Tag: Knowledge Management

Managing Visually – A word from Daniel T. Jones

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.

Dear Redge,

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 Maps make 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 Reports make 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 Deployment makes 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 Paperpresentation 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.

Yours sincerely
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.

P.P.S. We have also annouced new dates for our Small Group Coaching Sessionshere at our offices near Ross-on-Wye. We will be running Managing a Lean Transformation on Wednesday, 22nd June 2011Mapping your Value Streams on Thursday, 23rd June 2011 and A3 Thinking on Friday, 24th June 2011 all run by our senior faculty member Dave Brunt. Only 12 places available on each day.

Although the above list was not intended to be all inclusive, I find interesting to note that 5S is not discussed. Do you have visual management tools of your own that could be added to this list?

Until Next Time – STAY lean!
Vergence Analytics
Twitter: @Versalytics
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Lean – Burnout, Apathy, and Pareto’s Law

Example Pareto chart
Typical Application to Analyze Quality Defects

The Premise:  Pareto’s Law

The late Josheph Juran introduced the world to Pareto’s Law, aptly named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.  Many business and quality professionals alike are familiar with Pareto’s law and often refer to it as the 80 / 20 rule.  In simple terms, Pareto’s Law is based on the premise that 80% of the effects stem from 20% of the causes.

As an example, consider that Pareto’s Law is often used by quality staff to determine the cause(s) responsible for the highest number of defects as depicted in the chart to the right.  From this analysis, teams will focus their efforts on the top 1 or 2 causes and resolve to eliminate or substantially reduce their effect.

In this case, the chart suggests that highest number of defects are due to shrink followed by porosity.  At this point a problem solving strategy is established using one of the many available tools (8 Discipline Report, 5 Why, A3) to resolve the root cause and eliminate the defect.  Over time and continued focus, the result is a robust process that yields 100% quality, defect free, products.

In practice, this approach seems logical and has proven to be effective in many instances.  However, we need to be cognizant of a potential side effect that may be one of the reasons why new initiatives quickly wane to become “the program of the day.”

The Side Effects:  Burnout and Apathy

Winning the team’s confidence is often one of the greatest challenges for any improvement initiative.  A common strategy is to select a project where success can be reasonably assured.  If we apply Pareto’s Law to project selection, we are inclined to select a project that is either relatively easy to solve, offers the greatest savings, or both.

In keeping with the example presented in the graphic, resolving the “shrink” concern presents the greatest opportunity.  However, we can readily see that, once resolved, the next project presents a significantly lower return and the same is true for each subsequent project thereafter.

Clearly, as each problem is resolved, the return is diminished.  To compound matters, problems with lower rates of recurrence are often more difficult to solve and the monies required to resolve them cannot be justified due to the reduced return on investment.  In other words, we approach the point where the solution is as elusive as “the needle in a haystack” and, once found, it simply isn’t feasible to fund it.

The desire to resolve the concern is significantly reduced with each subsequent challenge as the return on investment in time and money diminishes while the team continues to expend more energy.  Over extended periods of time the continued pursuit of excellence leads to apathy and may even lead to burnout.  As alluded to earlier, adding to the frustration is the inability to achieve the same level of success offered by the preceding opportunities.

The Solution

One of the problems with the approach as presented here is the focus on resolving the concern or defect that is associated with the greatest cost savings.  To be clear, Pareto Analysis is a very effective tool to identify improvement opportunities and is not restricted to just quality defects.  A similar Pareto chart could be created just as easily to analyze process down time.

Perhaps the real problem is that we’re sending the wrong message:  Improvements must have an immediate and significant financial return.  In other words, team successes are typically recognized and rewarded in terms of absolute cost savings.  Not all improvements will have a measurable or immediate return on investment.  If a condition can be improved or a problem can be circumvented, employees should be empowered to take the required actions as required regardless of where they fall on the Pareto chart.

