Sunday, July 27, 2014

Enemy of Lean: Mind Numbing PowerPoint Presentations

One of the misconceptions in business is that there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to implement lean, or a cookie cutter pattern to success. Let me start by saying there really is only one truly right way.....learn by doing. 

All aspects of your lean strategy are, essentially, learn by doing.  It is important to understand how to use fun lean tools, but they are most effective when people are learning by doing to solve real problems. 

One real life example of this was when my own company was "going" lean. The entire company (70 people) spent one hour together every week, learning together. At one point we were all learning about value stream mapping. (keep in mind that at this point I had been certified (certifiable?) as a lean champion. I had spent many hours building a comprehensive, extensive Powerpoint show. Most of our folks looked like they were sleeping with their eyes open as I did my best PT Barnum impression. Then, I concocted an exercise where I separated everyone into random groups of 5 people, and gave them the assignment to go map a process in production within one week. Of course, everyone did it. It took prodding and cajoling and pushing and threatening and harassing and convincing and encouraging and helping. I even gave out gift cards for the team that did it best. But guess what? It was a complete waste of time. Huge contrasts were discovered between "process time" and "value added time". But so what?  It was like making people go to church at gunpoint and giving them Dunkin Donut cards if they said they "believed". I know this because I didn't see people considering value stream mapping to define the current condition when they were making improvements in their own jobs. It was PUSH not PULL. If all I have is a hammer, everything problem looks like a nail.

The better approach is to seize the opportunity to teach one 5 person A3 team value stream mapping to make the current condition crystal clear to solve their own problem. This is done on the floor, at GEMBA with a clipboard,a stopwatch and a pencil. Function, not form is most important. It is OK if the push arrows are not perfectly parallel to the bottom of the sheet of paper. My customers (our employees) "buy in" when they see the value with their own eyes, not because Bill Greider or some author told them so. Nothing drives SMED home better than eliminating some of the blood, sweat & tears of an overburdensome changeover! No PowerPoint in the world makes the light bulb go off like learn by doing.

They don't teach you this in Certifying School. 

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