Friday, January 30, 2009

Can we do Better?

"Still the question recures "can we do better?" The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew."

Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What is the single biggest way to improve quality, cost and productivity?

If there is only one thing we do today that has the biggest impact to our quality, cost and productivity, what would that be?

Would it be starting a My CI program?

Would it be a 5S program?

Would it be a six sigma projects?

Would we begin running regular kaizen events?

Would we hire or contract a Lean Sensei?

Although I agree that a great Lean Sensei is worth far more than their weight in gold, it is not the answer. The real answer is quite simple.

Follow Standard Work!

Every part, every process, every time.

Friday, January 09, 2009

TWI Symposium

For those interested in learning more about TWI (Training Within Industry) and near the Indianapolis area, there is a TWI Symposium hosted by Purdue University on February 13th with TWI author Don Dinero.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Power of Less

It may just be me but I detect a shift by some, me included, towards simplicity or leaning towards a minimalist approach to life and work. Along this line, check out Leo Babauta’s blog called Zen Habits and his new book The Power of Less.

Over at Tim Ferriss’s Blog, author of the popular “The 4-Hour Workweek”, Tim posts some interesting comments about the Power of Less and developing new habits. There are a few strong ties to 5S, standard work, etc in these lean-like thoughts.

It also sounds pretty close to Ben Franklin’s method in his quest to master thirteen virtues. Instead of trying to master each virtue all at the same time, he focused on only one virtue each week.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Now on Twitter

With all the buzz on twitter, I thought I would give it a try as an experiment. I hope to link up with others on the lean journey using twitter as another communication tool to learn along our improvement path. If you wish, you can follow my twitter stream as I continue the journey.

Holiday Dead Zone

Now that the holiday festivities are over, the Christmas tree has been taken down, the stocking are stored away for next year along with any other holiday decorations, except maybe any outside lights that may stay up until warmer spring days, did you notice any signs of a dead zone?

No, not the dead zone from the Stephen King novel or the dead zones like seen in recent cell phone commercials. It’s a dead zone that even the Verizon network can’t save you.

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a fast paced holiday time filled with great cheer and joyful spirit (stress too!) with all the season’s activities swirling around us like going to holiday dinners, workplace celebrations, worship celebrations in a faith of our choosing, shopping, wrapping gifts, holiday cards, traveling to visit family and friends, decorating, cooking holiday meals, football, holiday concerts, holiday parties and the not so popular-cleaning up. With all this seasonal activity, do we push off or ignore some things until the New Year? Creating a dead zone, a period of time with no kaizen activity referred to during this time of year as the Holiday Dead Zone.

For example, did any one of us say during this holiday season, “Let’s meet right after the holidays”, or “Let’s schedule something the first of the year” or “We can work on it next year”? With all the holiday hustle and bustle along with many people being out, it only seems like this is the best we can do, right?

During the holiday dead zone, do we expect little or no results from any projects because of the holidays? Do we expect no improvements in work, no kaizen?

Now don’t confuse what I am talking about with the ideas found in the classic business book, How to Run and Manage a Extremely Profitable Business, BG (Before Ghosts) by Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. I love Christmas time however can we have more balance during this season of hope and joy? Can we find a way to still kaizen in December?

How can we avoid the holiday dead zone? First, we have to realize we have a dead zone. Next, we should reflect on our past holiday behaviors and activities to understand the situation better. Since each of us, individually or as a company, celebrates the season differently, we may come up with different root causes of creating the dead zone and related countermeasures.

At my company, we planned our kaizen calendar better this year which resulted 9 events in the month of December instead of only 2 kaizen events the previous December. Good advance planning, spreading the workload and not accepting the easy push off to next year were the keys for us. So can being flexible which allowed us to add the ninth kaizen event that only took two weeks to prepare.

What ways can you think of to prevent this time of year from becoming a holiday dead zone?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Management Improvement Carnival Best of 2008

John Hunter at Curious Cat has asked me to help co-host part of a larger scale Management Carnival Best of 2008 series where several bloggers are joining to recap the best posts from multiple lean or management improvement blogs this past year. The breath and quality of improvement information or thought provoking posts is simply awesome for those of us trying to learn a better way.

So please check out these highlights for 2008 from the Lean Insider, Improve with Me, Learning about Lean and Lean Printing.

The Best of Ralph Bernstein’s blog “Lean Insider” in 2008

Apple: A Successful, “Anti-Lean” Company
A company that embodies the lean principle of respect for people would likely have teams of empowered employees, strong communication among teams and individuals, ongoing recognition of employee and team achievements, and managers at all levels who are not autocratic but encourage independent thinking.

