Genba Comic #5

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TWI Yahoo Group - Mine the National Archive Data!

Join this Yahoo Group - TWI Collaboration Opportunity!

Mark Warren at Tesla2.com has really outdone himself with the amount of work put into additional TWI research. The materials I have researched and posted at TWI Service came from the National Archives. That was almost two years ago now and it was really only the tip of the iceberg. Mark went back to the archives and dug into the TWI Foundation materials. The TWIF was a non-profit started after the decommission of the ABC government programs. The, "four horsemen" as they were called, directors of the wartime TWI Service founded the non-profit- members-only organization in order to continue the great progress made in industrial human relations and continuous improvement.

I also have posted some material from another consultant (TWI, Inc.) that actually won the Japanese/US contract to bring TWI to the JMA and JITA which last time I checked still offers the J-skill courses today. The most exciting thing about this is that the Japanese specifically had a need for Problem Solving - the result is what you will find at this link. This material comes from the Western Reserve Historical Society at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. The U.S. TWI story kind of ends there though, except that Walter Dietz gives us many hints in his self published book "Learning By Doing" in 1970 that described TWI lived well beyond its useful purpose in wartime production. We just never knew if any materials existed. It turns out that about three or four months after I left the archives, somebody donated the private TWIF collection! And that is where Mark picked up the TWI trail - in the rest of the National Archives.

There really isn't enough space in a blog post to say the following: so I will run the risk of....glorifying.....TWI here. My apologies please know my intent isn't to say that TWI is an "answer" for all of our woes. When looking at the breadth and depth of the TWI materials, its origins and the results (most notably, Toyota) we practitioners were quite amazed. I mean, this is good stuff! And those of us using it today are getting fantastic results! But now, as Mark releases this new material that fills in some of the voids in the timeline between 1955 and 1975, the staggering amount of materials that extend the TWI lifespan is overwhelming. But, it is more than just how long it lasted. This was (and still is) a critical piece to the management training puzzle we face today.

Here is the welcome post offered up by Mark at the TWI Group page:

"This group was established to share and discuss TWI programs. The "Files" section has copies of materials that were transcribed from the National Archives collection. These ranges from the Sessions Outlines to Institute Conductor's Manuals to Trainer's Guides to Coaching material to Follow-Through program materials for each 'J' program, plus many materials that were "For TWI Staff Use Only". All of these documents are in MSWord(2002) and can be edited. Feel free to add comments, suggestions and correct typos (please turn on tracking so I can see what was changed) and submit to: Mark.Warren@Tesla2.com - I will periodically update the files with the improvements. This group is also a good place to ask questions and debate the pros and cons of the materials."

Not to mention an awesome Job Economics Manual. Want a different perspective on the economy? Check it out.

I encourage anyone who has an interest in business history, Lean, or if you are looking for a way to better your skills - join the group and continue the journey.

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Big Kaizen or Small Kaizen?

Jon Miller at Gemba Panta Rei, poses, in my opinion, one of the most thought provoking questions in the field of Lean management:


Essentially, the question is which should we choose: Big Kaizen or Small Kaizen?

In my experience, the right answer is both. That is a simple answer though. Here is some more depth to this essential question and why we should all attempt to answer it as part of our strategy in our respective companies:

Jon's question puts us in a predicament when considering the merits of both Big and Small Kaizen. Let's call them Big K and small k for now. On one hand, you get big improvements with big results. On the other hand, you get many small improvements with many small results that when considered as a whole is practically equal to the value of Big K. This reasoning may tend to lead us to the conclusion: "what's the difference?"

Well, like many things in Lean, like waste - it's the things you don't see that make all the difference.

1) Big K pros

  • Noticeable fast results

  • Big bang for your buck

  • Since Big K's are usually run in a pilot mode, makes for great showcase of Lean tools and results in action.

  • Sometimes easy to replicate in other areas.
2) Big K cons

  • Requires a deep understanding of the problem prior to the event.

  • As a lean company matures, it is more difficult to find those BIG problems that require BIG K.

  • Hard to sustain, UNLESS physically changed things so that they are irreversible. (i.e., Mistake Proofing)

  • If not sustained, money is wasted.

  • Hard to teach others about the changes since they didn't experience it (i.e. learn it) for themselves.

  • Sometimes hard to replicate in other areas.

  • Not all Big K participants are involved in the event. Often, wallflowers are left behind in the real learning that should take place.
That's just a short list, there are more I'm sure you can add.

