GA 097 | How to Apply Lean to the Military with Samuel Selay

samuel-selay

Today’s guest is Samuel Selay, a Continuous Improvement Manager for the United States Marines Corps. Samuel and I discuss his continuous improvement journey and some of the incredible projects he’s done with the military. An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Samuel’s background and how he learned about continuous improvement (3:28)
  • The quote that inspires Samuel (4:51)
  • Samuel’s first impression of continuous improvement in the Marines (5:50)
  • What Samuel and his team measure (8:54)
  • What has gone wrong in the past and what Samuel has learned (11:05)
  • About some of Samuel’s projects (17:49)
  • The Kaizen event Samuel held (23:20)
  • Samuel’s plans for the future (28:04)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Samuel (31:32)
  • The best advice Samuel has ever received (33:15)
  • Samuel’s personal productivity habit (34:40)
  • What has surprised Samuel in the last year (38:04)
  • How Samuel recharges and refocuses (40:14)
  • The knowledge or skill area Samuel feels he needs to improve (41:24)
  • About Samuel’s chapter in Mark Graban’s ebook (42:14)
  • Samuel’s final words of wisdom (44:57)

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

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You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

How else could continuous improvement be applied in a military or government setting?

Weighing the Waste of Waiting

meeting

TIMWOOD is a mnemonic, or memory aid, for reciting the seven types of waste that lean aims to reduce. At its geographic if not spiritual center is W – waiting. This indicates time people spent unproductively while waiting for someone, something or a triggering event. It is typically viewed as less harmful as the other wastes such as defects, inventory, overproduction, over-processing, transportation or motion because when waiting, we are not actively doing something harmful like creating defects or converting cash, material and energy into inventory.

We need to reassess the weight of waiting waste when it comes to knowledge work. Typically the cost of a knowledge worker’s time is more expensive, and often the output has higher value than manual work or unskilled service work. While idle manual workers stand out visually due to their lack of action, it is not always possibly to identify when knowledge workers are experiencing the waste of waiting. A common habit is to open multiple tasks while waiting. But this is also problematic and can be a cause of errors, overproduction and loss of productivity due to attention-switching losses.

Common way we experience waiting at work is in meetings. We may delay the start meetings, waiting for late arrivals. Or we may start on time and pause to catch any late arrivals, causing other participants to wait. Or we may be in meetings of low value or relevance, waiting for to end. A CBS article cites a recent survey finding that 15% to 20% percent of the U.S. working population is “consistently late”. This rings true from experience, as any meeting with more than 4 participants seems to have at east 1 person arriving late. In my experience it is worse for virtual meetings, more like 30% – 40% of people.

Punctuality expert and author Diana DeLonzer is quoted in the article, “It’s a huge drain on productivity when meetings consistently start 10 or 15 minutes behind, and tardiness has a snowball effect as one person’s lateness affects the productivity of his or her colleagues.” Waiting in one meeting may not be so bad, but knowledge workers may spend a third or even half of their time in meetings, and this number can be more for the highest paid executives. In knowledge work, waiting caused by delays can create a chain reaction of waste.

There are multiple cause for waiting, so multiple countermeasures are required. In the case of meetings, the first step is to figure out why meetings constantly starting or running late. Social reasons include not being able to say no to commitments which include quick chats that slow us down on the way to meetings, to attendance in questionable meetings themselves. Technical reasons include scheduling systems that allow the scheduling of meetings back-to-back requiring instantaneous switching from the end of one to the start of the next meeting. This is a physical impossibility in our universe, unless meetings end early, which they don’t. At a root level is a systematic issue that the totality knowledge work in an organization, with its various dependencies and invisible flow of information, is just not that well planned out.

One containment measure (different from countermeasure in that it may not address root causes but does alleviate some symptoms) is to put more structure around meetings, reducing the freedom for participants to derail the process by being late, unprepared, inattentive or off-topic, basically turning it into more of a business-like and dry process. This might seem counter-intuitive, going against the “respect for people” principle. The aim is not to cut out all human connection, shut down open discussion, or allow for things that make people late. Setting constraints on how we sequence, time and set content for meetings makes them more predictable, and should be part of management’s standard work.

