Successful Supervisor 49 Getting to a Lean Culture

October 22, 2017

The Lean Thinking program is an outgrowth of the Toyota Production System that was developed in the early 1990s.

Many organizations combine the concepts of Lean Thinking and Six Sigma into a single thrust they call “Lean/Six Sigma.”

My preference is to think of these initiatives separately, since they were derived by different groups at different points in the evolution of improvement efforts and have vastly different tools and objectives.

It is true that you can combine staff groups to go after the gains of both programs in one thrust, but I prefer to keep them separate.

For supervisors, it is important to understand what Lean Thinking entails and how to manage a process to eliminate all waste. There are numerous techniques and tools for doing this, and I will discuss a few of the main ones later in this article.

Objectives

First, let’s contrast six sigma and lean in terms of their objectives. The primary objective of six sigma is continuous improvement toward process perfection. The objective of “Lean” is the relentless quest to eliminate all waste (or MUDA, which is the Japanese word for waste).

When we think of waste in our personal life, it is all about the stuff that gets thrown away. In the “Lean” lexicon, waste takes on a much different perspective.

In lean programs, we work on seven different types of waste simultaneously, and only one is the stuff that goes in the garbage can. Here are the seven types of waste.

Note the common way to remember the seven types of waste is by the acronym TIM WOOD.

1. Transport

Any time we move products or sub assemblies, we are incurring costs and waste that the customer is not interested in paying for. Think of it this way, if you purchase a car, you are not at all interested in the pathway it took to be manufactured.

You are interested that the car is perfect in every way, but do not want to pay extra to have it go to six different cities while it is being manufactured in pieces.

2. Inventory

Inventory is waste because it cannot be sold. It also takes up space, which is expensive to maintain. A good lean program can usually cut the space used to manufacture a product by at least 50% by cutting down on the level of inventory or in-process goods.

3. Motion

Similar to transport, the customer is not interested in paying for the motions necessary to produce a product. If you can combine operations to eliminate motion, you have reduced the MUDA for the entire process.

4. Waiting

Waiting is one of the largest forms of waste for most processes. If you tour through even the best factories, you will see pallets of product waiting to be serviced by the next step in the process.

I recall a Tom Peters program entitled “Speed is Life” where he noted that in an average manufacturing cycle for a product that takes two weeks to complete, there is a good solid 18 minutes of actual work being done on the product.

The remainder of the time is wasted because the product is sitting and waiting for the next operation.

5. Overproduction

If we have customers who want to buy five refrigerators from us today, and we make eight refrigerators, three of them represent wasted effort. There is no immediate demand for the product, so it goes into inventory and becomes a form of waste until there is a demand for it.

6. Overprocessing

This kind of waste is all about the number of process steps that are required to actually make a part.

If you have to pick up a carburetor 12 times in order to assemble all the parts onto it, that is a lot of picking up. Suppose you could reduce the number of times needed to pick up the part to just two. That would save 10 process steps to make the same part.

7. Defects

If a product is defective, it cannot be sold, so it is either reworked (which requires extra resources) or it is discarded (which wastes the materials and labor put in to that point).

This is where Six Sigma and Lean intersect. We want all of our processes to be so perfect that they never produce any defects.

Some of the More Popular Lean Tools

If I were to describe all the tools used in lean thinking, this would be a book rather than an article. Let me focus here on just five of the most useful tools.

1. Process Flow Map

A Process Flow Map is a diagram of the entire process on a large piece of paper.

There are specific symbols that depict the various parts of the process flow and the movement of materials as well as any inventory points. The idea is to allow a team of technical people to actually “see” the whole process and how it works at once.

It is imperative to have a fully trained person actually construct the Process Flow Map, or the whole analysis may be flawed.

There is an excellent book on how to construct Process Flow Maps. It is entitled “Learning to See,” by Mike Rother and John Shook. The book deals with many of the tools to eliminate MUDA and how to use them correctly.

2. Kaizen

A Kaizen is an event that takes place on the process site, where a team actually takes the process apart physically and puts it together in a more streamlined configuration.

