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Project Management is Important for Continuous Improvement

2 min read

Most businesses are run with a series of ongoing projects. The breaking up of tasks into projects results in manageable workloads with specific assignments, making them more likely to get accomplished in a timely manner. By definition, projects are sets of interconnected tasks that are targeted at meeting a certain goal. Many organizations rely on steady project completion to lead to the achievement of broader company goals.

Project Phases

Projects are run, overseen and monitored by project managers in charge of making sure that things remain on track and that important deadlines are met. Projects can typically be broken down into five major steps. The first step is initiation and involves project evaluation. A project evaluation is accomplished by performing a cost and benefit analysis and, essentially, deciding whether or not the project should be continued. The second step is referred to as the “planning phase,” and is made up of goal setting and the assembly of a project team. The third step in a project is the launch. During this phase team members are given their respective tasks and assignments. The fourth step is the monitoring phase and involves the project manager overseeing the actual work being done. The fifth, and final, phase is project completion and marks the termination of the project and evaluation of the degree to which goals were met.

Project Managers

The strengths and qualities of the project manager are crucial to the success of the overall project. It is essential that project managers are effective communicators and can relay to project members what is expected of them in a constructive and encouraging manner. Effective project managers typically have extensive knowledge regarding the scope of the project and how it relates to the broad goals and values of the company as a whole.

Project Management Tools

30 Day Action List

30 Day Action List

There are a series of different tools and techniques that are valuable for project managers to utilize with their team members. Brainstorming is a creative tool designed to encourage team members to suggest and feed off of each others ideas. Another tool is the Critical Path Analysis technique aimed at creating a flow chart and timeline of the project, outlining major milestones. Lets take for instance you are managing a 5s project, and you need to keep track of problems found during the project and the progress that has been made. A simple 30 Day Action list can be used to keep track of the activities and who is assigned to each one along with the progress. In addition, a component located within this technique is PERT or Program/Programme/Project Evaluation and Review Technique. Both of these tools are helpful in creating a visual representation for the tasks that need to be accomplished to complete the project.

Projects are an essential aspect of the operations of any business or organization. Regardless of the product or service supplied by the company, it can benefit from the delegation of projects. The project manager role demands the extensive knowledge of each phase of the project and proper utilization of tools and techniques. The project manager is an important part of the success of a completed project. The better someone is at managing projects, the more success your continuous projects will be.

Why Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)?

3 min read

The path towards continuous improvement in your lean journey is not always as clear as you’d like it to be. Many of the processes and methodologies behind Lean take time before your organization has success with them. It’s a learning process well worth the investment, but can be frustrating at times. Same goes for the Lean process known as Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED). The increased efficiency and reduction of costly inventory that results from SMED, only comes when your organization has fully committed and dedicated the time to fully understand the process.

Background of Single Minute Exchange of Die or SMED

SMEDThe SMED process was developed by Dr. Shigeo Shingo in Japan during the sixties and early seventies at Toyota. Dr. Shingo was given the challenge of increasing production capacity without purchasing new equipment. His research at first was mostly spent observing machines in action and trying to understand how to make them run faster. However, this was not giving him the information he was looking for.

To his surprise, his aha moment came when he observed a machine sitting idle. While spending all the time focused on the machine in action, he failed to realize the lack of emphasis on the machine’s cycle time. When a production order was complete the machine would lay idle while workers slowly gathered the materials for the next order. Dr. Shingo then realized that in order to achieve full production capacity, you have to reduce setup and changeover time.

His new focus led him to realize that changing production equipment from the last good piece to the first good piece, should take less than 10 minutes. Which is where the term “Single Minute Exchange of Dies” (SMED) came from.

What Can SMED Do For You?

Most people refer to SMED today as “quick changeover” or “setup reduction.” Even though it was originally developed to improve die-press and machine-tool setups, the concept applies to all changeovers in all types of product setups.

