Monday, July 15, 2019

Back to Basics – Visual Order

By Al Norval (bio)

This is the third in a series of blogs which get back to the basics of Lean. The purpose of these blogs is to get back to the basic principles of Lean and stop contorting Lean into something it was never meant to be.

What do I mean by Lean?

It’s the engagement of all people in driving continuous improvement through the elimination of waste to improve Customer Value. The result is the world’s most powerful business system.

In the first blog I started right at the beginning with Customer Value. Makes sense since everything we do should add value to Customers. Then I moved onto Employee Engagement. Today, I’d like to talk about Visual Order which many of you may know as 5S. Why is this one of the basics? It’s the very foundation on which almost everything else builds. In my consulting practice, I tell my clients that if you can’t sustain a good 5S program, then how can you possibly think you can sustain anything else.


Let’s examine Standardized Work. Without a good 5S program, there would be no way to sustain or follow the Standardized Work without interruptions and disruptions constantly breaking the cycle. Looking for parts or supplies are just a few of the obvious wastes.

What do I mean by Visual Order or 5S?

It refers to a system of organizing the workplace based on 5 Japanese words all starting with the letter S. I’ll use the English equivalents for simplicity.

Sort – remove anything that doesn’t have an immediate need. This is often called a Red Tag process and doesn’t mean throw things out. For things used in-frequently they could be put into a special storage area. Other items will have uses elsewhere in the organization so a disposition process needs to be developed. Finally some items will be given away or scrapped.

Set in Order – The remaining items are organized with a fixed location that specifies what goes where. This is called a home position so we know where to find every item. These positions are them labelled so everyone can see.

Shine and Inspect – Take everything and clean it to a “like new” condition. While doing this look for potential problems. This Inspect part is often overlooked and is the critical step

Standardize – Develop standards for each of the first 3 steps, including the who, when, where, what and how to do each of them.

Sustain – Lastly, a process of training and audits is put into place to maintain the standards that have been developed

Why do I prefer the name Visual Order rather than 5S?

It’s really a way of visually organizing the workplace to make it easy to see abnormalities. As we’ll learn in the next blog on Visual Management, this is a cornerstone of visual controls. The need for everyone to be able to see the abnormalities so we can take action on them.

Once we have learned the techniques of Visual Order and have learned how to see abnormalities, we need to work on preventing the abnormalities from occurring in the first place. This often overlooked part of the Visual Order system, is critical to developing the thinking and problem solving skills of our team members. These skills once learned, can then be applied to other areas such as an office environment or even a virtual environment such as a computer drive.

As with many things with Lean, we can take the basics deeper and deeper. What once was a simple tool now becomes a critical way of thinking.

Cheers

Al

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

Back to Basics – Employee Engagement
Back to Basics – Customer Value
What is Courage & How does it relate to True North?

Monday, July 1, 2019

Back to Basics – Employee Engagement

By Al Norval (bio)

This is the second in a series of blogs which get back to the basics of Lean. As I said in my last blog, it seems to me that as Lean gets more mainstream, people are forgetting the basic principles of Lean and are contorting Lean into something it was never meant to be. The worst examples are where people take what they were always doing and re-label the same work as Lean. I’m sure we can all think of many examples of this.

What do I mean by Lean?

It’s the engagement of all people in driving continuous improvement through the elimination of waste to improve Customer Value. The result is the world’s most powerful business system.

Last time I started right at the beginning with Customer Value. Today I’d like to continue with Employee Engagement. Why is this one of the basics? If we are implementing Lean properly, the result will be a win for our Customers, a win for our Employees and a win for the Organization. If there is no win for the Employees, how can we expect to engage them in continuous improvement and drive more value to our Customers?

Let’s explore this a bit deeper. It all starts with the principle of “Respect for People”. This is not just respect in the way we talk to each other and the way we interact with our fellow team members. It goes far beyond that. It means using everyone to their fullest potential and allowing and in fact, encouraging everyone to become the best they can be.


