Thursday, November 12, 2009

Are you being S.M.A.R.T. ????

I often ask this exact question in my A3 classes as I'm teaching different problem solving methodologies. A lot of times I get peculiar looks and participants are waiting for a punch line.8) In my opinion being SMART is necessary to create a solid A3 story using PDCA and the 8 steps of Problem Solving. So what is it you may ask?

S- Specific
A- Achievable
R- Realistic
T- Timely
When you are creating your A3's you must go to the Gemba, gather facts/data, involve the team members on the process, and remember your "SMART" goals within each step.

  • You may ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish in your problem solving activity?
  • Why your trying to accomplish it, and how it relates to the company. (Purpose)
  • How you are going to accomplish it? (How much and By When)
  • Don't use words like - "Some" or "Many", a good trainer will always ask you, "How many?" etc.

One of the first things my Japanese trainers taught me in Problem Solving was, "Tracey san, if you can't measure don't do it". Meaning if you can't quantify your GAP how do you know how effective your countermeasures are? Part of being specific is determining a quantifiable GAP in Step 1, therefore you are measuring on the right side of the A3 if you are addressing the root cause.


How are you setting your goals when your problem solving? Are they within your control or influence? Are you relating/aligning them to a key performance indicators within the company? (Quality, Safety, Productivity, Cost). When you set the targets/goals they need to be attainable with a slight "stretch" to them ensuring you are always thinking about continuous improvement or raising the bar on yourself. 8).


Some may refer to this as "do-able". It's not realistic to set goals that can't be met due to lack of resources or possibly skill set at the time. You want the Problem solving experience to "push" or "stretch" someone as they are learning, but not frustrate them to the point of giving up. Sometimes there is a fine line. It is up to the mentor to assist with what is "do-able" at times by knowing their people.


Set a proper time-line for the goal or a target, for example by the end of the week, year, month, in 3 months, 90 days etc. Coming up with a solid goal gives you a time-line to work with.
If you don't set a time, the commitment become too nebulous, or it tends not to happen because you feel you have forever to solve the problem. Without a time limit, there's no urgency to start taking action now.
Time-lines must ALSO be measurable, attainable and realistic.
Everyone can benefit from goals and objectives if they are SMART about them when they are problem solving. So the next time someone asks you if your SMART you can say, "As a matter of fact--I am"....

Until next time

Tracey Richardson

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How to enhance the Visualization of your A3 with Tools

So let's review...... I did a previous blog post on A3's. So what are they? Go here:
When developing/creating an A3 report (11 x 17 size of paper) its often useful to embed different types of "A3 tools" to assist the reader in quickly visualizing the problem your trying to solve. Many people are "visual" learners and with the rapid pace of the work day its efficient to quickly see the problem, rather than read through a long report to find it out "what I need to know".
So which tools are most often used?
  • Bar Graph
  • Line Graph

  • Pie Charts

  • Pareto Charts

  • Fishbone(brainstorming & cause/effect)

  • Tree Diagram
What do these tools show and when should you use:
Line and Bar are a similar tool; it really comes down to preference. These 2 tools are often used to quickly see trends, peaks, and valleys in the data that may alert the reader to an "out of standard situation". The Line graph can be used to show progression of an idea, countermeasure or solution implementation that is progressing in different stages. The X and Y axis of the bar graph can be interchangable depending upon your data. Many instances you see the months of a year across the bottom X axis.
Pie Chart is a useful tool in showing contributions of each particular component as it pertains to the whole. A pie chart is also kin to the pareto chart. Instead of the accumulative line graph attached its accumulating the space taken up within the circumference of a circle in the form of angles. So you are accumulating the angle degree of each as it contributes to the full 360 degrees of the complete circle. If you were drawing a pie chart and wanted to ensure accuracy you would need a protractor. 8).
Pareto Chart is a useful tool that allows the reader to select the focus item first on the bar graph. A pareto is known for its descending order format, and a line accumulation showing how each of the problems contribute toward 100% of all the problems. See the visual below.

