Category Archives: Learning Organization

Change Through Repeated Action

“Beliefs, behaviors, assumptions, and attitudes do not change through study, conferences, seminars, and training classes; they change through repeated action. This is not dissimilar to breaking unhealthy habits such as smoking or overeating. The consistently repeated lean actions and restraint from doing old non-lean things are undoubtedly ‘painful’ in the beginning(source: The Kaizen Event Fieldbook by Hamel pages 61-62)
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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

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

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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Filed under Business, Change Management, Communication, Consulting, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Personal Development, Problem Solving, Respect For People

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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Funny Escalations

I recently discovered this funny online webcomic 1.00 FTE.  This particular one reminds me of the waste of overburdening people.  An unreasonable request is made to a team and escalation is conducted to force it to action.

What is a better way to meet with senior management about this? 

  • Bring the senior leader to watch and talk with the team (gemba) to find out why they can not do the task.  There may be waste causing them to not be able to complete the task.  They may not have the resources or skills.  There may be other barriers for them.
  • Deeply understand the task that is being requested.  The task may not fit into the organization’s strategy or help your customer.  The task might not be worth doing right now (or ever).  It may just be someone’s pet project.  The team may have bigger priorities.

Keep on improving!

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Filed under Business, Change Management, customers, Encouragement, humor, Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Personal Development, Project Management, Respect For People, Strategy Deployment

Why WHY?

WHY is one of the most important questions for your Lean journey. Here are the reasons:

  • IMPROVE ROOT CAUSES – Instead of fixing symptoms, determine what is causing the problem by asking WHY five times (Wikipedia example)
  • GOOD CHANGE MANAGEMENT – Ensure your staff knows WHY an improvement is made or the reasons for standardization.  This is only helpful if the answer to WHY isn’t “because I told you so”.
  • SUSTAIN GAINS – Just because a brilliant process has been designed for standardization does not mean all staff will follow it. Leaders need to ask WHY an individual does not perform to standard. It could be because of lack of training, a misunderstanding of WHY change was made, a physical or space limitation preventing the ability to follow it, a flat out refusal to adhere to it, or many other reasons. You can not sustain unless you find out WHY people are not following it.
  • BETTER TEACHING – In my experience, teaching the reasons WHY behind the Lean tools helps people think critically.  Just explaining how the tools are used can lead to a misuse of them.
  • IMPACT PERFORMANCE – Your organization probably has a lot of demand for projects.  Find out WHY the projects are needed and use that information to select those that impact your performance.  Projects can keep a lot of people flurrying in activity but are not always conceptualized to achieve improvement for the organization’s performance, creating value for customers, or achieving strategic aims.

What other use of WHY have helped you on your Lean journey?

Keep on improving!

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Growth Versus Development Warning

“We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organization, and we should sincerely be mindful of that.” – Akio Toyoda (2/23/10)     Quote obtained from Jon Miller.

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How Does Autonomy Fit Into Lean Management?

Dan Pink’s new book “DRIVE” made me wonder how Lean managementwill work with the book’s premise that knowledge workers seek autonomy.Do standardized work and job instruction sheets take away from the need to have autonomy over what tasks people do, when they do it, who they do it with, and how they do it?

The book’s premise is that old motivating ways of using the carrot as a reward or the stick as punishmentdoesnot work for knowledge workers. Knowledge workers are motivated by autonomy over task, technique, time, and team. They are also motivated by the pursuit of mastery and fulfilling a purpose. I posted a video from the author explaining the concept a couple of months ago.

Pink breaks down processes into two categories:

  • Algorithmic: Tasks where you follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion
  • Heuristic: Tasks which require experimenting with possibilities to devise a novel solution and no single pathway exists

Carrots and sticks work well for motivating people with algorithmic tasks (to some extent) butcause damage when applied to heuristic tasks.

One of the challenges at my hospital is that most providers think providing all elements of care is heuristic. They each have their own special skills and experiencesto create care for the patient. From a Lean perspective, we have variation and unpredictable results which cause waste. Provider teams in the hospital are working at transforming some of these tasks to be algorithmic. Weare able to meet our patients’ demands better, less people are idle, and supplies are getting closer to point-of-use.

Despite these wins, is Lean thinking taking away autonomy by transforming heuristic tasks? I do not think so but we have look at things a little differently.

Just because a task is algorithmic does not mean creativity is lost and robots are created. For patient care, maybe all of the steps leading up to diagnosis are algorithmic but the value added part is heuristic. This frees up the provider’s mental capacity to focus on the true customer problem and not on the problems getting up to the customer.

Another way of looking at this is that the problem solving part of everybody’s work is heurestic. If every task is somehow transformed into a single pathway, your staff should still have the autonomy to recognize problems and experiment to fix them. Helping people understand that their creativity will be focused on trying to improve experiences instead of trying to figure out what to do next or where something is.

Lean management should strive to motivate people as autonomous knowledge workers. Even if standardized work makes tasks look ripe for the carrot and stick treatment, recognize you are asking staff to be creative and solve problems.

What do you think?

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Filed under Change Management, Communication, Consulting, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Problem Solving, Productivity, Reflection, Respect For People, Standard Work

Presentation Secrets Of Steve Jobs

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Presentation Secrets Of Steve Jobs“, posted with vodpod

 

Steve Jobs has a reputation for being an outstanding presenter.  This slideshow from Carmine Gallo is inspired from the book of the same name which I have seen a lot of references to lately (RSS readers may need to open post to view)

What tips do you have about presenting?

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Filed under Business, Communication, Consulting, Encouragement, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Personal Development, Problem Solving, Productivity, Project Management, Quality, Storytelling, Visual Communication, Visual Language

Keeping Lean Japanese

There is a trend towards removing the Japanese language or jargon from Lean transformations in the U.S.  I understand why organizations would want to make lean thinking and the  corresponding tools easier to digest, but I think we should seriously consider keeping it Japanese.

  • People get used to new words and phrases better than you might think – Until a few years ago nobody knew what an iPod was.  A cougar used to be a big cat and not a woman who likes younger men.  Jewelry is now commonly called bling.
  • There is no standard for Americanized Lean – Some call Gemba “three actuals (actual place, actual process, actual people)”, others brand it as “direct observation”, some refer to it as just “process walk”, and I am sure Gemba goes by other names.  The problem with this is members of your organization can not easily learn Lean from external sources.  Article and book authors tend to use the Japanese terms at least in reference but your staff may miss it if the original word is not shared with them. 
  • Lean transformation is a significant change and language should reflect that – A lot of Lean will seem counter-intuitive at first and there is a major shift in thinking that will take place on your journey.  A significant change in the language will help communicate to the culture that things will be different from here on out.  To paraphrase Deming, you are no longer using the language of the old world.

Choosing the language of Lean is a strategic choice for your organization.  It is easy to dismiss the notion of keeping the Japanese out and making easier translations.  Please consider the pro side of keeping the original language.

I am very interested in your comments.

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

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Learning Mindset

Learn something like you will be required to teach it someday.

That advice was given to me when I was in college and selling knives to pay my way through it.  We had sales conferences and some speaker, I cannot remember their name, gave this principle to me and I try to use it every day.  This blog is a reflection of this mindset.

When you read a book/article, hear a speaker, or get mentored, try to learn with the intensity that you might be called on to help someone else learn the same thing.  You take on an additional responsibility if you know you are not learning just for your own sake.  Not everything taught to you will be perfect or relevant but you will begin to look for the gold nuggets to pass on to others.

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

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