It’s hard to believe that today marks our 7th anniversary. I still remember writing that first post and wondering who would be interested in what we had to offer.
After more than 293,000 views, thousands of free downloads, and visitors from more than 120 countries, we can say that we’ve successfully helped more than a few people and companies get started with their OEE training and implementation.
We would like to thank all of our subscribers and visitors for your feedback, support, and many “thank you” notes over the years.
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Great minds don’t necessarily think alike, they think together.
How many times have you heard someone say you should just set aside your differences and move on? I suggest that bringing our differences to the table is an opportunity to create something that is new and better than we ever imagined.
We tend to be quite content when someone shares our vision,thoughts, and ideas. While it’s a great feeling to be “on the same page” as everyone else in the room, it does little to expand our thinking beyond our immediate comfort zone.
Embracing our differences creates the opportunity to step outside the box and to create something that is greater than ourselves. I continue to be amazed by people outside of a given discipline who present ideas that are uninhibited by preconceived notions or specific expertise that would cause them to be suppressed.
Even more intriguing is the synergy that is created when great minds come together and create something that neither could have conceived as individuals. A lean culture is one where creativity is continually stimulated and permitted to flourish, all the while remaining focused on that ever elusive vision.
Often times resistance to change serves to improve and reinforce its necessity.
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I coined the phrase “What you see is how we think” to suggest that the principles of lean thinking are not only embraced by everyone but are also evident throughout the organization. In this context, becoming a lean organization requires effective leadership to create and foster an environment that allows lean thinking to flourish. Just as a teacher establishes an environment for learning in the classroom, leaders carry the responsibility for cultivating a lean culture in their organizations.
So how could it be that Lean Leadership is the missing link? I suspect and have observed that too many leaders have displaced the responsibility for lean into the middle management ranks rather than taking ownership of the initiative themselves. These same leaders often operate on the premise that lean is simply a matter of implementing a collection of prescriptive tools to improve efficiency and cut costs. It is clear they have failed to understand the most fundamental principles and basic tenets of lean. If this sounds familiar, I recommend reading “The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from The World’s Greatest Manufacturer” by Jeffrey K. Liker.
So where do we turn?
Toyota is one company that exemplifies what it means to be lean and the lessons learned through their trials, tribulations, and continued successes are well documented. I admire Toyota both through first hand experience as a supplier of products to all of their operations in North America and secondly through their willingness to openly share their experiences with the rest of the world. This is evidenced by the many books and articles that have featured them.
I recognize that Toyota has been the subject of many news stories in recent years, the most notable being the recession of 2008, the extremely high-profile recall crisis for Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) in 2009, and most recently, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. In turn however, we must also acknowledge and recognize that Toyota’s leadership was instrumental to guiding the company through these crisis and for directly addressing the diverse range of challenges they faced.
A sobering look at the crisis that challenged Toyota’s integrity and leadership as well as the many lessons learned are well documented in “Toyota Under Fire: Lessons for Turning Crisis into Opportunity” by Jeffrey K. Liker and is highly recommended reading. I am further encouraged that Toyota acknowledged that problems did exist and didn’t look to deflect blame elsewhere. Rather, Toyota returned to the fundamental principles of “The Toyota Way” to critique, understand, and improve the company.
“Lean is the pursuit of perfection and pure value through the relentless elimination of waste.”
As every lean practitioner will (or should) tell you, the process begins by defining value. Many companies operate under the false pretense that they are already providing the value that customers want or need. As such, they attempt to improve existing products or services by either adding features or making them faster and cheaper. From the perspective of Lean Thinking, the “secret” to making real change begins by finding:
“… a mechanism for rethinking the value of their core products to their customers.”
Lean Thinking challenges us to consider the value our customers are demanding. Accordingly, we must ensure that our infrastructure, business practices, and methodologies deliver that value in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Only when we focus on value from a customer perspective can we offer a solution that truly meets the customers’ needs.
Apple is one such company that continues to redefine and improve its product offerings to the point of anticipating and creating needs that never before existed. Apple’s iPad is just one example of their unique approach to creating niche products and solutions to address speed, connectivity, portability, and features that we as customers never thought possible.
The Leadership Challenge
Leadership is challenged to define and deliver “value” to the customer in the most effective and efficient manner. This is not as simple as it sounds and having leaders within the company that understand Lean Thinking is a requisite mandate for any company wanting to compete in today’s global market. The challenge exists for leaders to adopt lean thinking to deliver real value at prices we can all afford.
