Tag: Lean Execution

Welcome to 2014

Happy New Year and welcome to 2014. We wish you the best of continued successes in the year ahead. After a much needed break, we’re excited to get back to work.

We recently celebrated 5 years of blogging here on WordPress, reaching over 160 countries and more than 160,000 views. While this is very encouraging, we are motivated to share our lean leadership insights and experiences on the simple premise that:

“Life isn’t worth living, unless it is lived for someone else” ~ Albert Einstein

Thank you for allowing us the privilege and pleasure of sharing our thoughts and insights and for providing our services to you in 2013. We proudly look forward to continuing to do so in 2014.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics
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Collaboration …

The Collaboration Experiment
The Collaboration Experiment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great minds don’t necessarily think alike, they think together.

~ Redge

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.

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.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

Viral Differentiation – Another Great Site

We are still working on our Differentiation Strategies and OEE series.  We decided to share just a glimpse of what we have found to be a uniquely evolved infrastructure within the Excel Development community.

For the many Excel – VBA experts that continue to use our Excel Pages as a resource and reference for top notch sites, we have added yet another great site to our list.  Rob Van Gelder’s site serves as an excellent source for some practical VBA solutions that may enhance the development of your next project.

We learned of this site through a comment posted by Rob on Daily Dose of Excel (another one of our preferred sites worth visiting on regular basis). DailyDoseOfExcel recently featured a portion of our post “Lean Office with Excel and VBA” as a discussion topic that also yielded some interesting discussion.  Click here to view Learn VBA to Be Lean.

How does this apply to differentiation?  Although each of the recommended sites present some common areas of interest, they also have identified a niche purpose within the Excel community.  Even the casual visitor to these sites will note that the efforts within this community are both collaborative and complementary.

While our focus is Agile-Lean Manufacturing with a core focus on Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), even we have managed to contribute to the Excel community in our own unique way.

This open system creates an open working environment that is unparalleled in the manufacturing community.  Complementary business models with a common purpose, a mutual respect for the talents of others, and a sense of humility that keeps everyone wanting and willing to help.

As lean practitioners, we continue to find answers where we least expected them.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

The High-Velocity Edge Is Here!

Update:  Steven J. Spear has been awarded the Philip Crosby Medal for his book “The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition” according to a Press release from ASQ—the world’s largest network of quality resources and experts (Milwaukee, WI March 2, 2011).

We have raved about the book “Chasing the Rabbit” written by Steven J. Spear and have just learned that the book has been re-released under a new a title, The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition.  Recognizing that your time is a valuable commodity, we aim to provide information that is relevant to our readers and visitors.  This book provides much more information on certain topics than one could ever hope to achieve through a website or blog – hence our recommendation.

This is perhaps an unprecedented marketing strategy for what was an already very successful book.  In one respect this reflects the wisdom of Peter Drucker who suggested that there is a time to abandon the old (even if it is considered an award winning success) in lieu of the fresh and new.  The following are excerpts from the e-mail we received from Steve that explain the reasons for this change:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The High Velocity Edge shows the particular skills and capabilities that lead to broad-based, high-speed, non-stop improvement and innovation.  Master these and you achieve exceptional, rival-beating performance, even if facing intense competition. If you don’t, you watch as someone else wins

The book (and the website supporting it) are replete with examples of how these capabilities are developed and deployed in high tech and heavy industry, in design and production, in services like health care and in manufacturing.

There is Pratt and Whitney’s compression in time and cost of jet engine design, the Navy’s creation of nuclear propulsion  with breath taking speed, Alcoa’s achieving near perfect workplace safety, and the exceptional improvement of care in medical institutions.

Toyota features prominently as an example, both in showing how  successfully cultivating the capabilities introduced and illustrated in The High Velocity Edgeare the source of  tremendous competitive strength and also in showing how the capacity to develop such capabilities can be overburdened.

With the release of The High Velocity Edge, I’m testing new media approaches, being released on its website, to bring the book’s ideas into broader practice more quickly than traditional means alone allow.

Here’s a closer look at what is new.

New Title and Cover: Why a  new name and cover after three awards, versions in four languages, and flattering reviews?  Well, people do judge a book by its cover, and those who didn’t read the reviews or learn of the awards were too often left  wondering what was inside.  Not so with the new.

New material:  You’ll find a new preface and epilogue, drawing lessons about leadership, innovation, and operational excellence from  Toyota’s recent  struggles.

New media: I’m testing ways to  help  people master more quickly and reliably the skills that allow individuals and organizations to achieve broad-based, high-speed improvement and innovation.

On the way are an interactive web-based case study, an ‘open school’ course for those in health care professions, and a series of short tutorials to help people review what they’ve read and to help them teach what they’ve learned to their own students and colleagues. The results will be introduced on the book’s website.

Of course, there will still be postings, applying the principles of leadership, innovation, and operational excellence to current topics.

I certainly hope you find the new look, content, and format useful in pursuing perfection.

