Monday, May 20, 2019

Lean, Leadership & Ethics, Part 1

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Been reflecting about each of these lately, and how they relate.

But what’s Ethics got to do with anything?

We’re in a proverbial knowledge economy. The market caps of, say, Google, Facebook and Apple, dwarf that of Toyota.

Google, Facebook and Apple have comparatively little in physical capital. ‘All’ they have is intellectual capital, and in particular, human capital.

How does human capital differ, from say, physical or financial capital?

Unlike, say, a machine, or a bond, human capital can chose not to deploy. Human capital can chose to walk out the door, in fact.

“That army will win which has the same spirit,” said Sun Tsu twenty-five hundred years ago. It’s never been more true.

Yet Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report tells us that only 13% of employees are engaged in their work!

Big company disease and organizational dysfunction is so deeply entrenched that we barely flinch at such data.

Imagine you’re a factory manager and your machines are operating at only 13% of capacity!

Why are people so disengaged? Gallup doesn’t say. But I suspect that disillusionment, or even disgust, at what the organization stands for, or how management behaves, is a major reason.

There’s more. Millennials (those born after 1980) will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025. And Gallup tells us that ethical behavior in corporations is even more important to millennials than to their parents.

Of course Ethics matters. People will not follow swine, at least not willingly, for very long. People will certainly not commit their hearts and minds – unless they feel good about what the organization stands for.

Best regards,


Monday, May 6, 2019

Visual Management in New Product Development

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Lean thinking is moving out of the factory -- downstream into sales, logistics and order fulfillment, and upstream into finance, marketing and New Product Development (NPD).

We're often asked, how do you apply the fundamentals in these areas?

For example, how might you apply visual management in NPD?

A good first step is to decide, What do we need to know to run our business?

Here are typical answers:

a) What's the project loading at each point (P0, P1, P2) in our development pipeline?

b) What are min/max levels and our status at each point?

c) What are the biggest obstacles in each project?

d) Do we have countermeasure plans? What's their status?

e) What are broader system issues? Do we have countermeasure plans? Status?

Now we're ready to engage our teams in developing visual tools that will make the invisible, visible.

In our consulting work we've used funnels, race tracks, football fields, as well as, team boards and the like.

Visual management is also invaluable in NPD physical plants (e.g. Test Labs), and is similar to what you might find in a factory.

For example:

a) What's this week's work?

b) Are we ahead or behind?

c) What are our biggest obstacles? Countermeasure plans & status?

d) How versatile are our people?

e) What's the loading on our machines? Constraints?

The key, again, is to make the invisible, visible.

For more on Lean thinking outside the factory, please check out The Remedy.



Monday, April 22, 2019

Lean Hotels

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Lean in the service industries is a frequent topic in this blog.

The great hotel chains -- Ritz, Hyatt, Marriott, Westin, Disney and others -- are superb Lean companies.

Marriott's Twelve Guiding Principles of Leadership and Customer Service, for example, reads like a Lean manifesto:
  1. Continually challenge your team to do better.

  2. Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers, and the customers will come back.

  3. Celebrate your people’s success, not your own.

  4. Know what you’re good at and mine those competencies for all you’re worth.

  5. Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action.

  6. Communicate. Listen to your customers, associates and competitors.

  7. See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk around, make yourself visible and accessible.

  8. Success is in the details.

  9. It’s more important to hire people with the right qualities than with specific experience.

  10. Customer needs may vary, but their bias for quality never does.

  11. Eliminate the cause of a mistake. Don’t just clean it up.

  12. View every problem as an opportunity to grow.

Marriott's standard - our principles will be in the nightstand drawer of every Marriott room.

A few years ago, I was staying at the Sharm al Shaikh Marriott, at the bottom of the Sinai peninsula.

Being a natural pain, I decided to check Marriott's adherence to its standards, in this relatively remote hotel.

Sure enough, I found the principles were there were supposed to be.

The hotel manager smiled when I told him, and described Marriott's training & development processes.

Ritz, Hyatt, Westin, Disney & the rest all have corresponding principles & practices. Well done - and please continue!

Are there any other industries that could learn from Lean hotels?

Oh, I don't know, perhaps Health Care...?

Best regards,


Monday, April 8, 2019

The Four Levels of Visual Management, Part 2

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Last time I talked about making problems visible through the four levels of visual management.

I described Levels 1 and 2, which have comparatively low power.

Today, our topic is visual management Levels 3 and 4 – the most powerful:

Level 3 – Organizes Behavior

Home positions for tools & equipment are a good example.

In a surgery, home positions provide a nice visual confirmation that sponges, scalpels and other equipment are back where they belong – and not inside the patient!

In manufacturing, having a home position for, say, our torque wrench and gauges, ensures a) they’re there when we need them, and, as important, b) we know when they’re not there.

“Right, Bonnie is doing her daily 2:00 pm torque audit.”

Other good examples include the ribbed perimeters, and studded lane lines of many highways. You know at once if you’re on the median or straddling your lane. You quickly correct your behavior.

Recently, I saw a nice kaizen in the Oncology department of a children’s hospital. Infections are a major risk in such wards. How to encourage staff & parents to decontaminate their hands before they enter the room?

Move the hand decontamination unit to the point of entry. You can’t enter without seeing and using it, and compliance rates have spiked.

Level 4 – The Defect is Impossible

Lean thinkers will recognize the ‘pokayoke’ concept. We develop such a deep grasp of our process and its possible failure modes, that we install gizmos and practices that make them impossible!

Manufacturing is full of these: alarms on torque wrenches, electronic lights and safety mats that disable the machine if a team member enters the line of fire, gasoline nozzles that won’t fit diesel tanks and so on.

In Health Care, pokayokes on gas lines make it impossible to mis-connect oxygen and other gas lines.

As we get better at Lean, our visual management naturally progresses from Level 1 to Level 4.

Once we’re good at Level 1 and 2 visual management, we begin to think. “The same defect – here we go again! How do we prevent it?”

Who is the best source of Level 3 and 4 visual management?

Why, our front line team members, of course.

That’s why total involvement is critical. Alienate the front line and you lose all their insight & creativity. Problems mushroom!

But you already know that…

Best regards,