Blog Archives

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 5 Thru 1

2014 is now in full swing.  Before 2013 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2013.

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.

AND……

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!

Top 6 – 10 of 2013

Lean In Project Management

Like so many that started learning and implementing lean in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I started applying lean principles and concepts in manufacturing.  I spent nearly 15 years applying lean thinking in a manufacturing environment.  I absolutely loved seeing the immediate change in material flow or the feedback from operators that someone listened to them and they were able to make things better.

It is no secret.  A manufacturing environment is a tangible environment to see the improvements and get quicker feedback back on how you are applying lean thinking because of the immediate visual results.

A couple of years ago, I moved from the manufacturing environment to the office/project management environment.  This was quite a change and one I looked at as a new challenge.  I took it on.  I have worked with product development and retail management teams.  Not even thinking twice as to what I was doing…until recently.

This summer I took on the role of project manager.  I am managing the deployment of technology to our retail environments.  The changes are not as immediate and not as visual as a manufacturing environment.  After a while, I questioned whether I was still applying lean principles to my work.  Finally, I took a step back to have a serious reflection and what I discovered is my previous 15+ years have engrained the thinking and principles without realizing it.

I have been directly observing the work as activities, connections and flows by sitting with the teams developing and testing the technology.  I see how the work and how the product works.  I have gone to a few retail stores to see the technology being used so I can bring those observations back to the team.  I also went to other retail stores using similar technology and talked with the store managers about what is working and what isn’t working for them.

The principle of systematic problem solving comes to light with using visual boards to status the project and highlight the problems that need to be worked on in the next 24-48 hrs.  We are trying to surface the problems quickly, so they can be resolved.  We have broken the issues down into categories to know which are the highest priority.

Systematic waste elimination comes from defining new processes that will continue once the project is launched.  We are working to improve and make them as efficient as we know how today.

Each day at standup, we are establishing high agreement on what we are going to be working on and how we will go about working on it.  This establishes clear ownership of the work and an expected due date.

Finally, we are learning about the product, the technology and our processes with every iteration.  Getting feedback incorporated into the product as quickly as possible.

The reflection helped me understand how I am using the lean principles everyday even if it is not in a tangible manufacturing environment.

How about you?  In what type of environment are you using the lean principles?

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2012 – 5 Thru 1

2013 is now in full swing.  Before 2012 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2012.

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 2012.  Enjoy!

5.  Sportscenter Has Killed U.S. Manufacturing (June 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #3 – Manufacturing is fundamental.  The U.S. has lost it’s sights on the fundamentals and is just worried about the flashy.  The U.s. needs to get back to the fundamentals in order to get back on top.

4.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

3.  5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – 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.

2.  Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.

AND……

1.  Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #2 – Exploring the question as to why lean people are not seen as more than just lean experts.  Looking at a process from end-to-end seems like a good business practice no matter what the role.

I look forward to more posts in 2013!

Top 6 – 10 of 2012

Best of Beyond Lean in 2012

I was looking at the Top 10 posts for 2012 and noticed that only 2 posts from 2012 made the Top 10.  Both posts were from earlier in the year.  I finally realized that a post from about May on in the year has very little chance to overcome posts that have a 5 month or more head start on gaining views.

I decided to highlight 5 of the most popular posts written in 2012.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Misinterpretations of Lean vs. Six Sigma (April 2012) – How Six Sigma and Lean can be misrepresented in what their purpose is.

4.  Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – This is the post about the new downloadable template to help with strategy discussions.

3.  Visuals Used in the Office (October 2012) – A couple of visual management examples from the transactional workplace.

2.  True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.

1.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!

Visuals Used in the Office

A couple of weeks ago during the Lean Series week, a comment was made on one of the posts about showing more examples of visuals used in the office.  That was a great question.

Below are some ways visual management has been used in the office area.

(click on image to enlarge)

The column on the right shows the tasks that must be done each day by the managers.  When the task is completed they put a check mark in the box.  There are 4 managers in the area every day so there are 4 columns under each day.  You can see that one manager is in a kaizen event all week so they put kaizen on the board to highlight the situation.

