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A Restaurant Experience Worth Mentioning

3 min read

We’ve all had a bad experience at a restaurant. It’s nothing we or the restaurant ever hope for, but it’s the risk we take each time we venture out for a meal. We generally choose a restaurant for one of two reasons, the food or the atmosphere and set our expectations accordingly. For my most recent dining experience I went with the latter and made my way to Buffalo Wild Wings. There were multiple sporting events on that I wanted to watch and they were all on at the same time. Seeing how I only have one television and they have more than I can count, it seemed like the right choice at the time.

A Three Hour Wait!

Long restaurant Wait Apparently, so did everybody else in town. After circling the parking lot for about 15 minutes looking for a parking spot, I was greeted by a hostesses inside to tell me the good news. A three hour wait! Yes that’s correct, our estimated wait time was as long as the game itself! She did say it with a smile though.

After putting my jaw back in place from it dropping to the floor, the hostess asked for my phone number. I gave it to her without hesitation and proceeded to wonder what I was going to do. That’s until about two minutes later when I received a text message saying that I had been added to the Buffalo Wild Wings waitlist.

Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t even have to be there and I could be notified that my table was ready through a text message. In fact, inside the text message was a link to a webpage that showed my place in line and how long I had been waiting.

Lean in a Restaurant?

Why not!

In working with and writing about the wide word of Lean, I was immediately drawn to this new method of handling large amounts of guests in a restaurant. I started running through the process and thinking about all the ways this simple, yet powerful new tool could be interpreted by a Lean enthusiast.

  • Less Waste: No more writing down names on paper and then having to call them out when a table is available. Gone are the plastic alert buzzers that require additional equipment and power to run them. All that’s needed, is what the restaurant and customer already have, a computer and a cell phone.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: With up to the second information at the palm of your hands, you know exactly where you are in the order and how much time you have until your table is ready.
  • Keeps Continuous Improvement In Focus: Being able to track your customer wait times electronically with no additional software should provide the restaurant with critical information.  This should help improve wait times in an efficient and accurate manner.
  • Improved Communication: It’s a two-way system which allows the customer to text the restaurant back or if you would like to call, the phone number is included in the original text.

A Better Way To Dine

Not sure if it was the right thing to do, but my guest and I decided to walk down to another restaurant showing the games and grab an appetizer while we waited for our text message. We continued to hang out at the neighboring restaurant while monitoring our status on my cell phone. As we moved towards the top, we walked back over. Sure enough, after walking back into BWW I received a text message that our table was ready. We ended up staying there for the rest of the game and most of the following, but if it wasn’t for this new service, we more than likely would have not come back at all.

The technology the restaurant used was from Firespotter Labs called NoshList Premium. After doing a little research, it turns out this service is now being used by over 1600 restaurants nationwide. Other chains include Red Robin and Gourmet Burgers.

The full list of features include:

  • Unlimited Two-Way Texting
  • Table Number Assignment
  • Large Party Functionality
  • NoshGuest Autofill
  • In-App Statistics
  • Designated Local Phone Number
  • 30-Day Exportable Analytics
  • Weekly Email Summaries
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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.

An Engaged Employee is a Productive Employee

3 min read

Get the most out of each employee

To measure the success of an organization, you don’t have to look much further than the employees that make it go. Are they happy to be there? Do they take pride in their work? Can they acknowledge they’re a part of something bigger? The answer to these questions will more often than not, be dependent upon your employee’s level of engagement.

Employee If you’re a Lean organization, then you know first hand how import an employee’s level of engagement is to your culture and success of your business. Creating a culture where each and every employee is equally engaged is a challenge that few have the answers for, but all are in search of.

So what do you do? First off, you need to have a complete understanding of the dynamics that make up your organization’s population. You don’t need statistics, raw data, charts, or any kind of number for that matter. In fact, just throw the numbers out the window and engage your employees with the same energy that you expect from them.

To get started, seek out the employees who are visibly the most productive and find out what makes them tick. Find the disinterested employee and ask them what’s on their mind. This is the type of information that moving forward, will help you develop the tools to get the engagement you need from each employee and increase productivity along the way.

Easier Said Than Done

Maybe, but in a Lean organization, every employee is a valuable asset and should be treated as such. This type of respect and trust goes a long way when you’re trying to build a culture that everyone feels equally a part of.

A culture, like any ecosystem has many dynamic parts that are always changing and evolving. In order to understand its needs and help it thrive, you need to be on the ground level to help push it along. You can’t do this from an office or a cell phone, you need to get to the “gemba,” get to the front lines and be the motivator that employees want to model themselves after.

Bring People Together

The difference between the employee who does the minimum amount of work to the one who puts in everything they have every day, may be smaller than you think once you start digging.

These same two employees may despise each other on the job because of their differences in work ethic, but given the opportunity outside the typical work setting, and you might find the two have more in common than they thought.

