Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Very First Podcast!

Bill III-my Marketing guy
My oldest son, Bill III is a marketing guy. His father (me) is a teacher and a preacher (and a football referee). Bill III is responsible for my blog, my Twitter, my LinkedIn, my Facebook, my boot camps. Without him, I'd be sending out faxes for marketing P4. Bill's father is a chemist by education, and process-oriented by nature. Bill III works for Hill Holiday, one of the best advertising agencies in the world. When Bill's father was determined to start his LEAN consulting business 6 years ago, Bill III spent hours hands-on and also on the phone (from Hong Kong at the time) teaching this old dog some new tricks. How to be a bit of a marketer.

Going into 2018, we had our usual state-of-P4 end of the year meeting over a couple of beers, and he advised me to start doing podcasts. People, he explained, don't always have time to read a blog, no matter how well intended it is. I promised him that I would do at least one in 2018.

Bill's father's gears might be slipping just a little bit. It turns out, Bill's father did do a podcast.....in 2015. The only problem was that he basically forgot to tell anyone. So now I want to fix that. 

The podcast was produced by a really cool company, Creative Safety Supply in Beaverton, OR. I was interviewed by Dan Clark, someone who sounds 1000 times better than I do, as you will see.  Indulge me if you will, and have a listen. We cover a ton of ground in 20 minutes, everything from respect for people to ownership vs. employee-ism to how managers sabotage lean progress.

Would you let me know if you like it so I can tell Bill III? Look for podcasts to come! Well, here it is: Respect for People & A3

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The A3 Current Condition: Measure Twice Cut Once!!

Lord Kelvin: Smart Dude
When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.”-William Thompson, Lord Kelvin
In my career as a Lean Zealot, I have personally been involved in thousands of improvement projects. For those of you who know me, I like to turn big problems into lots of small ones, and chip away every day. Like chopping wood. In the course of helping others though the A3 process, one of the biggest challenges I see is the ability to actually put numbers to problems. Either they are not readily available, or we subconsciously love to go right to a fix, aka "jumping to solutions".

The way I teach A3 is that each box on the sheet represents one part of the scientific method of problem solving, better known as the "DMAIC". The DMAIC is the muscle memory we need to do effective problem solving so the same problems stay solved, and don't re-surface again. The order is define, measure, analyze, improve and control. The title of the A3 is always a problem statement, not a fix. Define, in A3, is the box where we make sure the scope of the improvement is not too big, as well as explaining, in words, why the problem statement is in fact, a problem worth tackling. The measure box (in A3, it is called the Current Condition) is about showing proof, with numbers (data) that the impact of the problem on our business. Number of complaints, hours of waiting caused, amount of scrap, etc. I really can't do the "Analyze" well unless I do a good job in measuring. Root cause analysis (5 why or fishbone) becomes a guessing game if the problem is not well defined with numbers! In fact, the better job I do in measuring, the easier root cause analysis and the clearer the proper countermeasure becomes.

When we do our home projects, we will usually spend the time (learned from experience) to "measure twice, cut once". The wood probably costs $3/foot. Our business process improvements run into hundreds or thousands of dollars......measure thrice cut once!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Metrics DRIVE Behavior: Case Study: My Poor Excuse for a Watch

OK, let me start by telling you that I am not 9 years old. In fact I have had the opportunity to live over 57 years (so far). I've been married to a great friend for 32 years, and have helped raise 3 children. I help run 2 businesses, teach a college class, and referee college football at the Division 1 level. The point of me telling you this is so you believe me when I tell you that I have retained most of my faculties.

So why, in God's name, do I find myself walking in circles around my house at 11:30 at night for 15 minutes or more like an extra from the "Walking Dead?

It is NOT because I need the exercise. I've been "working out" religiously for 35 years or more, and am in decent shape physically. Please sit while I fill you in on what drives this behavior, which is one way of putting it. 

My kids thought that I would like a Fitbit (actually the Garmin version) for my 57th birthday back in January. This contraption looks like a stylish watch that goes with any outfit. In reality, it is a hypnotic device that slowly takes over your life. I'd love to get my hands on the genius who came up with this thing. You see, the premise is that the thing yells at you during the day. "Move!" it will scream if I'm stationary for more than a few minutes. The thing has only known me for a few months, yet it has already decided that my daily goal for steps is 11,150, and according to this masochist, I need to go up at least 10 steps per day. Cute. 11,150 steps is ~5.5 miles. To make things worse, if I hit my goal, the piece of plastic raises my goal the next day (where will it end?). When I hit my goal, the poor excuse for a watch (P.E.W) sings "Goal" and shows a party hat and some confetti flying. 

I'm on my feet all day. I do lean on my feet, where the work is. I hardly ever sit. The problem is I work out first thing every other morning, and hit my goal by mid-day. On days I don't jump rope or run, I usually find myself short of the celebration before bed. Hence, the "power walk" around the house. When the P.E.W. sings goal, I go to bed. As I started asking around, nearly everyone I talked to who owns one of these contraptions told me they do the exact same thing!! Geez.

