Monthly Archives: April 2013

Balance Process and Results

In the lean world we always stress how important a good process is to achieving results.  One of my favorite graphics I have seen is the one pictured below.  It shows the four outcomes of balancing process and results.Process_Results_Grid

  • Having a Good Process and Getting Good Results is the gold star.  We know we have a solid process that will give us the good results we want.
  • Having a Good Process and Getting Bad Results is half way there.  We know the process works like it should.  It just doesn’t give us the results we want so we need to go back and redesign the process.
  • Having a Bad Process and Getting Good Results you are gambling.  You got lucky to get the good results and it won’t be consistently repeatable.
  • Having a Bad Process and Getting Bad Results is just not good.  Nothing is working and you should start working on this right away.

I am one of the first to stress process, but as you can see it must be balanced.

When designing a process it must have the right mix of structure and flexibility because it is about understanding, learning and getting the results.

For example, when designing a manufacturing process you may be more prescriptive because of the need to get a particular assembly done correctly.

For a process around coaching or problem solving, there needs to be more flexibility.  A determined process should be designed and used but it shouldn’t be as prescriptive as a manufacturing process.  It allows for the person to be able to go where the problem is taking them but achieving the desired results is still extremely important.

The need to balance the importance of a good process and the getting good results is a key skill to have when teaching people about lean.

Agile Retrospectives = Reflection

In an earlier post I mentioned the similarities in agile and lean from a problem solving perspective.  Lean and agile are also the same when it comes to the learning cycle.

One of the principles of lean that I have learned is Create a Learning Organization through Learn-Apply-Reflect.  This principle helps drive home the importance of reflection.  Many people and organizations do a great job of learning something new and then trying to apply it.  Where most people and organizations fail is forgetting to reflect.  The reflection step is where all the learning and applying comes together to understand how what was learned can best be applied in the organization.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  What should be kept?  What should be changed?

A sign an organization is doing this well, is the reflection is planned and not a reaction because something went wrong.  The reflection is part of the project plan and will is scheduled upfront with no agenda but to learn and improve.

Agile has a methodology and a term it uses for this reflection and learning.  It is retrospectives.

Agile uses planned retrospectives, usually once a week, to take a time out and gather the team to understand what is working and they should continue doing.  As well as what is not working and should be changed or thrown out.  It takes a monumental act to cancel a retrospective.  These retrospectives are ingrained in the methodology and help the agile teams continue to improve on their process and work.

This is a great of example of Lean-Apply-Reflect.  The agile team takes the learnings from the week, apply them and then have a planned reflection time a week later.  The agile methodology does a great job of fostering the principle of creating a learning organization.

Do you have any examples of planned reflection in your organization?

Owning a Small Business is Very Educational

crimson_hillIf you are a regular reader of Beyond Lean,  you may know that my wife has her own small business.  It is just her and I.  She runs the business 24/7 and I help where I can on nights and weekends.

Both of us have learned about a wide range of business aspects over the last couple of years from her small business.  My wife has a background in marketing, but has learned a lot about IT and web design, materials, costing, production of a consistent product, using data to determine what the customers like and a lot more.

I have been working quite a bit with display booth setup and teardown (quick changeovers), preparing raw materials for usage and investment decisions.

When owning and running a small business a person can see everything from end-to-end.  How a packaging decision can affect sales?  How does shelf life of a product have an effect on the quality?  How do certain ingredients react when mixing for production?  Do they cause immediate quality issues?  Do they cause quality issues over time?

In our experience, we have seen how lean thinking can be more natural for a small business.  There is more of a concern about inventory and cash on hand, so there are many decisions that go into building to stock or building to order.  Using visual management to make things easier to see when work needs to be done or not.  I have some examples from my wife’s business that I will post at a later date as well as examples I have posted in the past.

I have learned numerous things from working with my wife in her small business that I carry on to my other job as lessons to apply.

Owning a small business is very hard work.  You have to learn about things that don’t necessarily interest you, but if you want to be successful you have to get it done.  In the end, it can be very rewarding and extremely educational.

Using Technology to Take Notes

A few months ago, I read a blog (I can’t remember where I read it or who wrote it) about how note taking in meetings is changing in today’s world. With tablets and smartphones and laptops and WiFi, etc…more and more people are taking notes electronically.

The blog was about people who get upset when technology is used in a meeting because they think the person isn’t paying attention. The thought is the person is doing email or something not related to the meeting. And yes I have seen that.

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have been inching towards using technology to take notes even though I still like my pen and paper. I have found it is easier to share with others and storing takes up little memory versus large filing cabinets with all the paper in it. My computer search is faster than going through a filing cabinet and Microsoft OneNote makes it note taking easier on a computer.

With that, I think there is still etiquette to be used when using technology to take notes.

