Monday, October 22, 2012

Einstein and Action

Human beings must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.
- Albert Einstein

This is a great quote by Albert Einstein, most likely directed towards free will.  But if you think of "action" meaning "sex" it is more humorous, but for this discussion well focus on the right definition.

We see action everyday, in the form of standard work being done, all our value and non-value adds; but what about action towards problems.  When a problem occurs, it demands an action to solve it...and if we don't train our employees how to solve it effectively then the solution we get may not be ideal.

I know in my organization if a problem occurs, say it be a poory formed part issue, whoever receives the part, even though they can tell it is incorrect, will try to use it, and cut it, and shape it, and do everything they can before reporting it to a supervisor. Is this a bad thing? that they took action to try and solve the problem, not necessarily for scrap dollars, but from a quality and efficiency standpoint it is a negative.  But long ago, the owner of the organization beleived that no steel should be thrown away, no matter what it takes, employees where taught to try and save material.  

My management team and I have done a poor job of addressing this, and need to find a solution to counter-act our culture.  Because until we determine the action the employee must take when a part is determined out of tolerance, our employees will take whatever action they find most our case, spend a lot of labor dollars making a part "work".  

So, how do you attack this? what do you do?...I really am asking.  Probably some quality at the source type training, but really what we want is for employees to hold each other accountable.  If someone gives you a poor product, do not accept it as a poor product that you have fix...demand they satisfy their internal customer.  And not demand as in "you suck, i'm great" but our expectations internally have to be high enough where we don't accept failure.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Study yourself failing

This is a great video posted on "The 99 Percent",, (and it's not the 99 percent your thinking).  Joshua Foer has come up with a neat concept on how to train ourselves to fail...sounds interesting doesn't it?

He starts with a question, who in this room is better at typing today than they where last year?  General answer..."no one".  Its interesting how, even though we do something daily, we are not improving.  Kind of goes against the whole "practice makes perfect".  Other examples are driving, reading, walking.

So why is that? Why do we not get better at something even though we are getting plenty of practice.  What Foer goes on to explain is that our mind sets mental plateaus for success, ie. If I can type 40 words a minute I am fast enough.  But once we have reached that plateaus, our mind no longer tries to overcome obstacles.  We become "satisfied" with our current level.

But how do we overcome this? How do we get better even when we feel our best is good enough?  We have to retrain our minds to not accept where we are today.  If we want to be better at typing, we need to practice typing faster than we are 60 words a minute with every other word misspelled and illegible.  We are studying failure, or watching ourselves fail, and by doing this we force our mind to overcome the failure.

So how does this apply to lean you ask?  Actually, you probably already know.  Whats the enemy of improvements?...complacency, a general "we are doing fine" attitude.  Getting used to the pace we are at right now.  Unless we can come out of that comfort zone and watch ourselves failing it will be very hard, if not impossible, to improve.

I know in my shop, we are trying to overcome our current tact time by 1 hour...and how do we do this?  We fail, twice a  week.  So two times a week we practice the 1 hour less tact time, and when we have "issues" that do not allow that to happen, we make those "issues" projects that need done!  So far, we haven't found a better way....but i'd love suggestions on the art of failing!34ZD3RWKJPXB


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Us and them

I'm in the midst of reading Richard Branson's book "Like a Virgin; Secrets they don't teach you in business school".  A great book, and Branson's outlooks on business and life are worth taking note of.  Once chapter in particular is called "They Say; Third Person Problems" and its a very good observation about what we typically see in business, and what separates a great company from the not so great.

When you are out on the floor engage your employees in a conversation about the state of the company, listen for "we" and "they".  Branson explains that we as humans typically associate problems in the third person, where as positives are addressed singular or "we". Example, "they do not like my idea" or "they are making us change" contradictory to "I have that one in stock" or "we are going to give you this service as well".  The them and us tell a lot about the state a companies culture is in.

So listen for the "they's" in your lean journey and consider those opportunities to improve.  What's the culprit of us and they and how do you fix it? Why, communication of course!  If employees do not fill engaged in the activities the company is taking then the chances of them embracing those activities or changes is slim.  

Those that practice lean know how important it is to build a culture of "we", what's difficult is assessing if you are doing a good job.  Try this "Branson approach" and see what you find.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Toyota and Taking Action!

"We place the highest value on actual implementation and taking action.  There are many things one doesn't understand and therefore, we ask them why don't you just go ahead and take action; try to do something?  You realize how little you know and you face your own failures and you simply can correct those failures and redo it again and at the second trial you realize another mistake or another thing you didn't like so you can redo it once again.  So by constant improvement, or, should I say, the improvement based upon action, one can rise to the higher level of practice and knowledge.  - Fuijio Cho, President, Toyota Motor Corporation, 2002" (Liker, 2003)

I love this line from Fuijio Cho, coincidentally it's the first quote in the first chapter by Jeffrey Liker's book "The Toyota Way".   Learning through cool is that?  I am anything but a patient person, and the struggle I fight everyday is people afraid to make a decision.  This comes from both sides of the wall (more like every way you look).  Customers afraid to make a decision on a spec, employees afraid to make a decimation on a part or piece, managers afraid to make a decision on occurs constantly.

Now, is this always the wrong thing, is it always bad to not make a decision...of course not.  But not making a decision causes waste.  It's waste for an employee to ask a manager or another employee, it's waste for a manager to ask a director, it's waste for a director to defer to a higher power.  Whats more wasteful (and i'll say the most) is being 100% sure, what's it cost to be 100% sure? A lot!

I'm definitely guilty of all this, and what I watch from observing myself (80% of the time) is that I know what decision I want to make, but i'm looking for reinforcement.  It doesn't matter in the end, the decision was either right or wrong, but having that backup or that sign off or that email we can use to eliminate any personal wrong doing at a later date is important to us.

Going back to the quote, we need to fail...we need it!  We need to be yelled at (in my opinion) or know that we made a bad call.  What i've noticed in a great employee vs an "Ok" one, the good one's make more decisions, and are confident in their ways.  Do they make bad decisions  absolutely  but we trust them to make more and when they screw up take the honest feedback.

So the art of failing is absolutely critical! Do it often