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:
- Do the right thing
- Check your ego at the door
- Take ownership
- Practice blameless problem solving
- Be process oriented
- Continuously improve everything you do
- 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?
Then I tried again. I had great success with the 2nd board. I used it for a year and a half.
With 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 wanted to find an electronic kanban that would work for me. I found one that worked well. It was a computer only board. I explain it more in this post here.
This new electronic kanban work well. I could take a note or email myself on my phone with what needed to be on it and then transfer it when I got to my computer. If I had my computer with my, I just added right then.
As a person always looking to eliminate waste, you can see where there was waste in emailing myself and then re-typing it for the kanban board. A friend of mine recommended Trello for me to try. It was web-based. I was able to download an app to my phone which I could open and enter the work and not send myself emails to re-enter.
Everything looked great so I gave it a try for the last 3 months of last year.
It wasn’t hard to use. It had plenty of features and it was setup very similar to the electronic kanban I was using. For some reason, I couldn’t get the flow of it. Trello was not working for me. I tried for three months and I couldn’t get into the flow of using it and making my life easier to manage.
I have no idea why it didn’t click with me but it was a disaster. I forgot some things that needed to be done. I felt disorganized and stressed.
So, to start 2014 I am going back to my electronic kanban board on my computer and not using Trello. I already feel more organized and less stressed since I switched back.
I’m not dismissing Trello yet. I need to reflect as to why it wasn’t working for me. Was it something truly with Trello? Or did it have something to do with the enormous project I was on and I just couldn’t keep up with trying something new at the same time?
The important thing is to understand what was happening because maybe Trello can work for me and help me reduce my waste in maintaining my kanban board.
Learning is important and not just living with a change because we need to change. The change needs to be given a fair chance and if it is failing then you can’t be scared to change back if necessary.
Does anyone else have any experiences with a change that totally failed?
New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past. While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.
This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2013. Enjoy!
5. Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #9 – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with. The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.
4. Don’t Over Complicate the Formula (October 2011) – Talks about simplifying formulas to get you directionally correct especially with calculating kanbans.
3. Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #4 – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.
2. Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.
1. 5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #3 - Most viewed post for two straight years now. A look at using 5S in the office. What is going too far and how to use 5S in the office properly.
I hope 2014 is a great year!
At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management. The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers. This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.
A couple of years ago, I read the book Personal Kanban by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry. It is a great book that helped me along my personal kanban journey. From the book, Jim and Tonianne create a blog called Personal Kanban.
There is a great series of posts to help with managing your kanban boards. The topics include how to categorize your backlog to make it easier to understand what work there is left to do, but before you categorize your backlog you should clean it out. Clean out what is needed and what isn’t needed any longer. And how to clean up the done column on the board. The series has some great advice and hints to improve the use of your kanban board.
There are pointers on how to focus the work on a more important project. This post discusses using a larger post-it note for the focus project and the team members being instructed to pull work from here first.
No matter if your a novice or been using kanban boards for a very long time, Jim and Tonianne have great pointers and examples to help everyone improve upon their usage of kanban boards.
Today I am highlighting the five most popular posts written in 2013. Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.
Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!
5. Visual Management at Home (February 2013) – A great example of a visual board used at home of a friend of mine.
4. Hoshin Planning – Catch Ball (April 2013) – A great video explaining the process of catch ball during the strategy development process.
3. My Continuous Improvemnt: Personal Kanban 3rd Revision (January 2013) – The latest update to my evolving personal kanban for work.
2. Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri (March 2013) – Chad Walters does a great job explaining strategy deployment using the movie Moneyball
1. When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment (May 2013) – Talks about the importance of setting standards and using them to understand your processes.
Have a Happy New Year!!!!
Lean thinking is about creating flexibility in the manufacturing process in order to deliver the value that customer wants at that time.
In agile, this is also true. The beauty of using agile to develop software is the work can be prioritized on a daily or even more frequent basis. As the development team completes a requirement and it moves to the “complete” pile, the product owner can determine which of the remaining requirements is the most important to complete next. The product owner is closely linked with the customer of the software so they are the voice speaking directly for the customer.
