Office Mistake Proof Device

I ordered a new hole punch the other day and was pleasantly surprised to see a visual aid, that helps the user avoid mistakes, built into this device.

If your paper is aligned, the little windows on either end of the punch "light up" green. If it is not aligned, one or both ports will "light up" red. Now, it doesn't really light up - its not battery powered, so I especially like the simplicity of this visual aid.

How does it work? The only thing I could think of are those baby doll eyelids that flap up and down in a zombie-creepy manner. But this works extremely well and doesn't flop around uncontrollably. It is a simple little flapper device of some kind, so as soon as you begin to put pressure on the handle - you receive immediate feedback and prevent the error from turning into a defect.


Dealing with The Snuggie Devil

Funny article about an innovative trial service in an international hotel chain in England.

The basic idea is that the recent arctic cold snap resulted in unusually chilly beds - not exactly a warm welcome for travelers. Hotel management responded by offering to warm up the guests bed. Good idea...doesn't sound too bad, right?

Wrong...the bed warmer is a person - wrapped in one piece fleece suit and a hair net. Look, I already grapple with the fact that somebody I don't know was in my hotel bed the night before and I'm not always convinced that housekeeping went through my room as thoroughly as they should have...but all I can say about this idea is...EWWWW!

All I can imagine is this guy warming my bed:

Hotel management...did you know this is what the Snuggie Devil would make you do when you sold your soul to him?



Fives on the Mind

Five is your new favorite number. Add a Y, S or N after the five. Trust me on this.

Lets start with the five whys (5Y). Do I need to elaborate on the importance of this? Read the section of Toyota Way Field book on causal chain and then go use it. And please don't stop at five just because it is five.

How about the five esses (5S)? The 5S' embody the very simple basics of workplace organization, improvement and building self discipline.

But don't start with either of these, they will come soon enough. You need to start with the Five Needs of every leader (5N).

What are the 5N?

The 5N can be separated into two basic needs: knowledge needs and skill needs. The knowledge needs can be parsed again into:
  1. Knowledge of the Work
  2. Knowledge of Responsibilities
Leaders must acquire this knowledge. By acquiring this knowledge, leaders can earn respect, grasp the situation more easily when problems do arise and can take prudent steps that are aligned with the organizations culture.

I mention these first needs because I have recently taken on a new role as Director of Quality in a manufacturing company. To say that I need to acquire these two packets of knowledge is the understatement of the New Year. But acquire them I must. The next question is then, what to do with the knowledge that I acquire over time?

Experienced leaders know that they have three other needs:
  1. Skill of Instruction
  2. Skill of Improving Methods
  3. Skill of Leading
In the TWI approach, the skill of instruction is learned through Job Instruction. In my new role, I've asked people in the genba to train me in the job in order to better understand the work and problems that they encounter (knowledge need). Since I've been practicing Job Instruction for several years now, I can also evaluate the company's training effectiveness, its efficiency and other strengths and gaps. Interestingly, there is a direct tie between the 5N and 5S. In Job Instruction, we learn about the "Get Ready" steps of instruction. Two of the steps are to determine if everything is available for work: 1) machines, materials, tools, etc., and 2) is the workplace organized the way the person is expected to maintain it - even during work. Sounds like 5S to me!

Next is the skill of improving methods. It is said that Ohno wasn't satisfied with Job Methods when it was introduced to Japan in the 1950's but that he retained the "questioning method" that was learned in the program. You may be surprised that another "five" reveals itself in Job Methods: 5W1H. Perhaps this odd five-plus-one is best expressed in Rudyard Kiplings' poem:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
O.k., there is a sixth wheel here! But, the answers to 'how' often lead to many improvements. The Job Methods questioning method of 5W1H will bring the leader to many systemic improvements. It is the 5Y questioning method, however, that can allow deep insight - in probably the simplest manner ever devised - to millions of workplace problems today. Incidentally, there is a definite order to the questioning method in Job Methods, it starts with a simple question: "What is the purpose?" and then is followed by a relentless stream of why's until the questioner is satisfied. This gets people thinking about elimination (not needed if purpose is irrelevant) rather than streamlining waste and jumping to false conclusions.

