Lean Trainings, Motivation, Training Program

Is your training program effective?

When every root cause analysis we complete points out lack of training as the cause of the non-conformance situation, we have a problem.  I am not talking only about traditional supervisors and managers blaming on the people instead of focusing on the process.  I refer to the case on which a thorough root cause analysis with multi-department participation and honest deep discussion identify training as the main problem, but no just lack of training but effectiveness of the training.

Why training is not effective?  Perhaps we are using the wrong method.  People can learn in different ways, each person has a preferred style of learning: auditory, visual or tactile.  If we design our training in such a way that we only provide methods that cover one style, we left out part of all our employees.  Not effective training led to frustration which is a cause of high turnover rate.

Depending on the size of our company we can go different routes: we can either prepare a training that accommodates to different styles or we can get to know our employees better by doing some kind of test to determine their prefered way of learning.  This information can help to design the training knowing on what learning type we should focus more or if possible divide the audience by learning type,  If it is possible to have different versions of the same training, individual can choose their training method based on their style.

Learning Types

Effective training help to reduce the stress of our employees and increase their level of confidence on their skills which help to empower and motivate them.  Effective training will also impacts directly employee retention and turnover.  Show respect to your people by providing them the right tools to do their job, practice being humble by accepting that maybe they know more than you what would be the best way to do their job.



Continuous Improvement, Waste

Lean is Fun!

Last week I was watching a video from Paul Akers, Lean Maniac, founder and president of FastCap LLC and author of 2 Second Lean. On that video he passionately described lean as simple and fun.  That description makes me smile.

During my personal lean journey I worked with different consultants and lean practitioners.  They all have one thing in common, regardless their experience and knowledge, in my opinion they complicated things too much.  I was thinking all the time that we should keep things simple.  People has different preferred ways to learn but most of us like to receive information on a simple way.  The simple the better to understand and learn.  When you understand things, you will see how useful they are and as you try and see that they work, you definitely has fun.

People don’t need to know the history behind lean, not thousands of examples of situations that are not familiar to them, not formulas or complicated programs.  All they need to know is the basics. The basics of lean are simple:  respect for people and continuous improvement.  By doing those two things we will eliminate waste, improve quality and by default improve customer satisfaction and reduce operational costs.

We show respect when we genuinely ask how we can help to make our employees tasks easier and work with them to eliminate the burden from their processes.  When they actively participate from the improvement process, having the chance to bring their point of view and implement their ideas, they go home feeling that they accomplish something,. By giving them the tools to apply continuous improvement on their areas we also give them the tools to have fun while they work, being creative, have some control of the process and learn things that may be used on their personal lives.

Motivation, The Beginning

Focus on the process!

SuccessDuring my lean journey one of the toughest things has always been changing behaviors and old styles.  In one of my work experiences this was especially difficult.

Manufacturing environments are always challenging, full of stress to get things done.  While machine breakdowns, processing problems and quality issues make it harder, relationships between coworkers is  frustrating sometimes.  For traditional supervisors and managers, the people is always the problem, lack of commitment, lack of training, or simple laziness are some of the reasons for mistakes that they will mention.

The heart of any lean manufacturing initiatives shall be the people.  Without our people factories will not make any profit regardless how many robots and automatic processes we have.  Training, empowerment, listen to operators ideas and concerns, take in consideration and implement those feasible ideas and facilitate resolution for their concerns are ways to show that we do care for our employees.  Another way is focusing on the process, equipment or any out of compliance situation when problems arise instead of blaming on the people.

Next time problems we found things at gemba out of standard, focus on the process not the people.  We need to assume the people want to learn, be accountable and help in the company success, not the contrary.


Never Forget!

Yesterday, fourteen years ago we lived one of the darkest days in USA history.  The 9-11 anniversary was everywhere on the internet and while I was browsing it I remember the ceremonies from 4 years ago.  During the ceremony the speaker said that out of the horrible reality of the thousands who died that day and the collective fear that comes after, something good born that day. For years the only time New Yorker’s thought about their neighbors was to wish that they don’t  bother, but that day was born a sense of concern, a need to know whether or not those living around you are well. Greeting neighbors and strangers became a habit.

