Category Archives: Respect for People

One Man’s Lean Journey: Gain Respect and Deliver What the Customer Desires

I spent about a year working as an Industrial Engineer at Guardian before I got on opportunity to move into the Program Manager position. In this role, I was responsible for managing every engineering change that came through the facility. That could be a new paint color, new components or even a complete redesign with tool modifications. This covered over 5,000 part numbers and at least 10 customers.

Not only was there the external customers, but there were the internal customers. I had to work with the corporate design engineers and product managers as well as the facility’s engineers and senior staff. I had to make sure we were still profitable with the changes. It was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. This is where I learned how to listen to customers wants and combine them with our capabilities.

Being focused on the customer and delivering what they would like does not mean bending over backwards and just caving to every demand they have. It means have a respectful relationship and working together to achieve the desired outcome. Sometimes it was easy. They customer would want a new paint color. I would work with the paint supplier to get the color developed, tested and approved. A pretty standard process and well within our capability.

Sometimes it was much more difficult. One customer wanted their grille of their flagship vehicle to have a “smoked chrome” look like it did in Japan. The look was very popular and they wanted to carry it over to the U.S. The issue was the paint they used in Japan was not legal in the U.S. because of the amount of VOCsNissan_Maxima. I worked with a team that sat down with the customer and understood what the “smoked chrome” look they were trying to achieve. It took over six months of development with our paint supplier and our process engineers to get the desired look.

All along the way the customer understood the effort we were going through and how complicated it was to get the desired look. Because of this, they agreed to pay a much higher than standard price for the grille. More importantly, a trust and a relationship had grown between our companies. One of respect and understanding. Our efforts to give the customer what they wanted but stay within our facilities capabilities made us a preferred supplier. Nothing was as complicated as that moving forward but when changes where needed, the customer took the approach of “this is what we are looking for. What can you do?”

It was a great lesson in serving the customer without bending on what your purpose and capabilities are in a way that benefits everyone.

Reflections:

  • When working directly with the external customer, you must keep in mind your capabilities and core strengths and help deliver within those parameters. It can create some creativity.
  • Must focus on the external customer first but you can’t forget the internal customer as well.
  • Being firm, but reasonable can help garner trust and a strong relationship. When you give them everything not matter what it does to you, it doesn’t gain respect but one of dominance by the customer

One Man’s Lean Journey: Respect People and They Will Fight for You

RCA_TVMy internship with Thomson Consumer Electronics (TCE) gave me a lot of learning opportunities. One of the biggest learnings I had was around people.

The assignment was to oversee the completion of rebuilding several hundred television sets. This was back in the day of picture tubes and rear projection TVs. The sets would be sold in discount shops across the country.

The manufacturing facility was well known for its union and their insanity to horn-swaggle the company. The assignment typically takes 7-8 weeks. I was given a union crew and the production area was set up a good 1/4 mile from the nearest production area.

The first week went bye with no problem. Then in the second week we started encountering hiccups in our production. The typical stuff. We didn’t have the parts we needed, there was no one to move the product for us and even some good old-fashioned infighting in the group.

I pulled the team together and we discussed not having the parts we needed. I asked them how we should be producing the TVs. What sequence would work best? They commented they had never been asked for their ideas before. The team came up with a sequence based on their knowledge and a process to get the parts. Every afternoon, one of the employees and I would look at what we have completed and look at what was next on the schedule and determine what parts we would need. I would drive my car over the main plant, gather the parts with the employee and help her carry them back to my car.

I addressed the issue with fighting employees as well. We had one-on-ones and worked through their issues of working together.

Our production rate sky-rocketed. It was almost double what I was told we would be able to do based on past history.

Then came the bombshell. One afternoon, a union steward showed up in my area and proceeded to yell at me in the middle of the production area so everyone could hear. Apparently, helping someone carry heavy boxes so they don’t get hurt and helping my employees move TVs is going to put the union out of a job. He was threatening to file a grievance against me.

Being 21-years-old, I didn’t take too kindly to the yelling, especially in front of the employees. So, I proceeded to yell right back about how I will do whatever it takes to help my employees get the work done and he could….well you can use your imagination for the rest.

