Robert "Doc" Hall is Inducted!

Everyone here at Productivity Press was quite happy to hear and read that Doc Hall was inducted into IndustryWeek's prestigious Manufacturing Hall of Fame. I can say, without exaggeration, that the understanding of Lean methodologies and the growing popularity of Lean implementations and Lean culture could not have been imagined without Doc. He published his first groundbreaking book, Zero Inventories, in 1983.

I first met Doc Hall about 10 or years ago at an Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) annual conference. Doc has not only been a wealth of knowledge since, but his engaging personality and quick-witted demeanor has always made a novice like myself feel welcome to ask any questions or seek insight on any particular topic. Doc has an uncanny knack to say a lot with a little, and always offered clear and concise explanations. What often appeared complex to me was often neatly simplified after hearing Doc speak on the topic.

Back in 2009, I had the pleasure to assist in the development and publication of Doc's book titled Compression: Meeting the Challenges of Sustainability Through Vigorous Learning Enterprises. This forward-thinking book discusses how we will have to adapt to do more with less as demand increases while resources dwindle and become higher-priced commodities. He shows how the Toyota model, the most successful and enduring manufacturing system ever implemented, can be applied and adapted to help identify roots of problems, eliminate waste, and create a new vision along with the path to realizing that vision. I hope all the readers of this blog will join me in congratulating Doc on this great honor.

Happy holidays to all!


The Production Preparation Process (3P) -- A True "Game Changer"?

At a recent conference, I had the chance to speak with Drew Locher about the Production Preparation Process (3P), and how it is used. Drew recently co-authored a book titled Unleashing the Power of 3P: The Key to Breakthrough Improvement with Dan McDonnell. I asked Drew: "How does 3P provide a real breakthrough? And, how does it function within a Lean initiative?" Here is Drew's full response:

3P can provide breakthrough results since it is foremost a methodology for innovation.  First, one needs a clear problem statement of a problem that should be resolved.  This can be the function that a new or existing product is expected to perform. Then, two key principles are used to expand people's creative thought process. "Biomimicry" is where examples of that function are identified in nature.  Why nature?  Nature has already solved countless problems over millions of years. This principle also helps people "get out of their box" and expand their thought process. The next principle is "Seven Ways" -- Do not simply identify one possible solution, identify seven. This stretches the creative process. The creative process ceases when people converge too quickly on a possible solution, and perhaps overlook a better one. At some point, those examples from nature are translated to possible human-made solutions, and the best elements of the seven ways are combined to form a better solution.  A third principle is rapid simulation -- to make the "fuzzy" as tangible as possible, as early as possible.  This provides the means for rapid learning cycles, which improves the solution that results.

As for "fitting in" with Lean, think of 3P as kaizen on steroids.  Instead of making incremental improvements on existing products or processes, 3P is intended for major redesigns of either or both simultaneously.  Therefore it must be fully supported by leaders in terms of the commitment of appropriate resources to insure success.  It is not for the weak of heart!  The underlying principles, however, can still be applied in many business contexts.  Consider an example of a cellular/flow kaizen event on an existing process and where major change is not possible. A team should be encouraged to consider multiple alternative cell or flow line designs for the purpose of identify a better one.  And the team should rapidly simulate proposed designs using simple materials.  In this way, the "spirit" of 3P is maintained though the exact methodology is not necessarily followed.

What do you think of Drew's explanations? Have any of you used 3P at the front end of the design process? Do you believe 3P is key to designing market-changing products?

Here is a video of Drew speaking directly about his new book:


What Differentiates a Lean Initiative in a High-Mix Environment?

Mike Elbert authored a great new book titled Lean Production for the Small Company, which explains how to adapt Lean initiatives for high-mix/low-volume environments. I recently spoke with Mike and asked him some questions, namely "What really differentiates a Lean initiative in a high-mix environment?" I'm including his complete response here:

Many people believe that Lean Production is only viable for large high volume producers -- those who produce few variations of their product. Lean concepts and methods, however, were actually developed by Toyota for their high-mix production environment. Companies such as machine shops, sheet metal shops, printing shops, and medium sized companies of all types with lots of different products or product variations with small production runs of each product are all good examples of a high-mix environment. What differentiates a high-mix environment from a low-mix environment is the number of product variations that must be produced all within a short period of time.