There are many techniques used to accomplish a Kaizen, such as “spaghetti diagrams” that trace the actual movement of the process on a diagram.

The caveat here is to not try to perform a Kaizen unless you have a qualified facilitator and really know what you are doing.

A poorly done Kaizen can do a lot of damage. You may be able to take the process apart but fail at putting it back together.

3. 5 S

The process of 5 S is built around five Japanese words that all begin with S.

Seri – Sort
Seiton – Set in order
Seiso – Shine
Seiketsu – Standardize
Shitsuke – Sustain

The idea is to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.

When you walk into a 5 S operation, it is neat and tidy with everything available but absolutely no clutter to be seen.

4. Poka-Yoke

Poka-Yoke means to make the operation fool proof. If you simply cannot put something together incorrectly it has some good poka-yoke thinking associated with it.

The best example in our personal world is the three pronged electrical plug. There is no way to put it together incorrectly.

When you think of it, we have many examples of good poka- yoke thinking that we use every day from symmetrical ignition keys to USB connectors on computers.

Something that is not poka-yoke is your shoes. It is possible, albeit not comfortable, to put them on the wrong feet.

5. Kanban

Kanban is a philosophy that allows a continuous process while maintaining a minimum of inventory of parts. You work off a two bin system.

You have an active bin where you are drawing parts until it is empty. You then move the spare full bin into place to continue the process, and the empty space (called a Kanban square) is the signal to go get another bin of parts.

Administering Lean

The lean philosophy is a very powerful mindset for any operation. As a supervisor, you must be careful to administer the effort with care and professionalism.

Make sure the effort is well staffed with qualified people. Trying to do lean manufacturing on a flimsy base can produce great confusion and lead to expensive rework and disillusionment among the workers.

Another consideration is that lean efforts are usually being performed while production is still running through parts of the operation. One cell might be down while the work is being done, but the rest of the plant is working.

It takes a lot of coordination and planning to accomplish a lean program, but the result is well worth the effort.

In addition to keeping parts of the process running, the supervisor needs to ensure the safety of all personnel, even though parts of the operation are not in a normal steady state of operation. In general, you should spend as much time planning a lean activity as it takes to actually accomplish it.

Eliminating all forms of waste and using the tools of Lean Thinking allows the supervisor to produce the maximum saleable products in the least amount of time and at the lowest possible cost.

Think of lean as an ideal or state of perfection that you never actually fully achieve. With a philosophy of “continuous improvement” you refine and make the process more perfect every day. The techniques must become a way of life to be able to sustain the gains, but they are well worth the effort.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Successful Supervisor Part 11 – Learning to See

January 29, 2017

One interesting technique I picked up many years ago while studying and implementing “Lean Manufacturing” is the concept of “learning to see.”

Since most of us are sighted, it seems like a funny concept to discuss, but once your eyes are opened to the data that is before you, the revelation is startling.

For supervisors, the ability to really see what is actually happening is a vital skill that should be cultivated.

The concept was first revealed to me in a 1999 workbook entitled, Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA (MUDA is waste in Japanese) by Mike Rother and John Shook.

The concept was to have a set of rules whereby one could draw a diagram of any process that showed how the materials and value flowed from one part of the process to the others.

Value stream mapping is not rocket science, but the method is pretty technical and has a language all its own, which takes some time to learn. The end result of a value stream map is a cartoon-like diagram of the entire process on one page.

The benefit of a value stream map is that once you go to all the trouble of gathering the data on various aspects of how the process works, you really understand it. All of a sudden you can visualize or see the way things are supposed to work and flow.

That knowledge is invaluable when the process gets off course, because you can quickly identify the root cause of the bottleneck and usually resolve it. You can also redesign parts of the process so there is higher efficiency and lower waste.

One limitation of value stream mapping is that it does not deal with the level of motivation of the people who make the process work. How people interface with the process and with each other turns out to be pivotal considerations.

I like to extrapolate the concept of “learning to see” into the people part of the business. Of course people are not as stable and predictable as things like inventory or shipping, but the notion of a solid feel for how things should be working between people at work is pretty handy.

