Monthly Archives: February 2014

Blog Reader Survey: I want to hear about your needs from the blog

Recently, I have been participating in a series of conversations with a small group of other bloggers about how to improve the online lean learning community.

We thought it best to start with what you thought, so we’d like you to take a few minutes to answer a series of 10 questions to get us going.

As a thank you for your help, this link will take you to a zip file with some free content from Jeff Hajek, Chad Walters and myself.

Link to our survey

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Value Streams Are Misunderstood

I really like seeing more and more organizations trying to implement lean.  Seeing organizations start to understand lean and want to improve using the lean mindset and principles is very refreshing.  A great step in the right direction.

But not all lean starts are created equally.  Or for that matter even get off on the right foot.

I recently saw a company giving a presentation on some HR practices and apprenticeship.  They were doing some really great stuff around apprenticeship for a machining shop.

What caught my eye was their comments about lean and aligning to value streams.  The company listed their value streams on a slide.  The first few sounded more like machining functions rather than a value stream but I don’t understand the business so I could be wrong.  Then I saw the bottom half of the list: Accounting, Project Management, Human Resources, etc…

Yikes!  These are not value streams.  These are functions that support value streams.

Misunderstanding of value streams is quite normal.  In order to be a value stream, it has to create value for the customer.  To understand what creates value a company has to have a definition of value.

I use one I learned from the Lean Learning Center:

  • The customer must be willing to pay for it
  • It must change the form, fit or function of the product/service
  • It must be done right the first time

In a machining shop, accounting does not create any value for the customer.  Nor does Project Management.

Value streams are linked process that create value to a product or service for customer.  The are not departments (accounting , project management) or functions (milling, cutting).

Grasping the true meaning of value streams and what your companies value streams are can really open your eyes to the improvement possibilities.

Reflection Types

During my work, I have seen people learn and reflect in two different ways.  One is to learn something through reading, doing, listening or any other way and spend time reflecting on it right then and there.  They take the time to deeply understand what they learned and how it applies to them before they move on to something else.

A second way of reflection I have seen I call the information gatherer.  It is learning something new in all the ways I listed above and just letting it sit.  The person moves on and gathers more information on many other things.  They just let the information simmer in their mind and an hour, a day, a week or even a month later BAM!  It hits.  They understand how it applies to them and their situation.  They understand the learning deeply and can apply it anywhere.

Neither way is right.  Neither way is wrong.

In fact, a person may be a combination of both depending on the situation and what they are learning.

I am a combination of both.  If it is a situation where I need to learn and apply something now, I will be very intentional about reflecting and trying to figure out how what I learned applies to what I am working on.

If it is just learning for my learning, I will take in as much information as possible and keep gathering it.  Eventually, sometime down the road it will click and a huge learning will occur.

What type of reflection do you most often apply?

True Coaching Takes Investment

The term coach is thrown around a lot in a business setting.  Too much in my opinion.  Any time spent with someone giving advice or direction is called coaching nowadays.  It sounds great when you say you spent time “coaching” someone.

Coaching is more than giving advice.  Coaching is an investment in time to really help them along.

Think of any athletic coach you may have had.  Basketball, football, tennis, golf, swimming, etc..  Did you ever spend 30 minutes with that person in a café getting advice on a rare occasion and end up calling them coach?  Of course not.

Why? Because coaching takes time.  You have to spend time in the with the person in the environment you are coaching on and observe and make suggestions as you go along.

Anything else is advice.  There is a big difference between giving advice and coaching.

Because of the time investment, a person can’t coach many people in the business environment.  The best thing to do is focus on coaching a person or two.  Don’t spread yourself thin as a coach because then no one wins.  The learner doesn’t get your full attention and does not learn and grow nearly as much.  The coach will never see the fruit of their labor come to fruition because the learner never reaches their full potential.

Think about this before taking someone on as their coach.  Are you going to be able to devote the time truly necessary to help them along?

Jumpping to Improvement

I have talked in the past about the importance of direct observation.  The power in seeing the waste for yourself.  It really shines a light on what is really happening and it also is the best way for a person to continue to learn.

The question is,  “What do you do with those observations?”

Most often, I see people run out and try to eliminate or reduce the waste or even assign it to someone else to do.  While not entirely a bad thing, if you are trying to instill a lean culture don’t just jump to trying to improve.

Stop and reflect about what you are trying to do as an organization and use the waste you saw as a way to further the lean culture.

Most organizations I have seen do not have a systematic way to eliminate waste.  Usually, this is because waste is one of the first things people learn about lean.  What happens is people just go out and attack waste (again not a bad thing) without any direction.

If your organization is early on in trying to implement a lean culture, think about how you can make the waste elimination systematic.

Is this a good way to engage employees in a kaizen event to start to build trust?  Could be an easy win for everyone.

Should an improvement board to post the waste seen and how it is detracting a better option?  Use the waste you saw as an example of how to use the board and go and eliminate it yourself or with the help of others, but be involved.

If you observed multiple areas, do you want to concentrate in one department?  Make it a model for others in the organization.

Think about how you can make the waste elimination sustainable and systematic.  This will benefit you and the organization in the long run.