A huge take away from some of the studying of Toyota and case studies I have seen is that everything they do is considered an experiment. Every cycle on the assembly line. Every product development project. Every meeting. Everything is a test to see if they got the expected results from the process. If not, why?
It may seem excessive but it isn’t. If a process is designed to deliver certain results then we are doing ourselves a disservice if we aren’t stopping to ask if the process did deliver the expected results. If not, why? If so, why? What can we learn? Positive or negative.
This can be applied to all work. Many studies state that having an agenda and a plan for a meeting is important to making meetings effective. If that is the case (and it has been in my experience) then afterwards we should ask if we accomplished what we had on the agenda and did we stick to the timeline?
A person example is the agenda I use to conduct improvement (or commonly called kaizen) events. I have a detailed 3-day agenda that is my standard work. Each time I have timing information for every phase of the agenda. During the event, I note the time that I move on to the next phase. After the day is over, I reflect to understand if my experiment is working or not. If something took more time I try to understand why. If it went quickly I try to understand that too.
Approaching each improvement event as an experiment that is testing my standard process has allowed me to learn and create new ways to approach different phases of my agenda. I have discovered quicker and more effective ways to accomplish some of the tasks.
To truly learn and improve a person has to look at everything as an experiment testing our standards. People need to be open to learning with everything they do.
Small change vs. Large change is a debate I hear quite often within the Lean community.
The meaning of kaizen is to continuously make change for the better. Implied is to make small changes everyday and over time it will add up. Paul Akers at FastCap often talks about the 2 second kaizen.
Every improvement counts. This is small change.
The flip side of the discussion is large change. Transform the work into something new. Redesign the process, the layout, the flow. Act in a completely different way.
My opinion…they are both right and you should do both. The key is understanding what your organization needs and when.
If it is a traditional batch and queue organization (manufacturing or service), then as you start your lean transformation I would recommend large change. Create a pull system where the parts or service flow uninterrupted. Dramatically change the way you operate.
Once the large change is done, the improvement never stops. This is when you start looking for the 2 second improvements in the process. Everyday the process should be better. Keep making small changes.
This isn’t the only way to go about a lean transformation. It is just one way. If you want to be successful with your lean transformation take the time to really consider your strategy for going about the transformation.
All in all, some improvement is ALWAYS better than no improvement…small or large.
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.
As an inspector at the end of a screen printing process, I’m was in charge of making sure we didn’t ship bad products. I had always enjoyed my job, but after taking part in a kaizen event I went home less tired and made fewer mistakes, ultimately making the customers happier and saving my employer money. Best of all, it felt like I actually made a difference.
Five days of improvement
We started with a training day. Jose, our Lean Director, asked six of us to meet in a conference room: Maria from engineering, A’isha from purchasing, Pete the controller, Ted from maintenance and Gerry, who ran the press that sent me finished parts.
Jose explained that a kaizen event is a concentrated five day effort to improve a factory process. A’isha said she didn’t know anything about the factory, but Jose said the point was to get new ideas from people who didn’t know the area. He called this being outside looking in.
Once we understood our goal – to improve my inspection operation – Jose had us make a plan. We decided to spend our first day gathering data. Then we’d go to the inspection area, ask questions and capture our ideas on flipcharts. At the end of day two, we’d put together a list of the ideas we wanted to try, then we’d implement as many as possible.
Between us we found out how many customer complaints came in each month, how many pieces were scrapped, the number of bad parts caught and our delivery performance. None of them were very good.
Gerry and I showed the team how we did things on the press line, then people asked questions and made suggestions. Pretty quickly we’d filled a whole flipchart pad!
Back in the conference room we stuck the pages on the walls and made a list of the changes we could make. The quick and easy ideas we tried straight away; Maria worked on the harder ones with Ted.
We used the 5S system to arrange my tools on a shadow board so I knew where to find everything and to see if anything was missing. We labeled everything and cleaned up the area so was a nicer place to work.