Whether or not you are on twitter, this post may seem a little out of place for a lean blog. Rest assured that I’m still very focused on lean; however, twitter has been the source of a growing number of visitors to our site and I feel compelled to share my experiences and help to serve the twitter community.
Not too long ago, I learned a few valuable Twitter lessons and, in the spirit of lean, I decided to share them here.
Twitter imposes limits on the number of accounts you can follow
2000 and account dependent
1000 maximum per day
Tweets can be hijacked or, in twitter terms, #tweetjacked.
Link Jack – Your link is replaced by another potentially offending link.
Chat Jack – Someone disrupts a chat and attempts to change the topic.
Although a tweetjack may not appear to be quite as dramatic or newsworthy as a security breach on Facebook, Sony, or even Google, it could be. As we have learned over the past few months, the effects of one single “controversial” tweet can be quite damaging even to the extent where careers are destroyed and lives are ruined.
At a minimum, we owe it to ourselves to be aware of potential threats and how to avoid them to protect our online reputation. I will only focus on the Link Jack since Chat Jacks occur in real time and the offending account can be dealt with immediately, including blocking if necessary.
I will qualify this discussion by noting that “tweetjacking” as discussed here is a rare exception to my overall Twitter experience. Twitter has enabled me to connect with many amazing people from around the world and the benefits of knowing them exceeds any of my expectations.
In a strange, ironic way, lesson #1 and lesson #2 are actually related. Lesson #1 was the reason for updating our Twitter – Tips, Tools, and Helpful Hints page. Lesson #2 occurred after I posted the following tweet:
Once published, anyone on twitter can add or modify the message and retweet (RT) it to their followers. To avoid giving any further credence to the original “perpetrators”, I created the following retweet (RT) using my twitter account:
The Look of Innocence
At first glance, the RT above doesn’t appear to be that much different from the original. To the naive and unassuming, everything appears to be in tact with a few exceptions:
It is common for people to add a comment or #hashtag to your message. This may be to reflect their own opinion or endorsement as a means to entice their followers to read it and click on the link. In this case, “Lessons Learned” seems to be appropriate.
Messages that are longer than twitter’s maximum of 140 characters can be shortened using one of many services available such as bit.ly. “deck.ly”, the default for TweetDeck was used to shorten the message in this case.
Even if the message is not shortened, the link in your original message may be replaced altogether. In our case, the link “wp.me/Pnmcq-tK” would simply be replaced by another link. In our case, the link to my intended page was replaced by a link that led to a completely different web page.
Unknown Twitter Account
If you don’t recognize the Twitter Account that sent the RT, you may want to check that out too. It is not uncommon for a “bot” to automatically retweet or RT messages containing specific #hashtags or key words. For example, there is a “bot” that automatically retweets messages containing the word “Toronto”.
It is common for tweets of interest to be retweeted (RT) by others in the twitterverse. Once a tweet is published, it is in full view of the public domain, including search engines like Google!
What can we do to protect our content?
Twitter is an open platform where we rely on the integrity of everyone in the twitterverse. To my knowledge there is no way to protect your tweet from changes by others. Perhaps an opportunity exists to “protect” the original tweet from being tampered or modified. Until that time arrives, here is a short list of suggestions that may help:
Keep your tweets short
Others can retweet (RT) without having to “shorten” your message.
This makes it easy to compare the RT or retweeted message to the original
Check the links in the messages you receive before retweeting them to your followers.
Don’t retweet a message simply because you recognize the account name!
Remember, with a link jack everything looks as it should – only the URL has been changed
Do not leave your twitter account unattended or “open”.
It is a simple matter for someone to create a tweet
Beware of hackers
They may have a vested interested your twitter account
Change your passwords frequently
Use OAuth to allow third party twitter services to access or your account
Beware of others
People may have a vested interest in your account as you gain more followers
People like to follow celebrities
Verify Your Followers / Accounts You Follow
Don’t follow accounts just because they follow you!
Link Jacking is only one of several potential account violations
Establishing an online presence and meeting new people can be challenging for anyone, including business. Is the content reliable? Is the source credible? Who can you trust? Who can you believe? In the online world we simply don’t have the luxury of saying “time will tell” and more often than not, we learn that our “interests” have been compromised after the fact.
At the very least, be aware that tweetjacking could happen to you. As you become more popular in the twitterverse, some people may take advantage of your account to serve their best interests only. Rest assured I won’t be one of them.