The next time someone tells you that a well thought-out set of dashboard metrics will drive behavior in your business and you shrug your shoulders in doubt, please let me send you my P.E.W. for a month to convince you. 

Metrics drive behavior. It's just human nature!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lucy & Ethel Wrapping Chocolates: Would Someone Please Go to GEMBA for Crying Out Loud?

I am sure you ALL remember fondly the 1952 episode of the TV show "I Love Lucy" where Ricky Ricardo and Fred Mertz grew tired of their wives' spending habits. Ricky, Lucy, Fred and Ethel agreed to switch roles. Lucy & Ethel would go find a job, and Ricky and Fred would "take care of the house".  Lucy & Ethel go find a job in a chocolate factory, on an assembly line and quickly realize they need to do a little "kaizen" on the fly to keep up.

As a lean zealot (knucklehead), I find it necessary to watch this scene with an eye for improvement. Even though it's obvious the scene is for giggles, I can't help but think that there are some truths and some opportunities to be had. 

Lucy & Ethel find themselves early on in a fairly common predicament. They have been assigned to the "Wrapping Department" and their Team Leader seems to be a regular cheerleader in a torture chamber. Ethel indicates that she has already been "kicked out" of 3 previous departments. No surprise there if the coaching or training by the TL in wrapping is indicative of the entire chocolate factory! The TL gives a brief, basic 20,000 foot description (no demonstration) of the job and a poorly veiled threat. Following the threat, Miss Ratchet disappears to her office to check emails or maybe goes to a meeting somewhere. Lucy and Ethel are left without a goal. They do know that if a single chocolate gets by them, they're chocolate wrapping days are over.

Well, the conveyor belt starts. it is running at around 47 chocolates per minute, which means Lucy and Ethel need to wrap around 24 each minute. No sweat. This translates to 22,560 per day, or 5,414,400 per year. Whomever is running the conveyor decides on their own, without checking in with Lucy and Ethel, to jack up the speed of the line. This is obviously a good example of the king of the 8 wastes....overproduction. Overproduction is KING because it is the cause of many other of the wastes. In this case, motion, inventory (down the shirt, down the gullet, in the hat), defects (boxes will be short). Lucy & Ethel should be wearing tee shirts right now with the word "Bottleneck" on them.

Because Miss Ratchet wasn't at GEMBA at all, she does a flyover and ASSUMES all is well with Lucy and Ethel, and orders the belt to be sped up even more. Keep in mind that she has not watched Lucy & Ethel wrap even one chocolate! The belt is now running at an eye-popping 148 pieces per minute. This translates to 71,040 per day and 17,049,600 pieces of this chocolate over the course of a year. How much freakin candy is this company selling?

I'm not even going to touch carpal tunnel, burnout, overburden and all of that. Imagine working like that hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year? What happens when Lucy or Ethel are out sick or on vacation? Is Ratchet ready to jump in seamlessly? I'd pay anything to see her work at 148 pieces per minute for just one hour, and I'd give my left kidney to swap Ethel with the genius who controls the speed of the conveyor and let's see just how many chocolates he/she is capable of.

LEAN lesson: All of this could have been avoided if someone, ANYONE, went to the GEMBA (where the work is) for crying out loud.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A3 Dos and Don'ts for Managers

LMC's Viola Kimbrough leads an improvement with her A3 team
The two pillars of the Toyota Production System seem simple enough....."continuous improvement" and "respect for people". 

Well, continuous improvement meant means exactly that....continuous. Not when you have time, or during periodic "kaizen" events. Continuous improvement means everyone's job is to do their job AND improve their work. Respect for people means that the best and most qualified people to improve a process are the people that actually DO that process every day.

More and more companies are using A3 and temporary, self directed work teams to apply the concept of heijunka (load leveling) to kaizen. Companies I work for do hundreds and hundreds of A3 each year, and the best part of it is that the people who lead these improvements are the people who actually do the work.

The person who actually does the work where the problem exists is the person who "leads" the A3 team. That person picks 2-4 people to be members of their team. Usually they pick a "customer" of their process (whoever they give their work to), as well as people they think they may need to help them.....someone from IT or purchasing or quality or engineering or maybe maintenance. If the process improvement will impact someone's job, they need to be part of the team. After the team is selected, the A3 leader will invite his/her team to the first of several 20 minute A3 meetings AT GEMBA (where the problem lives, not in a conference room). During that first meeting, the team will begin to get a thorough understanding of the current condition. If you consider the DMAIC, this is the Measure step. The value of having A3 teams of 3-5 people is because of the power of the collective thinking of the group....we call it "leveraging diversity". Simply put, 5 brains are better than 1.

Sooner or later, it is bound to happen. An A3 leader decides that they need to include their boss on a team. I have seen managers participate very well on A3 teams, and I've also seen managers wreak havoc on a team. Let's talk about some things managers can do so they don't wreak havoc on an A3 team (for fun!!)

