Lean Thinker Challenge #1

By Ron Pereira Updated on September 12th, 2013

Lean Thinker ChallengeOK, so I thought I’d start a new, hopefully fun, series of articles called the Lean Thinker Challenge.  This is the first edition!

The Situation

You’ve just been hired as the VP of Operations for a 200 person manufacturing company.  It’s the position you’ve worked your entire career for.  This is the good news.

The bad news is your new company is struggling.

Operationally speaking, here’s what you know.  The company is plagued with poor quality (40% of everything made is either scrapped or reworked).  And on time delivery to customer request averages around 74%.  Lastly, while the company is still profitable operating income has been trending down for the last 12 months.

And, to make matters even worse, most of your employees are totally disengaged and simply show up in order to collect a paycheck.

Lean Thinking Culture

Your boss, the President of the company, believes a Lean Thinking culture needs to be established even though the associates have never been exposed to anything like it.

Your boss realizes he’s failed in the past but genuinely wants to make things better.  His first step was to hire you since he has very little lean thinking experience.

The Challenge

Now to the challenge.  Today is your first day on the job.  What will you do?  Where will you start?  And what, specifically, do you want to accomplish on your first day, week, and month?

  1. Arturo Vasquez

    September 12, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    I’m going to spend my entire first week at gemba working side by side with the employees. And I’m going to listen a lot and talk a little.

    • Ron Pereira

      September 12, 2013 - 1:50 pm

      Love it, Arturo! Thanks for the comment.

  2. Dan Fullenwider

    September 12, 2013 - 2:57 pm

    I agree on the comment above “gemba walk”. Start DMAIC teams in the organization so everyone is involved. Look for zombie workers that hold back the company and start leading change.

  3. Jazz

    September 13, 2013 - 6:48 am

    LOOKING AND LISTENING AND NOT JUDGING. A thorough induction to the organisation is critical; getting to know its PEOPLE, systems, processes and operations; establishing the organisations goals, priorities, aims, plans and finances. Discovering the market place, its competitors; horizon scanning. Start with meeting with my boss, then meeting other people in HR, OD, Operations, Finance, etc. Asking tough questions! Provoking thoughts in colleagues. Being non-judgmental, just delving deeper and deeper….

    • Guy

      September 13, 2013 - 7:55 am

      I agree with Jazz. The business is made of people and learning who they are and what they represent or bring is important. The tools or skills I bring (lean six-sigma) are not business specific but the people and positions/job descriptions are. Looking at the “new” position in terms of tools from a DMAIC perspective is putting a fix before a cause. Understanding the people of the business is where the RCCA starts and it shows you care and value their inputs and what they have to say. Then the (correct) tools can be brought to bear.

    • rhod durandis

      October 2, 2013 - 5:08 pm

      very nice answer in order to find out the roots of the problem u need to understand the system how its works ! asking the 5 whys etc.

  4. Jose Manlongat Jr.

    September 13, 2013 - 7:40 am

    1) I will consider both the Technical Side of Change Management (DMAIC) and the most important part is to incorporate the People Side of Change Management. I will implement the following in sequence. Objectives must be achieved before moving the the next stage.
    Technical Side………………………….People Side
    Define…………………………………build AWARENESS of the change
    Measure, Analyze………………………..Create DESIRE to change amongst those affected
    Improve………………………………..train KNOWLEDGE for the change and ensure ABILITY to change
    Control………………………………..REINFORCEMENT of the change

    To summarize. I will use and implement the DMAIC and ADKAR methodologies.

    Excerpt from Change Management Case Study Series using ADKAR and the PCT to strengthen Lean Six Success, by Rick McCormick):
    LSS, implemented at a site, or enterprise level is a large organizational cultural change. Implemented as a series of tools alone almost guarantees failure. Implemented with a robust change management strategy and methodology greatly increases the success of a LSS program.

    • Fred Janssen

      September 18, 2013 - 4:12 am

      My first day? I would look around, get to know my colleagues, find the coffeemachine, talk to people and listen what they say, but most of all what they don’t say!
      First you have to understand and get the whole picture before you take action. So all the good advice above is o.k. But not the first day (or even weeks :).
      And remember: The team knows more than the expert alone!

  5. Brenda

    September 13, 2013 - 7:50 am

    To be succesful, I need the people. I would ask each of the managers who report to me to walk me through their area, introduce me to their folks (this could be telling) and have the managers tell me their key priorities, what they are currently working on and their key challenges. I would ask some of the same questions to more frontline staff.

  6. Ricardo Leano MD MBA FACHE

    September 13, 2013 - 7:58 am

    I will spend 25% of my time measuring to see WHERE we are and having the baseline and 75% of the time with the front line workers listening to them to understand WHY we are there and to know HOW to get out of there. Then will start fixing few important issues with Kaizen and finally with formal LSS. I believe Kaizen is a good starting point to get all involved and start changing the culture before continuing with formal LSS/DMAIC

  7. Bryon Marks

    September 13, 2013 - 7:59 am

    Don’t be the doctor and prescribe the medicine without first seeing the patient. In other words find out what are the root causes for the multiple issues without having preconceived solutions. During your GEMBA you may very well find out it is just a few items that require immediate and appropriate attention. Besides I feel it is always best to focus on a few critical or influential items than the entire laundry lists of action items. Get the item fixed, keep it sustained and move on the next critical item.