To assure sustainability, we need to focus on the improvement opportunities that are before us with a different definition of success, one with less emphasis on cost savings alone.  Is it possible to make improvements for improvements sake?  We need to take care of the “low hanging fruit” and that likely doesn’t require a Pareto analysis  to find it.

Finally, not all improvement strategies require a formal infrastructure to assure improvements occur.  In this regard, the ability to solve problems at the employee level is one of the defining characteristics that distinguishes companies like Toyota from others that are trying to be like them.  Toyota and the principles of lean are not reliant on tools alone to identify opportunities to improve.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Twitter:  @Versalytics

Lean Paralysis

Lean – Breaking Through Paralysis

Significant initiatives, including lean, can reach a level of stagnation that eventually cause the project to either lose focus or disappear altogether.  Hundreds of books have already been written that reinforce the concept that the company culture will ultimately determine the success or failure of any initiative.  A sustainable culture of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, and continual improvement requires effective leadership to cultivate and develop an environment that supports these attributes.

When launching any new initiative, we tend to focus on the many positive aspects that will result.  Failure is seldom placed on the list of possible outputs for a new initiative.  We are all quite familiar with the typical Pro’s and Con’s, advantages versus disadvantages, and other comparative analysis techniques such as SWAT > Strengths, Weakness, Alternatives, Threats)

A well defined initiative should address both the benefits of implementation AND the risks to the operation if it is NOT.

Back on Track

The Vision statement is one starting point to re-energize the team.  Of course, this assumes that the team actually understands and truly embraces the vision.

Overcoming Road Blocks

The Charter: Challenge the team to create and sign up to a charter that clearly defines the scope and expectations of the project.  The team should have clearly defined goals followed by an effective implementation / integration plan.  The charter should not only describe the “Achievements” but also the consequences of failure.  Be clear with the expectations:  Annual Savings of $xxx,xxx by Eliminating “Task A – B – C”, Reducing Inventory by “xx” days, and by  reducing lead times by “xx” days.

Defining Consequences:  Competitive pricing compromised and will lead to loss of business.  This could be rephrased using the model expression:  We must do “THIS” or else “THIS”.  It has been said that the pain of change must be less than the pain of remaining the same.  If not, the program will surely fail.

The Plan: An effective implementation strategy requires a time line that includes reporting gates, key milestones, and the actual events or activities required.  The time line should be such that momentum is sustained.  If progress suggests that the program is ahead of schedule, revise timings for subsequent events where possible.  Extended “voids” or lags in event timing can reduce momentum and cause the team to disengage.

Focus: Often times, we are presented with multiple options to achieve the desired results.  An effective decision making process is required to reduce choices or to create a hybrid solution that encompasses several options.  The decision process must result in a single final solution.

Consequences: As mentioned earlier, a list of consequences should become part of the Charter process as well.  Failure suggests that a desired expectation will not be realized.  It is not enough to simply return to “the way it was”.  The indirect implication is that every failure becomes a learning experience for the next attempt.  In other words, we learn from our failures and stay committed to the course of the charter.

Example:

Almost all software programs are challenged to sort data.  We don’t really think about the “method” that is used.  We just wait for the program to do it’s task and wait for the results to appear.  At some time, the software development team must have chosen a certain method, also known as an algorithm, to sort the data.

We were recently challenged in a similar situation to decide which sort method would be best suited for the application.  You may be surprised to learn that there are many different sorting algorithms available such as:

  1. Bubble Sort
  2. Quick Sort
  3. Heap Sort
  4. Comb Sort
  5. Insertion Sort
  6. Merge Sort
  7. Shaker Sort
  8. Flash Sort
  9. Postman Sort
  10. Radix Sort
  11. Shell Sort

This is certainly quite a selection and more methods are certain to exist.  Each method has it’s advantages and disadvantages.  Some sorting methods require more computer memory, some are stable, others are not.  Our goal was to create a sorted list without duplicates.  We considered adding elements and maintaining a sorted “duplicate free” list in real-time.  We also considered reading all the data first and sorting the data after the fact.

