Tag Archives: Shingo Institute

The Final Frontier

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first US astronaut to journey to the “final frontier.”  Atop a Mercury rocket, Shepard launched into a fifteen-minute suborbital journey reaching an altitude of about one hundred miles before returning to earth.  His space capsule, Freedom 7, was a wonder of science weighing a little more than one ton and loaded to the max with avionics and life support apparatus. Yet, this pioneering venture into endless space would also afford almost no space for the passenger.  According to launch engineer, Guenter Wendt, “astronauts entered their capsules with a shoehorn and departed with a can opener.”   I remember watching footage of Shephard squeezing into his capsule.  The memory still creates pangs of claustrophobia.

Ironically, space constraints faced by NASA fueled a revolution in miniaturization evident in almost every innovation of modern society – from laptops to cell phones to transportation to medical devices to all things Internet.  The need to pack more utility into a small package has changed everything.  Or almost everything.  Here are some recent exceptions:

“We’re adding a new wing to manufacturing,” a colleague related to me recently, “we’re running out of space.”   As I glanced around a shop floor crowded more with material than machines, I asked, “What are you going to put in the new space?”  “We’re just going to spread out,” he said.  “This is a good time to build before interest rates start to climb.”

Another manufacturer advised recently that he was building a Lean warehouse.  “What’s that?” I asked.   “We’re relocating all of our raw material to a location that’s closer to the main highway,” he said. “We need to add several machines, so were Lean-ing out the space.”    “Aren’t you just adding more space and moving inventory farther from your floor?”  I asked.  His response: “Warehouse space is cheap.”

A major hospital requested Lean assistance to re-design its perinatal services in order to accommodate more patients.  After reviewing the current operation, I recommended that existing space could be repurposed to handle the projected growth. “No,” they said, “We’re cramped. We need more space and the budget is already approved.”

It seems that decisions regarding space are driven more by claustrophobia or perceived worth than actual need.   Flow distance may double or triple as a result of expansion, but additional space somehow still equates to growth.   More space is viewed as an investment, an alluring addition to the balance sheet, or a badge of success.   Only on rare occasions do I encounter a growing business that is interested in reducing space. Perhaps, then, space is the final frontier.  Not more space, but less.   I wonder how much Lean progress would be made if space were seen as a constraint for business as it was for NASA’s Mercury launch.

How much space do you have?  Too much?  Too little? Share a story.

O.L.D.

PS I’m teaching the Shingo Institute workshop “Continuous Improvement” at MassMutual in Springfield next week and a few seats remain if you’d like to join us. Learn more here.

PPS I’m also looking forward to presenting my monthly “Tea Time with The Toast Dude” webinar on June 20th. It’s free! The topic is “Silver Bullet Mania”. Intrigued? Read more and register here.

Ten Posts for Ten Shingo Principles

Hurrah!  Today is the first day of Spring, if a little snowy, in the Boston area.  And the 28th Annual Shingo Prize Conference is fast approaching in just one month.   GBMP will be there and I’ll be teaching the Shingo Institute IMPROVE Workshop on April 24-25.  In honor of the conference, I’ve dug into the archives of my blog, going back to 2010, to find posts relating to each of the ten guiding principles from the Shingo model.  For those of you who’ve started reading my posts more recently, I invite you to peruse a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious potpourri of posts from the last six years.

Looking for a five-minute break from your work?  Each post takes about that long to read.  Follow the links and enjoy – and hope to see you at the Shingo Conference in Washington, D.C.

ogg

Lead With Humility

Humility may be seen as a sign of weakness.  This post from early in 2010, entitled Lead with Humiliation is about a couple of my fellow managers struggling with the concept of humility.  Leading with humility can be scary for managers.

Respect Every Individual

I wrote this post, Invisibility, about the unfortunate assumptions that are often made regarding the value of formal education or lack thereof.  The 8th waste is definitely the worst and unfortunately the most prevalent.

Focus on Process

Inspired by a scene from Casablanca, this post, The Usual Suspects, from 2011 reminds us to focus on the 5 Why’s rather than the 1 Who.   When we rush to judgment without understanding root causes we poison the quality culture.