  8. Troy

    September 13, 2013 - 8:06 am

    I am going to work with the entire leadership team, including the CEO to help them understand exactly why there needs to be change, formulate how we can communicate this across the organisation in a way that will encourage curiosity and engagement from the workforce, and then ensure the entire leadership team is capable of communicating it through both their words and actions. I would then help them to understand their part in the change and what that means to them personally and then, via the utilisation and engagement of cross functional teams develop a strategic direction that we can all be accountable for and work towards to close the gap between current and future states.
    Only then would I work with individual leaders to ensure they are supporting and engaging their people in a respectful way on their Lean journey.

  9. Josef Pfister

    September 13, 2013 - 8:12 am

    Go to the gemba is correct. However, if the gemba doesn’t include the vision carried by the executive staff then all bets are off for success. I also agree with maby of the preceding statements. I would first learn exactly where tbe current state resided, then introduce to the owner a professional incremental pathway forward of training with execution and learning. PEDAL perceive, evaluate, decide, act & lear processing from the top down.

  10. Mike Hahn

    September 13, 2013 - 8:18 am

    Coach the fundamentals. With the situation described in the challenge, there would be a great deal of disorganization and hidden issues. A Five S roll out will organize the operation making the operation visual and allowing all to “see” and correct issues. Five S will also empower the employees to take control of their domain. Most importantly, a Five S rollout implemented through the existing managment staff will tell you alot about attitudes and capabilites of the managment team. Make sure that every square inch of the facility has an owner responsible for the status of the area. Five S is a primary ingredient in the recipe for lean.

    • V G Kulkarni

      September 13, 2013 - 10:28 pm

      Well said Mike. Fundamentals is the key.
      5S—> Identifying Waste –> Small Group Activity –> Low hanging fruits.
      So FIRST DAY will be definitely on a baseline study of work place 5S.

  11. Jazz

    September 13, 2013 - 8:28 am

    Firstly, I would avoid jargon, acronyms and management speak. From reading the above comments, it looks like colleagues are jumping to treatment by deploying tools and techniques too soon. First, we need to know what our CUSTOMERS want and what our PEOPLE are doing/providing. We need Assess, then Diagnose, Treat and finally Monitor; then back to Assess,…continuing this cycle. Within the first month of any new job, we need to discover customer needs, and focus on Assessment of the business/organisation; thus, using 3 tools (in this order); 1) EARS: listening to people, 2) EYES: looking at operations and processes taking place, and 3) MOUTH: having meaningful conversations through asking thought provoking questions. GUYS, IT IS ALL ABOUT “PEOPLE” (STAFF AND CUSTOMERS). SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES CAN BE EASILY CHANGED IF PEOPLE ARE HAPPY, WITH YOU, AND ON YOUR SIDE.

  12. Richard

    September 13, 2013 - 8:33 am

    The previous posts raise some great points, so in addition, my initial focus would be strategy alignment, and the voice of the customer – which I would approach in parallel paths.

    I’d spend time grasping the stated mission, vision, goal, etc. Then observe the metrics that are reported, the ones that are used, and if/how they align to those objectives. I would follow that up through observation and interview with leaders on how their times is spent. Finally – from an alignment perspective – I’d highlight the gaps between stated priorities and observed priorities. This would lead to a mix of changing stated priorities, adding/amending/deleting metrics, and/or adjusting how time is spent.

    Concurrent to that strategic gap analysis, I’d seek to understand who the customer is and what they feel are the things that the organization does well and what it can do better. This customer group would include the end customer of the product/service, employees, and other stakeholders such as shareholders, board of directors or trustees, and key vendors and contractors. This would include a great deal of gemba time!

    All the while, I’d be assessing the workforce and leadership to ensure that I have the “right people on the bus”. I think it is important to establish rapport with your people and leverage relationship and expertise over role-power to initiate change.

    The end result would be (perhaps 4-8 months out) a list of current and target conditions that are tied to VOC and strategy. Along the way, I’d also be looking for ‘quick hit’ improvements to help build relationship equity with my internal and external customers.

    Finally, some education on my approach to executing change would be followed up by action consistent the following core principles:
    1. Customer First!
    2. Data driven (how else can you know you were successful)
    3. Employee Owned
    4. Servant Leadership

  13. Paulo

    September 13, 2013 - 8:34 am

    Indeed, I would as a matter of necessity undertake GEMBA with a clear purpose of understanding the flow of value across the firm. My GEMBA should be aided by the respective process owners and process operatives and therefore understanding human factors and their contribution to the current performance of the company.
    The result of this should clearly give me a good understand of the entire organisation and areas that particularly lead to the 40% scrap/ rework, 74% late deliveries and therefore declining revenue by developing a high value stream together with the leadership team.
    Through my leadership and coaching, the Value stream framework should guide in prioritizing areas of action and assigning to various owners to lead the improvements.

