Spring 2017 Bootcamp

Spring 2017 Bootcamp

Monday, February 27, 2017

Fail Faster!! by Pat Hughes

Today's guest columnist is Pat Hughes, a friend of mine who  works at Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals, Inc. (North Haven, CT) as Manufacturing Analyst/Project Leader. She is an experienced lean and agile practitioner, dog trainer and my consigliere!
It is amazing how Lean Concepts seem to appear everywhere once you become more familiar with them and gain some hands-on experience. I am reading a book Thank You for Being Late by Thomas L. Friedman recommended to me by one of our senior executives. The book is about the acceleration in the rate of change we are experiencing in our world today.

In the book’s introduction the author quotes Eric “Astro” Teller the CEO of Google’s X research and development lab, stating he encourages his folks to “Fail fast” as it is only through rapid testing of ideas they can continue to maintain a leadership position in innovation.

This immediately reminded me of the TPS concept of frequent experimentation. At Toyota all employees are coached to observe processes and devise quick experiments to solve problems. They identify the problem, develop a hypothesis, prototype a change, predict the results and implement, then compare the actual results to their prediction. Any discrepancy between actual and predicted results offers another opportunity for improvement.

This should be pretty familiar to all of us now as DMAIC, as we practice through our A3 process. There is a direct line between the TPS system as trained at Toyota and A3 as we practice it. Our small, temporary A3 teams are encouraged to experiment with prototype solutions. Sometimes a mocked up solution appears more like and arts and crafts project rather than a manufacturing process improvement.  But it is just this opportunity for the teams to independently analyze, design and implement that propels A3 projects to provide results faster and increase the rate of A3 changes.

Not every proposed solution is perfect the first time through. But the cycle of continuous, continuous improvement begins with that first proposal, accelerates from there and carries us into the future. So everyone who practices A3, Fail Faster!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hug Your Haters: The Beauty of Customer Complaints

"Haters are not your problem....ignoring them is"

If you'd like a really fun read, try out Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers by Jay Baer, one of 2016's top 3 marketing books. Being pretty much an idiot, I read this as a LEAN textbook, even though it is being celebrated as groundbreaking in customer service circles.

For those of you who have religiously or even occasionally sifted through my drivel over the past 5 years, you know how important complaints are to me. My #1 favorite A3 project is without question customer complaints! I have always looked at complaints as a way to directly delight my customer and show them just exactly how important they are. It gives us the chance to put our A3 program on full display, and then watch with astonishment how loved our customers feel. You see, I KNOW my customers realize nobody is perfect, and I also KNOW they lodge complaints to their other suppliers, including competitors.

Think about a time when you were livid about some product or service you just paid for. Think about how much more livid you got when you found yourself going nowhere fast. Maybe you got typed into a complaint system, or had to wait on hold for weeks for answers. All the smiles and pats on the back from the sales team turned into the sounds of silence as soon as a little trouble arose. I'm convinced that most customers will even pay a little more if they know you are always there in times of trouble.

According to Jay, 80% of companies say they deliver out­standing customer service, but only 8% of their customers agree. THAT leaves you lots of room to delight.

In a 2015 INC Magazine article, Baer suggests 3 ways to use complaints to strengthen your business:
  1. Seek out your haters-don't wait for them to come to you. In my manufacturing company, I used to think "no news is good news". Complaints actually indicate pain points that you need to address. (Remember the TPS principle "make problems visible and the root of your organizational learning?)   
  2. Leave no complaint unturned-by using temporary self-directed work teams and A3 to address complaints, you are creating a deeper brand experience for your customer. The A3 team is a cross-section of every person needed to get to root cause and implement a countermeasure (s) that prevents the problem from ever happening again. And it happens fast.
  3. Craft a "hatrix" to guide your responses-this document is meant to explain to team members the best way to deal with complaints based on where and how they were delivered. We want to make sure our customer gets delighted no matter whom they are delivering their "message" to.
I read this as a lean textbook because the goal of a lean journey is to "leverage operational excellence to create market disruption.'" That means being one of the 8%!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

"Livin' On a Prayer" vs. Plan-Do-Check-Act

I don't consider myself a handicapper, so I'm not going to predict the outcome of the Super Bowl this coming Sunday. Two good teams, hopefully a good game. The best team for 3 hours will win. Most likely, it will be the team that makes adjustments the fastest. During preparation leading up to the game, think of the game plan as the plan and the do of the plan-do-check-act (PDCA). Just because you have a plan, it seems silly if you realize very early the plan isn't working too well. I would argue that the New England Patriots do the best job of continually doing PDCA throughout a ball game.