Have you experienced tweet jacking? Feel free to share or comment on your experience.
I continue to be frustrated by the notion that the only way to reduce spending is by cutting services. While the demand for change is high, few are willing to challenge tradition and conventional thinking to improve services and increase efficiencies that will enable us to do more with less, find new opportunities, and to create jobs instead of eliminating them.
On a global level, governments continue to grapple with increasing economic pressures brought on by the recession. Rather than demonstrating fiscal restraint however, governments have grown and spending has increased at rates that far exceed that of the public sector. The result is an unsustainable government and services that will either be cut or funded through newly created revenue streams.
Rather than challenging the infrastructure and systems that comprise the delivery of these services, the governments scramble to find new ways to reach further into our pockets to pay for inefficiencies, high paid union labour, and questionable entitlements. In some instances, services have been abandoned only to be properly managed by the private sector.
For example, when we consider the delivery of health care in Canada, we find a system plagued by excessive wait times and ever rising costs. Doctors and specialists continue to operate as a fragmented community of service providers, adding layers of bureaucracy, greater inefficiencies, and more cost.
These inefficiencies are further evidenced by patients who are sent into a frenzied schedule of appointments and tests in various locations without regard for the many inconveniences and disruptions they may incur in their personal lives.
On the other hand, emergency rooms do not present the same constraints and, though some waiting may be required, patients are examined and assessed immediately, a prognosis is determined, priorities are established, and resources are made available on demand as required.
Expedience does not jeopardize the level of care provided. While the emergency room may not present the ideal case, it is radically different from “standard” care.
In stark contrast to the government-political processes that continue to insult our intelligence, I am always encouraged by the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of individuals who prove that there is always a better way and more than one solution:
The quicker we realize that truly radical changes are necessary, the sooner we can abandon traditional cost cutting practices and apply Lean Thinking to improve society as we know it, not cut it to shreds. My simplified definition of Lean Thinking follows:
Lean is the pursuit of perfection and pure value through the relentless elimination of waste.
As every lean practitioner will tell you, the process begins by defining value. Unfortunately, many governments and companies alike start by falsely assuming that they are already providing the value that customers want or need. As such, they attempt to improve existing products or services by either adding features or making them faster and cheaper. From the perspective of Lean Thinking, the “secret” to making real change begins by finding:
“… a mechanism for rethinking the value of their core products to their customers.”
In this same context, consider how our desire to “travel from Point A to Point B in the shortest time” has evolved and transformed our personal modes of transportation / communication into the following “value” propositions:
Personal: Crawl > Walk > Run > Tricycle > Bicycle
Roadways: Bicycle, Motorcycles, Cars, Buses
Railways: Passenger and Freight Trains
Seaways: Boats, Ships
Airways: Helicopters, Planes, Jets, Rockets
Telephone: Phones, Faxes, Internet (email, social media)
Each mode of transportation presents a unique solution to address a shared common value: “Short Travel Time”. Although changing technologies is inferred, lean does not require an investment in new technologies to be successful. To the contrary, Lean Thinking simply challenges us to consider the value our customers are demanding. Accordingly, we must ensure that our infrastructure, business practices, and methodologies deliver that value in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Only when we focus on “value” from a customer perspective can we offer a solution that truly meets the customer’s needs. When we consider the premise for this example, the need to travel is implied. It does not answer the question “Why do we travel?
If the reason for traveling is simply to “communicate” with friends and family, then we can see that the telephone becomes a viable solution to eliminate the need to travel at all. From a similar perspective, fax machines and the internet were created to expedite data transfers and to communicate with the world in real-time.
The Challenge is On
It is time for all levels of government, business, unions, and society as a whole to acknowledge that our economy is in a state of crisis and demands real action. Real people are hurting at a time when others are pursuing their own agendas for self-preservation – all at the expense of society. We can not simply assume that everything is “just fine – only more expensive”.
Lean Thinking is a requisite mandate for any company wanting to compete in today’s global market. In this regard, the same challenges exist for governments and businesses alike to adopt lean thinking to deliver real value to the people they serve at prices we can all afford.
Unless government spending is brought under control and services are delivered effectively and efficiently, the system is sure to implode. It’s time for an extreme make over, engaging the best and sharpest minds to bring us to the cutting edge in business and technology, not to the cutting board where nothing remains but shattered hopes and dreams.
