Monday, May 18, 2020

The Beauty of Making Things

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Poesis is the Greek work for 'making things'.

Not coincidently, it's also the word for poetry.

A good piece of writing is like a fine piece of cabinetry, an elegant circuit board, or a beautiful engine.

Steve Jobs famously insisted that everything should be beautiful in the IPod, IPad, IPhone -- even if the customer couldn't see it.

A great carpenter feels the same way about the back of a cabinet.

This insight informed my life and the arts I've committed to:
  • The art of management, and
  • The art of writing

But do North American high school students appreciate the beauty of making things?


Have they been given proper guidance? Or do they stumble, by default, into barren general arts programs?

I understand, for example, that there are almost a million unfilled skilled trades positions in America.

Good jobs in fields like mechanical, construction and information technology.

A chance to make something beautiful, to learn & practice a great art.

My sense is our kids don't have a full picture of what's possible.

Can I appeal to our friends and colleagues in the Continuous Improvement community to help?

Please spread the message every chance you get.

Making things is COOL.

Pascal


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

What is Breakthrough?, Part 2
What Does Breakthrough Mean? - Part 1
Suggestion boxes vs Quick & Easy Kaizen
What is Intellectual Capital?, Part 2



Monday, May 4, 2020

What is Breakthrough?, Part 2

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Breakthrough comes in different flavors.

Those of us who've grown up in manufacturing tend to think in terms of Operational Excellence - whose objective is Efficiency.

We seek to enhance flow in our major value streams by reducing waste (muda).

Our breakthrough activities typically focus on Manpower, Machinery, Methods and Materials.


Taiichi Ohno, our Godfather & founder of the Toyota Production System (TPS), famously declared:

"All we are trying to do is reduce the time between the customer ordering the product and our getting paid."

The system Ohno developed is justly famous, revered & imitated.

But is that all there is to Breakthrough?

Efficiency is a splendid capability, and often sufficient in itself. But is that all there is?

Don't wish to be misunderstood. TPS, in my view, is one of the past half century's grandest achievements.

But in his travels, your business nomad has learned that there's always another mountain range.

Apple, for example, has repeatedly shown that Effectiveness - doing the right things - can trump Efficiency.

The IPhone, IPod and IPad are not terribly well made. (How many drops before your IPad stops working?)

Do the corresponding value streams flow?

But the Design is so elegant, it doesn't matter.

In this case, getting the right things done, trumps doing things right.

In summary, the topography of business is complex & dynamic. There's always another mountain range.

Lean thinkers need to reflect on what we don't know, which far exceeds what we do know.

In upcoming blogs I'll dig into other kinds of breakthrough.

Best,

Pascal


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

What Does Breakthrough Mean? - Part 1
Suggestion boxes vs Quick & Easy Kaizen
What is Intellectual Capital?, Part 2
What is Intellectual Capital & Why Should You Care?



Monday, April 20, 2020

What Does Breakthrough Mean? - Part 1

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Not understanding Breakthrough - common failure mode in Strategy Deployment.

Too often, our Strategy A3 papers are full of work that's routine or entails continuous incremental improvement.

Our A3 becomes crowded with non-critical stuff & we lose sight of the critical few.

Strategy Deployment is about breakthrough - the few things you will emphasize to take your business to another level.

So how do we come to better understand breakthrough?

Here's a useful technique.

As yourself, "What are five problems, whose solution will transform our business?"

The question is a fractal, and applies at every level of the organization.

The higher the level, the more "play" in defining the "boundary conditions" & "design space".


Sometimes the answer is obvious.

For example, if you're launching a new model in an auto plant, breakthrough might entail:

  • Reducing ergonomic burden by 50%
  • Improving productivity by 30% (through Waste reduction)

If you're in agriculture, breakthrough might mean:

  • Reducing employee absenteeism & turnover by 40%
  • Increasing Yield by 30%

But other times, breakthrough is not obvious. We can become stuck in our mental models, unable to see what's all too visible to 'fresh eyes'.

Or as we rise in organization, we can lose touch with the front line, where Value is created.

Other things can hinder us as well.

For now, let's remember the above question - and it's corollary: "Why not?"

As in, "Why not zero injuries, infections, defects, waste...?"

Best,

Pascal


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

Suggestion boxes vs Quick & Easy Kaizen
What is Intellectual Capital?, Part 2
What is Intellectual Capital & Why Should You Care?
Value Stream Maps



Monday, April 6, 2020

Suggestion boxes vs Quick & Easy Kaizen

By Al Norval (bio)

Many years ago I worked for a company that had a classic suggestion box system where employees filled out a form and submitted it only to wait an eternity to hear back on it.

Why did they have to wait so long?

Consider the path the suggestion would take. It would wait to be reviewed by a suggestion committee, who would then assign it to someone to investigate. The staff person it was assigned to would have to investigate the suggestion and then make recommendations on its merit as to whether it would be adopted or not. The suggestion committee would review the recommendations and if they agreed, they would need to assign a dollar amount to the suggestion and submit it to management for approval. Finally, when the reward was approved, a notification would find its way back to the person who submitted the original suggestion.

Lead time for the process: 3 – 6 months.
Employee Engagement: next to nil (In fact a lot of negative comments were generated)
Employee Ownership: zero. The ideas were always being second guessed by someone else in a very command & control way.


I can vividly remember one case of a chemical process that was unstable due to some inadequacies in the original design of the separators. The engineering redesign was priced out at >$100,000. Everyone was in a panic since customer demand was not being met. At this time a suggestion was received through the suggestion system from one of the employees with a remarkably simple idea on how to fix the process. The idea was tried out and proved to be very effective. Now followed a debate on how much to pay the employee for the suggestion. The debate centered on the usual process of paying out 15% of the savings. Since the process was inoperable and customers were out of product – how much was the idea worth and how could we possibly pay an employee that amount. The debate raged for months and finally the employee was awarded a token amount. Needless to say, employees in this area never submitted another suggestion.

What’s a better way?

Develop a system of Quick & Easy kaizen. This is a system where employees not only submit ideas but are charged with seeing them through to completion themselves. Progress of ideas through the process is made visible on a Quick & Easy Kaizen board so everyone can see the status of all ideas just by looking at the board. The approval process generally only involves the immediate supervisor and ideas can be dealt with through daily team huddles.

Results

Lead time for the process: 1-2 weeks
Employee Engagement: high
Employee Ownership: high

The key is to generate lots of ideas and move them quickly through the process. To do this the Quick & Easy process has to be simple from the way to submit ideas to the approval process to the implementation and verification afterwards. Simple allows it to be fast. Simple pocket cards on a white board are all it takes.

The experience of turning their ideas into action quickly creates employees who become supercharged and keen to submit ideas again and again. Imagine the power of an organization where employees are generating 10 and 20 improvements per employee per year. Not all will be big winners but there will be a lot of gems mixed with them. In fact, you’ll be surprised at how much buried gold you find.

Go ahead try it. You can set up a Quick & Easy Kaizen process in an hour or two. What’s holding you back?

Cheers

Al


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

What is Intellectual Capital?, Part 2
What is Intellectual Capital & Why Should You Care?
Value Stream Maps
What is a Key Thinker?