Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lean A3: Get Rid of "They"

Ever since I was a kid, I always heard adults talk about the mystical "THEY" (akin to Bigfoot and The Loch Ness Monster).

"THEY say that margarine is better for you than butter."
"I read somewhere that THEY are now saying smoking isn't good for you."
"THEY're saying that we're in for a very cold winter."

Ever since I was a kid, I always imagined a big building where all of the THEYS met for work every day, and they basically pontificated and theorized about.......well, everything. Then they released the minutes to their meetings to the world, and some of the minutes would be mentioned at say, the family 4th of July picnic, or over coffee. Once someone mentioned that it was THEY that said it, all we can do is nod our heads and realize it was definitely gospel.

Then, when I grew up and started doing lean, I realized that there was a THEY Department in my own company! As I grew up some more and became a "consultant", I realized that many companies also had well developed THEY Departments. Let me give you one example:

Example: Parts coming off a machine are just not right. Sometimes they need to be run twice, or sometimes someone has to come over and sign off on them, or sometimes they need to be scrapped so the customer doesn't see them. When I ask why, the answer (pre-A3) is always, "I've been trying to tell THEM now for 2 years, but THEY won't listen!!!"
Interpretation: "Even though I have been working here for 26 years, and am probably the world's expert in this particular process, I need to now throw my hands up in frustration because I need to give up trying to improve to save my sanity. I have done all I can, the ball is back in their court. If they want to keep doing it this way despite my experience, all I can say is "I just work here."

I have an idea! Let's put up a suggestion box, because I read somewhere that the people who actually do the work know the most about it, and they might be able to save us some money$$$!
Interpretation: "I know they don't think we listen to them, but maybe if they talk to us anonymously we will really listen well."

Then we wonder why suggestion boxes collect dust year after year.

Now consider A3. Companies that do hundreds of A3s per year eliminate the THEY. Ideas, suggestions and problem solving improvements are led by the people who.....get this....actually do the work. Have an idea? No handoffs. There is no transfer of ownership. See a problem? Select the right team and go get it! People don't go off willy nilly doing their own thing, because the team selection process of A3 ensures checks and balances with regard to what is best for the whole team. How does Toyota "measure" morale? By the number of employee suggestions. Morale soars when everyone realizes that THEY is US!!!!

I don't really miss THEY, even though I knew THEM since I was a little kid. (I was a handsome little devil, no?)


  1. That you were Bill. Now you are getting to be a handsome older devil......I don't care what they say about you :)

  2. Hi Ken, never been accused of being handsome. I get by with my wily wit, lol. Best regards always my friend, thanks for reading this!!

  3. trouble maker even at that age......looks like a mug shot!!!!!!!! go Bill THEY rule !!!