Blog Archives

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.

shaving_brushA 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?

  1. Wash your face
  2. Apply an essential oil to help the hairs stand up and to lubricate
  3. Apply shaving cream to a shaving brush in a small amount.  I learned that badger hair is naturally anti-bacteria.
  4. Use the shaving brush to apply the shaving cream to your face
  5. Shave face going WITH the grain.  Use short strokes and rinse.
  6. Apply more shaving cream with the shaving brush
  7. Shave face going AGAINST the grain.  Use short strokes and rinse.
  8. Rinse face and dry
  9. 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.

Determining What Problem to Work On

When teaching someone about problem solving methodologies, the question that most commonly comes up is “How do I prioritize what problem(s) to work on?”

The good news and the bad news is there is no defined way to determine which problem to work on.  Some people do not like that answer because they can get paralyzed by so many problems they don’t know where to begin.  If that is the case, the person can pick a method they like to prioritize and use that to help them.

In reality though, there are many different types of environments, cultures, and situations so being flexible in how you prioritize can a great advantage.  Some ways are straight forward such as your manager prioritizes the issues to work on for you.  But others aren’t.

Most people tend to prioritize by the problem that will have the biggest impact on the metrics or process when it is solved.  Most of the time this can be a good way to prioritize.  The “bang for your buck” factor.

What if you are in a situation where people are skeptical that things will work or can even be fixed?  Choosing a problem that isn’t the biggest but can be solved quickly and convince people to join in and help may be a better way to go.  Get the quick win and build momentum.

If there is work that is done on a consistent basis that causes problems, the way to prioritize may be to fix what is bugging you the most.  Fix something that relieves the pain points for people allowing them to add more value to the process quickly.

Quick summary on ways to determine what problems to work on:

  • Biggest impact to the business
  • Solved quickly and get a quick win
  • What is bugging you the most
  • You manager assigns the problem

None of these ways is better than another.  There are different ways to choose and being flexible can help you pick the way that is best for the situation you are in.

Are there any other ways that you may prioritize problems to work on?

Guest Post: Selling Lean to People That Don’t Want It

Joe Wilson has worked in a variety of continuous improvement, problem solving and engineering roles in manufacturing and distribution functions  in the automotive, electronics, and food/grocery industries. He was responsible for site leadership of Lean implementation during the launch and ramp up of becoming a supplier to Toyota and was able to work directly with their personnel and the Toyota Supplier Support Center.  His training background includes courses in Lean/TPS through TSSC and the University of Kentucky’s Lean Systems program.  He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Shainin Red X Journeyman in addition to training in Kepner-Tregoe problem solving techniques.  Joe also has a BS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.  

How to sell lean to people that don’t want it.

Here’s a disclaimer to start this one.  I’m probably not going to really answer this question.  I wrote that sentence down in my notebook and when I came back to it, I had a couple of thoughts.  First, I really don’t know that you sell Lean to people that don’t want it.  As many people much more eloquent than I have said, Lean has to be pulled, not pushed.  Maybe the pull comes at a different level of the organization than the people you may be directly dealing with at the time, but it has to be pulled to be truly Lean.   My second thought is, given the first answer, sometimes there are situations where the Lean ‘toolkit’ can give the framework to answer questions where the enterprise isn’t looking for it.  Lean can help people who don’t want Lean to help them.

What kind of situations am I talking about?  It could be several.  Maybe you are a fervent member of Lean-nation, but for whatever reason you are working for a company that has moved on from the flavor of the month or just never believed in the value of Lean.  Maybe you have a holdout area of your plant (or company) that just doesn’t want to take part because they are entrenched in the “old way” of doing things.  Maybe you have a group of people that think their jobs require too much creativity, too much variation, too much specialized skill or just aren’t in the factory and Lean can’t work for them.  I’m sure there are dozens of other reasons that Lean allegedly doesn’t apply or work for people.  What can we do?  Here are some thoughts.

  • Focus on the local area you are working with.  If people aren’t interested (or aren’t capable) of seeing things from a big picture view, don’t waste time trying to paint the picture they don’t want to see.  Sometimes trying to paint too big of a picture just muddies the message anyway.
  • Find ways to strip the lingo out and meet people with the verbiage that they need.  Words like kaizen, takt time, single piece flow, waste elimination and even Lean itself can bring confusion or carry stigmas that get in the way of the solutions they can provide.  Spend a few minutes trying to create a description of Lean and even individual tools that don’t use any of the familiar words and phrases.  Try those descriptions out next time people aren’t interested.
  • Always remember that Lean implementation is about solving problems to meet goals.  Just because Lean Thinking didn’t create the goals, doesn’t mean that Lean Thinking can’t help reach them.  The people you are working with may not be interested in the intricacies of A3 reporting or a PDCA cycle, but they can tell you what the process should look like.  There you go…the beginning of a gap problem statement before they even know what hit them.  If they don’t know what the ‘ideal’ or goal state is, you can start the dialog there by working on painting a picture of how it should be.
  • Be willing to take small steps.  Or, put another way, accept the small victories as they come.  It’s human nature (at least in the U.S.) to feel like we control our own destiny and we have a tendency to reject other people’s plans for us.  That can be fine.  Sometimes people don’t need to buy in to the whole future vision up front.  Remove one thorn at a time that is irritating them and move on to the next one.  Small steps over time can add up to big gains.  The adding up of the small victories helps build on the relationship that can let you move on to big swings later on.

