Lean can be summarily defined as “The pursuit of perfection (value) through the relentless elimination of waste.” Understanding what this actually looks like in the real world is an entirely different matter.
The 8 wastes (technically 7) and the tools to continually strive to eliminate them are well documented. Why is it then that companies still find themselves struggling to implement lean thinking into their culture?
Any lean initiative requires mutual trust and respect between members of the team, the leadership, and stakeholders. Many companies follow traditional management methods that are contrary to the servant-leadership style required to foster an environment that provides:
Time to Learn – at all levels
Permission to Think
Authority to Execute
Permission to Fail
Time to Reflect
Time to Share (Lesson Learned / Successes Earned)
To continually improve is to recognize that successes and failures are synonymous with learning. Understanding what works and how it can be improved is equally as important as what doesn’t.
Some leaders and managers claim they do not have the resources that are available to larger corporations. I would argue that this is simply an excuse for failing to engage their employees in the process. In essence, they simply don’t perceive their employees as partners in the improvement process or trust that their employees are capable of making a difference.
All the tools in the world won’t save your business if the very people who are expected to use them can’t be trusted to do so. A servant-leader can teach them “why” and show them “how”. When done correctly, a short time will pass and the “student” employee will tell them why and show them how – only better.
Until Next Time – STAY lean
Related Articles and Resources
The 8 Deadly Wastes – https://www.processexcellencenetwork.com/business-transformation/articles/the-8-deadly-lean-wastes-downtime
What you do does not define who you are but your attitude while doing it will ~ Redge
When someone asks, “Tell me about yourself”, Do you automatically begin by letting them know what you do for a living? How many times have you heard that “You are not what you do”?
This is not a new or radical statement and shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone reading it. What will define you is your attitude. We have an innate sense to “read” the people around us – friends, family, those we we work with, and those who we work for.
Other duties as required
I cringe when I hear the words, “That’s not my job”. As a leader, I ask no one to do what I am not willing to do myself. I demonstrate this by doing what needs to be done regardless of the task at hand – and that means anything. For this reason, all of our job descriptions include “Other duties as required”.
Next time someone asks, “Tell me about yourself”, maybe describing your personal qualitities before your capabilities and experiences is a better place to start. Be you and stay true to yourself. That’s not attitude, that’s just who you are.
A key principle of lean is to hire and retain the best people. Skills aside, these same people posses three common traits that I seek to employ: Attitude, Character, and Enthusiasm. They are ACEs who differentiate our company’s culture from that of our competitors.
Your company or organization is represented by all of the employees who work there. The perception of your company in the market place is a direct reflection of the attitude of the leadership and that of their employees.
We are likely to find as many definitions for leadership as there are leaders. I recently downloaded an excellent app titled “Leadership Development” from Apple’s App Store and this definition of leadership was presented in one of the many videos:
“Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”
While the expression, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” may be true for some, true leaders recognize and understand the value of making the horse thirsty enough to want to drink on his own.
Your feedback matters
If you have any questions, comments, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to contact us by using the comment space below or by sending an email to LeanExecution@Gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
The time between Christmas and New Year’s eve is one of transition as we consider the events that occurred over the past year and prepare for the new year ahead. Experts are sure to present their annual summaries and will also attempt to “predict” what may be in store for us in the year to come. As lean leaders we also recognize the necessity to make and take the time for introspection and hansei (reflection).
Lean is by definition a perpetual transition from the current state to an ideal future state as we understand it. As our culture and technologies evolve, we continue to open doors to more opportunities and perhaps an even greater potential than first imagined. As such, we seek to advance our understanding as we pursue our vision of lean and it’s scope of application.
Lean is often described as a journey. While the vision is clearly defined, the means for achieving it continue to evolve and, as we’ve stated many times before, “There’s always a better way and more than one solution.” From a lean perspective, the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle challenges us to consider every change as a temporary state where each subsequent iteration ultimately brings us closer to realizing our vision.
Recognizing that we are in a continual state of transition should give us cause to embrace the ideology that the nature of change can only be viewed as a temporary condition. True resistance to change should only occur when the vision itself is compromised. Similarly, the absence of a clear vision is also cause for resistance. We contend that where the purpose or vision remains constant, the means or the methods of achieving it – incremental or disruptive – are more readily adopted.
