Category Archives: Business

Test Beliefs Against Data

I like this quote because it touches on a couple of other ideas I have read before. One author I like (Joiner) states that all leaders need to treat decisions as experiments.  Lean challenges HiPPOs (Highest Paid Persons Opinion) to use data in decision making instead of through assertiveness or by being charismatic. The quote below is a good reminder to always experiment with theories to be able to show data if the theory is true or not. It also helps me really notice when opinions are made verses asking for objective data to support.

“In a world without data, opinion prevails…Most managerial dictums are hypotheses. A hypothesis by nature is useless unless proven by data…Asserting an opinion as a fact is a lot easier. Pretending that our assuredness reflects objective truth is certainly convenient …we need to test our beliefs against data…Managers must see themselves as experimenters who lead learning, not dictators who impose control.” – Peter Scholtes “The Leader’s Handbook pages 29,33

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Data & Charts, Gemba, Health Care, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Kaizen, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Plan-Do-Check-Act

Seek Multiple Views

This quote has been sitting with me a while and I hope it is relevant for you too.  So often, even a gemba experience may be different for people.  Even though facts are found at gemba, people may only see certain things and not the whole picture (like the four men & elephant story).  I think the Respect For People principle is at play here too because it suggests to mutually respect multiple perspectives and put together into one common view.

“Most disagreements about the right solution, decision, or course of action are really disagreements about the interpretation of current reality…Most statements about current reality are not wrong; they are incomplete. The person who adopts this principle seeks to put multiple views of current reality together to build one common and more complete view of it.”  – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean: Lessons from the Road by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino

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The Waste Of “Managing Up”

Time spent trying to please your boss is processing waste and provides no value to your customers.  Leaders and staff need to recognize this as a major cultural problem because it will negatively affect the long-term success for your organization.

Mark Lovas, one of the best leaders I have ever worked with, blogged in “Being on purpose and off self“:

Leadership: how much time do your people spend trying to please you versus getting the desired results? Are they experts at managing their leaders and mediocre at doing the actual thing? Are they getting good at the job or managing up? I’ve found a tremendous amount of time can be wasted by approval seeking within a company. Powerpoint, meetings, and calls devoted to finding a sense of confidence in the organization, not doing the actual thing.

In my experience, most leaders are not people who consciously demand this sort of activity, but it often persists because those that manage up often receive public praise and promotions.  You would be surprised how much time is spent when staff feel the need to game the system to look good for the boss.  Think about how that time could be better spent doing Kaizen!

Spend time assessing for “managing up” behavior.  It will be a challenging improvement because the causes will be deeply embedded in the system.  The benefit will be a clearer focus on the customer, freed up time to use in creating value, and capacity for future improvements.

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, customers, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity, Waste

Be A Difference Maker

2012 is the year to be a difference maker for all of us.  We have a lot of opportunity to make things better for our customers and better engage our teams.  Here are some tips to make a deep impact this year:

  • Embrace The Kaizen Spirit: Masaaki Imai says “The Kaizen spirit encourages thinking about how to change, rather than why it can’t be done.”  Don’t let the excuses (even really good ones) hold you back from looking to find a way to make a difference.  As Mark Graban suggested recently, let the identified barriers become your first problem statement.
  • See How Your Role Makes A Difference: Seek to discover how your role directly makes things better for customers or how it supports those that interact with them.  Also consider what you can do to make a difference with the people on your team by being a better listener, encourager, or other things that help people make improvements.
  • Be Approachable: If people avoid talking with you, you can’t make a difference because you will not understand the current situation.  Being inclusive allows you to build trust and begin to help influence positive changes.

I am sure many of my readers are already making huge impacts on people’s lives and in the organizations they work with.  What other suggestions do you have for people to be a difference maker this year?

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Walk The Talk

I learned a lot at the recent Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit and will blog my reflections from it.  The first thing that stands out to me was the consistent effort leaders were making to walk the talk.  I think the list below is a great start of what will help leaders help transform and sustain their organizations.

  • Go see, ask why, show respect, and learn
  • Practice respect for people as individuals, engage their heads & hearts, and don’t shame or blame.
  • Be humble
  • Lead as though you have no authority
  • Teach and ask questions
  • Persevere
  • Experiment
  • Be inclusive of everyone
  • Be free from the “smartest society” trap and don’t fear appearing to be outed as incompetent

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Consulting, Encouragement, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Respect For People, Standard Work

Book Review: Toyota Under Fire

 

“Toyota Under Fire” by Jeffrey Liker and Timothy Ogden is a highly recommended book for leaders, Lean-thinkers, and people interested in media criticism.

I initially thought it would solely be about the recall crisis which NASA has already vindicated the company.  The book also details the challenges faced by Toyota during the recession.  The authors provide candid information about how the company could have done better and show how they turned the crisis into an opportunity to become stronger.

The final chapter transforms Toyota’s story during the crisis into lessons other organizations can use to help them be prepared for a crisis.

The book helped understand the power of the Toyota Way and reaffirms why they are a company to be admired.  There are many great insights into the thinking of the people in the organization.  Some of my favorites were about how deeply respect for people is practiced, the examples of how important it is to be close to the problem to be able to improve it, the importance of culture, and how the five why’s were used to accept responsibility of the problem.

For those interested in media criticism, this book provides a lot of data that was distorted or omitted in the news during the recalls.  The examples of sensationalized reports with no follow-through once disproven will serve as a reminder to take what we consume from the news with a grain of salt.

One thing I found surprising in the book is that many cited sources were from bloggers and websites.  Since the traditional media seemed slanted against Toyota, these other sources appear more neutral.

Liker and Ogden’s book show how Toyota practices the Toyota Way.  It is not just about theory and philosophy but a demonstration of how it was recently done.  This was an excellent book.

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

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Filed under Book Review, Business, Change Management, Communication, customers, Five Whys, Gemba, Hansei, Improve With Lean, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Problem Solving, Quality, Reflection, Respect For People, Root Cause

Do You Have A Play Lab?

While cleaning up various packaging after my son’s first birthday, I noticed an interesting pamphlet from toy manufacturer Fisher-Price.  They have a “Play Lab” where they observe kids and families using their products to determine how to make them better!

Watching how your customers interact with your products and services will help your organization be more successful.  You will be able to better understand their needs to create new things to satisfy them.  You will spend time improving what matters because you are able to improve based on what problems you see them experiencing.

Here are a few quotes from the flyer:

…start in our Play Lab, where thousands of children test our toys in a fun, nurturing environment.  And our product designers get right down on the floor with them.

Have more than the customer-facing staff observe your customers.  Help others see how their work supports your customers.  Have leaders gain first-hand knowledge of how your products and services are being experienced.

…Fisher-Price does thousands of in-home tests – so we can really grasp how kids interact with our toys, how toys fit into their lives and how they play.

While simulated environments can tell you a lot, there is even deeper learning when observing in a natural setting.

 …we created Mom Panels, informal groups where moms can see our toy development and let us know what works for them and their children, and what doesn’t.

Engaged and loyal customers will tell you what is broken about your system if you just ask.  They will also tell you what is valuable to them.

Does your organization have a “Play Lab”?  If not, create the opportunity for many different people to be able to watch your customers use your products and services. 

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Filed under Business, Communication, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Problem Solving, Quality, Respect For People, Value Added, Waste

Joiner’s Wisdom: Customer Centered Employees

“Employees will not be able to give customers the attention they deserve if they fear making a mistake, if they get blamed for problems that are outside of their control, if chaos prevents them from doing their work efficiently, if decisions depend on a manger’s whim instead of data and logic, or if managers focus more on figures than on customers.  They need to believe they are an important part of a team that operates to serve customers.”Brian Joiner: Fourth Generation Management, Chapter 6: Customer Focused Strategies, page 100

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Are You “Under New Management” Yet?

I often see restaurants and other businesses with signs outside advertising “Under New Management” and wonder why they need to advertise this to potential customers. It got me to thinking how Lean success requires new management as well to be successful.

I think local businesses hang announcements about a leadership change because they want to tell customers they will receive better service than before. Maybe they now offer better quality, improved customer service, superior product selection, friendlier employees because they are happier, safer conditions, or a combination of all. Lean transformations provide similar benefits but they require new management to achieve them.

The leadership team might be the same people as before, but their management practices will need to change. Remember, improved results were not being created and sustained under an old management model.

Below is not a comprehensive list, but here are some of the changes to traditional leadership:

  • Decisions are made based on data and observation, not just charisma and intuition
  • Leaders act as coaches and teachers to develop people to solve problems deeper in the organization instead of being the one to solve them
  • The voice of the customer is primary focus
  • Standardized work is followed by leaders and not just those in production
  • Credibility is earned by practicing Lean and not just sponsoring it or speaking positively about it
  • Ability to fire-fight is not a sign of great Lean leaders; removing root causes to prevent fires shows lean competency
  • Use long-term thinking for selecting activities and strategies
  • Practice Respect For People for all staff, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders
  • Manage both the means and results by understanding how processes produce outcomes

Becoming “under new management” is not an easy task but it will help your organization remain competitive in the years to come.

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Filed under Business, Data & Charts, Five Whys, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Plan-Do-Check-Act, Problem Solving, Root Cause, Standard Work

Make Healthcare Awesome

I was pretty excited to come across this “Make Healthcare Better” SlideShare presentation from Drew Weilage (RSS readers may need to click link to view).  His message of focusing on the patient and moving away from mediocrity in hospitals is exactly the mission I have.  I think Lean helps hospitals work to make things convenient for the patient and not just the provider.  I hope you find this interesting as well.  He also has a blog that is worth checking out.

This presentation really fires me up about what I do and the potential for hospitals.  I love the ending line: “Good is not good enough”.

Please share your comments about the presentation.

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Filed under Business, Consulting, Encouragement, Improve With Lean, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Quality, Respect For People

Does Technology Actually Provide “Solutions”?

Technology can sometimes seem like the right way to address issues but most people do not know about the extra problems it can create.  You may get a short-term win with technology but end up suffering in the long-term.

If your hospital or organization in on a Lean journey, technology can sometimes go against your philosophy and management system.

Here are some things to consider if you are looking at technology: 

  • Never automate a bad process. Eliminate waste and understand what the process really needs before you find a way to make it faster. Quicker waste is still waste.
  • IT systems should fit the process, not the other way around.  In The Birth Of Lean, there was an early Toyota document with the following: “It is not a conveyor that operates men…it is men that operate a conveyor…”  So often people change processes to meet the rigidity of the technology.  Ensure the technology does not force standardization that has waste, lowers quality, or makes no sense.
  • Be able to make changes after it is implemented. So often organizations are stuck with wasteful systems because nobody has knowledge to make iterative improvements or the cost to bring someone in is so high that nobody fixes it until it is totally broke.
  • Trial first instead of piloting. Pilots usually happen after you buy the system. I have rarely seen organizations stop implementation if a pilot does not work out like they expected.  Organizations usually just change their messaging and training to fit what the technology can do instead of ensuring it does what they wanted it to do.  Trialing is part of PDCA thinking and will help ensure the IT system meets the needs of the process without being financially committed to rolling it out.
  • Know the problem you are addressing. With today’s technology, there are all sorts of bells and whistles that seem great.  Although impressive, the added features may be more than needed (overprocessing waste) and can sometimes distract from why you were looking for technology.  These ‘extras’ can also add complexity to your processes.

I think technology can be embraced in Lean organizations but it is important to ensure it is thoroughly tested, reliable, and improvable before you commit to implementing. 

Any other tips?

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Filed under Business, Change Management, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Lean Hospital, Mura, Muri, Productivity, Project Management, Waste

Shhh! People Are Learning

I had a great experience recently when I was able to sit in on a meeting that was being led by a client.  They were debriefing an event and dealing with some uncovered problems afterwards.  I was thinking of some potential counter-measures or approaches to understand the problems deeper but the team came up with everything I was thinking on their own!

As leaders and consultants, it is so important to give people the space and time to figure things out on their own.  Be there to help if struggling, but allow them the ability to experiment and try things.  Coach to the method of thinking but not the solutions.

