Tag Archives: jamie flinchbaugh

Bending the Curve

America’s form of government, borne out of an ideal of freedom and equality, has, for all of our short-term criticisms, been the object of continuous improvement since its founding.  Adapting to social and economic changes, population shifts and growth, technological, environmental and natural resource challenges, what seems to be an immovable inertial monument is actually under constant revision and improvement.

The leaders of this charge we call statesmen (and women), persons who are able to fashion compromise between many disparate groups.  They are beholden to the voices of so many customers,  it seems impossible at times that any change could be effected.  Yet these public sector leaders are able somehow to create many small changes for the better to enable the monument to move slightly.  Could we call that government kaizen?

The State of Maine calls it “Bending the Curve.”   Listen to Walter Lowell, Director of the Office of Lean Management for Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, describe Maine’s five-year effort to improve quality, shorten lead-time and reduce costs in Maine State government.   As the program has gained traction it has become a model for improvement in our publc sector, Lean’s next big frontier.

Here’s a sneak preview podcast of his upcoming presentation at our October 5-6 Northeast Shingo Conference.

(If you cannot see the audio player below, please visit http://wp.me/p1cOUS-9n to hear the sneak preview podcast.)

The conference is just around the corner.  Enroll now and you may be the winner of a complete set of GBMP DVD’s – over two dozen titles including four new products to be released at the conference.  Hope to see you there.


Mad as H_ll

Okay, I admit, some days I get a little upset when I think about the exodus of jobs from our shores. This clip from the movie Network sums up my emotional state at those times. Take a look if you have two minutes. It’s very relevant today.   Being involved with many organizations that are prospering in our region, I get angry at the doomsayers; and I worry about the monkey-see-monkey-do mentality that has gripped much of our industry. I’m frustrated by a few experts who say that the loss of US manufacturing jobs is inevitable.

Last November, when we announced the theme of our 2011 Northeast Shingo Conference, Made Lean In America, one of those experts contacted me with a sincere request that I not raise false hopes for American manufacturing.   In fairness, he did not say that it’s impossible for American industry to compete, rather that we lack the passion to do what is necessary to keep manufacturing on our shores.

I disagree, as I see this passion in many individuals and organizations in our region.   But it’s not only about passion.    “Doing what is necessary,” requires a great deal of rationality as well.  One of our speakers, Reshoring Initiative founder, Harry Moser, will explain why Re-shoring manufacturing is a critical step in most lean journeys.  Conference attendees will also receive his
organization’s free software to calculate the true benefit of re-shoring.  Take a few moments to hear a sneak preview of Harry Moser’s presentation.

(If you can’t play the audio from this email, please visit http://wp.me/p1cOUS-95 to hear it on the blog.)

Hope we see you in October. Come show your passion, network, learn, share, steal, absorb, celebrate and rejuvenate.


Harry Moser

Blame Wars

My introduction to corrective action, about forty years ago, was a four-part form called an Internal Discrepancy Report, or “IDR” as it was affectionately known.    If material was defective we called it “discrepant.”  Maybe I’m mincing words here, but I think discrepancy implies a disagreement or inconsistency, for example, a discrepancy between your bank statement and your checkbook balance.   Funny word, “discrepancy.”   We said “discrepancy” but we meant, “defect.”

Of the four parts of the IDR it was probably not a coincidence that the Pink Copy went to the area where the defect – oops, discrepancy – was thought to have originated.  On the root cause analysis section of the IDR, the word “workmanship” frequently appeared.  Perhaps it should have been a checkbox to save time.

Before we began our Lean odyssey, I think we mostly used only one of the five whys.   Our root cause analysis was pretty shallow.   Consequently, our corrective action looked more like fault assignment.  Comments in the corrective action section of the IDR read like “employee was spoken to” or “re-training.” In the end, IDR’s were a means to round up the usual suspects.

The problem however was not really with the IDR or the word “discrepancy” (which essentially was intended to avoid pre-judgment), but with the fact that the culture at the time tended to presume guilt.  One employee warned me “Be careful if you report a problem, they may blame you.”  We had an apparent process in the IDR whose purpose was to identify and correct problems, but the actual process discouraged reporting problems

So how important is your culture to effective problem-solving?   Want to learn more about building a problem-solving organization?   Take a couple minutes to hear this sneak preview of Jamie Flinchbaugh’s keynote presentation at our October 5-6 Made Lean in America conference in Springfield, Massachusetts.

(Click on the triangle to listen)

Hope to see you at the conference.