Notice the last bar is a little higher than the next to last. Why is this? A typical pareto will show a misc. or other bar at the end, which is a compilation of the "onesy and twosey's" put together. As a rule its always at the end, this way you graph isn't drawn out with many very small contributors to the problem.

Fishbone Diagram is a tool used to categorize/breakdown problems. There are 2 different types of Fishbone Diagrams:
1. Brainstorming Fishbone - shows the categories (Man , Method, Material, Machine) by brainstorming the "direct cause" of the problem only. (1 cause or 1st cause). There is no cause/effect relationship "drill down" in this version.

2. Cause and Effect Diagram - actually drills down several levels of causing through asking WHY. (5 WhY's). So each cause will ask WHY afterwards until the root cause is obtained through Go and See and Fact Based investigation. See the diagram below showing several levels of causes.

Tree Diagram is used for obtaining solutions by breaking down the problem and/or showing the relationship between purpose and means to get there. It can also be used as a cause/effect diagram similar to the fishbone above. The Tree Diagram is a very versatile tool. I've personally used it in problem breakdown (smaller pieces to the problem), cause analysis, and breaking countermeasures down (purpose/means - smaller ideas to implement from the larger) all within the same A3.
I hope this has given you a quick overview of the various A3 tools out there to be used to enhance those A3 reports. The more you use the easier they become and I promise you the reader will be 8) (happy). Until next time,
Tracey Richardson

Saturday, September 26, 2009

WHY is asking "WHY" so important?

How many times have you thought you have solved a problem just to be plagued by its unwelcomed return? This is not only frustrating for you but think of the team members within your company trying to do their job and the "same ole" problems are hindering them each day. By NOT getting to the root cause of a problem this situation can be a costly act for the company, as well as break the mutual trust between you and your workforce since a leader's responsibility is to serve their customers (the team members).

It is important to ask WHY repeatedly when visiting the GEMBA to determine what is current happening versus what should be happening. In many cases we stop at a symptom to the problem because we are often pressured for results and quickly solving the problem without going past the symptom seems to be the best answer.

By repeatedly asking WHY, you can practice the "Go and See" trait to uncover the layers of symptoms that can lead to the root cause of a problem. Very often the first reason for a problem will lead you to another question then to another. Although some label it the "5 WHY's" you may find that you will need to ask the question fewer or more times than five before you find the issue that is responsible for the problem.

An important key factor to asking WHY is to determine the Cause and Effect relationship between the WHY's. This shows the relationship of given factors or cause that lead to the given situation "or effect" that is happening with the process. A rule or practice that I use is asking WHY or BECAUSE downward as we identify the root cause, and then to test the logic we ask THEREFORE upward back to the problem.

For example:

My car will not start (the problem)
WHY? The battery is dead (first why)
WHY? The alternator is not functioning properly (second why)
WHY? The alternator belt was broken (third why)
WHY? The alternator belt had worn over time (fourth why)
WHY? Owner had not replaced belt at recommended interval (fifth why) - ROOT CAUSE

So what happens if we keep asking WHY? How do we know when to STOP?

A couple of common rules I tend to teach by is:
  • when the problem changes context by asking another why.
  • when we tend to blame behaviors in people.
  • when it is out of our control or scope.
Let's look at an example that ask WHY too many times.
I overslept today (The problem)
  • WHY? My alarm clock didn't go off
  • WHY? The clock wasn't registering the time
  • WHY? The Clock was flashing on and off
  • WHY? There was a power failure or interruption
  • WHY? Lightning hit a nearby transformer
  • WHY? There was a storm
  • WHY? Barometric pressure changes in the atmosphere
  • WHY? Hot air and Cold air interact
  • WHY? Seasonal changes on the Earth
  • WHY? The Earth rotates.
When did we need to stop in that chain of WHYS? When could we have effectively countermeasured the problem?
If you are countermeasuring "storms" or "earth rotation" you have gone too far, this is out of your control. Will countermeasuring the storm solve the actual problem of oversleeping? These are the questions you ask to determine when you are at the actual root cause.
So the next time you are at the GEMBA remember a few of these rules to effectively getting to root cause and past a symptom. This will not only help your team members but effect cost and productivity as well. Till next time,
Tracey Richardson

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Seven Mudas (Wastes)-- Are you recognizing them?

