Continuous Improvement

Do you care?

When top leaders don’t care, why employees will?  My first couple of weeks on a new job are always dedicated to learn about the culture, processes and identify the opportunities and challenges of the place.  Every business unit has its own KPI’s and regardless how good or not, the department is performing against those KPI’s always is critical to have the people support to be able to improve.  People will not be engaged with any improvement process or support any changes if they are not treated with respect and see honest desire to change the status quo, not just “make the numbers”.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to be a problem solving expert to get better results.  What you need is to be consistent with your message, you need to talk the talk but more importantly walk the talk.  If you are enforcing housekeeping rules or clean as you go mentality but you walk over trash and don’t even say something to somebody to clean it up, you are delivering a contradictory message.  A better message will be if you pick it up yourself or help the people who will come to do it.

When you stop to say hi to your operators, try to know them and talk not just about what they are doing but about how they are doing it and how the feel, you show them that you care about the human being.  If you approach them for positive enforcement and not just to say that they can do something different they will listen every time.

If you are consistent with your message and how you act, your team will learn to do the same, you will lead them by example.  If you show that you care, they will care.  The contrary is also true, if you don’t care about what is going on, they will not care either.  You want to change attitudes and behaviors? start with your own, show your commitment and priorities and your team will follow you.

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Five S, The Beginning

Do you practice 5S at home?

The beauty of 5S is that is simple and can be used everywhere.  In one of my recent 5S implementations I was not getting the buying from my maintenance crew until I mention examples of 5S at home.  Let’s face it, nobody want to lose their tools or waste time looking for them instead of working on that project that you are so passionate about.  You need a tool, you know you have it but, where it is?

During my lean journey 5S is one of the tools that I always use at the beginning of the implementation.  This training is very important because physically transform the area very fast, and is so easy to use that employees can learn and practice in a short period of time which helps to build confidence on lean manufacturing.  That confidence also led the employees to try 5S at home.

I heard great stories of how they use 5S on their garages, home offices and closets around the house.  If is funny to hear how they explain their spouses or partners the plan they have to organize and keep organize those areas.  The challenges they face to make their families understand the why and how help them to understand our challenges at the plant and become advocates of the program.

If you have some cluttered areas around your house, 5S is the tool you need to get rid of them.  Try it, it’s worth it!  In future posts I will present ideas that you can use at home.

 

Continuous Improvement, Gemba Management, Problem Solving

How is continuous improvement practiced in real life?

I was watching a Ted Talk video with chef José Andrés where he described how a team of chefs fed Puerto Rico after hurricane María.  I admire him for his work in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, but now after his work in Puerto Rico with the World Central Kitchen I am thankful and consider him a hero.  The entire talk is fascinating but there are parts that resonate in me for the simplicity on which he and his support team did problem solving and continuous improvement in a crisis and beat the huge federal structure on bringing food for the people in need.

Some of his words remind me things that we do while practicing continuous improvement:  “Let’s not plan, let’s not meet, let’s start cooking.”  and  “All of a sudden, big problems become very simple, low-hanging fruit solutions, only by doing, not planning and meeting in a very big building”.

One common situation for managers is to take decisions, is what we do every day.  Some managers still take decisions based on month end reports discussion during a staff meeting.  Those reports are like a post-mortem analysis, they only say what happened on the past.  Any action taken may or may not work to change the subject targeted on those reports.

The best way to know a situation first hand is going to where the action is, lean practitioners call that place gemba.  Gemba is whenever the process we want to improve happens, the production floor, office, laboratory, any place where we need to practice continuous improvement.

I am very visual, for me the best way to understand something is by taking a look at it.  I use charts and other visual methods to communicate status but when I am facing a problem, the only way for me is to go where the problem is and observe.  For me going to the gemba and see what is happening is a natural thing.  Even if does not feel that natural for you, it is possible to do it and it works on every environment.

What José Andrés did in Puerto Rico was just that, he went to the gemba observed the situation and took decisions on the spot.  Their ideas execution was also a check for their effectiveness and the trigger for changes to adapt to the changing situation or priorities.  That is how we practice continuous improvement at its best!