Tag: Lean Integration

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
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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!


Lean Recalls – Compromising Safety?

Is there ever a time when risk outweighs the real fix?   As we are quickly learning from the latest news regarding Toyota’s proclaimed “savings” through limited safety recalls, the answer is “NO”.  The details of the story surrounding Toyota’s knowledge of the mounting safety concerns and the Toyota’s defense is very disturbing.  Toyota has responded by stating “Our first priority is the safety of our customers, and to conclude otherwise on the basis of one internal presentation is wrong.”

Are Toyota’s actions aligned with this statement? According to the news we’ve been reading, the answer again is “NO”.  We would suggest that Toyota’s attempt to downplay “one” internal presentation is extremely weak.  Why?  Simply because that one internal document happened to be presented by Yoshimi Inaba, Toyota’s top North American executive, and as such the content becomes much more significant and relevant.  An executive presentation is expected to be factual and with purpose.  To suggest otherwise and relegate this to the category of ‘discussion topics” and one person’s opinion is a real stretch.  If this is indeed the case, then there are real concerns within the leadership ranks of Toyota.  When the president speaks, people listen for a reason.  What they say affects in some way – good or bad.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, and other executives are on the firing line as they present their case in the US congressional hearings.  In Akio Toyoda’s own words, “We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization.”  As we have mentioned in previous posts, Toyota’s communication strategy has been lacking as this crisis continues to unfold.  We would suggest that this is indicative of the underlying problems that Toyota is experiencing.  Effective communication was once at the core of Toyota’s culture and to this end, we would agree that Toyota’s culture has been compromised.  What is debatable is whether this is strictly due to growth.  Is this a factor that is attributable to the sheer size of the company?  Is this the result of an evolution in culture that lost it’s roots?

As size increases, so do layers of management and the number of “gatekeepers” that attempt to filter out the critical information.  Whether or not the original message remains intact is one the faults of bureaucracy.  While Toyota traditionally has managed to “keep it real” and encouraged forward thinking and free dialogue, layers of management may have eroded this once highly characteristic trait of the Toyota culture.

Is Toyota solely to blame?  It appears that the government Safety Regulators have some explaining to do as well.  Surprisingly, the scope and extent of recalls can actually be negotiated.  The short lesson learned is that we cannot knowingly compromise human safety in our products and services.  In simpler terms, when human lives are at risk, there is no such thing as a LEAN Recall.

As we have emphasized through our many pages and posts, the culture is the company.  In our post, “Lean Execution:  Competing with Giants – It’s all about speed“, we featured two video clips of Domenic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks, who discusses the rapid growth of his company.  “Thoughtful Speed of Execution” and learning to recognize Boulders, Rocks, and Pebbles, and teaching our gate keepers to do the same are two steps more than may have been taken already.

Related links:  Toyota vows shake-up, lawmakers seek more reform (Reuters), Toyota’s latest apology, Toyota apologizes for handling of safety issues,

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Lean, OEE, and How to beat the “Law of Diminishing Returns”

Are your lean initiatives falling prey to the Law of Diminishing Returns?  Waning returns may soon be followed by apathy as the “new” initiative gets old.  For those who have not studied economics or are not familiar with the term, it is defined by Wikepedia as follows:

The law states “that we will get less and less extra output when we add additional doses of an input while holding other inputs fixed. In other words, the marginal product of each unit of input will decline as the amount of that input increases holding all other inputs constant.

In simple terms, continued application of time and effort to improve a process will eventually yield reduced or smaller returns.  The low hanging fruit that once was easy to see and resolve has all but disappeared.  Some companies would claim that they have finally “arrived”.  We contend that these same companies have simply hit their first plateau.

Methods and Objectives

Is it inevitable that a process has been refined to the point where additional investment can no longer be justified financially?  The short answer is “Yes and No”.  As the Olympics are well under way, we are quick to observe the fractions of seconds that may be shaved from current world records.  If you’re going for Olympic Gold, you will need every advancement or enhancement that technology has to offer to gain the competitive edge.  These advances in technology are refinements for existing processes that are governed by strict rules.  Clearly, there are much faster ways to get from point A to point B.  However, the objective of the Olympics is to demonstrate how these feats can be accomplished through the physical skills and abilities of the athletes.

In business our objectives are defined differently.  We want to provide (and our customers expect) the highest quality products at the lowest cost delivered in the shortest amount of time.  How we do that is up to us.  Lean initiatives and tools such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) can help us to refine current processes but are they enough to stimulate the development of new products and processes?  Or, are they limited to simply help us to recognize when optimum levels have been achieved?

Radical change versus refinement

Objectives are used to determine and align the methods that are used to achieve a successful outcome.  This is certainly the case in the automotive industry as environmental concerns and availability of non-renewable resources, specifically oil and gas, continue to gain global attention and focus.  The objectives of our “transportation” systems are being redefined almost dynamically as new technologies are beginning to emerge.  At some point, the automotive industry leaders must have realized that continuing to refine existing technologies simply will not satisfy future expectations.  With this realization it is now inevitable that a radical powertrain technology change is required.  Hybrid vehicles continue to evolve and electric cars are not too far behind.