Embrace Scientific Thinking

In 2010, I had a funny experience with a young engineer’s interpretation of ‘direct observation.’  This post, entitled Being There was written with millennials in mind, but probably applies to all generations.

Flow and Pull Value

My personal experience trying futilely to satisfy customer demands with push production is described in this recent post, Bump and Grind.  The message is that a bad system cannot be fixed with workarounds.

Assure Quality at the Source

As suppliers we often feel that zero defects is impossible or at least impractical; but as customers we demand zero defects.  This post from 2013, titled Cracked, is about a familiar product for which most of us as customers will accept no defects.

Seek Perfection

Managers are often encouraged to choose easy targets, a practice that limits professional challenge of team members and stymies Lean transformation.  This post, Target Practice, was written in 2010 about an experience at customer from several years earlier.

Create Constancy of Purpose

Here are some good Lean lessons I learned while coaching my kid’s soccer teams.  Last year I wrote a post called Up, Back and Around as a reminder that when the goal is clear, we may adjust our tactical decisions will also be clear.

Think Systemically

Watching repairs to the UMass Boston campus library last June, I reflected on the criticality of improving a system, not just its parts.  Failure to do this will have negative consequences.  Long Term Sinking is a result of short-term thinking.

Create Value for the Customer

In 2012, I wrote a post about my experience many years ago accompanying a salesman to a customer site to learn some lessons about the importance of understanding value to the customer.  The post: A Salesman’s Gemba.

I hope you’ll find a few of these stories and video links helpful.  As always, your responses are a welcome indication that there is somebody there.  Want to learn more about the Shingo Principles?  Come to the Shingo Conference in Washington next month!

O.L.D. 

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Long-Term Sinking

This past week my organization, GBMP, moved from our home of twenty years at the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts. The UMB College of Management needed more space and so did we, so we relocated to quarters that will afford room for our growing staff and dedicated training space for our customers.   The occasion has given me inspiration for the following post:

sinking1I was walking across the UMass Boston campus last week, reminiscing about the two decades that GBMP has called it home. Glancing toward the twelve-story Healey library, I viewed a familiar spectacle: Scaffolding reaching nearly to the top had been erected on the south face of the building. Workers at the site explained that the top twenty rows of bricks were loose and at risk of falling. I thought of the biblical metaphor of the house “built on sand,” or more accurately in this case the library built on an old landfill.   At some time in 1880’s the city of Boston, like many municipalities, determined it would be good idea to dump its prodigious amounts of trash at its periphery, which in this case was a cow pasture at the border of the city and its scenic harbor. The area nearby, a neighborhood known as Columbia Point, gradually became a mountain of garbage, notorious for its stench and visual pollution. By the 1960s, community residents from Columbia Point hired F. Lee Bailey to help get the city dump permanently closed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.  It’s hard to understand today why the dump site, literally a monument to short-term thinking, was chosen in the first place.

sinking2Ten years after the dump was closed, the site was selected by Boston State College (now UMass Boston) as its new home. The campus, which opened in 1974, created a striking skyline against the backdrop of the majestic Boston Harbor, and appeared to be a terrific re-purposing of the former blighted site. Beneath the brick facade however there lurked a half-century of shrinking landfill. Perhaps because the state of the art for civil engineering was not sufficiently advanced in the 1970’s or perhaps because budget controls caused corners to be cut in the design of footings for the new campus, the Healey library began to sink; imperceptibly at first, but eventually in ways that required constant monitoring and repair. For whatever reason, it can be said that insufficient consideration had been given to the design of the building’s foundation. By the 1990’s the motion of the facade caused bricks to become dislodged and sometimes fall, and by 2006 the parking garage beneath the library was closed for safety reasons. Finally, this year began the perennial re-facing of the library’s facade, the event that inspired this post. Rumor has it that eventually the library must be replaced altogether.

So what does this story have to do with our Lean transformations?   Several things:

1) Without a firm foundation, there is only a crumbling facade.

2) No amount of problem solving can overcome a fundamentally flawed design.