The purpose of the attacks was to rob Americans the sense of freedom, of being able to go anywhere and talk about what they want with the person they want.  Just after the attacks many were locked in their homes for fear of what might happen. They were afraid to be who they are, to live according to their beliefs and dreams.

Some terrorists live among us. I worked between terrorists, people who attack your lifestyle to steal your peace and your dreams. There are people who live their lives through others, some are just imitators but few others steal your peace, sabotage your work and stand in your way like a road block.  During my lean journey I found some terrorists, people who try to undermine our efforts, kidnapped our ideas and ultimately control our actions.   For a lean implementation success, people is the most important asset.  It is possible to show respect on different ways.

If that sense of neighborhood really born that day, then it was also the day on which the neighbors start to show respect to each other, respect on the form of being humble and humility and understand that there things bigger than them and together they will be better prepared to face any challenge.

Never ForgetBack in the gemba, there are people who plays the role of terrorists who plant the seeds of fear and distrust on their peers.  Our role as managers and lean students is to educate and support our employees through training and by showing respect during our gemba walks.  America is now better because we learn that we have people around that don’t believe in what we believe but if we respect those that share our believes, they will be there with us whenever we need them. Our work places will be better when respect for the people become one of our priorities, never forget that.


Gemba Management, Lean Trainings

Are you a good Lean coach?

On these days I read on the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) page that a helpful coach is a humble coach.  The LEI faculty member and author David Verbie, in one of their most popular videos explains why with examples of how to use “humble inquiry.”  You can have all the knowledge of the world but if you are not humble when you ask and show with actions respect for the people; the message will not get through.   This reading makes me remember about this anecdote.

We were taking our first baby steps with Lean when this new guy join the company to work as director of the finance department.  His first week, we did a physical inventory and he was right there with his team observing how the employees performed the inventory.  At first I thought, good! he went to gemba to see!  Then I  heard comments from the employees regarding how he was asking them a lot of whys and hows on a way that they felt either intimidated or that he was questioning their skills or their desire to do a good job.  I was very upset, don’t ever go to the work area and make questions on a way that could offend the employees.

About a week after the inventory, this person was ready to propose changes to the inventory procedure.  He was talking about having a meeting with the employees but before it happen the accounting manager gave us a heads up and we ask for a meeting with the managers first.  We could not afford the risk to have this guy yelling and demeaning our employees anymore, we need to check on him.  I went to the meeting  positive, thinking that probably everything was just a misunderstanding.

The meeting started and after the introduction, the new director spend thirty minutes talking about himself!  I thought that it was ok, he just wanted us to know about him.  Once again, I was wrong!  When the inventory stock supervisor started to present the results of the inventory he was interrupting all the time to talk about his observations.  Every time he did it, he questioned our procedures, supervisory methods and our performance indicators.  The problem was the way he questioned everything, I felt he was attacking us.  After all the hard work to create an improvement culture, all the training hours and everything we have done to gain our employees trust and this guy comes with this attitude!  He started to ask me about our kaizen events and if I knew some concepts like: OEE, kanban and others.  He was arrogant, believing he was a sensei but he was wrong!  No doubt he knew, but none of us never listened to one word of what he said from the minute he started his attacks.

During my Lean journey this is the only person that I found with that attitude so far.  As managers and lean practitioners we need to coach or mentor our people.  We need to ask why every day but we shall use the humble inquiry.  I believed so much on this philosophy that I made it part of my life; when I read the book Lean Production Simplified by Pascal Dennis I learned why.  Towards the end of the book, the author wrote: “When a set of methods or techniques connects to a person’s whole being, it becomes a do or path.  Therefore, we must approach it with the proper spirit: humility, life long learning and respect for people“.