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Defining Value Added
In the lean lexicon there is a lot of talk of removing waste from processes. Waste is anything that is not value added. There is the problem. What is value added?
In my work, I ask people to define value added for me. It seems like a simple question, but I get numerous blank stares and answers rarely match across the team or organization.
So if can’t give a standard definition of value added, then what is waste? How do you look for it? How do you know what to keep and what to eliminate?
Here is the definition I learned long ago and it never fails me:
- The customer must be willing to pay for it
- It changes the form, fit, or function of the product or service
- It must be done right the first time
ALL THREE MUST BE MET TO BE VALUE ADDED!!!
A customer may find something interesting but isn’t willing to pay the extra price for it. An example may be an optional built-in DVD player in the mini-van. Some may find it of value and pay extra for it, while others may not.
A change must be made to the product or service. Inspection stations on an assembly line are a good example of something that violates the definition. It may be needed because that is better than a bad product getting out.
Which leads to the last point. If it isn’t right the first time then it is a defect which is one of the seven types of waste.
Next time you are looking for waste, bounce it against this definition of value added. You may be surprised to find waste that you haven’t considered before.
Rating Yourself Is Important to Growth
Personal improvement is important. It shows others a person is will to take a hard look at themselves and hold themselves accountable for their actions.
When others see a person doing this it can cause them to take action to improve. This is what happened with me.
I saw my colleague rating herself on skills she wanted to improve every day. I asked her how she was going about the work. It led to a good discussion and me taking action.
Here is a simple way to do it.
Understand what skills you want to improve and then create a daily chart. At the end of each day take a couple of minutes to rate yourself based on a predetermined rating system.
Even if you don’t do anything to improve the skill that day, it will be top of mind everyday as you rate yourself. Pretty soon you will be noticing you haven’t done anything on a skill. Then you will start thinking about it during the day. You become more conscious of when to apply the skill you are working on.
Before you know it, the skill will become second nature.
Failure Is Not An Option…
…it is Mandatory!
I tell my kids that if they haven’t failed then they aren’t learning. Because if you succeed the first time all the time, then you are only applying what you already know.
Where has that gone in the business world? Companies can’t be afraid to try a new product and not fail with it. Or a new process to create the product. Or anything that can create new learning.
Part of the reason is people still don’t know how to fail. I’m not saying all in on one thing and only go live with the new after having it “perfect.”
Companies have to learn how to put something new out there. Learn from it quickly and then make changes to improve it.
If companies won’t put a truly new product out there or use a creative new process, then what are they learning?
The better question may be, “When are they going to get passed?”
Fail and learn as quickly as possible so the learning can used and the company can be in better place.
Always Keep the Door Open
Opportunities seem to present themselves when you least expect it. Not when you are trying to seek out an opportunity.
That is why it is important to keep as many doors open. It increases the possibility of an opportunity.
Network with people in new areas. This can open the door for a career opportunity. Or the opportunity for you or your team to do work in a new area, highlighting the capabilities your and your team bring to the organization.
The best way to know if you have an interest in something is to try it. Taking job assignments in new areas on a trial basis or working on a project in a new area can lead to finding new passions and interests.
None of this is possible with an opportunity from a relationship or doorway you have kept open.
How many doorways do you have open?
Who is Your Real Customer?
Lean is focuses on adding value for the customer. But, who is your real customer?
Many groups will talk about supporting another group within the organization. The focus is on making the internal customer happy. Delivering what they need and want.
Internal customers are important. As a supplier, the focus should be on delivering what the internal customer wants. But, they are not your real customer. The real customer is still the end user or the consumer of the organizations product or service. That never changes.
Even if a group never touches the value added processes making the product or service, the group should be focused on the end customer. As the group works with the internal customer, questions should be asked if what the internal customer needs/wants lines up with adding value for the end customer.
Common thought is it’s not the support group’s job or position to ask because the internal customer group is assumed to already know what is being asked for is adding value.