Please share your feedback, and let’s talk about how I can help you put these ideas  to use in your own organization.

Thanks!

Steve Spear

A high velocity organization is, in our opinion, a step above and beyond the traditional lean principles that are typical of most text books and seminars on this topic.  The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition will prove to be a worthwhile read and we highly recommend this to any company seriously seeking to take their organization to the next level.  We have also added this book to our recommended reading list.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Business Analytics

Solving problems BEFORE they Happen!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could solve problems before they happen?  While a problem free world may be far from our present reality, I am encouraged to learn that there are steps that we can take to improve our ability to recognize and resolve problems before they happen in real-time.  The solution to developing this problem awareness mindset is presented in a book I just finished reading:  Michael A. Roberto’s book titled, “Know What You Don’t Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen“.  Michael provides a refreshing perspective to problem solving strategy that is supported by many proven examples in actual practice today.

As we are all painfully aware, not all problems can be anticipated regardless of the tools that we have at our disposal.  This does not mean that we should regard these efforts as futile, but rather we need to develop a different mindset.  As leaders in our various industries, we need to maintain an ever-increasing awareness of how our processes and products are performing long after the images have left the computer stations or drafting boards that were used to create them.

We can choose to be the hunter or the hunted – find the problem before it finds you!  The basic premise of the title, “Know What You don’t Know”, suggests that the pursuit of knowledge will perpetuate the desire to learn even more.  In the spirit of the true lean culture, we are continually learning, striving to acquire new knowledge, and in turn sharing that knowledge throughout the organization.

After reading this book, it becomes even clearer how a company, no matter how strong, can also succumb and fall prey to the pitfalls identified in this book.  More importantly, however, and perhaps the greatest take away, is that this book also shows how to recognize and overcome these pitfalls that prevent problems from surfacing before they escalate into a major crisis or catastrophe.  Toyota’s recent high profile recalls serve as a present day example of how an organization’s communication and decision making processes can fail to avert a major campaign and the unnecessary and tragic loss of life.

As we are learning through the investigations surrounding Toyota, the information required to act was “known” to the company yet they failed to acknowledge or respond to this information until it was too late.   One of the core themes in “Know What You don’t Know” is to create a culture of free flowing communication – the ability to share any news – good or bad.  Clearly this is a common frustration experienced by many organizations and one of the leading causes of infrastructure breakdowns and failure.

Well written and thoroughly researched, Michael A. Roberto’s book represents one of the better investments I have made in my personal library.  If this book isn’t on your team’s mandatory reading list, it should be.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!


Flawless Execution – “This Is It” – Practice Makes Perfect

We are often encouraged to look beyond our own business models to expand our horizons or to simply gain a different perspective.  Music is one of my personal areas of interest in the outside world and I have learned to appreciate and value the many genres of music that exist today.  As a lead guitar player for a number of bands over the years and a little recording in my studio, I can only imagine the level of commitment required to perform and record professionally.

I was inspired to write this post after watching Michael Jackson’s DVD, “This is it“.  It is impressive to see how everyone is engaged and intimately involved with every nuance of the performance – from the performers themselves to the people working behind the scenes.  Even more amazing was Michael Jackson’s recall of every note and step of the choreography.  Michael provided extensive direction and leadership to assure a world-class performance could be delivered.

What does this have to do with Lean?

At its core, playing music can simply be described as playing the right notes at the right time.  In many respects, music is analogous to many of our manufacturing processes.  Music has a known process rate (beats per minute).  The standardized work or method is the music score that shows what notes to play and when to play them.  Similarly, the choreography serves as standardized work to document each and every step or movement for each performer.  It can be very obvious (and painful) when someone plays the wrong note, sounds a note at the wrong time, or mis-steps.

Knowing that “This is it” was produced from film during the development of the production also exemplifies how video can be used to not only capture the moment but to improve the process along the way.  The film provides the opportunity to review the performance objectively even if you happen to be in it.  You will note that people are much more engaged and become “self-aware” in a radically different way.

Communication + Practice makes Perfect

It is also readily apparent that many hours of rehearsal are required to produce a world-class performance.  Imagine working for days, weeks, months, or even years to produce a two-hour show for all of the world to see.  How much can one person do to refine and perfect the performance?  How much effort would you be willing to expend knowing that literally billions of people may someday be watching you!

As professionals, individual performers are expected to know their respective roles thoroughly.  They are paid for their expertise and ability to perform with high expectations and demanding circumstances.  The purpose of the rehearsal is not to necessarily practice your part as an individual, but rather to exercise your expertise as part of the team.  Each performer must learn their cues from other performers and determine how they relate and fit in to the overall production process.  Rehearsals provide the basis of the team’s communication strategy to assure everyone is on the same page all the time, every time.

