GBMP wants to make sure they are so be sure to join us on July 9-10 at Abiomed in Danvers, MA for an excellent 2-day workshop during which students will learn the RIGHT way to use VSM to document material and information flow and get practiced through hands-on activities so they leave the workshop with the knowledge AND CONFIDENCE to use Value Stream Mapping to eliminate waste in your process. Read more/register here.
It is management’s role to continuously assess the current condition of the Lean implementation and provide appropriate support and motivation to raise the bar. Failure to keep a watchful eye on True North has caused many a Lean effort to fail. Perhaps management has invested in classroom training, but no time for action (and therefore no tacit learning.) In other instances, the effort may be treated as a “crash program” which will indeed end with a crash and gradual return to the status quo aka “business as usual”. In many cases however, companies do achieve early benefits but are challenged to sustain and accelerate their improvements. Assessments can be used on an on-going basis to challenge and re-invigorate your efforts.
There are 16 categories for evaluation through direct observation. Each describes a key business function as a work in progress, advancing from traditional practice to Lean thinking. Don’t be discouraged if your initial scores are low. That would be normal.
Ultimately every aspect of a business requires reconsideration. The current condition was not built up over night. It represents decades or more of practice and development. Kaizen is the means to re-align resources to TPS philosophy. For employees it represents small changes for the better in their daily work. For management, kaizen is the means to re-think strategy, organization and policy, and to implement incremental changes to the management system.
Here's a brief description of each of the 16 categories:
12. 5S - Is the workplace cluttered or well-organized? Is 5S considered an on-going process? Are all employees engaged?
13. Visual Management & Control - Are operating conditions clear at a glance? Does management receive and respond to visual communications? Is it frequent and reflective of changing conditions?
14. Information Flow - Are problems hidden from management or “made ugly”? Is management on the floor regularly to “go see”?
15. Favorable Environment - Does the environment encourage employee participation with teams or suggestions? Is there enthusiasm for improvement?
16. Management System - What is the current condition of policies and measures? Is it “status quo”, and contradictory to True North?
For the full description of each of the 16 categories to measure on your journey from “status quo” to “world class”, get your digital copy of the “e2 Continuous Improvement System” here. Includes an example Assessment Matrix and suggestions on how to score each category.
Probably. To overcome this obstacle, let's begin with a discussion of management’s role in a Continuous Improvement system? Most often when employees hear the term management it connotes a specific hierarchical assignment of jobs populated by persons with varying levels and spheres of influence. The term management is vague in that it sometimes refers only to an elite few persons at the top of the organization (executive management) and at other times middle managers and supervision as well. In both senses however, we are referring to the people who steer the ship. We can think of these persons either as the agents of change or as the keepers of the “status quo”, depending upon their predispositions.
As a means by which managers manage, their process may include a vision and mission statement as well as corporate values, and also the strategy and organization which emanate from these. Policies are written to clearly define how the management system should operate. Together, these create the infrastructure and shared understanding that run the business, both daily and long-term. Together they are the embodiment of the “status quo”.
The responsibility for revising these types of management systems clearly lies with executive management, but the task of implementing it must be shared across the management team at all levels.
When W. Edwards Deming stated that 95% of problems are systemic, this is the system to which he was referring. In the factory, over-sized, immovable equipment is often referred to as “monolithic”, referring to its immovability and un-changeability. But the greatest monolithic structure by far in any business is the model by which it operates; the system in whose context strategy is set, organization is developed, and policy created. These are the ultimate building blocks of the “status quo.” (Noticing a theme here?)
They are mostly transparent to everyone in the organization – both management and employees – and are taken for granted as givens. The irony is that this strategy and organization has been built to last in order to provide stability and standardization – and it is this very durability that suppresses the potential of Lean. The “status quo” management system by which traditional businesses operate is durable, but most definitely not a given, and it will be management’s responsibility to kaizen this system to create a new business model. Without this critical systemic improvement, any Lean initiative will soon be eclipsed by old ways. Be forewarned, nearly every policy must be reconsidered.
Are you Rowing Upstream? Imagine that you are the change leader for your company given the assignment to transform the thinking and practices of an entire enterprise to Lean. You need to “get everyone into the same boat” and then get everyone to row together – not an easy task.
But suppose that you then discover that the direction you need to row is upstream. Now the task is nearly impossible.
The direction that the river is flowing in this case is a function of management strategy, organization and policy, all built up over years to support a production system that in many ways is fundamentally the opposite of continuous improvement. Without examination and revision of the management system, Lean will never succeed.
What then is Management to do? Kaizen! Specifically, “Management Kaizen, are six essential functions of the management process that reverse the flow of the river to support and accelerate a Lean transformation rather than thwart it.