  14. Isaac

    September 13, 2013 - 8:40 am

    My First day– I will meet with the people ( Different cadres) and know their roles and KPIs in NUMBERS, and make amends when need be to instil lean thinking culture.

    Within the week–I will try to master all sites, monitor processes, digest inventory and production, bearing in mind, quality~ which is one of the major issues here. encouraging words can help soothe the feelings of employees, that I will try to do~ Motivation. Cost of production will be key priority~ key will be keeping valuable manpower. Reduce waste to minimum. And let a set standard roll on.

    Within a Month

  15. Tim Anderson

    September 13, 2013 - 8:47 am

    Find out what the president knows about Lean.

    Take the President to the Gemba and get him to do a (guided i.e. coached) waste walk. Show respect of course and note personally what is difficult with this aspect of the culture and how it plays out- don’t share observations yet. Just watch and listen.

    Ask questions on what is causing the scrap or rework to those doing the work.

    Write down answers. Identify one key area.

    If people wants to know whats happening- get the President to tell them, let them follow if possible. Make them say nothing. Just watch. Answer questions at the end, away from Gemba as may have negative impact on staff. Answer questions from staff at the Gemba.

    Do the same the next day. And the next. Take more execs, President to support.

    End of first week- start to plan for attending to/measure scrap/rework and cause. Start at one station.

    Start plan for implementing/training in 5S and start a lean culture training plan.
    Start value stream data gathering so as to construct a picture of now.
    Implement any very quick wins by removing immediate obstacles.

    See customers over course of next week or two depending on time/distance etc. Match customer requirement to internal work if not already done.

    Demonstrate cost of scrap/rework.

    End of first month- Initial value stream-model line- started. Data being gathered. Led by key person, coached by you directly.
    Keep going.

  16. Anonymous

    September 13, 2013 - 8:49 am

    I’ve had the opportunity to live this scenario in “real life”. Keeping my explanation simple, the first thing I did was to take inventory (figuratively) and to figure out where I stood and what I had on my hands. I suppose this could be the beginning of the “D” phase in Six Sigma methodology. However, in my case, I had an even larger problem to contend with. Because there was no standard work; instead they were practicing 100% tribal knowledge, I was forced to start at the beginning and learn the production processes from start to finish, and attempt to standardize them, even if it was not 100% accurate. I then conducted rough time studies to see where I stood in terms of over all capacity, cycle time by operation, etcetera. I spent a long time “tweaking” my numbers and tightening up my metrics. Figuring out where you stand and analyzing the “current state” is, in my humble opinion, the jumping off place.

  17. luis

    September 13, 2013 - 8:50 am

    I’m agree w/ Mr.Arturo plus data review (statistics of alll metrics).
    Guy’s don’t loose the numeber, Like Steely dan says, is just during the first day of work.

  18. Kathy

    September 13, 2013 - 8:55 am

    The first day I would gather the performance metrics, high level and by work area and pareto them to determine where we are seeing the biggest issues. I would spend the next week walking the shop floor, meeting with the employees and basically providing them with a forumn to express their concerns and ideas. Additionally, during this time I would be looking at the work flow, determing if standard work is in place, watching for hidden factories and basically identifying opportunities that can be observed.

    After this, I would spend the rest of the month (and then some) focussed on addressing the quality issues (taking into consideration the feedback received from employees as well). I would create a vision of “zero defects” and begin efforts to shift the companies culture to support this vision. Simultaneoulsy, I would establish a team of folks from across the business, teach them built in quality methodologies specifically regarding containment (ensuring no bad part passes on to the next operation) and of course Root Cause and Corrective Action. During deployment, I would expect the team to do Value Stream Mapping in the areas with the highest defect rates to determine where the quality gates (for containment) should be placed and to work diligently to complete the root cause analysis and implement effective corrective actions. I would expect the team to maintain the quality gates for a period of time after corrective action is completed to determine whether the corrective action actually killed the defect or if it simply treated a symptom.

    Once we’ve made substantial strides towards our Zero Defect vision we should have already seen a significant improvement in our delivery performance. From there, using numerous 6-Sigma and Lean Principles, I would implement processes to ensure parts are in place where they are needed, when they are needed (right part, right time) and then look to reduce lead times which will increase capacity. All of this will result in improved bottom line performance and customer satisfaction.

  19. Ron Pereira

    September 13, 2013 - 8:59 am

    Wow, folks… I always try to thank commenters individually but I can’t keep up.

    So, THANK YOU for your wonderful engagement. You all inspire me more than you know.

    Now, keep the comments coming!

    So far I see a trend… lots of gemba walking and data gathering. But that’s week 1.

    What about weeks 2-4?

  20. Mike Hahn

    September 13, 2013 - 9:04 am

    Yes, it’s important to build relationships and listen. Every operation is tribal. If you are the new Leader, lead. If you know your craft you will be able to peel the onion back in layers each day. Set a clear course, communicate it and navigate to it through clear objectives. You are the VP of Operations hired to get results and get them soon not play footsie with all the employees and ponder about utopia for six months. You will get 100 different versions of what the issues are when you talk to 100 employees. Manufacturing, when done right is simple. Use your skills and coach.