What is WASTE? What does it mean to a Company or to the Customer? When we talk about waste within a company we tend to classify it as any activity that takes up company resources that does NOT create value for the customer. Some say its work the customer is NOT willing to pay for. The problem is for many companies they do not recognize waste and tend to pass on these hidden costs. I suppose this is acceptable if the customer is willing to pay for it, but its optimal when a company can recognize its waste, therefore not passing this on. If recognized it can potentially create more profit for long term sustainability and job security. Its a win win situation for both the customer and company.

So what are we looking for out there? Do we have a process for recognizing waste?

Within the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno put waste into Seven different categories:
  • Over Production
  • Waiting
  • Conveyance
  • Over Processing
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Correction
Let's take a look at these a little closer.
Over Production happens when "Just in time" to the customer isn't followed. It allows you to produce, because you can, at a rate that is normally faster than customer demand. These products are then "stockpiled" for a "rainy" day or whatever reason to meet the need at any given time. This waste normally "hides" or "masks" problems since there are plenty of parts stored in any empty space found (Sometimes even warehouses). This is one of the worst waste categories there are because it leads to excess Inventory (another waste) which leads to increasing costs for the company and customer. Other aspects companies do not think about is the Quality control processes with Over Production, it is very hard to control versus a first in first out process.
Waiting takes place when an operator may have idle time when waiting on machines, parts, or production. If fluctuations happen in production volumes, waiting can be seen as more than process related. Entire lines can be effected by Over production, and part shortages can create a snowball effect to others in the process. As you will see these 7 Wastes are all interrelated.
Conveyance is necessary to many production areas in the form of "water-spiders" or production control logistics due to the nature of transferring parts from place to place. Many consider Conveyance itself to be muda or waste. What companies must look at is "how" we transport product or materials and are we doing it the most effective/efficient way. It's important to look at the shortest routes, maximizing space on the truck, the Heijunka (part leveling) of parts taken (highest demand to lowest) and contain sizes. These are just a few ways to look at waste in conveyance.
Over Processing is the one most often confused with Over Production. What is the difference you may ask? Over-processing is happening within a process at the Gemba (work-site) can be equipment, resources or people related. For example, if a machine/mold is responsible for cutting out the sunroof opening on the Roof Headliner wouldn't you want that machine to do it in the most efficient and effective way possible. One of the lessons the Japanese taught me was to look for unnecessary motion in equipment. In this case was the machine traveling open too far creating extra time for the cycle time? If the machine time could be cut by 10 seconds it can prevent team members waiting on the machine and add more value to the process instead. These are the types of Over processing wastes we were taught to look for in regard to equipment. Its a very common waste most overlook.
Inventory is related to Over production. Its a very costly waste to the company in regard to excess space, storage and quality control methods. Again it happens when "just in time" isn't being followed to customer demand or takt time. This can be in the form of raw materials, work in process, and finished parts.
Motion is one of my favorites to look for at the GEMBA. These are motions within the process that do NOT add value to the customer or product. These can be see as excess walk time, simple actions of picking up a hand full of screws and orientating them in your hand correctly, reaching too far or in unacceptable ergonomic positions, repetitive actions not being streamlined, and many others in regard to an operators path in completing their work or parts orientation. Sometimes motion can be interrelated to the Heijunka of parts coming down the line, if a flow rack isn't correctly stocked depending upon the part leveling then a lot of wasted motion can occur in unnecessary trips or steps to the flow rack. It's another common waste that is accepted as the "norm" at the GEMBA.
Correction means we do not get it right the first time. It's when we must recreate a product or part because of a quality issue or discrepancy within the process. It can also be in the form of inspection. If a operator doesn't build in Jidoka the first time, re-inspection may need to occur and this is considered a waste in time and manpower. If scrap or rework is high in your company then a daily go and see should be happening to determine current situation.
I hope this has helped to explain the Seven Wastes as described by Taichii Ohno.... if focused upon can change the way you look at your processes therefore adding value to the customer.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Friday, August 28, 2009