How does your organization recognize and weigh the waste of waiting? “Hey, why are we waiting? Is this a special case or a common behavior? How can we work to reduce it in the future?” Perhaps this topic would make for productive discussion while we wait for late arrivals.

GA 096 | How to Build a Lean Community with Dr. Eric Olsen

eric-olsen

Today’s guest is Dr. Eric Olsen, a professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California. Dr. Olsen and I discuss the lean community he’s helped to build on the Central Coast of California, the Central Coast Lean Summit, and his vision for the future. This episode is full of great advice for those looking to build their own community of lean practitioners. An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Dr. Olsen’s background and how he came to learn about continuous improvement (2:30)
  • What Dr. Olsen teaches (3:53)
  • The quote that inspires Dr. Olsen (4:50)
  • Why community is important to a lean journey (5:56)
  • How Dr. Olsen has been bringing lean to the Central Coast (7:55)
  • About the Central Coast Lean Summit (11:42)
  • The motivation and drive behind Dr. Olsen’s efforts (14:08)
  • Who can attend (16:55)
  • How to build your own lean community (19:05)
  • Dr. Olsen’s vision for the future (20:43)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Dr. Olsen (24:13)
  • The best advice Dr. Olsen has ever received (26:04)
  • Dr. Olsen’s personal productivity habit (28:38)
  • What has surprised Dr. Olsen in the last year (29:44)
  • How Dr. Olsen recharges and refocuses (31:40)
  • The knowledge or skill area Dr. Olsen feels he needs to improve (32:58)
  • Dr. Olsen’s final words of wisdom (34:07)

Podcast Resources

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

Is there a lean community where you live? If not, how would you foster one?

Meal Preparation as a Metaphor for Lean

hot dogIn recent weeks my opportunities to prepare meals for my family has increased. I have planned meals, purchased the groceries, followed recipes, prepared the food, served the food, received feedback, and filed this information for future attempts at it. This can be fun. It can be time-consuming. Meal preparation is something that someone has to do almost every day, at least one time, depending on the frequency and variety of meals one prefers. This has started me thinking about the similarities between how we approach meal preparation and how we approach lean transformation.

The all-time most popular way to make meals is from scratch, using local ingredients, shortly before time of consumption. This requires time and advance planning. The process is slow. Mastery of this approach takes time, learning by trial and error, and finding deviations from standard recipes that seem to work for one’s family, customers and/or diners, based on available ingredients, taste, local atmospheric pressure, etc. This approach works best when the diners are not too hungry at the time when meal preparation begins, and when juvenile diners are not too picky about the chef’s failed experiments. Perhaps this is parallel to “kata” approach to lean.

Another approach to meal preparation also involves planning, the purchase of prepared meals (macaroni & cheese, enchiladas, shepherd’s pie, etc.) that can be set in a pre-heated oven et voila dinner is served in 45 min or so. There is very little that can be done in terms of adjusting the recipe for these pre-mixed meals, short of adding sauce. They are quick and labor-saving. They cost more than cooking from scratch. Perhaps this is the “best practice” method of dropping in proven models for lean management within similar industries, processes or environments. One can’t go far wrong following this recipe, as the only room for error is time and temperature.

In circumstances that require the rapid reduction of hunger, there are always the dine-in or take-out options. Speed, quality and cost exist in a triangular relationship, where demanding more of one of these parameters negatively affects one or more of the others. The delivery process of this meal preparation approach is largely beyond our ability to change or improve, although some restaurants may adjust a few things to our taste. We take some chances in paying others to execute the recipe. We are not able to learn how to get better at meal preparation following this approach, only how to become better shoppers of dine-in or take-out. Reputable restaurants will reliably solve the problem of huger for the dining party, for a price. Unless one has the ability to continually throw money at this problem, this approach to meal preparation is not sustainable. It may also not be the healthiest approach, because the motivation of the restaurant as a business is to maximize the bill through additions such as dessert and alcohol, not to be a health advisor. Perhaps this is similar to the “consultant-led” lean transformation approach.

All three approaches are valid. In the modern world, I believe few families, single people or other social units can rely on only one of these meal preparation approaches. We need to educate ourselves, plan ahead, make use of time and resources, and enjoy health meals within our means. Likewise with lean transformations.