  21. AzJohn

    September 13, 2013 - 9:23 am

    The background to the story is missing some real life details, such as …
    – As the new VP of Operations, what prep work or announcement has been done with fellow leadership?
    – What impact will I have on others who have had the unofficial lean responsibilities or have already taken actions before me?
    – Am I replacing a previous Ops VP and if so is that person still there and what were their initiatives?
    – Is there an existing company charter/mission/vision to support or enhance?

    The answers to these questions would alter the path of the next steps, but, the planned true north direction would not change.

    I believe all the suggestions made so far are all part of the next steps, however, their sequence and timing are critical.

    Not to write the entire business plan here, you must first accept that for the most part what you are bringing is not new, but being officially empowered by the president you are their to facilitate a team improvement with the skills you bring in combination of those of every employee.

    Always respect the effort and knowledge of others, provide them an opportunity to participate and be heard. Openly recognize their concerns, suggestions, venting and find those who are withdrawn who know the hidden side of the challenges the to-be rejuvenated company will work to overcome.

    After analysis, together develop a roadmap and target timelines. Be quick to action even if only for a 1% solution, acknowledge and support everyone who participates and supports. Remember that the improvement team bus has reverse when needed. Always be transparent of the challenges, needs, goals, have the leaders as coaches/teachers throughout the journey and benchmark others.

    Be dynamic, share your knowledge, learn from others, build a strong team and you are ready to begin.

  22. Mario Flores

    September 13, 2013 - 9:52 am

    I think the first week is to understand why thinks goes bad. And understand the employees appreciation & feelings, why they stay on the job only for the payback.

    Second and third week to define immediate realistic goals and proposal to change bad things related to the company benefits and employee development. Define an action plan included employee attitude change (I think this is the more difficult goal).

    Identify natural leadership company employees in order to use them to achieve goals and implement strategies.

  23. Jon Miller

    September 13, 2013 - 10:02 am

    I would spend the time earning trust. Can’t say exactly whose, how and by when without knowing more about the organization.

  24. John Kruz

    September 13, 2013 - 10:40 am

    So let’s change things up a little:

    Instead of a manufacturing business, your business is a hospital. Twenty people die every year at your hospital from avoidable causes (the national average.) That’s one death every 18 days. The next death 18 days from now will be your responsibility.

    Is your approach still the same? Do you still engage in gemba walks, organizational training sessions, and DMAIC processes that will involve Define and Measure activities that will eat up those 18 days?

    Do your answers change if your daughter will be delivering twins at your hospital in a week? Do your answers change if your mother will be coming in for surgery in 2 weeks?

    • John Payson

      September 13, 2013 - 2:14 pm

      I would say yes.
      Because you can’t change a culture overnight, especially the very stubborn cultures in hospitals.
      If you decide to “shake it up” you are likely to produce worse results– now the worse results might be for a “short term” but can you afford period of degradation at all?

      Also it is fallacy to believe that a death occurs every 18 days from avoidable causes. Very bad application of a quite simple statistic. It is not predictable in that fashion. If it were, all you would have to do is pay attention on that eighteenth day and prevent the error that was scheduled. Even better, just be sure you empty the hospital every 18 days so that nobody is in there to be victim to the death every 18 days….

  25. DW McAllister

    September 13, 2013 - 1:18 pm

    I could not agree more with Mike Hahn’s statement. Find out where the low hanging fruit are and implement the right methodology per KPI reporting. However, remember, reports measure…observation is key in understanding what drives the metric.

  26. John Payson

    September 13, 2013 - 2:06 pm

    Day 1. Meet introduce myself to everyone. If asked I will tell the individuals that my mission is to make the company more successful, to grow, and have more and better jobs. Otherwise I will ask each to tell me a little about what they do, both at work and outside.
    Week 1. Probably above will take more than 1 day.
    Month. It will be time to start changing. The first thing will be to move everyone closer to the work. An ideal would be to move all staff offices to locations in the center of the factory, so that everyone passes through where the work is done, every day. That might not be realistic but it would be possible for everyone to walk through the factory every day even more than once.
    In particular manufacturing engineers and supervision will be moved to the work area regardless of whether it is practical for everyone else (including me).

    These are the start of culture changes that will be required for success in changing the way the company works.

  27. Ed Feeny

    September 13, 2013 - 2:29 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of the Gemba walk and talking and listening to the associates doing the work, as well as the management staff. But I would add that in these initial Gemba walks a large part of it should also be striving to begin the task of gaining the trust of the workforce. Once the information is collected and an action plan is to be implemented that trust will be invaluable in achieving success. While the scenario doesn’t say so, I suspect the morale level is very low as well given all the problems and the tendency of dysfunctioning organizations to find someone to blame. If I can be so bold as to assume this, then the next step will be to hire a Lean guru to lead an implementation of an all encompassing program. This will require before launch of the program a company wide meeting with top management championing the proposed plan that should include extensive training of the workforce and employee empowerment.

  28. Bain

    September 13, 2013 - 2:33 pm

    Day 1 – Understand what the President has attempted and failed at in the past. How does he know employees are disengaged, and understand what he expects to see.