One thing I asked for was to raise the inspection table. As it was, I had to bend over, which made my back ache, and I was putting a shadow over the piece I was looking at. Ted made the change in a couple of hours, and it makes such a difference!
Ted also installed a track lighting system over the top of the bench. This was really clever because it gave me the ability to vary the light, which helped me find the defects much more easily.
Gerry suggested I turn on a light whenever I find a defect. This would be his signal to stop the press and he’d be able to fix the problem right away. Jose called this an andon light.
When we’d finished, Jose had us present everything to management. I was worried our ideas were too simple but they seemed impressed. Arnie, the Quality Manager, did say though that the proof would be in the numbers.
A month later we got new data and compared it with our “As-is” numbers. Complaints were down, we were scrapping almost nothing, I was finding more defects and our delivery performance was up.
Little did I know that Jose was so impressed with my performance on the kaizen team that he would ask me three months later to consider joining him as the Lean Coordinator in the company’s transformation process. I took his recommendation to apply for the position when it opened up and soon began my own transformation process into becoming a student of The Toyota Way.
Stay tuned to learn more about my personal journey in lean manufacturing!
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 think this may be the first time I’ve posted a video without it being an aside to my comments. But lately, I can’t seem to get this out of my head. As I view part of what I do as sharing inspiration, that’s exactly what I hope to do. I must have watched this a dozen times in the last couple days alone just trying to really ingrain the message in my head. I know it’s been around on the Tube for a couple years, but it never ceases to be great.
(As you can probably see, this clip originated from the Kaizen Institute and is not mine. I just really like it and wanted to share the awesomeness of it.)
I have spent a lot of time here discussing data. I have covered in and around topics like data integrity, data quality, data interpretation, and even motivations behind data. I am pretty passionate about making decisions based on high quality data. But, sometimes you just don’t have data that you can trust. Maybe it’s from the measurement system or some other human bias, maybe it’s just too poorly compiled to do anything with. That usually leaves you with 3 choices: Do nothing, Get Better Data, or Do Something.
Today, my M.O. is to DO SOMETHING. It may sound obvious, but I’m going to spend time today focusing on making a change in a process instead of focusing on what I should be looking at. It may mean I’ll work on something that I later realize is the 5th or 7th most important topic, but at least I’ll knock that off the list as I’m trying to figure out what should be the number 1 priority.
I think there is a lot of gray area between “Analysis Paralysis” and “Shooting From The Hip”. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, it’s really easy to get lost there. Today I’m going to lend more to the latter than the former and learn something new along the way. Hope you find some improvement on your way today.
I will be the first to admit that I love my laptop. At home or at work, I don’t think I could go back to a desktop as my normal computer. The portability and ease of use is great. In fact, I am typing this blog post on my work laptop now…shhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone.
As a user, I love my laptop. As a facilitator, I hate the invention of the laptop. They creep into kaizen events time after time and cause numerous distractions. One suggestion that comes up to help with this situation is to make it a rule that no laptops are allowed or they are to be closed during work time but during breaks they can be opened to check on things. I agree. This a rule that I discuss at the start of every kaizen event. It is a start but the laptops creep out day after day.
I started making sure there were breakout groups (see post here) scheduled to help keep people involved in the discussions and the laptops shut. That works sometimes but the laptops keep coming like a bad dream.
I have reminded individuals during breaks about the rule of keeping laptops shut. It works for awhile. Then the laptops creep back out. I have tried everything I can think of except putting a laptop drop off by the door so they aren’t anywhere near people.
Am I the only one having this trouble? Is it a problem that I should really care about?
I know in today’s world, connectivity is king. If it isn’t the laptop, it is the smartphone. I understand that everyone is busy also. I am not old and can remember the days of not having any laptops or smartphones. Kaizen events and meetings meant we were disconnected for that time. How do we capture that same feeling and spirit again?