Enhancing Standardized Work through understanding the Necessary Conditions in our work (JKK)

The Toyota Production System is based on 2 Pillars which are, Jidoka and Just in Time (JIT). Jidoka is "Building in Quality" at the process and JIT is building what is needed, when is needed in the amount needed. Toyota has always had the philosophy of stopping the line when defects are found, this can be done by anyone who sees a discrepancy with a known Standard (what should be happening within a process). The lines can also be stopped by Machines which are sometimes called "pokeyoke" (fail-safe devices), in order to ensure a defect is not passed on.
Now, more than ever, in this economy it is important to ensure we are looking at our work in the perspective of the customer. If you have a set standard or a known defect rate that is acceptable in "your" company; has that standard been set or determined in the "eye of the customer"? When you think about it, if you are the customer and you have a defect on your vehicle that rate becomes 100% for you. For the company it may be .001% which doesn't seem too big of a deal right? WRONG!! What if you were that person? How does that make you feel in regard to a high quality vehicle?
One way Toyota looks at this perspective is to ensure that Jidoka is within each process on the line, they do this by a process call JKK (Jikotei Kanketsu) literally meaning - Building in Quality with Ownership. What does "Ownership" mean to a person on a process? Ownership is defined in JKK as understand all the "necessary conditions" and "process criteria" so that ZERO defects are passed on. If team members understand these perspectives then they are more apt to understand when the process is NOT to standard and to be able to countermeasure the discrepancy through problem solving or PDCA thinking.
Necessary Conditions can be items like design, equipment parameters, engineering, and manufacturing. Having those aspects understood then Standards can be written and "skills" can be taught in order to ensure the process stops when necessary and defects are not passed on.

For example: If I worked at a Sub shop and my job was to make high quality sub sandwiches for customers based on their favorite selection, then as a sub creator, I must understand my standardized work, necessary conditions and process criteria in order to make the highest quality sub possible. The equipment must be working correctly in order to bake the bread at a certain temperature in a timely manner. (not to over or under cook). Properly labeling all the different kinds of breads to ensure visual controls. A team member must also understand the necessary condition for keeping the meats, cheeses and condiments at the right temperature. The should be laid out in order of need or frequent usage. I need to also understand how thick to slice the cheese, where to put the meat, how much meat is the standard per type of sandwich, how to spread the mayonnaise, and where to cut the sandwich etc. All these items are process criteria and necessary conditions to create a "made to order" sub sandwich which meets the customer needs.

The same criteria needs to be understood in your environment as well, whether your making sub sandwiches, cars, or computers, if there are processes, people, and equipment then standards can be set, along with necessary conditions and process criteria to ensure team member have a "self quality check" giving them the authority to stop the line. I called this "Enhanced Standardized Work" which means taking Standardized work to the next level, understand the key points and reasons to why it was set that way to begin with. Standards are the foundation of the Toyota Production System, understanding their importance and following them is one of the key's to success in implementing Lean. Until Next Time,

Tracey Richardson

Friday, August 14, 2009

Strategy Deployment - What does it mean for a company?