The “Change Curve” presented in the diagram above clearly suggests that the commitment to change progresses from Leadership to Change Agents and finally to the End Users with each “group” requiring an increasing span of time to absorb and embrace the change accordingly. A potential for frustration and resistance to change occurs when the next iteration is introduced before the change that precedes it has been adopted and “experienced”. For this same reason and as suggested in our post, “Apple’s Best Kept Secrets … May Be Their Worst Enemy“, companies (including Apple) must be careful to manage the frequency at which change occurs to avoid frustrating employees and potential customers in the process.
The absence of change or lack of evidence that change is coming is and should be cause for concern. Research In Motion’s (RIM) continued delays in releasing the BlackBerry 10 (BB10) resulted in lost confidence from investors and share prices dropped sharply in return. RIM’s attempts to “talk” through the company’s strategy and the future of the BlackBerry could not sustain their one time dominance of the smart phone market. Thankfully for RIM, the BlackBerry, slated to launch on January 30, 2013, is receiving raving reviews as a high quality next generation smart phone. Only time will tell if too much time has passed to win people over.
Lean leaders recognize that real change begins in the hearts and minds of every stakeholder and is a pre-requisite before any physical changes can occur. A learning organization embraces the concept of “transitional” thinking where each change represents the current level of knowledge and understanding. Where perpetual learning occurs, transitional thinking ensues, and subsequent changes mark our progress along the journey.
As we look forward to 2013, we thank you for your continued support and wish you the best of successes in the New Year ahead.
How is it that some leaders have a way to bring calm to crisis, chaos, and conflict, weeding out fact from fiction, and somehow setting the path straight for others to follow? The answer is quite simple, they have the tools and ability to make effective decisions efficiently.
I recognize that very few, if any, problems can truly be solved by searching for answers in a book. “The Decision Book” by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler presents 50 models for strategic thinking where the objective is not to necessarily find the answers but to understand various models or methods that can be used to help discover them.
The models presented may be used to simplify problems or opportunities enabling you to make the best decisions possible. Deciding which model to use is simply a matter of reviewing the matrix presented on the inside covers of the book itself. The scope of application of each model is specifically targeted to one of four “How To” categories:
How to improve yourself
How to understand yourself better
How to understand others better
How to improve others
Concisely written, the models are presented in a manner that makes them immediately practical. Each model is typically presented with a single written page followed by an illustration to demonstrate how the model may be applied.
At 173 pages, “The Decision Book” is a quick read from cover to cover, however, it also makes for a perfect handbook as each model is unique unto itself. Where correlations between models exist, they are also indicated in the text.
The Decision Book is not all inclusive though it does present many of the best known models for strategic thinking and is certainly one to add to your library. Just remember that making a decision is only the first step. Execution is the key to making it a reality.
We’ve all said it, “I just can’t wait!” We look forward to certain events, both big and small, with eager anticipation. We carefully plan for vacations, family events, a get together with friends, or major purchases like a new car or home. Our minds race, eagerly waiting for that magic moment to arrive.
Anticipation instills excitement and expectation in the present moment with regard to a future event. Anticipation introduces an emotional quotient to an outcome that has yet to be realized. Is “anticipation” an inherent part of the culture where you work? Do you look forward to Monday mornings? Do you create opportunities to experience anticipation? What are some of the events you look forward to? In contrast, what are some of the events you dread?
Putting Metrics in Perspective
Key performance indicators (KPI’s) or metrics are used to measure our progress toward achieving goals and objectives. Overall Equipment Effectiveness is one such key performance indicator used by many companies and provides a means to monitor and improve operational performance. Timely corrective actions and improvement measures should be accompanied by expected outcomes. In other words, we should anticipate increasing returns for our efforts.
Unfortunately when results begin to plateau, a perceived “point of no return” is reached, support on all fronts begins to wane, and apathy sets in. A vision that extends beyond the current “process as we know it” coupled with effective leadership is required to strive for even greater achievements. Some companies use the term “stretch targets” or “stretch goals” to ensure a gap between current and ideal performance exists. For lean practitioners, there is always a gap between the current and ideal state and as a result “pursuing perfection and pure value through the relentless elimination of waste” is a never ending journey.
Kaizen – Continuous Improvement
Daily Kaizen embraces the ideology that there is always a better way and more than one solution. We anticipate improved performance as we continue to understand and learn more from our experiences. We appreciate and learn from our failures and successes recognizing that each brings greater understanding of the process at hand. A missed target is a learning opportunity – whether expectations were exceeded or not.
While some would consider success as exceeding the target, doing so actually demonstrates that we did not fully understand all of the influences or elements of the process. As such, even hitting the target should be cause for review to validate our initial assumptions. We may discover that some elements or combination of elements outside of our initial “assumptions” were actually responsible for hitting the target.