The more company functions you can promote, will go a long way in building your culture and engagement among your employees. From the company softball team, to the Friday BBQ, these type of events bring employees together that might have never spoken to one another. This allows them the opportunity to engage with one another, building solid relationships that can help motivate and improve effort in the workplace.

Providing opportunities that bring employees together not only builds employee moral, but shows that you care about your employees. You can’t expect an employee to fully engage themselves into your organization if they feel like just another body. Make them feel a part of something bigger and watch the transformation unfold.

Interesting Numbers

A survey by the consulting firm BlessingWhite shows the value of an engaged employee to your organization.

  • 40 percent of employees reported feeling engaged in 2012. A 33 percent increase from 2011.
  • 55 percent said they “definitely” intend to stay in their jobs. With “intent to stay” being an indicator of their commitment to company success. 12 percent said “no way.”
  • 48 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they have career opportunities with their employer.
  • 74 percent of engaged workers agree or strongly agree that they trust their manager. For disengaged workers, the number was just 14 percent.

It stands to reason that managers who develop awareness of trust and how to earn it will have much greater success in engaging their team members.




Lean Layout Fundamentals

3 min read

Designing a layout for your facility is a hefty project that really takes both sides of the brain to draw out all your creativity and scientific knowledge in order to be successful. The growth of Lean concepts and processes over the past decade has shifted many facilities to adopt a Lean layout on their floors. The results of a successful Lean layout can dramatically improve your facilities efficiency and flexibility when it comes to production swings.

A veteran Lean practitioner may understand the essentials that go into this design process, but for those struggling with this concept, it may be helpful to understand the fundamentals of a Lean layout to help get started.

Lean Layout 101

Lean layout 101 For starters, it is important to separate a Lean layout from other design templates like functional and line layouts. The goal of a Lean layout is to increase efficiency and allow for flexibility in your production process. This is done by focusing on the sequences in the process and linking them together, not the function in which they operate.

In a functional layout, products have to move through several departments before completion. This adds several processes to the overall production. This decreases your efficiency and adds a lot more handling of each individual part in the process. Also, parts have to wait for other parts to be finished in order to be completed, slowing the process down.

Through the use of U-shaped cells, a lean layout aligns work stations to work hand in hand with each other. By taking a piece of equipment and the step in the process and locating them next to each other creates an efficient flow in the process. A series of U-shaped cells is called a cellular layout.

A line layout may be more efficient than a functional layout, but it lacks two things that a Lean layout thrives on; individual effort and creativity. Both of these concepts are completely eliminated from the products design and finished product in a line layout.

Three Parts to a Lean Layout

Since the first manufacturing plant opened, engineers have been working towards designing a more efficient method to manufacture goods. This mindset falls right in line with Lean thinking. Improvement should always be at the forefront, but understanding the fundamentals for what you’re trying to improve is essential to the process. For a proper Lean layout, there are three main fundamentals that need to be addressed.

  1. One-Piece Flow: This type of system focuses specifically on the sequences in the process. Workers only work on one unit or product at a time and then pass it along to the next process. This has had a significant impact on reducing time, wastes, and improving value-added activities in many Lean organizations.
  2. Reducing Transportation of Parts and Motion: The minimization of movement is always going to increase efficiency. This is done by placing equipment in the proper sequence in the process. By reducing the amount of movement needed by your workers to complete their task, you will also reduce the strain on them, reducing possible health issues over time.
  3. Minimization of Space: Poorly utilized space is wasteful and can be costly to your improvement efforts. All objects within your facility need to be evaluated to determine the least amount of space needed to be efficient and keep production levels flexible.

There is no specific blueprint to a Lean layout that everyone must follow in order to be considered Lean. However, by following the methodology behind a Lean layout, you can design a layout that works for your facility, under your constraints, that still fits the mold for a Lean layout.

Go Lean – Visual Factory

2 min read

Lean Manufacturing Visual Factory refers to lean manufacturing theory. It describes visual methods a factory or any manufacturing plant can use to communicate information about a process to everyone who needs to understand it as they work.

What Exactly Is It?

A visual factory uses a collection of conceptual tools that will convey information in a clear, accurate, efficient, and organized way to those who need to know it. Since this visual information is easier to comprehend than verbal or mathematical symbols, information is conveyed via signs, graphics, photographs and charts. This information is quickly comprehensible and easily accessible to those who need to understand the status of a process. Moreover, this way of communication becomes even more valuable when processes evolve and become increasing complex. Using this method, even complex information can still be quickly grasped and put to use.

How Does It Work?

Lean Manufacturing procedures seek to answer one straightforward question: What is the information necessary to move from the current state of a process to a future state? Evaluating the current state of a process becomes meaningful through contrast, comparing what is happening now to what is desirable in the future. This information is kept relevant by considering process metrics, work instructions, and general plant information.