3) Small k cons

  • Some ideas seem frivolous and a waste of time.

  • Takes time to see results.

  • Requires intense management support at ALL levels.

  • Requires EVERYONE's involvement. Tough to pull off.
4) Small k pros

  • EVERYONE is involved.

  • Easy to teach people when you are focusing on small things.

  • Individuals OWN their improvements because it is their idea. Sustainment is easier.

  • Improvements get better over time as people see waste more clearly.

  • Easier to support small k's versus BIG K's.
I'm a BIG proponent of the small k approach. Involvement at all levels is superior to the typical Kaizen Event approach. Improvements tend to sustain themselves - because the person who put the idea in place uses it as part of their work. Also, it easier for management to support by adopting a questioning attitude:

"What is the problem?"
"Do you know what caused it?"
"No? Can you find out?"
"Can I help in anyway?"
"Do you have any ideas about how to eliminate that problem?"
"Any ideas how to make it easier? Safer?"

Asking simple questions about small problems is a lot easier for ALL managers to do on a daily basis instead of relying on ONE Lean manager struggling to "sustain" many Big K's that most people haven't really bought into anyway. My argument is that a "sustainment" industry is growing in the management consulting world that would largely vanish if managers simply asked employees for their ideas and devised a system to get them into action.

I believe that the figures in Jon Miller's graphic help us ask the right question, but what that graph doesn't show is the typical backsliding that occurs with Big K. His graph shows the plan. The following graph shows what normally happens:

Yes, some backsliding occurs with small k ideas. But the slide is small and doesn't affect the overall improvement trend. Plus, not all small k ideas are big impact. In fact, the goal of kaizen is to get involvement so that we as leaders have opportunities to teach others about how to improve, how to learn, and to upgrade the overall problem solving skill set of our people. In contrast, Big K falls far short of this involvement ideal, because it is a project, management and results oriented gaining us little buy-in from EVERYONE - unless it makes every one's job easier, safer or better. For example, holding a kaizen event to install a kanban pull system often doesn't achieve this - it only achieves the tactical goal of reducing inventory. This is why it is sometimes difficult to sustain the gains made in Big K events.

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Cement Heads are People Too!

O.k., so this week I face the ultimate Lean change agent challenge: working with a certified cement head. You know who I'm talking about: someone who simply either refuses to "get it" or simply can't "get it". I don't mean to say I'm working with a dolt - that is HARDLY the case. Smart guy, knows his machines inside and out. But don't talk to him about Lean. Doesn't want to hear it.

So, what is stopping me from asking him a simple question? How about these for starters?

"What is the problem?"

"How do you know?"

"If we did this, then would the problem go away?"

"No? What other problems could occur?"

"Do you have any ideas about how to prevent that from happening?"

"No? What about this? Can you try it?"

"Yes? O.k., what can I do to help you get this into action?"

TIP for working with cement heads: You don't need to "get" or speak Lean to be able to ask these KAIZEN oriented questions. Wish me luck. So far, so good.

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Genba Comic #4

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Going Beyond Lean Manufacturing

Interesting article over at Supply Chain Digest. Clearly, there is a gap between Lean "manufacturing" and what is considered improvement in from other fields, such as say, supply chain professionals.

What I find interesting is that some Lean pioneers have adopted the concepts underlying lean and adapted it to their environment. These people are effectively blind to this mainstream argument against Lean's ability to be used outside of manufacturing shop floors. See Mark Graban at LeanBlog and pick up his book Lean Hospitals for a unique take on Lean beyond Manufacturing.

Back to the Supply Chain Digest article - contrast adaptations like Lean Hospitals to arguments from the article:

"the reality is that Lean programs often don’t deliver results, or get implemented a bit, but then not really carried forward. As a recent AMR Research report observed, 'Most manufacturers we interviewed confine their Lean projects to a single plant, often right down to a production line or product area.' ”

And that is the program's fault? I beg to differ - Lean doesn't get results, people get results.

There is more:

"But Lean isn’t a panacea. Just the fact that we now have Lean Six Sigma, as companies such as 3M have vigorously pursued, says Lean alone may not be enough. Now it appears we even have something called “TLS,” which adds in Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (TOC) methodology as another tool, usually front-ending TOC before both Lean and Six Sigma (TOC, Lean, Six Sigma)."

