Life is like a bowl of oranges

Bowl of OrangesAs I mentioned towards the end of our most recent video the demonstration with the oranges, pebbles, sand, and water can be used to explain a far more important life lesson.

Before this, please allow me to thank you for your comments and emails regarding the video.  I read one email, from a gentleman based in the UK, to my “team” and boy were they inspired.  My oldest daughter asked me when we were shooting the next one!

Now then, let’s get to the alternative, and I dare say, far more important potential meaning of this demonstation.

The Bowl

The bowl is you. Like a bowl, you have a certain capacity.

The Oranges

The oranges represent the most important things in your life… such as your significant other, children, parents, siblings, air, food, water, etc. These oranges represent things that, if lost, would absolutely crush you.

The Pebbles

The pebbles represent important things in your life… such as your career, house, car, big screen TV, and your yearly family vacation to Malibu.

These are things we’d like to have but if we lost them, while less happy and maybe a little sad, we would still be able to cope.

The Sand

The sand represents everything else… the things we do that take us away from the most important and important things in our life. These may vary depending on your culture.  For me, watching TV is definitely sand in the bowl.

The Water

Finally, the water holds everything together.  My faith is my water. It holds everything together and fills in any gaps I have in my bowl (life).

The Moral of the Story

The moral of this story is to make sure to add your oranges to your bowl first while having something or someone in your life to hold it all together.

If you spend all your time and energy (a.k.a. priorities) filling your bowl with pebbles and sand there will be no room left for the oranges. And that, at least to me, would make for a sad life.

Video to Demonstrate

I first saw this particular demonstration done at a church function… here is a video (thanks for the link Lester) for your viewing enjoyment (they use big rocks and small rocks… oranges are more fun if you ask me).

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Oranges, Pebbles, and Sand

In this video my daughters and I demonstrate how meeting an objective is just the beginning to improvement.

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Takt Time Competition at Gemba Panta Rei

I recently wrote a guest blog over on Gemba Panta Rei where I set up a hypothetical takt time question.

Jon Miller has been nice enough to offer up some sweet prizes for those who leave meaningful comments before May 1, 2008.

So, if you haven’t checked it out please head on over to Gemba Panta Rei and share your thoughts on the matter.

For the record, there are lots of unknowns in the scenario so feel free to make assumptions and state those assumptions before leaving your comment so we can all learn and explore this topic together.

Go to Gemba Panta Rei by clicking here.

Tips for Dealing with Conflict

angry-woman.jpgOur ability, as business leaders, to manage conflict can’t be overstated. If you’ve never dealt with conflict in a professional environment…well, you live a blessed life.

Most of us, however, have almost certainly facilitated a meeting or training course with some angry person sitting there with a sour look on his or her face while leaning back in his or her seat with their arms crossed.  Yeah, you know who I’m talking about, don’t you?

Let Them Vent

In some cases, the best thing you can do is allow time for the unhappy soul to vent. Get all the emotions on the table.

With this said, here are some tips you can employ during this emotionally charged time.

  • Take charge. Let it be known that you are in control of the scene and that there will order to the venting process. If chaos results it’s game over. They win. You lose.
  • Stay calm. It’s easy to get emotional yourself. Don’t. You are in control of the scene, remember?
  • Stay neutral. Never agree or disagree with the venting people. Just listen.
  • Listen. It’s worth repeating (especially for us fellows)… really listen to the person.
  • Use a flip chart. Document key points and concerns on a flip chart for all to see and to ensure you have accurately captured their feelings.
  • Time bound. Don’t let the venting go on too long… lest it becomes whining.  Allow the person(s) to speak their mind(s) and then move to the next step… resolving the issue.

Resolve the Issue

Now that all the emotions are on the table it’s time to resolve the conflict. Here are the most common methods we, as facilitators, have at our disposal.

  • Avoid it. If the resistance is not too serious (i.e. someone wants to meet in the break room instead of the conference room) you can choose to just avoid it. Be warned, you should only choose this method if you can be certain the negative person’s attitude will not poison the other people involved.
  • Accommodate them. This may involve people giving into other’s views or simply asking folks to get along (i.e. act like grown-ups).
  • Compromise. Find a middle ground all parties can agree to.
  • Compete. This means you impose your will on others and they do what you want them to. If the room is on fire and people will die if you don’t take action this is the style to use. If the room is not on fire and people’s lives aren’t in danger I strongly recommend you pass on this approach.
  • Collaborate. Deal with the conflict head on. Don’t run from it. Surface the issues and resolve them systematically. Simple tools like a force field analysis can work wonders, especially when everyone openly communicates their side of the story.