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Visual Management is certainly one of the characteristic traits that sets lean organizations apart from all others. The success of Visual Management is predicated on relevant and current data. To be effective, Visual Management must be embraced and utilized by leadership, management, and employees throughout the organization.
I also believe that “Knowledge is Power and Wisdom is Sharing it.” For this reason I highly respect those who are bold enough to put their thoughts in writing for the rest of the world to see. Daniel T. Jones, author of a number of books on lean (Lean Thinking) and Chairman of the Lean Enterprise Academy, is one of those people.
A few days ago, I received this e-mail from Daniel where he presents his thoughts on managing visually.
Learning to See is the starting point for Learning to Act. By making the facts of any situation clearly visible it is much easier to build agreement on what needs to be done, to create the commitment to doing it and to maintain the focus on sustaining it over time.
However what makes visualisation really powerful is that it changes behaviour and significantly improves the effectiveness of working together to make things happen. It changes the perspective from silo thinking and blaming others to focusing on the problem or process and it generates a much higher level of engagement and team-working. This can be seen at many levels on the lean journey. Here is my list, but I am sure you can think of many more.
Standardized work defined by the team as the best way of performing a task makes the work visible, makes the need for training to achieve it visible and establishes a baseline for improvement. Likewise standardized management makes regular visits to the shop floor visible to audit procedures, to review progress and to take away issues to be resolved at a higher level.
Process Control Boards recording the planned actions and what is actually being achieved on a frequent cadence make deviations from the plan visible, so teams can respond quickly to get back on plan and record what problems are occurring and why for later analysis.
Value Stream Mapsmake the end-to-end process visible so everyone understands the implications of what they do for the rest of the value creation process and so improvement efforts can be focused on making the value stream flow in a levelled fashion in line with demand.
Control Rooms or Hubs bringing together information from dispersed Progress Control Boards makes the synchronisation of activities visible along the value stream, defines the rate of demand for supporting value streams, triggers the need to escalate issues and to analyse the root causes of persistent problems.
A3 Reportsmake the thought process visible from the dialogue between senior managers and the author or team, whether they are solving problems, making a proposal or developing and reviewing a plan of action.
Strategy Deploymentmakes the choices visible in prioritising activities, deselecting others and conducting the catch-ball dialogue to turn high level goals into actions further down the organisation.
Finally the Oobeya Room (Japanese for “big room”) makes working together visiblein a project environment. So far it has been used for managing new product development and engineering projects. However organisations like Boeing are realising how powerful it can be in managing projects in the Executive Office (see thepresentation and the podcast by Sharon Tanner).
The Oobeya Room is in my view the key to making all this visualisation effective. It brings together all of the above to define the objectives, to choose the vital few metrics, to plan and frequently review the progress and delays of concurrent work-streams, to decide which issues need escalating to the next level up and to capture the learning for the next project (see the Discussion Paper, presentation and podcastby Takashi Tanaka).
But more importantly it creates the context in which decisions are based on the facts and recorded on the wall, avoiding fudged decisions and prevarication. It also ensures that resource constraints and win-lose situations that can arise between Departments are addressed and resolved so they do not slow the project down.
Reviewing progress and delays on a daily or weekly basis rather than waiting for less frequent gate review meetings leads to much quicker problem solving. Because these stand-up meetings only need to address the deviations from the plan and what to do about them they also make much better use of management time.
In short the Oobeya Room brings all the elements of lean management together. Taken to an extreme visual management can of course itself become a curse. I have seen whole walls wallpapered with often out-of-date information that is not actively being used in day-to-day decision making. Learning how to focus attention on just the right information to make the right decisions in the right way is the way to unlock the real power of visualisation and team-working in the Oobeya Room.
Daniel T Jones
Chairman, Lean Enterprise Academy
P.S. Those who joined us at our Lean Summit last November got a first taste of the power of the Oobeya Room from Sharon Tanner and Takashi Tanaka. For those eager to learn more they will be giving our first hands-on one-day Lean Executive Masterclass on 27 June in Birmingham, and a private session for executive teams on 28 June. There are only 56 places are available on each day so book your place NOW to avoid disappointment – Click Here to download the booking form.
Not too long ago, I was approached by a systems consultant to consider writing an Excel solution to create a weekly production schedule for one of his clients. The reason for using Excel will become clearer in a moment.
The current process
Sales representatives submit a unique Excel spreadsheet / file for each customer order. All orders are saved to a common subdirectory on the company server. Every Monday, an administrator then opens each spreadsheet and extracts information for each individual order and manually enters the relevant data into a “master” spreadsheet. After formatting the entries, the production schedule is then created.