Wow. Anyone who has done their homework on these concepts/theories/methodologies know there is so much overlap that it is difficult to NOT combine them over time. If D-B-R and pull/ kanban systems are not from the same gene pool, my name is mud!

So, my quesiton to blog readers is if there are any supply chain publications out there that have a good grasp of Lean thinking? It would be nice to have a source that has taken Lean beyond manufacturing and is writing about it. Any tips?

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Overheard at the Airport...

One side of a conversation overheard at the airport:

"So, you will add a piece of cardboard?"

"O.k., right. Yes, but it can't be just a piece of cardboard, it needs to be one of those corner guards."

"Right, you should shrink wrap it too. Like we do for all other pallets."

I'm not even 10% sure what this is about. But a few unfortunate thoughts cross my mind:

1) Why is someone at the airport mandating shipping standards to someone else who is probably doing the work?

2) Are there not shipment standards in place?

3) Seriously, am I hearing a conversation over which cardboard to use to protect the skid?

4) Why do I need to tell somebody to do something that they do on every other job?

Not to jump to conclusions, but if I were a manager overhearing this conversation - I would have a lot of questions. Possible lack of standards being the main focus of my questioning.

When we talk about the competitive nature of U.S. industry and wonder out loud how we will recover - I have to consider how many millions of times per day this level of inefficiency occurs because of the sheer lack of standards. Again, I'm likely jumping to conclusions, but a line of questioning about what standards exist would reduce the level of possible micromanagement and grief that goes hand-in-hand with these overheard conversations.

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Genba Comic - #3

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Life After Death by PowerPoint

Ever since I began learning TWI, I have lived a mostly Powerpoint free life! Yay! For more Powerpoint laughs check out this video below:



Genba Comic #2


Job Economics Training – What, How and Why?

A recent Personal Liberty poll suggests people don’t want the economic bailout, but don’t understand why.

The poll had over 130,000 online respondents. I personally took five minutes to participate in this poll through a Congress.org portal after writing to my Vermont leaders. I can’t speak for the demographic makeup of those polled – I wasn’t required to furnish any of that personal information.

81% agree that a government bailout is NOT the answer to America’s financial crisis.

77% believe the American taxpayers should NOT have to foot the bailout bill, because America “is too far in debt already.”

In addition to that, 14% do NOT favor the bailout because they do not feel taxpayers should be accountable for the private sector.

This is an overwhelming majority of sentiment. Yet, the bailout and stimulus packages will likely go through against the will of the governed.

What I found most interesting in this poll is that for all of the conviction against the bailout – a majority of these same respondents (63%) are “undecided” on whether or not the bailout will “ultimately rescue our country's financial system.”

I’ve observed this phenomenon throughout all of this bailout talk: people are against the bailout and government stimulus – but they don’t quite understand why.

This country has been through this scenario before. We keep hearing that this is the worst economic period since the Great Depression. Has anyone stopped to do a quick fact check? Did you know that in 2008 the GDP contracted by 3.8%?

When was there a worse contraction than this other than the Great Depression? It’s never been this bad, you say?

Believe it or not, 1982. That’s right, only less than thirty years ago we faced a contraction of 6.4% of GDP. Further history lessons of this period will reveal that a bailout did not help America recover from that situation.

Of course, that bit of GDP information is not the whole story, yet it serves as an example that helps us get to the heart of the matter: Americans don’t take the time to gather the facts and understand the situation when it comes to the economy. We tend to jump to irrational conclusions. This was a critical problem in the eyes of those who, after the war, founded the TWI Foundation. A problem so profound that TWIF felt its role was to ensure that every American understood, at a minimum, what the role of every individual actually is in the American economy. They did this by creating a Job Economics Training program, patterned after the other J-skill programs. Here is the link to a retyped version of the manual. I’ve recreated the manual in its original content. Nothing has changed. Pun intended.

Job Economics Training Manual

Whether you agree or disagree with the role each and every one of us must have in our economy, I encourage you to read through this manual and try to understand the basics of how our economy is designed to work – and how we are currently going down a road we know will lead us nowhere, but we just don’t quite understand why.

Research Note: I had originally found this manual in archives of Lowell Mellon (founder of TWI, Inc.) at the Western Reserve Library at Case Western University. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get copies of this at that time and have been wondering what little tidbits lie in that manual.

Thankfully, Mark Warren of Tesla2 spent much time and energy at the National Archives and struck gold. A very special thanks to Mark Warren for going above and beyond the call of duty and bringing this extraordinary manual to the public!

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