The Value of Certifications in Our Industry
Today’s post is from a guest blogger. Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California. Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year. She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion. Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.
What is the value of certification in general? There are lots of people, old and young alike, who think that if they get a certification, they’ll get a job!
First of all, this is wrong. It might get your resume looked at, if it is a prerequisite to get through the screening process, but you have to know what you are doing. At this point with all of the certifications floating around, it is fairly easy to get a certificate by not telling the truth about the projects you have completed and just studying and passing the test.
On the other hand, if you know what you are doing and do it well and nobody outside of yourself has recognized that, then a certificate can help get you recognized.
I have a project management professional (PMP), Six Sigma Black Belt from ASQ and have just gotten my Silver Lean Certification from AME/SME. I am most proud of the Lean certificate. It was really hard – no cake walk. They dug deep to find out if I knew what I was talking about.
At first I got my PMP so that I could get a better job. I found that it did get me past the first gate of keyword search by the computer. Then I got my Black Belt through ASQ but I had the backing of the GE Healthcare University to help me with the projects and studying the material. The test was harrowing. I had a pile of books 3 feet high with sticky notes attached to the pages where I could flip to different sections as needed. I did study questions for hours and hours on the weekend. I spent much of my personal time to prepare. I did this mid-career and this is what I found.
It was very helpful for me to get back into the practice of test taking – to read carefully and slow down before answering the questions. I actually learned a lot in both the PMP and the Black belt literature. Did I use it in my work? Some of it. To be honest, not very much. But I had the foundation and the backbone to know when I could use something and when it didn’t apply. Unless you are working in construction or defense, the project management professional roadmap doesn’t apply. Hardly anybody uses Earned Value System. Six Sigma is useful if you work in a company that has lots of data and ability to affect the variability.
However, lean is another story. I find it applies to everything I do both personally and professionally. Who can’t apply 5S to the cabinets and drawers in the bathroom? Who can’t use visual systems to allow others to see the progress of their work?
But AME/SME (the certification is actually backed by SME, AME, ASQ and Shingo prize – so it has prestigious companies behind it) lean certifications are very different. The books that you have to read really give you the picture of how revolutionary lean can be. Based on the Toyota Production System and authors like Womack, Liker and Dennis, you are getting exposed to the very difficult path of transformation. It has led me to Mike Rother and Toyota Kata which I think is needed to change the way we think. Liker has teamed with Rother in his Kata Summit to explain that without a way to learn new behavior we are forever stuck in using tools and not having success in implementing lean.
In the end, what is the value of a certification? For me, it meant reaching a personal milestone, having the ability to get the agreement from others in the business that I know the material and have proven it in the workplace and maybe it will help me to get a job that is satisfying and rewarding.
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.
Blog Reader Survey: I want to hear about your needs from the blog
Recently, I have been participating in a series of conversations with a small group of other bloggers about how to improve the online lean learning community.
We thought it best to start with what you thought, so we’d like you to take a few minutes to answer a series of 10 questions to get us going.
As a thank you for your help, this link will take you to a zip file with some free content from Jeff Hajek, Chad Walters and myself.
Process of Shaving
If you are a male like me you may hate shaving as much as I did. I saw it as a chore. Something that had to be done because I didn’t want a huge ZZ Top beard. Because I didn’t want to do it, I took the short cut. I used an electric razor and then used a multiple blade hand razor to get what was left. The results…lots of ingrown hairs, a super sensitive face that stung when any lotion was applied and bleeding through my neck area. Not cuts but blood seeping through almost like a scrap.
A few weeks ago, my wife talked me into going into a shave specialty shop. I spent a good 30 minutes with the sales woman. She showed me their natural shaving products and then talked about the proper process for shaving. I learned that for most men, the multi-blade hand razors are still very irritating to the skin. The best are the old school single blade razors that you screw into the handle, not the cheap disposable kind.
So what is the proper process for shaving?
- Wash your face
- Apply an essential oil to help the hairs stand up and to lubricate
- Apply shaving cream to a shaving brush in a small amount. I learned that badger hair is naturally anti-bacteria.
- Use the shaving brush to apply the shaving cream to your face
- Shave face going WITH the grain. Use short strokes and rinse.
- Apply more shaving cream with the shaving brush
- Shave face going AGAINST the grain. Use short strokes and rinse.
- Rinse face and dry
- Apply after shave balm for soothing and moisturizing
If you are like me, you are thinking, “really?! That seems like a lot and over the top.”
My wife convinced me to give it a try, so I bought the brush and the oil, shaving cream and after shave balm.
It has been a few weeks and I have to say the results are amazing. I get a much closer shave so I don’t have to shave as often. I have had zero ingrown hairs, my face is less sensitive and I don’t bleed when I shave.
You might be thinking, “Great to know, but in the world does this have to do with lean?”
The answer is…a lot.
