Blog Archives

My Continuous Improvement: Personal Kanban – 4th Revision FAILED!

A couple of years ago, I read a blog post by Tim McMahon about his experience with using personal kanban to manage his work.  It inspired me to try my own.  The first one didn’t work as I mention here.

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?

My Continuous Improvement: Personal Kanban – 3rd Revision

A couple of years ago, I read a blog post by Tim McMahon about his experience with using personal kanban to manage his work.  It inspired me to try my own.  The first one didn’t work as I mention here.

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.

Physical Board

Physical Board

Electronic Kanban

Electronic Kanban

(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?

Lean Series on Visual Management Next Week

Back in March, Beyond Lean hosted a week long series on standardized work.  Joe and I posted about standardized work (Lessons Learned and Foundational to Continuous Improvement).  We also had guests post from Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership (SW and Your Packaging Line) and Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey (What It Is).

The week went over very well with readers so next week we are bringing the series back.  The lean series will be focused on visual management.  Joe and I will have our contributions as well as new guest bloggers Danielle Look and David Kasprzak.

The lean series is a way to get a concentrated dose of information on one subject by only having to go to one site.  I hope you enjoy it.

Lean Series Week A Hit

I want to thank all the readers of Beyond Lean.  This week was our first Lean Series Week where we concentrated all the posts on one particular topic.  This week it was Standardized Work.  The purpose was to invite guest bloggers as well as Joe and I to provide view points on a single topic so everyone could learn about the topic in an efficient manner.

As a quick summary, here are the posts from the series this week.

What Standard Work Is

This week Beyond Lean is focusing the discussion on standardized work.  There will be four posts throughout the week from different bloggers.  Joe and I will post a blog as well as Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey and Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership.  The purpose is to look at different aspects of standardized work from several perspectives all gathered in one location and within the same time frame.  We hope this spurs thought, reflection and action for our readers around standardized work.

The post below is from my friend, Tim McMahon, who runs A Lean Journey blog.  Tim has great tips and insights on his Facebook page as well and a great weekly Lean Quote series every Friday.  You can also connect with Tim on Twitter.

Standard work is a written description of how a process should be done. It guides consistent execution. At its best, it documents a current “best practice” and ensures that it is implemented throughout a company. At a minimum, it provides a baseline from which a better approach can be developed.

The definition of standard work is “the most effective combination of manpower, materials and machinery”. Standard work is the method, and thereby you have the four Ms of manufacturing (manpower, material, machinery, methods). Standard Work is only “the most effective” until the standard is improved.

Standards to a company are like scales and sheet music to a musician. Our team members help develop and maintain standards, which are not static. Standards change as we get better, just as a good band will incorporate chord and melodic variations if they sound good. Thus, standards do not constrain creativity – they enable it, by providing a basis for comparison, and by providing stability, so we have the time and energy to improve.

Standardized work comprises:

  • Content
  • Sequence
  • Timing
  • Expected outcome

It should also contain tests, or red flags, which tell you when there’s a problem. That way, you won’t ship junk. The tests could be physical, such as a torque check on a bolt, or it could be administrative, like a blacked-out template that fits over a standard form and highlights the critical information.

Standard work enables and facilitates:

  • Avoidance of errors, assuring that lessons learned are utilized and not forgotten
  • Team learning and training
  • Improvements to make the work more effective
  • Reduction in variability
  • Creation of meaningful job descriptions
  • Greater innovation by reducing the mental and physical overhead of repetitive or standardized work

Standard work does not preclude flexibility. You can still do a lot of different jobs, and be able to address new problems. Standard work just takes the things you do repeatedly and makes them routine, so you don’t waste time thinking about them.

Standards are an essential requirement for any company seeking to continuously improve. All continuous improvement methods leverage learning to get better results from their business efforts. Standards provide the baseline references that are necessary for learning. A standard operating procedure supplies a stable platform for collecting performance measurements. The standard and its profile of performance yields the information people need to uncover improvement opportunities, make and measure improvements, and extract learning.

Other posts from this standardized work series:

Standardized Work is Foundational to Continuous Improvement

This week Beyond Lean is focusing the discussion on standardized work.  There will be four posts throughout the week from different bloggers.  Joe and I will post a blog as well as Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey and Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership.  The purpose is to look at different aspects of standardized work from several perspectives all gathered in one location and within the same time frame.  We hope this spurs thought, reflection and action for our readers around standardized work.

An often overlooked part of standardized work is how foundational it is to continuous improvement.  Standardized work is not about turning people into mindless robots.  It is about setting a baseline so improvement can occur and freeing up the mental capacity from doing the routine in order to think about how the process could work better.

Standardized work creates a baseline to understand how the process is currently working.  Once a process is stabilized, a baseline is created.  Now an improvement can happen.  A change can be made to the process and the results can be monitored.  If the process improves, it will be seen.  The same is true if the process worsens.

