The Truth Hurts

Joe Ely at Learning About Lean shares my favorite lean post so far this year....take a look.

Essentially Joe is upset that his root cause analysis told him the truth, that he was avoiding the difficult task of fixing the problem.

I'm o.k. with people not "getting it." At least they have a fighting chance to learn something about themselves.

But after reading this post, this clarified something for me: sometimes people don't want to get it or maybe they don't know how to. They know the root cause. Why then do they not do anything about it? Well, Joe wanted to get it, so he did!

By paying attention to his root cause analysis, Joe really learned something about himself, one of the first steps to "getting lean." I wonder if, before his revelation, he didn't feel that he could do anything about the problem, was told that it wasn't important, didn't know what to do about it, or was told to back off. Either way, all options are a leadership problem. If Joe is working for a company, is there any excuse for his manager to allow these scenarios to occur?

Some managers though, will continue to use the same tired measures from 40 years ago. They know this causes wasteful behavior, but they continue to do it. Before you write them off, just remember that managers answer to someone just like you do.

This is why it is so important that continuous improvement start with top leadership. It is the leader's job to make people feel as if they are able to tackle problems, not accept them or feel as if they are stuck with them.

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Hey, it Works for Buffet Restaurants...

JetBlue has an ALL-YOU-CAN-FLY promotion right now. For $599 (taxes and fees INCLUDED) you can fly to any of their 50 U.S. cities as many times as you can handle for a one month period. Geez! That is not a bad deal!

Sometimes innovation in your industry can be as easy as simple mimicry. Has this ever been done before in the airline industry?



I like the Job Breakdown Sheet because…

As a trainer, it serves as a reminder for the key points to a job. I don’t forget to train people in things that are tricky, safe or build quality into the job. As long as I use it my trainees are able to do jobs safely, correctly and conscientiously. As I follow-up with people, I can pick up and correct errors or bad habits that have crept into the work. I also like the JBS when I use it with the 4-step method. One doesn’t really work without the other, and if used together, people have fewer questions or problems with trivial things and more questions about deeper subjects. In this way, I can keep the workplace more organized, training is faster, we meet our work-cell objectives more often and people are generally more satisfied with the job.

As a supervisor, I can use the JBS to follow-up with people. I can ask questions about the job to test their knowledge and understanding of our products and processes. I can see and hear what problems are occurring with equipment, materials, tools or people. These follow-up sessions in the gemba give me a daily opportunity to tackle these problems. But since there are so many to tackle on my own, I often coach people into helping solve many of these little problems. After all, they are most familiar with the job, right? Because the JBS is really theirs, I like giving them that ownership and opportunity to contribute to making the workplace better.

As a facilitator, I can get people together and have them work out one best way for the job. They can break down each of their methods and find the common best practices, waste, safety issues, bad habits and what is really needed to add value to the job. A big surprise benefit is that they now have a common vehicle for communication and improvement. The supervisors and managers like this about JI the most. The see it as something much more than training, more like a conduit to problem solving that starts with good training. It isn’t about who has the better method or personal preference anymore, it is about what is the best method and are we working together towards that common goal.

As an engineer, I can see what is really needed for the job, and build lean principles into my designs, layouts and equipment so that we create a waste-free workplace. I also like it when a team of operators, mechanics and technicians get together and invite engineering to a Job Breakdown Session. This gives me the opportunity to ensure that design intent and quality key points that may not be obvious are built into the JBS. This really helps everyone get on the same page and understand the process better.

As a manager, it helps me assess how our problem solving culture is progressing. By using the JBS as a reference during my genba walks, I can see how things really are. The simple act of checking a JBS against what the person is actually doing can reveal a lot about our culture. I can see gaps more easily this way and can address them in a direct and tangible manner. In this way, I can talk with my supervisors about problems and solutions in a factual manner. Because the quality, production, safety and cost key points are built into our JBS, I feel that people better understand how their daily work is tied to the company’s objectives. To things come up as gaps when I talk to our genba people, training and communication. Since we have encouraged the use of JI and the simple JBS, people have said that communication is improving and training has become a way to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

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Job Instruction Will Save Your Life!

