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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.

Dilbert – Type in All Caps

OK.  So this post really doesn’t have much to do with lean.  I just found this Dilbert cartoon hysterical.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

We could talk about the lack of respect Wally shows his boss by leading him into a potentially awkward situation with another person at work.  I prefer to find the humor in people that TYPE IN ALL CAPS NO MATTER WHAT THEY ARE SENDING.

What? I couldn’t read all of that.  Some of it was in lower case letters.

Have a great day!

True Coaching Takes Investment

The term coach is thrown around a lot in a business setting.  Too much in my opinion.  Any time spent with someone giving advice or direction is called coaching nowadays.  It sounds great when you say you spent time “coaching” someone.

Coaching is more than giving advice.  Coaching is an investment in time to really help them along.

Think of any athletic coach you may have had.  Basketball, football, tennis, golf, swimming, etc..  Did you ever spend 30 minutes with that person in a café getting advice on a rare occasion and end up calling them coach?  Of course not.

Why? Because coaching takes time.  You have to spend time in the with the person in the environment you are coaching on and observe and make suggestions as you go along.

Anything else is advice.  There is a big difference between giving advice and coaching.

Because of the time investment, a person can’t coach many people in the business environment.  The best thing to do is focus on coaching a person or two.  Don’t spread yourself thin as a coach because then no one wins.  The learner doesn’t get your full attention and does not learn and grow nearly as much.  The coach will never see the fruit of their labor come to fruition because the learner never reaches their full potential.

Think about this before taking someone on as their coach.  Are you going to be able to devote the time truly necessary to help them along?

Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2013 – Lean Blitz

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.

Lean_Blitz_logo

A blog that I discovered a couple of years ago was Lean Blitz written by Chad Walters.  I like Chad’s unique way of relating lean and continuous improvement to the sports world, because there are plenty of examples throughout sports to do this.

Take the respect for people as an example.  The NFL was ripe with instances of disrespect this year, from the Miami Dolphins’ handling of the bullying in their locker room to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ unclean locker room leading to three players getting MSRA infections.  Not only in the NFL but in college also.  This post talks about Coach Kelly at Notre Dame not listening to his players when something was wrong with the gauntlet machine.  Chad tackles the issue head on in his posts.

Another topic on the blog is error proofing.  Chad talks about how Clemson and Notre Dame handled a color out night at their school for a football game.  Clemson was a huge success while Notre Dame not so much.  He shows some of the differences.  Another favorite is how sprinklers popped up in the middle of an NFL game at the end of last year.

Chad has created a unique blog at Lean Blitz.  It is a fun and different way to demonstrate lean principles in action in any environment.

Should All Customer Feedback Be Transparent to Others?

Is all customer feedback accurate?  Should all customer feedback be displayed?

My first reaction was absolutely all feedback should be displayed.  This is great transparency and help drive improvement.  If you don’t want negative customer feedback then provide a good experience.

I now have changed my tune a bit.  I do believe that customer feedback should be transparent, even the negative.  What I don’t believe is that all feedback should be displayed because there is some of it that is flat out wrong.

It is one thing to have your business not provide a positive experience and actual events posted about that versus an experience that is just not the case.  This is easier to monitor and see in small businesses.

The ideal state is that no bad experiences happen and a customer never receives bad quality product.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  If a customer receives a product they are not happy with the provider should have a chance to correct the situation.

In recent months, I have seen where customers are posting negative comments on small businesses that are flat out lies.  Either talking about the business not working with them to correct a situation when the customer never even contacted the business to correct the situation or describing a defect that is not even physically possible with that product.

Understanding unsatisfied customers is a great thing to help improve your  business.  False information that can damage a business is just wrong.

So when using the customer reviews, you must be cautious with what you read.  Understand all the feedback and try to make an educated decision.  Heck.  Even contact the business and ask questions to help you feel more comfortable.

Isn’t Saying ‘Thank You’ Part of Respect for People

A pillar of lean that is discussed regularly across blogs is the respect for people.  Steve Roesler, at All Things Workplace, posted a great blog about just saying ‘thank you.’

Research by UK performance improvement consultants Maritz has found that almost one in five of us (19 per cent) have never been thanked for our efforts at work while more than a third only hear those two little words once or twice a year.

Perhaps not-entirely coincidentally, that’s about the same proportion as another recent survey found have no loyalty towards the organisation they work for and couldn’t care less about their job.

Steve goes on to conclude:

Executives need to start thanking their managers regularly. Then they need to tell them to start thanking their people. Maybe we could get uppity and call it “Building a Culture of Thanks.” Clearly, it would be more effective and less costly than conferences and software.

This is just a part of respecting people.  Too many times, people get taken for granted even when they do great work consistently.

It isn’t hard to say ‘thank you’.  It takes two seconds and it can go along way in showing that you have noticed and you care.  You respect their work and time.

Surround Yourself with Good People

Lean organizations work to develop people.  Continually, helping people to improve their skills and give them new experiences.  When you do this well, these people will shine and really make you shine.