An often glossed over part of a kaizen/improvement event is the follow up after the event. Why is this?
Part of the reason is the plethora of information available on how to run a kaizen/improvement event. I have even written blogs (here and here) about executing an event. It is easy for people to focus on, because it’s a big deal to get so many people from cross functional areas in one room for a long period of time. Facilitators want to make sure it is a valuable use of the people’s time and not wasted sitting around. This is a reasonable expectation.
However, coming out of a kaizen/improvement event there usually are a few action items to still be completed. If these are not completed, the full value of the event won’t be reached. The event would have wasted some of the participant’s time. This is a hidden waste. The participants are busy during and after the event with work they are completing at the time. If the full value of the event isn’t reached, it isn’t seen by everyone. It is pretty obvious if people are sitting idle in a conference room. It is frustrating to the participants as well.
The 30, 60, 90 day follow up is an important tool to help ensure none of the time participants’ time is wasted.
The 30, 60, 90 day follow up is used to drive accountability to complete the action items and verify the results are moving in the desired direction. The follow up is valuable time to reflect on what is working so far and what is not. The team can make adjustments if necessary and drive to the results that are desired.
The event is draining and hard work, but the real work begins once the team leaves the kaizen/improvement event and embarks on implementing their new process.
The hype is around the the event itself, but don’t forget the follow up or you may be wasting people’s time.
A common tool in the lean world is the kaizen event. This is where a cross functional team meets for 3-5 days all day to improve a process.
The days are long, not only for the participants but also for the facilitator(s). Participants hate sitting around a conference room for multiple days straight. It is difficult to concentrate and people become bored quickly. It is hard for facilitators to keep the energy up during this time also.
This is where breakout groups come in handy. Using breakout groups gets everyone engaged and can get the team up and moving around. If there are participants who don’t like to speak to a bigger audience, the smaller groups give them a chance to give input without feeling uncomfortable. Also, it can give the facilitator time to gather their thoughts and re-energize during the session.
Breakout groups can be used in different ways. For an event focused around a business or transactional process that is hard to see, a rotating chart can be a good option. Have everyone write their improvement ideas on a post-it note. One idea per post-it note. Give the team a few minutes to write them down. Then have each person come to the front, read their idea and stick the post-it on paper hanging on the wall. Group the post-its by similar ideas from individuals. After you have all the ideas, split the large group into smaller teams and give each team an equal number of ideas to discuss. Use a flip chart. Have one idea per flip chart page. List the idea at the top and then write the benefits on the left side and the challenges to the idea on the right side of the chart. When all the teams are done, have them rotate to read what the other group wrote and write any additional thoughts they have on the idea.
This is just one way to get people up and more engaged.
If the improvement event is in a manufacturing area, a typical breakout group is going out and actually moving the work area around to the improved design. Simple, effective and the process is ready to run right after the event is over.
It is important to balance working as a group and breaking out into smaller groups. When done well, it energizes the group and the facilitator and allows everyone a chance to give input no matter what their communication style is.
It is amazing to me the amount of confidence a person can have of producing a successful outcome when they are supported by a strong process.
“A bad process beats good people” is a quote I picked up from Jamie Flinchbaugh and Any Carlino.
The point of the quote is to stress that even good people will fail within a bad process so design the process so it will repeatedly deliver good results.
Let’s look at the same thing but in a different way.
When a strong, repeatable process is designed and followed it will instill confidence of the people using the process. The more the people use the process and the more they see successful results the more confidence is built. The person looks like a superhero because they are delivering on results time after time. Confidence can build to a point of almost arrogance because they know they can deliver the results wanted if they follow the process.
This is true of kaizen events and problem solving as well as day-to-day work execution processes.
This does not mean a strong process can’t be improved because you can always make it stronger, but understand if you have a strong process and use it to your advantage.
Turn yourself into a superhero as well as others around you by developing a strong process for something you do and following it.