For a supervisor, as long as everyone is present and doing his or her job correctly, then everything is fine. However, any supervisor will tell you that it takes a rather amazing alignment of conditions for everyone working on the shop floor to be doing the exact right things at the same time.

Imagine the challenge of trying to get an orchestra to operate in perfect sync if there was no conductor marking the time.

The benefit of utilizing lean technology when working with people is that the supervisor can walk out on the shop floor and “see” very quickly what individual needs assistance or coaching. She does not have to wait until the wheels come completely off the process and there is some sort of calamity before taking corrective action.

A good supervisor will instinctively know that the operator over in cell 7 needs some help now. She will notice that the inspector on line 2 is in need of a training refresher. She will identify that the squabble between Alice and Pete is getting in the way of their productivity, causing a bottleneck, and slowing down the entire operation.

The tricky part is teaching the supervisor how to see. To accomplish that, experience and awareness are essential. The more a supervisor knows her people and the potential pressure points in the process, the more she can be alert to the early warning signs of trouble and step in when correction is easy.

Beyond experience, the supervisor needs to develop a kind of sixth sense that allows her to see around corners. It is akin to the concept of Mom having eyes in the back of her head, so she knows to check things out when the kiddies are too quiet.

A really brilliant supervisor can walk out on the production floor and quickly sense the trouble over in the corner operation. As she moves toward the scene, she takes in data through all her senses, and by the time she arrives on the spot she not only has a good idea of the problem but also the root cause and how to fix it.

Here is where the danger comes in. With that kind of instinctive knowledge, she can easily overlook a condition that is different from the normal fault pattern and start correcting the wrong thing or coaching the wrong person.

Tips to consider if you are the supervisor

The antidote is to take the sum total of historical information into account when diagnosing issues, but to keep an open mind to potential new patterns. Listen carefully.

Pause long enough to be certain the symptom you are seeing is real. It is like the situation where the mother whips around to see why things have gone quiet for the last 30 seconds only to see her two children on the floor carefully working on a puzzle together. Nothing is wrong, and no corrective action is required.

Your ability to handle this kind of complexity and have a decent track record of keeping things going is what makes you so incredibly valuable to your organization.

Keep on the move constantly and try to anticipate issues before they become big problems. You need to live and breathe the process on a moment to moment basis and understand it at a level few others do.

If you are a less experienced supervisor or someone new to a particular area, try to see the entire process operating as one flow, and be sure to include people aspects in your analysis. The more you can do that, the more valuable you will be to the operation.

Once you learn how to “see” your operation well, you will be among the elite supervisors, and that is a pretty satisfying feeling not many people experience. Eventually you will know how the entire process works better than anyone else in the organization, and that knowledge makes you one of the most valuable employees in the enterprise.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Clean Out Your Clutter

May 14, 2016

Most of us need a reminder once in a while to clean out our clutter. This article is about the topic of clutter in various parts of our lives and how we need to keep it from building up.

If you have the personal discipline never to have a cluttered desk or workbench, stop reading and give yourself a medal for being so organized. The rest of us will pick apart the clutter and find some ways of coping.

First, it would be good to identify exactly what clutter is. Clutter is that set of things (or ideas) that once served a useful purpose in our lives, but now are no longer useful.

For example, if you look in your cupboard or pantry, you are likely to find some condiments or food items that expired over a year ago. If you think about it, these items are not safe to eat, and you will never use them. They remain on the shelf taking up valuable space, but they will not be consumed by you or anyone else.

To throw them out would be the smart thing to do, but some of us continue to work around these artifacts and simply refuse to do what is obviously right.

Look in your closet. There are probably clothes in there that you intellectually know you will never wear again. Your body shape is not going to return to the size that would allow you to wear them, and you cannot legitimately give them to someone else due to their condition. Yet, year after year, they remain in your closet taking up space and leaving the place a cluttered mess.