In the book Quick Changeover Simplified, authors Fletcher Birmingham and Jim Jelinek offer six reasons why a quick changeover process like SMED will help benefit your company. They are as follows:

  • Simplify your manufacturing process. A quick setup and changeover program simplifies processes and makes manufacturing jobs easier and more fulfilling for employees. This leads to happier employees, which leads to a lower turn-over rate.
  • Improve the quality of products. When you define, simplify, and control your manufacturing processes, the end result will be a better, higher quality product.
  • Increase throughput. A quick setup program allows an increase in throughput, helping to improve deliveries. Improved deliveries help customers sell more products, thus increasing their need to order more products from you to keep up with demand.
  • Permit smaller lots. The old rule of thumb was to produce goods in large lots because long setup times make it costly to change the process frequently. However producing large lots for this reason has several disadvantages, including:

~Inventory waste: storing what doesn’t sell costs money and ties up company resources without adding value.
~Quality loss: storing unsold inventory increases the chance that it will have to be scrapped or reworked.
~Delay waste: customers must wait for the company to produce entire lots, rather than the quantity they need.
~Non-standardized setups: Infrequent setups often aren’t standardized; thus they are difficult and risky.

  • Make your company more competitive. A quick setup and changeover program reduces the time , cost, and resources associated with switching from one manufacturing job to the next. Any savings you have can then be passed along to your customer to make you that much more competitive.
  • Save jobs. Not implementing a quick setup program makes your company noncompetitive because it needs to absorb the cost of lost potential savings that could have benefited your company and customers.

These benefits of SMED are just the start of the continued improvement you will see to your facility in the long and short term. Stay tuned for more on SMED, including tips on how to implement SMED into your Lean facility.

Hansei 101

3 min read

We are reminded time and time again (and rightfully so), Lean is about culture. It is a crucial part and in most cases, the backbone of any Lean organization. A culture that believes in continuous improvement and practices what they preach day in and day out, is the key to sustaining Lean. What’s less talked about, is what goes into a culture that allows it to gain the strength needed to sustain an organization’s Lean processes. Enter hansei.

What is Hansei?

The Japanese term “hansei,” can simply be translated into English as “reflection,” but in the Lean community and especially Toyota, it has a much bigger meaning.

Hansei is really much deeper than reflection. It is really being honest about your own weaknesses. If you are talking about only your strengths, you are bragging. If you are recognizing your weaknesses with sincerity, it is a high level of strength.

-Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way

Hansei is a method of reflectionOne of the keys to Toyota’s success throughout the years and what many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around, is the art of hansei. All to often, we overlook our weaknesses and attempt to cover them up with our strengths, as if they will eventually conquer our flaws in the end. But in reality, this is about as counterintuitive as you could be when promoting a continuous improvement philosophy.

An individual must accept the fact that they have flaws and weaknesses, Otherwise their ability to continuously improve and have a positive impact on the culture that surrounds them, is at a significant disadvantage.

The key elements to hansei:

  • Helps the individual recognize a problem.
  • Allows individual to accept responsibility of a problem with a high level of emotion.
  • Pushes the individual towards a plan of action to improve.

Everyone’s Reflection is Different

Hansei can be one of the most powerful concepts in your organization, if it’s accepted. Critical self analysis is always a tough pill to swallow in the American culture. Mike Masaki, president of the Toyota Technical Center from 1995-2000, found this out first hand.

Upon a visit to an American facility, Masaki pointed out some “very bad” parts to the American designers. This criticism was met with an uncomfortable reaction by most, which was unusual to Masaki, who spent a lot of time critiquing different elements of Toyota at the time.

In Japan the reaction is I should have designed this better I made a mistake! The U.S. designer’s expectation is that I did a good job so I should be rewarded. This is a big cultural difference.

-Mike Masaki, former president of Toyota Technical Center

It is well known and even self-criticized that Toyota spends little, if any, time celebrating success. Instead, they spend more time overcoming and more importantly, accepting weakness.

Man reflecting (hansei)No one expects (at least not overnight), a complete culture shift in the American workforce. It’s what makes us unique and allows us to create our own identity. However, when you’re able to least consider the fact that you have weaknesses and are willing to work on what it’s going to take to improve upon them, the possibilities are endless.

The problem is, it is a lot more work to find what you’re bad at, then it is to point out your strengths. It is all in the mindset though. I don’t necessarily feel you should completely take praise and recognition out all together like some suggest, but I do feel that a different mindset is needed to effectively use the hansei concept. Which is, no matter the success one has, there is always room for improvement.