First off, I would like to apologize for my absence in July, I have been on the road doing great things with companies implementing Lean. I hope to be back on schedule with the blog posts this month and hereafter.
So what does the term Hoshin Kanri mean? Sound familiar to some of you? It is the Japanese term for "Strategy Deployment" or "Policy Management" within companies who have defined their "Line of Sight" or "True North". The words together can be defined as:
A system (or a way of thinking) which intends to create an organization capable of sustained high performace by its leadership and team members to produce continual and repeatable results. A company can achieve this by setting Mid-to-Long Term Management Plans (Annual Plans) that prioritize daily activitites and resources by department or group. The goal is to involve ALL members from the top down who will clarify these targets and value added activity from their own departments/positions. The Hoshin targets can be achieved by continuously turning over the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Management Cycle at the MACRO and MICRO levels; checks are performed and follow-ups made during these implementation cycle of the Hoshin. This allows the entire company/organization to have a "line of sight" or work in "one direction" with members at all levels taking initiative solving problems. Some refer to this term as "Catchball". Catchball is a term that describes value added ideas being "thrown back and forth" from management to the team members and team members to the management level which help reach the Hoshin targets.
It's important to remember that a company should first define their values, mission, or goals they want to achieve (which should take into consideration - their customer) in order to understand the strategies involved in developing the Annual Plan. The Hoshin will then be broken down into Divisions, Sections, and Individual Teams. These areas will then determine the value-added activities it takes to successfully meet the goals.
See the visual below of the Hoshin breakdown process between the different levels within a company.
Another key point to remember is that "Problem solving" and "Standardization" are a key components to a Company's ability to see deviation from existing Standards and "thinking" through those discrepancies using the PDCA management cycle in order to get to root cause. The Japanese call this "Kanri Cycle Turnover". Again the micro PDCA activities that solve value added problems towards the company Hoshin goals.
How does your company deploy its strategies for continuous improvement and customer satisfaction? Has your Company Culture evolved to this level or are you still "Managing by Objectives dictated from the top? Til next time,
Tracey Richardson

Monday, June 29, 2009

Does it really matter if I "Go and See" or not?

The answer is YES!!!

I have to admit during my time as a Group Leader on the production floor at TMMK (Toyota Motor Manufacturing KY) I was guilty, on occassion, of doing certain levels of problem solving from behind my desk or at the computer. I was often in such a hurry to get my A3 written and turned in to my Managers that I would often forget the essential element in the problem solving process. I would usually tell myself-- "I just don't have time", or "I already know what the problem is". Do some of these comments/thoughts sound familiar to you? It's ok you can admit, I just did :0).

It was often a hard lesson to understand the importance of actually going to the GEMBA (japanese term for actual workplace) when your in the middle of those daily reactive moments of "fire-fighting". One of the many lessons the japanese taught me was: "What is more value added, spend time getting to the root cause, or only solving a symptom of the problem"? When we try to solve a problem from our desks we miss the experience of actually "seeing" the problem first hand, and also talking with the team members who know the problem characteristics better than we do. I consider them the "professionals" out there! This action helps build mutual trust and respect with your team members as well as the potential on the job development (OJD) opportunities with team members or leaders learning to understand good traits in effective problem solving or A3 writing process.
One of my favorite quotes from Taiichi Ohno (father of TPS) was: "Of course Data is important, but I place the greatest importance on facts or the truth". This statement is about Genchi Genbutsu (Go and See).... in some of my classes at the Toyota plants many have coined that japanese phrase "Get your boots on!". Meaning, go out to the floor, visit the GEMBA and find the facts; not assumptions and get to root cause. When you demonstrate this disclipline to your team members you are being an effective leader, and efficiently solving problems. Repetition of these actions can create a strong problem solving culture and awareness at the worksite as well as developing good habits in the way we think about our GAPS (Gap= a discrepancy in the Ideal Situation and Current Situation).
So the next time you are faced with solving a problem, and you find yourself falling into the time trap trying to solve it from assumptions or past experiences, just remember to "Get your boots on" and GO and SEE. You will actually find you will spend LESS time on your problem than chasing around symptoms. Until next time,
Tracey Richardson (Have a good 4th of July weekend!)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Process vs. Results - Which are you focused on as a company?