It wasn’t 45 minutes later, my manager for this project was out there trying to cool me off and telling me to play the union game. I was shocked at how quickly he collapsed to the union. Ridiculous! Truly pissed me off. I told him that if he wanted me to stop then the union needs to stop delaying my work.

This is a lot of back story to get to this. The union employees on my team went to the union head and got the steward to back off. When I asked them why they would do that, the response was “Because we like working for you and you stuck up for us. We should stick up for you.”

My parents had always instilled in me to treat everyone with respect. And this was a moment where that lesson truly became ingrained in me forever.

We finished the project in 4.5 weeks. Almost half the expected time. As a thank you, I gave them a half day “off” where we hung out in our production area and I bought pizza for the team. It really was something I will never forget.

Reflections:

* People appreciate being treated with respect more than anything else you could give them
* Involve the people in improving the work and they will work hard to make sure it gets implemented properly
* Once people feel safe in giving ideas, then the floodgates will open

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.

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 5 Thru 1

2014 is now in full swing.  Before 2013 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2013.

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.

AND……

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!

Top 6 – 10 of 2013

Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2013 – Lean Blitz

At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management.  The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers.  This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.

Lean_Blitz_logo

A blog that I discovered a couple of years ago was Lean Blitz written by Chad Walters.  I like Chad’s unique way of relating lean and continuous improvement to the sports world, because there are plenty of examples throughout sports to do this.

Take the respect for people as an example.  The NFL was ripe with instances of disrespect this year, from the Miami Dolphins’ handling of the bullying in their locker room to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ unclean locker room leading to three players getting MSRA infections.  Not only in the NFL but in college also.  This post talks about Coach Kelly at Notre Dame not listening to his players when something was wrong with the gauntlet machine.  Chad tackles the issue head on in his posts.

Another topic on the blog is error proofing.  Chad talks about how Clemson and Notre Dame handled a color out night at their school for a football game.  Clemson was a huge success while Notre Dame not so much.  He shows some of the differences.  Another favorite is how sprinklers popped up in the middle of an NFL game at the end of last year.

Chad has created a unique blog at Lean Blitz.  It is a fun and different way to demonstrate lean principles in action in any environment.

NDAs…Disrespectful?

I know that in today’s world there seems to be a lot more innovation happening.  If you are innovating you are dying.  At least that is what you are led to believe.  Companies now are requiring employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) just to work on a new project within the company.

How are we going to produce this new product?  Sign an NDA.

What new products are we working on? Sign an NDA.

How will we work as a new organization and what will it look like?  Sign an NDA.

NDAs are being signed for any significant work and it seems to be getting worse with the work environment today.

I find this to violate one major tenet of lean.  Respect for People.

The NDAs don’t allow for people to discuss the project internally with other members for the company.  This screams “We don’t trust you enough to let you know about this without reacting inappropriately.”

This counter productive to being transparent, which is discussed at great lengths with showing respect for people.

Imagine the scenario of developing a new product or program but it can’t be discussed openly until it is about ready to roll out.  Does the company truly not trust their employees enough that it won’t be blabbed all over the internet?

Rumors always swirl.  Rumors tend to lean towards the negative.  Why not get out in front of it?  Why not control it?  Explain the new product/program.  How the company expects it to help and why it came about.  This gets a good message out and reduces the rumors.  It shows the trust and respect for the employees.  It makes for a better work environment.

I understand there is a time and place for NDAs.  Just evaluate how often you are using them and really question yourself to understand if it is truly necessary.

Employee Engagement Starting to Be Recognized

It looks like others are finally catching on to something the lean community has been talking about for years.  Employee engagement benefits companies in many ways.  The article talks about how employee engagement does more than just boost productivity.  It helps with absenteeism, delivering company results and turnover rate.

Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research explained what engaged employees do differently in an email interview: “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.”

Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  If you are engaged and part of the solution and the work then you pay attention and take it personally.

Harter also reiterates things the lean community has been trying to get people to understand for year.

Engaged employees “listen to the opinions of people close to the action (close to actual safety issues and quality or defect issues), and help people see the connection between their everyday work and the larger purpose or mission of the organization.” When engaged employee do this they create a virtuous circle where communication and collaboration nurture engagement and vice versa.

I appreciate the studies Harter has done, but why do we need studies to know and understand all of this.  Lean organizations did read a study and then engage their people.  Lean organizations engaged their people out of respect.  Looking at people as more than just ‘hands and feet.’  When they did they saw all these benefits.  Lean organizations have been trying to tell others this for years.

