Tag: Ontario

A Lesson in Lean Over a Long Holiday Weekend

English: An Act to Prevent the further Introdu...
English: An Act to Prevent the further Introduction of Slaves and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude within this Province (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What? Another long weekend?

That’s right! The first Monday of August is a civic holiday here in Ontario, Canada. However, if you ask people what we’re supposed to be celebrating you may be surprised by the vast array of answers – including “I don’t know.”

Some of the confusion begins with its declaration – the provincial government has not defined this day as a statutory holiday although it is given to all federal and municipal government employees, In other words, this holiday is “optional”.

Having one long weekend per month has now turned into one of expectation. We only need to scramble for a cause to justify its existence as this excerpt from Wikipedia clearly demonstrates:

In Ontario, the day may be known as Simcoe Day in honour of the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and the promulgator of the Act Against Slavery; the Scotiabank Caribbean Cultural Festival, formerly known as Caribana, is held this holiday weekend in Toronto, coinciding with Emancipation Day. Civic Holiday may also be known by one of a number of local appellations such as Mountie Day in North York, Colonel By Day in Ottawa, George Hamilton Day in Hamilton, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, Founders’ Day in Brantford, McLaughlin Day in Oshawa, Alexander Mackenzie Day in Sarnia, James Cockburn Day in Cobourg, Peter Robinson Day in Peterborough, and John GaltDay in Guelph, as well as numerous other names in smaller municipalities.[citation needed]

Another example with a more specific cause is Family Day – first introduced as an election promise and subsequently established in 2007 by our provincial government to cure the long weekend void of February. Once again, Wikipedia provides a more thorough review:

During the Ontario provincial election in 2007, Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal Party promised that if re-elected premier he would establish a provincial holiday in February. On 12 October 2007, the provincial government established Family Day, with the first being observed on 18 February 2008. Its creation raised Ontario’s number of public holidays to nine per year.[7] However, this holiday does not necessarily add to the number of holidays Ontarians receive, as employers can substitute any non-statutory holidays that employees may already be receiving in lieu of this day. Many employers have substituted the popular Civic Holiday, which falls on the first Monday in August. Although the Civic Holiday is enjoyed by millions every year, it is not public (statutory), and workers may have to choose one holiday or the other, based on their contract, union negotiations, service requirements, etc.[8]

There has been much debate as to whether Family day was introduced as a means for our Premier to gain re-election or a necessary measure to assure the continued well being of Ontario families across the province.

The relationship to leadership and lean

On the breach of trust

Not all leaders are elected and we seldom have an opportunity to express our real opinions of them. As for government however, our levels of satisfaction can be measured in votes. Our intentions may be challenged and as leaders we must be transparent, accountable, and serve with integrity. Was injecting the “Family Day” holiday into a platform of many “to be broken promises” an expression of real concern for families in our province or simply a means of swaying votes? The manner for delivering on such a promise seems unprecedented as are many promises made during election campaigns.

As for business, the effects of leadership are more immediate and direct. For public companies, share prices rise and fall with the mere utterance of good or bad news and is evidenced by the ever-present volatility of the stock markets. Local economies are increasingly affected by global events as never experienced before.

Leading on Purpose

Our civic holiday is indicative of the confusion that continues to resonate throughout an organization long after a program or measure has been introduced without a specific purpose. As I review the many names that define this civic holiday and the excitement that accompanies each of them, I am reminded of how many organizations perceive a common sense of purpose among the ranks, only to learn that reasons for all those smiling faces are as diverse as the number of employees working there.

As leaders, we are challenged to foster a culture where the efforts of our teams are focused toward a greater common vision that is clearly defined, understood, and embraced by all. If there is at least one common thread for the civic holiday, it is to honor local heroes and people in our communities who played a much larger role in shaping our communities, our country, and our world for the betterment of humanity.

The last word

We all need a break from routine and, next to vacations, a long weekend certainly tops the list. There are many people who don’t really care why they are getting an extra day off while others are very much “in the know”. Being a leader, its our business to know. Oddly, after I finished this post, someone asked, “Do you know why Monday is a holiday?” I said, “You’re not going to believe this but that’s the topic of my post today!” As leaders, we make it our business to know “why” and “what”. As for the “how”, I’ll leave that to the experts.

I wish you all a happy Civic Holiday Monday – whatever your reason may be!

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics

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Waste: The Devil is in the Details …

A photo of a cup of coffee.
Image via Wikipedia

I planned to publish this yesterday but for some reason I felt compelled to wait. I doubt it was fate, but as you will see, Toyota once again managed to serendipitously substantiate my reason for it.

I was originally  inspired to write this post based on a recent experience I had at a local restaurant.