To implement lean into this type of environment takes some planning but can easily be done. Remember that flexibility on the production line is important and quick change over of machine tools, stamping dies, molding machines, printing machines, and assembly lines is essential. First, implement a program to reduce change over time of each machine or assembly line. Take a look at your current change over times and think carefully and brainstorm what you could do to reduce the time by 20%. Second, create a simple scheduling system for these machine and assembly areas. A scheduling system (as described in chapter 12 of Lean Production for the Small Company) using a simple visual display of removable production cards for each product will be very efficient, flexible and work very well.

Do any readers here work in high-mix, low-volume environments or job shops? What have been your experiences with Lean initiatives? What have been your main difficulties?


Righting the Wrongs of Organizational Measures

Mark Nash and Sheila Poling recently published a book titled The Right Measures: The Story of a Company’s Journey to Find the True Indicators of Its Success and Values. I spoke to Sheila on the phone and asked her: "What is the relationship between all the measures that an organization compiles?" Here is her response:

Organizations, regardless of type -- private sector, public sector, or non-profit -- should identify what they value as the overall goals of the organization.  The goals at the top (or strategic goals) are where most of the effort is focused.  Yet, to truly measure success, you must have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  KPIs are a type of performance measurement and are used by an organization to evaluate its accomplishments.  Typically KPIs are used to evaluate an organization’s success in terms of making progress toward, and ultimately achieving, its strategic goals.  KPIs should be the basis for all other measurements within the organization.  For long-term success, you need to have your key measurements linked, with direct relationship to the KPIs, from the bottom to the top of the organization.  
In the fictional story in our book, Max Housholder explains to the management team at M.E. Burdette Company how the measurements that are used to report success are related.  Relying on his life experiences, Max talks about how a construction crew and a homeowner each use the same tape measure to determine the individual success of their own goals in building a house and how in the end it is all related.  The differences in the measures lie in their detail.  All the measures are connected, linked or aligned to the ultimate goal of building the house. "Each of you in this room needs to find your tape measure. Find your sixteenth of an inch. Then connect the dots. You’ll see how it fits with the eighth of an inch, and then the quarter, half, and then the inch. As you move up your corporate structure, you’ll then start seeing how all the inches fit together to form a foot and more. If you don’t figure out how to tie the entire organization together through measurement, you will never be able to sustain success."
Her response lead me to the follow-up question: How do a company's measures affect its performance? Sheila summed up her response with:
One of the characters in our book says it best -- Chris Anselmo speaking to the management team says: "The things you measure are a reflection of your organizational values. And these values are the fundamental building blocks that shape your company’s vision and action. You measure what you value. Measures directly influence how people work. In turn, how people work affects organizational results.  This is a big interlinked circle of events wrapped around the culture of the organization.  When we talk about the culture of an organization, this is at the heart of that culture.  The organizational values drive what we do as an organization.  When we measure what we value, it affects our behavior...."
What do you think of Sheila's response? Does your company measure too much or too little? How do your measures affect your company culture?


Team Building Using the Workforce Engagement Equation

Jamison J. Manion published a book titled The Workforce Engagement Equation: A Practitioner’s Guide to Creating and Sustaining High Performance, and I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions during a phone conversation. I wanted to know why he developed The Workforce Equation.  Specifically, I asked him: "What value would practitioners gain from investing their time to learn standardized approach to team building outlined in The Workforce Engagement Equation?”  Here is Jamison's response:

The pace of change in today’s world is staggering; it’s hard to keep up with all the technological advances.  To remain competitive organizations are incessantly driven towards process improvement.  Practitioners in every field must continuously sharpen their skills to remain relevant.  What’s more, every field is becoming more and more specialized.  People aren’t just programmers anymore; there are programs just for mobile apps, programmers for the healthcare industry, industrial drives, PLCs, ERPs and CRMs, etc.  Every field is becoming more and more niched.  But, regardless of the industry, the human element lies at the heart of every change initiative.  Post-project analysis consistently confirms that human factors, more than any other single element, are at the root of poor performance and failed change initiatives.  So, regardless of the industry or business sector, successful change agents must understand the human variables involved in implementing change in order to effectively utilize their in-depth professional expertise. 
Where do you begin? If a practitioner wants to gain expertise in managing the human elements there is a virtually endless supply of literature about leadership, change management, communications, conflict resolution, engagement, productivity improvement, performance improvement etc.  It becomes overwhelming; people just don’t have the time.  They end up picking up techniques here and there as they have time and apply whatever they can.  Like the old adage says, 'The solution to any problem you face is the one you happen to know.'  It’s all very piecemeal.  Consequently project success relies too heavily upon chance and circumstances – hoping that the problems that arise fall within the solution set available.  Speaking for myself, I became very frustrated that so much of the advice available was overly simplistic, nonspecific non actionable, and redundant.  I wanted a solution I could apply in my own practice on real-world problems and projects. 
Analysis of the research and personal experience observing how people learn, how teams form, what drives behavior, and how people make the transition from involved to engaged, revealed some consistent behavioral patterns.  To simplify the patterns I built upon the work of past practitioners and applied systems thinking to define the five stages of organizational development that resulted in The Workforce Engagement Equation:
Forming à Focusing à Committing à Sustained Performance à Renewal
Each phase represents a juncture where the team will either successfully navigate the situation to move to a higher, more cohesive level of group dynamics and operational performance or they’ll stumble, experiencing confusion, frustration, and lower productivity. 
Each stage requires appropriate management and leadership interventions to simultaneously satisfy the needs of both the project and the team.  The comprehensive change management approach addresses:
·       People Needs
·       Effective Management Responses
·       Effective Leadership Responses
·       Tools and Techniques to Employ

Understanding the logic model prepares practitioners to recognize the patterns and empowers them to adapt their response to successfully navigate the phase.  Regardless of the industry or the size of the team, understanding The Workforce Engagement Equation will equip practitioners to achieve success more consistently and in shorter time. 
What do you think of Jamison's response?  How often have you been frustrated by the human factors involved in project management or process improvement?


The "Preceptor" and the Lean Transformation

Conrad Soltero and Patrice Boutier recently published an interesting book titled The 7 Kata: Toyota Kata, TWI, and Lean Training that explains why a mix of the skill sets that Training Within Industry (TWI) and the Toyota Kata (behavior patterns) teach is the ideal recipe to boost organizational synergies and enhance any Lean transformation.

In this book, the authors introduce a term -- preceptor -- that might be unfamiliar to readers of Lean literature. I asked Conrad if he could expound on how exactly he and Patrice define this term, and here is his repsonse:

After working in a healthcare environment, I became curious about its use in that industry sector. After a deeper understanding of its use in healthcare and delving a bit into the word’s origins, Patrice and I became convinced that it was an important concept that would convey a proper meaning for the English reader.

Any organization preparing for a Lean journey must understand that what they’re actually undertaking is an organizational transformation -- a true renovation of their entire culture. As creatures of habit, we know that transformation at this level is not trivial and many managers will be asked to not only do things differently, but quite possibly to lead for the first time in their careers.

When we say lead, we mean the ability to: prepare their charges for the transformation, demonstrate Lean skills (7 kata), teach the Lean skills, maintain the efficacy of the skills, and have a command of the tools of Lean and Six Sigma. This depth and breadth of required improvement knowledge exceeds certifications, colored and non-colored belts, and even formal education. Once this knowledge is acquired, however, a tacit understanding of the organization’s “precepts” becomes inherent and can be more easily spread throughout the organization. Hence the word preceptor was chosen to reflect the level of commitment that the organization’s leadership must prepare for.

The use of the word preceptor seeks to translate the word sensei into a descriptive English word. We understand from martial arts that a sensei is more than a trainer or teacher. Our understanding was that a sensei is also tasked with preserving the ethic or “precepts” of the given martial style. We felt the need to not only distinguish the differences between a kata coach and a preceptor, but also sought out a somewhat unfamiliar expression that might evoke curious investigation. Our primary concern was in convincing management that their Lean transformational efforts will fall flat without their practice and teaching of the three Lean skills (improvement, one-on-one JT, and problem solving).

Are any readers familiar the term preceptor in this context? Do you agree with Conrad's use of the word in relation to the term sensei?