Kaizen is an integral part of a learning environment where lean thinking flourishes. Anticipation brings an element of excitement to the work place that keeps us wanting to come back to do it all over again.
“Anticipation” – Carly Simon sang it right – its keeping me waiting!
EARTH HOUR is now an annual event that is embraced around the globe. For at least one hour, we will have the opportunity to “unplug” ourselves from the world to ponder and increase our awareness of how our “activities of daily living” can make a difference to the environment we live in.
While the benefits of turning off the world for an hour are difficult to measure in the immediate sense, the longer term affect or impact will be determined and governed by our thinking first and actions second.
We have all learned to embrace the three (3) R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – as evidenced by the blue bins that regularly grace our streets on “recycling” day. We all make a personal effort to painstakingly separate items into various categories of “waste” to better serve the recycling process.
Companies have also taken a greater sense of responsibility for providing “green” or “earth friendly” products although, in many cases, the effort has more to do with the packaging than that of the product itself. Here in Ontario, Canada, our provincial government has imposed “environmental fees” on various products – such as electronics – to further support recycling programs. Locally, in and around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), plastic bags are subject to a fee of $0.05 each to curb consumers from using them.
From an energy perspective, we have been introduced to fully electric and hybrid cars. Nuclear energy and new sources of electricity such as wind mills and solar panels have replaced coal fired plants. Even my Logitech K750 keyboard is solar powered!
Sporadic record breaking high temperatures have marked this past winter as anything but Canadian. For some, climate change is cause enough to be an Earth Hour participant. I, however, believe that managing our finite resources in a more efficient and effective manner is something to think about and worthy of an hour of my time.
Behaviors must change, however, to do so requires us to first change our thinking. From a lean perspective, Earth Hour serves as a reminder to pursue perfection and pure value through the relentless elimination of waste. We can do so much more and all we need to do is take at least one hour to think about it – starting now. There is always and better way and more than one solution.
Earth Hour will commence from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm EST on Saturday, March 31, 2012.
For as many years as I have been blogging here on Lean Execution, I have been increasingly concerned with the sustainability of our economy, business, and government at all levels – locally, nationally, and globally. To this day, these same interests are all struggling to define and establish models that will allow them to recover, sustain, and flourish in the foreseeable future.
The word “meltdown” entered my mind as the summer heat continued to beat down on us over this past week. As we have witnessed over the past few months and years, many governments and businesses alike have collapsed and there are many questions that have yet to be answered. How did it happen? Was prevention even possible? As I listen to the radio and read the newspapers, I find it interesting that “cuts” are the resounding theme to reduce costs.
I would argue that the real opportunity to reduce costs is to review and identify what is truly essential and then examine whether these products and services are being delivered in the most efficient and effective manner. I have always contended that there is always a better way and more than one solution with the premise that anything’s possible.
The economy is extremely dynamic and infinitely variable. Our ability to sustain and succeed depends on our ability to stay ahead of the curve and set market trends rather than follow them. Apple is one such company that continually raises the bar by defining new market niches and creating the products required to fulfill them.
We also have a social responsibility to ensure that people are gainfully employed to afford the very products and services we provide. As we consider current employment levels here in Ontario, Canada, and other countries around the world, it is becoming increasingly clear that cutting “jobs” is not a solution that will propel our economy forward. We must be accountable to create affordable products and services that can be provided and sustained by our own “home based” resources.
Accountability for a sustainable business model requires us to forego future growth projections and deal with our present reality. Expanding markets are not to be ignored, however, we can no longer use the “lack of growth” as an excuse for failing to meet our current obligations and stakeholder expectations.
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.
Communicating a concept or methodology in a manner that doesn’t offend the current status quo is likely the biggest challenge we face as lean practitioners and consultants. In all too many instances it seems that people are open to change as long as someone else is doing the changing.
To diffuse opposition and resistance to change, it is essential that everyone understands the concern or problem, the solution, inherent expectations, and consequences of remaining the same. Our objective then is to create a safe, non-threatening environment where new ideas and concepts can be explored without undermining the current infrastructure or the people and departments involved. There are a number of options available to do just that:
I personally like to use analogies and stories to convey concepts or ideas that exemplify methods or processes that can be adapted to address a current situation, opportunity, or concern.
This is ideal for sharing the company vision, top-level ideas, and philosophies that help to explain the overall strategic direction or mission under discussion or of concern.
Stories and analogies create opportunities to expand our thinking processes and to look outside the immediate scope of our current business interests and circumstances.
Offering a list of recommended books for individual study is likely the least intrusive, however, participation cannot be assured and does not promote interaction among team members.