In Today's environment we are tasked with getting good results as a company...
my questions are: Are you using a good "process" to get there?
One may also ask: What are good results?

Some choose to get their results by luck, some manage by numbers, and most just stay in the daily reactive mode thinking they are going to get "there" one day.

So what defines a "good process" you ask?

A good process, in my opinion, has several essential elements to it. When a company decides to embrace change (shifting from traditional mind-sets); their way of thinking (the way we frame) must change too. I'm going to list a few elements below that I feel could change the way a company thinks/operates. I will say --It's simple its not easy>>> :o)
1. Does your company understand the purpose behind using a good process? (Why the need for change)?
2. Are you thinking in regard to your customer?
3. Do team members within your company have a "line of sight" (previous blog subject) to the company goals and values (Key Performance Indicators-KPI's)?
4. Does your company visualize problems for all team members to see? (not hide them).
5. Does your company have work/process standards in place to understand when there is a discrepancy from the current situation?
6. Does your company use a good problem solving process (PDCA) to identify, investigate, and solve problems?
7. Does your company use a good problem solving process (PDCA) to develop/challenge its team members through on the job development (OJD)?

I've listed only a few of the elements above(in my opinion) to implement a good process that will get you "continual and repeatable" results as a company, as well as a workforce that is encouraged to "think".
Some companies and their leadership will continue to "manage by numbers" turning their heads to their responsibility as coaches, and continue to give orders "because I say so", instead of offering development and wisdom as leaders should be.
For the short-term the practice of getting results by luck or numbers may keep them out of trouble with their bosses, but this is not the proven method for long-term growth, sustainability, or building mutual trust and respect with your team members. Just look at certain industries today that have managed this way. Do your results meet customer needs? Where do you wanna be as a company? Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What is all the fuss about 5S anyway--Is it really important?

If an individual took a checklist with them and investigated all the different "versions" of the 5S's out there we would have about 10 or 20 different S's. In my experience I've seen different words used in the place of the "original" 4S approach (american culture added the 5th S by the way) established years ago in Japan. The "version" I like to use comes from the original TPS Handbook created by Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC).

I think if a company understands the intent behind 5S then the words chosen to represent the meaning are merely a guide to explain the process or tool. What I find is that companies will implement 5S but very few people really understand WHAT it is and WHY its an important step in Lean Implementation and TPS. (See previous blog posts explaining the WHAT and WHY.)

So what is 5S and Standardization have to do with one another?

5S supports Toyota concept of "abnormality management" by applying visual techniques (visualization) and controls that enable a team member to immediately recognize the standard and any deviation from it. We can also call this Problem Identification, which is the first step in Problem Solving. The 5S condition on the shop floor or in the office can effect our ability to manage those 4 Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) -- Quality, Safety, Productivity, and Cost.

Here is a helpful guide below to determine the different levels of knowledge when it comes to 5S "thinking".

Where is your understanding as a company or an individual in regard to 5S?
Take a look at this: (OJD=On the Job Development)

If a company is really trying to change their culture in regard to Lean and using TPS tools then 5S can be a way to develop team members as shown above.

So what are those S's.....let's take a look below:

Remember 5S is a "visualization and standardization" tool that used to implement Lean (TPS). It can also be used as a development tool for leadership as well as team members across all levels of the company. So the next time someone asks about 5S just know its more than the "flavor of the month".
Til next time
Tracey Richardson

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What does "Standardization" really mean to a Company?

As some of you know, Standardization is the "foundation" of the Toyota Production System, it creates the benchmark for improvement. Taiichi Ohno was famous for saying "Without Standards there can be no Kaizen", this is so true when it comes to creating a culture for continuous improvement within a company. Often times we have to know where we are(current situation) to know where we are going (improvements or Ideal Situation).