In the AFC Championship game, it was evident that the Pittsburgh Steelers stuck to their game plan. Good for them. They stayed with their game plan straight to a beat down. The Patriots, on the other hand made adjustments offensively and defensively every series! PDCA after PDCA after PDCA, etc. etc. As frustrating as it was to watch for Steelers fans, the game seemed like a great example of "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!" It seemed like the Steelers coaching staff was "Livin' On a Prayer". (Isn't it ironic in the video above that the fans (and Bon Jovi) in Foxboro were serenading everyone with that song during the game? Were they serenading the Pittsburgh sideline?)

One of my favorite interpretations of the Toyota Production System concept of "respect for people" is "DO NOT IMPOSE WISHFUL THINKING ON YOUR CUSTOMER!!" It is a good idea, if you are a leader, to think of your employees as your customers here. Pretend there is a process they are required to do, and the process yields either rework, defects, problems, headaches, agita, etc. A lack of TPS respect is reassuring them over and over that the process is great, you're just not doing it right! Or being frustrated that the results don't match expectations.

That's why it is so important that leaders go to the gemba (where the work is) and see for themselves. When the "game plan" isn't yielding the results everyone wants, work with your team to make some adjustments. PDCA, PDCA, PDCA. It's not plan plan plan or do do do do, it's PDCA!!

Be like Bill B. Don't impose wishful thinking on your customer.

Go ahead and click on the link enjoy. Maybe I'll be a handicapper after all. Patriots 37 Falcons 17.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Good Coaching: You Know It When You See It

For those of you who make it a habit to read my blogs regularly, you know I absolutely love good coaching. As a 30+ year college football official, I get pretty good opportunity to watch phenomenal leaders on Saturdays in the Fall. I'm sure several of you may be a bit tired of my constant examples of Bill Belichick's abilities to motivate a group of employees to outperform the sum of their collective parts. Throw John Wooden (UCLA basketball), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke basketball), Greg Popovitch (Spurs basketball), Vince Lombardi (Packers football), Geno Auriemma (UCONN basketball),  Paul Assaiante (Trinity College squash) and Paul "Bear" Bryant (Alabama football) to name a few people that demonstrate a sustained level of coaching excellence.

Lucky for me, my real job (not that football referee isn't "real"), I continuously marvel at people's ability to positively impact other people as coaches and mentors. A particular source of joy is watching people who take it upon themselves to be generous with their experience and knowledge without the power to fire or discipline anyone. No titles. These remarkable people lead because they are respected and do it for one reason and one reason only....to help.....what we lean people call "servant leadership"

Meet a glowing, living, breathing example of really good coaching. Meet Ray Pelletier of Ulbrich Steel (North Haven, CT).  Ray is a27 year veteran (very few people seem to leave Ulbrich), and is probably one of the best in the world in operating the 48 Slitter. his primary job. When other people go on vacation, Ray can seamlessly run the cutters and levelers. Like many veterans at Ulbrich, managers pair young people with Ray for training as "helpers".

Ulbrich is also a "lean company" in the purest sense of the word. That is, Ulbrich "walks the talk". Continuous improvement is part of the Ulbrich culture. Kaizen improvements are led by the people who actually do the work. Every day, not once in a while.

Ray was one of the "early adopters" when Ulbrich started doing kaizen using A3 via temporary self-directed work teams. He is one of the leaders with regard to number of improvements completed each year, is a member of Lean Manager John Peterson's Lean Beret, a group of 8 people who work to teach others how to use A3.

