Monthly Archives: January 2013

Topic for Lean Series Week

Last year, Beyond Lean hosted two lean series weeks.  The week focused on a specific topic.  Posts were from not only Joe and me but also guests.  Giving the reader a different perspective on one topic for the week all in one place.

Please take the time to answer the poll letting us know what you would like to see as the next topic for the Lean Series week.

The first lean series was on standardized work.

The second series was on visual management.

 

 

MOOCs…A New Way to Educate?

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are a new type of college or secondary education that are starting to pop up across the U.S.  The Kansas City Star had a great article about MOOCs earlier in January.

What is a MOOC?

MOOCs — massive open online courses — have attracted millions of students from all over the globe to learn from top professors at elite universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Princeton and Harvard.The best part is that MOOCs are free. All you need is time, a computer and the Internet.

The courses are anywhere from 5 to 16 weeks long.  A person can take whatever classes they like and pertains to what they may need in their career.  Imagine…

A student could take one MOOC taught by an MIT professor, another taught by a professor at Harvard and yet another taught at Duke. In the end, the student could take a discipline-specific assessment, like a bar exam, to get something akin to a license to practice in their field.

We know that with a growing presence of education online the traditional brick-and-motor way of learning is going to have to adapt.  A college education won’t be the same in 10-15 years.  What if you could get your basic remedial class credits for free and have them transfer.  Well…

The Gates Foundation recently put up several hundred thousand dollars toward grants for nine universities to develop remedial MOOCs.

Like anything new, there are still a lot of challenges to work out before it becomes mainstream.

Fort Hays State and Johnson County Community College are among campuses piloting MOOC-like programs and looking for solutions to problems such as how to test, how to grade thousands of essays and exams, and how to prevent cheating.

And if you thought their wasn’t much interest in MOOCs, there is data to show otherwise.
MOOCs cemented their prominence in the higher education conversation when a 2011 class on artificial intelligence, taught by former Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun, attracted nearly 58,000 students from around the world, more than three times the size of Stanford’s entire student body. Even though fewer than half of them completed the course, it was clear the MOOC’s reach dwarfed anything possible in a classroom or lecture hall.
I can really seeing MOOCs leading to a great new way to gain a college or secondary education.  Here are my initial thoughts.  What if there was a company that compiled the MOOCs in one grand list?  The company could create a list of courses that need to be complete in order to receive a certain degree (i.e. For an accounting degree take Accounting 101 from Prof. A at Stanford and Accounting 201 from Prof B from University of Texas, etc…).  The program would be accredited and recognized as any other degree.  Maybe more professional tests are required in the future, like a bar examine.
I think it is important to still pay for the education but maybe it is $75 or $100 for a class.  This could really reduce the cost of a secondary/college education and prepare the individual just as much.
As for the cheating aspect.  Maybe there is a centralized database with a person’s information and a picture.  Then when it is test time, the test is taken with a webcam on to show you are the one taking the test.  May not be perfect but my first thoughts on it.
MOOCs provide an interesting alternative to learning.  How can it be leveraged to better educate and be more cost effective?  What are your thoughts?

Root Cause and Guns

Normally, I don’t dive into the hot politically charged topic of the week, but the gun issue has really struck a cord with me.  I don’t care which side of the issue a person falls on, right to own a gun or very strict laws almost preventing gun ownership.  Everyone has a right to their own opinion.

The issue I have is with people, more accurately politicians, using tragedies to further their own agenda without understanding the true root cause.

Sandy Hook was an enormous tragedy.  I went home that night and hugged my kids and didn’t let them go the entire weekend.  What happened shook me at my core.

What has happened since then has been upsetting also.  Laws are proposed and passed on gun control that do not address the root cause of why these type of mass shootings are happening.  Guns are being obtained legally and with background checks.  A lot of these people are not any system as having “issues” or being arrested or whatever the case may be, so they will pass a background check.

Stricter background checks can just cause people to get guns illegally.  It is just like making alcohol illegal in the U.S.  Prohibition in the 1920s didn’t stop alcohol from being made or consumed.  It just made it illegal.  People went into business with distilleries and crime went up because of it.  Not just the  making and consuming of alcohol but people robbed and killed over it to build empires because no one would call the cops if a criminal stole from a criminal.

If a person wants a gun bad enough, they will get it.

The question is, “What is causing people to want to do these acts?”  How do we prevent people from wanting to do something like this?  Do we need to work harder on stopping bullying?  Do we need to help to make people better aware of how a stable family can help?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do believe that what has been going on for years with just looking at controlling guns is not the answer.  It hasn’t’ worked since the Columbine shootings and I don’t see it working moving forward.

