Category Archives: Value Added

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

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

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

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

The Perfect Pitch

How do you show your customers you are competent about your product/service?

My wife and I noticed a small leak near our chimney recently and was advised it most likely was coming from our roof.  We called for three roofing quotes to validate if it was truly a roof issue or if it was something else.

The first contractor came out and pointed out things on our 15 year roof to look for.  He showed me where the previous homeowner did a bad job near some pipes and that we most likely were leaking but can’t see it due to three layers of roof.  He showed where some of the roofing is curling which is a sign of needing replacing.  He inspected around the chimney (even on the side of the house away from the roof) to see where our water was coming from.  He explained how water runs around a house and what signs to look for.  He went onto our roof and measured the pitch.  The contractor gave me a quote and said I should consider replacing in a year.  The transaction was about 35-40 minutes.

The second contractor pulled up to our house and walked immediately to the door.  He sat down with me and said I needed a new roof.  I asked him how he knew since I did not see him stand and look at the roof and didn’t even look at it from the back yard.  He said he can tell because the shiny surface was missing from the front tiles.  He gave me a quote.  The whole thing took about 15 minutes.

The third contractor never came out.

The first contractor provided a lot of value added service to me.  He educated me.  Measuring the pitch made me feel the quote was more accurate.  He provided advice on the real problem why I called him but still explained that the roof will need replacing.  He actually looked at our entire roof before he provided the diagnosis.

The second contractor approached me as though he was the expert and I should just trust him.  He did not demonstrate anything to make me believe he was competent like the first contractor did.  A roof is not cheap so do not discount time spent to build credibility with your potential customers!

Do your actions help your customers see that you are competent and credible?  Do your processes allow value added time for your customers?  Do you think the first contractor wasted time with what he did to give me a quote since the second contractor was more efficient (not effective though)?

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

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Filed under Business, Communication, Improve With Lean, Value Added

Lean and Dental Floss

One of the things I love about Lean is the philosophy to make things more visual. 

This weekend our household dental floss ran out unexpectedly due to the classic white plastic container.  My wife commented that you can never know when you will run out of it. 

We replaced it with Oral B Dental Floss because the plastic is clear and you can see how much you have left (the attached photo shows how easy it is to see).  From looking at their website, they still use plastic you can’t see through on one of their products but the rest are clear.  We found the clear plastic to be value added.

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

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Filed under Business, Communication, Improve With Lean, Improvements, Value Added, Visual Communication