First, if  the boss is invited to be part of an A3 team, that boss needs to repeat over and over "it is not my job to fix the problem" (that is the job of the team). In non-lean companies, fixing other people's jobs is what they do. Some refer to this behavior as firefighting. On A3 teams, titles get checked at the door, and everyone on the team is equal. 

This doesn't always play out well, because sometimes the boss inadvertently steers the A3 team to the outcome they want to see, and the team follows like ducklings because, after all, that's the boss talking, and since he/she is the boss, then whatever comes out of their mouth must be smarter than what comes out of mine. 

Here is a simple fix.....the boss, when participating on A3 teams, needs to refrain from giving answers. Many times, managers can be rather talkative. For continuous improvement purposes, do not dominate the conversations. In fact, the only thing they can verbally communicate with are open ended questions. Don't ask yes/no questions, because they are meant to be affirmation of your agenda. Think of open ended questions as anything other than a question requiring a yes or no. This tool is called humble inquiry, and it is a way to invite more and more people open up and share their thoughts and opinions. 

There is NO WAY to build a culture of continuous improvement if managers do not master the art of humble inquiry.  Trust the A3 process of 3-5 people leveraging diversity and gaining agreement as the go through the plan-do-check-act process and MAKE TIME to support them!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ralph Waldo Emerson: How to Make LEAN Important

Let me start with the idea that people want to get caught doing what they think is important to their boss. Whatever that is, we want to always be doing it. If looking busy is important to the boss, you'd better believe folks will make sure they look busy when he/she comes around. If firefighting is valued, then people will make sure that the boss knows that I just helped save the day from near disaster. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson
I think we can agree the reason most companies struggle to implement a lean strategy is simply because it's just not all that important. To the boss. Humans aren't stupid. If the boss doesn't demonstrate, not just say, that lean is important, people will catch on really quickly. "Yeah, lean this, lean that, blah, blah, blah, now let's get back to work."

At least that is what I learned first hand in my own company when I kicked off our lean journey (green mile/trip through hell). When we started, other than some classes and kaizen events, my work day remained pretty much unchanged. You know, I managed my emails, my computer, sat in meetings, travelled to customers and suppliers and did some lean when I had some time. Consequently, progress was slow and people just didn't seem to be getting it. I found myself getting more and more frustrated! "What's the matter with these people? Don't they get it?

Then my Sensei at the time told me something brilliant. "If your job remains unchanged, then your lean efforts will fail." Now I never claimed to be smart, but it made sense to me, so I started WALKING THE TALK. It wasn't really that hard because my 70 person company was struggling at the time. There was definitely a sense of urgency to improve. 

Once people saw me checking in and asking open ended questions, spending time learning about people's processes, working hands on to build a spirit of kaizen, well.....bingo. They started to do what they thought was important to the boss.

I think Emerson was right.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mohawk Industries: "Move Forward with Consistent Persistence"

Mohawk Industries (Torrington, CT) is a manufacturer of carpet pad. With 40 employees, they take scrap foam from manufacturers of pillows, mattresses etc., grind it, mold it and cut it into the pad you see every day where carpet is being installed. My friend Gordon Richard is the Plant Manager at the Torrington (CT) facility, which has been awarded the “Most Improved Plant” two years in a row in areas of Safety, Quality and Productivity. I asked Gordon exactly how he and his team pulled THAT off?!? 

He explained that when he started there in the Fall of 2015, the plant was running, but not very effectively. Operators were very hard working but didn't have a sense of mission....they simply came in and went home day after day.

"After meeting everyone and getting acclimated to the technology, I began thinking of my LEAN background and looking for a starting point to change the thinking." Gordon realized he had plenty of SMEs (Subject Matter Experts!). Of course they didn’t know they were experts, and he wanted to make sure they felt like experts and started to develop basic operating metrics, essentially a base to grow from.

"I talked about the 8 wastes and where we might find them in our processes. Almost immediately the ideas started flowing! I used the A3 process and my own form to organize our thinking, and focused a lot on point of use inventory and tool storage. That was followed with some significant safety and quality ideas that we quickly implemented and celebrated… lots of recognition and pizza!

As company metrics started to show improvement, the Torrington facility became a hot topic at corporate as our quality and flexibility to our customers was better than anyone had experienced from this facility (this facility has been making pad since 1998).

“In the past, our sales team had bad experiences with poor quality, poor communication and botched deliveries from this facility. Our new attitude towards improvement was very welcome and resulted in 15 sales managers coming here to see the facility and get a sense of our lean thinking and vision for the future. They went away with a renewed confidence and our sales numbers have grown month over month for over a year. The sales team now loves us!”

Gordon says looking for opportunities to remove waste, improve safety and get more done with less effort has been contagious and frankly a lot of fun. “When corporate asked about our key to success the answer was simply, Go to Gemba, be honest, be transparent, recognize positive energy and celebrate.

My motto here is “Move Forward with Consistent Persistence”.