Monthly Archives: September 2009

Windows Of Frustration (part 1)

As someone who helps people improve their processes and quality for a living, being a consumer can sometimes drive me batty!  I think there will always be a need for the lean principles to be applied (although some companies do not recognize the need).  My wife and I recently purchased new windows for our whole house and have had cascading problems since. 

The sales person did a quote while we were at work and mailed it to us.  To understand what the windows he quoted were, we visited the showroom and the sales person showed us a double-hung window where both the top and bottom opened.  We advised we wanted the energy-efficient and gas-filled glass.  We pointed out the measurements on the quote weren’t correct so he was going to send someone out again and provide us with a more accurate quote. 

The updated quote came and the price was good so we agreed via telephone.

During the day of the first installation I stayed out of the way from the crew.  I popped out at one point to see one of the windows that was finished.  It was a single-hung window where the top did not open like I ordered! 

I called the salesperson who was very rude stating it was on the quote I agreed to.  I advised it was not the window my wife and I saw in the showroom.  He said that was just a demo of the window brand and we were not clear to him we wanted double-hung.  I asked where it said on the quote that it was single hung to alert me as a customer that I might not be getting what I expected.  He said next to each measurement is the code “SH” for single hung.  I advised him that as the window expert, I would have expected him to explain technical codes to me the consumer and asked why he would not have tried to up-sell me on the more expensive window anyways.  We eventually came to agreement to get the correct custom windows installed.  This was truly a test of my respect for people principle!

Besides the obvious upset customer (me!), there was a lot of waste for the sales/installation company and the manufacturer: 

  • The installers have to send their crew out twice (you will find out it will be three times in part 2!). 
  • The single-hung custom windows are now scrap cost to  the installer and/or manufacturer. 
  • The time the salesperson spent fixing our problem took time away from him to generate new business for the installation company.

Potential counter-measures: 1) Train salespeople to ask customer’s the right kind of questions to ensure their needs are met prior to ordering.  2) Make quotes visual with descriptions with explicit explanations with no code so the customer can understand what they are agreeing to.  3) Don’t blame the customer when problems happen but own the issue.

I will share part 2 next week.  Any other wastes or counter-measures you see in this story?

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

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, customers, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Information Flow, Problem Solving, Quality, Respect For People, Root Cause, Value Added, Visual Communication, Visual Language, Waste

Martyrs and Hidden Problems

There are people in your organization who live with drastic waste everyday but they do not communicate it to anybody as a problem.  I call them martyrs.

They take on work that is not value added for your customer.  They perform duties that are a waste of their skills and pay level.  Most of these activities have no thoughtful processes and are highly subject to variability.  Martyrs usually do this work without productive complaint because “someone has to get it done and nobody else will do it.” (I say productive complaint because they most likely share their frustration with coworkers and families).

Leadership must actively identify and help martyrs. 

  • Only by observing people doing the work will leaders see the problems martyrs face – because they will not tell you.  Some do not even recognize it as a problem. 
  • Help these martyrs recognize problems and do everything you can to help them solve it. 
  • Assist them with understanding processes so they can remove waste from their work.

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

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Problem Solving, Productivity, Respect For People, Standard Work

“Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”

Remember the song “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”? 

I was thinking how appropriate some of the lyrics are for people who see problems in their work area everyday that never get fixed.  Encourage your teams to make problems visible so they can begin to solve issues. 

  • Make a whiteboard where everybody writes problems they see. 
  • Have blank A3 paper handy so someone can begin to uncover the root cause. 
  • Remind people to not just keep problems limited to memory because in a fast-paced workplace it is easy to forget or trivialize as time progresses.
  • Assign or facilitate someone in the workgroup to own the resolution of the problem.
  • Reinforce a culture where leadership supports problems being visible and not used as an easy punishing device.

Giving your team an avenue to express the problems they see will bring massive improvement to your organization.

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

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Filed under A3, Business, Change Management, Communication, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity, Respect For People, Visual Communication

Rent-A-Wait and Inflexibility

Inflexible staff responsibilities and lack of cross-training leads to customer waiting.  Simple changes can help your organization easily achieve customer satisfaction.

My wife and I rented a car for our vacation last week and experienced a very unnecessary 20 minute wait to return our car.  This company definitely was not a Lean Enterprise.

The rent-a-car location has two connected offices.  One office was for Cars and the other was Trucks.  We returned the car about an hour after it opened only to see a sign on the locked door for the cars division stating they were dropping off a customer and to call a number if needed.  We called the number and was advised the Car Division employee would return in 20-25 minutes. 

We went into the Trucks Division office and two employees were talking together.  They were not on the computer or phone.  They advised they can only take the keys from us but could not give a receipt or change the credit card like we wanted to.

About five minutes later, a guy in coveralls drove up and parked behind the building.  We saw him enter a back door of the Cars Division.  We knocked on the glass and the new guy advised us he just takes care of the cars and would only be able to take the keys from us.

After 20 minutes, the Cars Division salesperson showed up and took care of us.

Our waiting could have been avoided by having more flexibility between divisions.  If the Truck staff was not silioed and was able to cover the Cars returns while they dropped off a customer, we would have been more satisfied.  From our perspective, the employees all worked for the same company and I did not care if they were in different divisions.

Another way to avoid customer wait would be to provide credit card and return authority to the person who takes care of the cars.  If the company is hiring people who they do not trust with customer credit cards to take care of the cars, then I seriously worry about the quality of the vehicle I am renting.

This experience just drives home the importance of physically going to see how your customers interact with your company and products.  The contermeasures I provided are simple and easy to implement but you have to see the problem to know it is a problem.

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

Subscribe to Improve With Me via: RSS | Google Reader | Twitter 

1 Comment

Filed under Business, Change Management, customers, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Information Flow, Learn Leadership, Problem Solving, Productivity, Respect For People