Monthly Archives: February 2009

Always Be Coaching

One of the best was to learn and improve is to recognize your mistakes.  I recently missed out on an opportunity to coach in the moment to help someone learn how to solve a problem.  I hope the outcome of writing this post will etch into me the principle to always be coaching

I met with a doctor recently who was telling me about some frustrating problems he was seeing.  He said he did not know where to go to have someone fix the issues he saw.  I instinctively told him who the new manager was to help him.

My initial feelings afterwords was disappointment.  I was surprised a member of a somewhat mature value-stream didn’t know where to begin to solve problems on their own.  I have been developing a suspicion that value stream managers are carrying all the improvements on their backs and daily Lean thinking hasn’t infiltrated the front lines (not counting improvement workshops).   This interaction with the doctor seemed to reinforce my suspicion.

I reached out to a colleague who helped me see how I missed the opportunity to show the doctor how to identify the problem and root cause.  We have standard tools like A3 and assessment plans that could have helped the doctor own the problem while he worked to develop a counter-measure.  The manager I referred him to could be a key stakeholder and guide for the doctor to uncover what he needed to gain a deep understanding of the problem instead of being the contact to just fix it for him.

The nice thing is this is not an irreversible mistake.  I plan on connecting with the doctor again to see how he is progressing and then offer coaching!  One recent powerful article from John Shook has inspired me to continue my development as an apprentice sensei: Coaching and Questions; Questions and Coaching.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Book Review: The Elegant Solution

The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation by Matthew E. May
  rating: 5 of 5 stars View all my reviews.

My review

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.  This quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery is included in “The Elegant Solution” and perfectly sums up the premise.

 

I would hate to classify this as just a lean book because I think it can have value for non-lean organizations since innovation is needed everywhere.  For the people who have practiced Lean, this book is of value because it taps into something important – CREATIVITY.

 

I enjoyed the constant theme for innovation through the balance between science and art.

 

I appreciate the structure of the book for chapters starting out with Problem, Cause, and Solution and then ending with Hansei (reflection).  Modeling Toyota thinking within the pages is impactful.

 

A major learning I have from the book is identifying problems two ways: 1) What is broken (and keeping you up at night)? and 2) What is blocking perfection?  Matthew E. May delves into the thought process behind these two approaches and the second type of problem is a way I never considered before. 

 

The book discusses many obstacles to creating innovation.  It is easy to just say “change is hard” but the book calls out specific biases and challenges.  Knowing specifically what makes change difficult allows you to create counter-measures.

 

The chapter about intangible value added service/products is a fresh way to look at your organization’s deliverables. 

 

I have never seen stretch goals defined as well as the book and really learned a lot about Dynamic Tension.  Gaining a deep understanding of the problem by going to the site where the work is done AND verifying through data is explained in actionable detail.

 

I highly recommend this book to anybody.  For organizations beginning their Lean Journey, this should be one of the first books to read before you dive into the technical details of tools because it will inspire you to keep your heart in innovation.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Accidents Do Not Equal Success

The following statements are true in a Lean environment but are culturally hard to accept initially:

  • If you set out to solve a problem but get a different & unexpected favorable result, the experiment is a failure. 
  • If you didn’t set out to solve a problem but see a correlated improvement, you can’t take credit for it.
  • “A process that quickly jumps to a solution … without a good understanding of the root causes, though it may achieve desired results, would not be viewed as a successful project.” – Understanding A3 Thinking (Sobek/Smalley) Page 15.

It is tempting to want the positive feeling of celebrating improvements especially if a team was engaged in creating change.  Fight the urge and use the situation to help people understand how to problem solve, experiment, and measure cause and effect.  For the failed experiment, use it as an opportunity to hansei about what was learned.  Getting “Lean thinking” will be far more engaging than a pat on the back for an accident.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Business, Encouragement, Improve With Lean

What Is Great About This Guy’s Visuals?

Vodpod videos no longer available.Paddy Hirsch at Marketplace.org has a great video podcast where he uses a whiteboard to visually explain complex financial concepts.  I am sharing his latest about CRAMDOWNS (RSS viewers may need to open post to view).

more about “Cramdowns“, posted with vodpod

 

 

I have been diving in depth to learn and understand the power of communicating visually and firmly believe it is a key core competency for consulting.  Here are some things I think make Mr. Hirsch’s examples great:

  1. He creates characters (subjects) to explain the concept.  It is not dry financial jargon, but you can see how things impact individuals and organizations.  This also clarifies the roles involved (the WHO).
  2. He adds data and numbers to drawings.  The figures are not in another corner of the drawing but right next to the item/entity affected.  This adds relevant facts and helps the viewer understand the patterns better (the HOW MUCH/HOW MANY).
  3. He creates common metaphors.  Linking an everyday item as an example of your concept is powerful and the viewers will remember for a long time.  People may forget the name of the concept but they will take away the understanding. 

