Dec 31, 2009

2009 Management Carnival from Lean Reflections

John Hunter, the Curious Cat, proposed that we share our favorite posts from 2009, so I'm pitching in...

Lean bloggers have been influential forces in my lean journey. When I first discovered some of the following blogs, I hesitatingly started adding my comments. When they were received with respect, I found more blogs and entered more conversations, learning from bloggers as well as other commenters. Then I thought, "If I'm going to be involved in web publishing, I'd better learn how to use this blog thing." My Lean Reflections blog was met with encouragement from my new blogpals.

Since then, I've turned to these same blogs and bloggers, plus many who have joined us, for background, ideas, details, and case studies for articles. A community made up of learners and teachers has evolved around our lean blogs, weaving them together. John Hunter's Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival exemplifies how we recognize the best contributions of our fellow bloggers.

So here are nods to just a few of my favorites:

Jon Miller's Gemba Panta Rei
Because Jon was raised in Japan and he reads and speaks Japanese, he brings us news and insights that we would otherwise miss. His bicultural perspectives, and his own lean experience and knowledge comes through in all his posts.

How to use lean to achieve bottom line results
Heather asked Jon about the bottom line, so he provides several ways to communicate with the CFO by quantifying the dollar value of potential lean scenarios, including one for declining sales. Then he refers to another blogger, Lee Fried, who says he refuses to discuss ROI at all. Nicely balanced article for lean leaders who don't realize they are failing to use the right language with financially-oriented managers.

The advantages of A1 over A3 thinking
Jon says it's better to find a whiteboard the size of A1 paper (594 x 841 mm) than to hunt around for a piece of 11" x 17" paper for A3 problem solving. (Why do we let such obscure terminology persist?) The whiteboard allows more people to work together to explore a PDCA approach. Standing rather than sitting gets the juices flowing. While there's the temptation to cram more information in the larger space, Jon says to write big and make the board visible from across the room. Seven more people commented with their experiences using the larger format, with some dissension about what Jon asserts. When a post prompts comments, that's the sign of success.

The positive tension between SMART and stretch goals
In a hoshin planning session with a client, Jon was asked about the seeming conflict between stretch and SMART goals. He says, "Stretch goals are meant to be ambitious, challenging and out of reach according to the current ways of working. SMART goals are by definition narrowly scoped and individually and discretely attainable." This leads into a new definition for "STRETCH" that integrates its positive tension with SMART, highlighting the capacity building that raises performance to new levels.

Joe Ely's Learning about Lean
Joe's blog may be the first I ever followed. He always sounds humble, and you'd never know about his long and deep experience in lean thinking and practice. Joe's posts are neither frequent or lengthy, but always engaging.

You go to the "gemba"--then what?
Joe says, "Had a useful walk through our production areas today. And it hit me, just what was I looking for? Where were my eyes going? What was attracting my attention?" There were the usual physical attributes, but Joe outlines three ways to tap into the human factors.

How do we learn?
Our mental model of learning is a point-to-point series of steps, but Joe explains how he's started to see it as a circular model, continuously learning more about what he already knows. Joe says, "Depth comes from repetition. Don't be afraid of it."

Hal Macomber's Reforming Project Management
Much of Hal's work is in the construction industry, where the revolution in applying lean is the collaboration of project partners, usually including contractors and subcontractors, to achieve a realistic project plan in a synchronized just-in-time manner, making each phase job-ready for the next contractor to start at the right time. Everyone has projects, however, and Hal's insights into making them successful can help project teams of all types continuously improve their performance.

Lean project implementation is not adoption
Hal talks about how daily experience should influence behaviors to create new attitudes and approaches to work, and how that's worth much more than lean programs and initiatives. He says that each little difference from expectations is exactly that opportunity to learn what we need to learn. Because lean means individuals adopting new behaviors, there's really nothing to "implement."

Last Planner(R) System for Project Delivery
This "lens" references several that examine the Last Planner lean project management system. It has now been validated in hundreds of major projects, especially as construction companies are setting themselves apart from their competitors by using LPS. I strongly recommend exploring these ideas to see how they could be applied to your work.

Don't forget that commenting on blog posts does more than give feedback to the author. It prompts dialogue from people around the world with similar interests but diverse viewpoints. Join the conversations!

Dec 28, 2009

Joy, hope, and lean

This time of the year, we look back and reflect, then look forward and plan. Goals, achievements, cost savings, and all that stuff. We want our timetables, training schedules, and reports to move our lean agendas forward.

But I think it's joy and hope that propel continuous improvement. We're just humans, with primitive brains that run on emotions more often than on facts and figures. Is Toyota's "respect for humanity" more than mere politeness and listening? Doesn't it tap those deeper feelings?