  • If it is a large meeting (about 10 or more people), it may be OK just to open up the computer and take notes because several people will be doing it
  • If it is a large meeting and no one else is using technology you may ask the leader of the meeting if it is alright to use your computer or tablet device. You can ask off to the side before it starts or at the very beginning of the meeting with the whole group because others may want to do it also.
  • If it is small meeting (less than 10 people) or a 1-on-1 type meeting, you should ask if it is alright to take notes electronically.
  • A 1-on-1 meeting you still might consider using pen and paper. I know this is extra work but sometimes if you are using a computer, it can get in the way and block the view of the other person. The computer can feel like a wall between you.
  • Understand the meeting before taking notes. Some meetings don’t require you to need to take notes, so there is no need to have your computer or tablet open. Maybe detailed notes will be handed out. Another example are kaizen events. Notes don’t need to be taken by individuals in kaizen events. All the notes are captured on the flip chart paper and post-its. It is more important to have everyone 100% engaged.

All and all, taking notes electronically can be a good thing and is something more and more people are doing. It is alright to do. If you are a person using technology to take notes have some etiquette and understand who is leading the meeting and the purpose before opening your computer or tablet and typing away.

 

Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Designed to Add Waste

Sometimes you just wonder if people design processes in order to create waste.  Like it is a hobby and creating all the waste is just fun for them.

People I am close with recently had a death in the family.  He was a veteran with illnesses from handling Agent Orange in Vietnam.  He passed at the VA hospital.

The family believes the unexpected complications that lead to his passing are related to his illness from handling the Agent Orange.  The VA hospital asked the family if they would like to request an investigation and the family did.

After close to 6 months, the family receives a letter stating the investigation is complete.  If the family would like to see the results they need to submit a request for the results.  Really?!  How many people do you know that request an investigation into anything and don’t want to know the results?  So the VA wants to create more paperwork and processing to send something the family requested months earlier.  Again, the family originally requested it.  Why wouldn’t the VA just send the results?

As ridiculous as that sounds, that isn’t the biggest waste of this ordeal.  A week later the family receives a letter stating they will receive the results via the mail within 2 weeks.  What?!  Why wouldn’t the VA just send the results?  They have already set the expectation that it won’t happen quickly because the investigation didn’t.

Someone has a job that is sending letters saying the information is being sent.

I don’t know where to even begin with this.  The family has been through enough.  The VA should be making things easy on the family and not more frustrating.

Quick simple solution.  When the family requests an investigation have the results sent directly to them after the results have been finalized.  No requests for sending the results.  No letter saying the results are in the mail.  Just send it.

When you hear of something like this, you really have to wonder if anyone is paying attention to this process and how it got designed so poorly.

STK Restaurant Focuses on the Customer

Cosmopolitan_LogoA few weeks ago, I was in Las Vega, NV for a conference.  One night a colleague and I at the STK restaurant in the new Cosmopolitan Casino.  The food was phenomenal.  Just an incredible meal.

The meal is not the reason for writing about the restaurant though.  The service is excellent also.  But, the service wasn’t your traditional restaurant service.  It was choreographed to be efficient and provide the customer with incredible service.

Typical restaurant service, no matter how nice the restaurant, is to have one waitress/waiter and maybe someone different bring out your food.

Not at STK.  We had 2 waitresses and at least 3 servers.  That is a total of five people servicing us and the area we sat in.

There was NEVER any confusion about what was going on at our table and we were never asked the same questions twice.  In fact, everything ran so smoothly that we were almost done with our meal when I asked my colleague if she noticed the five different people serving us.

At one point, one waitress came up to our table and asked, “I know (waitress’ name) is getting you more drinks.  Is there anything else I can get you right now?”  They had communicated enough to know what one was doing for our table so as not to repeat it.  Keep in mind, they are doing this for a section of the restaurant.  Not just us.

As we finished our appetizer and had five minutes to chat, a server came over and asked if we were ready for our main course.  He did not ask if we were done with the appetizer.  He specifically asked if we were ready for our main course.  His focus was on what we, as the customer, wanted.  We replied, “yes.”  The server removed our appetizer plates and utensils.  Within 60 seconds, a second server was at our table setting the utensils for the main course.  Within 2 minutes of him leaving a third server brought our food out.  In 3 minutes our table was cleared, reset and food brought to us by 3 different people.

These are just a couple of examples of how the restaurant focused on the customer and serving their needs in a very efficient way.

The process guy in me asked the waitress at the end how they do it.  She said they have a plan and understand how long it takes for the food to be prepared.  They have a wall where the drink station is and communicate on an ongoing basis throughout the night where no one can see so it is seamless to the customer.

This was a great of example of Lean’s #1 focus…delivering value to the customer.  The seamless effort and great service along with the great food made it an incredible experience.

Process Work Changes People’s Thinking

I am still amazed at what can be accomplished by improving the process first and then looking at how technology can support the process.  I have always been a big advocate of looking at process first.  Yet, still today I see great cases of studying the process first and then implementing supporting technology.  In most cases, the technology needed to support the process is simpler than the original technology plans.

The rewarding part of the work is having success in an area that was hesitant to have the process work done.  An area claiming just to need the technology.  After completing the process work and seeing the benefits, that same area starts to ask for more process work to be done.  That is a great feeling.

