Category Archives: Learning
In a previous post, I talked about learning a software package that allows people to model and simulate a factory before making any physical changes. After the building of the factory that failed to implement pull, my role was to model current production lines when changes were recommended and to model the proposed model lines for new products.
One of the new production lines that I modeled was for a new television technology. The Liquid Crystal on Silicone (LCoS) television sets. This technology was about a year ahead of LCD TVs and was cheaper to produce. It was only 18 inches deep which is laughable now but at the time was about half as deep as typical big scree projection TVs.
The manufacturing engineers came up with a design for the new production line. By all means, it looked like a line that would meet the production needs and on paper the number of stations and equipment needed looked perfect.
The model was built and simulated with actual unit testing data as well as workstation operation times. It was a great thing we did, because we could have had another fiasco if we didn’t.
The simulation showed the back of the line being severely starved and the front of the line being overwhelmed. The line would have produced at only 66% of the rate it needed to run. The animation of the simulation showed how many TV sets were being kicked out into the rework loop and the backup it caused. It was a perfect example of the Markov Chain in real-life.
We were able to redesign the production line to be 33% shorter and have the ability to produce at a rate high enough to meet demand and allow for growth with no investment.
This was a great example of fail fast, fail cheap. It took less than a month to build the simulation, test, analyze, rework and get approved. The company saved thousands of dollars and the product went to market on time.
I know simulation software packages aren’t cheap, but it was cheaper than building the production line seeing the failure in real-life and then scrambling to fix it or build a second line.
How does your company fail fast, fail cheap?
- The value of prototyping and understanding before going full out is ALWAYS understated
- Simulating with cardboard boxes to computer software is an important part of making changes, especially big changes.
- Always better to fail early on with something that doesn’t cost much vs. finding the failure in full production mode. Doesn’t matter if it is a new marketing idea (test in an area) or manufacturing.
There is nothing more invigorating than a sponge.
Not the type of sponge you clean with, but a person that soaks up everything and is eager to learn.
I recently have been working with a facility on implementing lean thinking. At this facility is an operations manager that is trying to take in everything she can. It is amazing to watch her. Everything that is said and talked about is taken in, absorbed and thought about how it applies for her staff and herself.
One walk on the floor to spot issues in 5S and questions about if it is important to her whether it is maintained or not turns into a maintained 5S effort over the last month. She didn’t just go out and demand it be done. She asked the employees in the area if it was still needed and if so, what needs to be done to meet their needs. The employees wanted it and now are maintaining it.
The next time more in-depth questions on maintaining material levels led to thinking and study of a process to be sure the material levels are maintained.
In the short time I have been working with the group, I can list of more examples of taking the learning and turning into action than the past year of efforts in other areas.
Seeing others start to soak up the lean thinking like a sponge and grow is an invigorating feeling that gets the blood pumping.
Are you a lean sponge?
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.
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?
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 2013. Enjoy!
5. Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #9 – 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.
4. Don’t Over Complicate the Formula (October 2011) – Talks about simplifying formulas to get you directionally correct especially with calculating kanbans.
3. Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #4 – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.
2. Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.
1. 5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #3 - 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.
I hope 2014 is a great year!
Today I am highlighting the five most popular posts written in 2013. Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.
Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!
5. Visual Management at Home (February 2013) – A great example of a visual board used at home of a friend of mine.
4. Hoshin Planning – Catch Ball (April 2013) – A great video explaining the process of catch ball during the strategy development process.
3. My Continuous Improvemnt: Personal Kanban 3rd Revision (January 2013) – The latest update to my evolving personal kanban for work.
2. Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri (March 2013) – Chad Walters does a great job explaining strategy deployment using the movie Moneyball
1. When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment (May 2013) – Talks about the importance of setting standards and using them to understand your processes.
Have a Happy New Year!!!!
A couple weeks back one of the Lean folks that I follow, tweeted about cream being brought along with coffee even though it wasn’t wanted and called this waste. It made me think about coffee and restaurants quite a bit more than I really wanted. For the record, I’m pretty sure that the tweet was likely at some level sarcastic and I don’t intend to argue the specific point here so I didn’t bother to look back at who typed it or the exact wording. If it was your tweet and you’re offended, please don’t be. Or, if you want credit, let me know and I’ll go look it up.