(click on image to enlarge)

The above picture is a board displaying which employees are working on what work for that day.  The manager updates the board every morning.  The green square shows where that person will work that day.  If an employee finishes their work they put a blue square showing they are available to help.  If employee needs help, they can put a red square up.  This has eliminated a lot of startup time in the morning when employees were trying to understand what work they were needed on that day.

(click on image to enlarge)

This visual training matrix board supplements the visual scheduling board.  This board shows who is fully trained in what skills.  Green ‘X’ means they are fully trained.  Purple ‘X’ means they are in the progress of being trained.  Red ‘X’ means the employee is not trained to do that work.  The manager uses this board to inform who they can have do what work for the day on the board above.

(click on image to enlarge)

This is a typical way visual management can be used in the office.  It shows the progress of work through stages of the work.  Depending on the type of work, the stages work goes there can be labeled differently.  For software development it could be Design, Develop, Test and Deploy.

I hope these examples spur thought on how you can use visual management in the office environment.  If you have any examples you would like to share please feel free to send them to me so I can share them wit the readers.

Saving time: How Visual Management Benefits Knowledge Work

Today’s guest post was written by David M. Kasprzak.  David has worked with all levels of management in large commercial organizations and government agencies on budget development, project planning & performance measurement. Over the course of his career, he has realized that it is the qualitative elements of work that determine success or failure.  Based on this realization, he began to explore the principles of Operational Excellence and Lean process improvement, and apply those concepts to other areas of both work and life.  In 2010, David created the My Flexible Pencil blog to share his ideas on these topics.

Time, as we’re all well aware, is our most precious resource.  When it is gone – it is gone for good.  It doesn’t change form or turn into some other less complicated element – it is simply gone.  When it is used well, we can say that our time was turned into some useful activity or tangible product.  When it is wasted, the shame is greatest, since the time is gone for good and nothing of value was created to take its place.  Yet, for some reason, wasting time seems to be, by-and-large, perfectly okay.

Think of this: What if you hired a group of people to plan, coordinate, and execute taking thousands of dollars from people.  The group you hired became so adept at it that they were able to take that money from people who were so duped they gave it willingly.  What’s more, those who took the money then lit it on fire.

Doing such a thing is, of course, both bizarre and criminal.  However, when we set hapless managers into an organization where they have little ability or willingness to work on the business and not just work in the business, time is taken from people at every turn without so much as an afterthought.  Boring, useless, meaningless drudgery that simply wastes time is so frequently the norm that it is not just tolerated, but expected.

How can this tremendous waste of time be prevented?  Take a look at the typical office environment and you’ll see an immediate answer.  Or, rather, you won’t see it – because you can’t see much of anything.  Most of the workers and, therefore, the work are both hidden behind rows and rows of neutral-colored cubicles.  While some of those workers are, indeed, wasting time by delving into any number of distractions while hunkered down in their fabric-covered boxes, this is not the norm in most places.  The greater shame is that the way they are going about their genuine work is entirely out of the line-of-sight of anyone who is trying to see the work progress through the organizations.

While the completely open office environment isn’t the answer, either (it’s much too distracting and too noisy for people to concentrate), there is a need to invoke some visual controls in the office environment too.  How is that new software development project progressing?  Is there a clear, visual roadmap that lays out the steps the project must go through and status boards to communicate progress?  How do you know who is working on what – and not just as a general assignment, but in terms of who is working on what for how long right now?  How do you know when that person is stuck, waiting on some input?  What’s the status of that input?

In most places the answer requires sending emails, calling meetings, or – heaven forbid – getting up and going over to talk to someone.  All of which leads to information standing still or, at best, travelling much too slowly.  If, however, more visual cues were invoked so that information was shared more openly, more quickly, and with greater appreciation of the need for immediate, intuitive understanding of how work is progressing (or not) – information would transfer faster.  Instead, things are typically thrown into a powerpoint presentation that is shared in a meeting once a week – which is the equivalent of a factory floor batch-and-queue process that builds up a bunch of widgets only to release them to the cell once a week – whether the cell is ready for the batch or not.