How to Beat the Law of Diminishing Returns

Overcoming the law of diminishing returns requires another look at the vision, goals, and objectives of the company and to develop a new, different, or fresh perspective on what it is you are trying to achieve.  The lean initiatives introduced by Toyota, Walmart, Southwest and many others were driven by the need to find a competitive edge.  They recognized that they couldn’t simply be a “me too” company to gain the recognition and successes they now enjoy.

The question you may want to ask yourself and your team is, “If we started from scratch today, is this the result we would be looking for?”  The answer should be a unanimous and resounding “NO”.  Get out your whiteboard, pens, paper, and start writing down what you would be doing differently.  In other words, it’s time to re-energize the team and refocus your goals and objectives.  Vision and mission statements are not tombstones for the living.  5S these documents and take the time to re-invigorate your team.

Turning a company around may require some new radical changes and we need to be mindful of the new upstarts with the latest and greatest technology.  They may have an edge that we have may just haven’t taken the time to consider.  We are not suggesting that you need to replace all the equipment in your plant in order to compete.  Proven technologies have their place in industry and the competitive pricing isn’t always about speed.  The question you may need to consider is, “Can our technology be used to produce different products that have been traditionally manufactured using other methods?”

While many companies pursue a growth strategy based on their current product offerings and derivatives, we would strongly suggest that manufacturers consider a growth strategy based on their process technology offerings.  What else can we make with process or machine XYZ?  We anticipate that manufacturing sectors will soon start to blend as manufacturers pursue products beyond the scope of their current industry applications.

Be the Leader

Leading companies create and define the environment where their products and services will thrive.  Apple’s “iProducts” have redefined how electronics are used in everyday life.  As these tools are developed and evolve, so too can the systems and processes used throughout manufacturing.  The collective human mind is forever considering the possibilities of the next generation of products or services.

There was a time when manned space flight and walking on the moon were considered unlikely probabilities.  Today we find ourselves discovering and considering galaxies beyond our own and we don’t give it a second thought.  How far can we go and how do we get there?  The answer to that question is …

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Quality is Priceless

The price tag for Toyota’s recent recall campaigns is estimated to be more than $2 Billion and the loss in share holder value is likely many times more than this.  Yet we remain optimistic and anticipate that Toyota will make it through this crisis.  We can only imagine what this kind of money could buy if wasn’t spent on repairing vehicles.

In our previous posts we differentiated between design and process failures.  Today we learned of yet another Toyota recall issued yesterday.  This time 8,000 0f the 2010 four-wheel drive Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks are being recalled for possible cracks in the front drive shaft.  In this case the supplier, Dana Corporation, discovered a problem with their manufacturing process that may also have affected parts supplied to Nissan and Ford as well.  Click here to read the full story.

We are reminded of the book titled “Quality is Free” written by the late Philip B. Crosby.  Many manufacturers around the world have learned that the cost of failure knows no bounds.  While it is possible to calculate the costs to repair defective products, the losses incurred due to lost sales, law suits, pending investigations, public relations, and reduced consumer confidence in general will never be known.

Because businesses are not charities, we can only expect that the price of future product offerings will include a portion of the company’s latest financial liabilities.  Naturally, if every product sold performed as expected or better and without flaw or incident, we could continue to focus on improving the quality of both products and processes.

It has been said that success breeds failure.  Success creates contentment, giving rise to complacency, and in turn results in lost focus.  So, what is the value of a process that yields perfect products?  In today’s global economy quality isn’t just a given – quality is priceless.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Lean Analytics and a little TRIZ

We are encouraged to see a significantly increasing interest in lean and agile strategy.  As we have emphasized in previous posts, the culture and work environment are as critical to the success of your initiatives as are the specific techniques, methods, and / or technologies that you will choose to use.  One of our favorite phrases to put our work environment into perspective  is, “What you see is how we think.”  We trust you will find the references in this post to be inspiring, thought provoking, and maybe even a little entertaining.

Analytics – In Perspective

The study of data can lead to some very interesting interpretations of the results.  We all have theories and with enough time and data we can prove them right or wrong.  Most statisticians, accountants, lawyers, and politicians can attest to this.  Data is typically studied and presented from a pre-conceived framework and variations are interpreted based on our chosen understanding of the model.

We have been researching cognitive dissonance and how this may affect the success of lean initiatives.  During our research, we found an article that describes how our thinking may actually influence or impede our ability to clearly see the problems or opportunities before us.  This article is self-explanatory and does not need much more by way of introduction.

Click here to view the Wired Magazine Article.

TRIZ:  We were recently asked to present a simple example that demonstrates the TRIZ concept.  While we agree that certain aspects of TRIZ can appear to be too complex to integrate into everyday problem solving, we found an excellent real world example that may surprise you.  This short video is only a few minutes long but speaks volumes.

Click here to view the video clip we found on TED.com.

The simplicity of this example makes it easy for everyone to understand at least one of the premises on which TRIZ is based.  Secondly, it serves as an excellent example to demonstrate how our perception and perspective can affect our ability to communicate new ideas and strategy to people who may not be familiar with our culture or environment.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!