being a foundational part of our country.  I know I could go there and do very well.  Staying in operations can give me more a of a platform and security to do other things to help promote manufacturing in the U.S.  Plus, there is still plenty for me to learn about operations and manufacturing.

Yet, I still have a desire to learn about areas of the business outside of operations in order to grow and expand my knowledge.

My wife helped me see that when I have ventured out of operations/manufacturing that I haven’t been as happy as when I was in operations/manufacturing……..so far.

In my case, it seems to be more beneficial to leverage my strength than develop my weaknesses.

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