It is amazing that studies have to be done to understand this ‘phenomenon’.

So how can we engage our people?

One way to simplify it is to focus on purpose. Communicate the purpose of the organization, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose. When employees “clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfill their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organizational purpose,” says Harter, that’s the recipe for creating greater levels of engagement.

Well said.

How are you engaging your people?

Using Technology to Take Notes

A few months ago, I read a blog (I can’t remember where I read it or who wrote it) about how note taking in meetings is changing in today’s world. With tablets and smartphones and laptops and WiFi, etc…more and more people are taking notes electronically.

The blog was about people who get upset when technology is used in a meeting because they think the person isn’t paying attention. The thought is the person is doing email or something not related to the meeting. And yes I have seen that.

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have been inching towards using technology to take notes even though I still like my pen and paper. I have found it is easier to share with others and storing takes up little memory versus large filing cabinets with all the paper in it. My computer search is faster than going through a filing cabinet and Microsoft OneNote makes it note taking easier on a computer.

With that, I think there is still etiquette to be used when using technology to take notes.

  • If it is a large meeting (about 10 or more people), it may be OK just to open up the computer and take notes because several people will be doing it
  • If it is a large meeting and no one else is using technology you may ask the leader of the meeting if it is alright to use your computer or tablet device. You can ask off to the side before it starts or at the very beginning of the meeting with the whole group because others may want to do it also.
  • If it is small meeting (less than 10 people) or a 1-on-1 type meeting, you should ask if it is alright to take notes electronically.
  • A 1-on-1 meeting you still might consider using pen and paper. I know this is extra work but sometimes if you are using a computer, it can get in the way and block the view of the other person. The computer can feel like a wall between you.
  • Understand the meeting before taking notes. Some meetings don’t require you to need to take notes, so there is no need to have your computer or tablet open. Maybe detailed notes will be handed out. Another example are kaizen events. Notes don’t need to be taken by individuals in kaizen events. All the notes are captured on the flip chart paper and post-its. It is more important to have everyone 100% engaged.

All and all, taking notes electronically can be a good thing and is something more and more people are doing. It is alright to do. If you are a person using technology to take notes have some etiquette and understand who is leading the meeting and the purpose before opening your computer or tablet and typing away.

 

Working With People

When creating change it is not always easy working with people.  People are the largest variable in any change you want to create.  Because of this, different people and situations have to be handled in different ways.

One way is through demonstration.  Do the work on a project and show them the benefits of working in the new way.  Either show them after the changes are made or have them work alongside you as you make the changes and work in the new way.  This way the person gets first hand experience of the benefits.

Another way is coaching.  Have them do the thinking and the work on an improvement.  Learn by doing.  Be there with them, side-by-side.  Let the person bounce ideas off you.  Ask questions back to them so they develop the thoughts around what actions to take and the benefits gained.  This is usually very powerful, because most adults accept change and improvement when they completely understand it and what it can do.  This is a great way to gain the buy-in and understanding.

A third way is giving a large learning zone.  Give people the time and the freedom to make changes on their own without a ton of bureaucracy.  They will make mistakes.  It is important not to make it punitive for making a mistake.  Ask what they learned and how are they going to correct it.  It is amazing what people can accomplish and do when they have the comfort zone to learn.

There is not one way to help people learn.  You have to understand the situation and the person to best develop a plan to help them learn.  If it is something critical to running the business the learning zone may be smaller because you can’t afford to allow a mistake that shuts the business down, but coaching may be a good way.  The next time expanding the learning zone may be better.

If a person has baggage that prevents them from wanting to do improvement then maybe the first way is best.  Drag them along and let them see how it can benefit them.

People are our biggest variable to change, but they are also are most valuable resource.

 

Art Byrne’s Response to My Book Review

After writing the review of Art Byrne’s The Lean Turnaround, I sent him a copy of the review before posting the review.  That is my standard work.  Not because I want the author to have editorial rights (by the way, no one has ever asked me to change my review), but because I think it is a courtesy  to let them have a preview before it posts.

As part of my standard review, there is a section where I talk about what was missing from the book in my perspective.  Art read my review and responded.  He DID NOT ask me to change anything about the review.  In fact, he was pleased with the questions I posed.  Art  asked if he could respond to my questions and what was missing.  I said absolutely.

