Tag: change management

Transition Versus Change – 2013

Change Management
Change Management (Photo credit: larry_odebrecht)

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.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

[twitter-follow screen_name=’Versalytics’ show_count=’yes’]

Vergence Analytics

Advertisements

Game On – Playing it Safe with Lean

An astronaut in training for an extra-vehicula...
Image via Wikipedia

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.
  • I also recommend targeted books and selected reading that allow individuals to learn and understand at their own pace. Classics books include “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox, “Velocity” by Dee Jacob, Suzan Bergland, and Jeff Cox , “Toyota Kata” by Mike Rother, and The High Velocity Edge by Steven Spear.
    • 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.
More specific to the purpose of our discussion here is a post titled “Seven Benefits of Teaching Lean with Simulations” that offers shared insights to the benefits of using Simulations to train and teach lean principles to our teams.
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.

What’s Next?

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.

The main points of the article, “7 Benefits of Teaching Lean With Simulations“, as referenced earlier are summarized as follows:

  1. Simulations demonstrate lean principles in action,
  2. Games involve your audience,
  3. Games are perfect team building activities,
  4. Simulations are small and flexible,
  5. Games are confidence builders,
  6. Test real processes with simulations first,
  7. 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 …

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter: @Versalytics

Make or Break with OEE

Reward systems, bonuses, and other forms of compensation have been the topic of many newspaper articles and news broadcasts as of late.  Although attention has turned toward the viability and sustainability of the manufacturing sector, there are many of us who question how the performance of these companies is measured and, even more so, rewarded.

While executive compensation is typically subject to scrutiny in and outside of most organizations, those rewards that are internal to an organization are seldom challenged or checked.  How do we really measure the effectiveness of our leaders and management?

Our industry leaders are truly being tested as today’s economy has further challenged many organizations to make additional substantive cuts to their operating budgets.  These times all but test our own survival strategies as well.

Executives and management at all levels continue to look at where and what to cut – this usually translates into “WHO should be cut”.  It is time for leadership to recognize that current management methodologies and infrastructure must change – the organizational structure must become seamless in its approach.

In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Toyota was faced with the same dilemma our current North American auto manufacturers are facing.  They didn’t just try to figure out how to build a better car they also figured out how to build them more efficiently and effectively.  Toyota  didn’t replicate the existing North American systems, they re-invented them.

Consumers want a quality product.  The what, where, when, and how it is built are not really their concern – as long as it’s available when they want it!

Discussions should be focused on the METHOD or the HOW things get done (systems and / or processes) not necessarily WHO does it.  Rationalizing the current business structure and what can be done to improve it is required.  It is difficult to get your team involved in problem solving and strategy meetings when the only thing on their minds is “who is left after the storm blows through”.

The Axe Falls … on operations

Typically, operations becomes the focus of most cost cutting endeavours.  In the automotive industry, plant closures are devastating communities and the ripple effect of these closures puts us on the brink of another wave of closures at the supplier level.  The most recent example supporting this trend is Chrysler’s announcement to close several of it’s major plants in North America.

Unfortunately, eliminating excess capacity is only a short term solution.  The true change events will occur when the infrastructure challenges are addressed and a new “fresh” culture is introduced and embraced by the “new” management.

If we learn anything during these times, we quickly discover the difference between the things that matter most and those that don’t.  Now is the time to find out what is really necessary and matters most to your operations.  A corporate, system level, 5S process is required to really clean up and move forward.

Bankruptcy can make the discovery process very quick and easy.  Liquidators are also very quick to give you the real value of your assets.  Peter F. Drucker suggested that abandonment was a necessary part of the management process.  The timing, however, is much better when it is on your terms and not those of the bank.

OEE – does it work?

Overall Equipment Efficiency, or OEE, is one of those metrics that should survive the test of time.  We have discussed the many positive attributes of using OEE as an effective metric for managing your manufacturing operations.  If the culture in your company is one of candor and open and honest communication, then OEE can definitely be used as a metric to help drive change and improvements.

In the wrong culture (selfish versus company gain), metrics such as OEE can be used and abused quite readily.  We would caution you to think about how improvements to OEE are rewarded.  At a minimum:

Reward the action or the change – not the result.

Rewarding the action allows you to identify what has been changed or improved and will encourage others to duplicate this type of activity.  The OEE result serves to validate the effectiveness of the change or improvement.  This strategy also ensures that people are focused on solutions and tangible actions as opposed to “tweaking the system” to make the numbers look better.  Getting a better stop watch may improve the accuracy of the measurement, unfortunately it won’t save you a dime unless something else changes.

What’s next

Visioneering and Innovation are imperative to our continued future successes.  The electronics industry continues to churn out new ideas and technologies at an amazing rate of change.  Some argue that it’s easier with electronics because …

Is it really?  Or is it that we have learned by the very practices of leaders in the electronics field that change is inevitable, encouraged, embraced, and most importantly expected.

The automotive industry and manufacturers in general need real and true competition.  There is absolutely no room for complaceny.  If the automotive industry was anything but close to embracing this type of culture, cars would be much different today.

Perhaps this is a bit of a rant, however, we seem to be too set in our ways.  Protecting past methods, preserving old cultures, and confusing complexity with genius.  Museums and memorials have their place, just not in today’s manufacturing facilities and management practices.

Until next time – Stay LEAN!