Effective Training

Finally, “This is it” demonstrates the importance of training the whole team.  Although individual training may be required, eventually the team must be brought together in its entirety.  A downfall of many business training programs is that often only a select few people from various departments are permitted to attend with the expectation that they will bring what they learned “back to the team”.  One of the most overlooked elements of training is the communication and coordination of activities between team members.  Group breakout sessions attempt to improve interaction among team members, but this can’t replace the reality of working with the team on home turf.  It seems that some companies expect trained professionals to intuitively know how to communicate and interact with each other.  Nothing could be further from the truth if you are looking to develop a high performance team.

Last Words

Imagine what it would be like if we rehearsed our process and material changes with the same persistence and raw determination that performers and athletes in the entertainment and sports world exhibit.  Overall Equipment Efficiency and more specifically Availability may improve beyond our expectations.  Imagine applying the same degree of standardization to tasks that we perform everyday!  As we strive for excellence, our tolerance for anything less diminishes as well.

Flawless execution requires comprehensive planning, communication, training, practice, measurement, reflection, leadership, commitment, and dedication.

It’s time to play some riffs!

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Lean Sensations – A taste of reality

We are all familiar with the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  While it is easy to get caught up in data analysis and reports, this adage holds true for first hand experience as well.  It could even be said that some experiences are simply beyond description. – you have to see and “taste” it for yourself.  Words and pictures only provide a visual perspective and cannot capture the full ambiance of the moment.  Even video fails to provide a sense of the true atmosphere.  In the same sense, Lean leadership requires executives and staff at all levels to move beyond the reports and the pictures and experience things for themselves – first hand.

We are quite sure that the Olympic experience in Vancouver was radically different from the experience of watching the events on television.  Nothing can replace the actual experience of being there although technology continues to bring us closer.  Most of us can also identify with governments that do not seem to be “in touch” with our present-day reality.  As these analogies attempt to demonstrate, it is imperative for leaders and executives to directly observe and participate in the lean initiatives and activities throughout the organization.  It is equally important to maintain an active presence as part of the ongoing lean activities.

We recognize that it can be difficult to get even a small glimpse of reality especially when most executive visits are accommodated by the typical “dog and pony” show.  One successful executive was known for making unannounced visits to his facilities to get a true sense of the business – when the visits were unexpected.  This created a “Be ready any time – all the time” culture.  There was no time to prepare for “The big boss is coming today” and in reality, we shouldn’t have to.

Data gathering and analysis may actually sacrifice effectiveness for efficiency.  As an example, consider the concept of employee opinion surveys.  Employees are free to answer questions anonymously and without fear of repercussions or reprimand.  The purpose of the survey is to gather objective data from the employees regarding specific aspects of their work environment / company life.  The data is typically compiled, analyzed, and summarized into a neat power point presentation for all the employees to see “how well they did”.  The management team, in turn, is expected to prepare an action plan to address opportunities for improvement identified in the survey.

Does the report accurately reflect the real opportunities?  In many cases, the answer is, “No, not really”.  Does it provide evidence that opportunities may exist?  The answer in this case is, “Yes, highly probable.”  The report may indicate that opportunities exist, however, the source for improvement  may may be concealed by the how the question was framed.  Often times, questions are presented in such a way that a clear definitive response can’t be given.  While it is possible for people to include comments, few seldom do unless they know their concerns or opinions are truly valued by the company.

Do we really need surveys to get a pulse for what is happening inside the company?  In our opinion, the answer is, “No”.  An effective, highly engaged, management team should understand the culture of the company without having to rely on a survey to help them “manage” the facility.  People interact with each other daily.  Surveys are a snapshot in time and are usually conducted annually.  The other pitfall with surveys is the lead / lag time between the survey date and the actual presentation of the data.  In a fast paced industry, many things can change over a very short period of time.  The manufacturing sector and more specifically the North American automotive industry can attest to this.

Another reason for being “in the moment” is to fully experience that which can’t be described by words alone.  Anything other than “being there” requires us to use our creative imagination.  When someone has not been exposed to the very experience you are attempting to describe, you are forced to make reference to comparable items – yet they are not the same.  How many times have you heard, “It tastes like chicken!” as someone attempts to describe food that you haven’t tried before.  Just try to describe the taste, smell, or touch of something (heat / humidity / cold / frostbite / pain / g-Force) without making a reference to objects or things that are similar – yet different.

In summary, implementing and sustaining lean initiatives requires participation from all levels of the organization – not just to observe and review data, but to actually become an integral part of the activities.  Communication is an inextricable part of the lean culture as we have learned through our discussion regarding the Toyota recall.  We identified that Toyota’s infrastructure may have become an obstacle to effective communication in the company.

One way to keep the communication lines open is to remove the walls that separate executives and management from the front line.  The only way to do this effectively, is to be a “regular” on the front line.  You will earn the trust and respect of your team and they will communicate with you as they do with their fellow colleagues.

The culture of a company is one of the many strengths that must be supported and fostered by the executive leadership team.  Leadership participation is a prerequisite to successful lean integration.  Embrace the opportunities and seize the moment.

We can only imagine what it would be like to …

Until Next Time – STAY lean!