In a previous post, I talked about learning a software package that allows people to model and simulate a factory before making any physical changes. After the building of the factory that failed to implement pull, my role was to model current production lines when changes were recommended and to model the proposed model lines for new products.
One of the new production lines that I modeled was for a new television technology. The Liquid Crystal on Silicone (LCoS) television sets. This technology was about a year ahead of LCD TVs and was cheaper to produce. It was only 18 inches deep which is laughable now but at the time was about half as deep as typical big scree projection TVs.
The manufacturing engineers came up with a design for the new production line. By all means, it looked like a line that would meet the production needs and on paper the number of stations and equipment needed looked perfect.
The model was built and simulated with actual unit testing data as well as workstation operation times. It was a great thing we did, because we could have had another fiasco if we didn’t.
The simulation showed the back of the line being severely starved and the front of the line being overwhelmed. The line would have produced at only 66% of the rate it needed to run. The animation of the simulation showed how many TV sets were being kicked out into the rework loop and the backup it caused. It was a perfect example of the Markov Chain in real-life.
We were able to redesign the production line to be 33% shorter and have the ability to produce at a rate high enough to meet demand and allow for growth with no investment.
This was a great example of fail fast, fail cheap. It took less than a month to build the simulation, test, analyze, rework and get approved. The company saved thousands of dollars and the product went to market on time.
I know simulation software packages aren’t cheap, but it was cheaper than building the production line seeing the failure in real-life and then scrambling to fix it or build a second line.
How does your company fail fast, fail cheap?
- The value of prototyping and understanding before going full out is ALWAYS understated
- Simulating with cardboard boxes to computer software is an important part of making changes, especially big changes.
- Always better to fail early on with something that doesn’t cost much vs. finding the failure in full production mode. Doesn’t matter if it is a new marketing idea (test in an area) or manufacturing.
I spent a couple of years reading blogs before jumping and starting my own. I have met some great people over that time and learned a lot about myself and others. The biggest thing I have learned is that I am not alone in the trials I have faced when learning, teaching, coaching and implementing lean. Many of us out there have come across similar scenarios and personality types and can relate to each other.
I have had a lot of people reach out to me through the blog. They want to talk about something they are struggling to implement or change and want to bounce ideas around. I do enjoy the fact that people can learn from each other so hopefully they don’t have to make the same mistakes that others already have. That was one of the original ideas around starting Beyond Lean.
Over the last year, I have been thinking about how I can continue to help others from my learnings. Did I have this reflection because of my lean background? Maybe. Did I reflect because I always tell my kids about the good old days? Probably. Was it because I am almost 40 and wonder where the time went? Most likely.
So, this is the first post in a new series called “One Man’s Lean Journey.” The posts will chronicle my lean journey from the start. History, stories, lessons learned from the very beginning. I didn’t make the decision to do this easily. I don’t want it to come across as something that says, “I’m different and it should be documented why for others.” Quite the opposite. It is because I know the learning and lean understanding path I have had is very similar to many other people. I hope people nod their head as they read as a “yep, I get what you mean and I have lived that.” A way to let people know they aren’t the only ones out there experiencing the difficult journey of implementing lean.
The series will be mixed in with other posts of like the ones you might be accustomed to seeing on Beyond Lean. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for being readers of the Beyond Lean Blog.
There is nothing more invigorating than a sponge.
Not the type of sponge you clean with, but a person that soaks up everything and is eager to learn.
I recently have been working with a facility on implementing lean thinking. At this facility is an operations manager that is trying to take in everything she can. It is amazing to watch her. Everything that is said and talked about is taken in, absorbed and thought about how it applies for her staff and herself.
One walk on the floor to spot issues in 5S and questions about if it is important to her whether it is maintained or not turns into a maintained 5S effort over the last month. She didn’t just go out and demand it be done. She asked the employees in the area if it was still needed and if so, what needs to be done to meet their needs. The employees wanted it and now are maintaining it.
The next time more in-depth questions on maintaining material levels led to thinking and study of a process to be sure the material levels are maintained.
In the short time I have been working with the group, I can list of more examples of taking the learning and turning into action than the past year of efforts in other areas.
Seeing others start to soak up the lean thinking like a sponge and grow is an invigorating feeling that gets the blood pumping.
Are you a lean sponge?
During my work, I have seen people learn and reflect in two different ways. One is to learn something through reading, doing, listening or any other way and spend time reflecting on it right then and there. They take the time to deeply understand what they learned and how it applies to them before they move on to something else.
A second way of reflection I have seen I call the information gatherer. It is learning something new in all the ways I listed above and just letting it sit. The person moves on and gathers more information on many other things. They just let the information simmer in their mind and an hour, a day, a week or even a month later BAM! It hits. They understand how it applies to them and their situation. They understand the learning deeply and can apply it anywhere.
Neither way is right. Neither way is wrong.
In fact, a person may be a combination of both depending on the situation and what they are learning.
I am a combination of both. If it is a situation where I need to learn and apply something now, I will be very intentional about reflecting and trying to figure out how what I learned applies to what I am working on.
If it is just learning for my learning, I will take in as much information as possible and keep gathering it. Eventually, sometime down the road it will click and a huge learning will occur.
What type of reflection do you most often apply?
New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past. While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.
This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2013. Enjoy!
5. Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #9 – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with. The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.
4. Don’t Over Complicate the Formula (October 2011) – Talks about simplifying formulas to get you directionally correct especially with calculating kanbans.
3. Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #4 – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.
2. Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.
1. 5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #3 - Most viewed post for two straight years now. A look at using 5S in the office. What is going too far and how to use 5S in the office properly.
I hope 2014 is a great year!
Today I am highlighting the five most popular posts written in 2013. Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.
Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!
