Monday, December 2, 2019

Why Do We Learn More from What Did Not Work?

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Building on Al's recent blog, why do we learn from more failure than success?

Seems to me, it's because failure illuminates more of the design space than success.

Supposing we're testing the structural integrity of say, a hard hat, by dropping a heavy weight on it.

If we test to the standard, (say 20 kg) and the hard hat remains intact, you've learned something about what sort of blow it can sustain.

But suppose we keep dropping heavier & heavier weights, and vary the angle of the blows - until the hard hat shatters.

Our analysis of the fragments, breakage pattern, of the slow motion video and so on, will teach us far more about the nature of hard hats.

That's why experienced labs & design teams test to failure.

A caveat, as Al suggests, is that we fail quick & fail often, (to minimize hassle & transaction cost.)

A second caveat: our failures are controlled & buffered so nobody gets hurt!

These same principles apply in strategy, product & process design and problem solving.


That's why we say 'problems are gold'.

We have to be comfortable, of course, with experimentation & ambiguity.

In my experience, the best leaders create a sense of free-wheeling energy & opportunity.

"Let's try some stuff -- and see what happens!"

"Holy cow, who would have thought...!?"

Best,

Pascal


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

Failure is a Requirement for Innovation
KAIZEN – Small Changes vs. Monster Projects
Is Inventory a waste or a cover-up of deeper waste?
7 Basic Quality Tools – Are they underrated?


Monday, November 18, 2019

Failure is a Requirement for Innovation

By Al Norval (bio)

As the parent of two children, I often found myself trying to protect my kids from failure. As I reflect back on that now, I’m not sure I always made the right decisions in doing so. How could I expect my kids to learn if they never experienced failure. Even more difficult, how do I get them to be more comfortable with failure. Anyway, more on the dilemmas of parenting in another blog.

The same principle holds true in Lean as we apply the Scientific Method to problem solving. In the scientific method we set out a hypothesis and then run experiments to test our thinking. The test needs to be binary – it either succeeds in which case we implement and standardize our countermeasure or it fails in which case we need to develop another countermeasure.

The key to the scientific method is that we learn something in both cases which is why it is critical for organizational learning. Not only do we learn when we succeed but we learn how not to do things when we fail. In fact, many times success only comes after repeated failure. Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time, is a great example of someone who embodied this principle.


But what happens if we apply the scientific method, develop a hypothesis and run an experiment on things we already know and understand?

Result – we can follow the methodology but no organizational learning occurs.

To learn we need to run experiments and test things where we don’t know the outcome. This leads to the mantra:

“Experiment, Fail, Experiment again, Fail Again but this time Fail better”

Failing better means we’re learning. We’re learning what doesn’t work which means we’re closer to learning what will work. This learning allows us to develop more creative and innovative countermeasures to address the problem. Combine this with “Fail Fast” and we have the formula for rapid innovation within organizations. As a side note, “Failing Fast” doesn’t necessarily help an organization if they aren’t learning from their failures.

For leaders this means becoming comfortable with failures, encouraging teams to try new things and ensuring the salient learning points are captured from the experiments.

Doing so will help ensure organizational success and wise leaders know, it’s only a thin line that separates success from failure.

Cheers

Al


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

KAIZEN – Small Changes vs. Monster Projects
Is Inventory a waste or a cover-up of deeper waste?
7 Basic Quality Tools – Are they underrated?
What Does Leader as a Teacher Really Mean?


Monday, November 4, 2019

KAIZEN – Small Changes vs. Monster Projects

By Al Norval (bio)

As an engineer in school I studied the physical sciences - Chemistry, Physics, Differential Calculus and my favorite Statistics but lately I’ve been studying things which I would have laughed at when I was in Engineering school. That is the behavioral sciences of Adult Learning and Change Management. Specifically I’m interested in why people are afraid of change, how to overcome it and how to maximize the learning we get from making changes.



Turns out it goes way back to the dawn of humanity as our brains were developing. Simply put, our brains have three sections; the reptilian or limbic brain located at the brain stem which controls our basic functions; our mammalian brain which contains our emotional center, and the prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain that is most developed in primates and makes us most human in that it contains the reasoning and logic centers.

