Author Archives: Matt Wrye

How to Observe

Last blog, I talked about the most important lean tool being the eyes.  The eyes allow a person to the reality of what is happening and gather facts.

So, if direct observation is important then how should a person go about doing it?

Here are a few pointers I have picked up along the way:

  • Have a purpose before you go out to observe.  Are you going out to see a particular problem?  Are you going to audit a specific process?  Is there a process you trying to improve?  A specific type of waste you are looking for?  Whatever your purpose, understand it before you go out to observe.
  • Explain what you are doing.  People get cautious and worried when someone is just standing to the side watching their every move.  Tell them why you are there and ask them to explain anything they feel is important.
  • Be in the moment. Don’t answer the phone.  Don’t start other conversations.  Just observe.  Stand in one area and watch what is happening with scrutinizing intent.
  • Ask clarifying questions.  If you need to better understand something, ask the person doing the work questions.  Don’t leave without having answers to your questions.
  • Take notes.  You are there for a purpose, so write down what you need to remember.  Notes of what you observed are your facts.
  • Take prompt action.  Don’t wait days to do anything with the facts you have gathered.  Things change quickly so use what have you seen before the facts become outdated.

Good luck and happy observation!

The Most Important Lean Tool

Your eyes.  Plain and simple.  Without them you can’t go and see what is actually happening.

There are stories about Taiichi Ohno leaving engineers in a circle for hours to observe the process.  The engineer was to discover the waste in the process.  What was not creating value?  Then address it.

Organizations have instituted a policy stating that a person can’t talk about a problem unless they have seen it.  The goal is to get everyone to understand what actually is the problem and not what they hear is the problem or jump to solutions.

A person can walk out their doors and onto the production floor in order to observe what is happening.  But observation may not always be easy.  What if it is an order entry person that does all their work in a computer?  Sit with that person and actually watch them enter orders.  Ask questions.  Use tools like process or value stream maps to create a visual of the work to see.

Even leadership work can be made visible in order to observe what is actually happening.  I put my scheduled on a white board so the area could see when I was going to be there to look for waste.  Every Tuesday at 2:30.  If I didn’t show up, people knew it and asked about it.

Are you using your most important lean tool as often as you should?

Create Inspiration

I have to thank my manager for this one.  Before Christmas she handed out a few blog posts from Seth Godin.  One was called “Finding inspiration instead of it finding you.”

It is a short quick read that I recommend for everyone.  In it Seth talks about trying ideas and seeing what works.  It may not be the first or second idea but soon one will create inspiration and success.

This is great for problem solving.  Find the root cause.  Then try an idea.  Check the results and if it doesn’t work DON’T go back to the old way.  Try something different.

Quick example: I new my old ways of gathering tasks and prioritizing wasn’t working.  So, I tried a kanban board.  The first try didn’t work, so I tried something different.  The same thing happened when I went to an electronic kanban board as well.

I want to post 51 blogs in 2016, so I am going to use Seth’s example and every day until the end of February I am writing a topic in my notebook.  Some may never get written about.  Others will end up here on Beyond Lean.

If you have topics you want to hear about leave them in the comments.

Where do you need inspiration?

Long Hiatus

2016

Image Credit: Google

It has been quite a while since I have posted here at the blog.  2015 was a crazy year and I didn’t get to post as much as I would have liked.  Part of the reason was time.  Part of the reason was content.

I don’t want to post content for the sake of posting.  I want to post content that is meaningful and helps people.  New insights.  Different approaches.

My goal is at least on post per week for the entire year.  That would be 51 posts (already missed a week) which would be double what I did last year.

Bring on 2016!!

Error Proofing the Lights

What are some of the biggest wastes in a hotel or a resort?  The first answer that comes to mind is the waste of water.  Washing towels that may not need to be cleaned.  Many hotels and resorts reduced the water used to wash towels by asking guests to put dirty towels on the floor and hang ones that are clean.  It has become a fairly common practice.

So, what is the second biggest waste for a hotel or resort?  How about the consumption of electricity?  Have you ever left your room and left a light on or the TV going?  Earlier this month, I was on vacation at a large beach resort with over around 1,000 rooms.  Imagine if half of them left a light on in the room for 3 hrs extra a day.  That is a large bill.

The resort I was staying at found a way to error proof this and cut down their electricity consumption.  The picture below shows how they did this.

Light Switch

The slot on the right is for the room key card.  You have to slide the key into the slot to activate the electricity in the room.  The guests could then use the lights, TV and ceiling fans.  You always need your key when you leave the room (unless someone is still in the room), so you pull the key out and the electricity in the room is deactivated.

It was simple to use and made the right thing easy and the wrong thing very difficult.

Have you seen any other error proofing methods to save electricity?

Introverts or Extroverts as Continuous Improvement Leaders

Today’s post is from a guest blogger.  Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California.  Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year.  She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion.  Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.  

