Blog Archives

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.

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Standardized Work is Foundational to Continuous Improvement

This week Beyond Lean is focusing the discussion on standardized work.  There will be four posts throughout the week from different bloggers.  Joe and I will post a blog as well as Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey and Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership.  The purpose is to look at different aspects of standardized work from several perspectives all gathered in one location and within the same time frame.  We hope this spurs thought, reflection and action for our readers around standardized work.

An often overlooked part of standardized work is how foundational it is to continuous improvement.  Standardized work is not about turning people into mindless robots.  It is about setting a baseline so improvement can occur and freeing up the mental capacity from doing the routine in order to think about how the process could work better.

Standardized work creates a baseline to understand how the process is currently working.  Once a process is stabilized, a baseline is created.  Now an improvement can happen.  A change can be made to the process and the results can be monitored.  If the process improves, it will be seen.  The same is true if the process worsens.

If everyone is working differently, without standardized work, then there is no stability in the process.  When one person makes a change to try to improve what they are doing it is very hard to see in the results.  Was the improvement due to the changes made by one employee or by the noise in the process from other employees doing the work differently?  Eliminate the noise by developing standardized work.

Standardized work can help reduce the amount of time someone is thinking about getting the routine task completed, because they aren’t looking for tools or parts, the work is coming to the area without defects or fewer decisions are needed because the standardized work guides them.  While there is a misconception that this is used to create humanoid robots, an organization practicing lean thinking wants the freed up mental capacity to be used on thinking of ways to improve the process.  Some organizations call this the 8th waste of unused employee intellect.  This is about engaging the people who do the work in the improvement process.

Without standardized work, continuous improvement is not possible and it can help to better engage the employees in how to improve their work.  Just like when building a house start with the foundation.  The same is true of continuous improvement…start with standardized work.

Other posts from this standardized work series:

The 8th Waste…is a Waste

Waste is a common term used in lean.  Taiichi Ohno categorized waste he saw in manufacturing into seven categories.

  1. Transportation – The movement of goods
  2. Inventory – The storage of goods
  3. Motion – Any motion that is not adding value to the product, such as walking, reaching, etc…
  4. Waiting – Machine or person or product not having value added to it while other products are having value added to it
  5. Overproduction – Making the product in quantities more than the customer wanted or before the customer wanted it
  6. Overprocessing – Adding more to a product than a customer values or extra steps that are not necessary to create the value
  7. Defects – Anything not done right the first time

These types of waste have been proven to be in the office, healthcare, distribution, or any environment.

I’m not a history major so I don’t who or when, but an 8th waste was added.

The waste of human Intellect.

I have worked at companies that use 7 and companies that use 8 types of waste.  My opinion, the 8th waste is a waste!

Here’s why I think that way.  If you study lean you will see that respect for people is a very big tenant.  If you are showing respect for people then you are engaging the work force.  The purpose of this engagement is tapping into the employees intellect in order to use it to benefit the company through improvement.

In order to engage the employees most companies train them on the types of waste.  That way they can use their intellect to see the waste in their work environment.  So how do you teach seeing wasted intellect?  You can go out and see the other seven types of waste during a waste walk.  Do you walk up to someone and say, “You aren’t giving ideas.  Wasted Intellect!  I found it!”? You don’t see intellect like you see the other seven types of waste.

Wasted intellect is implied in the other wastes.  If you are using employees to find and eliminate waste then you are not wasting their intellect.  If you are not using them to find and eliminate waste then you are wasting their intellect.

I have heard the opinion that by explicitly stating waste of intellect it brings into the forefront employee engagement.  Good opinion.  I just don’t buy it though.  Those same people are stressing employee engagement at the same time, so why not just do it there.

I am in agreement that employees need to be engaged and the company should be using their knowledge and intellect to help improve the business.  I just don’t think it needs to be called an 8th waste.