As a recap, here is the section from my review:

What are the weaknesses?  What’s missing?

This is a really good book, but I do see one thing missing.  Art speaks from a CEO or executive viewpoint, which is great, but what if you aren’t an executive?

One question I would like to see answered is how do lower level employees help executives want to do a lean turnaround?  Sure, one answer could be give them the book, but that probably won’t change everyone’s mind with just a single read.  How do you help an executive that seems to want to do it, do it?  Give them that final push and really start to see the benefits?

The book can also give the feeling that if you don’t have an executive leading and doing everything in the book then you might as well not go through with lean because you won’t be successful.  Art does not say that explicitly.  The book just gives that feeling.

With Art’s permission, here is his unedited response to my what’s missing from the book:

Matt, first of all let me thank you for your excellent review of my book, The Lean Turnaround. I really appreciate it and I was very happy to see that you got the main points of the book very well. You also had a couple of good questions that I would like to respond to just for clarity. Let’s take the softball question first. This wasn’t really posed as a question, but you say that I imply that if a company does not have the CEO (your term was “the executive”) leading the lean turnaround, then it might as well not start at all, since it won’t be successful. And my response is that your conclusion is correct. If the CEO won’t actively lead lean then my advice is don’t start with lean at all. That’s because you won’t get very far, and also because the entire campaign will just confuse everyone. There will be a huge gap between the things that are publicly said—and the actual commitment to lean and the actions that are taken. This has been a constant message of mine since way back in my Danaher days.

I’m going to respond now to what I believe is the basic question contained in your next comments—which, believe me, is a very good question that I get all the time in one form or another. To be more specific, I can’t remember a presentation that I have done to a national conference on lean where the first question from the audience is along the lines of “gee, that was great, but how do I get my management team to embrace lean, which I really believe is the right way to go?” This is of course a shame because it just serves to highlight the fact that most of the people attending the conference are mid-level managers or engineers who couldn’t get their senior management to attend in the first place. My answer to them is always the same. You have two choices. One, you can implement lean aggressively in the plant, division, product line or whatever you are responsible for. Go about it quietly though—you don’t want anyone above you to hear about it too early as they might try and stop you. While I was at Wiremold I introduced one of GE’s Aircraft Engine Plants to lean, and to the Japanese Consultants that I had been using (and that they are now using). At the time GE was all about Six Sigma, a very unfortunate diversion in my mind, and as a result, although they had great success with lean and became the best plant in Aircraft Engine, they were very careful to never mention the word lean and to just swear up and down that they were getting the results through Six Sigma. Once you have achieved great success and have a model line or model factory then you can show it off. Use that as leverage to get the CEO and the rest of the company to adapt it everywhere. Seeing success in your own company makes it harder for the CEO or the rest of the management team to say, “oh that lean stuff will never work here”.
Now, if this doesn’t work then your second choice is easy: quit and go work for a company that is really interested in lean. You’ll recognize this easily since the company will be aggressively pursuing it from the top down.

As to the other part of this question, “ how can I help an executive who seems to want to do it, do it?” Part of the answer here of course is exactly what I just said. In addition, I would recommend that you start by reading several key books on lean such as Lean Thinking by Jim Womack and Dan Jones, Toyota Production System by Taiichi Ohno, A Study of the Toyota Production System by Shigeo Shingo, Better Thinking, Better Results by Bob Emiliani, Real Numbers by Orry Fiume and Jean Cunningham, and Gemba Kaizen (2nd Edition) by Masaaki Imai. Then go visit some lean companies in their area, and ask to participate in their kaizens. You should also contact a high level lean consultant who teaches the Toyota approach and have them come and do a walk about in your company, and then share what they saw and what the opportunity is. Next, you should run a few kaizens in your facility (with you on the team of course) so you can start to see the opportunity and how people react; and then, and of course….take the lean leap. You can only learn by doing so at some point you have to start doing.

Thanks so much for giving me a chance to share my thoughts.

Regards, Art.

WOW!  My respect for Art grew even more with the response.  He took the questions, head on and didn’t hold any thoughts back.

What are your thoughts about Art’s response?  I am interested in hearing any feedback you have on it.

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