    Week 1 – Go to the floor and meet the employees, but don’t talk the language of lean yet (this will only build up walls since they don’t know the meanings). Instead understand the group dynamics and the language they speak, and identify the hidden players who you will need to first convert. Finally, agree on realistic improvement goals with the President because positive changes are not going to happen overnight.

    Month 1 – By this time I would want to know which product is costing the most when wasted, and watch it go through the process. Then depending on what’s already in place I would start with teaching the individuals who can influence the group some basic fundamentals of lean.

  29. Simon Cunnane

    September 13, 2013 - 2:58 pm

    For me, all the information I need is given in the case study. Quality = 40%, OTD = 74%, Income/Turnover reducing steadily over 12 months. I don’t need any further information at this time.

    Day 1, 8.00am Find out who the top 5 customers are and call them as soon as business hours allow. Get their opinion without any leading questions. Since you’re new, tell them so and use that as a way of getting them to come clean and be honest about their critiscism.

    Day 1, 12.30pm Armed with the figures 40% and 74% (and whatever feedback I’ve received from customers), I call a staff meeting. Shut down the entire plant and get them all in a room or out on the shop floor. Tell them the truth, a truth I suspect they are all too aware of. Tell them “our customers pay the bills, the wages and buy your kids clothes. They’re not happy, would you be if you were them?”. Tell them that it’s your job to get those two numbers as close to 100% as possible and to find out what’s stopping us from getting there.

    Day 2-365. Spend every day figuring out what’s stoppnig people from producing quality components and products, on-time and in full. Don’t mention lean, six-sigma or anything else until you start fixing what pisses people off about their job and getting those two numbers moving in the right direction. You will implement flow, 5s, pull, VSM and standard work along the way as you naturally fix the problems, but don’t make a big deal of it. Get the quality right. Get the OTD right.

    If you don’t do that in the first 12 months, there won’t be a second 12.

  30. Brian

    September 13, 2013 - 3:00 pm

    I would spend as much time as needed at the Gemba to find the biggest opportunity (biggest impact as quickly as possible, with the highest chance of success). Then, focus like a laser on this area to implement lean. I would then start by working with this supervisor of this area as a coach to:
    1. define the daily expectation
    2. chart performance to the expectation daily
    3. Review the standards and talk about how to close the gap with the team

    Once you have a model department, start with the next biggest opportunity but make sure the previous department is sustaining.

  31. Simon Cunnane

    September 13, 2013 - 3:00 pm

    Sorry Ron, quality rate is of course 60% not 40%. If you can amend my previous post before posting that’d be great 🙂

  32. José Mora

    September 13, 2013 - 5:32 pm

    Here is a counter-intuitive idea: Meet your customers first, then your suppliers. I know it’s tempting to get out on the production floor and camp out there. But chances are you’ve got angry customers and frustrated suppliers. You don’t want your first encounter with a customer or a supplier to be when there’s a problem and you’ve already been there a couple of months – because now you are the cause of their problem. And they will not give you any time to actually fix the real problems.

    Lean does not start on the production floor. It starts at the customer’s location since that is where the chain is being pulled from. You need to understand what’s real customer demand and what are buffers and sandbagging that they’ve been doing because of your plant’s poor performance.

    If you do not do that first, you are destined for a very unpleasant surprise.

  33. Ken Adams

    September 13, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    The first day or so talking to each individual manager and shop floor supervisor and get a feel of their attitudes and feelings. At the end of each talk I would ask their permission to walk round their departments unaccompanied. Thus giving them status and showing respect.
    The various walk a rounds would be to get a feel of the attitude of the hands on workers watch the operation and as an engineer judge the efficiency. Look for all the little things that stand out that need to be fixed. i.e. safety, cleanliness just look at the whole shop floor operation even a chair change can make a big difference to an operators efficiency and attitude. A short talk with a few of them will give you a feel of the reasons that they are not performing. Most workers from the floor sweeper to a highly skilled operative NEED to be proud of what they do and this means showing them respect. So many of them will be frustrated and bursting with ideas to improve. But as they may not have access to your open door office your daily or weekly walk around is a chance for them to approach you with their ideas. Your Kaizen team as individuals should also give this access to them. Perhaps later a bonus for a cost reduction idea can be implemented. As a manufacturing engineer in the past when I design a machine for production I am the expert on that machine. However six months into production the expert is not me it is the operator who is working on that machine every day of the week. So I go and talk to her and ask how I can improve the next machine I design. This approach to improve a whole operation from start to finish can make a big difference. Many of course are just out of the road of the traffic to collect a pay cheque and just think of you as another arrogant manager so they need to be filtered out over a period of time.
    One thing I have always done with any new start in my team is to tell them to walk round the factory and tell me of all the things that stand out to them that are bad. I have been fixing my priorities but as walking through a factory every day the less important problems have become part of the environment and I no longer notice them. You need new eyes to pick them out again. This shows the new man that I am approachable and respect his opinion and not a boss that wishes to only hear what he wants to hear. I NEED to hear the bad things. As I am the new start the task is to get the same message across about me and lay foundations for a type of TQM style management and of course a Kaizen/Cost Reduction team.
    As part of the TQM management style QC needs to be promoted as every single individuals responsibility not an over the wall pass it on operation. There are many ways of turning this around and will take more than the first week to decide on the best approach from Process Control, Cell System understanding that the next operator is your customer Application of the 20%-80% rule to spend time on the most important issues, Maintenance and upkeep of machines, Better jigs and machines, Checking fixtures, etc.