Applying Gemba Walks to the Service Industry

This week, I spoke with Robert Petruska, who recently published a book titled Gemba Walks for Service Excellence: The Step-by-Step Guide for Identifying Service Delighters, about the importance of "gemba walks" and their role in improving service organizations.
The Japanese term gemba roughly translates to "the place where value is created," and gemba walks in the service industry involve management visiting the point in the service process in which customers interact directly with the organization.

I asked Robert,"Why are gemba walks important for the service industry?" And, here is his complete response:

Customer expectations are always changing, and the challenge for service providers seems to be how to get ahead of the competition.  I think every company would like to delight customers, but could use some fresh ideas.   

A fabulous technique used to improve manufacturing is the gemba walk, and it is fairly new to the service industry.  The overarching goal of a gemba walk is to help companies identify new customer delighters by engaging the front lines in a creative way, thereby providing a competitive advantage. 

You may have heard about a reality TV show called “The Undercover Boss,” in which a CEO clandestinely works as a front-line employee.  It’s usually eye-opening for the CEO to experience the actual working conditions firsthand.  The important thing about this are the changes made as a result of the CEO getting out of the office.  In contrast, during a gemba walk, leadership works with a team to study an entirely different industry. 

To prepare for gemba walks, team members learn to observe an entire service experience with an eye for those subtle nuances unique to that industry.  During debriefing, the team is asked what happened during those “moments of truth” that could potentially delight customers. People are then asked to look outside of the box, innovate, and to come up with better ways of providing exceptional experiences for their own customers.  This opens the door for engaging the heads, hearts, and hands of people who represent the “face” of your company. Most importantly, leadership asks what was learned from all of this and what could potentially be incorporated into their own service portfolio. 

Most people want to do a good job, and gemba walks is a great tool that can be used to improve the service experience for your customers.

Do any readers in the service industry have experiences with gemba walks? Were they successful? Did they lead to innovation and eliminate waste?


Where is Lean and Six Sigma Going?

I recently read a very engaging article by Alan Nicol titled What Are The Futures Of Lean And Six Sigma? over on the Manufacturing.Net site. Essentially, Mr. Nicol sees Lean continuing to expand and having "an on-going evolution." He believes Lean's most powerful strengths are: "1. It attacks an enemy we can all perceive. 2. It is a relatively simple methodology that is reasonably adopted and executed by most anyone; it does not require great skill other than some proficient problem solving."

One point I found quite interesting -- he posits that "Lean has almost utterly failed to succeed where the greatest waste exists, in the office. This is because, having been born on the manufacturing floor, Lean-thinking people tend to try to apply manufacturing solutions to office waste." What are your thoughts on this view? Do you see "office Lean" initiatives as failing  up to this point?

In addition, Mr. Nicol states that "the next Lean movement or revitalization will occur in the 'transactional' realm." I agree with this prediction, but I'm surprised he didn't mention the growing trend of organizations incorporating "green thinking" into their Lean initiatives. I've read about some positive results in the "Lean and green" movement, and I'm wondering what readers here see for the future of Lean initiatives that consider sustainability not only from a technological angle, but from public policy concerns.

Mr. Nicol believes that Six Sigma will "diminish." I think he makes a very insightful point in regard to its failure: "... the specialized team approach fails to change the cultural behavior of the business and its management. In order for Six Sigma to manifest significant improvement, the business must change the way it makes decisions." What are your thoughts on this? One of the criticisms of Six Sigma is that it relies on expensive experts, but never changes mindsets on the operator level.

I find David Rogers' book titled The Future of Lean Sigma Thinking in a Changing Business Environment quite perceptive on this topic. He especially provides some inportant information on the impact of e-commerce on Lean initiatives.


Product Improvement -- Which Approach?

Jay Mandelbaum, along with three co-authors, published a book titled Value Engineering Synergies with Lean Six Sigma: Combining Methodologies for Enhanced Results, and I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions during a phone conversation. I wanted some more clarification on value engineering, but more specifically, I asked him: "Why is it important to use more than one approach to product improvement?" Here is Jay's response:

Different process and product improvement methods were developed under different circumstances -- each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Value Engineering (VE) is a practice that is distinguished from other techniques by three elements -- analysis of functions; a multidisciplinary team approach; and the step-by-step VE Job methodology.