Ray has an extraordinary ability to develop brand new people into
very good A3 leaders. Almost as soon as they start working, Ray is encouraging people to look at their (and his) work with an eye for improvement. He teaches them all about the 8 wastes and helps them through the A3 process, helping them pick their teams, organize their meetings, fill out the form, and  prepare for the company-wide closing, where they get up in front of everyone (including the COO) and teach what they've learned.

I've read decades ago that Toyota "builds leaders, then cars". It took me a long time to understand why a company would need so many leaders (don't we need followers too?).  Ray Pelletier is a really good example of what Toyota has in mind.  Imagine an entire company of people who live and understand the company philosophy and culture? An entire company of people willing and capable of incredible problem solving every shift? An entire company of people who never say "good enough"? And an entire company of people whose first instinct  is to help others selflessly (like Ray and others at Ulbrich)?

"Continuously develop Your People and Partners" is one of the 4 Toyota tenets and it is very difficult if you leave it to management and HR alone. That's what most organizations do. "if you want results others don't get, you need to be willing to do things others won't do." Like building great coaches. You'll know it when you see it!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

When the Landlord Oversteps His Bounds

Just think about how maddeningly disrespectful it would be if this happened. You just had a hard day at work, headed home, go upstairs to your apartment. Put the key in the door, open it up. And voila!!! Your landlord decided that he wasn't too crazy about how you had your furniture arranged. Of course he has a key to your apartment, and sometime during the day, he went in and shifted things around. He moved the sofa under the window, threw the slightly wobbly coffee table your aunt gave you into the dumpster, pulled some red curtains out of the linen closet, took the blue ones down, and folded them up and pitched them too, along with some knickknacks and the Jimi Hendrix and Farah Fawcett posters.

The first time it happened, you might feel a bit violated, probably angry, and because he is your landlord, and not your boss, you probably go down to Apartment 1C, pound on the door, and give him a piece of your mind. Hard feelings would persist, crossing paths would prove to be awkward to say the least. The cold shoulder would replace "how bout them Mets" or "particularly nasty weather, eh?" The Friday night poker game would be discontinued, etc. Maybe your landlord would see the error of his ways, apologize, give you a month rent-free, the poker game starts up and again, and then, 6 months later, you come home to find your dining room furniture in the kitchen, and all of your leftovers in Tupperware tossed into the trash. I'm not sure I need to speculate about how this scenario plays out.

From a LEAN Respect for People standpoint, the landlord, with his key, did a fantastic job of going to the GEMBA. He should be applauded for his drive to do a little continuous improvement, right? Isn't it obvious that the sofa makes more sense to be under the window (instead of blocking the hallway to the bedrooms (you used to have to climb over it))? It creates better "flow". A little 5S (especially sort, i.e. pitching crap) was long over due? Everything has it's place (set)!!

Many years ago, when I was first certified as a LEAN CHAMPION, my first kaizen event was to "fix" our shipping area. You know, 5S, create some nice flow,  So I picked one or two residents from the shipping department, along with a handful of other people who worked in other apartments, I mean departments. The rest of the tenants of the shipping department got to watch as the landlord and a few others ransacked their department.

Respect for people means don't fix other people's jobs,. If you're a supervisor/foreman/manager/landlord, going to the GEMBA means gaining agreement before chucking someone's knickknacks.

Thank you to my friend Esteban Ortiz of Light Metals Coloring (Southington, CT), for presenting "respect for people" in such a clear, simple way!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Why Consider the Winter 2017 P4 A3 Bootcamp?

LEAN, TPS, Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, whatever you want to call it, is way too hard to do in a vacuum. I've described the "lean journey (sounds joyful, right?!)" as the GREEN MILE or fondly, as the trip through HELL. On a scale from 1-10, a LEAN culture is a 58. BUT, "if you expect RESULTS others don't get, you need to be willing to DO things others won't  do!!!"