3) Short-term thinking creates long-term sinking.   : )

Are you dealing with any of these challenges? Share a thought.

And have a terrific Fourth of July!

O.L.D.

BTW July’s Tea Time with The Toast Dude (that’s me) FREE Webinar is coming up on Tuesday, July 7. The topic this month – The Politics of Organization Change. I hope you can join me. Register here.

GBMP is also very excited to be offering the Shingo Institute workshops “DISCOVER Excellence” & “Enterprise ALIGNMENT” several times this summer in several locations – including central Massachusetts, Texas and Idaho. Check out all of our upcoming events on our website.

Senior Moments

sr momentsI was speaking last week with, Jen, a senior manager at a large manufacturer, and she commented to me, “I know it’s important for me to get to the floor, but the time involved for me and my staff to regularly visit two dozen different departments makes this seem like an impossible task.”   She was alluding to the scheduled Gemba walks, which were a component of her and her reports manager standard work.

“I understand the challenge, “ I responded, having faced that myself in my last job. I continued, “As a senior manager it’s important for you to be present both to observe, and also to show your commitment to improvement. Spend whatever time you can, but make sure you use the time well.”

Sometimes I worry about the scripted Gemba walks. Even with the script, they often look like a management posse. And one thoughtless comment or even a thoughtless gesture by the senior visitors can create exactly the opposite effect of what is intended. In fact, managers can make a very positive impact on employee engagement in just moments. It’s the quality of the interaction not the duration that’s telling. About ten years ago, GBMP produced a DVD, Moments of Truth, to demonstrate how short encounters, either deliberate or inadvertent, between managers and employees, can have a powerful impact. A short clip from that video, starring GBMP staff members, demonstrates (with a little humor of course) how important a single moment can be.

Of course, the moments of truth could just as well be positive. An employee at a large insurance company related to me recently that, after a short time on the job, he found a note on his desk from a senior vice president whom he’d never met, welcoming him and stating “I’m hearing from your manager that you’re already making terrific contributions to our improvement program. Thanks.” That note set the tone for employee’s career. It didn’t require a structured Gemba walk and probably took about 10 seconds to write — literally moments. But it showed commitment from the highest level of the organization, both to the new employee and to his direct supervisor.

I related that story to Jen and she smiled. “I can think of a few of those moments, both good and bad, that I had when I was on the front line.”

How about you? Are you watching for those moments of truth?   Gemba walks are important, but a manager’s impact can be expressed in seconds.   Please share a story about your “moments of truth”.

O.L.D.

PS Hope to see you at the International Shingo Conference in Provo, Utah next week.

PPS And don’t miss our next Shingo Institute courses (DISCOVER Excellence followed by Continuous IMPROVEMENT – attend one or both, it’s up to you) coming up in the week of May 11 at Vibco, Inc., in Richmond, Rhode Island. Register online here.

BTW: The GBMP lean training DVD Moments of Truth can be purchased at www.shopgbmp.org. Use code “MOT20” by May 8, 2015 to get 20% of the regular price.

Unreasonability

unreasonSometimes we receive unreasonable and confusing directions, and sometimes we give them. Check out this example.

As in the short video clip, even if the systems behind this confusion are sound and the motivations reasonable, when you put them together they can create a frustrating no-win situation.

Here are a few examples from my recent experience:

 At an aerospace manufacturer, I followed a team of engineers to the factory floor to observe a defect caused by what they all thought was an assembly mistake. When we arrived at the assembly workstation, the team member was ready for us. Holding an assembly drawing in one hand and a fixture instruction in the other, he asked us, “Which one these do you want me to use?”   A closer examination of the two documents revealed conflicting directions.   The team member continued, “If I follow the assembly drawing to the letter, the part won’t fit the fixture, but if I follow the fixture instruction exactly, the final dimensions for the part are out of spec, so I have to compromise the assembly instruction in order to make the part.”   Each assembly document came from a different department and each department was adamant that its document was correct.

At a small industrial distributor, a sales order department sales associate pointed to the wall behind her desk. “All of these notes and schedules above my computer represent special deals that we have struck with particular customers. It’s hard enough to remember all of them, but sometimes I have conflicting discount offers. I may choose the wrong one, or maybe I’m supposed to combine them, but that could add up to an 80% discount in some cases.” Unfortunately the conflicting instructions often resulted in customer complaints, change orders and credits involving multiple departments.

On a broader scale, managers often grapple with conflicting goals and measures.  For example, a machine shop manager whose efforts to reduce set-up times and run smaller batches whose improvement efforts are rewarded with a low machine utilization score. As Edward’s Deming put it, “You can’t sharpen the blade while the saw is running.”

I believe this can be called Muri: mental strain caused by insufficient or conflicting information. Most often this kind of Muri is internal to the organization and inadvertent because it comes from multiple authorities, each of whom feels they are doing the right thing.

Do you have examples of unreasonability in your organization you can share?   What are effective countermeasures to this kind of mental Muri?

O.L.D.

P.S. Please join me tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. EST for a free, live 45-minute webinar on “3P – Production Preparation Process”. You can register online here.

And don’t miss GBMP’s next Shingo Institute course offerings coming up in the week of May 11 at Vibco, Inc., in Rhode Island.  I’ll be teaching DISCOVER Excellence on May 11 & 12 and Continuous IMPROVEMENT on May 13-14. Join us for one or both; I must admit it’s very convenient to have two of the four courses under your belt in one week and I hope to see you there. Register online here.

all4shingo

Be Careful What You Wish For – Part II

Four years ago I posted a funny story passed along to me by a Lean friend, that dealt with the consequences of crazy measures, and how lack of management oversight will allow these measures to persist indefinitely.   It’s one of my shortest posts and worth a quick read if you haven’t already seen it.  Go ahead – rub the lamp   : )be_careful

Now, back to the present. A conversation last week with another Lean friend reminded me of the 2010 post, but this time in the context of ‘the corner office’ rather than the front line (or checkout line in the case of my earlier post.)

My friend, Al, a retired divisional controller of a large multi-national manufacturer related a story about his former firm’s CEO: “It used to drive me crazy how decisions were made,” Al said. “We ran a profitable operation here in Massachusetts, but I was constantly pressured to identify work that could be shipped to low wage regions.“

The CEO’s behavior was driven by the corporation’s MBO’s. In particular, the CEO’s bonus was tied in part to increasing the percentage of ‘foreign content’ for all divisions.

“Our labor was less than 5% of our cost,” Al said. “I tried to show our CEO that relocating production for my division’s products would increase total costs far beyond any perceived part cost savings, but he had blinders on. All he saw was the mindless objective to increase foreign content. Ultimately, we were forced to move production. And when problems with quality and delivery arose as a result, our CEO wasn’t accountable. That was someone else’s MBO!”

——-

Several years ago, I heard a similar story from the factory manager of a well-known highly automated, hosiery producer: “Our entire production line was automated save for one manual step at the end of the process to sew several stitches in the toe of the stockings. Corporate decided that the three stitches should be done in China. So we were forced to load nearly completed products into containers for shipment through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific Ocean for the last stitching operation. Once stitched, the stockings were shipped back to the US for packaging and sale.” The factory manager shook his head in frustration as he told the story. “Where are these folks getting these ideas?” he said.

So, how do these two stories relate to my 2010 post? No oversight. No direct observation, in this case, by the persons who are charged with the corporation’s fiduciary responsibility – its board of directors.   The CEOs in the examples above are no different than the cashier in my 2010 post. They were following damaging directives from absentee leadership.   The difference in these cases however is that when CEOs receive nonsensical objectives the potential for damage to customers and employees is very much greater.

Are your corporate measures working for you or do they reward you for crazy behavior? Please share a story.

O.L.D

BTW: My next FREE webinar, “Tea Time with the Toast Dude”, entitled “The Technical Side of Going to See” will offer some observation frameworks for managers to facilitate their understanding of floor conditions when they “go to the Gemba.” Hope you can make it on Tuesday, June 17th from 3:00 -3:45 p.m. EST. (Read more and pre-register here.)

Also, a couple important reminders:

  • The early bird discount deadline for our October 1-2 Northeast Lean Conference at the Mass Mutual Centerin Springfield, Massachusetts is fast approaching. Register by May 31 and receive a $100 discount.
  • GBMP will be teaching the Shingo Institute Discover Excellence Course at Alpha Analytical in Westborough, Massachusetts on June 12-13. There are still a few slots open.

 

No Respect

In the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two outstanding conferences celebrating and supporting operational excellence. This week I attended the annual Shingo Conference and had an opportunity to teach the Shingo Institute’s Discover Excellence workshop at host site Whirlpool, in Findlay Ohio. The self-effacing humility of everyone we met at the site belied the outstanding quality and productivity improvements we witnessed on our visits to both the production floor and office. Thanks Findlay, for keeping my expectations for American manufacturing high! The air of mutual respect between management and employees breathed life into one of the most important principles from our Discover class: “Respect for people.” (Whirlpool, for example, donates kitchen appliances to every Habitat for Humanity home that is built.) I’m looking forward to seeing more from the Findlay team as they present at our October 1-2 Northeast Lean Conference.

One week earlier I encountered another inspired group of over 400 top manufacturing executives, state legislators and state support services at the Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing Summit in Worcester Massachusetts. While the summit focus was on technological innovation, a memorable quote from panelist Dan Ryan, VP of Corporate Operations for Raytheon, set the tone for a panel discussion on innovation.  According to Mr. Ryan, “Innovation equals continuous improvement. Our people are the source of our innovation.” His point was not that technology is unimportant, but rather that it is engaged employees who are the creative force behind these advancements. This was a powerful message coming from a top executive of one of the world’s most highly innovative technology companies and 2008 recipient of the Shingo Silver Medallion. Dan’s comments were quickly echoed by other manufacturing executives on the panel. One conference participant from Draper Labs commented (I’m paraphrasing) “It seems like what began as a panel discussion about nanotech and biotech innovation soon transitioned to a theme of continuous improvement.”   Hurrah for Dan Ryan and the other panel executives for acknowledging the source of innovation.
no_respect

One antithetical incident at the Advanced Manufacturing Summit also caught my attention, however: Just before lunchtime, I was standing at GBMP’s exhibitor booth, in the lobby near the elevator, when a person with a news camera appeared.

“Oh!” I thought to myself, “this is terrific! The news media will be reporting an event that’s important to our economy. They’re waiting for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, to interview him about the conference.”

Then another camera person arrived, and another – and another.  At this point my enthusiasm shifted gears.   When a well-known television reporter arrived on the scene, I suspected this news coverage was too good to be true. By the time the governor stepped off the elevator and into the lobby, there were a dozen cameras and news people, all postured to pounce. I soon learned the reason for this conclave: The director of the Department of Child and Family Services had resigned earlier in the day amid pressure from the Massachusetts House and Senate. The Governor stopped for about five minutes to answer reporters’ questions and then proceeded into the conference hall. There were no questions about the Advanced Manufacturing Summit or about manufacturing. Who would care about a movement to keep good jobs in our part of the world or about the collaboration between Massachusetts businesses, education sector and government?  The was no scandal or greed, nothing potentially sensational or “viral” – just a group of committed Massachusetts businesses trying to partner with state government to create good jobs and keep Massachusetts manufacturing strong.

As the Governor broke off from reporters to give an excellent speech in support of manufacturing, the conclave evaporated. I cornered one well-known local reporter as he walked away with this question:

“Are you going to stay for a couple of minutes to hear the Governor support manufacturing in Massachusetts?”

“I’d love to but . . .”, he laughed.

“Do you know what this event is about?” I persisted.

“No I don’t,” he replied with disinterest, as he hastened to the exit.

“No respect, “ I chuckled to myself. Too bad that manufacturing gets no respect from the news media.

O.L.D.

BTW: My next FREE webinar, “Tea Time with the Toast Dude”, entitled “Going to See” will offer some do’s and don’t’s for managers who are wondering what to do when they “go to the Gemba.” Hope you can make it on Tuesday, May 20th from 3:00 -3:45 p.m EST. (Read more and pre-register here.)