Monday, November 4, 2019

KAIZEN – Small Changes vs. Monster Projects

By Al Norval (bio)

As an engineer in school I studied the physical sciences - Chemistry, Physics, Differential Calculus and my favorite Statistics but lately I’ve been studying things which I would have laughed at when I was in Engineering school. That is the behavioral sciences of Adult Learning and Change Management. Specifically I’m interested in why people are afraid of change, how to overcome it and how to maximize the learning we get from making changes.



Turns out it goes way back to the dawn of humanity as our brains were developing. Simply put, our brains have three sections; the reptilian or limbic brain located at the brain stem which controls our basic functions; our mammalian brain which contains our emotional center, and the prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain that is most developed in primates and makes us most human in that it contains the reasoning and logic centers.

Our limbic system is much older than the other structures in our brains and developed to manage the “Flight or Fight” response. That’s the part of our brain that responds to threatening situations with a response that decides either to run away – the flight or to stand and fight. The decision isn’t based on logic or even emotion but is decided upon by this ancient part of our brain that overrides the other more highly advanced sections of the brain. It’s a basic survival mechanism.

What has this got to do with Kaizen?

This same mechanism kicks in when we are faced with changes. Its part of the fear of change and overcoming it is a large part of change management.

I’d like to suggest that kaizen can be a great way of overcoming this fear of change and can greatly simplify change management. By kaizen I mean kaizen as small, steady, relentless continuous improvement not as big workshops or events. The kind of Quick & Easy Kaizen that is practiced every day.

Turns out we can absorb small changes and that a series of small changes is easier to make than one big change. The key is the repetition. Small daily changes quickly turn into a routine that is no longer threatening. It becomes a habit and minimizes the threat and so minimizes the Flight or Fight response.

Small changes add up to big improvements over time. That’s not to say there isn’t the need for the occasional kaizen workshop but temper them with daily kaizen perhaps at a ratio of 10:1 or even 100:1

The words of Taiichi Ohno ring in my ears “Every day a little bit higher”.

What does this mean for the Lean community? Don’t fight basic biology. Combine daily Quick & Easy Kaizen with a focus on delivering Customer value you can use it to your advantage. You’ll get more improvement done quicker with less resistance. Go ahead and try it. I’d love to hear how you did.

Cheers,

Al



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

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What Does Leader as a Teacher Really Mean?
PDCA - the Pounding Heart Muscle of Life

Monday, October 21, 2019

Is Inventory a waste or a cover-up of deeper waste?

By Al Norval (bio)

It’s an interesting question since we all know that Inventory is one of the seven classic process wastes called “Muda”. We often see this as we walk the factory floor. Piles of raw materials, stacks of WIP (work in process) and as we leave the manufacturing organization and enter the arena of distribution, we see inventory stored as Finished Goods.

This inventory represents cash tied up waiting to be processed into something which has value to customers. Accountants would see this as an asset which is positive but that’s a blog for another day. We in the Lean world see this inventory as waste to be reduced or eliminated.

But how do we reduce or eliminate this waste of inventory?



I see many Lean practitioners and organizations make a fundamental mistake when it comes to this. The Lean purists in the organization say “Reduce the waste, reduce the inventory” and the obliging organization goes ahead and does so often with disastrous consequences. They reduce their inventory too far and find that all material flow grinds to a halt. They have uncovered some rocks but don’t have the time or horsepower to fix them through countermeasures aimed at root cause. In the meantime customer service suffers and the organization engages in a serious session of firefighting while everyone scrambles to keep customers happy. Many times this happens at the end of a financial quarter or year end.

We all want to reduce the waste of inventory but what’s a better way reduce inventory?

As we develop our eyes for waste, and begin to see the waste that surrounds us in an organization, we need to be able to get to the root cause that’s driving the waste and eliminate the root cause.

Inventory always hides a deeper source of waste. We need to be able to learn to see that and understand the root cause that’s driving the waste of inventory. Only then, after the countermeasures are in place, can we take a step change in inventory.

In fact, sometimes we need to add some inventory back in to stabilize the material flow and give us time to work on countermeasures to the root cause of the waste. Doing this eliminates much of the firefighting which in turn creates time for proper problem solving.

I’m not saying – don’t reduce inventory to expose the rocks. Rather, I’d suggest, reducing the inventory, seeing what rocks (problems) surface and if you can’t problem solve rapidly, add the inventory back in while you address the root causes. Stabilize the material flow, keep your customers happy, drive to root cause, problem solve.

Reduce the waste by eliminating the causes of it.

Cheers,

Al



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

7 Basic Quality Tools – Are they underrated?
What Does Leader as a Teacher Really Mean?
PDCA - the Pounding Heart Muscle of Life
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Monday, October 7, 2019

7 Basic Quality Tools – Are they underrated?

By Al Norval (bio)

As I teach problem solving and observe people learning to problem solve according to the scientific method, I often see people struggling with the concepts of a hypothesis and the binary test of the hypothesis and with the rigor of the process. This is understandable as these are foreign concepts and new for most people.

It’s very rewarding to see people change as they grasp the mechanics and begin to apply them and then achieve remarkable results.

To start the problem solving process, we need to “To Grasp the Situation” to get an understanding of the problem and in many cases to actually be able to define the problem and then get to root cause. To do this we use the 7 Basic Quality Tools:

  • Process Maps
  • Tally Sheet
  • Fishbone Diagram
  • Histogram
  • Pareto
  • Run Chart
  • Scatter Plot

The strange thing I find is that people will all nod their heads and say they know how to use them but when asked to give examples in everyday situations they can’t. In fact, when pressed to use them in an actual problem, often they can’t.


Many times I have to stop the problem solving and take a time out to have the group focus on learning the basic quality tools before they get back to working on the problem.

Why is this?

Often they are seen as too simple. They must be easy to use. But like anything that looks easy, without practice and application, we never really learn how to use them.

Lean is about thinking according to the scientific method. The scientific method is based on data. The 7 Basic Quality Tools allow us to organize and understand data so we can apply the scientific method. They make visible the data that is the backbone of good problem solving. Without them, we’re just throwing solutions at the wall and hoping something will stick.

I believe every leader and every one working in a lean environment needs to be able to master these 7 Basic Quality Tools to the point where they can teach others. Evidence of their use should be easy to see in any organization.

Simple – yes

Underrated – absolutely!

For more information on the 7 Basic Quality Tools and other Lean tools, please see Lean Brain Boosters

Cheersl

Al



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

What Does Leader as a Teacher Really Mean?
PDCA - the Pounding Heart Muscle of Life
Want to Make Better Decisions? Simplify…
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