In this case, the client was typically managing 200 to 250 unique orders per week and the time required to create the master spreadsheet could range anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. Since the sales team was already acclimated to using Excel, the client was reluctant to consider an alternative order management process.
I agreed to take a look at the application and after an hour of writing some Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code, I produced a working model that automatically processed over 200 files and created a production schedule in less than 28 seconds! I also provided functionality to allow access to each file directly from the master as well as a few other bells and whistles!
The client was impressed by (couldn’t believe) the results and, as with any successful effort, requested additional functionality that they also never thought was possible.
Could this be you?
Although Excel is by far one of the most popular spreadsheets on the market, it is perhaps still one of the most underutilized desktop application in business today. Although I can only speculate, I think one of the reasons for this is the overwhelming thought of having to read an ever-growing volume of books having an ever-increasing number of pages with each new release.
I would also suggest that some of Excels functions such as pivot tables and look up capabilities are so powerful that people just assume they must be complicated when this really isn’t the case at all. I can only suggest trying them before making a judgement.
While a number of Excel solutions exist in the form of templates ranging from very specific applications such as our free Excel templates for OEE to the more general and commonly used applications such as dashboards, there are many more applications where “canned” solutions just don’t exist.
Naturally, because many people have access to Excel, they find themselves creating their own solutions “on demand” as was the case with the production schedule above.
An even greater concern is the number of “orphan’ spreadsheets that exist outside the scope of any managed data infrastructure. The danger here is that these solutions may unknowingly compromise the integrity of the current management system.
I contend that orphan solutions eventually become the hidden or “unknown” extension of the existing infrastructure and present a real opportunity yet to be uncovered by many organizations.
For cases where customization is required, someone in the organization is usually tasked with creating a spreadsheet solution. Unfortunately, these same individuals are not necessarily as capable as we may first think. I discussed this concern to some degree in Lean Office with Excel and VBA and also became a topic of discussion at Daily Dose of Excel’s Learn VBA to be Lean.
The result is often a solution that “appears” to meet the requirements – at least on paper. I have found that these same spreadsheet solutions seldom take advantage of even the simplest functions that Excel has to offer including the most basic arithmetic functions such as SUM as suggested by the animated graphic that accompanies this post.
Although the articles referred to above focus on Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), there are many other very powerful functions that can be used to make better use of Excel’s functionality and increase it’s value in terms of providing effective and efficient solutions.
Getting the Knowledge
There are a number of ways to learn Excel ranging from formal training, reading books, and, of course, the internet. Although I have been using spreadsheets since their inception, I still consider myself to be a student in many respects.
With a little knowledge in hand, I recommend visiting the sites that I have learned to trust as listed on our Websites (Excel) page. Each of these sites present powerful solutions to many common problems. They also offer full explanations and practical examples that you can use in your own spreadsheets.
Excel is best learned by doing. Having an application to work on and exploring solutions that may be available to you can be a most rewarding experience. This is especially true when they can be implemented and put to good use with immediate results.
Getting to Lean
Obviously all of this learning isn’t going to happen over night, however, you will be surprised how much can be learned in a relatively short period of time. The time saved by creating a more efficient solution in many cases will offset much of the time spent learning.
The initial challenge is to determine what spreadsheets solutions are in existence and why. The number may surprise you. If your company has an IT department, I would task them with this assignment.
As demonstrated by the case study presented earlier, the hours saved can be significant. The solution I created offers the added advantage of being able to refresh the production schedule at any time, in real-time. In other words, it is now an everyday event, not just a “Monday” event.
Your skills will improve over time and with each application. As you increase your learning, old solutions can be upgraded to reflect even more functionality adding even more value. The more comfortable you become with Excel, the more useful it will be as a tool for data analysis in other areas of the company, including lean initiatives.
I continue to be surprised by the quality of solutions that some companies have created simply because they took the time to understand and learn more about Excel for themselves. In some cases companies have hired outside support to help them in the process.
There are pros and cons for how spreadsheet solutions are developed and you should consider them as you look to develop your own solutions. Of course you can always be the Excel Hero by taking the time to learn Excel for yourself. The added benefit is how much more you may learn about other processes in your company. Finally, you may just be surprised how in demand these skills are.
Speaking of hero’s, I recently added ExcelHero.com to our list of trusted sites and to Daniel Ferry’s credit, it also inspired the title of this post.