Sunday, October 11, 2015

Don't Be Like A Mouse On A Wheel!


It is so easy to get caught up in working 100% in our businesses. Finding new customers. Delighting the new and existing ones. Filling orders and delivering excellent quality exactly when they want it. Invoicing and paying the bills, staying compliant with the IRS, OSHA, the EPA, DOT, ISO, NADCAP, etc. Keeping employees growing, motivated, and most important, safe. Days, weeks and months fly by. With all of this energy and effort, who has time to make improvements?

This a challenge for any business. Busy-ness is the enemy and good enough is the enemy of great. Lean is easiest when there is a shared sense of urgency. In fact, in the book Lean Thinking, Womack and Jones insist that you really can't do lean without a "lever", or sense of urgency. All hands will be on deck if people think the ship is going down. Positive change is very difficult without it. Just imagine how many million people vow to lose weight on January 1st and fail because the piece of cheesecake is just a little more appealing than the 10 pounds we wanted to lose.

Can we apply the concept  of heijunka (load leveling) to build a culture of continuous continuous improvement? Instead of looking for silver bullets or making improvements when we aren't busy, can we ask everyone in the business to spend 95% of their time working ON the business and 5% in it? 

Start by asking the people who do the value added work to make a suggestion to improve their own job. What is slowing them down? What frustrates them? Use A3 thinking to bring these ideas to life. Ask everyone to spend 20 minutes every day leading or participating on other people's A3s. Supervisors, team leaders and managers spend their 20 minutes helping the people who do value added work get their A3 teams together, help them work through PDCA (plan do check act) or DMAIC (define measure analyze improve control), leverage diversity, gain agreement and share their learning and progress with their peers at closing. In reality, the expectation is that the further removed we are from doing the actual value added work, the more time we spend ON vs. IN. Senior leaders and owners are hopefully 95% ON, so everyone can keep their jobs!

The beautiful part of all this is that you can start right now. With one improvement. If employees won't give you one, that tells you something. Maybe they've tried before and have been shut down. Maybe they don't think you're sincere. That is OK. It's a new day. Be persistent. Once you get this going, start teaching lean. 8 wastes, some tools. Make it fun. You don't need to do PowerPoint or train green belts. Once you start, people will GET it. They'll understand the value of lean tools and know what waste looks like. 

Working ON and IN the business. Just don't wait until you have time, because it will never happen. You have to make the time, 20 minutes per day. 

Please pass the cheesecake?






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