Our limbic system is much older than the other structures in our brains and developed to manage the “Flight or Fight” response. That’s the part of our brain that responds to threatening situations with a response that decides either to run away – the flight or to stand and fight. The decision isn’t based on logic or even emotion but is decided upon by this ancient part of our brain that overrides the other more highly advanced sections of the brain. It’s a basic survival mechanism.

What has this got to do with Kaizen?

This same mechanism kicks in when we are faced with changes. Its part of the fear of change and overcoming it is a large part of change management.

I’d like to suggest that kaizen can be a great way of overcoming this fear of change and can greatly simplify change management. By kaizen I mean kaizen as small, steady, relentless continuous improvement not as big workshops or events. The kind of Quick & Easy Kaizen that is practiced every day.

Turns out we can absorb small changes and that a series of small changes is easier to make than one big change. The key is the repetition. Small daily changes quickly turn into a routine that is no longer threatening. It becomes a habit and minimizes the threat and so minimizes the Flight or Fight response.

Small changes add up to big improvements over time. That’s not to say there isn’t the need for the occasional kaizen workshop but temper them with daily kaizen perhaps at a ratio of 10:1 or even 100:1

The words of Taiichi Ohno ring in my ears “Every day a little bit higher”.

What does this mean for the Lean community? Don’t fight basic biology. Combine daily Quick & Easy Kaizen with a focus on delivering Customer value you can use it to your advantage. You’ll get more improvement done quicker with less resistance. Go ahead and try it. I’d love to hear how you did.

Cheers,

Al


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

Is Inventory a waste or a cover-up of deeper waste?
7 Basic Quality Tools – Are they underrated?
What Does Leader as a Teacher Really Mean?
PDCA - the Pounding Heart Muscle of Life


Monday, October 21, 2019

Is Inventory a waste or a cover-up of deeper waste?

By Al Norval (bio)

It’s an interesting question since we all know that Inventory is one of the seven classic process wastes called “Muda”. We often see this as we walk the factory floor. Piles of raw materials, stacks of WIP (work in process) and as we leave the manufacturing organization and enter the arena of distribution, we see inventory stored as Finished Goods.

This inventory represents cash tied up waiting to be processed into something which has value to customers. Accountants would see this as an asset which is positive but that’s a blog for another day. We in the Lean world see this inventory as waste to be reduced or eliminated.

But how do we reduce or eliminate this waste of inventory?



I see many Lean practitioners and organizations make a fundamental mistake when it comes to this. The Lean purists in the organization say “Reduce the waste, reduce the inventory” and the obliging organization goes ahead and does so often with disastrous consequences. They reduce their inventory too far and find that all material flow grinds to a halt. They have uncovered some rocks but don’t have the time or horsepower to fix them through countermeasures aimed at root cause. In the meantime customer service suffers and the organization engages in a serious session of firefighting while everyone scrambles to keep customers happy. Many times this happens at the end of a financial quarter or year end.

We all want to reduce the waste of inventory but what’s a better way reduce inventory?

As we develop our eyes for waste, and begin to see the waste that surrounds us in an organization, we need to be able to get to the root cause that’s driving the waste and eliminate the root cause.

Inventory always hides a deeper source of waste. We need to be able to learn to see that and understand the root cause that’s driving the waste of inventory. Only then, after the countermeasures are in place, can we take a step change in inventory.

In fact, sometimes we need to add some inventory back in to stabilize the material flow and give us time to work on countermeasures to the root cause of the waste. Doing this eliminates much of the firefighting which in turn creates time for proper problem solving.

I’m not saying – don’t reduce inventory to expose the rocks. Rather, I’d suggest, reducing the inventory, seeing what rocks (problems) surface and if you can’t problem solve rapidly, add the inventory back in while you address the root causes. Stabilize the material flow, keep your customers happy, drive to root cause, problem solve.

Reduce the waste by eliminating the causes of it.

Cheers,

Al


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

7 Basic Quality Tools – Are they underrated?
What Does Leader as a Teacher Really Mean?
PDCA - the Pounding Heart Muscle of Life
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