Committing to visual controls information moves faster.  The greater the velocity of information exchange, the greater the awareness of potential problems and ability to take action before those problems materialize.  By adopting better visual controls, knowledge work environments can greatly increase both the amount and velocity of information moving through the organization.  While this seems obvious, it is a bit daunting that the habits and practices that have been developed outside of the shop floor, such as hiding people and work behind tall cubicle walls, do more to hinder the flow of information than to facilitate it.

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2011 – 5 Thru 1

2012 is now in full swing.  Before 2011 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2011.

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 2011.  Enjoy!

5.  Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #2 – The first part of a three part series where I compared the lean principles I learned from the Lean Learning Center to the Toyota Principles.  This post covers the first five Toyota Principles.

4.  Seth Godin and Failing Better (April 2011) – This post dives into a post from Seth Godin talking about how to fail so you learn faster and use that to your advantage.

3.  Sportscenter Has Killed U.S. Manufacturing (June 2011) – Manufacturing is fundamental.  The U.S. has lost it’s sights on the fundamentals and is just worried about the flashy.  The U.s. needs to get back to the fundamentals in order to get back on top.

2.  Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Exploring the question as to why lean people are not seen as more than just lean experts.  Looking at a process from end-to-end seems like a good business practice no matter what the role.

AND……

1.  5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – 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 look forward to more posts in 2012!

Top 6 – 10 of 2011

FastCap – Improving the Filing System

Paul Akers is a great lean practitioner and advocate.  I really enjoy watching the improvement videos they place on YouTube.  Here is one that I liked because it was in the office.  It shows how improving the filing system can help become more efficient in finding files and free floor space.  What I like most is, the improvement is based off a suggestion from a tour group.  It is great to see all the small improvements add up like they do at FastCap.

Enjoy!

5S in the Office

One of the first tools everyone seems to jump to is 5S.  Lets implement 5S to start our lean journey, whether that is the right answer for them or not.  On the manufacturing floor, 5S is more straight forward.  Employees may not like it at first but it 5S has an easier time getting accept on the manufacturing floor.

The flip side is in the office.  5S is very applicable in the office but harder to apply appropriately.  I can’t count how many times I have heard, “You aren’t taking my pictures away from me.” or “It is stupid to label my phone and stapler.  I know where they are and where they go.”  Who am I to argue?  I totally agree and would feel the same way.

When I stopped to think about it, people felt this way because of the improper understanding and/or execution of 5S in the office.  Most likely someone came in and dictated how they were going to clean up their area and label everything and they would be graded on it.

That is not the intent of 5S.  It is to quickly surface problems so they can be recognized and addressed.

So when and how does someone apply 5S to the office appropriately?  The first answer is when it is a shared space.  If someone else will have to use the same area or desk to do the same or similar work, then this is a place that 5S can help.  Just like the manufacturing floor someone can come in and spend too much time re-arranging the desk/area for their work or spend to much time looking for something that is out of place.  Unlike your own personal desk that no one else will use.  If no one else will use it , then why label, because you know where everything is.  Even “messy” people have a system so leave it be.

The how should address work the work that will be done by shared parties.  This work is what needs to have 5S applied to it.  Not work they are not sharing.

A good that I visited recently did a great job of applying 5S to the office.  The work was processing layouts through a computer system.  People had their own desk, but could have to share it with others.  So if Bob left on vacation, Jane would come to his desk to do that work, because no matter what the layouts had to be processed that day.  So they standardized the color of the folders for “To Be Done”, “In Process”, and “Completed”.  They standardized what drawer the folder went into when completed and how the work area was laid out for the work.  The work area was the computer and the things directly around it to get the job done.  They also standardized where their visual signal for needing the next job was on the desk so no one had to search for it.  The rest of the area was for Bob to personalize with his pictures, calendars, and what not.  It did not interfere with the work that was needed to be done.

The group become more efficient and standardized without losing any personalization.  Because of this, for 2 years this worked very well and there was ownership.  The only reason it isn’t around now is because of new technology that eliminated that work.

The challenge is to know when and how to use 5S, especially in the office.

Added Note:  Interesting enough, I wrote this last Thursday before Mark Graban published his post on 5S.  This is great timing.  Here is a link to his post and why office 5S can go so wrong.

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