Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#TWI used to make Construction more #Lean a @linkedin discussion

In that LinkedIn discussion, the TWI programs have been used with great results (both bottom line AND, more improtantly to me, with respect to the people side of the work). Furthermore, here are three nice questions Mark Warren provided as a sort of quick coaching process to introduce the J programs. Thanks Mark!

The act of going to the work is a “Learning to See” exercise to get people in the habit of looking for problems. Then asking a few questions.

  1. Do you have a process? (No – map the process and develop a job breakdown sheet to train staff doing the job. Yes – question 2.)
  2. Do you follow the process? (No – use JR to understand why. Is it a personal issue, or are they not following the process because of other reasons? Yes – question 3)
  3. Is the process capable? (No – start with JM, however more complex tools may be necessary to resolve. Yes – what did you overlook?)

via Just completed a mammoth TWI implementation on a large construction project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 36% productivity improvement within 6 months. TWI is fantastic in the construction industry. | LinkedIn.

Don’t teach #Lean

genchi genbutsu

Now, thinking about it, how long have companies been trying to replicate Toyota? That’s easy fact to find: get the publication date of “The machine that changed the world” from Womack, Jones & Roos: 1991.


It’s been 21 years that people try to teach Lean. And few succeed. Yet the teaching and education business is longer than that. Should we have known a bullet-proof way of teaching, we’d know by then, don’t you think?

So, instead of trying to find the root cause of why Lean teaching fails (besides, it doesn’t really fail: it’s just that knowledge learned that way cannot be put into motion), let’s turn to what works instead. What do successful Lean coaches tell us about turning a company Lean? It simple, and I guess anyone in the Lean business knows it:

現地現物 !

Or, as I read elsewhere:

Go to the real place, look at the process, talk to the people.

Why does teaching Lean doesn’t work?

Trying to teach as systemic a thing as Lean is very difficult. Every single tool or practice is connected to every other one: Just in Time helps with flow, but also raises problems (that the purpose, by the way!), so you can see them, but you’d need visual performance management board as well, which means you need to learn and practice Five Why’s root cause analyses, Pareto, and Ishikawa. So, you’d discover that your training is lame (Job Instruction!), your batches are too big and because your die changeovers are too long, so you must SMED them, and so on.

So, when someone’s trying to teach Lean, they’re mainly trying to have some square pegs forced into round holes. The peg being the Lean material, and the hole being the people’s brain they’re trying to indoctrinate. People will have a hard time making sense of their knowledge with what they have in production. Teaching them is also mostly diverting their mind from where the true work needs to be done: the floor (gemba).

So between using new and non-practical knowledge or continuing to do what they’ve already done (and that they perfectly know how to do from their perspective), what do you think they will do? They will continue to do business as usual of course!

So, what to do about Lean knowledge?

Should we stop teaching Lean? No, of course, otherwise we’d be short of Lean experts someday. But what’s important is that the ones having Lean knowledge don’t try to push it onto people (besides, pushing isn’t the best Lean practice, by the way), but they must try to have people pull knowledge. And not pulling knowledge from the mind of their Lean consultant, but from their own! Which means the Lean consultant must change job and become a Lean coach. The role of a coach being that of a guide that doesn’t give solutions, but helps and encourages on the path to understanding. Of course, the Lean knowledge of the coach is useful: it helps him/her to ask the good questions at the most efficient moment so that the people can discover and learn Leanin the context of their own work.

Here’s one example of what I meant by the diatribe above: Michael Ballé’s one of the most respected Lean coach on the planet, but it took me quite some years to fully understand what he meant by repeatedly and bluntly telling people (like myself!) to go back to the gemba and work there. But for people like me that are more interested in learning than in producing, that wasn’t pleasant a discourse as I wanted it to be.

Now I know how I can have learning AND teaching at the same time: by going to the gemba and patiently and relentlessly showing the direction of Lean to people, but by coaching them to discover what would work best for them, in their own context. Hopefully, I have different tools in my toolbox to help me along the way, like Appreciative Inquiry to work out with people why do they do what they do, Solution Focus to help them remember what do they do that already works for them from a Lean perspective or Systems Thinking to nudge them into considering the whole system rather than just their silo and have them get out of their own way to truly build that systemic way of the company by 1) going to the real place, 2) looking at the process and 3) talkig to the (other) people.


Rigidity is acting like a hardener on Agility – is #Lean concerned?

October 2nd, 2012 Posted in Lean Tags: , ,

Any rigid element inside a system acts as a hardener which solidifies the system’s agility. Indeed, a rigid element forces the rest of the system to organize around itself, for two reasons:

  1. because it won’t change (it’s rigid!)
  2. because others can change (they’re agile!)

So in the end there’s a risk of the system rigidifying in circles around the initial rigid element and coagulating to death (there’s another possibility: that the rigid element gets circumscribed and ejected from the system).

What’s sure is that agile systems need to invest a part of their energy into constantly eradicating rigid elements for otherwise they risk coagulation. And, until the whole society becomes agile, there’s a host of rigidity out there that waits to fall prey on agile systems!

#GTD: the power of paper a @nytimes paper

September 18th, 2012 Posted in GTD, Lean Tags: , , , ,

Here’s a paper on the power of paper over digital (IT) stuff when it comes to getting things done. Obviously, the same goes with Lean Visual Performance Management: when you have it on paper in front of your face all day long, including physically writing your performance (in good: yay! or in bad: yuck!), it makes a huge difference.

Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being #engagement #motivation

I just found this article on the topic. Looks great, will read it later.

The original web site redirects now to Self-Determination Theory which is a concept that has been integrated into Motivational Interviewing which I used in my paper regarding coaching executives into Lean Management without raising resistance.

Will speak at LKFR12: Hands-on experience on Strength-based Kanban: a Metaphor and Tool to boost your lean implementation coaching skills #lkfr12 #lean

I will be a speaker there along with David Shaked from Almond Insight.

You can read about our common presentation (and that of others) on the LKFR Speakers page. We intend to do a highly interactive sessionà la workshop where we hope attendees will get back home with a huge number of ideas that will work for them.

Our intervention will be a “Hands-on experience on Strength-based Kanban: a Metaphor and Tool to boost your lean implementation coaching skills.”

The agenda and list of speakers is incredible, make sure you come exchange with us!

Reblog: Dan Jones: Five years into lean » The Lean Edge

August 20th, 2012 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Just read the following on a summer blog entry of Dan Jones. This is a rather simple explanation of what’s everybody’s role at all hierarchical levels in a Lean company:

[…] By then I would expect top management to be setting the direction for lean, middle management to be focused on streamlining their value streams and the front line to be deeply engaged in problem solving.

Although this is simply expressed (as is typical of someone’s wise in any field as Mr Jones is in Lean), this has profound implications:

  • top management being able to 1) devise a strategy that is coherent with Lean principles (not black magic, though some strong character is necessary to stick to some consistent True North) 2) deploy it “properly”, using Hoshin Kanri to embark all levels of the organization, and not trump any motivation by unilaterally imposing it
  • middle management being able to 1) identify value streams 2) connect the streams transversally through the organization and most importantly 3) communicate with one another to make improvements possibles. This is what A3 thinking is about I guess…
  • base employees being able to kaizen, kaizen, kaizen all the time so as to make the value streams identified above pull and approach one piece flow as much as possible.

Of course, this works if top management coaches middle management to do that VSM stuff (value stream mapping) and A3 thinking, most importantly with proper nemawashi (going to see all middle management involved, and any necessary stakeholders so as to devise the final solution with them, not without them). And middle management to coaches base employees into doing kaizen all the time and ensuring learning occurs (standards get improved to as not to forget and not to fall back). In the end, employees work so as to produce basic indicators related to Safety, Quality, Delays and Costs that are reviewed by top management to inform the top strategy (feedback)…

Read the rest of the article here: Dan Jones: Five years into lean » The Lean Edge.

Reblog: Increase Your Team’s Motivation Five-Fold – Scott Keller – Harvard Business Review

Well, this is exactly what Appreciative Inquiry or Solution Focus is about. I’m really glad some kind of research has been done to put a number on it. Five times more commitment for a self-designed change vision, when compared to a top-down one.


Remember this number!

Conversely, it also means that the current way people see their situation is FIVE times more appealing to them than the change you might propose. Meaning that if you want to impose your ideas, you’ll have FIVE time more work to do to turn them over.

The article states that some company that made “people write their own lottery tickets” took twice the time to do so.

That mean that by investing TWO you get FIVE (a 2,5 investment). Not a bad deal when you know that you are the one that need to invest FIVE otherwise! So, the deal is:

  • Give FIVE or
  • Give TWO and get FIVE.

See original article here: Increase Your Team’s Motivation Five-Fold – Scott Keller – Harvard Business Review.

Reblog: Metrics in Lean – Alternatives to Rank-and-Yank in Evaluating People | Michel Baudin’s Blog

August 16th, 2012 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s a nice article from Michel Baudin about evaluating employees.

Metrics in Lean – Alternatives to Rank-and-Yank in Evaluating People | Michel Baudin’s Blog.

I like most of what’s written there, though I’m still wary of just evaluating. Couldn’t we yank (pun intended) the evaluation process altogether?

My arguments in support of this are that, like Deming said, most problems are process related (being into Systems Thinking, I’d also say that most are system related as well). So, how could you evaluate someone when their individual performance only accounts for 5% in their result?!

I’ve come to know that some companies try to evaluate teams rather than individuals. I see clear benefits from that, though the main drawback being that people can hardly stand out when they would like to. But it might be a matter of adapting to that kind of evaluation and seeking peer recognition rather than management’s. Some of the benefits are:

  • better intra-team collaboration and exchanges
  • fewer competition among team members (which is often detrimental to overall performance)
  • better sense of purpose since people share something and can feel contributing to something bigger than themselves (the team) – a highly motivating factor
  • (gentle?) peer pressure so as not to be caught sky glazing, though I’m not sure this really is a benefit (surely in the eyes of traditional management, but not necessarily in employees’ mind…)

All in all, I have it that a poor performing individual is mainly a management problem:

  • has the employee been hired for the wrong reasons?
  • has the employee been hired on wrong criteria for the job?
  • did management provided adequat support for making that person thrive in his job?
  • did management do his duty so as to keep that person in the job she was hired for?
  • is the person still adapted/willing to do the job she was hired for in the first place? Maybe this is time for her to move elsewhere in the organization… to a place she’s willing to go!
  • etc.

Of course, there are new challenges with taking care of people that way, namely that you can’t just put people where they would like to be if they don’t have the required skills. But you can surely devise a cleaver way of slowly prepare the persons for their new activities. Of the cost involved to do so, you’ll also gain a highly motivated workforce that will fight for their own benefit, which, incidentally, will coincide with that of the organization. Priceless, isn’t it?

Isn’t that a win-win approach to be sought for?


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