What are your thoughts on helping to prevent the root cause of gun violence?

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?

Waiting is Less Expensive

“Paying people to produce excess product cost more than paying people to do nothing.”

-Jean Cunningham

This is a quote I like to use when trying to change people’s mindsets around the 7 wastes.  It is human nature for people to want to look busy or “do something” when they are at work.  Especially, in today because our minds start to think, “If I’m not doing anything, they will think I’m not needed and cut my job.”  The managers and supervisors feed this mindset by pushing people to produce more and “keep the machines running” in a manufacturing world.

We need to switch this mindset and let it be known it is alright to be doing nothing if there is nothing to produce.

Overproduction (producing more than is needed or producing too early) is the waste that can create the other 6 wastes which in turn adds product costs.

It may be hard to see someone standing and waiting, but if a person is waiting and not working when there is no production needed they are not adding any more cost to the product.  They aren’t building up inventory of components that may not be used or later are found to be defective or become defective from sitting around waiting to be used.

Also, when a person is standing around waiting it highlights the imbalance in the work flow and can lead to problem solving around creating a better flow further reducing costs.

We should try to eliminate the waste of waiting, but we should do it the right way.  By highlighting the imbalance in the work and then create a better process that eliminates the waiting time.

In the end, waiting is less expensive then over producing product you don’t need.

Understanding Single Piece Flow

One of the first concepts that pops up when learning about lean is single piece flow.  This is a great concept and should be considered when it is appropriate.  Cooking my french fries might not be the time to use single piece flow, but downloading songs may be.

My wife runs a small business of her own.  She sells products online through her website and Etsy as well as events in our local area.  Selling online and brick-n-mortar poses problems from time to time.  One issue is wanting to provide a wide range of scents for customers, but not having large amounts of inventory on-hand because of the batch process of making the soaps in loaves.

mens_shave_soapAfter a year and a half, we think we find a solution to this issue.  Most of her requests for custom scents come through her online sales.  Typically, she has the fragrance available but can’t justify making 8 bars in a batch because the other 7 may sit for a year or longer.  She has found a mold that works very well and is the size she needs that allows her to make one soap at a time.  My wife can now fulfill the requests of her customers and offer more fragrances to her line in her online shop without the expense of carrying a year’s worth of finished product.

What about the live events to sell the inventory?

Good question.  The events are always in the Sept – Dec time frame.  So, if a customer orders a special scent in January, the rest of the finished goods would sit until September at the earliest.  She could have used the raw materials for other products.  The soaps that are high volume sellers and do well at the live events can be made in batches right before the event.  Any finished product that is leftover after the event season can be sold online.

It is a good mix of using single piece flow and batch processing when it best fits the situation.  It is about understanding your business needs and trying to meet those needs.  Not forcing everything to one solution whether if fits or not.

What makes sense for your business?

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

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2012 – 10 Thru 6

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!

10. Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It (July 2011) – This is a post from Joe Wilson before he became a full-time author at Beyond Lean.  Joe talks about ways to sell lean to people who are not bought into the benefits of lean.

9.   Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #8 – 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.

8.  Dilbert Leading Transformation (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #10 – The Pointy-Haired Boss wants clear responsibilities and employee engagement.

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

6.  Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #5 – 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.

My next post will count down the Top 5 viewed posts of 2012.

Lean Says, “Do the Right Thing”

A question that I get quite often is “What does lean say to do?”

My short answer, “Do the right thing for your situation at this time.”

When lean is not understood people think lean has magic answers for them.  This is easy to do when the mindset is lean is a bunch of tools and concepts that just need to be put into place.

They think lean can answer their questions.   Lean does not answer your questions.  Lean helps you to be able to answer your questions.

When lean is understood to be a way of thinking, a set of principles to help guide how you go about solving a problem then it is easier to understand that lean says, “Do the right thing for your situation at this time.”

A popular example is when people think “Lean says I have to have level flow, because I have to eliminate waste.”  If their business does not allow level flow or it does not make sense at that time they can get discouraged and believe lean is not for their business.

Hospitals are a great example.  Early on they tried to implement level flow, but they couldn’t because people getting sick is out of their control.

When it is understood that lean is about creating value for the customer, people have a different lens.  One way to deliver value is to eliminate waste so I have more capacity to do value added activities.  Level flow is one way, but in a hospital there are many other ways.  Once the thinking was understood, hospitals started to embrace lean.

The next you you hear someone ask, “What does lean say to do?”  Answer by saying, “Think in a different way and do what is right for your situation at this time.”