If new requirements come up during development, no problem. Add that requirement to the back log on the kanban board. The next time it is time to pull a new requirement the product owner can prioritize the new story at the top or not.
This creates a lot of flexibility in the development process that a waterfall process does not. Usually, with a waterfall development process all the requirements have to be determined up front and then frozen because adding any after that can cause issues. Then the customer doesn’t see anything until the development is completely done. The agile process allows to release pieces of functionality as it is ready.
This increased flexibility allows the team to deliver more value sooner to the customer, creating a happy customer. Which is what lean is about. Customer first.
Visuals really help people understand the information. Everyone sees the same visual and it starts a good conversation allowing people to gain high agreement. The issue is all the visuals I listed are tools and as with any tool you need to understand when to use it.
To be effective with using visuals, you need to understand what information the group is trying to understand. What is the purpose of the visual? Who is the audience? What do they need to learn from it?
Most of the time the standard visuals will be perfect. You can use them and get everything you need. That is why those tools are well known, because they are used all the time and work. But sometimes, they won’t.
Don’t be afraid to make up a visual tool to present the right information in an easily digestible manner.
Here are a couple a colleague and I came up with for a recent event:
This one shows the % of time people spent doing different tasks throughout the day. It helped the group better understand who was doing what and for how long.
This one shows the frequency of tasks. Daily, Weekly or Monthly? What was the task done on? Who many times on that day?
In both cases, the different colored post-its represent different areas of the company doing the work.
As you can see, the standard visual tools would not have shown this information in a easy manner to understand. We designed this for the group and it worked very well.
We can’t always rely on the tools we have and know in our toolbox. Sometimes we have to think outside the toolbox. It is important to understand what your customer/group is trying to accomplish and design the visual accordingly. Don’t meet the needs of the tool. Meet your group’s needs.
Have you ever sat in a meeting where the discussion is about the high (sometimes low) inventory levels? Do you frequently hear the answer of, “Once we get our better forecasting tool in place our inventories will be better.”?
This is a strong sign the company has not fully embraced lean thinking.
A lean company would not even have a discussion where forecasting tools are the solution. A lean company is closely connected to their customers. The goal is to make one product when one product is bought by the customer. I know this isn’t easy for all companies, but the discussion would be around how to move in this direction. Not how a better forecast can be generated.
There is one thing I can guarantee about a forecast. It is WRONG!
I have never heard anyone say, “Man, I nailed that forecast! I hit it right on the nose!”
Don’t misunderstand me. I do believe there is a use in looking forward and understand what is coming. A company would like to understand if a peak or a valley of the product sales might be coming. This can help set and adjust maximum kanban levels for that period of time.
A forecast is good to understand directionally where volumes are heading. Forecasting is not a good basis for your entire inventory strategy.
It is a difficult mindset to change. When you do and act on that new mindset, the dividends it pays are enormous.
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?
Through the years of learning and implementing lean, I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from Toyota. At first, it is easy to get really excited about the tools (kanban, 5S, flow) and how well they use them. After the initial excitement the understanding of how to use the tool with people systems starts to gain clarity. This is great, but it is still what is best for Toyota and not necessarily what is best for someone else.
Dig deep enough and what Toyota is really good at is problem solving. Toyota really understands where they are and where they want to go and develop a countermeasure that helps them close that gap. Toyota looks at both the technical and human side of the system when solving the problem.
Toyota didn’t develop 5S to straighten the place up. They realized by putting things in a designated place they could see and understand the problems they were having at a glance. This allows them to address the problems quickly.
Kanban was not put in place to reduce inventory. Toyota had a problem of not enough cash or space for lots of inventory, but wanted to be able to have enough inventory on hand to build what the customer wanted when they wanted it and also make visible any problems in flow they were having. The kanban was a countermeasure for this.
Years later others have the ability to learn from Toyota’s lessons. Instead of understanding the problem trying to be resolved, other companies just copy the solution from Toyota without understanding why or if it fits their needs.
Organizations need to become really good problem solvers and if needed learn from Toyota’s lessons, not copy them.