VE works synergistically with all other continuous improvement initiatives. It makes any project better by using a unique approach to problem solving that includes the analysis of the functions of an item or a process to determine best value. More specifically, VE systematically determines all of the necessary functions of the item or process, identifies those functions that cost more than they are worth, and brainstorms alternative ways to perform those functions for further evaluation. This distinctive approach drives innovation because it encourages people to think about solutions in atypical ways.

An example recently came to my attention. The New York City FAIRTAX software integrates 40 major systems, 3,000 programs, and 1,400 job streams into seven subsystems, incorporating state-of-the-art technologies and an advanced development environment. The subsystems are: Taxpayer ID, Returns Processing, Property Management, Charge Processing, Accounts Receivable, Collections, and Case Tracking. The amount of information that needed to be input exceeded the capacity of all existing technologies. A Value Team analyzed the functions of the system architecture, software development, hardware, implementation plan, and staffing requirements. The study produced a change in the program to reduce the computer capacity requirements and a revised implementation and staffing plan which yielded monthly savings of $325,000.

What do you think of Jay's response? Do you have any experience using value engineering?


Problem Solving and the Lean Journey

Samuel Obara has published a great new book titled Toyota by Toyota: Reflections from the Inside Leaders on the Techniques That Revolutionized the Industry. This book comprises chapters written by former Toyota associates from locations around the world detailing their experiences learning, understanding, and leading Lean culture and methodologies.

Samuel was the main editor and composed a chapter on the problem-solving PDCA (plan-do-check-act) method. I recently asked him: "Why is problem solving so important along the Lean Journey?" Here is his response:

When introducing and implementing Lean techniques, one will certainly face many problems. For example, we cannot connect processes without hitting several problems; we cannot lower inventory levels without unveiling new problems; we cannot adjust to Takt time without encountering all sorts of problems.

With so many new problems being created so fast, solving them in an effective way becomes vital to solidify the success of each step in the Lean journey. Adopting early a methodology that has been proven effective can avoid the frustration of the constant hitting or missing. In today’s competitive environment, the winner is whoever misses the least.

One question that can start an effective discussion is: How well are we using the problem-solving methods that are widely available and have been proven effective? Sometimes the impression is that we overlook the connections between the facts and always end up with the solution we had preconceived way before we started.

Another question is: Why are we so afraid of problems? In many organizations people simply abolished the word problem. This forbidden word has now officially been replaced by opportunities. This attitude tells me people really have great fear of problems. As my colleague and mentor Darril Wilburn always says, "Opportunities are taken, problems must be solved.” He reminds me that problem solving is such a fundamental and intricate element of TPS/Lean that Toyota calls problem solving "the Toyota Business Practice." In reality, the common job description of all associates is problem solver.

Because a Lean journey implies that problems will always be created, we must ensure that we develop problem solvers that truly state the problem and understand the root causes. The better we are the less we fear.

How does problem solving function in your company? Does your company use a specific methodology?


Psychological Barriers to Lean Initiatives?

Chris Ortiz has published many books on kaizen and its benefits, but his recent book -- The Psychology of Lean Improvements: Why Organizations Must Overcome Resistance and Change the Culture -- covers an entirely different area of Lean initiatives: the psychology behind why businesses avoid Lean transformations. I recently spoke to Chris and asked him, "Why are there psychological barriers to Lean initiatives?" Here is his insightful response:

Change is never easy. Even in micro-amounts, we as humans avoid change. Even though positive transformation can result, changing paradigm, breaking old habits, and discarding established routines can be tough transitions for anyone, management included. Resistance to change will come in a variety of forms and we as consultants can see it at all levels.

You can sense the anxiety in people when their work area is being changed and more severally when there is no real reason why (or at least in their minds). Front-line workers may or may not see Lean as “leaning people out.” Improved productivity and reduced cycle times may be perceived as less work, and then less jobs. Unless the company is nearing complete bankruptcy, Lean is not intended to eliminate jobs.

One psychological barrier is the concept of victimizing. Victimizing is the sense people have that the company is reducing waste with no real reason. It almost borders on a feeling of being personally attacked. People become very attached to their space and oddly enough, to things they don’t own. There is sense of oneness with the means at their disposal. Often it is the only place at work they feel they have control over. As the team is sorting tools and removing what is deemed unnecessary, I often hear from resistant workers, "What are YOU going to do with MY tools?" This is a good example of what you will have to deal with. People often find something "negative" or out of place to recognize and not the effective aspects.

