This is a cross posting from over at the Lead Edge website. The Lean Global Networks asks a question about changing standards and having to re-train everyone. This implies improvement is limited by the ability to conduct training.
This question unfortunately reminds me of the old adage in problem solving that vague fuzzy problem statements lead to poor causal analysis and then in turn poor countermeasure selection space. Any results will usually be limited in nature if they are evident at all. In this post I will point out some problems induced by the above definition of standards,the flaws in the logic at least with respect to actual TPS practices,and what I instead suggest. I will try and utilize some generic examples for contemplation and clarification. Continue reading Standard Lean Logic Flaw
This is a cross posting from a question I received over at the Lean Edge website from Joel Stanwood Partner at Industrial Operations. “How should we take Lean into Product Development?”
Toyota or Lean Product Development is a really large discussion topic. In all honesty I cannot begin to do justice to the entire content or even really suggest where to begin without greater knowledge of your situation. I’d want to assemble a better understanding of the situation before spouting off advice. For starters I will offer up some of my standard words of caution and then try to offer some historical perspective on the matter. Then I will offer up what I can in terms of limited practical advice. Continue reading Determine the Driving Need
Here is a cross posting from the Lean Edge Website. The question from the Lean Global Network was regarding productivity: “Is there a Lean Way to Measure Productivity”?
In theory this issue of measuring productivity is pretty simple but in reality it is usually complex for a variety of reasons…In general however I don’t like the question of “is there a specific lean way to measure productivity”. I will elaborate on the topic with some background information and explain my concern and attempt to make some suggestions. Continue reading Productivity and Improvement
Over at the Leanedge.org website Joel Stanwood Managing Partner of American Industrial asks the following question about building a Kaizen Promotion Office:
What practical advice would you offer to companies as they establish their Kaizen Promotion Offices? At the beginning their Lean journey each company faces questions such as:
(a) What is the role of the KPO to serve the organization?
(b) How do we best leverage the KPO for leadership development?
(c) What is optimal size of the KPO organization?
(d) What is right mix of internal / external hires?
(e) Who should the KPO lead report to?
(f) How is the KPO best organized in order to sustain Lean both inside/outside of the plant? (i.e. sales,distribution,marketing,product development in addition to manufacturing)”
The question of how to staff a KPO (Kaizen Promotion Office) and with what type of leader is an interesting one and it deserves some thought. I don’t think the question is a trivial one or a “one size fits all” answer. The response depends upon the nature of the company,the situation it faces,resource development priorities,and the overall leadership style of the executive leading the organization. Continue reading Line versus Staff Leadership
Over on the Leanedge.org website the Lean Global Network submits the following question:
“What is Ringi? The Lean Edge has discussed Nemawashi,but could you clarify the practice of Ringi? How is this linked to A3? How widespread is its use within Toyota? Should that practice be adopted by lean thinkers?”
In all honestly I was not very excited to answer this question. I think a huge problem with the Lean movement in general is falling prey to Japanese buzzwords (Ringi,Nemawashi,Houshin Kanri,A3,Hansei,Yokoten,Yamazumi,Kamishiai,Muda,Kanban,Heijunka,etc.),and hyping a concept or practice. Buzzwords fail to create a practical improvement methodology in terms that all organizations can embrace. That shortcoming in my opinion turns off large segments of the population and ultimately fails to get down to first principles for improvement as I have stressed repeatedly in the past. So in that spirit I would always ask first “what problem or set of problems is the organization facing and what are the causes”? Naively starting off with a question like “is this process something Lean Thinkers should embrace”is a non starter for me. The difference may be subtle but I fear that it unfortunately plays a hand in creating a culture of “adhering to fads”rather than “thinking and improving”. Continue reading Toyota and the Ringi-sho Process
Over on the Leanedge.org website Joel Stanwood Managing Partner at American Industrial asks the following question:
Most management teams who testify to having implemented Lean will describe financial impact in terms of shop floor efficiency improvement – direct labor productivity,overtime reduction,inventory velocity,floor space utilization,etc. Paradoxically,in terms of company economics,the most alluring promise of Lean is to boost sales,delivering ever higher variable contribution margins while delighting customers and winning in the marketplace. Yet the language of Lean to unlock the growth engine of the company rarely enters the sales vernacular,and in general,sales professionals are far less likely to have participated in Kaizen. Why has the Lean movement largely failed to capture the imagination of the sales team?