The reader learns the thinking processes and solutions as developed by the authors.
Formal classroom or in-house training may also be effective, however, it can be costly and is inherently exclusive to the participants. It is also difficult for non-participants to become as knowledgeable or proficient with the material without attending the course or training for themselves.
Outside training is inherently more generic in nature due to the diverse range of companies and individuals that are represented in the class.
In-house training can be more effective to address a specific concern, however, it’s true effectiveness is limited to the participants.
The concepts and thinking processes are developed and conveyed as prescriptive solutions.
Interactive simulations that allow teams to work together to solve problems or participate in non-invasive / non-intrusive tasks.
Class sizes remain small, however, the process is repeatable across multiple classes.
Concepts can be tested and developed without disrupting the “real world” processes.
Simulations are accelerated models representing real-world conditions.
Simulations can be conducted internally with limited resources and is easily duplicated.
Unlike the other methods above, the “solution” evolves with the team’s experience.
Of the methods presented above, I find that interactive simulations tend to be the most effective. Lean Simulations, an increasingly popular website, has amassed a wealth of free lean games, videos, and other lean tools that make this a real possibility.
Having a method to explore new ideas and develop concepts is only one hurdle that needs to be addressed. The next task is establishing the need for change itself and instilling the sense of urgency that is required to engage the team and accomplish the necessary improvements.
The Need For Improvement Drives Change
Change is synonymous with improvement and must be embraced by employees at all levels of the organization. Change and improvements are also required to keep up with competitors and to avoid becoming obsolete. From another perspective, it is a simple matter of continued sustainability and survival. In this context, we recognize that businesses today are confronted with uncompromising pressures from:
Customers expecting high quality products and services at competitive or reduced prices, and
Internal and external influences that are driving operating costs ever higher. Some of these influences include increased taxes, rising utility costs such as electricity and fuel, increased wages and benefits, increased material costs, and volatile exchange rates.
An unfortunate and sad reality is that any realized cost savings or loss reductions are quickly absorbed by these ever-increasing costs of doing business. As a result, many of the “savings” do not find their way to the bottom line as most of us have been conditioned to expect. While many companies are quick to post “cost savings”, I am surprised at how few post the “cost increases” that negate or neutralize them.
Some manufacturers, such as automotive suppliers to the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s), are expected to offer reduced prices year over year regardless of the current economic climate. Unbelievably, “give backs” are expected for the full production life cycle of the vehicle and may even be extended to support service demand as well. In today’s global economy, parts suppliers to the automotive OEM’s risk losing their business to competitors – especially those in low-cost labour countries – if attempts are made to increase prices.
My experience suggests that the best approach to establish a need for change is to work directly with the leadership and individual teams to understand and document the “current state” without bias or judgement. Our primary interest is to identify and assess “what is” and “what is not” working as supported by observations and objective evidence as gathered by the team. To be very clear, this is not a desk audit. To understand what is really happening, an assessment can only be effective when it is conducted at the point of execution – the process itself.
We also need to understand the reasons why the current state exists as it does. Is it the culture, system, processes, resources, resourcefulness, training, methodologies, team dynamics, or some other internal or external influences? As a lean practitioner, I serve as a catalyst for change – helping leadership, teams, and individuals to see, learn, and appreciate for themselves what it means to be lean regarding culture, thinking, and best practices.
I believe that many lean initiatives fail for the simple reason that people have not been provided with a frame of reference or baseline (other than hearsay) that enables them to internalize what lean really means.
The last thing we want to do is abandon current practices without having a sense of confidence that what we plan to do “in practice” will actually work. Secondly, we want to ensure that everyone understands the concept without jeopardizing current operations in the process. As alluded to earlier, lean simulations allow us to do just that.
Simulations demonstrate lean principles in action,
Games involve your audience,
Games are perfect team building activities,
Simulations are small and flexible,
Games are confidence builders,
Test real processes with simulations first,
Give yourself a break.
Another benefit derived from simulations is that results are realized in a very short period of time due to the accelerated nature of the game. As is often the case, real-time implementations may require days or even weeks before their effects are can be observed and felt within the organization. Simulations can provide real world experiences without subjecting the company or the team to real world risks or consequences.
Finally, games allow participants to truly become involved in the process and present an opportunity to observe and assess team dynamics and individual strengths and weaknesses. A game is more than just an event. It is a memorable experience that involves all the senses, thinking processes, and emotions that engage the whole person. To this extent the participants can and will internalize the concepts. From this perspective, I say Game On …