Well, o.k., technically, the JI manual won't save your life. But a person may try to save your life someday! Are they ready? Today, TWI guest blogger, Sean Jordan shares his experience of how we can be better prepared for emergencies:

I recently attended an American Red Cross First Aid and CPR certification classes and all I could think about was Job Instruction.

First, this program was another example of a very personable content expert with shortcomings on instructional skills. Like many trainers in any environment, he did his best using the typical instructional paradigm: Talk, Demo, Use a Video, Student Tries, and move on to the next topic. Perhaps the root cause is the Red Cross trainer that certified this person as a trainer was not completely skilled as an instructor too.

Second, there is a lot of information to cover and it is set in a tight time requirement. How many times have we seen someone want the best of two worlds: complete training on content in the shortest amount of time?

Third, this seemed more like a cram session and the ability to thoroughly retain the information for more than one week seems doubtful. This is information that can potentially make a difference in an injured person’s life.

[Note, our instructor pretty much told us that the odds of us actually using these skills to save someone’s life are extremely low. Also, no matter what we do, we really can’t make things worse. REALLY?! Then why the heck am I here for the night classes?]

Hopefully, many of us will not need to use these skills until the next certification exam but it would be nice to retain this knowledge. I will be working on ‘refresher sessions’ with the team. Perhaps I’ll have them write some Job Breakdown Sheets of the training activities. It will certainly increase their knowledge retention by making a JBS as well as assist in the next class. Maybe it will motivate the instructor?

Fourth, the only way to understand the reasons for what we were doing was to ask probing questions.

Finally, there wasn’t a class survey or discussion about how to improve the course. Every training event has an opportunity for improvement, no matter how many times you have done it!

My actions are to follow up with the American Red Cross and share why I think they should consider apply Job Instruction. The good news is that they already have outstanding standardized procedures for applying CPR and First Aid. Also, most people probably want to follow those procedures exactly. You may hear in your assembly shop: “Yeah, but I like to build it this way.” I don’t think I have ever heard someone say “The Red Cross claims CPR should be done like that, but I like to do CPR this way.”

Don’t worry, if I see you in need of immediate care, I will be adequately prepared to assist.

Sean Jordan is Training and Development Manager at Biotek Instruments, Inc., in Colchester, Vermont.

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Does Lean Stifle Creativity?

It is possible that the TWI Job Methods program had some influence in the concepts used in Kaizen Teian (creative suggestion) idea systems in Japan, most notably the questioning method. Despite the success of idea systems in Japan, numerous experts claim that monetary rewards are a must in the U.S. if we are to hope for any creativity to come out of our people. Most people I have mentioned suggestion systems to recoil in disgust or horror: "To expensive!" or "Waste of time!" are the knee jerk responses, if not conventional wisdom when it comes to the topic.

I know of two companies in the U.S., outside of Toyota that have implemented over 50,000 improvement ideas in a one year period. Cash incentives for each idea do not exist in the program. How then, do they defy the experts? Is this level of activity only for the short term? Maybe so. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on the matter...

When we coerce people into doing things, we often get the opposite result of what we desire. People intrinsically don't resent criticism and they don't resist change. But in the real world, they often do because the criticism doesn't come from within; it comes from an external source, usually their supervisor. This is what stubborn, resistant "cavemen" really mean when they say "you are doing Lean TO me, not WITH me." By the way, cavemen is a name given to people resistant to Lean improvements. "Enlightened" professionals use this term in jest during Lean training - slapping people in the face - under the guise of a "fun" PowerPoint presentation. How arrogant can we be? Do we know everything? How does this follow the principle, Respect for People?

I believe doing Lean TO people is what really stifles their creativity. People will lock up like a mule keep their great ideas to themselves. "Why should I provide a good idea, even if it benefits me, only to be criticized again and again? Is this what we have to look forward to with Lean? This isn't worth the grief and trouble." People will find the easiest path to happiness and avoiding criticism helps a person get there sooner, even if avoiding criticism is not in their best interest. What is the cost of avoiding criticism? In the case of suggestion systems and coercion, this is why cash incentives do not matter.