Standardized work can be defined as:

A TPS tool for making quality products that is centered around human movements outlining efficient, safe work methods that eliminate waste (muda). It organizes and defines the major steps of the job which are important when a worker may do it differently each time. Also there can be certain motions within our work that are disorganized which lead to inefficiencies (waste) within those processes.

I can remember when I started at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) in Georgetown, KY, we had to write all our standardized work charts (STW) and work instruction sheets (WIS) before we ever made our first vehicle. This ensured we were building in "Jidoka" on our work processes. This was one of my first lessons from the Japanese trainers in Kaizen and making improvements. They consider it a necessity of our job and the culture we were in required us to follow it religiously. By doing this we were able to maintain and improve our team goals in quality, safety, productivity and cost. This has been one of the secrets to Toyota's success over many companies who struggle in their lean journey. I often hear " We don't make cars, or we dont do the same thing everyday; so standardized work doesnt fit in our daily activities". I reply by saying, "if there are people, processes and systems" standardized work, problem solving and kaizen can apply ANYWHERE!!!"

Another common myth about standardized work I hear is that many think of a rigid work environment where workers arent required to think (robots) when they hear about "Standardization", this wasn't the case at all at Toyota. If we had ideas to make an improvement to the current standardized work we discussed our idea with our leaders and it was considered depending upon the consensus and buy-in from other members and shifts. Once consensus was reached then we ran a trial to determine the effectiveness, if it was deemed an effective change then the Standardized work was re-written and everyone was trained in the new method. This was continuous improvement at its best, and I lived this "way of thinking" for 10 years while working on the production floor at TMMK. These were priceless moments in my own journey in understanding the tools of TPS.

Until next time,
Tracey Richardson

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Visual of my Lean Implementation Plan - WHY, WHAT, and HOW to Implement

I've been working on a visual of my Lean Implementation Plan, this methodology is used as part of my training sessions at various companies around the U.S. I have discussed different segments of this throughout my previous blogs.

As you can see "problem solving" is the core of implementing change within a company and their ability to implement a Lean culture. Most companies tend to jump to the "how" start with the TPS tools which usually only show short-term gains. This is because the "purpose"...(Why we are doing this?) Isn't understood totally. Once a company's employees understand WHY then we move on to the WHAT and that is engaging, involving, and challenging them to "think" or problem solve. Only then can the tools be taught and fully understood as the "whole management system".
Once this new way of thinking (culture development) begins it must be visualized and posted for all to see. This can quickly show team members their current situation vs. where they need to be in regard to the standard or --companies expectations (key performance indicators). We call this Workplace Management Development System (WMDS) and it brings together the goals of the company with the ability to develop team members in the systems/tools to reach those goals. All these processes lead a company to eliminating waste, and profits by cost control. It looks simple, its just not easy!!! You implement all these processes while managing them by the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)...these systems=success in a company guaranteed!!!!
Til next time
Tracey Richardson

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

8 Step Problem Solving - Everybody-Everyday...Is this your Culture?

In traditional Cultures only the "six sigma black belts" or "highly skilled" problem solvers are looking at the day to day issues team members may have. There are so many problems and yet not enough of the "specialized people" to go around; often we create a low morale in the workplace because team members have lost faith in management to make a difference in "their" work area.

In Toyota's culture we tend to think "Problem-Solving, Everybody-Everyday", meaning we empower our people to make a difference in their own work areas therefore in some ways they are contributing to their own job security. This is a powerful paradigm shift in how we do business in today's industry.
This can easily be applied by valuing and respecting people as the most important "asset" to the company. If we do not ask our people to think and respect that they are the "professional" on the job then we are missing out on the extraordinary "brainpower" they have to make a difference that could very well lead to improved company business indicators. This is a essential element of Toyota's culture and how they implement so many ideas that leads to improving the "cost" indicator for the company. It's not only a process the team member learns but really an "expectation" of their job to think about improvements and not become complacent in their actions.