This isn’t just managers that have people that report directly to them.  This is also for project managers that are managing people for a short period of time.  By fostering the development and encouraging them to make choices with coaching and guidance, you surround yourself with good people.  This makes work and projects go smoother and deliver the outcomes you desire.

What are you doing to foster the people around you?  How are you helping to surround yourself with good people?

NDAs…Disrespectful?

I know that in today’s world there seems to be a lot more innovation happening.  If you are innovating you are dying.  At least that is what you are led to believe.  Companies now are requiring employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) just to work on a new project within the company.

How are we going to produce this new product?  Sign an NDA.

What new products are we working on? Sign an NDA.

How will we work as a new organization and what will it look like?  Sign an NDA.

NDAs are being signed for any significant work and it seems to be getting worse with the work environment today.

I find this to violate one major tenet of lean.  Respect for People.

The NDAs don’t allow for people to discuss the project internally with other members for the company.  This screams “We don’t trust you enough to let you know about this without reacting inappropriately.”

This counter productive to being transparent, which is discussed at great lengths with showing respect for people.

Imagine the scenario of developing a new product or program but it can’t be discussed openly until it is about ready to roll out.  Does the company truly not trust their employees enough that it won’t be blabbed all over the internet?

Rumors always swirl.  Rumors tend to lean towards the negative.  Why not get out in front of it?  Why not control it?  Explain the new product/program.  How the company expects it to help and why it came about.  This gets a good message out and reduces the rumors.  It shows the trust and respect for the employees.  It makes for a better work environment.

I understand there is a time and place for NDAs.  Just evaluate how often you are using them and really question yourself to understand if it is truly necessary.

Employee Engagement Starting to Be Recognized

It looks like others are finally catching on to something the lean community has been talking about for years.  Employee engagement benefits companies in many ways.  The article talks about how employee engagement does more than just boost productivity.  It helps with absenteeism, delivering company results and turnover rate.

Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research explained what engaged employees do differently in an email interview: “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.”

Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  If you are engaged and part of the solution and the work then you pay attention and take it personally.

Harter also reiterates things the lean community has been trying to get people to understand for year.

Engaged employees “listen to the opinions of people close to the action (close to actual safety issues and quality or defect issues), and help people see the connection between their everyday work and the larger purpose or mission of the organization.” When engaged employee do this they create a virtuous circle where communication and collaboration nurture engagement and vice versa.

I appreciate the studies Harter has done, but why do we need studies to know and understand all of this.  Lean organizations did read a study and then engage their people.  Lean organizations engaged their people out of respect.  Looking at people as more than just ‘hands and feet.’  When they did they saw all these benefits.  Lean organizations have been trying to tell others this for years.

It is amazing that studies have to be done to understand this ‘phenomenon’.

So how can we engage our people?

One way to simplify it is to focus on purpose. Communicate the purpose of the organization, and how employees’ individual purposes fit into that purpose. When employees “clearly know their role, have what they need to fulfill their role, and can see the connection between their role and the overall organizational purpose,” says Harter, that’s the recipe for creating greater levels of engagement.

Well said.

How are you engaging your people?

Managers Are Crucial to Problem Solving Success

One of the fundamental differences in a lean company versus a traditional company is how they go about problem solving.  In a traditional management company, problems are hidden and managers want the problem “solved” and move on.  This usually leads to problems having band-aides being put into place.  Later the same problem surfaces again and another band-aide is put on again.

In a lean management company, problems are looked as a way to get better and are not hidden.  Managers want the root cause of the problem found so the issue doesn’t arise again.

In both traditional and lean mindsets, I do believe that managers want the issue resolved so that is never arises again.  It is there behaviors that truly dictate whether a band-aide is put on the problem or if the root cause is found.

A traditional mindset manager continually asks, “Is it solved yet?” or “When will it be solved?” or something very similar.  They are pushing for action to be taken without understanding anything about the problem.  It is a ‘just solve it and lets move on’ mentality.  Hurry up!

A lean mindset manager asks questions also, but more to get an understanding of how your process is coming along and driving to complete the next step of the process.  Questions might be something like, “What have you discovered about the problem?” or “What have you learned?”.  The manager understands there will be a lot of time spent in the discovery mode investigating the problem.  The manager supports the process and helps the person through the process.

An example from my personal experience.  I was working on an issue that had been around for 40 years.  Everyday my manager asked, “When are you going to have that solved?”  Finally, I said “The problem has been around for 40 years and no one has solved it.  I think I get 3 months not a week.”  Not the smartest thing to say to your manager but in this case it gave me some room to find the root cause, which the team did.

Later that year there was another issue that we had to work 16 hour days to solve but we followed the process and we nailed it.

After that extremely hot issue, my manager saw the benefit of following the process.  He then would ask, “Where are you on that problem?  Are there roadblocks I can help with?”

It really changed the environment to problem solve.  In fact, the problem solving process started moving faster and he ended up getting the results he wanted faster.

The lesson was the manager’s mindset, attitude and support around problem solving creates the type of results gotten.

What is your mindset towards problem solving and supporting your employees?

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