After I was seated, I ordered a coffee to start things off.  The waitress asked, “Would you like cream or milk with your coffee?”  I said, “Just cream please.”

A few minutes later my coffee arrived … accompanied by two creams and three milks. So I wonder, why even ask the question?  What part of this was routine? Asking the question or grabbing both milk and cream?

Later, when it was time for a refill, the waitress noted the milk containers neatly stacked beside the saucer and said, “Oh,  just cream right?”  They were quickly removed and replaced.

Habitual Waste

How many of us are simply going through the motions – say the right words and do the right things without even thinking?  In some cases, we may even do the wrong things, like a bad habit, without thinking – like the waitress in the restaurant.

I think we need to be very concerned when our words and actions are reduced to “habits” or the equivalent of meaningless rhetorical questions.  We say, “Hi, how are you?” and expect to hear “Fine” or “OK” – whether or not it’s true. Or worse, we don’t even wait for the answer.

When our daily routines become autonomous they essentially become habits – good or bad.  How can you pay attention to the details when they have become engrained into the everyday monotony we call routine?

The devil is in the details …

Of concern here is how much waste our habits generate that we’re not even aware of.  In business, finding the waste is actually easier than it looks.  The cure on the other hand may be a different story.

Layered process audits, and regular visits to the “front line” can be used to identify and highlight concerns but, as with many companies, these process reviews only represent a snapshot in time.  To be effective, they need to be frequent (daily) and thorough.

In manufacturing, process flows, value streams, and standard work are tools we use to define our target operating plan.  However, we know from experience that a gap typically exists between planned and actual performance.

The sequence of events typically occur as planned, however, the method of task execution varies from person to person and shift to shift.  The primary root cause for this variance can be traced to work instructions that do not definitively describe the detailed actions required to successfully complete the task.

Generic work instructions simply do not work. To be effective, our methods must be specific and detail oriented. General instructions leave too much room for error and in turn become a source of variation in our processes. 

Quite often, we develop techniques or “tricks” that make our jobs or tasks easier to perform.  Learning to recognize and share those “nuances” may be the discerning factors to achieve improved performance.

Worth Waiting For …

As I mentioned at the start of this article, Toyota somehow manages to make its way into my articles and this one is no exception.  Earlier this week, I learned that Ray Tanguay, a local Ontario (Canada) resident, is now one of three new senior managing officers for Toyota worldwide.

The Toronto Start published “Farm boy a Toyota go-to guy” in today’s business section that chronicles Ray Tanguay’s rise to power to become the only top non-Japanese executive in the company.

What caught my attention, aside from being born in a local town here in Ontario, was this quote:

“I like to drill down deep because the devil is always in the detailsRay Tanguay, Toyota Senior Managing Officer

The article also describes how Ray Tanguay managed to get the attention of Toyota president Akio Toyoda and the eventual development of a global vision to clearly set out the company’s purpose, long-term direction, and goals for employees.

After summarizing Ray Tanguay’s history, the article concludes …

 “A few years later, his attention to detail on the shop floor helped the company win a second assembly plant in nearby Woodstock and thousands of more jobs for Canada’s manufacturing sector.”

I note with great interest, “… on the shop floor …”  Perhaps, I should have changed the title to “Opportunity:  the Devil is in the details!”  I still think we were close.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter:  @Versalytics

The Face of Manufacturing in 2011

Lotus 60th Celebration
Image via Wikipedia

Happy New Year! Another year begins with the confidence that the manufacturing sector will continue to recover from the crash of 2008-2009 that continued its unrelenting grip well into 2010.  There is little doubt that the face of industry in North America and around the world has changed but is it really on the rebound?

I am of the opinion that the manufacturing sector will continue to be redefined by companies that are capable of extending and adapting their technologies to a more diverse range of product applications.  In other words, the industry will shift from traditional product specific expertise to those companies that offer technological expertise to multiple market segments.

An example of this diversification shift is already evident as companies pursue products in new markets such as construction, appliances, wind and solar energy.  Automotive companies here in Ontario (Canada) have certainly learned that technologies such as stamping presses, plastic injection molding machines, and various joining technologies (welding, brazing) can be used to make products that are in demand by other market segments.  Our ability to seek out new industries to complement our existing technologies is perhaps just one of the strategies worthy of consideration to ensure a business remains sustainable well into the future.

The sharp decline in the automotive industry resulted in a significant loss of real manufacturing jobs here in Ontario and certainly extended well beyond our borders.  The strength of the banking industry and business in general does little to appease the unemployed, however, I am encouraged if this cascades into more jobs.

I remain hopeful that 2011 will be the year of transition into prosperity for all – business included.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics