Category Archives: Data & Charts

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

World Class Blog Post

Have you dreamed of eating the Grove Café’s world famous pancakes or been lucky enough to try them yourself?  What?  You never heard of them before now?  It almost sounds like a classic Onion article.

Many hospitals aspire to be “World Class” but there is no measure to know if they succeed at it.  Just like the pancakes, only that hospital seems to define themselves as achieving that level of success.  For that matter, I am not sure what would make them stand out with that definition since a Google search of “world class” and hospital returned 47,300,000 results.

Do patients choose a hospital based on a world class definition?  Similarly, do local “top doctor” magazines drive patients to hospitals or is the US NEWS” Top Hospitals” issue a key deciding factor (despite its questionable criteria)?

I would worry about achieving the level of “World Class” (whatever that actually means) since being at the top of  a benchmark usually does not inspire people to improve once attained. 

I think a better mission for hospitals is to strive for “perfect care”.  Patients deserve predictable clinical outcomes and they shouldn’t get harmed or sicker by being in a hospital.  Patients want better customer service and should not have to experience any unnecessary waits.  Lastly, healthcare should have a fair and reasonable price for their co-pay and insurance.

Hospitals need to ask their patients if they want to be treated at someplace famous or where they will receive perfect care.  If forced to choose one over the other, which would they pick?  Focusing on the means (providing perfect care) will help hospitals achieve outcome of being deemed world class.

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Filed under Consulting, customers, Data & Charts, Gemba, Hansei, Health Care, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Kanban, Lean Hospital, Lean Hospitals, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Problem Solving, Quality, Respect For People

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

Bad Survey Is Waste

My wife and I bought a new laptop from a major chain retail store recently and I was shocked by how bad the satisfaction survey was.  As I was at the register, a surveyor approached me and offered $15 in gift cards to answer the survey.  The questions astounded me. 

  • “Do you agree or disagree that personal PCs are creative?”  My response- People are creative, not machines
  • “Do you agree or disagree that personal PCs are innovative?” My response- People are innovative, not machines
  • “On a scale of 1-10 from horrible to outstanding what is your impression of this location” My response- Is this question based on only today’s purchase or in general since I frequently shop at this one?  Surveyor – “Either”

Maybe I was tough on the surveyor because I have written surveys before.  I was surprised how the questions are written in a way where the responder may not understand what is being asked.  The questions were not specific enough for the company to have faith they can trust the results (in my opinion).

To make matters worse, the surveyor offered me another $5 gift card if I would participate in a phone survey at a later date.  I got the call this week.  I was asked the exact same questions!  I have no idea if they compared my store results to the phone results or if my responses count as two customers.

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

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Why Don’t Old Processes Die?

Have you ever improved a process and were suprised that workers end up doing BOTH the new way and the old way? 

I have seen data that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a new process has removed frustrating waste and increases value for the customer, but still the old way persists. 

I recently talked with a friend who’s business was acquired by another company five years ago.   My friend’s business was strong in the US while the other company reigned in Europe & Asia.  Seems like a good fit right? 

The company is no longer doing business in USA.  My friend’s opinion: the new company never fully integrated in the five years since the acquisition.  They continued to ride the fence of both their old way of work while adopting the practices of my friend’s business at the same time.

Here are some of the reasons why I think people do not let old processes die:

  1. Leadership Support & Alignment – With all change, leaders need to support improvements and be aligned.  If one leader is perceived to think differently about the new process, workers who want to keep the old process will reach that leader.  Once that happens, you will have people doing both old and new!
  2. Nemawashi Skipped – Consensus was not reached amongst stakeholders and those doing the work. 
  3. No Reinforcement Built Into New Process– I recently saw a great example where 5S was included during of a point improvement project.  Things like shadow boards and having a place for the right tools at the right time will help reinforce people to keep up the new process because it will be convenient.
  4. Failure to “Turn Out the Light”– Once an improvement project becomes part of operations, CLOSE the project.  If a project manager is always working on the same thing, staff never get the impression the change is finished and complete.  Yes, we do continuous improvement but the last go-round is over and the new process is finalized until we revisit later. 

 What other things do you think keep old processes from going away after a change?

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

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Filed under Alignment, Business, Communication, Data & Charts, Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Project Management

Are Results > Improvement Process?

“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.

The truth is, both desired results and the improvement process are equally important.  It is easy to understand why it is undesirable to follow the improvement process but not achieve desired results.  What is hard, is the major cultural shift from only wanting the results at the expense of following the improvement process.