This is not to say that what you did was wrong, but rather an opportunity to do something better. However the only way to present yourself with this valuable opportunity, is through the hansei process. When done immediately upon completion of a project or job, the possibility for value adding improvement is at it’s highest point. Some even have a regular hansei-kai (reflection meeting) to reflect on current events, progress, and even personnel issues.

When you are able to truly grasp the concept and intent of hansei, there really is no downside. If you are honest with yourself and are able to accept criticism as an opportunity, rather than a negative, your ability to lead a culture of continuous improvement will strengthen beyond imagine.

Without hansei it is impossible to have kaizen. In Japanese hansei, when you do something wrong, at first you must feel really, really sad. Then you must create a future plan to solve that problem and you must sincerely believe you will never make this type of mistake again.

-Jeffery Liker, The Toyota Way

Money Can’t Buy Continuous Improvement

3 min read

Money Can’t Buy Me…

Money can buy a lot of things. Those with and without money, have various opinions on happiness, love and the power that wealth brings. Throughout time, money has allowed individuals and organizations to do both good and bad with their financial power. However, there are somethings in life and business that simply have no price tag.

From the outside looking in, the success of continuous improvement (Kaizen) is often mistaken for the company with the biggest budget, best gadgets, highest payrolls and so on. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and thankfully so.

You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.

-Maya Angelou

Culture Wins Championships

Wasted MoneyFor a quick comparison lets look at American sports franchises. In 2012, of the 25 highest payrolls in American sports franchises, only one took home a title. In fact, more often than not the team with the highest payroll rarely gets fitted for a ring at the end of the season. Instead, the team with something much more valuable and sustainable tends to have the longest, most successful season.  Their secret is in their locker room not their wallets. A locker room that consists of a culture that believes in their ability to continuously improve day in and day out and a passion to do so.

Similar to sports, continuous improvement takes a culture that has a unified belief in the process and the people to be successful. Without a lean culture that is fundamentally sound and involved in the daily process, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend trying to improve.

You don’t need to spend much money to improve something. Look around and your common sense shows you simple ways to rationalize your everyday work. Most problems can be solved by common sense, and not money or high-tech equipment.

-Masaaki Imai

Mr. Imai has been considered by many to be the father of continuous improvement. His teachings of Kaizen are focused on the people and not the financial investment your organization makes. He’s further added that Kaizen is about improving everyday, everybody and everywhere.

How Can I Do This Better?

Part of the 10 Commandments to Continuous Improvement is having a “yes we can” attitude. The ultimate obstacle in your continuous improvement path is having a member of your team who doesn’t believe a challenge can be met or a process can be improved.

The common sense approach Mr. Imai speaks of is possible when the mindset of every individual truly believes everything they do, can and will be done better. They look at every situation as one that can be made more efficient and productive for themselves and others as well. Challenge individuals to make suggestions and come up with ideas to improve their work. There is no monetary value or financial incentive you can put on an individuals willingness to want to do better. It is built into them and will spread like a wildfire within your culture.

Don’t Spend To Fix

This is the ultimate trap. When you begin your Lean journey and continuous improvement process keep it simple and inexpensive. The equipment and supplies you think you need are a common misconception among Lean first-timers. Instead, focus on the people, encouraging them to be creative and innovative. From the beginning, members of the organization have to feel like they are a part of something and that their opinion means something to the group.

Building a foundation on your people and ultimately the process over a capital investment is a major key to a sustained lean culture. When people have a passion and a belief that anything is possible, there are no limits to your improvement capabilities. New machines and expensive devices are nice to look at, but they are not what’s going to take your organization to the next level. Invest in your people, not with dollars, but with trust. Make them feel like the most valuable asset to your Lean culture and watch the transformation unfold.

JIT – Just In Time Manufacturing Explained

2 min read

Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing describes the process whereby companies only acquire and produce items on an as needed basis. This process in contradictory to conventional thought that focuses on carrying large amounts of product inventory and merchandise on hand to create products and fulfill orders. While the conventional approach of amassing a large inventory and keeping the parts or stock items on hand to fill orders sounds practical, the reality is the process of holding significant inventories in house consumes large amounts of valuable resources that could be leveraged elsewhere within the organization.


