How to Run a Kaizen Event

I recently saw this ad for a workshop in a leading industry newsletter:

“If your Lean program isn't delivering the results you expect, it could be because your practitioners are struggling with running effective Lean Kaizen events.”

Well, I hate to rain on somebody’s parade, but this “How to do Lean” song has been played one too many times. Here are some other reasons your Lean program isn’t delivering the results you expected; don’t expect to find a workshop for them anytime soon because it will put the workshop people out of business:

“If your Lean program isn’t delivering the results you expect…”

“…it could be because you swallowed the mainstream notion that the 'Lean Journey' is simply a long series of Kaizen Events.”

“…it could be because you rely on a Lean department to solve your management problems.”

“…it could be because you never follow-up with people and look to coach for the next problem solving opportunity.”

“…it could be because you have no standards…for anything.”

“…it could be because you predetermine Kaizen Event outcomes and are outwardly dissappointed when those are not realized.”

“…it could be because you tell people what to do when faced with problems instead of asking them what they can do.”

“…it could be because Lean is treated like a project.”

“…it could be because you have too many managers and not one leader to be found.”

“…it could be because you erroneously rely on short term results from workshops as a measure of success.”

“…it could be you look to outside influences to solve your problems and not look within.”

“…it could be because you judge and blame others for the current situation.”

“…it could be because you blindly apply Lean tools, instead of adapting to your environment.”

Any others you would like to share?

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Follow the TWI Summit

TWI Summit kicks off today! Dwayne Butcher of TWI Summit is posting the blow-by-blow action on the web for you. Follow the posting link to see quick blurbs and photos each day.



Lean Healthcare - Voice of the Customer

Well, it has been an interesting week...

About 3:00p.m. on Monday, I was in the genba and had a twinge of pain in my abdomen. My co-worker asked if I was alright, to which I jokingly replied, "Probably just appendicitis." About four hours later, I was in the hospital emergency room as doctors poked and probed right around the area where that vestigial organ resides.

By 11:00p.m. I was calling Megan, who is pregnant with our fourth son, due any day now, was having labor pains, and couldn't believe what she was hearing: I was going under for appendicitis. We were so thrilled with the timing of it all! By 2:00a.m., I was in my room recovering.

Overall, I am very, very happy with the level of care provided. And given the fact that appendicitis, left untreated, can end a life we are very grateful for Dr. Kennedy and professionals at Northwest Medical Center.

But, I'm a leanster, and little things just don't slip under my radar anymore. Plus, I was bored out of my mind for two days and was thinking about Lean. Here are a couple of things...small, very small things that I think would have made the experience even better.

1) When I first entered the ER, I couldn't turn that well because of the pain. They also put an IV in me and I hate needles. So, as I tried to put the johnny on, I faced two problems: a) I couldn't turn enough to grab the ties and b) I was afraid that if I bent my arm with the IV, it would poke through my arm or something crazy like that. (yes, I'm a big baby when it comes to needles) So, I sat around for quite awhile with an open johnny. Finally, the ER nurse said with a chuckle that I could bend my IV arm, so I quickly tied that darn thing in a straight knot. Apparently the OR nurse does not share my knot tying skills, she cut it with scissors during surgery. When I woke up, I couldn't get it tied back up again! Call me modest, but I wasn't prepared to ask for help with my backside open until I was feeling like a #8 on the smiley pain scale. Is velcro out of the question?

2) O.k., I'm a hairy guy. When the first IV went in and I watched the ER nurse wrap a 3 x 3 inch slab of clear flexible tape over the carpet of my arm, I felt a little piece of me die inside knowing the pain that was to come upon removal. (I didn't know I had appendicitis at that point, so you will forgive me for feeling this way.)

When I was wheeled into the operating room, and strapped down onto the table, the nurse informed me that they would be shaving me. "No problem", I replied as the oxygen mask was tightened down, thinking that at least someone was thinking ahead. The last thing I remember was that chemically sweet smell of anesthesia, maybe for a half second. I don't remember anything after that.

When I woke up, the pain from the laproscopic incisions was surprisingly not so bad. But whenever I moved for the next two days, the hair that they didn't shave on my stomach pulled because the iodine had dried it all in place. I was forbidden to shower for 48 hours. To give you an idea of what this feels like, go get some shellac and smear it all over your belly and let dry. Now, cough, turn, sit up, laugh, hiccup and breathe. As every hair that moves is pulled, it all hurts. Now, try washing it off. Yup, it doesn't come off immediately. You need to wait another day! In addition, the area shaved around one incision area wasn't big enough, so those band-aids did some damage yesterday when I finally could shower and take those off. Ouch!

Here is my small kaizen idea: why not shave the whole darn area? Yeah, those spots itch like crazy right now, but I can take it and it looks better than three bald spots on my stomach. The alternative is potential Band-aid carpet removal? I suspect that is second only to water boarding. No, thanks. Shave it all.