I'm reminded of a story that Joe Sensenbrenner, quality expert and mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, some twenty years ago, told me about bringing continuous improvement to city government. He required that all managers, including chief of police Dave Couper, attend Dr. Deming's series of lectures. Joe described the chief striding into the hall, in uniform, gun on his hip, not happy about listening to something that he felt had little to do with police work. Dr. Deming stood at the front of the room at an overhead projector, marker in his hand, as the chief sat down.

Then Dr. Deming wrote down one word and the chief's face changed completely. The word was "joy."

As Dr. Deming continued to explain a new view of quality of product and service, Dave Couper's view of police work was overturned. From command, control, and threat of force, be began to see the police force as part of the community, creating relationships, and helping people in crisis. Sure, there were still criminals who had to be arrested, and community policing did not cure all ills.

Dave Couper went on to take the practice of community policing to many other cities, improving communities one police officer at a time. It all began with that one word, joy.

Maybe we should take time to remember a moment when we felt that joy in our practice of lean. It could have been when employees came to a pilot cell and ask for help to implement 5S or visual control in their areas of the plant. It could have been when you were in the midst of a project and saw the light turn on in someone's mind. It could have been that moment of celebration when your team solved a difficult problem.

What's been your moment of joy?

Dec 17, 2009

Want to find energy savings? Look up...

Buildings use something like 30% of the energy consumed in this country. We already know that continuous improvement means a lot of small things adding up to something bigger.

So try this end-of-year activity -- while you walk through your office, cafeteria, rest rooms, and production floor, look up at the HVAC exhaust vents. I'll bet you'll find the grids clogged with dust, blocking full flow of air through your system. It's an easy fix, just brush or vacuum out the dirt. Even if you discover you need complete duct cleaning, vacuuming the ducts is a small improvement you can make now.

Don't have the maintenance staff to tackle the big job? Here are a few things to ponder: Is exhaust vent cleaning on a regular maintenance or cleaning service checklist? Does this point out a need to review resource deployment? Do you have proper equipment for doing the job? Do you do a good job in the plant but not in the offices and common areas? What's the effect on morale when people notice crud in their workplace? What's the effect on employee health when air isn't circulating the way your calculations say it is? What's the effect on production equipment to have air and heat circulation impeded? What's the effect on efficiency and energy consumption of your HVAC systems that have to work harder to pull the amount of air they're designed for?

Let's all breathe a little easier in 2010, and save money while we're doing it.

Dec 14, 2009

AME Social Media Council update

Lately, a lot of my time has been spent roaming the web. But it is in pursuit of a goal. Scott Schiave, AME’s director of marketing, asked me to chair a group of volunteer members—the Social Media Council of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence—to raise awareness of the association, provide more value to members, and in doing so, grow membership.

Responding to member feedback about a need for more online interaction, AME has been building its own social media space—AMEConnect. At the same time, platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube have been hailed as the secrets to success in Web 2.0, whatever that is.

Here’s a quick report on what the Council is doing:

It all happened through networking
We have a talented group of manufacturing professionals on the Council: Richard Lebovitz, Laura Cibulsky, Jason Semovoski, and I are the current core members.

Both LinkedIn and Twitter helped us recruit our council. Laura joined the Council after I posted on the AME LinkedIn group’s job page aone requiring a lot of work , no pay, but offering visibility among active manufacturing leaders. She applied and has become the voice behind AMEConnect on Twitter. Most of her posts link to current news articles and blog posts of value to our Twitter followers.

Current state in September
In assessing AME’s current state on social media sites, we discovered two spontaneously founded LinkedIn groups that we had to combine, using LinkedIn’s disappointing process.

There was also an AME team testing the beta version of AMEConnect. It included Becky Morgan and Ken Rolfes, who are now ex-officio members of the Council. Lea Tonkin of Target magazine is a member, tying us to both content and making Target a print medium for spreading the word about our online networks. Scott, plus Rene Ryan and Ashley DeVecht from the consulting group are also Council members.

Becky Morgan let us know that she had created a Twitter keyword (“hashtag”) for the October conference. I began to see Jason Semovoski using the hashtag to help promote the conference. Jason and I became mutual followers and started direct messaging about the conference and AME’s social media plans. Jason was already much savvier at using the various social media tools and agreed to join the Council.

Current state in December
As of now, I’m managing LinkedIn, Laura has Twitter, Jason has YouTube, and Richard has SlideShare. Facebook is on the back burner. I think we need a strategy for interacting with blogs too.  All these channels have to refer to each other and integrate AME’s message and value. They are meant to prepare the way for the proprietary AMEConnect platform

Future state
The idea is for each Council member to adopt a “channel” and build an AME presence there, integrating and coordinating the networks. We’ve made the most progress on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Will the experiments yield the desired results? We don’t know until we try, learn from mistakes, and try again. One thing we know—if the customer pull isn’t there, we’re barking up the wrong tree. But the way things are now, there’s always a new tree to bark at.

Join AME (Association for Manufacturing Excellence) on LinkedIn. Follow @AMEConnect on Twitter.
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm