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.
What Experiences Are You Giving Your Employees?
People behave based on their experiences at work and in life. If a person has been mistreated by someone close to them, it may be hard for them to trust others. If a person is being told how valuable they are to the company, then people may have a positive attitude when going to work.
I worked with a group a few years ago during an improvement event that had bad experiences with past managers on trying new things. The team had no problem identifying a lot of great improvement ideas. When I said it was time to start working on implementing them, they sat and stared at me with confused looks.
The team refused. Thy said it was not their place. The manager would not allow it. After five minutes of discussion and no progress, I called the manager into the improvement event.
I asked him, in front of the team, if it was alright if the team tried the suggested improvements. The manager said, “Absolutely. We can test anything the team believed would help.”
It still took a few minutes to convince the team, but in the end they made the improvements and started becoming more engaged.
The team had so many bad experiences they were guarded and didn’t trust the new manager. The team finally got a new, positive experience and mindsets slowly began to change.
What experiences are you giving your employees? Are they experiences to exhibit the behavior you want to see out of them?
Seconds Matter…So Save Them
Paul Akers at FastCap talks about the 2 second lean. Everyday we should be working to save two seconds. Just two seconds.
All too often, this aspect of lean is missed. Most people are looking for the BIG savings. They don’t deem 2 seconds worth the savings. People miss the value of a bunch of 2 second savings adding up quickly and creating a lot of capacity and savings.
Recently, I was working with a group that found several 2 second savings in their area and it added up to over 200 hrs of gained productivity over the year.
The picture below is an example of a 2 second savings they found.
The box on the right shows where the label was outlined to be placed. The label is low and is blocked by the lip of the shelf. Every time a person has to put something in the box they have go scan the label, so they have to push it back to scan the label and then pull it forward to put the item in the box. Several people doing this over 300 boxes with upwards to 20 items per box.
The box on the left shows where they moved the label. Now a person does not have to push the box back and pull it forward saving about 2 seconds per box per item. This alone saved over 28 hours of time during a year. That is over a full day’s worth of worked that can gained from this simple change.
All savings are important. Seconds matter. Save them every chance you get.
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.
Jumpping to Improvement
I have talked in the past about the importance of direct observation. The power in seeing the waste for yourself. It really shines a light on what is really happening and it also is the best way for a person to continue to learn.
The question is, “What do you do with those observations?”
Most often, I see people run out and try to eliminate or reduce the waste or even assign it to someone else to do. While not entirely a bad thing, if you are trying to instill a lean culture don’t just jump to trying to improve.
Stop and reflect about what you are trying to do as an organization and use the waste you saw as a way to further the lean culture.
Most organizations I have seen do not have a systematic way to eliminate waste. Usually, this is because waste is one of the first things people learn about lean. What happens is people just go out and attack waste (again not a bad thing) without any direction.
If your organization is early on in trying to implement a lean culture, think about how you can make the waste elimination systematic.
Is this a good way to engage employees in a kaizen event to start to build trust? Could be an easy win for everyone.
Should an improvement board to post the waste seen and how it is detracting a better option? Use the waste you saw as an example of how to use the board and go and eliminate it yourself or with the help of others, but be involved.
If you observed multiple areas, do you want to concentrate in one department? Make it a model for others in the organization.
Think about how you can make the waste elimination sustainable and systematic. This will benefit you and the organization in the long run.
Lean Leadership Example
Last week, I attended a lean forum with speakers and breakout sessions. It was done very well. I was very excited that I was able to attend.
One of the speakers was a General Manager at a distribution center. She told the story of how lean has evolved at her facility and where it stands now.
When listening to transformation stories I try to listen for a few different things to see if they are really getting it or just going through the motions and implementing tools.
I will say her story, I haven’t directly observed, is a very promising and exciting story. I believe they are doing things right and well. There were two bits of evidence that lead me to believe this.
First of all, she is holding the staff, managers and all employees accountable for learning about lean and taking action. Not a lean group or a someone else. Herself and everyone around her. In fact, they integrated the lean staff into manger roles and no longer have that crutch to lean on.
There were stories of the General Manger’s own learning and changes. How getting dissolving the lean group but expecting better results helped make everyone accountable.
While dissolving the lean group worked for her and her facility don’t go do this just to remove the crutch. This General Manager was a true believer in what lean could do for her and she partnered with other local companies that were doing lean very well. She had a support system but it was one that held her accountable for leading lean. Not supporting it.
The second piece of evidence was a video she showed of a great employee driven improvement. Great it was employee driven, but what really stuck with me was the General Manager promoting the small improvement. It was about a five to ten second improvement in a manually process. This one small improvement was going to save $40,000 in a $19 million target she was going after.
Most people look for the BIG improvement to get the whole chunk at once. They don’t understand the large gap is made of hundreds of small problems. They don’t have the patience to go after the small problems. This General Manger understood this concept. It was very refreshing to see.
The facility still has a long way to go, but they are traveling down the right path and that was invigorating.
I will share more from the forum at a later time.
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.
Small Change vs. Large Change
Small change vs. Large change is a debate I hear quite often within the Lean community.
The meaning of kaizen is to continuously make change for the better. Implied is to make small changes everyday and over time it will add up. Paul Akers at FastCap often talks about the 2 second kaizen.
