Category Archives: Root Cause

Relieving Workplace Mayhem

Does your workday frequently feel like mayhem?  I have talked with many people who feel like their job is filled with unnecessary chaos.  I believe a lot of organizations self-inflict themselves with craziness.  There is a way to stop the mayhem!

Overburdening people (and equipment) is a form of waste.  Your organization must first identify where people experience this waste.  Usually it is very easy to find just by asking who feels they are overwhelmed. 

Here are some examples of what you may find (also note that most below do not have a paying customer waiting for the outcome):

  • Leaders asking for non-standard reports with quick deadlines (usually to sit on their desks for weeks before they look at them)
  • Constant edits or change of direction to documents because planning is often done after the content was created
  • Support departments get projects dumped on them without ever problem solving around their ability to have capacity to do the work
  • Somebody’s procrastination or lack of planning becomes another person’s urgent priority

The next step is to acknowledge this kind of mayhem is a problem.  This step is difficult because firefighting heroics and the rush of adrenaline from last-minute deadlines becomes “how things are done around here”. 

As an outside observer, I usually see little need for subjecting employees to this kind of work condition and believe it lowers engagement.  Until teams align that overburdening staff is a problem, it will continue unabated.

The final step is to identify the root causes of the mayhem and eliminate them. 

What sort of unnecessary mayhem do you experience in the workplace?

(NOTE: The attached video is only related to this post because of the title and I thought it was a cool rockabilly song!)

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Filed under Alignment, Change Management, Communication, Encouragement, Five Whys, Gemba, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Muri, Plan-Do-Check-Act, Problem Solving, Productivity, Quality, Reflection, Respect For People, Root Cause, Waste

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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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

Book Review: Kaizen Event Fieldbook

Mark Hamel’s “Kaizen Event Fieldbook” is an excellent addition to the library of Lean literature.  Don’t let the title fool you though, there is more to this book than just the technical details behind a kaizen event.

The book definitely delivers on the myriad of details for progressing through the different phases of a kaizen event.  Instead of just explaining what to do, the author provides the reason why it is done.  The book’s emphasis on the thinking behind the actions is valuable for Lean leaders, facilitators, and consultants .  While there are a lot of similarities to how my organization conducts events, it is nice to see the differences recommended by the book.

There are many great tables and visuals throughout the book.  A few of my favorites are the decision tree for what should be a kaizen event, a table with nine symptoms of event malpractice, and a team behavioral audit for the facilitator.  There is also an exhaustive appendix with blank forms to use for kaizen events.

In addition to the technical details, the book has a lot of insight for transformational leadership.  I enjoyed the different short stories in the “gemba tales”.  I like to learn how others teach Lean concepts and the book has an excellent chapter where the author does just that.  I am glad the book also discusses the need for daily kaizen and what that looks like in relation to kaizen events.  Lastly, there is an outstanding section about the role of a kaizen promotion office and the core competencies of those who work in it.

The “Kaizen Event Fieldbook” is a book I open often and refer to.  I highly recommend it.

Mark Hamel writes a great blog at http://kaizenfieldbook.com/marksblog/ and can be found on twitter as @markrhamel.

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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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Filed under Business, Change Management, Five Whys, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Learn Leadership, Learning Organization, Problem Solving, Productivity, Project Management, Root Cause, Standard Work, Strategy Deployment, Value Added

The Jury Is Out

Last month I served on a jury and really enjoyed the opportunity.   The pamphlet that was handed out to all jurors had some advice that I think is good for those in a Lean organization:

“It is enough that you keep an open mind, use common sense, concentrate on the evidence presented, and be fair and honest in your deliberations.  Remember: Don’t be influenced by sympathy or prejudice.”

Keeping an open mind is important for innovation.  So often our minds want to keep things the same or we may stretch to optimize how things are.  An open mind will help you create something  new.

Common sense is woven throughout Lean thinking.  While the concepts are simple, the applications of them are elegant.

Going to gemba will be the key piece of evidence for you to concentrate on.  The facts you witness and hear will help you make a good verdict for what improvements to make.

Lean is about focusing on your customers and what your business needs to prosper.  This focus helps you to be fair and honest while avoiding sympathy or prejudice.  Pet projects or individual agendas may not always fit into Lean thinking.

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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

Lean Leadership Articles

I really found a lot to reflect on these great articles related to Lean Leadership.  Check them out!

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

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Filed under Business, Gemba, Health Care, Improve With Lean, Kaizen, Learn Leadership, Quality, Root Cause, Waste

Beware Of Integrity Loss

Many organizations are facing difficult times due to the financial crisis.  It is an easy temptation to get things out rather than get things right when the pressure is strong.  The integrity of your Lean journey may be lost if your approach changes drastically.

There are two basic philosophical ways to implement Lean in your enterprise: Coaching towards the solution or coaching towards the method (check out Mark Graban & Jamie Flinchbaugh’s excellent discussion for more on this).  If your approach has been to coach towards the method, think of the repercussions if you begin to coach towards the solution. 

  • The “learning organization” goal may be compromised when you do not allow people time to get a deep understanding of the problem
  • Change will not feel owned by those doing the work
  • Those that coach towards the solution may not have gotten their hands dirty (think of executives who don’t go to Gemba but dictate a solution)

I highly suspect organizations that already coach towards the solution will probably not switch to coaching to the method in a crisis.

This warning is just to ensure you use discernment before choosing to change your methods.  Understand that a temporary change of course can potentially bring you to an undesired destination.

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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.

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

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