Too often we don’t want to follow the process because it seems long, over done or a pain, so we take short cuts. We may end up getting some good results once, but that won’t be repeatable. Take the problem solving process. We may short cut investigating the current state and what the problem truly is. One time we may get a good solution in place, but other times it is patchy results at best.
As tedious as it may seem at times, we should always follow the process when we know it will give us good, sustainable results.
Centralized vs. Decentralized
I had the pleasure of being a guest blogger on Karen Wilhelm’s Lean Reflections site. I wrote about the debate between centralizing versus decentralizing functions of a business.
Here is the beginning:
Should we centralize or decentralize our function?
Have you ever heard this question come up? I bet so. It is a very common question. The discussion could be around any area of service like procurement, IT, HR or many other functions that I haven’t mentioned.
I always seem to get the follow up question of “So what does lean say we should do?”
My simple answer is “Whatever makes the best sense for your company and your situation today.”
Most hate hearing this, but it is the truth. There is no lean perspective on this question. Both sides have good points and bad points to them.
You can read the rest over at Lean Reflections...
3 Years for Beyond Lean
I can’t believe it. Today is Beyond Lean’s 3rd Anniversary. It has been three years since my first post. The time has gone quickly.
During the last three years, I have met some great people through the blog and developed some connections that I have enjoyed and learned a lot from. Some have inspired me to try new things at work, while others have inspired me to try new things at home.
A lot of reflection has happened during the past 3 years. I feel like I have been able to learn more about business, lean, lean application and myself. That was one of the main goals I made for myself when I started the blog.
I want to thank everyone for choosing to read Beyond Lean and their continued support.
Here’s to another 3 years!!
Book Review: The Lean Turnaround
Art Byrne is an execute that has been implementing lean in several companies around the world. He started our with GE and gained experience with Danaher Corp before becoming the CEO of Wiremold where their lean turnaround is featured in the book “Better Thinking, Better Results“. Since leaving Wiremold Art has used lean to turnaround companies as a partner with J.W. Childs Associates. Art brings his vast experience to the readers.
Name of the Book: The Lean Turnaround: How Business Leaders Use Lean Principles to Create Value and Transform Their Company
Author: Art Byrne
Publication Date: 2012
Book description: what’s the key message?
Art really drives home the message about a company can only be truly lean if the leaders are setting an example and leading the way. A lean executive does not dictate what others need to go do. A lean executive does it himself.
Also, the executives have to transform the people. Get everyone to buy-in from the shop floor to the executive suite. There is no room for people that won’t buy-in. In order to do this, as the leader you need to engage in the change and lead it. Not support it.
Art lays out his principles to follow to becoming lean:
- Work to Takt Time
- Create one piece flow
- Utilized Standard Work
- Connect Customers to Work by Using a Pull System
What are the highlights? What works?
Art does a fantastic job of giving multiple examples of how he engaged employees and led the change even as a CEO. This brings to life how it can be done and the thought isn’t some dream a consultant made up.
I really like how Art lays out obstacles to achieving his lean principles. Accounting and standard costing is the biggest obstacle because it can show a negative result or cause bad decisions when doing things that are helping. He then explains the changes that are needed and gives examples of the changes and how the finances would look different.
There are more examples of other metrics that Art recommends for a lean company.
Another powerful section of the book is how he used lean to grow businesses and profits even during tough economic times. Art even lays out a strategy for looking at companies when thinking about acquisitions.
The real life examples as a CEO and board member of companies really drives how a lean turnaround can be achieved. A CEO must do a 180 from the traditional methods to do it and a leap of faith will be needed, but the reward is very high.
What are the weaknesses? What’s missing?
This is a really good book, but I do see one thing missing. Art speaks from a CEO or executive viewpoint, which is great, but what if you aren’t an executive?
One question I would like to see answered is how do lower level employees help executives want to do a lean turnaround? Sure, one answer could be give them the book, but that probably won’t change everyone’s mind with just a single read. How do you help an executive that seems to want to do it, do it? Give them that final push and really start to see the benefits?
The book can also give the feeling that if you don’t have an executive leading and doing everything in the book then you might as well not go through with lean because you won’t be successful. Art does not say that explicitly. The book just gives that feeling.
How should I read this to get the most out of it?
I recommend this book for anyone but especially high level level executive or CEO. Art lays out a great game plan and a compelling case for the executives to transform their work and create a lean turnaround. Read the book straight through and then re-read it as you develop a plan to change your company.
I would also recommend it for more Wallstreet and finance people. It would enlighten them on how to look at companies that deliver long term value to their customers. Not just short term gains.
Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2012 – My Flexible Pencil
At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management. The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers. This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.
A couple of years ago, I met David Kasprzak through blogging. David is a professional that has worked in large companies throughout his career and recently finished his MBA. During this time he started his blog, My Flexible Pencil.
David covers a wide range of topics. He discusses observations of business he has from being with his family, like how helping his son pick something out for show-n-tell was a lesson in teaching people how to develop answers not directing them towards an answer.
