Monday, February 24, 2020

Value Stream Maps

By Al Norval (bio)

Last week I came across an organization with a value stream map hanging on their conference room wall. What’s the big surprise with this? In fact it’s no big surprise at all as I often see this happen. Teams do a wonderful job of mapping their Current State and identifying different sources of waste and various kaizen they are planning on doing to eliminate it. This team had even added a timeline and calculated a leadtime for their value stream which is something I don’t usually see.

What was my concern?

I could see their Current State map but I couldn’t see their Future State map nor what business gap they were trying to close. A Future State is driven by a business need and that need comes from the organization’s strategy. The strategy says what objectives we need to achieve as a business and outlines at a high level how we are going to achieve it. Often the strategy goes on to say what we’re not going to do to meet the business needs or targets and quite frankly this is another often overlooked step but that’s the subject of another blog.


The Value Stream takes this strategy and develops the tactics describing what the value stream needs to improve to meet the business objectives of the organization. There is a direct link between the kaizen and the improvements the value stream is making and the business objectives it needs to deliver to the organization. This link means a testable hypothesis is formed “If we do this, then we will get that”. It’s a simple binary test that can be checked at every review session.

This is a very different approach from the one that says – map the current state, identify waste, drive improvement and remove waste and see what results we achieve. This approach doesn’t set up a hypothesis, doesn’t use the scientific method and although it can lead to some improved business results, doesn’t stretch us to experiment, try new things and learn rapidly, all of which are required parts of a lean system.

What I’d wish I’d seen in the organization I visited last week, was a Current State map, a clear business target with gap identified, a Future State map and a plan on how to close the gap.

Now there are several testable hypothesis:
  • Does the Future State close the gap to the business objective?
  • Does the plan close the gap to the Future State?

By following the PDCA cyle and doing a Check/ Adjust against these questions, organizations can learn a great deal and accelerate their improvement efforts. More importantly, the improvements are driven by a business need rather than being random acts of improvement.

Cheers

Al


In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

What is a Key Thinker?
Macro Value Stream Kaizen – Zoology
Poka-Yoke – Preventing Inadvertent Errors
Making the Invisible Visible in Design Projects



Monday, February 10, 2020

What is a Key Thinker?

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Deployment leader, Pacemaker, Key Thinking Guy/Gal, Chief Engineer -- these are all synonyms for this critical role.

As a chemical engineer, I see the role as akin to an enzyme in a chemical reaction.

Some reactions are glacial & take forever to come to completion. But once you add the enzyme -- whoosh!

These are leaders who 'wrap their arms around the critical breakthrough zones' -- like Safety or Quality or Cost.

They go see, reflect, talk to people at all levels, and thereby grasp the situation.


As a result, our Key Thinker is able to formulate a hypothesis: "If we do A, B and C, then X will happen!"

Testable hypotheses gives us insight about the Black Box known as our business.

Keep doing it, and pretty soon (say, 3 or 4 years) you have profound knowledge.

("Do this -- don't do that! We tried it six years ago, and it was a mess, for these reasons.")

That's what profound knowledge looks like: stories, examples, nuance, finesse.

The best known example is, perhaps, Toyota's famous 'Heavyweight Chief Engineer'.

Famously, Chief Engineers have few direct reports, but are the most powerful person in the value stream (or, in the auto industry, Platform).

Key Thinkers are rare people with rare qualities:

Passionate about their zone, impatient with the status quo, ornery, yet able, at the end of the day, to forge a consensus.

They're a critical enabler in any transformation and a key strategic question is:

"How will we develop more Key Thinkers?"

Here's an example. Imagine you are senior leaders in a major hospital system. Your over-riding objective is "No Infections!"

How would we start? Perhaps we can agree that a committee won't do.

We'd need to start with a person with the qualities described above -- in other words, with a Key Thinker.

Best,

Pascal


In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Macro Value Stream Kaizen – Zoology
Poka-Yoke – Preventing Inadvertent Errors
Making the Invisible Visible in Design Projects
Two Pillars of the Lean Business System



Monday, January 27, 2020

Macro Value Stream Kaizen – Zoology

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Improving a macro value stream is our most challenging & interesting kaizen, in my experience.

A value stream entailing multiple nodes across a continent, or continents, is a complex animal with unknown habits and qualities.

Moreover, it's abstract and often impossible to see in its entirety.

Learning about it is akin to zoology.

We try to make it visible, first with macro value stream maps, then with tabletop simulations using point of sale data.

Then to learn its habits we run experiments & observe what happens.

Each experiment furthers our knowledge & brings us closer to understanding & taming the beast.

Managing our experiments requires a solid governance process - and usually means Level 1, 2 and 3 checking.

(Level 3 might entail the value stream kaizen Steering Team which over time become the value stream managers.)

Are we up to the challenge?

Too often I see organizations defaulting to software solutions.

The mental model appears to be, "The computer will figure it all out for us!"

In effect, they're outsourcing thinking.


Will the computer run the experiments that develop intuition?

Will the computer observe the animal in its natural state and thereby determine its habits and diet?

Remember the Stanley Kubrick movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey?

Remember Hal, the computer, gradually taking over?

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Dave?"

Best,

Pascal


In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Poka-Yoke – Preventing Inadvertent Errors
Making the Invisible Visible in Design Projects
Two Pillars of the Lean Business System
Why Do We Learn More from What Did Not Work?



Monday, January 13, 2020

Poka-Yoke – Preventing Inadvertent Errors

By Al Norval (bio)

We talk a lot about the House of Lean with its foundation of Standards & Stability and the two pillars of Just In Time and Jidoka supporting a roof of Customer and Strategic Direction which together encompass engaged Team Members continually solving problems.

All of this makes sense but what is this Japanese word – Jidoka?


It’s built in quality at the source. Rather than try to inspect and test quality in by looking for defects on finished product, a losing cause at best, lean organizations build in quality at the actual value added operation. That way defects can be caught early and they don’t have to reply as heavily on final inspection testing.

The big advantage to Jidoka is that by catching defects early in the process, they are closer to the actual process conditions that caused the defect and therefore closer to root cause. They can launch problem solving faster with a higher chance of getting to root cause since the process conditions wouldn’t have changed as much.

Jidoka has four parts:
  • Detecting defects
  • Alerting or signaling a problem
  • Immediate response - temporary countermeasures to get running again
  • Root cause problem solving and countermeasures to prevent the occurrence of the defect.

This is where Poka-Yoke comes in. It’s about the final step in Jidoka of preventing the re-occurrence of the defect. Lean organizations realize that errors are inevitable. Human beings make errors that cause defects. By eliminating the possibility of the error being made, defects could be eliminated. Poka-Yoke is used to prevent these errors being made. Translated it means “Preventing inadvertent mistakes” since it’s believed people don’t make mistakes on purpose. This is consistent with the lean principle of “Respect for People”

The best Poka-Yoke devices are physical devices that eliminate the possibility of an error occurring. Weaker Poka-Yoke countermeasures would be signs and warning systems but these could be overridden and the error could still occur.

Organizations are always looking for ways to get employees involved and having teams develop Poka-Yoke devices that prevent errors from being made is a great way to do this. It’s a win-win. Employees are engaged in problem solving, quality gets better for customers.

For more on Poka-Yoke, download the free Lean Pathways “LEAN MANIFESTO

Cheers

Al


In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Making the Invisible Visible in Design Projects
Two Pillars of the Lean Business System
Why Do We Learn More from What Did Not Work?
Failure is a Requirement for Innovation