  34. Kevin L. Lagola

    September 13, 2013 - 7:12 pm

    I would start off by holding a mandatory company-wide meeting. During the meeting, I would explain to all employees, using a great narrative, how each and every one of them will be part of a failed or bankrupt entity in the near future to put things in perspective.

    Then, I’d summarize my short-term and long-term plan and vision. This would be the inspirational, motivational and challenge speech.

    Then, like others have stated, I’d do a deep-dive Gemba analysis.

  35. Larry Reece

    September 13, 2013 - 8:10 pm

    One KPI is missing. What is the safety metric? When was your last lost time injury? If you want to get employees engaged (critical to succeed) you must focus on safety and prove to them you are serious about taking care of them. Its the employees not the customer who builds your company. My 2 cents.

  36. Shekhar Thosar

    September 13, 2013 - 10:02 pm

    I would first find out what is good that is available in the new company. i.e. what are the strengths in the company which can be capitalized on, in different areas. I agree to others who mentioned that this can be known by interacting in Gemba with people and machines.

    Other thing I would do is to find out the greatest constraint/s company has to achieve the goals.

    And the major thing would be act on the constraints using LEAN techniques.

  37. Arash

    September 14, 2013 - 9:12 am

    On my first day I will plan the week.
    First week:
    Having meeting with with my boss to understand the high level issues
    Normal inductions (H&S, quality,…)
    Meeting people who directly report to me, visiting their department and introducing myself to lower levels
    One to one meeting with department supervisors/Managers to get the feeling of what is happening in the lower levels and how is the moral

    Week two:
    assessing the situation
    highlighting initial improvement projects
    meeting with the boss to prioritize the projects and agreeing the objectives and KPIs

    Week three and four:
    flowing down the objectives and KPIs to departmental managers/supervisors and defining their objectives and KPIs
    creating project teams and start of DMAIC
    highlighting quick wins and fixing the obvious issues

    of course these are estimated time lines and they can expand or shrink

  38. Jason Yip

    September 14, 2013 - 6:14 pm

    It may be worth asking people to think-aloud to expose the reasoning they use to decide what they do, not just describe what they’d do. If it’s a “thinker challenge”, then we’d want to distinguish pattern matching that happens to produce correct behaviour vs appropriate context-specific thinking that produces correct behaviour

  39. Sam Becktel

    September 15, 2013 - 1:13 am

    Week 1-Gemba Walks and meet Senior Staff.
    Week 2-Understand the Customer’s pain and take more Gemba Walks.
    Week 3-Meet with Senior Staff to learn their strengths and weak points: Gemba Walks.
    Week 4- Establish road map to success; gain boss’s OK: take Senior Staff on Gemba Walks.
    Week 5-Begin per the road map, probably with a 5S blitz in a single work center.

  40. Stephan smit

    September 15, 2013 - 2:35 am

    I will asses my first line managers first,then interview them on a one on one,before moving over to the management team.

  41. Kevin Evans

    September 15, 2013 - 2:33 pm

    Daily Personal Gemba walk (look, listen, Feel, Seek first to Understand)
    Question everything
    Assess system stability with SIPOC/copis/process map/value stream map etc… No improvement without data, no data without improvement.
    Initial, then bi-weekly, then monthly C-suite Gemba walk
    Align current & new processes with Strategies and Tactics of C-suite
    Daily then weekly Management/Supervisor/Support group Gemba walk
    Use TOC system thinking focusing steps to identify system constraint and priority to assist first, second etc…
    Daily First Line leader Gemba walk
    Decide where you want the constraint to be: Daily/weekly/monthly First line leader/Supervision/Management Gemba walk
    Use Lean and Six Sigma to help with issues/problems/stability: Daily, weekly Management Gemba walk
    Lean Management system standard work initiated as changes/processes are improved: Daily/weekly/monthly First line leader/Supervision/Management Gemba walk
    Standardized work: Daily/weekly/monthly First line leader/Supervision/Management Gemba walk
    Visualization: Daily/weekly/monthly First line leader/Supervision/Management Gemba walk
    Continuously improve processes/re-assess everything: weekly Management Gemba walk: daily first line leader/Supervisor

