Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cruise toward Lean

NBI is offering a strictly limited number of seats to learn about Lean on a cruise of the Mediterranean Sea!

Check it out by Clicking Here


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hansei and Paradigms

I enjoyed another interesting week as I introduced several new companies to the concepts of lean thinking. When I present these concepts, I like to begin by introducing paradigms. If time permits, I’ll introduce Joel Barkers film “The Business of Paradigms” … its such a powerful presentation. Paradigms are rules that we enforce upon ourselves that often block our ability to see alternative ways forward. I have caught myself doing this on many occasions – as recently as this past week!

I like to end these sessions by conducting a hansei. Hansei is a new concept to North Americans. Reflecting on events and giving group feedback to improve is uncomfortable and foreign. North Americans are more comfortable giving anonymous feedback using feedback forms and surveys. Inevitably, someone comments about the introduction of Japanese words, like hansei – “ why don’t you just say what you mean and use English words”. Jon Miller talks about that on his blog. Because this is such a foreign and uncomfortable concept, there is no simple English translation that does hansei justice. As uncomfortable as it is when started, the results of the hansei are powerful and immediate if acted upon. This single concept is perhaps the most fundamental and powerful in lean – reflecting and learning on what we did, saw, or heard. It is the Check in the PDCA cycle. I encourage my clients to adopt this concept at the end of every “formal” meeting. It can quickly transform the time together to become more effective and it teaches participants the art of reflection and providing feedback.

My presentations never contain a sales pitch (unless, of course, the presentation itself in its entirety is a sales pitch). Outside of one slide introducing who we are and what we do, I like to keep the content focussed on the subject matter. If participants need help with implementation, we can connect as a followup to the session. In one session, during the hansai, a participant commented that they liked the introduction to lean but got lost when I started talking about what I would do for the company as a consultant. The presentation included a segment on Hoshin Kanri – Strategy Deployment, and how this lean tool builds on the company values, mission and vision to become a powerful execution tool. Its interesting how narrow a view there is of lean. The concept of lean enterprise is in its infancy. Applying lean outside the shop floor (lean manufacturing), the office (lean office) or the design studio (lean product development) is not widely accepted. Using Hoshin Kanri, office Kaizen and a Lean Management System for leaders is still quite foreign. It goes beyond the current paradigm.

I’m now thinking about how I can adjust the presentation for better flow to transition from the basic fundamentals of lean thinking to more advanced concepts (like Hoshin Kanri and a Lean Daily Management System). Perhaps this is beyond a lean introduction. Perhaps I have not reflected enough on ways to make this improvement.

In either case, the hansei, reflection and continuous improvement is firmly engrained in my process.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Lean Tools Crossword

Looking for a diversion? Need some training tools?
Try our Lean Tools Crossword.

Just print it out and have some fun!

For those who get frustrated, we've provided a link to the solution.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Find a systems thinker for your organization

In most industries, leaders put up barriers when they see someone from outside their industry looking in. Whether hiring workers, consultants, trainers, managers or engineers, they put the blinders on and look for someone who has done that particular job before.

When thinking lean, we explore how we do the work. We break tasks out to discover what skills are required, what equipment is required, what tools are required, what material is required, what information is required. We look at how all of this fits together to create flow. Where we can’t flow, we introduce pull. We level out the work and install visual queues to see where the problems are. We engage people in fixing the system.

In doing all of this, it does not matter if he are building cars, treating patients, making ice cream, digging coal, making paper, designing spaceships, building skyscrapers or making vaccine.

Every task in any business can be broken down into a system. Lean thinking is applied to the system. We work on how we do the work and eliminate waste in the process. Lean is all about continuously improving the system to deliver customer value.

More companies should realize that while they are “unique” in what they do, they are simply using systems and processes to create value for the customer. Hiring someone who has a systems background and understands lean thinking can be a huge asset to any organization. Put these people to work!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Standard work for leaders

One the fundamentals of lean is the concept of standard work. Where there is no standard work, there can be no kaizen. Kaizen roughly translates to “change for the good”. But our people must establish, agree on, and become proficient at the current method before they can improve it.

Its fine to ask our newest people to raise the flag and ask “why” we are doing things a certain way. But if everyone does things differently, how do we make any improvement at all? The answer is to adopt a standard way, then improve on it. Our peoples job is to do the work and to improve the work.

Have you looked at standard work for supervisors, for managers, for team leaders? Perhaps if we adopt standard work for our leaders, our improvement initiatives will be smoother. What is it that our leaders should do every day to help us succeed? How do we know they are doing it?

The links below are some templates for thought starters. I’d be pleased to hear your success stories with leader standard work!

Team Leader Standard Work
Supervisor Standard Work


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Prioritizing a List of Ideas

I was reminded of a great quote by George Bernard Shaw; "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange those ideas, then each of us will have two ideas".

Teams in the workplace today have little time for in-depth analyses of issues. They look for ways to streamline their work. Ideas that are generated during brainstorming sessions often result in long lists containing 100 or more ideas. So how does a team prioritize such a list quickly?

The first step in the process is to group similar ideas. IT IS IMPORTANT DURING THIS PROCESS TO WRITE BOTH IDEAS TOGETHER AS THE GROUPED IDEA AND NOT JUST CROSS OUT DUPLICATES. People maintain ownership of their ideas and may withdraw if the impression is left that their idea was thrown out.

If there are still a large number of ideas (over 40) then use an ishikawa diagram (fishbone process) to group ideas into similar categories. Common groupings may be the 6 M's (Machine, Method, Materials, Maintenance, Man and Mother Nature), the 8 P's (Price, Promotion, People, Processes, Place / Plant, Policies, Procedures, and Product) or the 4 S's (Surroundings, Suppliers, Systems, Skills). Encourage the group to come up with its own natural groupings based on the ideas generated during the brainstorming process.

Once the grouping have taken the ideas down to a smaller, more manageable list (less that 40 items), use the 10-4 voting method to Pareto the ideas into the highest priority.

10-4 voting

Each person is given 10 "points" that they can "spend" on any idea. No more than 4 points can be used on any one idea. All 10 points must be used by each participant. Number the ideas for easy reference. Have the group spend a few minutes to determine where they want to spend their points. Then, in rotation, have each team member tell you how they want their points distributed. Ensure that each person spends all 10 points and no more than 4 on any one item. No saving points for future consideration. Once the votes are done, add the total points on each item to generate your top 10 list of items to tackle. Assign teams to work on the top items on your list.

Explain that while all the items generated are important, we have limited resources, so the team will focus on the top items first, then come back to the remaining items as time and resources permit. Once the top items are completed, repeat the process with the remaining items.

Note that this method of Pareto analysis is based on group opinion. In some situations, the top items should be validated with data to ensure the group opinion is aligned with the current actual situation. Often the group opinion and data will not align, as thorough analysis has not been done.

The 10-4 voting system can be used with sticky dots, available from a stationary store. Each person is given 10 dots, and can put their dots on any item with a maximum of 4 on any one item.

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