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When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment

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.

Dilbert – Creating Less Fear to Experiment

I hope everyone had a great Turkey Day.  I had plenty of food and and football with my family.  It was great.  Now it is time for a sanity break from the Black Friday shopping.  What better way to do it then with Dilbert.

As lean leaders, we try to create an environment that rewards experimentation.  With experimentation comes failure and we want people to feel comfortable with failing if they try something new, as long as they are learning from it.  I saw this Dilbert strip a couple of weeks ago.  It seemed to nail the struggle between traditonal mindsets and lean mindsets.

(Click on image for a larger view)

Is this what you hear a lot at work?  Does you manager say he wants you to try new things?  Does your manager get upset when you try something new and it doesn’t work?  This is such a big mindset to break.  We have to provide them with experiences that show them it is alright to try something new and if it doesn’t work, that is OK.