Author Archives: Matt Wrye

Always Be Improving

“If it’s not improving, it’s degrading”
— Toyota

This is a quote that I found a few years ago from someone at Toyota. I find this to be a very powerful quote.

The quote implies there is no status quo. As an organization, a process or a person, you are either improving or degrading.

Some will make the argument that their metrics are holding steady and haven’t moved; therefore, they are holding in a constant state or in status quo. And that may be true, but while you are holding there are others that are improving. This is degrading your status.

A great example of this is GM. The maintained what they were doing for years, while Toyota kept improving, slowly degrading GM’s status over time until Toyota passed them.

We should be working to improve at all times. Being satisfied with where we are at does nothing but cause problems down the road.

How are you pushing to improve everyday? Every year?

Book Review: Value Stream Mapping

Karen Martin and Mike Osterling are consultants that have been helping companies with seeing their business through a different lens.  Karen and Mike have co-authored two books in the past: The Kaizen Event Planner, a well written how-to guide for planning, executing and following up after a kaizen event and Metrics-Based Process Mapping, a how-to for using key metrics to analyze and improve processes.  Value Stream Mapping is their third book together and again they have done a fantastic job.

Name of the Book:  Value Stream Mapping: How to Visualize Work and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation

Author: Karen Martin and Mike Osterling

Publication Date:  December 2013

Book description: what’s the key message?

Karen and Mike explain the in’s and out’s of understanding and completing a value stream map.  They discuss how a value stream map is a tool that can help senior leaders and executives see their business in a new way.  A transformative way.

Karen and Mike take the reader through all the steps.  They explain the importance of setting the stage prior to the starting the value stream map in order to enable success in changing the business.  Karen and Mike also walk the reader through the best ways to understand the current state of the business and the importance of understanding the current reality no matter how sobering it is.  Next they walk the reader through developing the future state and then the transformation plan.

This book is not just a “Go do it this way,” book.  The book is very complete and explains why the process they describe works.

What are the highlights? What works?

Most people miss the main point of value stream maps.  They are about changing the mindsets of an organization through building a strategic direction with a lean lens.  Karen and Mike do a great of reiterating this point throughout the book.

If you have never seen or been through a value stream mapping session this book is a great guide.  The explanations are spot on.  Karen and Mike hit on the most important metrics that can be used on a value stream map in order to get the most out of it.  They explain how the map is not complete without the metrics, which is something a lot of people will leave off when doing the map.

The examples of value stream maps in the back of the book can help a reader with guidance in building their own.  I know they are in the appendices but it is worth it to study all the examples.

The book also has a link to a downloadable charter and transformation plan templates.  I found them to be very helpful.

What are the weaknesses?  What’s missing?

The book is very well done.  Not only a step-by-step but a great explanation of why for each step.  There is one thought that I believe is missing in doing a value stream map.  That is the concept and discussion around ideal state.

When doing a value stream map, I find invaluable to have a discussion on the difference between ideal state (perfection) and future state (somewhere between current state and ideal state).  Usually, this discussion takes place after building the current state map.  The team writes out bullet points of what the ideal state would look like.  After that is completed, then build the future state.  The ideal state discussion helps to stretch the thinking of the team and as Karen and Mike put it “help change the DNA of the organization.”

Having a direct conversation around ideal state is a step that I feel is important and I wish Karen and Mike would have spent some time on in the book.

How should I read this to get the most out of it?

The book can be used in two ways.  One way is by someone that has been tasked to help an organization create a value stream map.  It can be used as a learning text book.  It can help the reader learn the in’s and out’s of creating a value stream map and give them guidance.  Or even as a refresher for an experienced value stream map facilitator.

Another way for the book to be used is as an education piece for executives and senior leaders that want to change their business.  It can help them understand their role in the value stream transformation process and how they can help the facilitator before, during and after a mapping session.

Kudos to Karen and Mike for another great book.

Dilbert – Type in All Caps

OK.  So this post really doesn’t have much to do with lean.  I just found this Dilbert cartoon hysterical.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

We could talk about the lack of respect Wally shows his boss by leading him into a potentially awkward situation with another person at work.  I prefer to find the humor in people that TYPE IN ALL CAPS NO MATTER WHAT THEY ARE SENDING.

What? I couldn’t read all of that.  Some of it was in lower case letters.

Have a great day!

OEE in the Lean News

I saw a post from Michel Baudin, Is OEE a Useful Key Performance Indicator?  I don’t think it is.  A few years back I wrote a blog about OEE and how it is very unclear as to what is really happening in a facility.  It violates nearly every rule as to what is a clear and relevant metric.

Michel’s post started out with a bit from Jeffrey Liker’s post about OEE.  This is the piece I found interesting from Jeffrey Liker:

Ignacio S. Gatell questions whether companies using OEE really understand it, can explain it clearly to their customers, and understand what it means to compare OEE as a KPI across plants. He questions whether even plant managers understand how it is calculated and what it means.

The only good argument for OEE is that at a macro-level in a plant it provides a high level picture of how your equipment is functioning.

I have to agree with Liker’s statement.  OEE is good for a macro level idea of what is happening but you can’t understand what is happening without splitting it up into the components.  Seems like Michel Baudin is thinking the same thing.

It is an overly aggregated and commonly gamed metric that you can only use by breaking it down into its constituent factors; you might as well bypass this step and go straight to the factors.

This is one of those blogs that gives me some of my sanity back.  OEE seems to be so entrenched in “good business practices” it is hard to get people to move away from it.  I get a lot of looks like I am completely crazy when I bring up my point of view.  Thanks, Jeffrey and Michel.  I see I’m not the only one now.

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

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.

Shout Out to Fellow Bloggers

I wanted to give a shout out to some fellow bloggers today.  Normally, when I give a shout out it has to do with reading something by another blogger that influences me to go and change my work.

Not this time.  I have to give credit to some fellow bloggers that have the will to continually read articles and blogs that those in the lean world, like myself, find to be ridiculous.

Bill Waddell, Kevin Meyer, Mark Graban and others continue to read material by others that is so rooted in traditional mindsets that it can be appalling.  Yet they do this and provide perspective to the rest of us so we don’t have to waste our time reading it.

I say THANK YOU!

It is always good to read and learn about “the other side.”  It helps to combat the myths and misunderstandings of lean.

I have tried this and from time to time can read the other material but I struggle.  Knowing that mindset is still so rooted and these “experts” are continuing to think this way can drive me absolutely BONKERS!!!  And that is the medial term.

So to Bill, Kevin, Mark and others…Thank you for helping to keep me informed.  By doing so, you help to keep my sanity.

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