5. Visual Management at Home (February 2013) – A great example of a visual board used at home of a friend of mine.
4. Hoshin Planning – Catch Ball (April 2013) – A great video explaining the process of catch ball during the strategy development process.
3. My Continuous Improvemnt: Personal Kanban 3rd Revision (January 2013) – The latest update to my evolving personal kanban for work.
2. Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri (March 2013) – Chad Walters does a great job explaining strategy deployment using the movie Moneyball
1. When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment (May 2013) – Talks about the importance of setting standards and using them to understand your processes.
Have a Happy New Year!!!!
Last week, I mentioned that I would talk more about the lean forum I attended. The theme of the forum was leading lean. Several speakers presented and they all did a fantastic job. One of the speakers was Jamie Flinchbaugh of the Lean Learning Center. Jamie outlined five leadership moves that demonstrate lean leadership.
- Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
- Actively Engage, Don’t Just Delegate
- Apply Lean to Your Work
Over the next few posts, I thought I would share the message and how I personally have exhibited the behavior positively and negatively, because we all must learn from our mistakes.
Eliminate Both Fear and Comfort
Jamie talked about leaders not only eliminating the fear of trying something new, but also forcing people outside their comfort zone so they are forced to learn.
People generally don’t try new things because of the fear of repercussions. If they make a mistake or get something wrong, they are afraid of being fired or demoted or having a bad review. Leaders must eliminate the fear and show people it is alright to try new things.
At the same time, leaders must shrink the comfort zone for people. Force them to have to try new things.
By doing these two things, a leader is creating a bigger learning zone for the people. In this learning zone, is where improvements are made.
I had a improvement group one time that had given me a list of 15 items to improve the process they worked on. They were sanctioned to go and make the changes, but they didn’t believe it. The feared that if any change didn’t work out their direct manager would reprimand them. Of course, this was not the case because I had already discussed the work with the manager. The group actually refused to go make changes because of the fear. I had to call a timeout and bring their manager in. He told them directly this was a learning experience and the department would try anything the group wanted to try. Finally, that got the group to take action and work on their improvements to the process.
As easy as that was for me to help the other group, from time to time I still find myself making excuses and becoming paralyzed by fear to approach a leader to try something new. Ironic, right? I can help others but still get paralyzed myself. Not pushing and presenting ideas that I believe will help move the organization forward. I can’t let that stop me. I have to re-gather myself from time to time and take another approach. Use the learning of what didn’t work to find what might work.
Eliminating fear and pushing people out of their comfort zones isn’t easy, but when done well creates great learning for the organization.
How are you helping your people feel comfortable with learning? Are you shrinking comfort zones? Are you pushing out the fear zone?
Like so many that started learning and implementing lean in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I started applying lean principles and concepts in manufacturing. I spent nearly 15 years applying lean thinking in a manufacturing environment. I absolutely loved seeing the immediate change in material flow or the feedback from operators that someone listened to them and they were able to make things better.
It is no secret. A manufacturing environment is a tangible environment to see the improvements and get quicker feedback back on how you are applying lean thinking because of the immediate visual results.
A couple of years ago, I moved from the manufacturing environment to the office/project management environment. This was quite a change and one I looked at as a new challenge. I took it on. I have worked with product development and retail management teams. Not even thinking twice as to what I was doing…until recently.
This summer I took on the role of project manager. I am managing the deployment of technology to our retail environments. The changes are not as immediate and not as visual as a manufacturing environment. After a while, I questioned whether I was still applying lean principles to my work. Finally, I took a step back to have a serious reflection and what I discovered is my previous 15+ years have engrained the thinking and principles without realizing it.
I have been directly observing the work as activities, connections and flows by sitting with the teams developing and testing the technology. I see how the work and how the product works. I have gone to a few retail stores to see the technology being used so I can bring those observations back to the team. I also went to other retail stores using similar technology and talked with the store managers about what is working and what isn’t working for them.
The principle of systematic problem solving comes to light with using visual boards to status the project and highlight the problems that need to be worked on in the next 24-48 hrs. We are trying to surface the problems quickly, so they can be resolved. We have broken the issues down into categories to know which are the highest priority.
Systematic waste elimination comes from defining new processes that will continue once the project is launched. We are working to improve and make them as efficient as we know how today.
Each day at standup, we are establishing high agreement on what we are going to be working on and how we will go about working on it. This establishes clear ownership of the work and an expected due date.
Finally, we are learning about the product, the technology and our processes with every iteration. Getting feedback incorporated into the product as quickly as possible.
The reflection helped me understand how I am using the lean principles everyday even if it is not in a tangible manufacturing environment.
How about you? In what type of environment are you using the lean principles?
The A3 is a great communication tool. It can help tell a story succinctly and clearly making it easier for people to understand your thought process. An A3 will contain some background information, the current state, what the desired or future state is and an action plan to get there or measurements showing the success of the work.
Putting together an A3 can take some time. It isn’t actually putting the A3 together as much as it is truly understanding the issue and stating it clearly and concisely.
When your manager doesn’t understand the time it takes to truly understand how to put together an A3 it can be frustrating. As a lean learner, I encourage you to fight through that frustration and use the A3 to communicate with your manager or other managers. Show them the power of tell a good story on an A3.
The A3 won’t be perfect, but this is OK. If the others you are sharing it with understand your thinking then they can better add input. This better input leads to quicker high agreement and quicker resolution.
Think of using an A3 correctly as taking your time to do something right the first time, like setting up a machine. It may seem like it takes a long time but done right there isn’t as much rework because everyone understands quickly and you don’t have to have conversations over again because of the lack of understanding. Just like the machine being set up right the first time and not having to make tweaks over and over. In the long run, it is shorter to take your time upfront.
Eventually, others will see the benefits and the effects will spread.
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.