Collaborating is more than likely your best bet. This isn’t to say the others don’t have their place as well. But anytime you are able to get people working together to solve a problem, any problem, half the battle has already been won.

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The Crow and the Pitcher

crow-and-pitcher.jpgHere’s a neat story credited to Aesop. It’s found in the 2nd century AD Greek fable collection by pseudo-Dositheus. 

That sets the scene far more eloquently than me explaining how I came across the story in one of my kid’s story time books called “The Aesop for Children.”

In a spell of dry weather, when the Birds could find very little to drink, a thirsty Crow found a pitcher with a little water in it.

But the pitcher was high and had a narrow neck, and no matter how he tried, the Crow could not reach the water. The poor thing felt as if he must die of thirst.

Then an idea came to him. Picking up some small pebbles, he dropped them into the pitcher one by one. With each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it was near enough so he could drink.

When you are faced with difficulty this week please ask yourself, “How can I use my wits to solve this problem?”

You see, your wits are perhaps the most powerful continuous improvement tool you have. Don’t be afraid to use them.

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The Efficiency Conundrum

Ah yes, efficiency. If there was ever a word more abused I’d like to know about it. I don’t think there is. OK, maybe utilization. But efficiency is really butchered. So let’s dig into the efficiency conundrum a bit this evening.

Efficiency

There are many formal definitions for efficiency. Just Google it if you don’t believe me. Here is how I like to explain it.

We are truly efficient when meeting the exact requirements of our customer while using the minimum amount of resources.

Apparent Efficiency

Next we come to what Taiichi Ohno called apparent efficiency.

Imagine an assembly line with 10 workers is able to produce 100 units per day. After some good old fashioned kaizen the team of 10 lads increases the daily output to 120 units per day. This is great, right? I mean they increased efficiency by 20%.

Mr. Ohno went on to explain that this is only a good thing if the customer is willing to buy this extra 20%. If they are not willing to buy the extra units all we have done is create the waste of overproduction. It’s nothing more than apparent efficiency.

True Efficiency

In this example, assuming the customer wants to keep buying 100 units per day, the only way to increase the true efficiency of the system is to figure out how to produce these 100 units with less than 10 people, or perhaps with less material (e.g. WIP).

Let’s assume the team is able to kaizen 2 people off the line. These folks can then be moved to another area that has to use overtime in order to meet customer demand.

Or perhaps you take the 2 strongest people from the line and form a RIG team (rapid improvement group) allowing them to go to another area to kick start some kaizen there.

Summary

So anytime we speak about efficiency we must be careful to not mistake true efficiency with apparent efficiency. One is naughty and one is nice. Let’s all do our best to not be naughty, OK?

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The LSS Academy Guide to Lean: Update

lssa-guide.JPGA few months ago, during the launch of the new and improved LSS Academy, we made our first free ebook available: The LSS Academy Guide to Lean Manufacturing

Honored and Humbled

I have been blown away by the number of kind emails I have received from all over the world. 

If you haven’t subscribed to the “LSS Academy Insider” and received your free copy of The LSS Academy Guide to Lean Manufacturing, no worries. 

All you have to do is visit the website (for those reading this via RSS) and subscribe to the our free LSS Academy Insider newsletter (see top left hand side of website). 

If you have any problems or questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Table of Contents