My first "implementation (sounds orderly, doesn't it?)" was in my own company, a 90 person little company in East Hartford, CT. What looked logical and fun on paper and on PowerPoints during my certification started strong, turned into root canal surgery, then proceeded 2 steps forward, 1 back, then 5 forward, 1 back, until it became part of who we were. Scrapping the whole idea might have crossed my mind (and my poor wife's) a few times. Then it all clicked. The people on board outnumbered the doubters, respect for people replaced kaizen events, the corporate university got rolling. Then, and only then, wee we able to almost double sales with the same human resources. Then, and only then, were we named one of the best paces to work in Connecticut (5 times).

Partway through my "trip", I started to go and see other companies. Other companies came to visit us. I also started to go to lean events on a fairly regular basis. One that comes to mind was the International Lean Enterprise Institute Summit. Some expensive, some cheap. Some local, some far away.

The beauty of all this was the realization that we were exactly where we should be. I started to bring others along. We learned we did some things better, and some things worse than others. I got to see how other people were interpreting and implementing the same maddeningly simple concepts of the Toyota Production System. How did other people demonstrate respect for people? How did they actually DO kaizen? What obstacles did they have to work through? How do you do LEAN when everyone is crazy busy?

With that in mind, I would like to invite you to our P4 Winter 2017 A3 Boot Camp. It is a long day spent with other LEAN Zealots, as well as a few people just getting started on their trip through hell. When I started the Boot Camps, my intention was to try and help others avoid some of the hurdles (mostly people change management issues) that we all encounter. The cost is $370, and to register, just click on the snowman above!

Plus, as a BONUS, you get a nice continental breakfast and a yummy lunch in a nice hotel (see the picture I took today above), you'll make some new allies as you move forward on your journey, and you get to spend the day with me (yippy doo). Hands on and gloves off.

Expect a few laughs. Although it is hard, it shouldn't be glum!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Lights! Camera! Action! Use of Video On Your Lean Journey

Not many years ago, using video as a learning tool was not very easy. For the first 15 years of my football officiating, I never actually saw myself on film at all. As far as I knew, as long as the coaches weren't screaming, I was doing great. When I was promoted to division 1, my referee was tasked with bringing a vcr player (and renting a hotel tv) to our Friday night pre-game meeting every week so our crew could watch our previous week's game. The rewind and fast forward button was worn out to find a specific play. As cumbersome as it was, we got to see the good, the bad & the ugly......and learn something from it. 

Fast forward to today. If our game ends at 4pm, and the game is televised, the video is on-line and ready to be watched before we finish showering! We are graded on video for every call we make (or don't make). Instant video replay confirms or overturns calls in real time. 

The camcorder and video projector has turned into the Smart phone or iPad. Video can be shot, edited and a voiceover can be applied in minutes using free software. It  only makes sense to use this technology to learn and teach in our continuous improvement efforts. Here are 4 ways for you to consider.

1. At GEMBA-years ago, we would need to spend hours watching the same process to truly understand what was going on. While nothing will ever replace direct observation, the ability to share what you observed with others is so valuable.
2. Standard Work-since people learn best in different ways, why not use video as a teaching tool so visual learners can wrap their mind around a task before being trained at GEMBA? Standard work is really about gaimg agreement on the current best way to do the work. Video makes it easy to see how different operators perform the same task. 
3. Bringing off shifts into the fold-one of my clients, Bakery On Main (East Hartford, CT) gave me the idea to video A3 Closings and put them on the TV monitors in the break area so that people on 2nd and 3rd shift could watch them and don't miss out. A3 closings quite often morph into opportunities for managers to express gratitude....don't forget the people who work while we sleep.  
4. Lean learning-go ahead and tap "lean" into the search function on Google or YouTube, sit back and watch as thousands of lean videos come right to your desktop. For fun, go to http://ow.ly/nxEh306NQYM to see how one really cool company, Fastcap,  preaches the gospel of lean via video. Why not watch one short video every single day to learn how others interpret and implement the seemingly simple concepts of the Toyota Production System.

Like anything else we do, we might struggle a bit when we first get started. Then, the more we do it, the easier it gets. The first video SOP I produced in my own company took three weeks! Before long, subsequent videos would be completed in a day or so, complete with voiceover. All of our "how to" videos were kept on the in-house network on a drive called "Duraflex University.

Give it a try this week. And make sure to have some fun with it!