Sunday, July 14, 2013

The July Lean Champion of the Month-John Stonesifer

Understanding the lean tools is simple enough. The tools help us identify and eliminate waste in our processes after we have already taken care of the low hanging fruit we can already "see". The goal is simple enough. Just go ahead and eliminate all non-value added parts of every process in the company by focusing on the 8 wastes. Got it. Done. Have a nice day.

Obviously, understanding the what is about 2% of the job. The HOW is the one we often pull our hair out trying to understand. 
People "buy-in" at their own pace, and sometimes it takes years, or decades to get every single person on board. Usually the production floor is first on board, then you spend the rest of your life getting the rest of the company to buy in. (slight exaggeration).  What if I told you I know someone who has managed to not only patiently bring along almost everyone, but also two divisions?

Enter the seasoned lean champion. Enter John Stonesifer of Dymax Corporation (Torrington, CT). Here are the top 5 reasons John is my "Lean Champion of the Month" for July.
1. John understands the essence of lean-before being named Lean Manager for the Corporation, I had the opportunity to see the work he did in his own department. Particularly impressive is his interpretation and application of Heijunka using kanban/supermarket thinking and standardized work. He is a Certified Lean Champion, but a certification alone doesn't guarantee a person will have the "motor" to be successful. (that is a football term meaning steady, relentless, endless energy). 
2. John knows how to help people work together-as of today, Dymax Corporation has 53 active A3s going on in 2 locations. He works for and answers to the leaders of these projects. He helps them pick their 3-5 person teams and get them together, helps them gain agreement on the current condition, do root cause, etc. The people of Dymax are incredibly good at solving problems using teams of people from both divisions, and they do it seamlessly. As companies start to do A3, one of the most difficult new routines to establish is getting people together quickly for 20-25 minute stand-up meetings at gemba. People from the production floor lead teams that may include folks from customer service, shipping, accounting, IT, chemists or engineers, or sales and marketing. People are very respectful of each other and understand that no one person's job is more or less important than anyone else's. 
3. John himself demonstrates incredible respect for the people of Dymax by directly challenging their assumptions and conclusions. He doesn't fix people's jobs or processes-he fully understands that is not is role. The TPS concept of respect for people has many facets. Being direct by asking why is one of the major facets.  I have had the opportunity to see many A3 closings at Dymax, and the A3 team leaders are very well prepared, often because John has asked the essential whys before they ever address their peers. (a recent A3 closing on the plant floor with 40+ attendees is pictured above right)
4. John has a healthy disrespect for the current condition-Anyone who has done lean realizes that lean champions are NEVER satisfied. Unfortunately, that comes with the territory. There is nothing like the feeling of satisfaction that comes with a job well done. A good lean champion seldom gets to enjoy that feeling. It's always on to the next A3 leader, the next project, the next improvement. John is constantly looking to recruit and support people who haven't led a team yet, and he will never give up on anyone.
5. John is an incredibly patient lean leader-like the best coaches I see, he is pretty much the same temperament every day. I never sense frustration. People feel very comfortable coming into his office, sitting down, and asking his advice. That comfort level comes from his consistency as a lean leader.

As a bonus, I'd like to throw in John's willingness to share and help other companies. I think about the impact other lean thinkers had on my own journey. As much as any other discipline, we learn from each other's successes and failures, and none of us get any good at it alone. Dymax is selfless in this regard. Countless people have been welcomed to 318 Industrial Lane to benchmark, learn and think together.

I would say John Stonesifer has got a pretty darn good motor, wouldn't you?

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