What else do you think makes his presentation style great?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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more about “Cramdowns | Marketplace Whiteboard | …“, posted with vodpod

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Debunking Myths Of Gemba

I have heard resistance for going to Gemba and I want to address any myths and misunderstandings.

  1. You only need to go to Gemba once: If you have multiple operators and/or lack of standard work, going once will not show the variation that exists.  Gaining a deep understanding of the problem and root cause might require seeing it more then once.  This happened to me a few months ago when I saw the process on an off day and thought the root cause was something else entirely than what it truly was.  Going once leads to poor assumptions which can be costly if you assign resources to improve based off of limited understanding.
  2. It is not worth a person’s time because their services are needed by the customer: The people who are critical to your customers are the ones who will gain the most by going to Gemba.  Since they provide the service, seeing the process will help them improve what they do every day.  They are your key stakeholders for any change and their Gemba experience will make your case for improvement more than any meeting or PowerPoint slide.
  3. A report will tell me all the information I need about the problem: Reports may show waste of waiting but not what is causing the delay.  Data can tell you that you have over-processing waste through excessive approvals but does not demonstrate what is driving need for the inspection steps.  A chart may explain unnecessary transportation but the space will provide insight on how to reduce movement.  A report that is read in a conference room is out-of-touch from the people doing the work and causes the waste of poor utilization of people’s skills.
  4. I do the work every day so there is no need to watch it: There is always value from stepping back and watching the work being done.  Our “waste goggles” are not finely tuned when we are focusing on customers or other processing.  We also see ourselves doing the work as it “should be” other than how it actually is.  I have read about hospital hand-washing studies where doctors say they always scrub their hands but observers saw they didn’t.  There is an even worse assumption related to this: “I used to do the work so I already know it”. 

What other excuses are stopping you from going to Gemba?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Great Recent Lean Articles

I would like to share some great Lean articles I have read recently.  My full list of favorite posts is located at my shared/stared google reader site.  There is a ton of wisdom in these that I hope will provide inpiration for innovation.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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The Power Of Individuals

I believe with all of my heart that all individuals have the capability to improve and be creative.  There is a spark in everybody to want to make things better.  When people see trouble, they instinctively want to correct it.

On the Lean journey, the tools and problem solving mentality should not reside only within consultants and management.  You might instinctively say you have front-line workers involved in change using Lean, but think where the need to improve originated from.  If most of your improvement efforts begin at the management level, you are missing a tremendous opportunity to stoke the fires of those that see waste everyday.

  • Do you help individual front-line workers find time and resources to use Lean to make improvements in their area? 
  • Are you asking them for input on problems they see in their area? 
  • Do you coach them how to gain a deep understanding of the problem by exploring the root cause?

Change should begin at the individual level and supported by managment through coaching and guidance the majority of the time.  This is a big leap in the Lean journey but I think it is an improtant milestone. 

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Tips For Sketching

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Dave Gray created this informative 5 minute video; Some basic rules for napkin-sketching (RSS readers may need to open post to view).  The video shows easy-to-remember principles for creating visual language (merging words/numbers with shapes and images). 

My colleague and I have been pushing ourselves to always include a drawing in every meeting, especially when the conversation starts spinning.  You will be amazed how sketching can make complex ideas understandable.  This video may also inpire A3 authors to make things more visual.

If you liked this post, then try:

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Mediocrity vs Pursuit Of Perfection

 In America, we are so results-based that it is easy to bypass the process of uncovering the root cause.  We spend resources of time and money trying to apply bandages instead of curing the actual problem.  I think organizations perceive Toyota Way principle # 13 as the ugly duckling they wish didn’t exist (“Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly“). 

A Rapid Performance Improvement Workshop may meet in a week to make rapid changes, but there is a lot of work and time behind the assessment and planning prior to the team meeting to figure out what the problem is.

I drew this picture because I was inspired by Matthew E. May’s book, “The Elegant Solution“.  I am halfway through and am finding a lot of value in it so far.   He point about how getting things out instead of getting things right is a problem is something that can easily happen in a Lean enterprise.

If you liked this post, then try:

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Problem Solving, Root Cause

Information Is Like Water

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Oscar Berg created this elegant SlideShare presentation about how information flows like water (RSS readers will need to open post to view).  In Lean transformations, we sometimes think of improvements in a physical sense (5S, creating cells, etc).  Information flow is just as important to target for improvements.  I hope this presentation sparks creativity for you!

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more about “Information Is Like Water“, posted with vodpod

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Filed under Business, Communication, Improvements, Information Flow, Learn Leadership, Visual Communication