Fun with Tennis Balls

Snip20150703_5If you’re American and are reading this on July 4…  Happy Independence Day!

I recently delivered a live workshop to a group of printing professionals.  The talk was a combination of Practical Problem Solving and Quick Changeover (SMED).  And rather than having me ramble on for an hour I decided to work in a fun, and very easy to duplicate, lean simulation that involves 8 tennis balls!

You can see part 1 of this video below… to see the other 8 videos you’ll need to have a paid subscription to Gemba Academy.  But, since we prefer a totally stress free sales process, we do offer a no strings attached 7-day trial.

You’ll find the full presentation in our Gemba Live section of videos.  The full name is “Printers & Imaging Association.”

If you’re reading this via email or RSS feed you may need to click through to the article in order to see the video.

 

GA 065 | Lean Metrics with Robert St. Louis

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Today’s guest is Robert St. Louis, a great lean thinker and manufacturing professional with a fascinating background. Robert and I talked about lean metrics, what they are, and why organizations should be utilizing them. We also discuss the “Rule of Three.”

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Robert’s background and what he’s up to these days (2:36)
  • The quote that inspires Robert (6:32)
  • What the term “Lean Metrics” refers to (7:52)
  • Why these metrics matter (12:20)
  • Robert’s opinion on the scorecard approach (13:40)
  • What the “Rule of Three” means (17:31)
  • One of Robert’s most harrowing air traffic stories (20:19)
  • The key to sustaining this kind of environment (23:39)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Robert (27:25)
  • The best advice Robert has ever received (29:12)
  • Robert’s personal productivity habit (31:47)
  • Something that has surprised Robert in the last year (33:31)
  • How Robert rewinds and recharges (34:45)
  • The skill Robert feels he needs to improve (36:19)
  • Robert’s final words of wisdom (37:54)

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

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What Do You Think?

What kind of metrics does your organization value the most?

Lean Beginnings: My Journey So Far

By Jessica Bush

1973271_10155369222925355_6721061362160693203_oI’ll admit, when I applied for the Marketing Specialist position at Gemba Academy, I didn’t know much about lean. I was less than a year out of college and all I had to go off of were snippets of information from one IT class and my pre-interview research. That was January 2014. Almost a year and a half later, I can now look back and reflect on the very beginning of my lean journey, and the lessons I’ve already learned since joining the Gemba Academy team.

Lean Is a Lifestyle

Given the nature of the company, it was obvious that working for Gemba Academy would involve a lot of thinking, writing, and learning about lean. What I didn’t expect was how quickly lean would saturate my personal life. While out shopping just a few weeks later, I realized how inefficient it was to make countless trips clear across a huge store to pick out items. Next time I visited that store, I had a route planned. Soon I was rearranging my kitchen and assembling thank you cards using one piece flow. Holistically, now more than ever I am empowered to make autonomous decisions and unafraid to make mistakes. I even find myself relying on the concept of “Respect for People” to guide me in my treatment of others, whether coworkers, friends, family members, or complete strangers.

Perspective Adds Value

Part of what makes lean so powerful is the diversity of its practitioners. We share a common interest in continuous improvement, but our unique backgrounds, skill sets, and personalities are what form the lenses through which we view and solve problems. Working for Gemba Academy means I am often surrounded by expert lean thinkers, which can be intimidating. When the self-doubt settles in I remind myself that, as a lean novice, my perspective is what’s valuable. I can relate to and connect with our new-to-lean customers on a level that the experts can not. If I’m struggling to grasp a particular concept, for example, chances are some of our customers are as well. From this angle, my inexperience is actually an advantage.

It Isn’t Easy   

Above all, I have come to understand that practicing lean requires patience, commitment, and a genuine desire to improve. It isn’t always glamorous, nor are the results always instant. Like any journey, it’s a series of small opportunities that, if taken, can amount to a significant transformation. The best part of being a young lean thinker is that, in theory, I have decades of practice ahead of me. From successes and failures, to taking risks that pay off and taking risks that don’t, to applying what I think I know and identifying what I have yet to learn, I’m looking forward to the road ahead.