There is proof of this. In the real world, people change vehicles, clothes, appliances, homes, schools, work, citizenship, learn languages, change careers, education, read new genres, write, blog, invent, build new things and in general are demanding new changes from industry, friends, politicians, family and neighbors at ALL TIMES. In fact, people will pay hard earned cash for small changes, or even go into staggering debt for a life altering change. Yet, we think we have to pay them to come up with good ideas.

People do NOT resist change in their real lives, they seek it out even though the result may be sometimes slow to realize. It is us as managers that don't recognize this paradox in our artificial work world. To paint the human race with a broad stroke as unchanging, stubborn "cement-heads" (another derogatory term I've seen in Lean training slides...SLAP!) is not helpful for a continuous improvement paradigm. In fact, everyday as managers, we take people out of their real world and put them into an artificial world of work that, if done that way in the household, wouldn't make sense on so many different levels. And when they don't conform to this nonsensical world, they are punished. When we think about it, we have probably learned more about "lean" from life and work experience then from work and lean consultants. Why then should we expect people to comply to our artificial rules about creativity, improvement and standardization, when all we do is criticize only what they know?

This is why the TWI skills are so important. They provide a simple (better) framework for common sense workplace improvement and coaching, learning, advising, teaching - NOT criticizing and telling. In fact, I would dare say that constructive criticism is implicitly discouraged with TWI J-skills. Instead, the name of the game here is fact-based coaching for self-discovery and self-improvement. Leaders teach others improvement and standardization skills, so people can self-assess, self-criticize and self-improve. We don't tell people how to do their job. We only guide them in finding the best way to improve it and standardize it on their own. This is where the fuel for real creativity comes from, self-realization and ongoing, immediate needs. The only compulsory agreement between a person and their leader is that they try as best they can at what the leader is teaching them.

Example: Cleaning the kids room. We could say: "Your room is a pig stye, no? Go clean your room or you lose TV time tonight!" Or we could go to the area itself and ask, "Why are there toys all over the floor?" The answer may be, "I don't have room for all of my toys," or "My room isn't big enough!", perhaps one honest child will say, "I don't want to, it is too much work!"

As a parent leader, I can ask what my son can do about it. "Do you have toys that you don't use?" This may lead to some better self-discovery for my son that leads to creative solutions like donating the unused toys to other kids who would like to play with them or holding a yard sale so he can save some money. (likely to buy more toys, uggh.) The point is this: the easy way is the short-term-results-oriented-command-and-control-git-R-done method. The harder, long term problem solving method is the way of coaching and leading.

What do leaders really need to teach others without telling them what to do? Direct observation of problems as they occur in the workplace is the first thing to teach and fortunately this concept is built into all TWI J-skills. "What do you see here? Why do you think this happened? Can you look into this and find out more about it? Can I follow up with you about this on Friday?" The second thing leaders can teach is that ONLY a questioning attitude, NOT a telling attitude, is what will lead people to continuously create waste-free standardization. The third is that people must base their improvements on facts, not opinion. What you feel is one thing, what improves the situation is a whole other matter, let's stick to the facts so your solution will work for the long term. This third thing forces us to be really good at the fourth thing: follow-up. Why? Because as everybody already knows, things change...a problem is never really static. What you thought was the problem today is something else tomorrow. We need to follow up with two things as the situation changes: a) get a commitment from someone that they will try their best to work out the problems and b) be reliable and always be there to ask how you can help them.

That's just a few things, but these simple concepts, if only used by all workplace leaders, can go along way towards getting nearly 50K creative improvements realized in your company.

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Ying and Yang of Lean

Post title takes you to a GREAT post by Cornell Colbert. Not only do I like his name, (it just sounds good) I especially like Mr. Colbert's take on the dichotomies woven within Lean thinking.