3) Here is a Lean Product Development idea from my hospital experience. This one isn't hard. I had to be carted out in a wheelchair upon discharge. When I sat down in the wheelchair, something hard was pushing into my left shoulder blade. It was really uncomfortable, forcing me to sit forward, which wasn't easy in my post-op condition. When I got out of the wheelchair later, I couldn't wait to turn around and see the little dastardly bracket or handle the nurse forgot to fold away. Imagine my surprise when I turned to see a the top of an oxygen tank in its standardized holder! At the entrance of the hospital, a small fleet of these wheelchairs are at the ready, with oxygen tanks in the same position. For those of you who design these folding wheelchairs, try sitting in them before you commit to manufacture.

4) Talking wrist bands. If I had a dollar for the number of times I had to repeat my name and birth date as a healthcare professional was reading said information on my wristband, riveted to my wrist, yes, I could pay my healthcare premiums for the year. The technology exists to make this go away! Hallmark uses it in greeting cards for crying out loud! Here is how it works. You check into the hospital and get your wristband: "State your name and birth date, Mr. Lund, speak into the wristband, please." There, its over. I never have to repeat those words until I call the insurance company over billing issues. Now, I know the objection you will offer: "Bryan, this is for your own protection." O.k. fine. What happens if I code and need emergency medical treatment? A doctor can't wake me up and ask me to state my name and birthdate can he? I don't see the point except for some crazy liability B.S. No, you mark my words. Talking wrist bands. Next healthcare innovation.

Well, there you go. Four, small, kaizen ideas that could lead to increased patient (at least this patient's) satisfaction: velcro johnnies, shaving standard work and wheelchairs that don't bruise the patients and talking wrist bands. We always have time to spot an opportunity for improvement!

The best news though is that I did not miss the birth! On the night of my surgery, Megan was having false contractions. What luck! I'm already back on my feet, albeit tenderly, and should be able to fully recover in time to be there for her and the baby.

And in all seriousness, we have the best damn healthcare system ever!

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Updates to Original TWI Job Instruction Materials

In response to a previous post about the TWI Archive materials, Anonymous asks:

"Do you know if anyone has edited the old material and updated it to be more relevant for use today?"

Answer: Yes. Almost everyone I know, that delivers JI, has updated it to meet modern criteria. The most common edits are:

Job Instruction

1) PC'ing the materials so that it isn't so male dominated.

Personal rant: I personally think this is not necessary, as you wouldn't use the word "she" or "her" to mean "he" or "him". That doesn't make any sense. The counter-argument then: what is the difference? It is simply confusing for me. Anyway, my understanding is that the word "he" is considered to be gender-neutral in writing, much like the word "mankind" is - a shortcut to writing out the full phrase "human-kind". But, most managers today will give you the hairy eyeball if the material is not PC'd. This is probably the most tedious, yet easiest, of updates.

2) Change "war on axis" language to "war on waste". This is true for all of the materials.

3) Almost all trainers that I know have updated the material so that in the first JI session, a discussion on four objectives of any organization is included. The four objectives are of course - Quality, Cost, Delivery and Safety. It is arguable to include others, such as Morale, but how many modern objectives we can include isn't the point of the discussion. The point is to ensure that people see these four objectives first because they are built into every single JBS sheet they will ever write - the JI keypoints are composed of all of these objectives. One can then argue successfully that other objectives, such as morale will naturally be met as a result of meeting the four primary objectives.

4) A big change in my delivery is a discussion on standard work. I also change the methods used in how to achieve standard work. However, as other trainers are screaming heresy!, I have to say that I do not deliver this change until the participants and management have been through the original sessions as intended. It is only then that we change how we create JBS to support standard work.

With that said, save for the war era and non-pc language, the original materials can more or less be used as is today.

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Lean Household

TWI Blog reader Darrint says: " I tried doing lean at home. It works well!"

See his blog post "Lean at Home" on his blog Willowbend. One of the things that struck me was how simple Lean Thinking can be applied by using the "opposite" paradox. A couple of examples:

  • Instead of having a full refrigerator ALL the time, ensure it is empty just prior to your shopping day.
  • Don't buy things on sale. Pay more for smaller items.

You can read Darrin's full list of how he applied lean to save money at this post. It's good!

A couple other examples of Lean skills/thinking in the household: my wife used Job Instruction to train my oldest son in how to make a proper place setting when setting the table for dinner. She never has to question if he does it right, just that he is doing it!

Incidentally, Lean thinking was first systematically applied in households many years ago by Lillian Gilbreth. Skilled in industrial engineering, time and motion study, she helped with the development of standards for the "triangles" used in kitchen design today. A triangle is used in the layout of the sink, refrigerator and cooking area.



Back-to-Basics Webinar by Hypertherm

Hypertherm is a company in Lebanon, NH. It is a great company, often ranked as the best place to work in NH. I used to work for the R&D company where the Hypertherm technology spun out of. The area has a great spirit of innovation and entreprenuership - and Lean Thinking!

Check out this webinar on May 7, in how to get back to basics by combining the concepts of Lean, Six Sigma and DFMA.