I started to think about this and I wondered at what level bringing cream with coffee to a person that drinks black coffee is waste. For the person drinking the coffee, it’s clearly wasteful because they aren’t going to use it and the container is likely in the way. For the restaurant, you are paying money for ingredients that aren’t adding anything to the customer experience. On a single point level, that seems to fit the definition of waste to a “T”…so we should form a six sigma project team or set up a 5 day kaizen event to address it, right? Well, maybe the answer is a bit more nuanced than that.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that these made up facts describe the business condition for our dairy wasting enterprise for their breakfast service:
The restaurant serves an average of 100 customers every morning and each customer has an average ticket of $10 for their food and drinks. Of these 100 customers, 90% order coffee and 20% like their coffee black. For each coffee ordered, the input cost of the cream is $0.25. Let’s add an efficiency loss of 1 minute for every time the server has to retrieve cream when the table wants it, but doesn’t have it.
Putting all of this together in simple Excel math, the restaurant earns $1,000 for the breakfast service and spends $22.50 of that on cream for coffee. Not all of that $22.50 is waste because 80% will use it, putting the actual cost of the waste at $4.50 worth of cream that doesn’t get used. That’s around 0.5% of your revenue, not an insignificant amount in the restaurant business. But, let’s look a step farther…the servers will spend 72 minutes of customer service time retrieving the cream for the tables, impacting the service for at least those 72 diners. Now, as a restaurant owner, you’re looking at saving $4.50 per breakfast and making it easier for 18 of your customers vs. spending that extra $4.50 and being more efficient for 72 of your customers. I’d probably make the case that most of the 100 are influenced by the higher workload on the server, but I’m not going to run it through a simulation program to get a pattern.
Don’t like the original estimates, okay…let’s cut the number of customers to 50, assume all order coffee and half like it black. That moves your wasted cost of cream to $6.25 and number of customers impacted to 25. Your decision point seems a bit tougher here.
I guess what I’m trying to say through this simplistic example is that, in a lot of cases, the context of defining waste is a bit of a gray area. Not everything fits in to the handy TIMWOOD’s the same way. Ideally the cream/no cream quandary is able to be solved with no waste on either side. I’ve never been a server nor have I ever owned a restaurant, so I’m not sure what the better solution might be in this case. As a customer, it’s kind of interesting to look at situations like this and realize that just because I don’t want something doesn’t mean it’s wasteful for the provider. I guess it’s kind of like buying a car where in order to get some feature you do want you end up with some you don’t because it’s more efficient for the manufacturers to build to standard levels of trim and features.
A huge take away from some of the studying of Toyota and case studies I have seen is that everything they do is considered an experiment. Every cycle on the assembly line. Every product development project. Every meeting. Everything is a test to see if they got the expected results from the process. If not, why?
It may seem excessive but it isn’t. If a process is designed to deliver certain results then we are doing ourselves a disservice if we aren’t stopping to ask if the process did deliver the expected results. If not, why? If so, why? What can we learn? Positive or negative.
This can be applied to all work. Many studies state that having an agenda and a plan for a meeting is important to making meetings effective. If that is the case (and it has been in my experience) then afterwards we should ask if we accomplished what we had on the agenda and did we stick to the timeline?
A person example is the agenda I use to conduct improvement (or commonly called kaizen) events. I have a detailed 3-day agenda that is my standard work. Each time I have timing information for every phase of the agenda. During the event, I note the time that I move on to the next phase. After the day is over, I reflect to understand if my experiment is working or not. If something took more time I try to understand why. If it went quickly I try to understand that too.
Approaching each improvement event as an experiment that is testing my standard process has allowed me to learn and create new ways to approach different phases of my agenda. I have discovered quicker and more effective ways to accomplish some of the tasks.
To truly learn and improve a person has to look at everything as an experiment testing our standards. People need to be open to learning with everything they do.
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.
- 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.
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?