GA 064 | Leading in a Lean Environment with Kent Bradley

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Today’s guest, Kent Bradley, has more than 20 years of lean experience and an impressive career path. Kent and I have known each other for years, but we sat down to talk specifically about what it means to play a coaching and/or leadership role in a lean setting.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Kent’s background and what he’s up to these days (2:09)
  • The two quotes that inspire Kent (4:38)
  • What leadership coaching to engage teams is all about (6:47)
  • The first prerequisite to becoming a good lean leader (12:21)
  • The second prerequisite (13:37)
  • The third prerequisite (19:20)
  • One of Kent’s success stories with this method (23:35)
  • The role senior leadership plays in the transition (26:28)
  • What Kent would say to his younger self (27:52)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Kent (29:51)
  • The best leadership example Kent has witnessed (30:51)
  • Kent’s personal productivity habit (33:31)
  • What has surprised Kent in the last year (34:40)
  • What Kent does to recharge and refocus (36:01)
  • The skill Kent feels he needs to improve (36:58)
  • Kent’s final words of wisdom (39:19)

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 characteristics and/or behaviors make for a great lean leader?

The Most Dangerous Idea in the World

open_door_1This week I learned about a new book, Kaizen Forever: Teaching of Chihiro Nakao by Bob Emiliani, Rudy Go and Katsusaburo Yoshino. Mr. Nakao was the first Shingijutsu consultant I met and worked with in 1993. Even just one week spent with him would have been unforgettable, but we met many times. He preferred working with female interpreters, so it was a treat when I was called to support him due to scheduling conflicts with other interpreters. I am looking forward to reading this book about the man who may be Taiichi Ohno’s best student from outside of Toyota proper.

It was a challenge to interpret for Mr. Nakao because he spoke tirelessly, seeming not to notice when the heads of his students were full to bursting with all of his insights. He was extremely well-read and not shy about bringing ideas and examples from seemingly unconnected fields into his teaching of the Toyota Production System. As he veered into some arcane topic that was beyond my vocabulary, I would be forced to pause and ask him to put it in layman’s terms. Like Taiichi Ohno he reveled in wordplay, sometimes untranslatable from Japanese to English. He coined many lean terms, such as production preparation process (3P), moonshine and Oba gauge.

Many were the Western manager who Mr. Nakao called a “blockhead.”  Or at least this is how many people remember it. Blockhead means a person with low intelligence or little common sense. However, Mr. Nakao never used the term blockhead. He called people “concrete heads.”  Concrete head does not mean stupid, it means hard-headed. The expression in Japanese is “atama ga katai” meaning literally “head is hard” or hard-headed, stubborn, closed-minded, not open to change. In the process of translation, “You are hard-headed like your head is made of concrete” was reduced to “concrete head” and eventually “blockhead”. To be clear, it was not beneath Nakao and his colleagues to call people fools from time to time, though in Japan “fool” can almost be a term of endearment between teacher and student.

Whenever I was with Mr. Nakao when he was teaching kaizen, there was a palpable sense of danger. He did not care for petty rules and politics. One never knew where he would go, what he would say, or to whom. If the lobster dinner was taking too long, he walked into the kitchen and taught the chef about takt time, work sequence and standard work-in-process. Even if the agenda said, “kaizen events in processes A, B, C” he would reframe and refocus the teams on Monday morning, making their preparation useless but the week vastly more successful.

He was full of dangerous ideas, such as cutting warehouses, factories, lead-times, inventories, cycle times, defect rates, executive salaries, or anything wasteful by half or more. Dynamite was one of his favorite prescriptions to these ills, though never followed. It was not bluster, and he was a brilliant engineer as well as being a kaizen master. A week with Mr. Nakao was not complete until he heard, saw, sensed or remembered something on the gemba, abruptly changed direction and challenged the safety, quality or productivity standards of a process, often outside the scope of the kaizen event. He would insist on summoning the senior manager and engineers responsible, and forcing them to recognize an urgent abnormality where before they had seen none. One time he did this at a process where aircraft engine turbine blades were being installed prior to testing. He heard something that didn’t sound right, summoned the bosses and told them it was “no good” until they shut the tester down and located the improperly installed blades. He was not an expert in aerospace, just a brilliant and fearless engineer.

As I think back on Mr. Nakao’s various teachings, there is one very dangerous idea that stays with me the most. Above all, he was teaching people to have an open mind. A person who is a concrete head has the opposite of an open mind, but he never used these words, instead asking people, “Why?” and letting them fail to explain their position logically. Having an open mind means being willing to throw out ideas or beliefs that we hold dear. It means accepting new things rather than defending the old. If this is true, by extension it means being willing to throw out every single idea and belief that we hold dear. It means being willing to welcome any new idea into our mind. We are the sum of our experiences, fears, habits, beliefs, drives and desires. Letting ideas in or out of our mind means changing who we are. This can be quite threatening to many of us. That is why “keeping an open mind” is the most dangerous idea in the world.

When we say we have an “open mind”, it is actually quite a limited condition, a mind that is far from wide open. For example, when developing countermeasures to the root causes of a problem we encourage people to have an open mind and an unfettered exchange of ideas. However, in the modern workplace our minds are in fact closed to ideas that are illegal, immoral or unethical. Yet, laws are man-made, differ by locality and are subject to revision and change. Morals and ethics are not universal, or at the very least they differ across history and geography, even if moral and ethical codes have large overlaps across humanity. This is one reason that the “respect for humanity” pillar of lean is quite important, reminding us to continuously improve and open new horizons, but within the limits of what is good for greater humanity. To avoid anarchy or becoming outcasts, we all become concrete heads, to some extent.

There was sense of danger when supporting Mr. Nakao because like many brilliant people, his words and actions were often “crazy like the fox”. Not in the sense that he was cunning or calculated, he was more often quite direct and transparent, but rather because for most people his ideas were “way out there”. He demanded that people open their minds and follow him outside of their comfort zone, but only because he had spent plenty of time in the crazy out-there territory and knew that it was safe. One of the hallmarks of an excellent coach or sensei is their ability to help expand our boundaries or the learner without causing injury or catastrophic failure. Mr. Nakao would lead the horse to water and turn on the firehose.

Taiichi Ohno wrote that people are wrong wrong half of the time. That may be hard to swallow for many of us. If we were to look across history and catalogue the beliefs and practices of humanity, perhaps he would be proven right. How do we know which half is wrong? Ohno’s advice was not to just take anything on faith, but to do experiments, admit quickly when we are wrong and try again until we find the truth. Kaizen is continuous improvement, not just a 5-day event, not just a suggestion scheme, but all of these things and more. In some ways kaizen could be seen as the constant opening and closing the doors of the mind, letting some in and others out. Taiichi Ohno also said, “The Toyota method is practice, not theory”. In theory, keeping an open mind is a great idea. In practice, the door of the mind also needs to remain firmly hinged.

How Do You Fight A Fire With A Garden Hose?

firefighter-752540_640By Steve Kane

Many years ago, I was visiting a friend’s house in Southern California.  It was a 1950’s ranch style house with a straight walkway from the street to the door.  There was a tall palm tree where the walkway met the sidewalk.  On the opposite side of the walkway there was an empty space that suggested something was missing.  My friend, Tim, explained there had been a matching palm tree in that space until the Fourth of July, a couple of years before.

Tim was enjoying the holiday in the backyard with family and friends.  The twin palm trees near the street were tall enough that he could see them over the house.  Fourth of July fireworks shot through sky and landed in one of the palms.  Instantly, the fronds were in flames.

Tim rushed to the front of the house, grabbed the garden hose and stretched it to the street.  He put all the water he could onto the burning tree, but the flames grew.  He wouldn’t give up.  He kept putting more water on the base of the flames.

Let it burn

An off-duty firefighter just happened to be driving up the street and stopped to help.  The firefighter, very authoritatively, told Tim the burning tree was gone.  It was a lost cause.  He explained that Tim needed to put the water on the tree that wasn’t yet burning to keep the fire from spreading.

Tim was able to save the second tree, thanks to the advice of the firefighter.  While he was upset about losing the first tree, the results could have been worse.

Contain the flames

Tim’s story of the burning palm tree comes to mind from time to time when I face a major work problem or crisis.  How often do we think of our work as firefighting?

Suppose there is a major process failure or a huge rush order comes in.  The first thought can be to put all available resources on the crisis to solve the problem.  This very well could be the right thing to do.  It could also be the wrong thing to do.

If there are more than enough resources available to handle both the crisis and the normal activity, there would be no reason to delay fighting the fire.  It get’s a little tricky, though, when resources are limited.

Fighting the fire with limited resources (like a garden hose instead of a fire hose) could do little more than allow the fire to spread.  Using your limited resources to protect the surrounding area might be the best course of action.