For me, Lean is about developing thinking and getting results. Unless there is an emergency requiring quick action, no result is worth sacrificing the time spent developing thinking.  Investing in people will help organizations thrive in the long term.  A company or hospital with more Lean thinkers will be more competitive than another that is just implementing the tools.

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A C.O.W. Tale

Does your hospital have a system to ensure nurses have working equipment or they know how to get them fixed?

I recently visited a hospital where the answer would be “NO”. 

Last week, a family member needed a day surgery procedure done at a local hospital.  There were signs in the prep/recovery room touting their move to electronic medical records and no longer needing paper charts.  The problem for the nurse was, the Computer On Wheels (C.O.W.) did not work.  The nurse was unable to access or update the electronic chart!

A second nurse came in during the morning before the procedure to try to troubleshoot the malfunctioning C.O.W.  It was decided to grab a C.O.W. from another room and use it instead.  I am not sure if other nurses had to search for the missing C.O.W. now that it has been moved into our room where it sat there for four hours.  A third nurse eventually pulled it away to put back where it belonged.

The first nurse came back in and tried to access the original C.O.W. in our room and commented “This still doesn’t work yet?”

I looked at the C.O.W. and there was no signage about how to troubleshoot or who to call.  I do not know if a nurse tried calling their helpdesk out of my view but it looked like nobody knew what to do with the broken computer.  It seemed like nobody knew who was to take charge in fixing it.  One can almost infer they expected it to magically fix itself!

Three nurses spent time reacting to faulty equipment that could have been better used providing care to patients.  Instead of spending their creativity solving patient issues, they use it creating workarounds.

Lean thinking can help hospitals put systems into place to ensure equipment always works.  Procedures can be created for what to do when something is broken and how to handle.  Make things visual so staff doesn’t have to rely on memory or look up procedures because instructions are attached to the item being used.

Helping remove waste and frustration from those giving care with make a better experience for those receiving care.

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Filed under 5S, Business, Change Management, Gemba, Health Care, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Problem Solving, Productivity, Respect For People, Standard Work, Value Added, Visual Language, Visual Systems, Waste

Lean Advice From Sobek & Smalley

“From our experience, improvement efforts in companies become ineffective when the emphasis becomes adhering to a standard tool and enforcing a certain way of doing things.  Inherently, the adherence is all well intended as a means of promoting standardization and ultimately improvement.  Unfortunately, the implementation of a certain tool or technique can become more important than improvement of the process or current situation.  In other words, the means trump the ends……place the emphasis on performing, improving, and learning rather than on conforming to templates, tools, and procedures.” – From the highly recommended book “Understanding A3 Thinking (Sobek/Smalley)” page 133.

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How Do You Deal With Service Problems?

If your customers are unhappy with your service or quality, how do you deal with it?

During my wife’s pregnancy, she craved burgers and onion rings from a large chain that sells gourmet burgers.  She was very specific on what she wanted – plain, very well done with no pink, blue cheese, and cut down the middle to ensure it is doneInstead of the normal fries, she always wanted the onion rings.  I would call ahead and fetch the food to bring home.

I can think of six times in the nine months where the order was wrong.  One of the elements she required usually did not make it into our to-go box. 

After the first few times of arriving home with a wrong order, I began opening up all of my boxes in the restaurant to inspect and still found errors.  I began prefacing my call-in to tell the person the common problems I have experienced and still did not get the right thing.

Why did I keep going back?  The management apologized profusely and always gave me my food for free.  As a customer, I know the company will always take care of me.  This is a plus for them.

On the flip side, what else could the burger joint do to handle problems?  If they were committed to continuous improvement, they could use the event of paying for someone’s meal as an opportunity to ensure the problem never happens again. 

  • The manager could have a chef hand out the free gift card for a non-well-done burger to help them see what the customer is experiencing.  This will help gain committment for change.
  • For the times when the person taking the order over the phone did not put in the substitute for onion rings, the leader can work with the person to identify what caused the problem (maybe entry screen is unclear or inoperable, maybe the process is to just verbalize the substitution to the chef). 

Do you think real-time problem solving can be done in a high-volume restaurant or is the immediate counter-measure of giving food for free the best they can do?

Keep on improving!

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