Due to limited resources, clients want the improvement results, but are asking internal consultants to be the go-getters.  I think this model has it’s place early in Lean transformations, but this is a difficult situation to turn around.  If clients and their teams are not doing their own time observations, pulling their own data, going to gemba, understanding root cause, and making their own recommendations then their Lean progress is stunted.  I view my role as being able to help coach, guide, and teach clients and their teams to “learn to see”.  If it is just me doing the majority of it, it comes at the expense of their Lean maturity.  This includes someomne else preparing tabels and charts for them in place of gemba but that is a topic for a different post.

This is an interesting situation.  Many times, it is difficult to get a culture that wants to change or improve.  When you have a culture that wants the results of change, it is important to remain principled and not do it all for them because that is a long term disservice in my opinion. 

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

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Filed under Business, Data & Charts, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements

Book Review: Understanding A3 Thinking

A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota’s PDCA Management System by Durward K. Sobek II.

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is outstanding. I initially thought it would be a quick read since the page count is short, but I found myself slowly savoring it. This book is like a good wine where you appreciate the textures and nuances if you take it slow.

I suggest this book to all Lean practitioners, most project managers, people who use data to understand problems and show improvements, people who like to draw, and anybody else that enjoys the thought process behind problem solving.

This is a great next book for fans of THE BACK OF THE NAPKIN.…

The authors offer profound insights to A3 thinking and structure. They also paint a deeper understanding of the thinking at Toyota. I particularly liked the explanation of nemawashi and how the A3 author must return to those where their concerns were not addressed to explain why.

I found the thinking behind data to be fascinating. It is nice to see how much or how little is used. The authors even give a nice overview of Tufte’s graph theories while providing an easy template to choose the best graph to match your communication goal.

For project managers, the A3 project status template is worth exploring. I have used dashboards in the past but this structure paints a better picture while ensuring the organization’s objectives are still being met (projects can chug along way past this simple goal and this report keeps it grounded).

Last but not least, my organization is in the infancy of launching A3 to our mix of Improvement Workshops and Value Stream work. This book offers practical suggestions for starting A3 at your enterprise.

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Filed under Book Review, Data & Charts, Nemawashi, Project Management

Is Excel Evil?

Computerized spreadsheet applications are celebrating a 30-year anniversary.  Are Excel and other spreadsheets good or evil?

John C. Dvorak wrote a great article,  The 30th Anniversary of the (No Good) Spreadsheet App stating spreadsheets and the rise of accountants to positions of power have caused society to deteriorate.

I do not fully agree with Dvorak.  I see Excel as a tool.  Tools can be used correctly and appropriately, but have the potential for abuse.  Here are some things that can make Excel evil:

  • Myoptic data: Everyone seems to have Excel but may not have all of the data to input into their spreadsheet.  People might number crunch but do not have a systems viewpoint.  Comparison of other factors is often left out.  I had a situation where execs were in a panic over a spreadsheet showing lost revenue but nobody compared it to the data showing greater savings gains than the loss incurred.
  • Charts can lie: Ever hear “liars use numbers”?  Changing the height and width of the x and y axis on a graph can display the same data with a different visual impact.  A long x axis with short y axis can make increases look gradual.  A tall y axis with short x axis will make the increase look sharp.  Charts can be used as a tool of influence and not purely objective data.
  • Not everyone is good at Excel: There are people who mess up all their columns when they try to sort.  Formulas can be highly funky sometimes.  We can’t trust all spreadsheets because we do not know the author’s skill-set.
  • Gemba is avoided: Dvorak mentions how a CEO doesn’t want to disagree with what a spreadsheet told him.  If leadership went to Gemba to see, more root cause problems will be fixed.  Spreadsheets often just show a symptom. 

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

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Visual of Credit Crisis


Vodpod videos no longer available.


This SlideShare presentation from Johannes Bhakfi is fascinating.  I love the use of visuals to communicate.  RSS readers will need to open this post to be able to view the presentation.

more about “Creditcrisis 30slides Final“, posted with vodpod 

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Customer Service & Slow Economy

Delivering high quality customer service and measuring it is more important than ever in these tight economic times. 

My wife and I had to buy a new fridge and stove this weekend.  The sales clerk said their delivery drivers are from private companies.  He told us they have had to reduce their deliveries from 25 trucks a day to 18.  The private businesses that are getting the store’s delivery business are those with the highest customer service scores.

First and foremost, we should always provide high quality customer service.  Secondly, we need to constantly measure our quality scores to allow us to be able to improve!

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