If everyone is working differently, without standardized work, then there is no stability in the process.  When one person makes a change to try to improve what they are doing it is very hard to see in the results.  Was the improvement due to the changes made by one employee or by the noise in the process from other employees doing the work differently?  Eliminate the noise by developing standardized work.

Standardized work can help reduce the amount of time someone is thinking about getting the routine task completed, because they aren’t looking for tools or parts, the work is coming to the area without defects or fewer decisions are needed because the standardized work guides them.  While there is a misconception that this is used to create humanoid robots, an organization practicing lean thinking wants the freed up mental capacity to be used on thinking of ways to improve the process.  Some organizations call this the 8th waste of unused employee intellect.  This is about engaging the people who do the work in the improvement process.

Without standardized work, continuous improvement is not possible and it can help to better engage the employees in how to improve their work.  Just like when building a house start with the foundation.  The same is true of continuous improvement…start with standardized work.

Other posts from this standardized work series:

Thanks to A Lean Journey

I wanted to say thanks to Tim McMahon, who runs A Lean Journey blog.

Tim has been a great supporter of Beyond Lean over the last year and has helped to expose us to new and different groups of people.  Yesterday, Tim reviewed Beyond Lean  for the 2011 Curious Cat Annual Management Blog Carnival.

I encourage you to take a look at Tim’s blog.  He is reviewing other great blog sites over the next few days.

My Continuous Improvement: Second Try at a Personal Kanban

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, I was a guest blogger over at A Lean Journey blog hosted by Tim McMahon.  The blog post is about my second iteration at a personal kanban board to understand the flow of my work.  I have re-posted the blog below, but I encourage everyone to check out Tim’s blog if you haven’t already.

 

As I look for ways to improve, I am inspired by other lean thinkers and bloggers.  I see what they are trying and look to how that might work for me.  I try and experiment with things in order to make my job easier and to feel more in control and organized.

I decided to start a series that will be based on what I have tried in order to make my work better.  It may be small or large things and most likely it was an inspiration I got from someone else.  I hope that by passing along what I have learned that it may inspire others the way others have inspired me.

About three months ago, I posted a blog about my first attempt at a personal kanban.  It was not successful at all.  With some encouragement from fellow blogger Tim McMahon, I reflected more on why it didn’t work and then learned more about how to apply personal kanban.  “Personal Kanban” by Jim Benson and Tonianne Barry was a helpful resource for me.

At the end of my previous post, I talked about digitizing the my kanban board.  I almost fell prey to a common error…..looking for a technology solution when a process has not even been established.  I was tempted by the dark side, but resisted.  A digital format may be what I need in the future but first I must establish a process that works.

The second try at a personal kanban board has been very successful.  Here is a picture of my board.  It isn’t very clear, but I think it will help with the discussion.

My value stream is Ready (my queue of work), Doing (what I am working on), Pen (items I have worked on but waiting for input), and Done.  I have set my max for Doing and Pen at 3 items.  I move items for Ready to Doing after I have moved all items from Doing to Done or Pen.  This prevents one thing from sitting in the Doing column for a long time because I move the other two items and avoid the third.

Down in the bottom right-hand corner I have a color key.  The color of the Post-It notes is related to a specific area of work.

Also, I have blog posts that I do weekly.  It doesn’t matter what day the posts are written but I would like to write 3 a week.  It would get monotonous if I used Post-Its for writing three blog posts every week. Instead of using Post-Its, I put up three check boxes.  I put a check after in th box after I finish a blog post.  The section below it is a place I can put an idea for a blog post.  When I want to write a post, I can grab one of the ideas from that section.

The board has helped me keep track of my work and made it visual to my boss all that I have going on.  It has helped my boss understand where I am spending most of my time.

One of the keys is to choose the correct work chunk to put on a Post-It.  Too small of a item is a quick to-do.  An example of something too small would be to send an email or make a call.  Too big of a chunk and nothing will ever move.  XYZ Project would be too big.  There is a middle ground.  Breaking the XYZ Project into smaller chunks has helped me.  Create charter for project.  Study the current state of the process.  Update action item list.  These are examples of the middle ground that I have found.

I hope this helps others looking at trying a personal kanban.  It isn’t easy, but when it works it feels good and keeps the work flowing.  Now I get to go check a box for blog posts!

Lean Quote Reader Participation: Can’t Please Everybody

Tim McMahon, who runs the blog A Lean Journey, posts a quote every Friday and discusses how it relates to lean.  Tim does a great job of pulling quotes from all types of sources.  I like it and look forward to it every Friday.

With that in mind, I want to try something similar but with a different twist on it.  The success of this depends on you, the readers of this blog, and your participation.  I will post a quote and in the comment section I would like you to tell me how this quote might resonant with you and what you are doing to implement, coach, teach, and practice lean.

Like everything else, lets experiment and see how this works.

Quote:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

—Bill Cosby

I look forward to reading your thoughts on how this quote might relate to what you are doing with lean.

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