The point is that of the many available options, one solution will eventually be adopted by the team.  Using the “wrong” sorting method could result in extremely slow performance and frustrated users.  In this case the users of the system may abandon a solution that they themselves are not a part of creating.  While a buble sort may produce the intended result, it is usually not the most efficient.

Another aspect of effective development is to document the analysis process that was used to arrive at the final solution.  In our example, we could run comparative timing and computer resource requirements to determine which solution is most suitable to the application.  Some algorithms work better on “nearly sorted” lists versus others that work better with “randomly ordered” data.

Engage the Team: The team should be represented by multiple disciplines or departments within the organization.  Using the simple example from above, the development team may create a working solution that is later abandoned by the ultimate users of the system due to it’s poor performance.  The charter should be very clear on the desired expectations and performance criteria of the final solution.

Creating a model or prototype to represent the solution is common place.  This minimizes the time and resources expended before arriving at the final  solution for implemention.

Vision: Leadership must continue to focus beyond the current steps.  A project or program is not the means to an end.  Rather it should be viewed as the foundation for the next step of the journey.  Lean, like any other initiative, is an evolutionary process.  Lean is not defined by a series of prescriptions and formulas.  The pursuit and elimination of waste is a mission that can be achieved in many different ways.

Management / Review

Regular management reviews should be part of the overall strategy to monitor progress and more so to determine whether there are any impediments to a successful outcome.  The role of leadership is to provide direction to eliminate or resolve the road blocks and to keep the team on track.

Breaking Through Paralysis

The objective is clear – we need to keep the initiative moving and also learn to identify when and why the initiative may have stopped.  Running a business is more than just having good intentions.  We must be prudent in our execution to efficiently and effectively achieve the desired results.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

 

How Effective is Your Problem Solving?

The re-drawn chart comparing the various gradi...
Image via Wikipedia

Background

Of the many metrics that we use to manage our businesses, one area that is seldom measured is the effectiveness of the problem solving process itself.  We often engage a variety of problem solving tools such as 5-Why, Fishbone Diagrams, Fault Trees, Design of Experiments (DOE), or other forms of Statistical Analysis in our attempts to find an effective solution and implement permanent corrective actions.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for problems to persist even after the “fix” has been implemented.  Clearly, if the problem is recurring, either the problem was not adequately defined, the true root cause was not identified and verified correctly, or the corrective action (fix) required to address the root cause is inadequate.  While this seems simple enough, most lean practitioners recognize that solving problems is easier said than done.

Customers demand and expect defect free products and services from their suppliers.  To put it in simple terms, the mission for manufacturing is to:  “Safely produce a quality part at rate, delivered on time, in full.”  Our ability to attain the level of performance demanded by our mission and our customers is dependent on our ability to efficiently and effectively solve problems.

Metrics commonly used to measure supplier performance include Quality Defective Parts Per Million (PPM), Incident Rates, and Delivery Performance.  Persisting negative performance trends and repeat occurrences are indicative of ineffective problem solving strategy.  Our ability to identify and solve problems efficiently and effectively increases customer confidence and minimizes product and business risks.

Predictability

One of the objectives of your problem solving activities should be to predict or quantify the expected level of improvement.   The premise for predictability introduces a nuance of accountability to the problem solving process that may otherwise be non-existent.  In order to predict the outcome, the team must learn and understand the implications of the specific improvements they are proposing and to the same extent what the present process state is lacking.

To effectively solve a problem requires a thorough understanding of the elements that comprise the ideal state required to generate the desired outcome.  From this perspective, it is our ability to discern or identify those items that do not meet the ideal state condition and address them as items for improvement.  If each of these elements could also be quantified in terms of contribution to the ideal state, then a further refinement in predictability can be achieved.

The ability to predict an outcome is predicated on the existence of a certain level of “wisdom”, knowledge, or understanding whereby a conclusion can be formulated.