Keeping clutter is not just a bad habit for people; it is also a problem for organizations. In any organization, there are procedures and processes that have no current purpose, but we continue to do them out of momentum. They sap energy and time from our current operation, but we fail to stop them.

An example might be a daily report that nobody pays any attention to anymore. It may be the ancient Mimeograph supplies in the stationery cabinet. They will sit there for decades in their unopened boxes, even though the Mimeograph machine was tossed out in 1975.

You probably have ink cartridges or toner for printers that no longer exist in your office. The list goes on and on. Spare parts for machines we no longer own; old Christmas decorations we no longer use; trade show posters collecting dust; a broken vase; these are all items that can be found in most office store rooms, and there are thousands of other examples, if you think about it.

There is also mental clutter that clogs our brains with old ideas that do not apply in our current world, or maybe never did apply very well. For example, many managers still practice a “command and control” philosophy, clinging to the ancient belief that in order to get things done they need to scare people into compliance.

Managers may believe that to “motivate” people, all they need to do is add some extrinsic goodies like t-shirts, pizza parties, or hat days. Those ideas went out with Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory over 60 years ago, yet every day I still see managers trying to “motivate” people with extrinsic rewards.

How can we get a handle on clutter and remove much of it from our lives?

To start with, we need to be able to actually see the clutter in a different form than we usually do. I think one way is to do campaigns where we remove every single bottle of lotion or shampoo from a cupboard and then only replace those items we are likely to use in the future.

You can do one cupboard or closet a day and have an entire room cleaned up in a week. You can set aside three consecutive days on your calendar to do the garage or attic. Just be sure to have a dumpster handy and a wheelbarrow to carry the junk out to it.

With edible condiments and drug or cosmetic items, the rule is to buy only what you intend to use. Use up each item and throw away the container before you purchase a replacement. If you use 3/4 of the bottle, then buy a replacement, eventually you will have cupboards full of 1/4 full bottles and no room for any new ones, plus you will spend 25% more for your cosmetics than you need to. Use what you have before opening a new jar.

With the office procedures, why not have a “clean out” day where we challenge all of the rituals and things that take up our time. There is a formal process for this called “Work Out.” The idea is to take the useless work out of our processes so we can spend our precious time only on the things that matter, thus de-cluttering our processes. The concepts of lean thinking and “5S” principles are particularly helpful for these clean out activities.

The benefit of cleaning out your clutter is that you make room to put the vital few things for your current existence front and center where they are readily available and not hidden among the piles of useless garbage that has built up over the years.

In the event that you need to downsize your environment in the future (and we all eventually do), you will need to throw out the clutter anyway, why not start now and enjoy some more usable resources today.

Your e-mail inbox is another place where clutter can easily accumulate. One antidote for this problem is to make a vow to have the inbox cleaned out totally at least three times a week. If you are really ambitious, see if you can get the inbox to zero read and unread notes at least once a day. People tell me that is impossible, and I admit that I do not always get there, but often I do. I did today, for example.

There are numerous advantages to having a clean inbox. First, you will be more responsive to other people, and that will help build trust between you. I just answered an RFP in record time simply because it was the only thing in my inbox. That may give me an advantage to get selected; maybe not, but at least it is done and out of here.

People also tell me I am much more responsive to proposals than other consultants or speakers. I do not spend a micro-second scanning over old e-mails looking for something I need. I can see everything there is in my inbox with just one glance. People view me as being an organized person, because I almost never lose things or get behind on deliverables.

Successful people have the knack of working at a pace that they define rather than one that is defined by others. For example, Seth Goden can write a book in a weekend, and he writes an insightful blog every day. He has developed a system that works well for him. I admire his prolific nature and seek to emulate it in a more modest pattern that works for me.

One trick I learned a long time ago from my former mentor is to always “work ahead of the power curve,” which is shorthand for “do your work well ahead of the deadline date.” You get more done, and you are rarely late.

Key points

1. Clutter exists in many forms that are physical, mental, emotional, or electronic.
2. It takes discipline to keep the level of clutter down.
3. Electronic clutter is as much of a problem as physical clutter.
4. There are many benefits to getting rid of clutter.