Here is sneak peak at the ebook table of contents.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: 4
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: 5
ABOUT LSS ACADEMY: 7
CHAPTER 1: WHAT IS LEAN MANUFACTURING?: 8
CHAPTER 2: FINANCE 101 BY TAIICHI: 10
CHAPTER 3: THE FORGOTTEN M’S: 12
CHAPTER 4: WAITING: 14
CHAPTER 5: NO STANDARDS, NO KAIZEN: 16
CHAPTER 6: STANDARD WORK: 18
CHAPTER 7: WHY FLOW COUNTER CLOCKWISE?: 21
CHAPTER 8: JIDOKA – THE FORGOTTEN PILLAR: 24
CHAPTER 9: HEIJUNKA IN THE FRONT OFFICE: 26
CHAPTER 10: WHY HEIJUNKA? – PART 1: 28
CHAPTER 11: WHY HEIJUNKA? – PART 2: 32
CHAPTER 12: SINGLE MINUTE EXCHANGE OF DIES (SMED): 35
CHAPTER 13: OEE – NOT JUST FOR TPM PROGRAMS!: 38
CHAPTER 14: VALUE STREAM MAPPING OVERVIEW: 40
CHAPTER 15: HOW TO CREATE A PQPR MATRIX: 42
CHAPTER 16: CURRENT STATE VALUE STREAM MAPPING: 45
CHAPTER 17: FUTURE STATE VALUE STREAM MAPPING: 54
CHAPTER 18: INTRODUCING THE KAIZEN NEWSPAPER: 61
CHAPTER 19: TWO TYPES OF KAIZEN: 64
CHAPTER 20: KAIZEN RULES: 1&2: 66
CHAPTER 21: KAIZEN RULES: 3&4: 67
CHAPTER 22: KAIZEN RULES: 5&6: 68
CHAPTER 23: KAIZEN RULES: 7&8: 70
CHAPTER 24: KAIZEN RULES: 9&10: 71
CHAPTER 25: REPENT, I MEAN HANSEI!: 72
CHAPTER 26: IS LAYING PEOPLE OFF REALLY ANTI-LEAN?: 74
CHAPTER 27: SHADOWS OR REALITY: 76
FINAL WORDS: 79
RECOMMENDED READING: 80
LSS ACADEMY SPONSORS: 81

LSS Academy Insider Benefits

In addition to the free ebook, there are some other benefits of being a LSS Academy Insider, including access to some LSS Academy Insider exclusive training videos I plan to launch in the future.  Best of all, it’s all 100% free.

Feedback Welcome

If you have already downloaded and read the ebook please feel free to leave a comment.  Of course you can continue to email me as well.  I love getting your emails.

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The Old Navy from Hell

My blogging goes in spurts.  I seem to get on a “theme” and roll with that for a few posts.  Well, regular readers of LSS Academy have likely sensed I have been on a “take action/5S” rant as of late.  Well, tonight it’s time to share the story that inspired these recent articles.

Houston, we have a problem

Last weekend my wife and I went to Houston to attend a conference.  Since we left our kiddos with Manna and Papa we were able to have two very nice (and quiet) dinners. 

After dinner my wife wanted to go to Old Navy since she had a gift certificate burning a hole in her purse.  So off we went.

I have been in many Old Navy stores in my time.  I like Old Navy.  We buy lots of stuff from Old Navy.  Generally speaking, Old Navy is a fine establishment.

Old Navy from Hell

old-navy2.JPGBut not this Old Navy.  This Old Navy looked as if a freaking bomb had exploded in it.  See Exhibit A for proof I am not whistling Dixie. 

After a few minutes in the store I looked at my wife and she looked back at me.  We just started to laugh.  It was unbelievable.

I wondered if perhaps we had just walked into a bad area of the store so I decided to take a little tour.  It didn’t take long to notice the issue was, um, systemic.  I took a few more pictures but could have spent half the night snapping photos. 

old-navy1.JPGRefer to Exhibit B for more proof.  Stuff was everywhere.  And I am not even showing you the worst of it!  It seriously looked like a WWII battle had just been fought in the Houston area.

Then I got ticked

As I already mentioned, my wife and I started to laugh when we first walked in.  Then, the longer I walked around the madder I got.  I saw all the “workers” just standing around.  In fact, they were having a good old time talking, laughing, and even moving to the groove of the funky beat pulsing through the store.

I finally spotted the store manager.  A kid probably in his early 20’s.  He was a cocky looking kid and I came inches away from lighting him up like the fourth of July.  But I didn’t.  Probably should have (in a respectful manner).  But I was too mad by that point and didn’t want to make a scene.

I do plan to write to Old Navy (and may not need to after this post) since generally speaking, as I stated before, Old Navy is a really nice store.  As such, I think they deserve to know when one of their stores misrepresents what Old Navy is about.

Broken Windows

As I stated a few nights ago, this so called broken window theory is real.  I don’t care what the skeptics say.  All you have to do to “believe” is walk into this Old Navy store.  There were so many “broken windows” about no one cared.  People just threw clothes everywhere. 

