Monthly Archives: June 2011

Guest Post: John Wooden Quotes Relating to Lean

Joe Wilson has worked in a variety of continuous improvement, problem solving and engineering roles in manufacturing and distribution functions  in the automotive, electronics, and food/grocery industries. He was responsible for site leadership of Lean implementation during the launch and ramp up of becoming a supplier to Toyota and was able to work directly with their personnel and the Toyota Supplier Support Center.   His training background includes courses in Lean/TPS through TSSC and the University of Kentucky’s Lean Systems program.  He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Shainin Red X Journeyman in addition to training in Kepner-Tregoe problem solving techniques.  Joe also has a BS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.  

I have spent the first part of 2011 with my John Wooden “Page A Day” calendar taking up real estate on my desk.   It’s filled with quotes, stats, and other random info about  the former UCLA Men’s Basketball coach who was about as successful and universally liked and respected of a person as you will ever find.  (I’ll skip the full bio, but a quick Google or Amazon search will show the extent of his influence.)  Here are a few of the gems that have popped up so far:

“No matter how fine a person is at anything, he can always improve.  No one ever reaches maximum potential.”
“A good banker isn’t careless with pennies; a good leader isn’t sloppy about details.”
“What is right is more important than who is right.”
“A player who makes a team great is much more valuable than a great player.”
Wooden’s Four laws of learning:  Explanation, Demonstration, Correction, and Repitition

Pretty much any of those could have been just as at home in a Lean text.   In addition to the similarity in phrasing to lean texts, I’m struck by the similarities in those who emulate the behaviors.  There are bunches of companies ‘working’ on Lean, but very few approaching the level of success of a Toyota.  Similarly, you can find hundreds of coaches and managers who claim to utilize Wooden’s principles, without replicating his sustained success.  Some have tried to piecemeal add aspects to their own way of doing things without understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  Some have tried to copy other people’s visible actions without the understanding of why things work.  Surely others have latched on to a ‘brand’ because it was a trendy thing to do.

I think there is another piece of the puzzle that seems to be left out.  Ultimately there can be no way to document everything that goes in to making someone or something successful.  There is also no way to codify the reasons for all of the visible aspects of a system.  There is no way to look in the rear view mirror and make sure you have accurately weighed the impact of the ‘little things’ that altered the paths.  Even if we think every aspect of a history has been written about, it still doesn’t mean that the right things were weighted correctly.  That is true no matter who’s story is being written.  The best we can do is study success stories like Coach Wooden and Toyota and use that knowledge as pieces of the puzzle as we set out to write our own story of greatness.

Making Leader Standard Work Visual

Two of the most popular lean tools are standardized work and visual management.  In most cases, these tools are talked about separately.  These tools can be very powerful when they are combined at a leadership level.

One group I have been working with wanted the supervisors of the area to get better at following standardized work.  The department manager had seen the benefits of using visual management in other parts of his business and I had taken him on some tours showing how other companies use the tools in combination.

With this in mind, the department manager tasked an employee to interview supervisors in the area as well as other areas to determine the tasks they need to do on a daily basis then develop a visual way of displaying the standardized work.  This is the result of the work.

The tasks are listed down the left hand side.  The days of the week across the top.  Under each day of the week, is each supervisor’s name by shift.  When the task is completed the supervisor checks it off.  At the bottom the department manager has a daily task to audit the standard work for the supervisors to be sure they are not just pencil-whipping the board.

What the department discovered were a lot of unintended benefits.  One of the biggest was the operators holding their supervisors accountable for doing their standard work.  The operators would challenge the supervisors about filling out the production paperwork as well as other tasks that weren’t running the line.  The operators would say they were too busy and if the supervisor said it needed to be done, the operator would counter with then why haven’t you done your standard work.  You can’t hold me accountable for something you won’t do yourself type of comments.  From that moment on the supervisors have stuck to their standard work.  Now the supervisors are leading by example which makes the operators want to follow them.

Now to the next level.  When talking with the department manager, he mentioned the tasks are pretty much listed in the order they need to be completed.  I asked how they could make it visual as to when the tasks should be completed?  How can they make it visual to show what tasks are OK to miss if the supervisor is out of the plant or in a kaizen event for the day?  What tasks can’t be missed and their needs to be a backup plan if the supervisor is out?

The board is great.  It has produced some great results for the team.  I hope it is an example that others can learn from….inside the facility as well as outside the facility.

Safelite AutoGlass and Customer Delight

This is my last reflection from the OpsInsight Forum in Boston.

One of the breakout sessions during the OpsInsight Forum was a Think Tank Discussion group.  I participated in the Creating a Customer-Focused Culture discussion led by Tom Feeney, CEO of Safelite AutoGlass.

Tom started off by asking the group if there was a difference between ‘customer satisfaction’ and ‘customer delight’.  The group unanimously agreed there was.   To the group, customer delight meant going above and beyond what was expected.

Tom explained to the group that Safelite’s #1 goal is customer delight.  Then he shared two customer letters that were sent in to convey his point.

One letter was from a teacher that had her glass repaired in the parking lot of her school while she was teaching.  The repairman came in to her classroom when he was finished to let the teacher know.  The teacher was in the middle of trying to determine which student stole a pastry from another kid in the class.  As the teacher explained that lying and stealing were bad she asked the repairman what would happen if he stole from his job.  The repairman explained that he would get fired.  Nobody ever confessed to taking the pastry so one kid went without.  Two hours later the repairman showed back up to the school and delivered another pastry he had bought with the kid who did not get one.  The teacher asked why he did it and he replied that he has children of his own and if that happened to them he would be heart broken about it.

Now someone might say that is outside of his scope of work and is an exception and they may be right.  But think about customer satisfaction.  That is meeting the customer’s needs.  No more.  No less.  Showing up on time.  Doing the work as it was suppose to be done.  Doing the work right the first time.  Aren’t these things we expect.  This isn’t something that goes to customer delight.  These aren’t things that standout and really capture the attention of a customer.  Are they?

Bringing a pastry back for a student will cause the experience to be talked about in a positive light and stick with people.  It caused customer delight.

I asked Tom how he fosters customer delight over efficiency.  Tom said through recognition.  So, I followed by asking how Safelite recognized the repairman from the example above.  The answer made my jaw drop.  Tom said he presented the employee with a check for $10,000 in front of the company.  You read that right.  No there are not too many zeroes.

Talk about a statement. Tom and Safelite are serious about creating a culture that values and strives for customer delight.

I’m not saying every company should be that extreme in recognition but I would challenge each company to evaluate how they recognize employees striving to reach the company’s vision/mission like above.  Is your company serious about reinforcing the culture it wants to see?