“Where there is no Standard there can be no Kaizen” – Taiichi Ohno
A not long time ago I was talking with a colleague about the reasons for unsuccessful lean implementations. I shared with him this time on which after a very successful launch, suddenly everything stops working. I had no idea of the reason until one day when talking with one of our managers with previous experience on a lean manufacturing environment he said, “you know what is our problem? That we are using standards to make people accountable and take disciplinary actions if they do not”.
Standards are meant to be a guide to ensure effective consistent work. We cannot penalize our employees for making mistakes, that is how we learn. Just like in our private lives we used symbols to mark our milestones and set our path to happiness, standards are tools to show us the current right way to complete a task in a such a way that we will satisfy our customer needs.
Standards are not written in stone, they are not static but dynamic, change over time. They shall change because they are the baseline for continuous improvement. Kaizen or continuous improvement is a lot about experimenting with new things, try something new and see how the outcome changes. As managers, we need to be aware that experiments are not always successful. The real value is that we try something different, we did not accept something just because we always do it that way!
We need to use standards to set the right path to customer satisfaction and to inspire our employees to improve their process. An employee who is the owner of the process and actively participate in the continuous improvement process is an employee who cares and therefore feels greater levels of job satisfaction. With the right mentorship, our employees will be problem solvers, better professionals; and of course if they feel better by the time they get back home they will be better people as well.
One question that I hear very often is what is, the difference between a value stream map and a process flow? Are they the same? It is easy to be confused, both are maps of the process, right? Let’s establish what each map is:
Which one we should use depends on what we want to accomplish, do we want to work with a specific process or we want to visualize more than just the single-process level, see the flow? Do not rush to complete either one of them, they deserve time; after all the continuous improvement process depends on how we define the baseline of the process or flow and the appropriate identification of the problems. The more you use them, the easier will be to identify which one is right for each occasion.
“If you don’t have time to do it right you must have time to do it over.” ~Author Unknown
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 of 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 have different preferred ways to learn but most of us like to receive information in 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 have 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 in 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.