Every improvement counts. This is small change.
The flip side of the discussion is large change. Transform the work into something new. Redesign the process, the layout, the flow. Act in a completely different way.
My opinion…they are both right and you should do both. The key is understanding what your organization needs and when.
If it is a traditional batch and queue organization (manufacturing or service), then as you start your lean transformation I would recommend large change. Create a pull system where the parts or service flow uninterrupted. Dramatically change the way you operate.
Once the large change is done, the improvement never stops. This is when you start looking for the 2 second improvements in the process. Everyday the process should be better. Keep making small changes.
This isn’t the only way to go about a lean transformation. It is just one way. If you want to be successful with your lean transformation take the time to really consider your strategy for going about the transformation.
All in all, some improvement is ALWAYS better than no improvement…small or large.
Guest Post: My First Kaizen Event
Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M. She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.
As an inspector at the end of a screen printing process, I’m was in charge of making sure we didn’t ship bad products. I had always enjoyed my job, but after taking part in a kaizen event I went home less tired and made fewer mistakes, ultimately making the customers happier and saving my employer money. Best of all, it felt like I actually made a difference.
Five days of improvement
We started with a training day. Jose, our Lean Director, asked six of us to meet in a conference room: Maria from engineering, A’isha from purchasing, Pete the controller, Ted from maintenance and Gerry, who ran the press that sent me finished parts.
Jose explained that a kaizen event is a concentrated five day effort to improve a factory process. A’isha said she didn’t know anything about the factory, but Jose said the point was to get new ideas from people who didn’t know the area. He called this being outside looking in.
Once we understood our goal – to improve my inspection operation – Jose had us make a plan. We decided to spend our first day gathering data. Then we’d go to the inspection area, ask questions and capture our ideas on flipcharts. At the end of day two, we’d put together a list of the ideas we wanted to try, then we’d implement as many as possible.
Between us we found out how many customer complaints came in each month, how many pieces were scrapped, the number of bad parts caught and our delivery performance. None of them were very good.
Gerry and I showed the team how we did things on the press line, then people asked questions and made suggestions. Pretty quickly we’d filled a whole flipchart pad!
Back in the conference room we stuck the pages on the walls and made a list of the changes we could make. The quick and easy ideas we tried straight away; Maria worked on the harder ones with Ted.
We used the 5S system to arrange my tools on a shadow board so I knew where to find everything and to see if anything was missing. We labeled everything and cleaned up the area so was a nicer place to work.
One thing I asked for was to raise the inspection table. As it was, I had to bend over, which made my back ache, and I was putting a shadow over the piece I was looking at. Ted made the change in a couple of hours, and it makes such a difference!
Ted also installed a track lighting system over the top of the bench. This was really clever because it gave me the ability to vary the light, which helped me find the defects much more easily.
Gerry suggested I turn on a light whenever I find a defect. This would be his signal to stop the press and he’d be able to fix the problem right away. Jose called this an andon light.
When we’d finished, Jose had us present everything to management. I was worried our ideas were too simple but they seemed impressed. Arnie, the Quality Manager, did say though that the proof would be in the numbers.
A month later we got new data and compared it with our “As-is” numbers. Complaints were down, we were scrapping almost nothing, I was finding more defects and our delivery performance was up.
Little did I know that Jose was so impressed with my performance on the kaizen team that he would ask me three months later to consider joining him as the Lean Coordinator in the company’s transformation process. I took his recommendation to apply for the position when it opened up and soon began my own transformation process into becoming a student of The Toyota Way.
Stay tuned to learn more about my personal journey in lean manufacturing!
Using Ice Breakers to Reinforce Improvement Steps
Ice breakers are a good way for a facilitator to get to know the team they are facilitating, as well as help the team build a bond together.
I have always used ice breakers to start a day. It helps get the team engaged to start the day. Recently, I worked with a couple of guys who took the ice breaker to another level. They tied the ice breaker into the next phase of the improvement process.
Here are a couple examples:
1. Stranded on an Island: As we moved to the future state design of the process we used an ice breaker designed around a deserted island. The group was split into teams and given some time to come up with 5 things they would keep with them on a deserted island. After a few minutes, each team would state what they would keep and why.
My partner explained that as we move to a future state design there will be a lot of discuss on what to keep and what is extra. During this time, the team is going to have to come to high agreement of what they process needs and how it will work just like gaining high agreement on what items to keep on the island.
2. Untying the Knot: Half way through the first day of a kaizen event my partner ran an ice breaker designed to untie the human knot. Everyone bunches in as close as they can. Each person takes the hand of another person (two hands means each person should have the hand of two different people). The goal is to untangle the mess so the group is standing in a nice circle. The trick is no one is allowed to let go of the hands they have grabbed so it is people stepping over people and twisting around to get untangled.
The purpose was to explain that over the next few days the team will feel confused and frustrated but as they keep working as a team the solution will start present itself. In the end, the team will have a clear picture of the current and future processes and be linked as a team coming out of the event.
These are just a couple I have seen used and plan to incorporate into my portfolio.
Ice breakers can be something fun to loosen the group up also so pick and choose what makes sense for the audience and the situation.
What ice breakers have you used?