This is just part of the resistance to change even if it does not involve the person making the comment. Fear of change. We all have it. We all deal with it differently. Some of us accept change immediately, some take a little time, others never get there.

What do you think of Chris' thoughts? Does his summation reflect your experiences? How have you overcome the resistance to improvement? Lean has been labeled "anti-intuitive" -- Is that a strong factor that leads to resistance?


The Self-Balancing Line Method -- The "What" and "Why"

I met Gordon Ghirann about five years at an Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) conference. At that time, he was giving a presentation at the conference about the benefits of "Self-Balancing" line method. Now, in 2012, he has published a book on the method titled The Basics of Self-Balancing Processes: True Lean Continuous Flow.

I recently spoke with Gordon about this method and asked him quite plainly: "Why should the 'self-balancing' method be implemented at manufacturing organizations?" Here is his response:

First, it is quick to implement and very flexible. This is important if you are in a start-up mode and/or having frequent changes to your processes. The laborious task of trying to exactly divide the work content evenly is eliminated. With Self-Balancing, adding or removing work content does not cause your line to go out of balance, nor does adding or removing operators.

Second, even if your line is fairly stable, Self-Balancing has consistently been over 30% more productive than traditional line-balancing methods. This occurs mainly because all operators are allowed to work to their full potential (with all their natural variances), and the wasteful process of repeatedly setting the unit down between operators (only to pick it up later) is eliminated. The hand offs between operators with Self-Balancing promotes teamwork and communication, as well as breaking up the dehumanizing and repetitive work normally associated with assembly lines.

Finally -- but there are many more -- you should implement Self-Balancing because it works. Whether it is an assembly line, service operation, or moving anything one piece at a time between people... it works, Traditional line balancing has many flaws, and is not designed to create continuous flow; never has, never will. Self-Balancing was developed to create flow. It has a bias for flow. Anything short of that is not Self-Balancing, and seeing true continuous flow for the first time is a beautiful (and nearly perfect) thing. It's what you have been waiting for.

What do you think of Gordon's remarks? I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has used the Self-Balancing process and whether it has produced greater results than other line-balancing methods. How has it affected inventory and variation?


What is 3P and Why Should I Use It?

I recently spoke with Allan Coletta, who is the author of a new book titled The Lean 3P Advantage: A Practitioner's Guide to the Production Preparation Process, and asked him directly: "What is 3P and why should it be used when developing new products?" Here is Allan's full response:

Lean 3P (Production Preparation Process) is an event-driven process for developing a new product concurrently with the operation that will produce it. 3P is a game-changer that results in better products that require less initial capital investment and lower ongoing costs.

Previously, Lean had been largely relegated to fixing existing problems in our manufacturing plants. 3P takes Lean principles upstream into the new product development arena, and applies them liberally at the point in the process where they can have the most influence on both product and operation. Enormous advantages are created by deeply understanding customer needs and developing alternative designs that will create breakthrough benefits. Time is no longer spent trying to fix “baked-in” problems.

New products and new operations require many functional groups working together, but traditional development is typically a series of successive sub-optimizations and hand-offs. Time pressure and a passion to quickly reach a design decision squashes innovation.

Lean 3P brings stakeholders together and sequentially takes them through a process where products are developed alongside of the manufacturing operations. Design engineers interact with process engineers, marketing, and research & development team members; each declaring their preferences and capabilities and developing alternative options against agreed criteria. Manufacturing and maintenance teams weigh in with preferences for operability and maintainability, standardization, ergonomics and flow.

The Lean 3P advantage is about rapid learning, collaboration, and innovation, and it works with new or established products and on any sized project. Companies in virtually every industry are applying Lean 3P to drive competitive advantage.  

Why do you think of Allan's thoughts on 3P? Have any of you applied 3P when developing new products? What were the results?


GE Goes Lean In Louisville

This very interesting article about GE Appliances' new hybrid water heater manufacturing facility in Louisville, Kentucky was just posted on the BuildingOnline site yesterday. Other than the potential to create 1,300 jobs in the USA by 2014, this facility has the distinction of producing the first GE Appliances' product -- the GeoSpring™ Hybrid Water Heater -- "designed and built using Lean manufacturing principles."

Although the piece mainly focuses on the benefits of the new product, it does point out that the that Lean initiative there"uses a cross-functional team of employees - including hourly manufacturing workers - to design the product and the manufacturing process." I'd actually be quite interested to hear more about the leadership and strategy that exists within the facility because these are the areas that sustain the initiative for the long term. It's up to the leadership now -- right at the beginning -- to build and hone the continuous-improvement culture throughout all areas of the facility. The application of some waste-reducing tools will generate some initial improvements and foster teamwork, of course, but it's the example set from "top down" that reduces that risk of the initiative stalling after a short period.

What do you think of GE Appliances' plans for this new facility? What do you think will be the key factors to a successful Lean system at this new manufacturing plant?

Here's a GE-produced video that focuses on the collaboration and teamwork at this facility:


The Denver Health & Hospital Authority -- The Results Are In

Over on the Hospitals and Health Networks site, I read this great article about the Denver Health organization's incredible benefits resulting from its six-year Lean journey. Patricia A. Gabow, CEO of the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, believes the $135 million financial benefit since 2006 is a result of the adoption of Lean management techniques. In addition, in 2011, the hospital evidently saw "$46 million in financial benefits from Lean projects."

Other than the amazing benefits discussed in the article, I found this detail quite interesting: "There are 16 value streams and an organized method for picking improvement projects. Some are short term, others extend over multiple years, such as revenue cycle, the OR and community health. Each value stream has an executive sponsor and a steering committee that meets monthly. Gabow reviews metrics for all of the value streams and rapid-improvement events every month."

What do readers working in the healthcare industry think of this format for value stream maps? Are your maps used in the same fashion?

After winning the coveted Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence (the first healthcare organization to achieve this feat) , Denver Health now offers its own Lean Academy. Check out the video presented at the Shingo Award ceremony:


Lean and Agile Software Development: How Do We Make It Happen?

Recently, I had the chance to speak in person with Michael Levine, author of a new book published this past December titled A Tale of Two Transformations: Bringing Lean and Agile Software Development to Life. His book provides entertaining and thought-provoking guidance on making organizational change.

I asked Michael about one of the paradoxes of bringing Agile software development into organizations -- Although Agile preaches the centrality of the self-managed team, in practice many Agile migrations are imposed top-down by strong-willed executives. Can this really work? Here is his response:

Organizations vary dramatically from each other, and these variations must drive the approach to introducing Lean and Agile techniques effectively. An organization that is performing adequately and for which the risk of disruption is high must be addressed differently than an organization that is performing unacceptably and for which change is urgent.

That is why I draw out two approaches to change: Drive People, a top-down approach focused on processes and tools, and People Driven, an enabling approach focused on people, learning, and organizational design.

Ultimately agile success depends on becoming People Driven – aligning the skills and perspectives of the team members to the work at hand, with broad understanding and embrace of Lean and Agile principles. Some organizations can begin their Lean/Agile journey with a low-risk, gradual People Driven approach from the start; others do not have the capability or the time and need the kick-start of a Drive People approach. Both can work, so long as the end-game is a self-sustaining, continually improving People Driven culture.

What do you think of Michael's points? Do any readers who work in software development have any opinions or experiences to share in regard to Agile software development in a Lean organization?


The Visual Author

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a healthy and happy holiday season.

CRC Press, the parent company of Productivity Press, recently established a YouTube channel that will feature many Productivity Press authors discussing performance-improvement topics as well as methodologies explored in their respective books. I've decided to feature a sample of some recent videos in this blog post.

Patrice Boutier speaks about his forthcoming book The Seven Kata: Toyota Kata, TWI, and Lean Training here:

Robert Hafey discusses Lean Safety: Transforming your Safety Culture with Lean Management here:

Larry Fast discusses The 12 Principles of Manufacturing Excellence: A Leader's Guide to Achieving and Sustaining Excellence here:

Daniel Markovitz discusses A Factory of One: Applying Lean Principles to Banish Waste and Improve Your Personal Performance here:

Please let me know your thoughts on these videos as we plan to shoot more and suggestions are always welcome.