Last Chance to Register - May 6 - TWI Webcast

Tomorrow is the Webcast - Register Today!

Don Dinero is one of the most passionate people I know when it comes to TWI. The critical thinking skills you learn in Don's sessions can not only improve the workplace but he even encourages you to use this is the home and in school.

I was personally trained by Don in Job Instruction Training - and probably wouldn't have it any other way.

Join this webcast to day to get some deep insight into the TWI skills program.

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Patrick Graupp Article: The Human Element of Lean

One the most striking excerpts from this TWI article:

"It is commonly believed that this philosophy of engaging people in how to do the work came to us from Japan, when interest in Japanese management took off in the early 1980s. At that time, the notion of asking operators their ideas and opinions was quite revolutionary – though I suspect that good American supervisors had surreptitiously been doing it all along. The funny thing is that when I got to Japan in late 1980, the Japanese managers I met were dumbfounded at all the attention being given to their management practices. 'Why is that?' they asked. 'You taught us everything we know.' ”

All of this makes me think: this lean stuff isn't rocket science, but sometimes we sure can make it feel that way.

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Coming Events - Vermont Lean Healthcare

On May 11, nationally acclaimed author Naida Grunden will be the guest speaker at the "Vermont Lean Healthcare Forum" events being hosted at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington from 9-10:30 a.m. and at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont from 1:30-2:45 p.m.

Grunden's book, The Pittsburgh Way to Efficient Healthcare, describes the work of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, a small nonprofit organization established by medical, business, and civic leaders to address health care safety and quality issues in southwestern Pennsylvania.

In 2001, PRHI began to pilot the use of Toyota-based principles (Lean) in health care. These are the same principles VMEC has been applying in manufacturing across Vermont for the past 13 years.

Go to http://www.vmec.org/workshops to sign up at no cost.

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Stopwatch Lean

Time studies elicit many emotions. Among others, I usually encounter anger, fear and anxiety.

Why is this?

Time and motion study were founded in scientific management and are still generally associated with that movement. When people were paid for piece rates, time studies were essential for establishing fair wages for the good of both employees and employer. It seems this relationship devolved into a bitter one over time. I wonder if one reason for this is that the natural conclusion of "command-and-control" management theory meant that the industrial engineer on the floor seen with a stopwatch only meant that the worker was going to have to speed up, which meant less pay for the workers and more profit for the employer.

This relationship has taken new meaning in 2008 where some skilled workers can make more money than the newbie engineer holding the stopwatch.

Does this conflict still exist? The core of lean application is in reducing lead-time so it is only natural that we have a stopwatch ready in our holster. The reason for this is so that we can understand our standard work and be able to balance lines, meet requirements, etc. In fact, I most workcells I have helped create required workers to slow down in order to meet takt time. Yet, the anxiety is still there when workers see a stopwatch or worse, a video camera.

On one hand, I wouldn't want anybody timing me, but would willingly go along to gain an understanding of the situation. Most people aren't like that. How can we get people to understand that timing is more about understanding the requirements of the job and less about making people work faster?

I'm afraid that there is no standard answer that could be put into practice by industry, so I don't expect one. The simple reason is that management theory has a long way to go before we let go of the command-and-control level of thinking. However, perhaps you experienced Leansters out there could offer up suggestions for others to build on? How do you get people to embrace the time-study nature of lean?

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Kaizen in Government

Is kaizen possible in government such as our republic? I've been thinking about this lately, and the best I can come up with for a foundation of how kaizen would work in government starts with the following: how to involve people. In this case, how to involve the the citizens of the government.

So, to the best of my knowledge, kaizen comes in two very high level forms - 1) small, daily incremental improvements and 2) radical, large improvements.

We are seeing small daily changes happen before our eyes; it is debatable if the changes are improvements. That is a matter of opinion. Regardless of your political leanings, most, if not all of these changes do not involve us as decision makers, unless we are lobbyists. No, our "small" kaizen involvement happens in the voting booth. But that doesn't happen every four years now does it? No, it happens everyday around the country: at the state, county, city, town and village level. You CAN be involved if you want to.

What about the "big" kaizen involvement for citizens? I'm afraid we weren't invited to that meeting. In fact, the last time we crashed that party was around the late 1700s, right?

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"I'm Very Comfortable"

So says Ron Gettelfinger, the U.A.W.'s President, as Chrysler enters bankruptcy and the U.A.W.'s VEBA fund, guaranteed by the Treasury a.k.a. the American Taxpayers' Grandchildren's Hyperinflation Tax, will claim 55% of the equity in the company once it emerges from bankruptcy. "Very Comfortable?" Really?

In the world of continuous improvement we know one thing: change requires some level of discomfort or perhaps an even better word may be: dissatisfaction. I wonder how dissatisfied the U.A.W. is with the situation. One also wonders what level of change will come to Chrysler as the U.A.W. gets even more "comfortable" with its newly acquired seat on the board of Chrysler.

Any takers on success of continuous improvement in the New Chrysler?