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Short-Term vs Long-Term: They Both Matter

Over the years, I have found many organizations the lack the ability to effectively balance short-term pressures with long-term improvement. The situation causes frustration in people because, in the end, the short-term virtually always wins while the focus on the long-term suffers. There are a number of reasons for a tendency toward short-term thinking. First of all, people tend to be measured and rewarded based on achieving current year targets much more than long-term improvements.  Another factor driving a short-term focus is the targets are right … Continue reading

No Systems Thinking in Trump’s Plans

Another difficult to quantify consequence of significant tariff increases is the effect on developing nations that rely on access to the U.S. market to continue growing. The administration wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep people from crossing into the U.S. illegally. Since many of those coming into the U.S. from Latin America do so for economic reasons, raising tariffs and pressuring manufacturers to scrap foreign factories to build in the U.S. will result in lost jobs and other problems for those countries. It seems logical then, that this action could actually increase the number of people attempting to cross into the U.S. to escape poverty. Continue reading

Improving Dashboards With The 3-Meter Rule

Dashboards are critical for a successful continual improvement effort.  Effective dashboards can drive better coaching, faster team meetings, and more effective problem-solving.  A common problem that interferes with the effectiveness of dashboards, however, is the inclusion of charts that attempt to convey too much information and are difficult to understand.  One way to prevent this … Continue reading

There’s No Generalizing in Lean

It has been decades since we first learned about the Toyota Production System and how it contributes to the company’s quality, productivity, and competitive success.  And although some companies have done very well with lean, most have struggled.  There are many reasons for failed applications of lean, but one that gets very little attention is the … Continue reading

Are We Happy With Mediocrity?

“Nobody gives a hoot about profit.  I mean long-term profit.  We talk about it, but we don’t do anything about it.” – W. Edwards Deming Why do so many companies seem to be happy with mediocre performance? People generally consider the idea of having it all – perfect safety, high quality, short cycle times, low … Continue reading

When Lean Fails

Many companies today are jumping on the lean bandwagon and expecting huge cost reductions as a result.  Unfortunately, many of these companies will never see the type of improvements they expect from lean, and their leaders will likely become disappointed and frustrated, and eventually abandon the effort. There are a number of reasons companies fail … Continue reading

A Simple a Process for Achieving the Vision

Determining the gap involves breaking down the vision, which is often stated as a generalization, into specific 3-5 year objectives (which often include targets for safety, quality, production/schedule, and cost, although other areas can be covered). The objectives are regularly compared to current performance to determine the gaps that needs to be closed to move the organization closer to the vision. Continue reading

I Already Know Lean

Although some people have more of an inclination toward lean thinking than others, everybody needs some level of learning or coaching to develop it more deeply. The conventional western approach to business over the last century runs so counter to lean that a deep level of reprogramming is necessary for most people. The problem for those leading the transformation, though, is to convince those who already do lean that, although they may apply components of it to their work, the big gains from lean come when it is understood and applied as a system. Continue reading

The Lean Coaching Script

Fortunately, there are four basic questions that leaders can apply in a variety of situations that, when done consistently, can drive the type of thinking that leads to improved performance throughout the organization. The questions are based on teaching and reinforcing a standard way of looking at results to identify problems and make improvements. The questions can be applied in a variety of situations to develop a lean mindset throughout the organization. A further benefit of the questions is that they develop the ability of leaders to coach. And this is all done real-time, using actual data from real processes. Continue reading

Does Learning Happen in the Classroom?

The difference between coaching and the classroom for leadership development is that coaching occurs real-time in meetings and at gemba. A great place to coach a production supervisor, for example, is on the shop floor in front of her team’s dashboard. Reviewing the board to understand why certain metrics are being reported, how they are being used to drive improvement, how processes are actually operating, what the metrics are telling the team, and what they’re doing about the problems are all part of the conversation that can help develop the supervisor’s abilities to drive improvement. When done regularly, this type of conversation is far more effective than sending the supervisor to a one-week course on becoming a better leader. Continue reading