Friday, May 22, 2015

What it Takes to Share One's Wisdom: A Q&A with Tracey Richardson

Hello Blog readers - Sharing a column from The Lean Post - out many other posts from Lean Thinkers here as well!!   

Sharing Wisdom Interview:

What it Takes to Share One's Wisdom: A Q&A with Tracey Richardson

Toyota veteran, LEI faculty member, and Lean Post contributor Tracey Richardson has written for the Post on problem solving, A3 thinking, leadership, lean culture, and visual management, among other topics. We sat down with Tracey to talk to her approach to both teaching and writing with the aim of learning more about her process of sharing lean thinking with others so that they might better achieve their business and organizational goals.
What led you to not just practice lean, but teach?
Having the opportunity to learn from Japanese trainers in the early days at the TMMK plant (1988), sparked a passion for me to go into training and development not just for Toyota but outside as well. I've personally experienced how successful the "thinking" can be, how putting people development (respect for people) first and foremost can be. I'm also a very hands on visual and kinesthetic learner, so getting to go to many gembas across industries and share with people all the dynamics around problem solving and culture is priceless. As my trainers would say, I'm giving back and also "sharing wisdom."
What seems to work best in teaching lean ideas and practices to people who are just getting started?
I try to lessen the "tool talk" and "lean talk." I think when the labels are more important than the process and thinking behind it, people can lose the true intent of why they are doing something. It often becomes more about outcomes, return on investments, measuring the wrong things.

"When you make a decision to change the way you do business, it should hold you accountable for certain leadership actions – new leadership behaviors that engage and empower team members to want make a difference in their daily work."

When you make a decision to change the way you do business, it should hold you accountable for certain leadership actions – new leadership behaviors that engage and empower team members to want make a difference in their daily work. If people have an ability to impact key performance indicators for the organization, then they suddenly have a new line of sight. They understand their role in the organization or what their role could be. In other words, folks need to be supported in visualizing their own gaps in performance and then they need to want to learn more. That's how I learned. I had a responsibility to the company to contribute to the job security for then entire company as well as myself.
In the beginning we didn't call it anything but our job. When I teach, I try really hard to help people understand that investing in people and teaching problem solving – these are the actions of leadership. It's about recognizing nonvalue-add activities and creating value in every dimension of each functional area from order to customer. That is truly Lean to me.
And what's been most valuable for you about putting what you've learned into writing?
I like to consider myself a practical instructor using past lessons to teach others to translate the learning into their world. I love the classroom. I try to hit all the learning styles and have fun doing it. I think writing can be just as impactful if I can grasp the readers' attention like I do in class. I truly try to write as I would tell a story in class. So far people have given me good feedback, but I'm always learning, so feel free to give me more so I can improve how I share!
What's the hardest about writing?
I'll be honest, writing is not easy for me. This goes all the way back to when I was a kid. It takes time for me to extrapolate what's in my mind and put it into words. When I'm in the classroom I'm very animated and theatrical. If you taped my arms down I don't think I could talk! My fear or difficulty with writing is that I will miss some key translation points because I can't always put the depth of my learning experiences into the right words. I'm thankful to other authors and writers who share their wisdom, and I'll continue share what I can. It's a process like anything else.
What are you looking forward to seeing in the lean community? What new opportunities and challenges do you see ahead?
This is a good question for all of us who are trying to improve how we teach others and share ideas. I think a really important thing to think about is how organizations measure how they are doing. We often find the scales are shifted on the heavy side of results-oriented indicators which are historical in nature. I'd like to see the lean community shift that a little – shift expectations a little – in the direction of leading more predicative indicators so people can make a difference before they get the "3 month report". It also puts the focus on processes and standards, which is important for continuous improvement to actually happen and be measured.
People get so focused on outcomes and not the processes that get them there. Embedding effective gemba walks along with good visual management – these are also important factors for longterm growth and sustainability. I think our challenges as a lean community reside in raw discipline and accountability to practice the right thing even when it feels uncomfortable. My trainers would tell me if I'm too comfortable everyday, then I'm probably not learning.
Tracey Richardson will be teaching "Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process" at LEI's Washington D.C. workshopsJune 16-18th. Ernie Richardson will be teaching "Key Concepts of Lean" and bring a "virtual gemba" to the classroom using a Landcruiser simulation (to demonstrate the Toyota Production System, Standardized Work, 5S, Visual Controls, Kanbans, Work flow, Push versus Pull systems, and KPI integration). Ernie will also teach "Gemba Walks: A Management Process for Leading the Organization" workshop focusing on what a gemba walk is and isn't and how to run one by use of a real life gemba near the conference. Use the code "FACULTY" to receive a 50% discount on either workshop at the DC location only!
Until next time, 
Tracey Richardson

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Washington DC Conference June 16-18 with The Lean Enterprise Institute- Take a look!

Hello everyone, 

Ernie and I wanted to share a special offer The Lean Enterprise Institute is giving for anyone interested in attending. 

50% OFF all these sessions below using the code FACULTY when you sign up!! 

Ernie and I will be teaching:

#Gemba Walks - which includes an actual Gemba to see
Key Concepts of #Lean using the Landcruiser Simulation
Managing to Learn A3 Problem Solving

The dates are June 16-18, 2015, don't miss out on this one time offer of 50% off.  

Any questions contact Kendra Eddy at LEI.  

Hope to see some of you there!!
Until next time
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lastest Podcast with Chris Burnham at Lean Leadership Podcast

Hello Everyone,

Wanted to share with you our latest Podcast w Chris Burnham at Lean Leadership Podcast.  Check it out.  Ernie and I share our Toyota experiences and stories of our time with our sensei's as well as today teaching others.  Enjoy!!

iTunes Link:

Until next time,
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Lean Thinking" in NASCAR- if you look close enough it's everywhere you GO !!

Lean Tools in 

By Ernie and Tracey Richardson
Owners-Teaching Lean Inc.


So Ernie and I attended the 2015 Daytona 500 this year with a little different lens than usual.   We were fortunate to receive “hot pit” passes which gave us access to the garages, and pits during actual live racing.   We were able to get up close and personal with every aspect of the race from behind the scenes.   So of course we were doing what we are conditioned to do – look for examples of lean and how each team uses the tools to be more effective and efficient.  It literally comes down to seconds, preparation, execution, continuous improvement and a little luck to cross the line in front.

As we were walking through NASCAR team trailer area, we noticed various 5S examples of how the Goodyear racing tires were being mounted and staged before the race for each team to pull from based on certain track conditions and even unforeseen events during the race.

We noticed how visual management was being incorporated by the pit crew in order to differentiate the rear from the front tires (different tape color being applied) and how to align the lug pattern on to the studs in the quickest way possible during the tire changes.  If you notice the yellow lug-nuts are actually glued to the rim to save time by the tire change pit member.  An ideal pit stop time is around 12 seconds or less to be competitive.  These visual controls are crucial for standardized work.  

As we continued to walk down the pits we observed more examples of visual controls,  problem solving and data collection which allows the teams to understand the relationship of tread wear and proper air pressure. The relationship of these are necessary in order to meet track conditions before and during the race.   If you notice the various numbers that are visually displayed on the outside tire tread its telling the pit crew what the specific tread depth is on various areas of the tire in order to grasp the situation before its placed on the race car.

If you notice in the 2nd picture these tires had been removed from the car at one of the pit stops and immediately were measure by depth and pressure to understand how the tire is performing under the current track conditions and allows them to adjust the next set if necessary.   You could consider this a leading key performance type indicator that is predictive to future tire wear and the handling capabilities for the car/team.  PDCA throughout the race.

As we were visiting various pit areas we noticed the use of a Kanban and pull system with the gas replenishing process.   They come to the pit area in a Kanban of 4, then placed next to the pit wall for quick access and usage by the fuel replenishing pit member often called the “gas man”.   When these two are emptied it creates an open spot giving direction to the pit support crew to fill both slots for the next pit stop.  When all 4 are used the support crew refills the cart to restart the process.  It’s practicing just in time.  
Another data collection point in the gas refill process is weighing the gas can before and after the pit stop to determine exactly how much gas went in and how much the race car is consuming during the race to understand when the next pit stop is necessary and to determine fuel mileage for the team.


Lastly, on our tour of pit row we noticed a wheel hub mounted on the side of a pit box for the tire changer to actually practice their standardize work of placing the lug nuts on and off in a specific pattern in order to master the timing and body placement during a pit stop tire change.   Tire changers are one of the essential parts of a pit stop, it can often make or break a team in how they come out and are placed after a caution or green flag pit stops.

It was very enlightening to get this special opportunity to see the things we teach in our sessions used so well with discipline and accountability for standard work with each of these teams.  We learned lean is everywhere if you just take the time to look for it.  NASCAR is a prime example of holding each member accountable for their actions and to always be looking for ways to continuously improving their processes.   Unlike most companies there are many more “leading” type key performance indicators allowing them to be predictive of their outcome, versus lagging and after the fact.   The next time you get to watch a race look for the lean tools in action they are there!  Keep the lean movement going—Green flag thinking!!!
Until next time
Ernie and Tracey Richardson

Monday, February 9, 2015

Got Questions about Lean culture and Problem Solving? Ernie and I will be on The Lean Post Wed 2/11 to answer questions.

Ernie and myself are doing an "Ask us anything" post about Lean culture and Problem Solving and any other lean questions.  If you would like to join in.  Visit   Will be live at 8am Feb 11th, 2015 (Wednesday), hope to field as many as possible.    Hope you can stop by!

Ernie and Tracey Richardson
Owners of Teaching Lean Inc.

What should be the "target" value-add percentage in a process?

Hello everyone, Happy New Year a little late.  I was traveling on the road all of Jan so this was my first week at home.  Sorry for the blog delay.  Trying to spread the good words of "Lean Thinking" all over!!  

This blog is a cross-blog share from where thought leaders are discussing this question--here are my thoughts below.

In the past several months I have had this question come up actually in different industries. So how should one determine or “calculate” value add percentage within a process (micro)? This can be subjective depending upon what you are measuring and how, but I know, based on my Japanese sensei’s, you can weave through a process and determine its value add and non value add content/percentages if you are conditioned to see it and categorize it. In manufacturing type work, by nature, can be easier to “see”. In M & I flow (for example) the “day and the life” of signatures needed on a document electronically, well– it’s not as easy but can be done if “go see” is involved with any primary process owner taking you through their steps.
In my infant learning stage of lean thinking, before we called it that, I was told a good goal to start with is a 70% value add process. This says that we understand with any process there can be minor layers of non value added categories (described below). Our first goal is to recognize it and second is the minimize it. For example where I worked in Plastics we had mold changes daily. It was an accepted process we embedded into our day, and the changes were part of set up or ancillary work that supported the process, but its non value add to the customer in all reality. Our goal is not to eliminate it in this case, but to minimize all the waste involved in it–so waste within waste. If mold changes were steaks we would want a filet mignon version.
I was taught by my sensei’s a tool called a Yamazumi board. This was a multi-function tool we could use for various things. This is basically a cycle bar chart in its essence, but this one is based on customer expectations which makes me back step into process capacity, machine capacity and manpower. Factoring all those in one could (if taken the time) can determine a takt time. If I have some level of takt time based on customer pull I can them determine a process necessary to meet expectations. Many are unwilling or unable to take the time to look through this lens of thinking for various reasons, some out of their control. The yamazumi can categorize a process into the various type of work it has. I’ve seen elaborate yamazumi’s the Japanese trainers would create for an entire line trying to minimize and re-balance the work to be as value added (without muri and mura) as possible. You would have colored magnets that could be moved around that would describe for example – waiting, walking, machine time, delay work, downtime, conveyance, rework and actual working time. This would be considered a “grasping of the situation”.

Once this is understood based on go and see then the challenge begins to try and minimize the non value added factors listed above and improve the process to achieve some stability for standardization. We cant improve without a standard so all this thinking helps up understand we need a starting point. If you can factor all these into a process and minimize waste to create a 70% value add process for an individual then you are creating a benchmark to be competitive no matter what industry you are in. If more organizations took the time to categorize work and develop people to see recognize the differences– the need for “fire-fighting” would minimize drastically. By determining value add from non value add it sheds a whole new light on process versus results and leading and lagging indicators and how organizations measure. When I answer the original question it can be overwhelming for individuals, leaders and executives to realize how much waste is really there and its the accepted norm. If you translate that “norm” to hemorrhaging costs then it gets “real” in a hurry! The buzz from my some of my sensei’s I still get guidance from still practicing today that 75-80% is sought after to be competitive with the kaizen spirit of always raising the internal bar. So a challenge for all LE readers is to try and differentiate value from non value add and then put them into categories to minimize. It’s really eye-opening, I promise. :) – 
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Friday, November 21, 2014

GTS6 = E3 = DNA - Take a look inside if you want to break the code !!!!

Hey everyone, 

I'm #crossblogging again :).  I seem to be writing for so many other sites that I don't have enough "home-time" to write on my own blog.

I want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to see my columns, posts and blogs so I'm sharing a link this week from

Here is a short link to my column on GTS6 + E3=DNA - Break the code to Standardization, Sustainability and Kaizen.  #greatstuff #lean

Click here to break the "lean" code :) !!

Until next time, 
Tracey Richardson