Plan versus Actual

Measuring the effectiveness of the problem solving process can be achieved by comparing Planned versus Actual results. The ability to predict or plan for a specific result suggests an implicit level of prior knowledge exists to support or substantiate the outcome.

Fundamentally, the benefits of this methodology are three-fold as it measures:

  • How well we understand the process itself,
  • Our ability to adequately define the problem and effectively identify the true root cause, and
  • The effectiveness of solution.

Another benefit of this methodology is the level of inherent accountability.  Specific performance measurements demand a greater degree of integrity in the problem solving process and accountability is a self-induced attribute of most participants.

The ability for a person or team to accurately define, solve, and implement an effective solution with a high degree of success also serves as a measure of the individual’s or team’s level of understanding of that process.  From another perspective, it may serve as a measure of knowledge and learning yet to be acquired.

As you may expect, this strategy is not limited to solving quality problems and can be applied to any system or process.  This type of measurement system is used by most manufacturing facilities to measure planned versus actual parts produced and is directly correlated to overall equipment effectiveness or OEE.

Any company working in the automotive manufacturing sector recognizes that this methodology is an integral part of Toyota’s operating philosophy and for good reason.  As a learning organization, Toyota fully embraces opportunities to learn from variances to plan.

Performance expectations are methodically evaluated and calculated before engaging the resources of the company.  It is important to note that exceeding expectations is as much a cause for concern as falling short.  Failing to meet the planned target (high / low or over / under) indicates that a knowledge gap still exists.  The objective is to revisit the assumptions of the planning model and to learn where adjustments are required to generate a predictable outcome.

Steven Spear discusses these key attributes that differentiate industry leaders from the rest of the pack in his book titled The High Velocity Edge.

First Time Through Quality (FTQ)

FTQ can also be applied to problem solving efforts by measuring the number of iterations that were required before the final solution was achieved.  Just as customers have zero tolerance for repeat occurrences, we should come to expect the same level of performance and accountability from our internal resources.

Although the goal may be to achieve a 100% First Time Through Solution rate, be wary of Paralysis by Analysis while attempting to find the perfect solution.  The objective is to enhance the level of understanding of the problem and the intended solution not to bring the flow of ideas to a halt.  Too often, activity is confused with action.  To affect change, actions are required.  The goal is to implement effective, NOT JUST ANY, solutions.

Jishuken

Literally translated, Jishuken means “Self-Study”.  Prior to engaging external company resources, the person requesting a Jishuken event is expected to demonstrate that they have indeed become students of the process by learning and demonstrating their knowledge of the process or problem.  It pertains to the collaborative problem solving strategy after all internal efforts have been exhausted and external resources are deployed with ”fresh eyes” to share knowledge and attempt to achieve resolution.  While the end result does not appear to be “self study”, the prerequisite for Jishuken is “exhausting all internal efforts”.  In other words, the facility requesting outside resources must first strive to become experts themselves.

Summary

Many companies limit their formal problem solving activities to the realm of quality and traditional problem solving tools are only used when non-conforming or defective product has been reported by the customer.  Truly agile / lean companies work ahead of the curve and attempt to find a cure before a problem becomes a reality at the customer level.

With this in mind, it stands to reason that any attempt to improve Overall Equipment Effectiveness or OEE also requires some form of problem solving that, in turn, can affect a positive change to one or all of the components that comprise OEE:  Availability, Performance, and First Time Through Quality.

As a reminder, OEE is the product of Availability (A) x Performance (P) x Quality (Q) and measures how effectively the available (scheduled) time was used to produce a quality product.  To get your free OEE tutorial or any one of our OEE templates, visit our Free Downloads page or pick the files you want from our free downloads box in the side bar.  You can easily customize these templates to suit your specific process or operation.

Many years ago I read a quote that simply stated,

“The proof of wisdom is in the results.”

And so it is.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics