Sunday, December 9, 2018

LEAN & the 4th Industrial Revolution Part 1: Jidoka

The Jetsons

  1. First, a quick history lesson. The first three "Industrial Revolutions":

The First (18th-19th centuries)-farmers became small urban manufacturers. Think iron, textiles and the steam engine. 

The Second (1870-1914)-electric power allowed small urban manufacturers to become large urban manufacturers, especially, steel, oil and electricity. Highlight was the development of the internal combustion engine.

The Third (1980s-today)-aka the Digital Revolution-the advances from analog electronic and mechanical devices to digital technology. People suddenly rely on computers, a cell phones and the internet.

The phrase 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' was first coined by Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum in 2016, and introduced the same year at the World Economic Forum. 4IR is characterized by "the fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres". In other words, The Jetsons. Think robotics, artificial intelligence and the internet of things. Think additive manufacturing and 3D printing on steroids.

Now lets talk about the lean concept "Jidoka". which is defined as autonomation or "automation with a human touch".  I suppose this very narrow definition comes from the story of how Sakichi Toyoda (Toyoda Automatic Loom Works LtD) in the early 1900s invented a self-stopping loom that avoided the hours and hours of untangling woven fabric. Watching people struggle to untangle fabric bothered Toyoda, and believed that work to be disrespectful to human beings. Which brings me to what jidoka really means: RESPECT FOR PEOPLE.


The goal of a lean strategy is to leverage operational excellence to create market disruption by methodically eliminating the 8 wastes. People do more productive work and much less waste (non-value added work). Companies successful in lean see huge improvements in productivity (often measured as sales/labor hour). The 4IR will be marked by quantum, exponential leaps in productivity (our ability to do more with the same human effort). More important, the 4IR can result in quantum leaps in human's quality of life. My friend Lenord Hahn of Ulbrich Steel alerted me to a 15 minute Ted Talk you may enjoy where Kai-Fu Lee discusses how artificial intelligence can save our humanity. More and more, humans will be doing fulfilling human work and machines will be delegated to repetitive, tedious tasks!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion, which will talk about the 4IR and the concept of Nemawashi.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Flipping Doubting Thomas

Doubting Thomas, who needs to see with his own two eyes
Let's face it, sometimes managers are much better at kicking things off than sustaining them.

Invariably, when a company brings me in to build a spirit of kaizen, sooner rather than later, I meet at least one Doubting Thomas. Sometimes a few Thomases. This is how the conversation goes:

Thomas: "Don't get me wrong, I really like what you're doing. But, no offense, we've tried all that before. TQM, 6 sigma, Lean, Mapping, 5S, TQM, Just-In -Time, you name it, we've done it. Back in 93 I was even certified." 
(Translation: You can save both of us time and aggravation by driving your lean butt back to the airport. Your stuff won't fly here).

Me: "This is different, blah, blah, blah. It worked in my own business and  enabled us to increase sales from $18M to $32M without adding any more people, blah, blah, blah. I can also show you how it has worked in a dozen or so of my clients, maybe we can arrange a site visit so you can see for yourself, blah, blah, blah."

Thomas: "Don't get me wrong, I really like what you're doing. But, no offense, we've tried all that before. TQM, 6 sigma, Lean, Mapping, 5S, TQM, Just-In -Time, you name it, we've done it. Back in 93 I was even certified." 
(Translation: You can save both of us time and aggravation by driving your lean butt back to the airport. Your stuff won't fly here).

Nothing can be said. Thomas has heard it all before. Power Points ad nauseum, Gemba Walks, Lean committees, he's lived through it all. There is only one way to flip Thomas. He needs to see a huge change in management. Management needs to get their hands dirty. 

One of the many benefits of introducing A3 to build a spirit and culture of continuous improvement is that it makes it really easy for managers to get their hands dirty. The A3 board is very visible and it spells out the active improvements, who is leading it, when it started and who is coaching (getting hands dirty). Any manager who wants to get their hands dirty can simply go to the board, pick an a active improvement and go see the person leading it, and ask, humbly, "will you show me what you're doing?" Managers can also show up at the weekly closings to demonstrate that lean is important and express gratitude and sometimes amazement at how smart people really are.

In my own business, 70 people would lead 8 or 900 improvements each year. Lots of opportunities to convince Thomas that things are different and that they could trust management to follow through.

The good news is that once I flip Thomas, he becomes my biggest proponent! Before I knew better, I thought of my doubters as my foe. In reality, Thomas is my best friend!


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sacred Cows and Silo Waste

A3 is about a slow, steady, continuous march toward flow. Instead of "doing" continuous improvement when you have time, or every once in a while (an event), A3 is about developing a new process in your business so smaller improvements occur daily by pretty much the entire company.

When you first adopt this new process, everyone is excited. A3 becomes a really easy way to implement hundreds of employee suggestions. The people who actually DO the work feel like they have a say in how their work is done. Hours and hours of non-value added work (the 8 wastes) is eliminated and morale improves. 

The idea is that we start A3 using employee suggestions, and then graduate to problems like customer complaints,  recurring defects, late orders, and even some long standing sacred cows that some managers dig their heels in to defend. Usually it involves a silo that should be "serving" operations. Think IT, Sales, Quality, EH&S, HR, Finance, Purchasing, Maintenance, Senior Leadership, sometimes even the "lean department". As people become better at seeing waste, they become more and more frustrated with silos making waste and the managers in charge of these silos. 

Inevitably, someone who has been doing their part by willingly leading improvements in operations will become sick and tired of living with silo waste and will become determined to lessen the impact. This is usually where all the enthusiasm and high-fives from A3 turn into long faces and feet dragging. Even though nobody in their right mind would argue that said silo waste needs to be improved, this is where managers tend to defend a bad process that causes waste (defects, overproduction, waiting, non-essential processing (sign-offs), transport, inventory and/or motion). The problem with A3 is that it makes waste (including) silo waste way too visible. A3 is good enough to go after waste on the factory floor, but not in the silos?

This is where senior leadership really needs to actively get involved and help the company over this hurdle. Once the silo waste starts to get eliminated, THEN everyone starts to see that management means what they say and really are committed to lean thinking!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

LEAN: People First, Improvements Second!

I'm not sure there is a more misunderstood lean concept than A3. I have heard it referred to as a form. I have seen people judge A3 improvements strictly by "return on investment". I have seen people's improvement ideas squashed because some manager decided the improvement wasn't worthy. This is all short-sided thinking!

A famous Toyota Production System mantra is "build leaders then build cars". Most companies FAIL when attempting a lean journey because the focus is on the improvements and not on the people making them!. The "lean journey" doesn't even make it out of the driveway.

An A3 program starts by asking everyone in the company 1 question. "if you owned the business, what change would you make to your job right now?". I have asked this question thousands of times, and amazingly, people never answer it selfishly. The response is always some obstacle that keeps them from doing their job productively.

The A3 form itself teaches people how to become really good problem solvers. The boxes on the form are laid out to mirror the scientific method of problem solving: define, then measure, analyze, then improve, then control. Imagine competing against an entire population of people getting better and better as problem solvers? Yikes!

People who lead A3 are practicing the skills we would expect from good leaders. First they need to recruit and lead a team of 3-5 people. They learn to take these people through the DMAIC. They learn how to do root cause analysis, leverage diversity of the group and gain agreement. Then, after the improvements are made, they are asked to get up in front of the whole company and teach everyone what they've learned (at the A3 closing). People learn how to be good team leaders and members, and they learn they can overcome their fear of public speaking. Mangers have an opportunity to encourage and thank these growing leaders. 

Toyota is right. Lean is about building leaders. The improvements are icing on the cake!
























Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Leadershp Lessons from Alex Cora

First I want to give you my credentials. I like the New England Patriots, a lot. I LOVE the Boston Red Sox. A lot. I pretty much listen to every game starting in April while I'm in my office, in my shed, in the garden, driving, wherever. There. Those are my credentials.

Obviously, this season has been one of the most fun I can ever remember. 108 regular season wins, a trip through the hated Yankees and Houston and on to the World Series.

Come play off time, I actually watch the Red Sox. Needless to say, there have been a few anxious, head scratching  moments so far. Let's start with our closer, Craig Kimbrell. During the ALDS and ALCS, Kimbrell decided he would take a few years off my life my turning a routine close situation into can't find the plate, runners on base, go-ahead runs in scoring position, etc. He was responsible for 20 or so minutes of hell. One game ended with Benintendi making a catch on his stomach to bail Kimbrell out. In Game 4 of the Houston series, a silent Minute Maid Park became deafeningly loud when the bases were suddenly full of Astro players. Houdini escaped again.

David Price pitched as well as we ever saw in Game 5 the following night, and the Red Sox went into the bottom of the 9th with a slim lead. Who does Alex Cora have coming out of the bullpen to face the meat of the Astro's order? Kimbrell again. I watched with horror as the bullpen door opened, thinking I was in for 20 minutes of hell again. Wrong. 5 minutes later, the game was over On to the World Series.