Exercises that will help

1. Name at least 5 practices at your place of work that are wasting the time of people. How could these be eliminated?
2. Now name 5 more and recognize that the potential to identify waste is infinite.
3. What is your personal process for cleaning out the clutter in your life? Are you satisfied with how that is working?
4. Identify one storage area at home and at work each month and have a “cleaning out day.”

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com 585-392-7763. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.


Understanding Poka Yoke

April 30, 2016

In the lexicon of The Toyota Production System and Lean Thinking, there is a term called “Poka Yoke.” No, it’s not what you are thinking: it has nothing to do with destroying eggs. The Japanese term means to “mistake-proof” a thing or operation. The objective of Poka Yoke is to make it virtually impossible to do something incorrectly. We want to stop wrong things from happening because we are fully capable of injuring or disappointing ourselves unless it is prevented.

The examples of Poka Yoke in our normal everyday life are myriad. We rarely pay attention to these failsafe measures, but once we become attuned to seeing them, examples tend to crop up like weeds in a summer garden. Let’s have some fun and describe the start of a typical morning for a production worker named Ben to see how often the Poka Yoke concept is in play.

1. Ben plugs in his electric shaver and it works correctly because the shape of the prongs on the plug make it impossible for him to electrocute himself.

2. He reaches for a banana for breakfast and it is there because he wrote a note to himself yesterday to pick them up.

3. He gets into his car and puts the key in the ignition. The key is symmetrical, so regardless of which way he inserts it, the key works.

4. He steps on the brake because his car will not start unless the brake is engaged and the transmission is in park. That prevents him from driving through the back of his garage.

5. At work, Ben doesn’t worry about turning off the coffee pot, because it automatically times out to prevent scorching the pot or starting a fire.

6. His cell phone dings to remind him that the morning meeting is in 15 minutes.

7. The packaging line where Ben works automatically weighs each package and rejects any that do not have the right weight.

8. If the line goes down, Ben needs to reset it by hitting two buttons simultaneously to prevent him from losing a finger.

These are just a few of the thousands of examples of Poka Yoke in an average day.

I am reminded of the famous quote by Mr. Spock, the half human, half Vulcan on the Star Trek Series. He said,

“It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.”

We should all be proactive at using Poka Yoke in our lives. Try to increase your awareness to recognize more of these failsafe measures. It gets to be a kind of game.

Now let’s broaden the discussion to include how Poka Yoke can impact the culture of an organization to prevent low motivation and apathy. What would Poka Yoke look like when leaders use it to prevent worker disengagement.

1. Leaders would reinforce people for expressing their concerns rather than punishing them, as is often the case. That action enables more candid communication of small issues while they are easier to address. The more real environment avoids a loss of trust in the leaders. When people are not heard, they feel diminished and underperform because they are convinced the leaders don’t care.

2. Managers would actually demonstrate the values they espouse, thus preventing employees from viewing them as hypocrites. The benefit is that the entire population will take the values to heart.

3. Supervisors would listen to employee ideas and demonstrate faith in them to know how things could be improved. They would support and champion the ideas of workers, thus creating a feeling of higher engagement of shop floor people in the business and avoiding a sense of futility that is common in many organizations while realizing the benefits of the ideas.

4. Group Leaders would praise people sincerely for their contributions to the business, thus preventing them from feeling that their efforts are totally ignored and that they only hear from supervision when they mess up. The benefit is higher engagement of all workers so they freely give maximum discretionary effort.

5. Senior managers would understand that it is their behaviors that set the tone for everything that happens in the organization. They would hold themselves accountable for creating a culture of high trust where everything at all levels works better. That kind of environment avoids having a credibility gap between leaders and workers and ultimately results in greatly improved productivity.

There were two themes in this article. The first was that we experience Poka Yoke in our daily life but are not often aware of it. The second theme is that managers often fail to see the opportunity to use Poka Yoke to improve the culture of their organizations. We can all benefit from using the concept of Poka Yoke in our lives and in our organizations, so let’s use it more often.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com 585-392-7763. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.