Management’s role in transforming the management system is analogous to every employee’s role in Lean: many small improvements that come from the common sense and experience of the people who do the work – in this case the work of top management and managers.
Did you like this article? Read more about the “e2 Continuous Improvement System” here, and learn more about Engaging Hearts & Minds here. And please feel free to share your comments. I love to read them. – Bruce
by Bruce Hamilton, President of GBMP, co-author of the "E2 Continuous Improvement System" & author of the blog "OldLeanDude".
But it doesn't have it be, especially if you can establish an "everybody, everyday" (e2) perspective for Continuous Improvement success.
An e2 perspective for Lean is built on a foundation of several basic concepts that must be understood by everyone – management and employees – if the system is to work at all. But in today’s macho-technical business world, conceptual thinking is typically considered “fluff.” Many businesses prefer to skip directly to the tools, the ‘know-how’ of Lean, without first understanding the “know-why.” Why not just implement the tools like most companies do? Why is the big picture so important?
Well, let's see. Have you ever been asked to accept a big change to your life without being given an explanation of why the change is important? What was the result? That kind of process makes us objects of change rather than participants and is a sure recipe for failure. Any attempt to implement the tools of the Toyota Production System without first understanding the bigger picture will inevitably result at best in disappointing results and alienated employees.
Now, indulge me if you would and STOP READING. Go back and read the previous paragraph again before continuing.
Thanks for doing that. The reason I asked you to is because I believe there is no single message in any Lean training approach that is more critical to your success. In fact, without understanding the foundations of Lean first, none of the rest of it will make any sense to you. But if you take the time to understand the foundations of Lean, everything will eventually make sense.
Now I say “eventually” because we also must understand that learning is not instantaneous, and not easy. Many of the foundational concepts of Lean may oppose your current thinking. I call this “unlearning” and it can be especially challenging because past biases will taint perceptions.
But Lean is a thinking people system, one that constantly challenges the current situation (status quo). You’ll have to think hard to get beyond status quo thinking. But the result of thinking critically will be a new perspective and direction for your organization: True North, or “the ideal production system”, as it is described by Toyota.
So, the first objective when establishing an e2 perspective is being able “to see” True North and to personally take some first steps in that direction. As a starting point, think of True North as a spot on the horizon that you and your company will be heading towards, one that will bring you the full benefits of Lean.
Astonishingly, many companies fail to achieve that benefit simply because they chose the wrong direction right at the start, most often the same direction they were already on. However, as you learn and understand and convey the foundations, that point on the horizon will become clearer. Be patient and keep your mind open.
Here’s an image you can conjure which might help you visualize the approach.
If you’ve ever watched a six-year-old learn to play a sport, then you may in fact intuitively already understand. In soccer, for example, first there are skills to be practiced and learned – things like dribbling and passing. Mistakes are not only inevitable but are the means to learning. A good coach will understand that not everyone learns at the same rate and will guide players to develop individually according to the way they learn.
Next, there is teamwork, which enables each player to use his or her skills to collaborate with other players. What begins as a herd of kids chasing a soccer ball up and down the field will, with appropriate coaching and practice, gradually develops into a game of position and passing. A coach’s greatest skill is in molding the strengths of individuals into a cohesive unit. Individual skills are combined into a practiced playbook, a tactical plan, resulting in team performance that seems to be greater than the sum of its parts.
During the process, some players will emerge as leaders, others as good individual contributors to the team. Which is most important to the game - skills, teamwork, tactics, leadership, or individual contributions? Clearly, all are important, and also inter-related. A good team has a good system that promotes all of these aspects. A good coach will both inform and inspire his team, nurturing these aspects. And when it’s game time, the teams that win are ones who have practiced the basics, learned to play well as a team, developed the abilities of every player to his or her fullest potential and have acquired an enthusiasm and excitement for the game that gives them the final competitive edge.
So it is with an “everybody, everyday” approach to Lean, but the coaches are managers and the employees the team. And just as individual positions like goalkeeper or center have defined responsibilities, so too there are defined functions of each department engaging in Lean.
Each employee practices specific skills that help him or her to improve their work by eliminating problems and by using creativity to find better ways to work. There may be problems every day, but everyone is a problem-solver, equipped with both skills and enthusiasm to identify problems and turn them into gold nuggets.
With every work cycle there is practice and encouragement to improve, which is seen as normal behavior by everyone. Managers and supervisors support these activities and “coach” every employee to enable them to develop to their fullest capabilities. And top management provides tactical and strategic direction, a playbook so to speak to support the best alignment of their team with key priorities. Player for player and coach for coach, there is great similarity between the six-year-old soccer team and a business run as an “everybody, everyday continuous improvement system.”
Did you like this article? Read more about the “e2 Continuous Improvement System” hereand please share your comments. I love to read them. – Bruce
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