Is this a roadmap?  Absolutely not, nor is it intended to be.   I just hope it can lay out some different thoughts in how to get past some obstacles.  They won’t always work, but there isn’t always a blueprint to get where we are going.  Are there any tricks and tips that you have to add to the list?

Teaching is Learning

Last week I had the opportunity to teach the PDCA problem solving methodology to a group of people.  Once a month, the central lean organization I work for offers it for others in the company to take.  It is a great way to expose others to the PDCA methodology.  It helps to gain deeper interest in PDCA.


I have taught the class several times over the last 2 years, but last week I finally realized what benefits I gained from teaching the class.  Every time I teach it, it reinforces the methodology to me.  I have been applying it for 7 years or so myself, but the reminders are always great.

When I am teaching it, I discover different little ways to explain something that could help me as I mentor people out in a practical application setting.  The more ways to explain something makes me a better mentor.

The biggest benefit from teaching the class is it makes me give a public declaration of what I am doing.  This holds me accountable for following the PDCA methodology.  In other words, “Practice what I preach.”  The more I use the methodology the better I get.  Even after 7 years I still have a lot of learning to do.  As I apply the PDCA methodology and find root causes, this shows people how the methodology can work in any setting.

Learning can be found anywhere, if you look for it.  Even when you are teaching.

Basics of Problem Solving

Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to have been certified/trained in many different methods of problem solving.  Some of them include Shainin Red X, Kepner-Tregoe Is/Is Not, the basics of Six Sigma and DMAIC, PDCA, SPC, and the list goes on and on.  Quite frankly, I have lost track of all the problem solving methods and tools I have used.

After many years of using all of these techniques, I have boiled problem solving down to just 4 basic steps that can be used/seen with any of the methods I mentioned above.

1. Identify Current State

2. Identify Ideal State

3. Analyze the Gap between Current and Ideal States

4. Attack!

Identify Current State: I firmly believe that you have to know where you are and what is happening before you can think about improving.  I have seen people throw everything out and just do step 2 and 4.  I don’t understand this, because they have almost always re-created some of the same headaches that they currently have or had in the past and then have to re-fix these issues.  You have not gotten where you are because everything was bad or wrong.  So what is good?  What is value added?  What is non-value added?  How does the process work?  Understand these things about your current situation and you will learn a lot about the process.

Identify Ideal State: I see some people want to identify the future state instead of the ideal state.  That can work, but I prefer the further sighted ideal state.  You won’t necessarily get to the ideal state by solving just this one problem, but you want to make sure you are heading in the direction of the ideal state.  You don’t want to create a countermeasure to a problem that is heading in a different direction than your ideal state.  Have you ever had a future state that isn’t aligned with your ideal state?  Do you want to start working in one direction only to be redirected later?  Define the ideal state, even if it is just bullet points, so you know that any countermeasure you put in place is directionally correct.

Analyze the Gap between Current and Ideal States: Now you must understand what it will take to get from where you are at to where you want to get.  How do we close the gap?  It may not fully close the gap but we are making progress towards the ideal state.  Sometimes you may find that you have to do a major process redesign or a big project.  Sometimes you may need to do smaller more manageable tasks to get there.  It is OK to not close the entire gap in one jump.  Just make progress.  If you make progress and have a plan, my experience has shown that you will get a lot of understanding.

Attack!: Now it is time to implement.  By implementation, I mean try out the countermeasures, verify the results, and make adjustments base on what was learned or make the new countermeasure part of the standards.  Basically, the Check and Act of PDCA.

This approach can work for simple problems like needing to reduce walking in a process.

1. Identify Current State – I walk 10 steps between my desk and the fax machine, 20 times per day = 200 steps.

2. Identify Ideal State – I don’t want to walk at all to the fax machine

3. Analyze the Gap – 200 steps per day is the gap, I can’t get a fax machine for my desk (not in the budget), but I can move the fax machine closer but I need to talk with others to make sure I’m not making more work on them.

4. Attack – Others are OK with me moving the fax machine.  I move it.  I am now walking 5 steps per trip, 20 times per day = 100 steps.  50% reduction.  That is the new standard now.

It also works for complex problems like creating single piece flow

1. Identify Current State –  A common tool used here is a Value Stream Map

2. Identify Future State – Create a future state Value Stream Map

3. Analyze the Gap – What projects and kaizen events do I need to do to reach my future state.  Develop an action plan.

4. Attack – Implement action plan.  Reflect on results and process of implementing and make adjustments as necessary.

I know this boils it down very simply, but there is a lot of work that has to happen in each step.  There are many tools/concepts that can be used to complete these steps, but remembering these four steps is a great start.