Minimize the damage

Taking resources off of properly functioning production lines to deal with a process failure on another line could result in defects or low productivity in both areas.  Likewise, taking resources off of on-time orders to rush something else through the process could mean disappointing multiple customers instead of just one.

Putting all of your water at the base of the flames might not be the best thing to do first.  Contain the fire first, then work to put it out.

GA 063 | Practical Problem Solving: Part Two with Jon Miller

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In the second part of our Practical Problem Solving course, GA Co-Founder Jon Miller and I dive deep into Step 4, which centers around root cause analysis. Together we discuss the do’s and don’ts of implementing this crucial step.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • The quote that relates to root cause analysis (5:11)
  • Jon’s definition of root cause analysis (7:56)
  • Why there are likely dozens of root causes (15:15)
  • How just a handful of tools can solve your problems (16:25)
  • How to approach root cause analysis (18:40)
  • What the 5 Whys are and how to use them (23:28)
  • Why problem-solving isn’t always linear (30:06)
  • A few other ways to practice root cause analysis (34:12)
  • How to keep yourself from jumping steps (40:05)
  • A sneak peek of the next Practical Problem Solving installment (44:08)

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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?

Describe your experience(s) with root cause analysis. How does it bring clarity to the situation?

GA 062 |Lean for the Long Term with Ken Rolfes

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Today’s episode features Ken Rolfes, a longtime lean thinker, author, and AME affiliate. Ken and I discussed a variety of continuous improvement topics, but we mostly focused on Ken’s exciting new book, Lean for the Long Term.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Ken is up to these days (2:36)
  • The quote that inspires Ken (6:04)
  • All about Ken’s new book, Lean for the Long Term (8:25)
  • The meaning behind the title (11:56)
  • The role of lean versus cost accounting (24:24)
  • Why leaders need to be multilingual (27:26)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Ken (41:09)
  • The best advice Ken has ever received (42:30)
  • Ken’s personal productivity habit (43:58)
  • What has surprised Ken in the last year (46:07)
  • The skill Ken feels he needs to improve (47:41)
  • Ken’s final words of wisdom (50:17)

Podcast Resources

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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?

Can you identify with Ken’s take on continuous improvement? What do you agree with? What do you feel differently about?

GA 061 | Adventurous Thinking with Sally Dominguez

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Today’s episode is a little different, in a fantastic way. As an architect, inventor, and overall innovator, Sally Dominguez, brings a fresh angle to the world of continuous improvement. I think you’ll really enjoy and benefit from her concept of Adventurous Thinking and her fascinating career anecdotes.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Sally’s background and what she’s up to these days (3:16)
  • All about Sally’s upcoming speech at the AME conference (4:53)
  • The quotes that inspire Sally (6:40)
  • What Adventurous Thinking is all about (9:03)
  • Sally’s Five Ways (10:48)
  • More about Negative Space (15:08)
  • A deeper explanation of Backward Thinking (19:53)
  • Why failure is important (25:06)
  • Where to learn more about Sally and her teachings (27:38)
  • What “Respect for People” means to Sally (29:32)
  • The best advice Sally has ever received (30:15)
  • Sally’s personal productivity habit (30:34)
  • What has surprised Sally in the last year (32:17)
  • The area Sally feels she needs to improve (36:09)
  • Sally’s final words of wisdom (37:01)

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 intrigues you about Adventurous Thinking? How would applying the Five Ways benefit you?

GA 060 | Practical Problem Solving: Part One

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Today’s episode is part one of a three-part series featuring Jon Miller, one of Gemba Academy’s co-founders. Jon is such a profound lean thinker and we are thrilled to have him working with us full-time. There are eight steps to practical problem solving, but in this particular episode Jon and I review the first three.

An MP3 version of this episode is available for download here.  

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Jon is up to these days (3:18)
  • Jon’s inspirational quote, specifically related to problem solving (4:39)
  • Jon’s definition of practical problem solving (6:41)
  • What step one of the process is (11:16)
  • What step two of the process is (19:31)
  • What step three of the process is (27:26)
  • Jon’s definition of “Respect for People” (36:44)
  • The best advice Jon has ever received (42:50)
  • What has surprised Jon in the past year of practicing lean (46:44)
  • The routine Jon follows to recharge and refocus (49:20)
  • The skill Jon thinks he needs to improve (52:02)

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?

Do you use the practical problem solving process? Which aspects do you struggle with? Which come easily?