  42. Anjan Chatterjee

    September 16, 2013 - 2:13 am

    First Week – Speak to the CFO – take stock of the Financial status. Listen to his side of story of What is wrong with the Company. Make notes,details of Total expenses, Inventory status, WIP,
    Speak, with HOD’s by walking up to them, in their work place. See & check, How each of them is Organised. How much Data , is Displayed & how much Data is available on asking. Walk with him into his work area. Get introduced to his direct reports & departmental people. Observe how these people manage their offices, make notes. Similarly cover all departments in Four days. Speak about your observations on Cleanliness, upkeep of Shop-floor & offices, directly to HOD’s & people. Give clear expectations levels in the new environment & time spans.
    Where you have doubt , walk through the Process and check how Product Quality is built into the Manufacturing Process. First Time speak to people to understand there , understanding of Product usage by Customer & check how far has the information of Poor Quality have percolated,
    Now, with much clear view of the Status – “Where We Are”. Third week call for a meeting of All Department Heads, asking them to bring presentations for Improvements in their Processes. Only those under their Direct Control. All listen , others areas of Improvement.
    After every one had made their points, you summarize. Give out your your Views &Targets,
    To redo their presentations on Action Plan to achieve the Revised Targets. Fourth Week , you set in the Revised Processes and set clear measurable targets. Ask CFO to work out clear projections of Financial needs with the revised targets. Work out Cash flow needs.
    Review, People quality with HRD , Quality Manager & make a Training plan, for Lean & Quality Tools, Training to Managers & Supervisory Staff, with clear stress on Implementation. Review with HR – people issues & HOD involvement, on a daily basis. Make it clear, to HR & HOD’s – that people have to be dealt with respect & it is the Departments responsibility. HR will support , in planning & organizing Training, Welfare programs ect
    By Week Five, people start feeling change in attitude in Management. By Week Six they start viewing their work area with pride, as they have cleaned it & is looking presentable.
    By Week Eight – Productivity starts improving, step by step. By week twelve we have Improvement Team, in each Department. Now the Company is on the Growth path. In week Twenty Four, CFO reports positive cash flow & lowest scrape cost after years.

  43. Scott Griffin

    September 16, 2013 - 8:48 am

    Personally I would not jump straight into Gemba other than to shake a few hands and get a basic understanding of process flow. I would get an understanding of the business model- 40% failure rate and poor delivery probably has not happened overnight- there have probably been some significant external influences- growth/people turnover, new products, different customer expectations.
    Management buy in is probably the single most important factor. You can’t do it alone- You need to develope a future state plan together to get the company back on track before GEMBA

  44. Woody Till

    September 16, 2013 - 10:49 am

    Very interesting conversations here. What I fine most interesting is there is no right solution to the problem. Depending on your personal profile you will take different actions. Controllers will come in and start telling people what to do because they know it all. Analysers will analyze the issue untill the cows come home. Stabilizers will try and get everyone’s opinion of what is wrong with the company. and last but not least the Persuaders will give the Rah Rah speach to get employees involved. Let’s be honest, on day one of the job you will be lucky to find where the restrooms are let alone try to do any meaningful improvements. Assessing the situation is probably primary in this case. Generals don’t just dive into battle without assessing the situation. Asking the President to help you understand how the company got into this predicament might be a good place to start. From there talking with each of the senior staff on the cause of the situation might be next. Now you have a high level of understanding of the problems causing the poor performance. Listen and take lots of notes. Next could be your staff. Find out what their take is on why the problems are happening. By this time there should be a pattern emerging as to what the issues are. Taking a Gemba walk will help you identify the “State of the Factory” even without asking the employees questions. Observe and listen. Don’t talk. If the employees are truely “disengaged” the plant will be dirty, disorganized, product will be all over and in disarray, and you will be able to hear unhappy conversation. Actions speak louded than words so be vigilant in your observations. Once you have assessed the issues you can apply your knowledge of operations management and Lean principles to solve the issues.

  45. Luciano

    September 16, 2013 - 8:35 pm

    I would try to understand basically where the company numbers are bad and after invest all of my time in the gemba to talk to the people about how the value stream works (or should work). It’s necessary to know the team, show respect and earn people trust. understand people ponts of view according to their experience in the company. It is also important working together human resources department in the task of identifying natural leaders: negative natural leaders can destroy any improvement effort. Any fast improvement attempt in a company in crisis, without know what took the company to this situation can be a disaster.

  46. Sathish

    September 18, 2013 - 2:16 am

    I would tackle the situation in different way,
    In an organization people are the most valuable asset. When they are totally disengaged, no matter what you change or propose will not be beneficial till most of the people are involved, engaged & committed.
    When the delivery rate is at 74%, there will be a very high pressure in entire value chain which leads to lot of activity to improve the delivery. When people are putting efforts and results are not seen then they will go towards to disengaged mode.
    First week:
    To change this I would first map the bottleneck for delivery by involving cross functional teams.
    One known bottleneck:
    When I look at the situation it is clear there is a bottleneck at quality, 40% of manufactured items are getting rejected or reworked, this is one of the major bottlenecks for delivery. I will form a cross functional team consists of engineering, production, quality to check whether we are doing over quality, manufacturing constrains or re-designing is required and remove the bottleneck to increase the flow.

    One month:
    Second stage involves down the line people to identify the bottleneck in different areas and also to identify root cause & planned corrective action.
    Discuss with top management to facilitate the entire requirement decided by cross functional team.