Respect for People: Roommate Edition

As a young lean enthusiast, I have yet to experience a greater example of the need for Respect for People than living with roommates. From a cramped dorm room shared with one other person, to a more “grown up” house shared with five people, one thing remains inevitable: everyone will do something annoying or inconsiderate at some point.

HikerHelping

Obnoxiously loud music, overflowing trash cans, late utility payments…the opportunities for conflict are endless.

The dynamic is different from that of a family home. In most cases, each roommate operates according to their own priorities and schedules, without shared lineage, a common goal, or even similar values to unite them. Confrontation feels even more uncomfortable, and the result is often, for example, a passive aggressive post-it note left by a pile of dirty dishes reading “clean me.”

This is not to say I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed living with (almost) all of my roommates to date. I have. But those small, seemingly insignificant incidences can eventually amount to an overarching feeling of disrespect.

There are many different interpretations of “Respect for People,” but at its core the phrase refers to the literal treatment of human beings. This is the pillar of lean I feel the most passionate about, and the one I am most inspired by.

In a retail setting, “Respect for People” means staying calm and remembering that the employee assisting you most likely did not make the rules. In an office setting, it means treating a custodian the same way you would treat the CEO. In a roommate setting, it means leaving the common spaces cleaner than how you found them and remembering that home is a sanctuary where everyone deserves to feel safe and valued. Treating others with dignity is not rocket science. There is power in patience, in compassion, and in empathy. Even when it’s difficult to embody, “Respect for People” can and will take you far in life.

GA 095 | How to Practice Lean from the Heart with Karl Wadensten

karl-wadensten

Today’s episode features a keynote from VIBCO Vibrators President Karl Wadensten at the 2015 Iowa Lean Consortium conference. Titled “Lean from the Heart,” Karl explores the emotions and thought processes behind lean and the role they play in running an efficient organization. An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • About company culture and why it matters (1:40)
  • Why you should tell your leaders to go for a Gemba walk (3:00)
  • An exercise about TPS (3:27)
  • About VIBCO Vibrators (4:45)
  • An overview of Karl’s presentation (6:15)
  • What keeps VIBCO running (11:23)
  • What every department and team had in common (15:35)
  • About the “I Just Want My Pants” article Karl read (18:14)
  • Karl’s strengths (23:51)
  • One of Karl’s favorites thoughts (26:44)
  • The contrast in values that organizations embody (35:56)
  • Why everyone needs a support system (37:41)
  • What Karl’s personal challenges are (40:37)
  • The heart’s role in human performance (41:48)
  • A story about one of Karl’s young employees (44:32)
  • What Ivy League school came to learn from VIBCO (48:19)
  • About VIBCO’s visual boards (57:30)

Podcast Resources

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

What emotions have you encountered along your lean journey?

GA 094 | How to Embrace Lean with Bob Rush

bob-rush

Today’s guest is Bob Rush, a Lean Manufacturing Group Leader at Tesla Motors. Bob shares a lot of truly valuable advice based on his own personal lean journey, including some great stories that will both entertain and inspire you. An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Bob’s background (2:30)
  • A quote that inspires Bob (3:40)
  • What Bob is up to these days (4:31)
  • All about Bob’s introduction to continuous improvement (5:31)
  • What Bob’s first kaizen event was like (8:10)
  • How it changed him (9:53)
  • How lean has impacted his career (11:30)
  • Some of Bob’s lean success stories (14:13)
  • What Bob has struggled with most in terms of lean (22:19)
  • How to get young people interested in lean (25:31)
  • What advice Bob would give to his younger self (27:26)
  • Advice Bob has for those at the beginning of their journeys (30:12)
  • Advice Bob has for experienced lean thinkers (31:12)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Bob (32:17)
  • The best advice Bob has ever received (34:30)
  • Bob’s personal productivity habit (35:46)
  • What has surprised Bob in his last year of practicing lean (37:47)
  • What Bob does to recharge and refocus (38:46)
  • The skill area Bob feels he needs to develop (40:08)
  • Bob’s final words of wisdom (41:04)

Podcast Resources

Subscribe & Never Miss New Episodes!

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Click to Subscribe in iTunes

If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

What aspect of Bob’s personal lean journey resonates with you the most?

Surviving E-mail Overburden with Seven Ds

emailA recent Scientific American article on the strain of always being on call summarizes the stressful effects of always being connected to work. The modern workday may be unique in human history, in that we receive hundreds of messages per day, from colleagues and customers working across time zones worldwide, 24 hours and 7 days per week, nearly anywhere on our mobile devices. While the connectivity that has resulted in this faster pace of business has its benefits, being always-on-call blurs the boundary between work and home life.  Not only is work intrusion into personal time a problem, “just knowing that work might reach you makes it hard to relax and recover” according to the article. As it turns out, overburden causes stress both directly and indirectly.

The root cause corrective action to this problem requires everyone in the organization agreeing to unplug outside of work hours, coordinate some type of reasonable overlap in time zone coverage, and finding better performance measures that take burnout into account. These are huge cultural shifts that require steady leadership commitment. This takes time to do across the total organization. While it is possible for one department or team to commit to a more balanced way of working than always-on-call, if other leaders, customers or departments demand always-on, it becomes difficult to sustain. The best course of action to address this may be for individuals to take small, meaningful steps, reducing personal strain and also changing the culture slowly.

One practical way to do this is through the 4Ds of e-mail management. It is all about deliberately managing emails rather than letting incoming emails manage you. Whenever checking e-mail (and this should not be constantly!), the first action is to scan the inbox to Delete any junk or unnecessary messages, and then to Delegate tasks that can or should be done by others. Next is to select the emails that require more than a quick reply, and to Defer these. Finally, for any emails that can be actioned with a quick reply, simply Do. Here are some helpful hints on the 4Ds of e-mail management from Microsoft.

In addition to these 4Ds of email management, I strongly recommend the 5th D which is to Disconnect from email periodically by working offline or stepping away from computers or mobile devices to focus on work priorities. Even remaining disconnected from email for 1 or 2 hours can make a big difference in the level of freedom from distraction one can achieve. Perhaps it can also reduce some of the stress that people feel from being always-on-call, as the Scientific American article identifies.

The 6th D is to Declare e-mail bankruptcy. Sometimes we come back from vacation, multi-day workshops or off-site meetings, or even just an incredibly busy month, to find that there are hundreds or even thousands of emails that in the inbox waiting to be read. This can become an impossible burden to overcome when combined with the daily flow of emails and other responsibilities. Declaring email bankruptcy is simply informing others that any emails received before a certain date will not be read or actioned. Those emails are placed in a folder for review or referencing when time allows in the future, or if someone sends a reminder of an urgent action or request a response. Unlike financial bankruptcy which remains for 7 years on one’s record, it is possible to bounce back from a typical email bankruptcy in 7-10 days. This may seem like a drastic measure, but when it is unlikely in reality that we can process the huge backlog of emails anyway, we might as give people the courtesy of letting them know this.

The seventh D is to take a Deep breath. This can dampen the body’s reaction to stress, slowing the production of stress hormones, lowering blood pressure, aiding digestion and generally helping to reset our stressed system. Responding immediately to emails when stressed or allowing emotions or fatigue to be our co-author generally does not improve the communication. Taking a deep breath helps us interrupt a potential reaction. Whether typing emails or just generally feeling stressed about always being on call, taking a few deep breaths is an simple positive action.

There is nothing technically challenging about using the 7Ds to manage email. The basic thinking can be applied to prioritizing and managing almost any type of work. The challenge to resisting the always-on-call condition is more a social one – being seen as unhelpful by colleagues, being seen as unresponsive or unavailable by those in power, or feelings of letting others down. In general we can be more effective by working deliberately with a process, freed from strain and burden, rather than trying to do too much and failing. Even if the 7D are not enough, there is always the 8th – vitamin D – leaving email and mobile device behind to take some step in the daylight for a broader perspective on life and work.

The Only Genuine Knowledge Is That of Actual Experience

“The only genuine knowledge is that of actual experience.”

~ Chinese proverb

Training is a big part of lean transformation.  Countless hours and dollars are spent in training rooms, seminars, and classrooms every year. It’s common for people to be trained on a new way of doing things only for them to leave the training room or return from a conference to go back to work without making any changes.  This very well may be because the lack of change was part of (or lack of) the training plan.

Training followed by inaction results in nothing gained.

A company I used to work for would send several people to the AME International Conference every year.  Each attendee knew before going that the whole point of going to the conference was to bring back at least one good idea, teach it to others and implement it.

Having people attend expensive and time consuming training without a plan to improve the organization in some way is wasteful.

Here are three ways to get the most out of training.

1.  Use experiential learning techniques whenever possible.  Physical activity directly related to the the training reinforces learning. 

Our friend Jamie Parker at FedEx office demonstrated a great example of this at AME last October.  She provided class each participant with set of eight printed cards a little smaller A3 or tabloid sized paper.  Each card had a form of waste printed on it.  ThIMG_0987e set represented all of the eight wastes. 

She then showed photographs of various scenes an challenged the participants to identify the waste by holding up the corresponding card.  For example, when she showed a photograph of people standing in a queue at an airport, participants held up the waiting card.

The physical activity of selecting the correct card and holding it up built engagement and forced participants to think more deeply about the training material.

2.  Apply what was learned right away.  Use it or lose it, as the saying goes.  Don’t delay the use of newly gained information.  If it isn’t immediately reinforced through action, it will likely be forgotten.

Immediately go from the training room to the gemba.  Apply what has been learned.  If participants attend a training session on standard work, have them go to their workplace, select a simple process, and write standard work for it right away.

IMG_0985Blake Watermeier of ARC Document Solutions uses smaller, but similar cards to Jamie’s.  Blake has learners go to the gemba with a set of waste cards about 3 x 6 inches.  The participants find a form of waste and photograph the card in front of the waste.  The photographs are shared and discussed in follow up sessions.

3.  Follow up.  Continuous improvement training isn’t a one and done type of event.  Put the emphasis on “continuous.”  Learn to do 5S, then do it every day.  The only reason to learn lean tools is to apply them repeatedly.

Have learners leave the training session with an implementation plan.  Keep it simple and achievable.  Have them make some small improvements, then have a follow up session in which the participants present their improvements and get feedback.

4.  Ingrain the newly gained knowledge into the organization’s culture.  If you’re going to teach people 5S, then practice it daily.  Be relentless and accept no excuses.  PDCA.  Improve the skills daily.  This never ends.

If you allow yourself to stop practicing a lean skill, there is little point in starting.  Again, it isn’t improvement.  It’s continuous improvement.

5.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Learn a new skill.  Take the time to refine the new skill until it is no longer new.  Then move on to the next.

Avoid overburdening the workforce new lean tools.  Think tortoise, not hare.  Pace the team and help them gain proficiency.

Plan for a simple training session to take weeks, if not months to become cultural transformation.  Continuous improvement is a daily practice.  Good training is essential.  The action taken after the training is what generates the improvements.

GA 093 | How to Start a Lean Initiative with Blake Watermeier

blake-watermeier

Today’s guest is Blake Watermeier, Regional VP of Operations at ARC Document Solutions. Blake and I discuss the process of starting a new lean initiative and the obstacles that often follow. This episode complements last week’s with Zane Ferry nicely, so be sure to check that out. An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Blake’s background and how he first learned about continuous improvement (2:17)
  • A quote that inspires Blake (3:50)
  • The first time Blake started a lean initiative (5:36)
  • What Blake and his team’s “Why” was (7:29)
  • The advice Blake would go back and give himself (11:55)
  • What Blake has done differently at ARC Document Solutions (13:05)
  • What advice Blake would give to someone at the beginning of their lean journey (14:29)
  • What Blake would say to anyone who is struggling (16:01)
  • Blake’s take on “Respect for People” (18:07)
  • The best advice Blake has ever received (19:22)
  • Blake’s personal productivity habit (20:54)
  • What has surprised Blake in his last year of practicing lean (24:31)
  • How Blake recharges and refocuses (25:35)
  • The knowledge are or skill Blake feels he needs to improve (26:20)
  • Blake’s final words of wisdom (27:42)

Podcast Resources

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If you enjoyed this podcast please be sure to subscribe on iTunes. Once you’re a subscriber all new episodes will be downloaded to your iTunes account and smartphone.

The easiest way for iPhone users to listen to the show is via the free, and incredible, Podcast app.

You can download it here. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the Gemba Academy podcast on iTunes.

You can also subscribe via Stitcher which is definitely Android friendly.

What Do You Think?

What hurdles have you experienced at the beginning of a lean initiative?