“We Don’t Make Mistakes; We Have Learning Moments
Ridge takes things a step further. During his presentation, he said, “We don’t make mistakes at WD-40; we have learning moments.”

How to Reduce Fatal Car Accidents
I am writing today about something that is not exactly a lean topic. However, for reasons I’ll explain shortly, I feel compelled to comment on what some other writers are saying about driving and speed-limit laws.

A Lean Initiative Can Be a Real Eye-Opener
I firmly believe that the most important benefit of any lean initiative is not the improvements that may be achieved in cycle time or inventory or cost, but in how it changes the way people think.

The Tennis Ball Exercise
I wrote previously about a kaizen event I attended recently at Food Sciences Corp. in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. I wanted to describe a particular exercise we experienced at the event that, in the space of a few minutes, helped teach some key improvement principles.

The Best of Brian Buck’s blog “Improve with Me” in 2008

Own it
One piece of advice for project managers: own it!

Holy Lean Batman
Have you ever considered how Batman is a great example of Lean?

My Reflection from Tufte
I learned a lot when I saw Edward Tufte last week. I have increased ^ my knowledge of data presentation (the little carrot in this sentence is an example of mixing symbols directly into narrative). Here are some more take-aways:

The Last Lecture, Football, and Lean
I just finished reading the great book, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. One of my favorite parts was where…

Alignment is Important
Alignment is important for projects and improvement efforts.

The Best of Joe Ely’s blog “Learning About Lean” in 2008

Hoshin Kanri—a Surprise
Last week, I made a presentation to our local Lean network on Hoshin Kanri, the Lean system of strategic planning (you can look at the presentation here; I’ve also listed as a download on the sidebar). The group was attentive and gave good feedback.

Upside Down Visuals
Circuitously, I ended up shopping for shampoo recently. Actually, I was shopping for a shampoo bottle, not shampoo. My wife had found a deal on shampoo but it came in a big batch, a huge bottle. I wanted to find a smaller bottle to put in the shower.

Toyota Tour, opus 5
Last Friday, eight engineers from our group of companies and I had the chance to tour Toyota’s North American Fork Truck manufacturing facility, Toyota Industrial Equipment Mfg (TIEM). I continue to be astounded and grateful for the openness, transparency and astounding skills of Toyota.

Getting to Email Zero
Following my recent post on Minimizing Work-in-Process for Knowledge Workers, several folks wrote and asked me to write more on getting their email inbox to zero. I put together an outline for such a post.

Engaging Consumers to Fight Clutter
Is it possible to get untrained, uninitiated, unconnected people to participate in your efforts to deliver value? Consider this example that caught me totally by surprise in a very unexpected moment.

The Best of Tom Southworth’s blog “Lean Printing” in 2008

Lean Manufacturing is Clean Manufacturing
My latest column in Label and Narrow Web magazine is about how going "Lean" can also help you get "green". Click the link and read on.

No Respect
Kevin Meyer over at Evolving Excellence has a post about companies - and consultants - who forget that the house that is Lean rests on two pillars: Just-In-Time and Respect For People. Too often companies get caught up in Lean tools and either forget or outright ignore the most important part of any organization: its people.

Survey Shows That Print is Getting Lean
Ok. Obviously, I'm happy that Lean is beginning to spread to the masses in the printing industry, but the "real challenge" is not cherry-picking "traditional Lean tools". The real challenge is realizing and accepting that Lean is more than "an all-out attack on waste and a relentless drive to improve productivity"; it's a complete change in how you run your business. You can't simply decide which tools you'll use, modify or adapt. This will only lead to "tool-itis" and, ultimately, frustration and failure.

Pulling the andon cord on yourself – PGA style
This article caught my eye. Its about a pro golfer, J.P. Hayes, who called a penalty on himself that automatically disqualified him from the PGA Tour's qualifying tournament, or "Q-school". Hayes unknowingly used a ball that was a prototype and not yet approved for play on the PGA Tour.

The visual fridge
Stopped in to my local natural food store to pick up a jar of honey. As I was passing one of their refrigerators the photos on the outside caught my eye.

You can continue reviewing the best of 2008 from a bunch of other outstanding sites hosted by
John Hunter at Curious Cat
Ron Pereira at LSS Academy
Kevin Meyer at Evolving Excellence
Mark Graban at Lean Blog
Bill Harris at Making Sense with Facilitated Systems
Nicole Radziwill at Quality and Innovation Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4
Matthew May at Elegant Solutions.