A friend of mind just got a job at Simpler, a very well thought of Lean Consultant Company.  To get the job he had to go through a very thorough and intense process which included Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment personality tests, giving a speech to a group of professionals and review of his technical knowledge.

A brief summary of Myers-Briggs personality test  is that  it looks at these different aspects of the personality:

  • Extraverted (E) vs. Introverted (I),
  • Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N),
  • Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
  • Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)

He scored high on the extrovert aspect.  She said “if you had scored as an introvert, I don’t think you’d be good at continuous improvement”.  This struck me hard since right now I’m in the middle of evaluating those qualities in myself which started with reading the book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  She now has a revolution on her hands after her TED talk by the same name – here is her website if interested http://www.quietrev.com/.  To determine where you are in the continuum, the most basic question is “How do you get energized?  From being alone in nature/reading a book or being with a group of people at a party?”

It turns out that there is a bias towards extroverts in our society.  I have found that I am mixed between the two – that is what my Meyers Briggs score says and my astrology chart also (if that means anything to any of you science types).  So, I felt inferior right off the bat.  If I can’t go in there and be aggressive and forward with people, maybe I’m not good at continuous improvement, operations excellence, whatever you call it.  If I can’t lead a kaizen with flair and good old fashioned pushiness, maybe I’m not good at lean.

Susan Cain says we are all a combination of both, but those who take a little time and think things through have great value.   It is important to be able to be the big, noticeable person but as or maybe more important to listen to others, to think things through and come up with the brainstorm that changes the way things are looked at.  We emphasize empowerment in lean which requires listening and giving away power, not taking the spotlight all to yourself.  All of these things are the qualities of an introvert.

So I think that both are needed and it is our goal as lean professionals to stretch the side that isn’t our natural strength.  Extraverts need to listen more.  Introverts need to be more of a cheerleader and be able to energize groups.

What the Silver Lean Certification Means to Me

Today’s post is from a guest blogger.  Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California.  Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year.  She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion.  Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.  Connie continues to talk about certification.

At the time of renewal for the Lean Bronze Certificate from SME/AME, I thought, I’ll just go for the silver – how hard could it be. Two and a half years later, I finally accomplished the goal.

In 2007, my retiring boss was being generous, so I took advantage and had him buy the entire suite of books for all the lean levels (bronze, silver and gold). I even gave them as Christmas presents to my entire staff. They all acted excited but in truth there aren’t many people who get excited about lean books. They claimed they would go for the lean certification but nobody did.

However, I was stoked. I love books, I love lean, and so what is there not to love?

The Lean Bronze Certification Package consists of:
• Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy, Second Edition
• Lean Production Simplified: Plain-Language Guide to the World’s Most Powerful Production System
• Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation
• Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate MUDA

The Lean Silver Certification Package consists of the following six books:
• The Lean Design Guidebook
• Office Kaizen: Transforming Office Operations into a Strategic Competitive Advantage
• Practical Lean Accounting: A Proven System for Measuring and Managing the Lean Enterprise
• Real Numbers: Management Accounting in a Lean Organization
• The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles From the World’s Greatest Manufacturer
• Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production

The Lean Gold Certification Package contains these five books:
• Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, Third Edition
• Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth
• Lean Transformation: How to Change Your Business into a Lean Enterprise
• Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
• Today & Tomorrow: Commemorative Edition of Ford’s 1926 Classic

I read the books, I took the test and passed and then the portfolio had to be written. That is a long boring story which resulted in working with the certification team and updating their entire system including the portfolio, scoring and results.

According to the certification leaders at SME “Lean Certification candidates will now encounter an improved program and more streamlined process in achieving certification. The hierarchical requirements – Bronze, then Silver, then Gold – have been eliminated. This allows candidates to obtain certification at the rank that is most appropriate to their career, knowledge, and experience. For more information go to Lean Certification Program Process Improvements Webpage.”

But back to the books – at the silver level, the books take you to another level of lean that none of us may ever see in our lifetimes but it is good to know it is out there. The subject some of us dread – Accounting. There were two books (see above – Practical Lean Accounting and Real Numbers) that dealt with how to lean out the accounting system. And this is the real revolutionary, transformational aspect to lean. Get rid of accounts payable, accounts receivable, all the systems that require us to do stupid things that aren’t lean, – that stop the flow of ideas from concept through to realization. The value stream is expanded to include EVERYTHING. The value stream has the material delivered to the location of the work, the material is reordered by the value stream, invoices are paid as material is consumed, and customers are billed as product is shipped.

So much of what we do in corporate life is related to how financials are measured and is our biggest roadblock. These ideas are what really cuts the costs and increases quality. This is what makes it transformational in my mind.

The Value of Certifications in Our Industry

Today’s post is from a guest blogger.  Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California.  Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year.  She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion.  Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.

What is the value of certification in general? There are lots of people, old and young alike, who think that if they get a certification, they’ll get a job!

First of all, this is wrong. It might get your resume looked at, if it is a prerequisite to get through the screening process, but you have to know what you are doing. At this point with all of the certifications floating around, it is fairly easy to get a certificate by not telling the truth about the projects you have completed and just studying and passing the test.

On the other hand, if you know what you are doing and do it well and nobody outside of yourself has recognized that, then a certificate can help get you recognized.

I have a project management professional (PMP), Six Sigma Black Belt from ASQ and have just gotten my Silver Lean Certification from AME/SME. I am most proud of the Lean certificate. It was really hard – no cake walk. They dug deep to find out if I knew what I was talking about.

At first I got my PMP so that I could get a better job. I found that it did get me past the first gate of keyword search by the computer. Then I got my Black Belt through ASQ but I had the backing of the GE Healthcare University to help me with the projects and studying the material. The test was harrowing. I had a pile of books 3 feet high with sticky notes attached to the pages where I could flip to different sections as needed. I did study questions for hours and hours on the weekend. I spent much of my personal time to prepare. I did this mid-career and this is what I found.

It was very helpful for me to get back into the practice of test taking – to read carefully and slow down before answering the questions. I actually learned a lot in both the PMP and the Black belt literature. Did I use it in my work? Some of it. To be honest, not very much. But I had the foundation and the backbone to know when I could use something and when it didn’t apply. Unless you are working in construction or defense, the project management professional roadmap doesn’t apply. Hardly anybody uses Earned Value System. Six Sigma is useful if you work in a company that has lots of data and ability to affect the variability.

However, lean is another story. I find it applies to everything I do both personally and professionally.  Who can’t apply 5S to the cabinets and drawers in the bathroom? Who can’t use visual systems to allow others to see the progress of their work?

But AME/SME (the certification is actually backed by SME, AME, ASQ and Shingo prize – so it has prestigious companies behind it) lean certifications are very different. The books that you have to read really give you the picture of how revolutionary lean can be. Based on the Toyota Production System and authors like Womack, Liker and Dennis, you are getting exposed to the very difficult path of transformation. It has led me to Mike Rother and Toyota Kata which I think is needed to change the way we think. Liker has teamed with Rother in his Kata Summit to explain that without a way to learn new behavior we are forever stuck in using tools and not having success in implementing lean.

In the end, what is the value of a certification? For me, it meant reaching a personal milestone, having the ability to get the agreement from others in the business that I know the material and have proven it in the workplace and maybe it will help me to get a job that is satisfying and rewarding.

How Do You Help Leaders See the Change That Is Needed?

For today’s post, I am wanting the readers’ responses to help fill in the gaps on this topic.  It is one that I struggle with and thought a discussion here might be good.

What do you do when change is needed but no one will change?

I know.  The question seems pretty simple, right?  Leave the situation because it won’t get better.  People can be so stubborn so why fight it.

It isn’t that simple.

An organization is struggling mightily.  Going the way of GM in the early 2000’s.  Everyone in the organization sees the need for change and agrees that change is needed.

Not small change.  Big change is needed.  A different way of seeing and executing the business.

Lean is being “implemented” in the organization, so the leaders sanction a team to review a process and come up with a better way of doing the work.  The team develops a “new” process.  The process is the same as they are doing right now but with a technology fix.  When pushed by lean change agents to look for bigger change the team says they are good with what they have described themselves as “how we do it today, but with a central storage location.”

This one idea is a great one and on that is much needed but it won’t change the way the organization does business.

The concerning part was doing an interim report out the leaders who sanctioned the work were good with this.  They couldn’t even see all the waste that was left on the table to eliminate.

During the final report out some of the other leaders pushed on some bigger changes, but most of that was due to the lean change agents prepping the leaders to ask the harder questions.

So.  What do you do when everyone agrees dramatic change is needed but no one can see or envision what that might even look like?

I understand that not everyone can see it, but usually they are open to suggestions.  I see this as a leadership issue.  Leaders need to be able to see the change and help build the burning platform.  Some can see it.  But the extra push isn’t there.

What would you do?

Everything You Need to Know About 5S

Tony Ferraro, a friend and fellow blogger, at Creative Safety Supply has created a great resource for 5S.  It is a single source to learn about 5S. Here is a link to the website: 5S Study and Research Page.

There are several sections to the page:

  • What is 5S?
  • Origins of 5S
  • Why 5S?
  • Employee involvement
  • How to get started
  • Common misconceptions
  • Each step of 5S defined
  • Understanding the sixth S – safety
  • Tools for 5S

Tony reached out to many in the lean community to help build the page.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to give input into this great resource.

I would recommend it for anyone learning about 5S as a great place to understand what it is and how to get started with implementation.  There are plenty of great visuals as well.  Here is the link again: 5S Study and Research Page.

Take the 10 minutes to watch the lean parody posted on the page as well.  It is very funny.

Great work, Tony!

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