Category Archives: Process

Trader Joe’s Printing Error

Sweet_Potato_FritesThe picture above is one my daughter took after cutting out the error to show me.

“Sweet potato Frites”

I’m not sure what frites are but sweet potato fries were in the packaging.

Errors do happen, but seeing this one makes me think about the processes that allowed this to happen.  There was artwork that was created for the printing.  Then the printing tooling.  In production, the operator had to place the tooling on the press and in most printing processes there are audits and checks.  Then the bags were filled with fries, sealed and shipped.  Employees at the Trader Joe’s stores had to take the bags out of boxes and put into the freezer in the store.

That is the long way to say there were a lot of people that had to touch this process as someone adding value or as an inspection and this wasn’t caught.

I wonder how many bags got sent to stores and bought by customers?  I wonder if it has been caught and changed? I wonder what in the process allowed this not to be discovered?

 

Meet Customer Expectations AND Have Operational Excellence

I am way behind in my blog reading.  When reading some of my backlog, I found this great post by Brad Power over at Harvard Business Review.

Why was it great?  Brad talked about how meeting the customer expectations and operational excellence are not opposites.  Business should be doing BOTH and the ones that do have great success.

What is more important to company success, a strong external focus on customer experiences or an internal focus on effective and efficient operations?

Of course, it’s a false dichotomy — you need both. I described in an earlier post how Tesco worked for years to improve its supply chain capabilities, then leveraged this value by using deeper customer knowledge to enrich customer experiences.

Brad uses two great examples.  One is L.L. Bean that provides goods to consumers.  The other is ThedaCare which provides medical services to people.  He shows how meeting customer expectations and having operational excellence can work in either industry.

Many hospitals began pursuing the “triple aim”: better patient experiences, consistent quality, and lower costs. Hospitals such as Virginia Mason and ThedaCare adopted process improvement systems from manufacturing (“Lean” and the “Toyota Production System”) to deliver increased consistency, reliability, and quality. While skeptics are right when they say, “Patients are not cars,” the reality is that medical care is, in fact, delivered through extraordinarily complex organizations, with thousands of interacting processes, much like a factory.

Most in the lean community are aware of the great work ThedaCare and Virginia Mason have been doing.  It is great to see it highlighted on the HBR Blog.

Something that the lean community has stressed for a very long time is focus on delivering value for the customer first and then determine how to deliver that value as efficiently as possible and with no waste.

There is so much written about lean that is wrong or misunderstood.  It is great to see a post discussing how companies can use lean properly to help them compete and win.

Process of Shaving

If you are a male like me you may hate shaving as much as I did.  I saw it as a chore.  Something that had to be done because I didn’t want a huge ZZ Top beard.  Because I didn’t want to do it, I took the short cut.  I used an electric razor and then used a multiple blade hand razor to get what was left.  The results…lots of ingrown hairs, a super sensitive face that stung when any lotion was applied and bleeding through my neck area.  Not cuts but blood seeping through almost like a scrap.

shaving_brushA few weeks ago, my wife talked me into going into a shave specialty shop.  I spent a good 30 minutes with the sales woman.  She showed me their natural shaving products and then talked about the proper process for shaving.  I learned that for most men, the multi-blade hand razors are still very irritating to the skin.  The best are the old school single blade razors that you screw into the handle, not the cheap disposable kind.

So what is the proper process for shaving?

  1. Wash your face
  2. Apply an essential oil to help the hairs stand up and to lubricate
  3. Apply shaving cream to a shaving brush in a small amount.  I learned that badger hair is naturally anti-bacteria.
  4. Use the shaving brush to apply the shaving cream to your face
  5. Shave face going WITH the grain.  Use short strokes and rinse.
  6. Apply more shaving cream with the shaving brush
  7. Shave face going AGAINST the grain.  Use short strokes and rinse.
  8. Rinse face and dry
  9. Apply after shave balm for soothing and moisturizing

If you are like me, you are thinking, “really?!  That seems like a lot and over the top.”

My wife convinced me to give it a try, so I bought the brush and the oil, shaving cream and after shave balm.

It has been a few weeks and I have to say the results are amazing.  I get a much closer shave so I don’t have to shave as often.  I have had zero ingrown hairs, my face is less sensitive and I don’t bleed when I shave.

You might be thinking, “Great to know, but in the world does this have to do with lean?”

The answer is…a lot.

Too often we don’t want to follow the process because it seems long, over done or a pain, so we take short cuts.  We may end up getting some good results once, but that won’t be repeatable.  Take the problem solving process.  We may short cut investigating the current state and what the problem truly is.  One time we may get a good solution in place, but other times it is patchy results at best.

As tedious as it may seem at times, we should always follow the process when we know it will give us good, sustainable results.

Centralized vs. Decentralized

I had the pleasure of being a guest blogger on Karen Wilhelm’s Lean Reflections site.  I wrote about the debate between centralizing versus decentralizing functions of a business.

Here is the beginning:

Should we centralize or decentralize our function?

Have you ever heard this question come up?  I bet so.  It is a very common question.  The discussion could be around any area of service like procurement, IT, HR or many other functions that I haven’t mentioned.

I always seem to get the follow up question of “So what does lean say we should do?”

My simple answer is “Whatever makes the best sense for your company and your situation today.”

Most hate hearing this, but it is the truth.  There is no lean perspective on this question.  Both sides have good points and bad points to them.

You can read the rest over at Lean Reflections...

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.

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.

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?