I have a couple of different thoughts on the matter of this month’s question and why lean fails to inspire so many people including sales teams. Some points are simple matters of history. Others pertain to how the Toyota Production System has been perceived and described in the United States and other countries around the world. I will elaborate on my thoughts below. Continue reading Sometimes Lean is a Bad Name…
Over on the Lead Edge I answer this months question from CEO Andrew Turner about Lean Implementation in different types of facilities. One is assembly intensive and one is more equipment intensive. My response was as follows:
I think this is a pretty interesting question and reflects the current status of Lean in many companies I visit. I often make the distinction that modern day Lean and the actual historical development of the Toyota Production System (TPS) are two pretty different animals. I will try and explain my opinion,provide some examples,and answer the question in the following paragraphs. Continue reading Lean Versus Historical TPS
In this month’s question over on the Lean Edge Catherine Chabiron,Process Improvement (Lean Office) Manager at Faurecia asks the following –“Can we reduce nemawashi to lobbying ? Is nemawashi checking the relevance of a solution and enriching it with key field actors,or simply promoting / enforcing it?”
Here is my response:
Nemawashi (根回し) is one of those Japanese terms utilized in the Lean community that I am not very fond of to be honest. I run into far too many organizations throwing around this term or other Japanese words like “Hansei” or “Yokoten” or “Kamishibai” instead of using plain English (or whatever your native tongue happens to be) for communication. I realize there are times that a foreign word has no exact translation and is necessary for exact measures of communication. However equally often I run into instances where a cliquish type of language is used to create a sense of secrecy or inner circle of people “in the know”. The problem I have with this approach is that the goal of language is to communicate. It is a means to an end and if the end is not achieved then there is a problem with the method…So I prefer to use plain English as much as possible to eliminate confusion and to keep things simple. Although the term Nemawashi is somewhat tied to Japanese culture it can also be thought of as a form of a “prior consultation” or “laying the proper groundwork” for a meeting. In the spirit of answering the question I will use the word Nemawashi in this post,elaborate some more on the topic,and explain why I do not think it is “Lobbying”. Continue reading Art Smalley:Nemawashi in Toyota
In this month’s question over on the Lean Edge Klaus Peterson,Solar’s Group process manager asks how do we ensure focus on constant momentum on our lean journey?
My response over on the Lean Edge:
This question centers upon how do you maintain focus and momentum on a Lean journey. In a nutshell that is why Toyota developed and utilized its form of Houshin Kanri and PDCA management. Toyota did not invent these tools but they apply them as well as any company that I have come across. Honestly it is easy for any company in the world including Toyota to get off track at times and falter. It takes strong leadership to stay on course or to intentionally deviate when necessary. The first part of the submitted question uses the word “focus”. The term Houshin Kanri essentially mean managing with a needle point type of focus pointing out the ways to proceed. I won’t explain the process in any detail there is plenty of good information on the internet for interested parties. Senior management basically creates strategic and tactical goals which are cascaded throughout the organization to all necessary work teams. The process at least in Toyota is a mixture of top down methods and goal setting with heavy interaction and input from affected parties. There is a lot of behind the scenes dialogue going on with this process. Once set up the goals and specific actions to achieve those goals are reviewed quarterly,monthly,weekly,and some times daily in certain cases. It all depends upon the topic and level of scrutiny,etc. Proper application of this technique is what helps keep “focus”in place as long as it is cascaded properly and subjected to rigorous PDCA management reviews. Continue reading Houshin Kanri and PDCA Management
In this month’s question over on the Lean Edge Klaus Peterson,Solar’s Group process manager asks about how to transform a silo based organization into a more horizontal one focusing on business practices.
Here is my response posted over on the Lean Edge.
I don’t have a very snappy answer with five insightful key points for the question posited this month. The question posed is a fairly common one and yet I fear that is potentially problematic in one regard. The question of “how do I…” (fill in the blank with most any topic) is actually referring to an action item that has been decided upon as a solution to a problem. For individuals with extensive background inside of Toyota we have a hard time engaging in this manner. Up front we like to know more about the background and current situation and what exactly is the problem your organization is facing? Once I understand and agree upon the problem definition then I also would like to know what is your goal and how will you measure success? Then I will be a stickler for analyzing the cause or causes of the problem and debating what is the best solution space. Jumping to an action item such as reorganizing in a more “horizontal”or “business process”fashion is not something I can connect with mentally without further information. Hence my reluctance to provide key transitional points of advice. Continue reading Toyota’s Functional Organization