Heck, I even fell into the trap!  I was walking by a rack of clothes and had to do a couple of side steps to miss some pink panties laying on the ground.  When I did this my arm knocked a shirt off the rack.  I paused, looked at it lay on the ground, and kept going.  Then I felt guilty and went back and picked it up.  And, no, I didn’t pick up the pink panties.  Only the good Lord knows where they had been!

Live like animals, behave like animals

I firmly believe that your surroundings impact your behavior.  If you take a wild lion out of the jungle and throw him into a cage, you will likely destroy his spirit. 

Likewise, if an establishment – Old Navy, your house, your office, your plant, etc. – resembles the living quarters of a pig… you are very likely to start acting like one.

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Well Do Something!

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
-Yogi Berra

A True Story

Several years ago I was riding in the car with my Grandma and Grandpa.  We were driving to the store if I remember correctly. Along the way my Grandpa pulled up to a busy intersection, paused, and then pulled out into the middle. And then, for whatever reason, he just froze.

So there we were… sitting ducks in the middle of a busy intersection. After a few seconds, which seemed like hours to my young mind, my Grandma looked at my Grandpa and uttered three words I will never forget for the rest of my life, “Well, do something!”

Luckily, he did do something (pressed on the accelerator) and no one was hurt. I tell this story since it makes me smile… but also because I think there is a lesson to be learned.

Forks in the Road

fork-in-road-2.jpgYou see, in life we often find ourselves at a fork in the road.

Do we zig or zag? Do we go for it or pass? Do we start making improvements or plan another week?

While I would never promote making decisions recklessly or without thinking things through, I do feel there is a time when we just have to take a deep breath and go for it.

I’m sure my Grandpa was frozen with fear as he pressed on the accelerator… but he did it. So it is with us, we too need to press on the accelerator from time to time even though we’d probably prefer to wait just a little while longer.

The worst thing that can happen (short of being run over by a truck) is we fail in the short term while learning a valuable lesson that helps us in the long term. What’s so bad about that?

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Fix the Broken Windows

broken-window.jpgWhat do fixing broken windows and continuous improvement have in common? I contend a lot.  Read on and let me know if you agree.

The so-called broken window theory comes to us by way of the criminology world.

Broken Windows

The theory asks us to consider a building with broken windows. It goes on to state that if these windows are not repaired, vandals are far more likely to come along and break additional windows.

Then, unsatisfied with this, these misfits may ultimately decide to break into the building for more severe crime (theft, arson, etc.).

Conversely, proponents of the broken window theory claim that by fixing all the broken windows vandals are less likely to smash any windows, much less break into the building and burn it down!

Not Just Windows

The theory is not limited to broken windows. It can easily extend to trash on a sidewalk, or graffiti on the side of a building. Clean things up, broken window theory advocates say, and crime will plummet.

In 1985, George Kelling, author of the book Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities was brought to New York City to put this theory to test.

Initially, graffiti vandalism was targeted. When they saw it they cleaned it off. If they came back the next day, and more graffiti had magically appeared, they cleaned it off again. This battle of wills went on for several years.

Rudy in Charge

A few years later, then Mayor Rudy Giuliani took this theory to another level as he implemented a zero tolerance attack on things like subway fare evasion and the squeegee men who cleaned your car windows and demanded payment. Interestingly enough, crime rates fell in dramatic fashion once these “broken windows” were addressed.

The Opposition

As with anything in life, the broken window theory has its skeptics. Opponents say the fact crime fell after these changes were implemented is more a case of correlation than of causation. One may never know for sure but I tend to side with the broken window theory believers.

A recent trip to Old Navy in the Houston area reinforced my belief in this theory… but I will save that for another post later this week!

Just Like Continuous Improvement

So what does this have to do with the continuous improvement mindset?

Well, I contend that while there may not be many broken windows (at least I hope not) in the factories, hospitals, or office buildings we work in… there are many other broken aspects we could attend to.

When you see an empty Styrofoam coffee cup on a desk, do you leave it there or throw it away? When you see a pallet jack outside it’s taped off area, do you correct it or walk on by? When you notice standard work not being followed on a Friday afternoon at 4:55 PM, do you act on it or leave it until Monday?

You see, broken windows are all around us. The question is… what are we doing about it?

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