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Beyond Lean On Vacation

 

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I am doing something this week that I haven’t done in the three years of having the blog.  I am putting the blog on vacation while I am digging my toes in the sand on a nice warm beach.  I hope everyone has a great week.  I am looking forward to relaxing and unplugging for a bit.

Above is a picture from the beach I will be on.  We took the picture last year.  Ahhh!

Executive Master of Business Operational Excellence

I can be stubborn sometimes.  I know.  It can be a negative trait sometimes as a person trying to create change.  But it can be a positive too.

One way I have been stubborn is refusing to get a Masters degree in business.  As a lean thinker, the typical masters program teaches so much of what I don’t believe that I couldn’t bring myself to want to pay to listen how standard costing is the holy grail of business.

I had a friend tell me that it would be good to learn the other side in order to present lean even better.  Deeply understand both sides.  Great point.  Even got me thinking about it.  Then I heard colleagues that did that and ended up arguing with the professor the entire time which caused the class a lot of angst.  Knowing how I would probably do the same I didn’t feel like it was a good use of money to go and argue with a professor.  Why waste the time and money getting upset?  I could use that money for something that won’t make me upset…like a vacation on the beach!

I have felt that way about a masters program for a very long time.  Until a couple of months ago.  Jon Miller posted on his Gemba Panta Rei blog the start of a new masters program.  Boise State University will be working with the Kaizen Institute to conduct a 12-month Executive Master of Business Operational Excellence program.

What makes this program different?  It develops a business leaders thinking in continuous improvement through six sigma, kaizen and lean.  It is not the typical standard costing finance classes.  The finance classes focus on value stream costing and new methodologies to look at cost.

The program is set up in the following manner:

  • Accredited by the AACSB, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • 12-month program
  • Four, week-long sessions in Boise, Idaho USA
  • One, week-long study mission in Japan
  • $44,700 tuition
  • Worry-Free: books, meals, workshops and study mission are all included in the program tuition
  • Classes held in brand new, state of the art Micron Business and Economics Building
  • Online learning through the Gemba Academy

If you have ever thought about a lean masters program, I encourage you to check out the website (here).  It looks to deliver fantastic curriculum in a unique way.

 

Fun With Charts

I’ve kind of talked about some of these things in other posts, but I felt like adding a visual.  Here is a chart of a metric that is currently in use.  The actual scale and what it is measuring is blanked out (for obvious reasons) but this is an actual data run with the required linear trend line added in Excel.  The relevant context is that this is a time based chart (x-axis) and that zero is better (data points closest to the bottom of the chart area).

First a question:  Is this process getting better or worse?

According to the trend line (and several people’s understanding of it) this process gets kudos for being “on a downward trend”.  Now, what if I just asked you to look at the last 10 data points?  Is it getting better or worse?

While it doesn’t quite pass the SPC chart test for number of points in a row in one direction, something clearly seems to be drifting in this process.  While it may just be in the realm of normal or explainable variance, it certainly requires a second look and the last 4 points are higher than all but points 2 and 3 in the first chart.  Now, what if I told you the data for the 2 highest points in the first chart were from an explainable, corrected special cause?

I am throwing this up here to highlight some of the more common issues in data analysis and communication.  Here are a couple of the key points to look for:

  • Overuse of the linear trend line in an Excel chart – Honestly, very little good can come from this function.  Skip it unless you have to use it.
  • Letting the overall behavior picture be clouded by a few special cause points – try cutting them out if you can to run a parallel look at your data…they shouldn’t be ignored, but their impact shouldn’t muddy the whole picture.
  • Having the pre-determined time period confuse the analysis – if a chart of data is based on something like a fiscal or calendar year or month, sometimes it loses or gains data points that make the current performance unclear.  Context is important, but the right context is critical.

Guest Post: Pete Carroll

Joe Wilson has worked in a variety of continuous improvement, problem solving and engineering roles in manufacturing and distribution functions  in the automotive, electronics, and food/grocery industries. He was responsible for site leadership of Lean implementation during the launch and ramp up of becoming a supplier to Toyota and was able to work directly with their personnel and the Toyota Supplier Support Center.   His training background includes courses in Lean/TPS through TSSC and the University of Kentucky’s Lean Systems program.  He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Shainin Red X Journeyman in addition to training in Kepner-Tregoe problem solving techniques.  Joe also has a BS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

I’ve gone back and forth on this several times on what to write about a book I recently read.  I’ve settled on stripping most of what I had to say about it because of two reasons.  First and foremost, I absolutely hate the business as sports parallel.  I just can’t see how pushing yourself through to end of year performance is like fighting for a playoff victory or giving a big presentation is like shooting free throws with the game on the line.  Those situations always seemed to have enough levity as it is without adding a made up metaphor to put them over the top.  The second reason is that I’ve already written about a book by a football coach and, frankly, I couldn’t figure out a way to do it again without making it come off like a form letter.

With that in mind, and with a goal of finding ideas that fit with lean without necessarily being from the lean world, I bring you what I picked up from the book, “Win Forever” by Pete Carroll**.  I’ll be honest, I had no interest in reading the book and only picked it up while I was waiting to meet someone at Borders and killing a few minutes.  When I picked it up, I opened to a page where he described his philosophy as, “Doing things better than they have ever been done before”.  I am a true believer in the concept of chasing a ‘True North’ and this struck a chord with me that was along those lines.  Since I had a good coupon and I was still waiting for the friend to show up, I plunked down a few bucks and figured I’d skim through it.

There was one point in the book that has stuck with me as extremely valuable.  One of the building blocks of his philosophy is for the individual coaches to “learn the learner”.  In his practical terms, it meant the coaches that work for him are responsible for understanding what motivates, de-motivates, and engages the players they coach.  That forces the coach to learn how to optimize their message to the recipient so that each person can be put in a position to be the best they choose to be.  It is such a simple and profound concept and one I had never come across before phrased this way.  Matt has made several posts lately that hit on training and coaching. I can’t help but wonder how much effort I have put forth over the years that didn’t make an impact because I spent a ton of time polishing the message and didn’t take enough time to understand how the person needed to receive the message.  Or how many initiatives or programs, lean or not, haven’t been fully realized because the human factor was left out.  It has been quite a point of reflection for me to realize where some opportunities have been lost and what I can do to improve in the future.  Or how best to present information to a large group with very separate motivations.

**As for whether or not you should get the book or not, it depends.  If you won’t be able to get past things like USC football, Reggie Bush, and his 7-9 team making the NFL playoffs this year, you will probably not get much out of it.  If you can ignore those things or don’t know anything about them, I’d recommend it.  It’s a fairly quick read about the path to creating a personal vision and the pieces that were important to him as he determined what he was passionate about.  There are some solid leadership tidbits that can apply anywhere people are striving for greatness.  It is, however, also a bit cheesy in parts…don’t say you weren’t warned.

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