Monday, February 10, 2020

What is a Key Thinker?

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Deployment leader, Pacemaker, Key Thinking Guy/Gal, Chief Engineer -- these are all synonyms for this critical role.

As a chemical engineer, I see the role as akin to an enzyme in a chemical reaction.

Some reactions are glacial & take forever to come to completion. But once you add the enzyme -- whoosh!

These are leaders who 'wrap their arms around the critical breakthrough zones' -- like Safety or Quality or Cost.

They go see, reflect, talk to people at all levels, and thereby grasp the situation.


As a result, our Key Thinker is able to formulate a hypothesis: "If we do A, B and C, then X will happen!"

Testable hypotheses gives us insight about the Black Box known as our business.

Keep doing it, and pretty soon (say, 3 or 4 years) you have profound knowledge.

("Do this -- don't do that! We tried it six years ago, and it was a mess, for these reasons.")

That's what profound knowledge looks like: stories, examples, nuance, finesse.

The best known example is, perhaps, Toyota's famous 'Heavyweight Chief Engineer'.

Famously, Chief Engineers have few direct reports, but are the most powerful person in the value stream (or, in the auto industry, Platform).

Key Thinkers are rare people with rare qualities:

Passionate about their zone, impatient with the status quo, ornery, yet able, at the end of the day, to forge a consensus.

They're a critical enabler in any transformation and a key strategic question is:

"How will we develop more Key Thinkers?"

Here's an example. Imagine you are senior leaders in a major hospital system. Your over-riding objective is "No Infections!"

How would we start? Perhaps we can agree that a committee won't do.

We'd need to start with a person with the qualities described above -- in other words, with a Key Thinker.

Best,

Pascal



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

Macro Value Stream Kaizen – Zoology
Poka-Yoke – Preventing Inadvertent Errors
Making the Invisible Visible in Design Projects
Two Pillars of the Lean Business System


Monday, January 27, 2020

Macro Value Stream Kaizen – Zoology

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Improving a macro value stream is our most challenging & interesting kaizen, in my experience.

A value stream entailing multiple nodes across a continent, or continents, is a complex animal with unknown habits and qualities.

Moreover, it's abstract and often impossible to see in its entirety.

Learning about it is akin to zoology.

We try to make it visible, first with macro value stream maps, then with tabletop simulations using point of sale data.

Then to learn its habits we run experiments & observe what happens.

Each experiment furthers our knowledge & brings us closer to understanding & taming the beast.

Managing our experiments requires a solid governance process - and usually means Level 1, 2 and 3 checking.

(Level 3 might entail the value stream kaizen Steering Team which over time become the value stream managers.)

Are we up to the challenge?

Too often I see organizations defaulting to software solutions.

The mental model appears to be, "The computer will figure it all out for us!"

In effect, they're outsourcing thinking.


Will the computer run the experiments that develop intuition?

Will the computer observe the animal in its natural state and thereby determine its habits and diet?

Remember the Stanley Kubrick movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey?

Remember Hal, the computer, gradually taking over?

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Dave?"

Best,

Pascal



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

Poka-Yoke – Preventing Inadvertent Errors
Making the Invisible Visible in Design Projects
Two Pillars of the Lean Business System
Why Do We Learn More from What Did Not Work?


Monday, January 13, 2020

Poka-Yoke – Preventing Inadvertent Errors

By Al Norval (bio)

We talk a lot about the House of Lean with its foundation of Standards & Stability and the two pillars of Just In Time and Jidoka supporting a roof of Customer and Strategic Direction which together encompass engaged Team Members continually solving problems.

All of this makes sense but what is this Japanese word – Jidoka?


It’s built in quality at the source. Rather than try to inspect and test quality in by looking for defects on finished product, a losing cause at best, lean organizations build in quality at the actual value added operation. That way defects can be caught early and they don’t have to reply as heavily on final inspection testing.

The big advantage to Jidoka is that by catching defects early in the process, they are closer to the actual process conditions that caused the defect and therefore closer to root cause. They can launch problem solving faster with a higher chance of getting to root cause since the process conditions wouldn’t have changed as much.

Jidoka has four parts:
  • Detecting defects
  • Alerting or signaling a problem
  • Immediate response - temporary countermeasures to get running again
  • Root cause problem solving and countermeasures to prevent the occurrence of the defect.

This is where Poka-Yoke comes in. It’s about the final step in Jidoka of preventing the re-occurrence of the defect. Lean organizations realize that errors are inevitable. Human beings make errors that cause defects. By eliminating the possibility of the error being made, defects could be eliminated. Poka-Yoke is used to prevent these errors being made. Translated it means “Preventing inadvertent mistakes” since it’s believed people don’t make mistakes on purpose. This is consistent with the lean principle of “Respect for People”

The best Poka-Yoke devices are physical devices that eliminate the possibility of an error occurring. Weaker Poka-Yoke countermeasures would be signs and warning systems but these could be overridden and the error could still occur.

Organizations are always looking for ways to get employees involved and having teams develop Poka-Yoke devices that prevent errors from being made is a great way to do this. It’s a win-win. Employees are engaged in problem solving, quality gets better for customers.

For more on Poka-Yoke, download the free Lean Pathways “LEAN MANIFESTO

Cheers

Al



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

Making the Invisible Visible in Design Projects
Two Pillars of the Lean Business System
Why Do We Learn More from What Did Not Work?
Failure is a Requirement for Innovation