Interestingly enough, the many little jobs I'm learning through Job Instruction can be snapped together like legos and eventually build up into a bigger process that can be analyzed and improved through Job Methods. In other words, as we learn the TWI job skills first, we begin to see how the five needs begin to work together with the five whys and the five esses...

With the skill of leading, learned through Job Relations, leaders aim to maintain and improve cooperation and workplace relations. This is done through the lens of improving problems of production, quality, cost and morale. It is not a stretch to see how improving workplace instruction, methods, organization and increasing problem solving skills can tackle all four problems listed. Where does Job Relations come into the picture? There are a few ways. First, by acquiring the knowledge of responsibilities we are better equipped to lead and maintain good relations. Second, when we talk about stabilizing the process through better instruction of standards, improving methods, machines, materials and environment - what we are really doing is changing the culture of the organization. Job Relations helps the leader help others through the change.

Do we need a huge toolbox to operate daily? Sure, there are a lot of nifty tools out there, but if everybody had a case of the fives - whoa, look out! Yep, I've got a bad case of the fives - and thank goodness there isn't a cure!
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Management Improvement Blog Carnival!

John Hunter at Curious Cat Management Blog has been bringing the Management Improvement Blog Carnival to us for many years now. When he invited me to join the carnival, I couldn’t resist! Each of the blogs I’m reviewing here are completely new to me just this week, so I hope you find the same value in them that I have while discovering these new resources. Thanks John, for this great idea!

I’ve been poking my way through the blogs I selected for review. It’s been slow going since I started my new role as Director of Quality this past week. So, how lucky am I to have stumbled across Shaun Sayers’ blog, Capable People? Very! Shaun tackle’s lots of practical issues with ISO, auditing, leadership and many other topics that leansters can appreciate. Take these two posts for example: The Real Benefits of ISO 9001 Certification, and then goes on to Shaun debunks a number of ISO myths in Quality Policy and Quality Objectives. I found myself diving through most of Shaun’s post at night when I’d get home from work – getting an outsider’s point of view on ISO and other matters related to Lean.

Another great resource, Leadership Styles Blog, is brought to us by Superteams. This post helps leaders understand how the simple questioning method can help people buy-in to process improvement. This next post augments the former advice, urging us to create “mistake free zones”.

The next blog in the carnival has been around for a few years. It is also one of my new favorites jammed with practical advice. I need to visit this one more often...Wally Bock, of Three Star Leadership Blog provides a really good reason why we should strive to be the best that we can be in this post, featuring his grandchildren.

Wally talks a lot about problems, and I really like his analogy about how problems are like dinosaurs. Perhaps you will like this too!

As lean practitioners, we should always be questioning everything. Wally sets the example here as he questions conclusions made by a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. I really like this because we tend to read things in the newest business book and simply take the author at their word. Rarely do we really question and analyze things in a deep and meaningful way.

Process Rants is a blog I like because it is chock full of real life experience. And it is a blog about how sometimes those experiences that can get ugly. Process Rants is also about something I’m completely unfamiliar with: mostly the management and process improvement of software development, among other things. One problem: I can’t determine who the author of this blog actually is. The only thing I can find are replies to blog readers left by commenter named “ProcessRants”. Anonymous, or no, I think this author “gets it.” Take this post for instance: Hold Me I’m Scared, which uncovers fear in the workplace. ProcessRants also uses the experience of a power outage to provide some excellent insight into why sometimes we may want to reconsider the practice of under promising and over delivering. This last post more or less sums up my take on why lean initiatives fails: ProcessRants accomplishes the same thing in this anti-agile rant. But really, I think this blog is good because it touches on so many things that highlight the real problem with lean failures without really talking about lean all that much.

Happy New Year and See You at the next Carnival!