David also blogs around business issues like continuous improvement, project management and behavior & culture. At the beginning of 2012 David had a long series of blogs about ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment). The topic spurred great conversation from many in lean and ROWE alike. David wrote a few blogs on the similarities and differences of ROWE and Lean. Then wrote his own thoughts after hearing both perspectives. I think it is worth reading and developing your own opinion on the subject.
I read a lot of blogs and respond when I have time to as many as I can, but My Flexible Pencil has caused me to sit back, think and respond more than any other blog. My Flexible Pencil is a great read.
Controlling the Message
Are politics eating away at the ability of businesses to be competitive? I don’t mean capital P Politics and elections, just cultural office politics. I wonder if we have gotten so good in so many cases at “controlling our message” within our walls that we lack the ability to discuss what our true Current State really is.
(Don’t worry. I learned my lesson quite clearly when I brushed past the pool in my post inspired by the music business not to mess with the holy trinity of Politics, Religion, and Free Stuff on the interwebs. I tried and failed to come up with a different word than politics for this post…Sorry)
So much of the Lean philosophy and toolkit is built around either highlighting the gap between the current state and the ideal state or following a process to move closer to the ideal state from the current state. These are only effective if you’re willing to talk about your true current state. I don’t know of many businesses that are willing to have these conversations. In many cases, the ability to interpret what is happening in the most palatable way possible far outweighs the ability to identify what is really happening. The narratives that are created have become the currency that keeps the operation rolling and keeps everyone happy.
Here’s the thing about ‘messaging’…it rarely stops. The people delivering become incentivized to keep the message on the same path for risk of losing credibility, job security, or recognition. The people receiving want to believe the message, if for no other reason than it seems pretty silly to reject the communication of the people you are trusting to keep you up to date.
How does this culture impact Lean leaders? The biggest obstacle comes in getting people to recognize the existence and scope of a problem. It can be extremely difficult to get resources, time, and commitment when key players are invested in making sure that the problem area continues to be spoken about in glowing terms. Data helps, but not always. In some cases your best bet is to find ways to create a bridge from the narrative to the reality. Yes…that means that you may need to become engaged in a system of politics that you despise, but these waters are tricky and need to be navigated somehow. Sometimes it may mean that you have to go covert and work on the project “off the record” to improve something you know needs help. (That one falls under the umbrella of being easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.)
I guess what I’m getting at is that sometimes the reality of our cultures gets in the way of doing the right thing. It doesn’t mean that people are intentionally doing the wrong thing, just that it’s not always clear how to get people aligned and rowing in the same direction. Use what you have at your disposal and make a difference.
GE Appliances Going Lean
I have not been very high on GE as a company. I have dealt with too many command-and-control managers that came from GE and Jack Welch I think is the single most overrated CEO in history. He destroyed GE’s manufacturing to gain his golden parachute.
It has taken awhile but GE seems to be making strides in a great direction. A year or so ago, GE announced the building of a manufacturing complex in Louisville, KY dedicated to building their appliance lines using lean manufacturing.
An article last week highlighted some of the reasons and the results from the first venture in GE’s new dishwasher plant. My favorite heading in the article is “Washing Away Decades of Outdated Manufacturing Practices”. AMEN!!!
So what did GE hope to accomplish by investing $150 million in the new facility?
When planning to make GE’s newest dishwashers, the manufacturing leaders had several challenges: to build new production lines in a space-constrained factory where existing lines would keep providing about one in every five homes with a dishwasher; to create a process that would leverage Lean manufacturing principles to reduce the time it takes to make each dishwasher; to reduce operational costs and unnecessary work for employees to improve productivity while increasing quality.
They needed to reduce cost and delivery time and increase quality. Something lean can help improve all of. Not one while sacrificing others.
How was lean going to help?
Relying on a new culture of continuous improvement and a collaborative work environment, fostered by Lean manufacturing principles, GE took employees from every discipline needed to design, build and operate the new lines and co-located them in one location so communication could be instantaneous and fluid. Each member of the team had a voice and a role–from engineering, to advanced manufacturing to the operators who assemble the products – all were on one team with a common goal – to improve the processes and products.
Great ideas and they seem to be working very well. The results listed in the article are incredible. Here are just one bullet point listed as a result.
Included production workers in the designing of work stations and processes, improving efficiency and ergonomics by reducing parts inventories and movements to complete tasks; in developing new job instructions to help eliminate quality issues and improve safety; and in improving the timely supply of parts to work stations. As a result, the overall production time per unit was reduced by about 65 percent.
Great to see the employees doing the work involved in the improvement process. With all the great results this is what I was the most happy to read.
Now, their dishwashers will be loaded with more U.S. parts than ever before. In fact, about 85 percent of the parts in GE new dishwashers will be made in the U.S. — including an increased number made at Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky
It shows that manufacturing close to the consumer in a “high cost” country can be competitive in any industry. Kudos to GE for attempting to change their manufacturing ways.