1. Process Metrics

Metrics are placed at the machine or operating unit to deliver information in real time. When there is instant information, adjustments can be made immediately to a process. A metric that communicates information through light is called an andon, and this is usually a central feature in a visual factory because it provides instant feedback on the state of a process.

2. Work instructions

These give workers information on what to do and when to do it. Instead of verbal descriptions, graphics and photographs are preferred as they give clear instructions and minimize errors in production. The more accurate the graphic reflects the process, the higher the level of communication. Words and numbers can be interpreted in many ways because they are constrained by rules of grammar and style or mathematical sequence and logic, but a clear visual representation offers a literal description that can be immediately understood.

3. General plant information

This is usually posted in a central location and stimulates two-way information exchanges. This information raises awareness, alerts about changes, posts warnings about how to handle potentially dangerous manufacturing processes, and motivates production.


Free 5S guide and posterThere are numerous benefits to this methodology for communicating information:

  • It prevents errors arising from miscommunication. Often what is written or spoken can be interpreted in multiple ways.
  • It increases comprehension, even when describing complex processes.
  • It makes employees feel more competent and reduces friction due to misunderstanding about what needed to be done to run a process effectively.
  • It improves the way machines are used, improving up-time and increasing run rates.
  • It decreases how long work stays in progress.

A company that employs the standards and procedures outlined here will improve internal communication; reduce wastage of time, money, and materials; and provide optimum working conditions and efficient machine operations.

Not Your Grandpa’s Moonshine

3 min read

For anyone outside of the Lean manufacturing realm, moonshine has a whole different meaning. However for those that do go to work everyday in a Lean based facility, a moonshine event might just be the best part of their job.

What is Moonshine?

Moonshine in actionMoonshine is not for everyone (no matter how you define it). It is intended for the those who are seasoned Lean and Kaizen practitioners who have a knack for creativity. The process of the moonshine was developed by Mr. Chihiro Nakao, founder of Shingijutsu Consulting company and considered by many to be the greatest production engineer on the planet. Mr. Nakao, now known as the Father of Moonshine, defines moonshine on is website as this:

Moonshine means developing valuable solutions to problems by creatively adapting materials that are already on hand. It requires looking at those materials and the problems themselves with a renewed perspective of doing a lot with a little.

-Shingijutsu USA

Focus of the Moonshine

  • Emphasis on creativity, using only materials that are directly available. ‘Doing a lot with a little.’
  • Encourage experimentation, using simulations, prototyping, and trials to explore and inspire. ‘Try-storming.’
  • Collaboration and observation of how peers work.
  • Get out of the typical workspace. A change of scenery can help stimulate new ideas.
  • Little to no structure helps the flow of creativity flowing smoothly.
  • Leader enabled, but not directed.

The term ‘try-storming’ is heard a lot during a moonshine event and is a key part of the process. It’s means that in order to commit to a particular process, one must do anything and everything possible including testing, simulating, modeling, prototyping and experimenting the process. The belief is that this type of physical research is not possible anywhere else and will lead to ideas that were previously impossible to think of –learn by doing.

Moonshine in Action

Toyota may be the king of all that is Lean, but the commercial airline manufacturer Boeing is making a name for itself in Lean manufacturing with its “Moonshine Wars.” Boeing has been a considered a Lean manufacturing company for years and can credit a large amount of their success to these self titled “Moonshine Wars.”

The annual competition is a gathering of the best of the best that Boeing has. Teams gather from all over and participate in a two week competition where some of the biggest manufacturing problems Boeing has are presented as the challenge. The team with the best presentation at the end of the two weeks wins that year’s prize, but more importantly the glory of being a “Moonshine War” champion.

These competitions have led to countless innovations for the company. From production processes to design concepts on the new 787 Dreamliner, there commitment to Lean and continuous improvement is highlighted during their friendly battles. “Moonshine Wars” not only instill a belief that anything can be improved, but more importantly put the value of the company in the hands of the ones on the front lines, allowing them lead the way to the next big thing for the company.

So the next time you get on a 737 or catch a ride on the new 787 Dreamliner, you can be assured that Moonshine helped in the production of the plane you’re on. Again, for the non-Lean enthusiast this might not sound assuring, but trust me it’s a good thing.

Here’s a great short video that gives a look into GE’s version of ‘moonshining.’ They used the Lean philosophy to design the most efficient factory design possible using everything from cardboard barrels to Lego toys.

Connection To Prohibition?

As noted above, the Lean version of moonshine has nothing to do with alcohol, but there is a connection. During the time of prohibition, individuals were left with no choice but to make their own liquor. They had to come up with the most creative ways possible, using only what they had. Seeing how this was an illegal act, it meant staying up until the wee hours of the morning making their moonshine. The early pioneers used whatever materials they could get their hands on and had to be very creative in developing different methods of not only making moonshine, but transporting it too. This combination of creativity and resourcefulness is where the modern Lean version of moonshine is derived from.

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.

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.

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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.

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