Tag: Training

Lean – A Race Against Time

The printer Benjamin Franklin contributed grea...
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Background

If “Time is Money”, is it reasonable for us to consider that “Wasting Time is Wasting Money?”

Whether we are discussing customer service, health care, government services, or manufacturing – waste is often identified as one of the top concerns that must be addressed and ultimately eliminated.  As is often the case in most organizations, the next step is an attempt to define waste.  Although they are not the focus of our discussion, the commonly known “wastes” from a lean perspective are:

  • Over-Production
  • Inventory
  • Correction (Non-Conformance  – Quality)
  • Transportation
  • Motion
  • Over Processing
  • Waiting

Resourcefulness is another form of waste often added to this list and occurs when resources and talent are not utilized to work at their full potential.

Where did the Time go?

As a lean practitioner, I acknowledge these wastes exist but there must have been an underlying element of concern or thinking process that caused this list to be created.  In other words, lists don’t just appear, they are created for a reason.

As I pondered this list, I realized that the greatest single common denominator of each waste is TIME.  Again, from a lean perspective, TIME is the basis for measuring throughput.  As such, our Lean Journey is ultimately founded on our ability to reduce or eliminate the TIME required to produce a part or deliver a service.

As a non-renewable resource, we must learn to value time and use it effectively.  Again, as we review the list above, we can see that lost time is an inherent trait of each waste.  We can also see how this list extends beyond the realm of manufacturing.  TIME is a constant constraint that is indeed a challenge to manage even in our personal lives.

To efficiently do what is not required is NOT effective.

I consider Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) to be a key metric in manufacturing.  While it is possible to consider the three factors Availability, Performance, and Quality separately, in the context of this discussion, we can see that any impediment to throughput can be directly correlated to lost time.

To extend the concept in a more general sense, our objective is to provide our customers with a quality product or service in the shortest amount of time.  Waste is any impediment or roadblock that prevents us from achieving this objective.

Indirect Waste and Effectiveness

Indirect Waste (time) is best explained by way of example.  How many times have we heard, “I don’t understand this – we just finished training everybody!”  It is common for companies to provide training to teach new skills.  Similarly, when a problem occurs, one of the – too often used – corrective actions is “re-trained employee(s).”  Unfortunately, the results are not always what we expect.

Many companies seem content to use class test scores and instructor feedback to determine whether the training was effective while little consideration is given to developing skill competency.  If an employee cannot execute or demonstrate the skill successfully or competently, how effective was the training?  Recognizing that a learning curve may exist, some companies are inclined to dismiss incompetence but only for a limited time.

The company must discern between employee capability and quality of training.  In other words, the company must ensure that the quality of training provided will adequately prepare the employee to successfully perform the required tasks.  Either the training and / or method of delivery are not effective or the employee may simply lack the capability.  Let me qualify this last statement by saying that “playing the piano is not for everyone.”

Training effectiveness can only be measured by an employee’s demonstrated ability to apply their new knowledge or skill.

Time – Friend or Foe?

Lean tools are without doubt very useful and play a significant role in helping to carve out a lean strategy.  However, I am concerned that the tendency of many lean initiatives is to follow a prescribed strategy or formula.  This approach essentially creates a new box that in time will not be much different from the one we are trying to break out of.

An extension of this is the classification of wastes.  As identified here, the true waste is time.  Efforts to reduce or eliminate the time element from any process will undoubtedly result in cost savings.  However, the immediate focus of lean is not on cost reduction alone.

Global sourcing has assured that “TIME” can be purchased at reduced rates from low-cost labour countries.  While this practice may result in a “cost savings”, it does nothing to promote the cause of lean – we have simply outsourced our inefficiencies at reduced prices.  Numerous Canadian and US facilities continue to be closed as workers witness the exodus of jobs to foreign countries due to lower labor and operating costs. Electrolux closes facility in Webster City, Iowa.

I don’t know the origins of multi-tasking, but the very mention of it suggests that someone had “time on their hands.”  So remember, when you’re put on hold, driving to work, stuck in traffic, stopped at a light, sorting parts, waiting in line, sitting in the doctors office, watching commercials, or just looking for lost or misplaced items – your time is running out.

Is time a friend or foe?  I suggest the answer is both, as long as we spend it wisely (spelled effectively).  Be effective, be Lean, and stop wasting time.

Let the race begin:  Ready … Set … Go …

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Twitter:  @Versalytics
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Toyota’s Culture – Inside Out

Comparing leadership cultures and creating change
Image by opensourceway via Flickr

As discussed on our Lean Roadmap page, the culture that exists inside your company will determine the success or failure of your lean initiatives in the long-term.  So, how do we cultivate and nurture this culture that we desire to achieve?

Fortunately, I found a great article,  How to implement “Lean Thinking” in a Business: Pathway to creating a “Lean Culture”, written by one of my recent twitter connections (lean practitioner and former Toyota employee) that briefly describes the process embraced by Toyota.

I will not paraphrase the content of the article if only to preserve the essence of the presentation and passion that is conveyed in its writing.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that Toyota does not typically refer to their methods as lean.  Lean is not a set of tools but rather a manner of thinking and focus on a seemingly elusive target to achieve one piece flow.

The spirit of Lean, like synergy, cannot be taught – only experienced.

An innate ability exists and continues to evolve where team members operate with a high level of synergy and are able to identify and respond to concerns in real-time.  Steven Spear also discusses various characteristics or attributes of high performance teams from a different perspective and much wider range of industries in his book “The High Velocity Edge“.

Toyota Recall – Update

Following the release of the NHTSA investigation, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article titled “Toyota, The Media Owe You an Apology“.  The article clarifies a number of allegations against Toyota, however, I am reminded that the government’s investigation did not completely exonerate Toyota from having any responsibility.

Whether the failure is mechanical or electronic is moot considering the tragic results that ensued for some.  I think the real concern is whether the problem itself has been identified and resolved regardless of fault.

Since we are on the topic of culture, consider the media’s role in reporting the events surrounding the recall.  What was your overall sense of the media’s reporting and perspective on this issue?

As you ponder this question, your answer will reveal how quickly events and people of influence can shape our culture.  On a much larger scale, consider the current events in Egypt or the last Presidential election in the United States.

As always, I appreciate your feedback – leave a comment or send us an e-mail.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Twitter:  @Versalytics

Seasons Greetings

This year has been filled with many new experiences, hard times, great times, and many opportunities for learning.  While some may prefer to see this year pass sooner than later, 2009 is hopefully a year that presented many new opportunities and even greater challenges.

As lean practitioners, we learn to appreciate failure from a different perspective than most people would enjoy.  The focus is not the failure itself, but rather the causes and events that lead up to the failure that are significant.  To those who reflect on this past year and consider the many successes, we also suggest basking in some of the learning from the failures.  Learning what not to do is often the hardest and most costly lesson of all.

Of course, understanding our successes is of equal importance.  The objective is success by design.  Understanding the reasons for our success serves to confirm the effectiveness of current practices.

We are presently working on new discussion topics for the new year.  Overall Equipment Effectiveness has been one of the core topics over the past year and more recently our focus has shifted to problem seeing and solving.  We are evolving into a culture where AGILITY is quickly becoming one of the defining traits of today’s successful companies and new businesses.

Intelligent metrics demand effective and efficient measurement and analysis to be used in real-time.  By our definition, an Agile company is one that already understands and demonstrates lean practices.  A truly agile company is now looking at metrics to dynamically lead and manage the business, responding to events and developing strategy in real-time.  Their agility is demonstrated by the speed of execution and their continued list of successes as a result.

We have been developing some new spreadsheet templates that we plan to release in the new year.  The free downloads page and sidebar widget have proven to be a great success.  To achieve greater functionality, we will be using VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) in some of our future releases.  We have learned that Excel has a few limitations (and the odd bug) that require the use of VBA for our applications to perform as intended.

We are looking forward to 2010 and remain optimistic as the economy begins its slow recovery.  We will likely have a few more posts before the year ends, but knowing that some will soon be traveling or breaking early from work, we would like to wish all of our visitors best wishes for the holiday season.  We look forward to an exciting new year in 2010.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

Lean Execution: Competing with Giants – It’s all about Speed

Sometimes you need a break from reading and learn from others who are truly walking the talk.  We trust you will find this video, “Competing with Giants – It’s all about Speed“, featuring Dominic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks, as interesting and thought provoking as we did.

This short clip will be done in less time than it takes to make popcorn.

Another clip that expounds on the first – wonderful insights for business and entrepreneurs:

Enjoy!

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

Contingency Plans – Crisis Management in Lean Organizations

Contingency Planning For Lean Organizations – Part IV – Crisis Management

In a previous post we eluded that lean organizations are likely to be more susceptible to disruptions or adverse conditions and may even have a greater impact on the business.  To some degree this may be true, however, in reality, Lean has positioned these organizations to be more agile and extremely responsive to crisis situations to mitigate losses.

True lean organizations have learned to manage change as normal course of operation.  A crisis only presents a disruption of larger scale.  Chapter 10 of Steven J. Spear’s book, “Chasing the Rabbit”, exemplifies how high velocity, or lean, organizations have managed to overcome significant crisis situations that would typically cripple most organizations.

Problem solving is intrinsic at all levels of a lean organization and, in the case of Toyota, problem solving skills extend beyond the walls of the organization itself.  It is clear that an infrastructure of people having well developed problem solving skills is a key component to managing the unexpected.    The events presented in this chapter demonstrate the agility that is present in a lean organization, namely Toyota in this case and it’s supplier base.

Training is a Contingency

Toyota has clearly been the leader in Lean manufacturing and even more so in developing problem solving skills at all levels of the organization company-wide.  The primary reason for this is the investment that Toyota puts into the development of people and their problem solving skills at the onset of their employment with the company.  The ability to see problems, correct them in real time, and share the results (company-wide) is a testament to the system and it’s effectiveness has been proven on many occassions.

Prevention, preparation, and training (which is also a form of prevention) are as much an integral part of  contingency planning as are the actual steps that must be executed when a crisis situation occurs.  Toyota has developed a rapid response reflex that is inherent in the organization’s infrastructure to rapidly regain it’s capabilities when a crisis strikes.

Crisis Culture

We highly recommend reading Steven J. Spear’s “Chasing the Rabbit” to learn and appreciate the four capabilities that distinguish “High Velocity” organizations.  The key to lean is creating a cultural climate that is driven by the relentless pursuit of improvement and elimination of waste.  Learning to recognize waste and correcting the condition as it occurs requires keen observation and sharp problem solving skills.

Creating a culture of this nature is an evolutionary process – not revolutionary.  In many ways the simplicity of the four capabilities is it’s greatest ally.  Instilling these principles and capabilities into the organization demands time and effort, but the results are well worth it.  Lean was not intended to be complex and the principles demonstrated and exemplified in Chasing the Rabbit confirm this to be true.  This is not to be construed as saying that the challenges are easy … but with the right team they are certainly easier.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

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5S Your Software (Computer)

We recently discussed how software skills of people in your company can impact their effectiveness and efficiency.  One of our suggestions was to provide additional training and resources to allow staff to upgrade their skill levels.

We should also mention that upgrading to the latest software release may also improve their performance.  Microsoft recently announced upgrades to their Office product line so now may be the time to “5S” your computer and install the latest software.

The Learning Curve

When the Office 2007 upgrade was introduced, many of the software interfaces that we were accustomed to were changed.  The intention of changing this interface was to make some of the more “advanced” features available to the average user.

While these intentions are admirable, we have found that many companies didn’t upgrade.  Compatibility concerns will soon become an issue as software developers desire to take advantage of the newly introduced functionality and capabilities of the latest release.

When we made the switch to 2007, admittedly there was a bit of learning curve.  The new functionality introduced by the new user interface seemed a little awkward at first, however, the effort was more than worth our time.

Although we did lose some perceived functionality in Excel, specifically with our custom menus, the newly added features have been well worth the effort to transition to the next generation of software.  This added functionality is evident by the many Function Specific books that have been written on topic such as Charting, Pivot Tables, and VBA.

Microsoft is Upgrading Again

We recently heard that Microsoft has announced yet another upgrade of the Office products to be released in the near future (if not already).  It can be increasingly difficult for software developers to support multiple versions of previous software releases.

Visual Basic for Application (VBA) programmers are more than aware that even Microsoft’s Macro Recorder does not capture all the functionality to support the features available in the 2007 Office software.

Although Excel has evolved considerably over a relatively short time, we are still surprised to find Excel 1997, 2000, 2002, and 2003 being used like they were released yesterday.

5S Your Software

Recognizing clutter in our physical environment is easy.  We don’t do a very good job when it comes to our “Digital” work space.  The Digital Dump doesn’t exist.  Even deleted files are sent to the Recycle Bin.  Increased storage capacities also make it easy to add new software without having to remove prior versions.

Retro-Compatibility sacrifices can usually be resolved in some form of work around that results in someone losing more of their valuable time.  We also carry multiple versions of Microsoft’s Office software to assure continued compatibility with prior releases and at times sacrifice features and functionality accordingly.

Sooner or later, compatibility will be compromised.  Few have ever performed a Software 5S, this may have just been one of our first times discussing it as well.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

How to Solve Problems with Idea Maps

FreeMind 0.9.0 RC4 - Mind Map with User Icons
Image via Wikipedia

Problem solving is a problem in itself for many companies and at times can be one of the most daunting tasks to undertake during the course of an otherwise regular work day.

For some, problems seldom occur while for others this may, unfortunately, be a daily activity.  Since problem solving is not usually part of the typical daily agenda of “routine” activities, our ability to find the time and solve them efficiently and effectively is compromised.

For many, just finding time seems to be one of the greatest challenges and perhaps a problem to be solved in itself.  Sweeping problems under the rug may be efficient but it is certainly not effective.  (So … broom is not the solution we’re proposing).

Using IDEA Mapping Techniques can help you solve problems effectively and efficiently.  IDEA Maps, Process Maps, and Mind Maps are variations on a theme.  We may use the terms interchangeably in the discussion that follows.

Background:

While there are several different approaches and “forms” that can be used to manage the overall problem solving process, the two most critical steps that will determine the effectiveness of the solution are:

  1. Define a Clear and Concise Problem Description / Statement
  2. Determine the Root Cause(s) of the problem defined by the Problem Statement.

While the first step seems relatively simple, the second step requires a little more effort.  There are at least two (2) root causes for most problems that stem from two simple questions:

  • Why Made?
  • Why Shipped?

These questions imply that defective product was made for a reason (process) and it was shipped to the customer undetected (system).  In other words, the customer is not protected from receipt of defective product.

The root cause analysis process forms the basis for all subsequent problem solving activities, including verification, interim and long term corrective actions.  A lot of time can be wasted simply because the real root causes were never identified.

Problem Solving Tools for Root Cause Analysis:

Many different tools can be deployed during the Root Cause Analysis process including Ishikawa Diagrams (Fishbone Diagrams), 5 Why (discussed in a previous post), Fault Tree Analysis, Q&A (Question Board), and Brain Storming to name just a few.

Mind Mapping or Process Mapping is a technique that provides an unconstrained approach to the thinking process for multiple input and contribution streams.  Maps can also be used to identify interactions or relationships to other elements.

Mind Mapping (Process Mapping)

The center of the map contains the problem statement.  We then surround the problem statement with potential inputs or contributors to the problem.  These statements in turn become the “center” of additional levels of inputs and contributors.  In some respects, the process map can be very similar to a Bloom Diagram and certainly supports the logic found with fishbone diagrams.

The   The draw back to “Mapping” is that most are usually developed on Whiteboards and not easily or readily translated into a software solution.

Software Solutions and Templates

While there are many spreadsheet based solutions, few provide an effective interface to support the use of mapping techniques.  Even most fishbone diagrams developed in Excel are quirky and awkward at best.

While we typically do not endorse specific software solutions, however, FREEMIND is one software that we consider to be among the best of available solutions and can be downloaded free of charge.  The download and installation process only requires a few minutes.

The developers of FREEMIND provide a clean, intuitive solution for creating and maintaining process or mind maps.  While other commercial packages are available, FreeMind is more than capable of handling most problem solving challenges and quite simply is time and money well saved.

The FreeMind homepage provides a better description of the software and it’s capabilities than we could provide here.  Our goal was to introduce “Mapping” as an effective and efficient tool that can be used in the problem solving process.

After spending some time with the software, you will quickly discover that there are many other opportunities where this software can serve you.  We have a mind map that we use to manage weekly and daily reports, another for key metrics, and yet another for our business structure.  The ability to use hyperlinks makes it an easy process to access external reports and resources .

The FreeMind main page provides an excellent overview and provides examples of their software in action.  This is definitely worth looking into and may just save some time for real problem solving.

We are presently using FreeMind version 0.9.0 RC 6.

Home: http://freemind.sourceforge.net/

Copyright 2000-2009 Joerg Mueller, Daniel Polansky, Christian Foltin, Dimitry Polivaev, and others.

Click here to see a sample process map to achieve delivery of 100% on time – in full:  Mapping with FreeMind.  We have also uploaded two documents (one of the original map and a word document showing a pictorial of the mind maps we created) into our Free Downloads box.  See the ORANGE box on the sidebar to get your copy.

If you have a copy of FreeMind, simply change the extension on our Delivery file from “.txt” to “.mm”  Of course, don’t type the quotes.  This is just a sample for example purposes only.  Feel free to edit or modify these files  in any manner you choose.

If you would like to learn more about IDEA Mapping we would encourage you to also read Idea Mapping – How to Access Your Hidden Brain Power, Learn Faster, Remember More, and Achieve Success in Business by author Jamie Nast (twitter:  @JamieNast) or you can visit the website at:  http://www.ideamappingsuccess.com/.

Click here to review or purchase your copy of Idea Mapping: How to Access Your Hidden Brain Power, Learn Faster, Remember More, and Achieve Success in Business

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

IDEA Mapping, Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, New Jersey, Published simultaneously in Canada (ISBN-13:  978-0-471-78862-1, ISBN-10:  0-471-78862-7), 268 pages.  The book includes a companion CD-ROM featuring a 21 day trial for Mindjet MindManager 6.