Employees who are continuously solving problems according to the scientific method are continuously learning and continuously building their capabilities and skill sets. I’ll talk more about the Scientific Method in a later bog in this series. Suffice to say, the result is more valuable employees who can drive more value to our Customers.

This type of engagement of employees in solving problems following the scientific method is much different than what is normally referred to as employee involvement. Typically, with employee involvement I see organizations asking employees for their ideas or for feedback on an improvement idea management has come up with. Usually, employees are quite willing give their feedback and to toss these ideas back to their leaders. The Leaders then become the bottleneck in improvement due to the limited time they can spend implementing these ideas. Result – a slow rate of improvement.

The type of engagement I’m referring to is one where employees not only surface ideas for improvement but they are the ones to drive these ideas through to completion following a prescribed process in which leaders act as coaches and mentors. Imagine an organization where every employee is making an improvement, big or small, every day. Result – a faster and faster rate of improvement. Just think of the power in that organization! Just think of the advantage that organization has over its competitors as that kind of improvement is difficult to replicate.

As leaders what is our role in Employee Engagement?
  1. We need to provide employees with a process for solving problems
  2. We need to train employees and provide on-going coaching as they build their capabilities
  3. Most importantly, we need to provide time, every day, to work on solving problems
I believe that people come to work as fully engaged employees and our role as Leaders is to keep them engaged and not to dis-engage them. Sadly, all too often, this doesn’t happen. Result – dis-engaged employees and another employee involvement survey and program. Head for the hills.

Which organization would you rather work for? I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers
Al


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

Back to Basics – Customer Value
What is Courage & How does it relate to True North?
Lean, Leadership & Ethics, Part 1

Monday, June 17, 2019

Back to Basics – Customer Value

By Al Norval (bio)

I’d like to start a series of blogs today which get back to the basics of Lean. It seems to me that as Lean gets more mainstream, people are forgetting the basic principles of Lean and are contorting Lean into something it was never meant to be. The worst examples are where people take what they were always doing and re-label the same work as Lean. I’m sure we can all think of many examples of this.

What do I mean by Lean?

It’s the engagement of all people in driving continuous improvement through the elimination of waste to improve Customer Value. The result is the world’s most powerful business system.

Today, I’d like to start right at the beginning with Customer Value.

In my consulting practice I often come across organizations that are in the middle of a Lean transformation and when I ask why are they doing it – what’s the purpose? I get an answer of – to save money, to meet our financial obligations to the organization.


This answer always disappoints me since there is much more to Lean than that. In Lean we need to meet the needs of three publics; the Employee, the Customer and the Organization. If we’re doing Lean and not benefiting all three publics, then we’re not doing Lean properly. There has to be a win for the Employees, a win for the Customer and a win for the Organization.

If there is no win for the Employees, how can we expect to engage them in continuous improvement? More on that in the next blog in this series.

If Lean improves the value proposition for Customers, it results in a win for our Customers. Higher value entices Customers to buy more of our product or service. I like to think of Lean as a growth strategy. By delivering more value to customers, organizations can sell more and selling more is one of the best ways to achieve financial success.

Instead I see many organizations that are doing the exact opposite. They are trying to get Customers to conform to their way of doing business rather than taking the Customer viewpoint and changing the organization to become responsive to the needs of the Customer. Even worse, they develop products and services internally and then try to convince their Customers these products and services will solve their problems. A great saying in this vein goes like this “No amount of marketing can make up for poor product design”.

True Customer value comes from deeply understanding both the spoken and unspoken needs of Customers. These needs come from problems the Customer is experiencing and sometimes from problems the Customer isn’t even aware they have.

For everything we do, always ask the question - is it driving more value to our Customers?

The answer to this question is how we judge every activity, every product and every service we provide.

Cheers

Al

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

What is Courage & How does it relate to True North?
Lean, Leadership & Ethics, Part 1
Visual Management in New Product Development