Amazon. Zappos. Danaher. Safelite. Organizations that have figured out it is EVERYBODY’s job to focus and ask questions about what adds value to the end customer have a significant competitive advantage.
Problem Statement…Got One?
Defining the problem well is a very important step in solving any problem. Yet, in coaching problem solving, problem statements are very rarely written well or even understood.
There are five components to a well written problem statement:
- What is under performing?
- What is the actual performance?
- What is the needed performance?
- Why does this need to be addressed?
- What will be affected by solving this? (Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, Morale)
Example: Number of critical software issues in testing was 13 and needs to be at 0 because the software can not be released until the critical issues are resolved which delays the cost savings and increased revenue of using the new software.
(Color coded to show the components of the problem statement).
There is a clear understanding of what is wrong, where the performance needs to be and why it is important.
As a team works on solving this problem, they can always bounce their root cause and potential countermeasure against this statement to see if they are delivering on what is important. The team always knows how they are affecting the business (reducing cost and increasing revenue).
“The software has too many issues to release,” is not a good problem statement. What kind of issues? How many? What are the repercussions of the issues?
This is the type of statement that I see way too often. As you can see, there are too many questions to get a clear understanding of the problem.
A well written problem statement will get a solid problem solving process started on the right foot.
It’s Not Always About the Big Improvement
With any improvement philosophy, people always want the BIG improvement. When there are none to be had a re-organization or a shift in direction is implemented. This may work for a short period of time, but eventually the results normalize back to their old levels.
A uniqueness with lean is creating a focus on getting better each day. Even it if is just a second or two better. Saving 1 second each day while maintaining the savings from the previous day will yield 8.7 hrs of savings after a work year. What would you do with a full extra day of capacity?
Paul Akers has called this 2 second lean. It is extremely powerful.
Focusing on small improvements means focusing on what bothers you and your customer and fixing it. It could be as simple as always having to search for a stapler when doing paperwork. Or moving the placement location of a label. This saved a group I worked with 1 second per label…we timed it. Over the course of the year, that was a savings of over 30 hours for the team!
People don’t like to focus on small changes because it isn’t “sexy”. Guess what? Sexy falls apart quickly and usually has no substance.
Build lasting change a little at a time. It takes patience and understanding but two years from now you will have better actual results than people chasing only the “big” improvements that never get completed.
In January, I posted a blog titled “Create Inspiration“. In that post I stated a goal for myself.
I want to post 51 blogs in 2016, so I am going to use Seth’s example and every day until the end of February I am writing a topic in my notebook. Some may never get written about. Others will end up here on Beyond Lean.
The experiment has worked. Here are the results:
- I wrote an idea down on 17 of the 21 working days in February.
- I documented 25 topic ideas
- Every post since the start of February has come from that inspiration list
I still have room for improvement. I didn’t get an idea added everyday, which was my goal. I could also increase the average ideas/day.
There is a well wish people give to others sometimes, “I hope inspiration finds you.”
Don’t wish for inspiration to find you. Go find inspiration!
Try Q-Storming Instead of Brainstorming
Have you ever been stuck on a project? Don’t know where to go? Looking for ideas?
A common tool people will use in groups to help with get things moving will be to brainstorm. The problem with brainstorming is it helps people converge on a particular answer.
People will put up any and all ideas they have already thought about. Then ideas are voted on to narrow the field. When finished the group ends up with a handful or less of ideas from the person with the strongest voice in the room. Typically, these ideas are along the lines of the current direction of the work.
What if you don’t want to limit yourself in your thinking? Come up with idea(s) that haven’t been thought of yet.
Have you tried Q-storming? Instead of ideas, think of as many questions as the group come up with. In a recent exercise, the group came up with over 30 questions about the work to be done.
It caused the group to dig in more and find answers to some very good questions. The door was opened to several different ways to attach the problem. Some of which were not even on the radar before the q-storming. The team was able to shatter some assumptions. Allowing them to work in a new way. It was very freeing.
If you want your thinking to diverge from norm then try Q-storming. Or if you have a need to converge your thinking use brainstorming.