  47. Jim P

    September 19, 2013 - 7:19 am

    I’ll make a comment to stir up the pot. I don’t know if I would do this, but the object here is to exchange ideas. So…
    On my first day there, I would fire somebody.
    Although we all know how valuable an asset the workforce is, in this case, they don’t seem to be worth all that much. Look at the facts: they are dis-engaged, and don’t give a d*mn, and 4 out of every 10 pieces they produce are garbage. Doing a gemba, or starting ANY kind of new program, with a workforce who doesn’t care, will be perceived as ” Oh god. Here we go again. Another BS management program. Wake me up when the meeting is over.”
    They need a shock to the system. Need to understand that the new VP is serious.
    Then, when you begin on Tuesday, people will pay attention and be more participatory.
    Does this tactic use fear as the motivator. No doubt!
    Is that a bad way to go? 99% of the time: you bet!
    But this picture has been painted so dire, that maybe this is that 1% of the time.
    And, if I am also a stockholder in the company, don’t I like this approach?

    Well, I said I wanted to stir the pot. Did I?

    • Sam Becktel

      September 21, 2013 - 12:18 am

      If you are going to fire someone, clearly it should be the CEO, since he/she is ultimately responsible for the management system that this company is saddled with and the level of business results it is achieving.

      If the workforce isn’t “worth all that much” the reason clearly lies at the feet of executive management, not the workers.

  48. Jim P

    September 19, 2013 - 7:36 am

    BTW, there is another discussion currently running within the “Lean CEO” group on LinkedIn, and that deals with why it is hard to get employees involved in programs ( in this case, strategic thinking ). It is an excellent parallel discussion to this one, and I suggest that anyone who can access that group, and that particular thread, do so.

  49. Javier

    September 19, 2013 - 8:03 am

    First thing I will do is to understand what my objectives are from my boss, evaluate and align my direct team, implement sqdc boards on the floor- with training of course- identify leaders , true leaders from the production floor and or management, train them on both lean and six sigma, myself to lead a couple of improvements for them to see how and why it works, implement 3 level meetings as a minimum and most important open door policy if someone wants to talk to me on top of my looking for feedback, I will celebrate small victories at the beginning, it’s amazing how far a nice luch can last on people…..

  50. Marco

    September 23, 2013 - 7:16 am

    Lots of great thing being said. Here is my 2 cents on it.

    -First thing for me is to clearly understand the meaning of the metrics : is it only one of our customers bringing us down, is it general, do we have specs issues with some customers, what is slowing down shipping process, are we producing everything we need to ship, are we using all our resources to solve this…

    -Second is to get on the floor and see it for real. Numbers talks but you need to see it and feel it. By feeling it I mean asking question to the shop floor : operation ,maintenance, technical services, distribution, R&D …

    -Third is to see what kind of system is there to support and start changing it to support the upcoming changes. There is nothing like introducing the same change over and over again because the system are not supporting them and we keep going back to old habits. Whether it is management or communication system, it needs to be revised so you can coached everyone into the “change” journey.

    – Fourth is to assess what are the short and long terms goals with CEO first and then with staff. And hold people accoutnable on the tactic approach of goal alignment.

    – Fifth is to improve flow and built in quality which I think are the two areas of focus needed for the issues in that company. Are they the only one no, but I prefer a management philosophy based on focused effort than using continuous improvement as a toolkit.

    – Money will come back after 🙂

  51. Drew

    October 11, 2013 - 2:27 pm

    First, I will think about the vision for the company. While I am thinking about that, I will meet with my leadership team and give them my expectations. Whether it is I or a third party, a lean assessment needs to be performed in order to set a baseline. The newly established baseline will allow the team to put a plan in place with realistic obtainable goals along with a couple of stretched ones as well.


    November 17, 2013 - 1:05 am

    Being an change agent, I would start with Gemba walk and interactions with team. Calibrate the current state and identify GAP in it. Slowly take the team to get involved in small group actitivites followed by a strong sustainment plans. Draw a clear picture of next three years of plan in view of the management expectation and introduce strategy deployment to strive and achieve breakthrough results. Get the team aligned with yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly tasks to persuive strong lean tranformational activities like 5S, Kaizen blitz, OJT, etc. Develop trainers, facilitators, leaders who are capable to continue this journey on their own.

  53. Ed Eusery

    November 24, 2013 - 10:09 am

    While understanding the history is extremely important, it shouldn’t steer you into quickly moving towards pushing countermeasures into the organization until you have a solid grasp on the “What is happening today”. Understanding the Current Situation should always involve speaking with those associates both direct and indirect who are at and involved in the Value that’s being created. I say it this way because we should not leave out those processes that feed information to those at the Gemba because in the value stream mindset, waste can be generated their as well. Your review should also involve not only resources such as people, equipment etc., but a solid understanding of the requirements of the customer. Your investigation should be thorough enough that after spending time at the Gemba, their should be no problem with drawing up a Current State Map which highlights your findings. At this stage in the game, you should understand the Strategic Direction the company is heading and a good understanding of its Current State. (Don’t forget that spending time at the Gemba should not only be in the eyes of the employees but also the leadership.) at this time, I like to see if the objectives of the company are directly linked to the continuous improvement actions on the floor. I say this because I hear all to often that everyone should go on a waste cutting blitz. Although the idea is not a bad thought, the waste cutting should primarily be linked to the strategic objectives of the organization. This is where some companies give up because they expense a lot of resource $’s with minimal benefit. The process I use is the SQDC process which is the ‘link’ between the two. This would be my first step which could last between 2 – 4 weeks of deep investigation. Thanks

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