JIT manufacturing is not a new concept. The JIT principle has actually been around for more than one-hundred years. The concept focuses on the production or acquisition of just enough units to meet current demands. The process was first modeled by Henry Ford around 1923. Mr. Ford recognized the huge inefficiencies present when rail cars full of materials or components were sitting idle. He understood those assets at rest represented lost revenue. JIT, as a process, did not really come into sharp focus until its adoption by the Toyota Motor Company. The Toyota company has thrived with the implementation of this process to guide its product development and manufacturing.

Impact to Business

The JIT process significantly impacts businesses in a couple of significant ways. First, it allows the business to decrease the inventory they carry on hand. This measure provides the company with a greater amount of operating capital on hand to reinvest in new products or to shore up balance sheets. Second, it forces the companies that use this methodology to implement streamlined processes. When a company is using JIT, they do not have a significant amount of parts in stock for production. This forces them to ensure they have stable, well-defined supply chain management systems. Third, it encourages the businesses using JIT to partner with other firms that understand the JIT process model and that can accommodate the on-demand nature of a JIT supply chain scenario.

Process Improvement

Free Kaizen GuideThe implementation of a JIT based manufacturing system forces companies to evaluate how they do business. Broken processes can easily hide in systems that are over-laden with surplus inventory. However, as companies begin to lean their process flow and diagram and understand their organization’s business processes these broken areas come quickly to light. Process improvement programs such as JIT and Lean Six Sigma will expose and help to correct broken, antiquated processes that are still being used from an era when excess and inefficiency was tolerated. Through the effective implementation of JIT manufacturing processes, when accompanied by effective supply chain management using available technology, it is possible for businesses to not only increase the efficiency with which they produce product, but also increase the money saved within a company while doing so. JIT processes are not a silver bullet to solve all of a company’s problems, but they provide a solid foundation upon which to begin implementing continuous process improvement within an organization.

Eight Steps To Practical Problem Solving

3 min read

The Toyota Way To Problem Solving

The art of problem solving is constantly trying to evolve and be re-branded by folks in various industries. While the new way might very well be an effective method in certain applications. A tried and true way of identifying and solving problems is the eight steps to practical problem solving developed by Toyota, years ago. The system is structured, but simple and practical enough to handle problems of the smallest nature, to the most complex issues.

Using a fundamental and strategic way to solve problems creates consistency within an organization. When you base your results off facts, experience and common sense, the results form in a rational and sustainable way.

Problem Solving Solution

The Eight Step Problem Solving Process

  1. Clarify the Problem
  2. Breakdown the Problem
  3. Set the Target
  4. Analyze the Root Cause
  5. Develop Countermeasures
  6. Implement Countermeasures
  7. Monitor Results and Process
  8. Standardize and Share Success

The eight steps to practical problem solving also include the Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA) cycle. Steps one through five are the planning process. The doing is found in step six. Step seven is the checking . Step eight involves acting out the results of the new standard.

This practical problem solving can be powerful tool to issues facing your organization. It allows organizations to have a common understanding of what defines a problem and what steps are going to be taken in order to overcome the problem efficiently.

The Eight Steps Broken Down:

Step 1: Clarify the Problem

A problem can be defined in one of three ways. The first being, anything that is a deviation from the standard. The second could be the gap between the actual condition and the desired condition. With the third being an unfilled customer need.

In order to best clarify the problem, you have to see the problem with your own eyes. This gives you the details and hands-on experience that will allow you to move forward in the process.

Step 2: Breakdown the Problem

Once you’ve seen the problem first hand, you can begin to breakdown the problem into more detailed and specific problems. Remember, as you breakdown your problem you still need to see the smaller, individual problems with your own eyes. This is also a good time to study and analyze the different inputs and outputs  of the process so that you can effectively prioritize your efforts. It is much more effective to manage and solve a bunch of micro-problems one at a time, rather than try and tackle a big problem with no direction.

Step 3: Set the Target

setting goals, root cause analysis

Step three is all about commitment and focus. Your attention should now turn towards focusing on what is needed to complete the project and how long it will take to finish. You should set targets that are challenging, but within limits and don’t put a strain on the organization that would hinder the improvement process.

Step 4: Analyze the Root Cause

This is a vital step when problem solving, because it will help you identify the actual factors that caused the issue in the first place. More often than not, there are multiple root causes to analyze. Make sure you are considering all potential root causes and addressing them properly. A proper root cause analysis, again involves you actually going to the cause itself instead of simply relying on reports.

Step 5: Develop Countermeasures

Once you’ve established your root causes, you can use that information to develop the countermeasures needed to remove the root causes. Your team should develop as many countermeasures needed to directly address any and all root causes. Once you’ve developed your countermeasures, you can begin to narrow them down to the most practical and effective based off your target.

Step 6: Implement Countermeasures

Now that you have developed your countermeasures and narrowed them down, it is time to see them through in a timely manner. Communication is extremely important in step six. You’ll want to seek ideas from the team and continue to work back through the PDCA cycle to ensure nothing is being missed along the way. Consider implementing one countermeasure at a time to monitor the effectiveness of each.

You will certainly make mistakes in throughout your problem solving processes, but your persistence is key, especially in step six.

Step 7: Monitor Results and Process

As mistakes happen and countermeasures fail, you need a system in place to review and modify them to get the intended result. You can also determine if the intended outcome was the result of the action of the countermeasure, or was it just a fluke? There is always room for improvement in the problem solving process, but you need to be able to recognize it when it comes to your attention.

Step 8: Standardize and Share Success

Now that you’ve encountered success along your problem solving path, it is time to set the new processes as the new standard within the organization and share them throughout the organization. It is also a good time to reflect on what you’ve learned and address any possible unresolved issues or troubles you have along the way. Ignoring unresolved issues will only lead to more problems down the road.

Finally, because you are a true Lean organization who believes continuous improvement never stops, it is time to tackle the next problem. Start the problem solving process over again and continue to work towards perfection.

Jishuken 101

3 min read

What is Jishuken?

For those that work in a Lean inspired organization, the term “kaizen” is one of the more popular terms heard when someone talks about improvement. Kaizen though, is more of a philosophy than an actual activity. Jishuken however, is an actual activity within the kaizen philosophy that is driven by management and involves identifying specific areas in need of continuous improvement. An easy way to think of jishuken is to think of it as a “self study.” Within jishuken is another element where information is shared and spread throughout the entire organization to help stimulate kaizen.

The origin of jishuken has been said to be from a Japanese statement “kanban houshiki bukachou jishu kenkyuukai,” which means “kanban system department an section manager autonomous study groups.” This was later shortened to jishuken which is “self study” and often called “autonomous study groups” in English.


jishuken in actionHistory

The strategy behind jishuken is primarily that of a management driven activity aimed at getting team leaders and managers to conduct hands-on kaizen activities at the operational area, like the factory floor.

When Taiichi Ohno first began to develop the Toyota Production System (TPS), he required managers to gather on the factory floor to do hands-on kaizen activities. This would generally involve department managers and section managers from the Motomachi and Kamigo factories getting together, choosing a specific theme and working towards various ways to improve processes.

Although it would have been more cost-effective to let engineers perform this type of gemba kaizen, involving the managers in the kaizen process helped them understand, take ownership and build a culture of genchi genbutsu (go and see) at Toyota.

In the early stages of the TPS, the jishuken concept began with kanban. Today however, it is more frequently used in the context of study groups within the kaizen itself. Many facilities have suggestion systems that allow all employees to apply local and small daily improvements to their process. Jishuken though, focuses on bigger projects driven by mangers that are linked to business goals.


Like many TPS activities, Jishuken has both a learning goal and a productivity goal. It’s a method of gathering managers for problem solving in the production process and continuous improvement. Maybe more importantly though, is it can also help managers continue to improve their ability to coach and teach TPS problem-solving to others.

Jishuken is also a culture building tool. It helps construct a culture that identifies problems areas at the ground level and prepares a plan with a self analysis of the system. It also helps to promote interaction of operational staff and managerial staff to complete the process.

 Jishuken in Action

Many organizations have their variations of Lean procedures and concepts, but when you’re getting started it’s always best to look at the top. According to Mike Daprile, retired vice president of manufacturing for Toyota Motor, jishuken is applied to study line balance, identify machine issues, inefficiencies and other causes of waste.

Here’s how they do it according to Daprile:

  1. Select an area that needs improvement.
  2. Develop a team consisting of a lead person and personnel from various departments, including engineering, quality and production.
  3. Assign each team member a plant function to monitor.
  4. Team members ask questions for each task. For instance, in the case of changeovers, the team member might want to ask: How many changeovers are occurring, how many should occur in a normal day, and was maintenance needed to complete the changeover?
  5. The team leader tracks any issues on a jishuken worksheet that identifies what the problem is, what countermeasures should be taken, who is responsible for making the changes, and the date.
  6. The team leader meets with operators to discuss their findings and the changes implemented.
  7. Post the results in the general area, track the status of the changes, and continue to follow up with the countermeasures through the supervisor and the checklist.

Free 5S guide and poster










A Kaizen Leaders Role

2 min read

The Kaizen leader is an individual, who is responsible for a group of people, who will be working toward identifying quality improvement processes in a given company or facility. The leader will help direct the group toward identifying waste in an area, and focuses on eliminating it in the best way possible. These leaders are typically going to have significant experience working in lean environments, and participating in Kaizen groups.

The leader will also be responsible for planning and helping to facilitate any Kaizen events for the team. These events will focus on a specific area of improvement, and can be a great way to make rapid improvements in a company. Of course, the success of these types of events relies largely on the guidance of the Kaizen leader, which is why this role is so important.

Leadership Expectations

Each facility will expect different things out of their Kaizen leaders. Generally, however, the leader will need to discuss any Kaizen events with the facilitator of the event. In some cases, the leader will also be the facilitator, in which case it is a good idea to discuss the event with another key individual in the group to ensure the event goes well.

The leader will define the scope of an event, and identify which other people should be on the team for the specific event. They will then go on to study the process, and list findings for both the benefit of the individuals on the team, and the management team as well. They are largely responsible for ensuring everyone is aware of what the Kaizen team is working on, and measuring to what extent a Kaizen event was successful.

Gaining Support

In many cases, a Kaizen leader won’t have any authority, in the traditional sense, over the team. They are simply given the responsibility for guiding the Kaizen team through day to day objectives as well as specific Kaizen events. This can make it difficult for the leader, but a good one will be able to get the support needed to ensure everyone stays focused on the objective at hand. They will also depend on the Kaizen facilitator to help them achieve their goals.

When a Kaizen leader and facilitator work well together, and remain focused on their agreed upon goals, they are much more likely to achieve the goals they set out to accomplish. It is essential for a leader to ensure the specific objectives of any event are clearly laid out for everyone involved. This will help to not only keep everyone on task, but also provide a more accurate way to measure the success or failure of any event.

A good Kaizen leader will also rely heavily on the individuals that are part of the team. These individuals will provide technical and other information to the leader to be reviewed, and analyzed. The leader can then take this type of information and use it to provide further guidance to the group, as well as share the results from members of the leadership team.

A good Kaizen leader can truly make the difference between success and failure for any Kaizen activities, which is why it is so important for a facility to choose the right individual for the job.

Leader Standard Work

3 min read

At the core of any Lean philosophy is the pursuit and sustainment of continual improvement. However, this continues to be a struggle for many Lean transformations as they attempt to implement these processes into their culture. Part of the problem, lies in the hands of the leaders that attempt to push new agendas into their organization. Leaders can make or break a Lean culture. With the help of Leader Standard Work (LSW) the make, is far more a reality than the break.

Leader Standard WorkLeader Standard Work requires a whole new mindset in your leader’s routines. It takes the leader from the boss’s chair to the coaches corner, promoting a show, not tell type of attitude. When leaders mimic the behavior they wish to see, it gives everyone else an example that they can use to establish their own actions for best practices.

The beauty of LSW is that it fits perfectly into Lean and especially Kaizen concepts, instilling a sense of ownership, accountability, empowerment and responsibility throughout the entire organization. This mentality is the glue in many organizations that holds the culture together and promotes an attitude that believes continuous improvement is possible at all times.

To standardize work methods is the the sum of all the good ways we have discovered up to present. It therefore becomes the standard. Today’s standardization is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvement will be based. If you think of standards as confining, then progress stops.

-Henry Ford

Leader Standard Work

Leader Standard Work is the repetitive pattern of activities that represent the current least wasteful method of planning and controlling normal business processes. In simplest terms, LSW is a check-list of leadership activities that are performed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Once something becomes repetitive it can become standardized and taught to anyone. A lot of a leader’s standard work will focus on specific activities where the work is being done (Gemba), but it is also important to set aside time in your routine for continual improvement as well.

The key is the repetition. Doing this daily will not only confirm that work is being done correctly, but also ensure that everyone is being held accountable for working up to standard, including leaders. The idea sounds simple enough, but it can be quite the task to implement.

Components of LSW

1. Auditing:

  • Your front line is the start of your standard work tasks. The supervisor starts a LSW cycle by verifying direct reports from the front line.
  • Supervisors then can report to their superior or director. The director’s standard work entails the verification of work tasks completed by the supervisor. From there, the director is able to report back to their superior or administrator.
  • The administrator reports to their superior and so on.
  •  This creates an interlocking layer of accountability, laying a foundation for sustainability.

2. Expectations

  • Define outcome metrics that indicate the department is achieving success.
  • Assign the characteristics and attributes to a process that help achieve the desired outcomes for success.
  • Define the behaviors that help achieve those outcomes.
  • Have controls in place to ensure the desired behaviors are present every day, in every situation.
  • Determine how you as a leader will verify these expectations are being met.

3. Tasks

Three categories of leadership tasks include:

  1. Scheduled tasks- puts the appropriate audits in place to verify disciplined adherence to the process
  2. Unscheduled but predictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets
  3. Unscheduled and unpredictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets and does not interrupt already scheduled tasks.

 Moving Forward

Implementing Leader Standard Work requires a culture change within the culture. It truly takes dedication and true leadership skills to be successful at it. However, the end result is in many cases is the key to sustaining other Lean methods that lack the checks and balances that LSW provides.

Once you have laid groundwork and developed the right mindset, the rest will fall into place. Established standardized routines keep goals in focus and more obtainable than before, especially with the use of visual tools to remind you. The use of visual tools to highlight the required minimum standard of work will enhance motivation. When everyone is able to see the standardized tasks, accountability becomes that much more important.

Photo-4404744 or 2440227

Mistakes Kaizen Teams Make

2 min read

Kaizen teams are an extremely effective way to produce great results, come up with excellent ideas, and foster change in just about any organization. Most people who are a part of these teams will attend Kaizen events and come away feeling energized, motivated and ready to improve the workplace. The problem often comes when they get back to the office and find that very little is actually changing.

There are several key mistakes that are made with Kaizen teams which can reduce the long term effectiveness of the teams and their events. Learning about these mistakes, and how to avoid them, is absolutely essential for any individual, team or company using Kaizen.

Mistake #1 – Clearly Explaining Objectives

When a Kaizen team gets together for an event, everyone should know exactly what the objectives are. This doesn’t simply mean mentioning a broadly defined problem which needs to be solved. It means explaining to everyone exactly what the focus of the event will be. When this isn’t done, the event may start off on the right track, but people will keep introducing or expanding the scope until the team has lost their focus.

To avoid this mistake, the Kaizen leader needs to help ensure the team remains focused on the objective of the event. This starts by clearly communicating the objectives, and will continue throughout the event through updates and suggestions. If people start to lose focus, the leader must reign them in.

Mistake #2 – Training on the Changes

When a Kaizen team comes up with a great solution to the clearly communicated objective, they will almost certainly be happy with it. When they get back to work after the event, they will likely be ready and willing to implement the changes successfully. The problem, however, is that those who weren’t involved with the Kaizen team aren’t excited about the change, and aren’t going to be driven to see it succeed. They may go through the motions, but real success requires more than that.

To prevent this from happening, the Kaizen team should host training as soon as possible. This training should focus not only on showing people how to implement the changes, but also show why these changes will be beneficial to everyone. Building passion and excitement for the change will help ensure the implementation is successful.

Mistake #3 – Follow-Up Tasks

free-kaizen-guideEveryone in the Kaizen team, as well as those who are trained on the new processes, agree that the changes are good and necessary. They often even agree to implement them properly within a set amount of time, which is great. The problem is that while they may have had the best of intentions, people get distracted by the day to day activities of their job. Over the course of days, or weeks, people will lose focus and let the improved processes from the Kaizen team get neglected.

The solution is to have regularly scheduled follow-up activities to check on the status of the implementation. Checking up on all the groups involved, and offering support to ensure they are staying on track is essential. When people know that the Kaizen team will be following up with them, they are much more likely to complete the tasks they have been assigned.