Another benefit of getting people to see the benefit of doing the process work first is they start to ask more questions around the end-to-end process.  People start to see the entire process and the affects a change has in one area can have on another area.  The end-to-end discussion becomes easier for people to have.

This shift in mentality can start to break down work silos and get more people engaged in the entire process.

Are you doing end-to-end process improvement at your company?  Is it starting to change people’s perspective?

Hoshin Planning – Catch Ball

Last week, Beyond Lean focused on strategy deployment or hoshin kanri.  A great concept to help align the priorities for the organization during the year.  A term that appeared was “catch ball”.  This is a term to capture the essence of gaining input through discussion with the next level down in the organization.  It is a great way to get engagement at all levels of the organization and build the buy-in to what the work is for the year.

I found this great video describing what “catch ball” is.  I thought it would do a better job than I could.

Do you use catch ball in your organization or do you have a straight line drill down with objectives?

Guest Post: NBA and Jon Spoelstra

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

Chad_WaltersToday’s post is from Chad Walters.  Chad is a Lean consultant and owner of Lean Blitz Consulting in Augusta, Georgia, a firm focused on continuous improvement for small businesses and sports organizations. He has run projects for the Atlanta Braves, the Salvation Army, Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Eaton Corporation, The Dannon Company, and the South Bend Silver Hawks among other companies. He has been practicing Lean and continuous improvement for over eight years, is a Six Sigma Black Belt certified by the American Society for Quality, and received his MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where he was a member of the Kelley MBA Sports & Entertainment Academy.  You can follow Chad on Twitter @LeanBlitz.

One of the great features of genuine hoshin thinking is focusing on the future and big picture goals while moving away from some of the negative focus on resource constraints. With hoshin kanri, we set a destination, and based on our current location determine the proper path to follow to achieve our destination. Worrying about what we’re not allowed to do is what keeps us from reaching for what is genuinely possible to achieve.

While I have been labeled a “devotee of lean management” in a recent article by a baseball writer (and I most definitely am) I absolutely love creative marketing. One of my favorite and most influential books I’ve read is Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spoelstra. He is the former President of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers among other influential positions, but he is a marketing savant when it comes to driving revenue growth through creative marketing.

The following is a passage from Marketing Outrageously that has stuck with me ever since I first read the pages. Spoelstra shows that a top-down hoshin-like “What’s it gonna take to do this?” approach can have an energizing effect on a team.

~~~~~

In the late 1980s I was general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. Even though I didn’t have the authority to draft or trade players I could call meetings with those who did. I assembled the coaches and plaer personnel managers and asked the question, “What’s it gonna take to win the championship this year?”

Logically, it was a foolish question. This was the era when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were leading the Los Angeles Lakers to regular championships. When the Lakers didn’t win, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics did. Lining up to cut in on the Lakers and Celtics were Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. So how stupid was my question, “What’s it going to take to win the NBA championship this year?

On paper we didn’t have a chance; in our minds, less than no chance. We were, however, a pretty good team. We had won fifty-three games the year before. Considering all this, I wanted us to think beyond what we had.

The player personnel people took the question as an insult. I could hear them thinking, “Who does this marketing guy think he is?” They fumed and grumbled for a while.

I asked the question again. “What’s it going to take to win a championship this year?”

Silence. Finally, John Wetzel, an assistant coach, said, “One thing we need to do is really improve our outside shooting. We need some guy that can come off the bench and really fill it up.”

Two shooters,” said Rick Adelman, another assistant. “When we get to the playoffs, we can’t run our fast break as much, and the middle gets clogged up. We need two reliable shooters coming off the bench.”

We talked for two hours. Head coach Mike Shuler was enthusiastic, salivating over the thought of somehow acquiring two bona fide outside shooters. We made a list of players who might be available. We came away from the meeting with assignments for each of us to start making inquiries with other teams.

Later, Rick Adelman told me, “I’ve been in a lot of player personnel meetings over the years, and this was the best. We actually talked about winning a championship and what that would take.”

Did I think we had a chance to win the championship this year? Not really. But I knew we had no chance to improve unless we set the target higher than what was comfortable.

~~~~~

Sports teams that are a mish-mash of talented players that aren’t cohesive or working together generally don’t win championships. Companies don’t consistently “luck into success” – it takes an overarching end goal and a strategic plan to get there.

So why did this meeting change the mindset of the franchise? The leader set a high goal to achieve – win a championship – and instead of saying “now go do it” to his subordinates he asked what does the team need in order to achieve it? He didn’t talk about constraints or resources, he just wanted to know what was needed in order to create a championship team.

Now that the team’s genuine needs for winning a championship were identified, the load fell on everyone’s shoulders to procure those resources, whether it was outside shooters or additional money or anything else. However, the organization was aligned to this one goal and clearly it drove motivation because all were now pulling in the same direction. If they needed to eliminate resource constraints by finding more money, they would hire more ticket sellers.

By using a hoshin kanri approach the focus for the Portland Trail Blazers changed from “here’s why we can’t” to “What is it going to take?”