The word I have heard uttered from Alex Cora numerous times is...…..TRUST. As in, "Craig is our closer, we trust he will get the job done". Chris Sale (our ace) found himself in the hospital, unable to pitch game 5. The night before, David Price warmed up in the bullpen for what seemed like 2 hours. Guess who Cora gave the ball to, in HOUSTON, to start game 5? The same guy who had not won a playoff game ever! Why? "David is an excellent pitcher. I trust him."

Christian Vazquez, one of our catchers, has really struggled at the plate. Who played a significant role in the series, both behind and at the plate? Christian. Cora just flat out trusts him. Jackie Bradley Jr. batted .170 for 2 or 3 months. A major league outfielder with that low a batting average is usually benched for option B. Not Cora. The press, the fans, radio call-ins killed Cora for most of these decisions. The common denominator for these and other moves is Alex Cora's unshakable faith in his team. 

It is absolutely amazing how people will perform and how much they will give of themselves if you don't give up on them, continue to improve with them and just trust them. As leaders, don't we have a responsibility to trust and develop them? After all, who hired them?







Sunday, October 21, 2018

Doing Lean When You're Fat Dumb & Happy


Many years ago, when I first started my lean journey (trip to hell), my sensei told me that in order to "do" lean well, you need to find and communicate a "lever" to everyone in my company. A lever can be defined as a compelling reason to change in order to get everybody to "buy in". Without a good lever, it is too hard to convince everyone to change well established, comfortable behaviors. 



Well that didn't take much imagination, considering for the first time in my life, I was faced with poor cash flow and the prospect of laying people off. Three hurricanes wiped out our 3rd quarter business in 2003 (we were construction-based) The "lever" was if we don't change the way we run our business, we are screwed. Just like my sensei said, almost everyone jumped on board and pitched in. It was still hard, but we were able to develop a culture of kaizen.



Then we started winning. Customers got their orders very fast, inventory was cut by 3/4, we had cash, people were rewarded with nice bonuses. We were able to grow from 18M to 32M in sales with the same 70 people. Our company was named one of the best companies to work in Connecticut 3 or 4 times in a row. 



Then lean got harder. People start to think that we were done. We were lean!!! What's all the commotion about? Relax! Life is good. We might have started to get fat, dumb and happy. 

Then Wall Street 2008 happened. New lever! No more fat, dumb & happy. People worked hard to cut process times by eliminating the 8 wastes using A3 (over 800 of them). The result? No layoffs, bonuses paid.

So, how do we do lean without a good lever? Think of lean as an insurance policy for your business. The premiums are the time spent developing people's ability to make improvements and solve problems. Managers need to work relentlessly to cut through complacency and "busy"-ness to make continuous improvement a way of life. Make sure you communicate that our prosperity and good fortune is not guaranteed. 

Lean is easy when you have a lever, a lot more challenging when you're fat, dumb and happy!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Just Go Lean Something Today

Here I sit on a Sunday morning, having officiated some college football this weekend. As always, there are a few plays that I wish I could have done differently. In 32 years, I have never NOT felt this way. Officiating is like golf and lean, I guess...the never-ending pursuit of perfection and a test of stick-to-itiveness. 

My biggest regret when I started "doing" lean in my own company in 2002 is that I wasted way too much time getting myself and everyone else up to speed on lean concepts. You see, we had a mandatory 1-hour weekly company meeting (on Wednesday mornings at 9 am) for over 1 year. I bought and handed out 70 copies of "Lean Thinking", "The Toyota Way", "It's Your Ship", "Toyota Kata", "Learning to See", and asked everyone to read 1 chapter per week. On Wednesday morning, I would administer a quiz. I also spent 3 months of my own life, at the same time, getting myself "certified".

Eventually, it becomes time to actually DO. As my lean friends out there know, actually DOING is 1000x harder than studying and learning about it. The word KAIZEN rolls off the tongue in less than 2 seconds, and it all sounds beautiful in theory. Creating a culture of kaizen, however, feels like about 20 minutes...….UNDER WATER! 

Sort of like officiating football or hitting a golf ball. I can study, watch Power Points, whatever, but sooner or later, you need to hit the field with people yelling at you, or you find yourself on the 1st tee with everyone watching you.

LEAN is the ultimate learn by doing business strategy. Why not just go ahead and lean something today?