The process used to strengthen our problem solving skills is called the 8 step Problem Solving process, some know it as TBP or Toyota Business Practices.

the 8 Steps consist of:

Step 1 - Clarifying the Problem

Step 2 - Breaking Down the Problem

Step 3- Setting a Target

Step 4 - Root Cause Analysis

STep 5 - Develop Countermeasures

Step 6 - Seeing Countermeasures Through

Step 7 - Monitor process and results

Step 8 - Standardizing and Share Successful Practices

The 8 step Problem Solving is basically PDCA, then first 5 steps of the 8 Steps are planning, Step 6, 7 ,and 8 and the D, C and the A of the process. It's a very efficient and effective way to "think", again thinking is what we should value in people.
Stayed tuned to further posts regarding the 8 Steps.
Til next time
Tracey Richardson

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What is an A3? Does your company embed this "Lean communication tool" in their culture?

When I started at TMMK (Toyota Motor Manufacturing KY) in Georgetown, KY, back when we were still building the plant, I can remember our japanese trainers discussing "problem solving" with my supervisors and how important it was for us to "practice" this thinking in our daily activities. I also remembered overhearing the acronym or term "A3" and wondered exactly what that meant in regard to solving problems. Now you have to remember, in 1988, we didnt have computers or printers in the workplace so it wasn't a well-known reference as the "size of paper" we know it to be now (11 x 17). I can remember thinking in my mind what does A and 3 stand for? (grin)
When my trainer referred to it as a "storyboard" it started to make a little more sense, and I was very intrigued to learn more about this unique methodology. I was only 19 years old when I came to TMMK so solving worksite problems and documenting them in the PDCA format wasn't commonplace to me, nor was it for the majority of team members I worked with.

My group leaders and japanese trainers quickly developed my/our "thinking" process (PDCA) and how it would be part of my/our everyday activities at the Gemba. We were taught that it was our responsibility to "think" and make improvements within our processes and area. Problems were to be looked at as our "friends" at Toyota; instead of the traditional mentality where we covered them up to make ourselves look good. When you cover up problems its guaranteed to increase costs and could possibly effect the quality of the product.
Being so young and growing up with this "culture" of visible problems, its hard for me to understand how a company could have long-term growth and sustainability without this "way of thinking". Now at the age of 40, it has become part of my life both within my work and home life; you could say its part of my character.

Toyota takes this process of "thinking" and "problem solving" to the next level. The expectation of all team members at every level within the company is to use the PDCA thinking process to tell your "story", and relate why this problem was "value-added" to the company.
I consider an A3 as a "Lean Communication Tool", to basically share with someone "how" I thought through this problem and "what someone needs to know" to understand; not everything I did to get there, which could be in some cases a very large document to read through.
For Toyota this is not respecting people and their value-added time, therefore a Lean communication tool such as the A3 is necessary to eliminate waste and can also be used as a development tool to teach others in the PDCA thinking. I've been blessed to have been "raised" in a company that expects this from its employees and to know how valuable it is to sustain long-term and development the next generation workforce.
Stay tuned for future blogs where we will dig deeper into the 8 steps of an A3.
Till next time
Tracey Richardson

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Company "Values"..What does that really mean to employees?

In Today's time you will find many companies have "posted"or hanging on their walls some type of Mission statement, Vision statement, guidelines, or what many consider to be the Company "Values". These are often placed in the lobby, production floor or throughout the office areas and can be very decorative and impressive to visitors walking through. My question to many companies I work with is: What does this really mean to team members or employees? Has the company invested time explaining what this really means? How they should "act"or as the japanese may say "behave" on a daily basis to "live" these values? When I teach Lean Culture implementation within a company I express my concern for these "decorations" on the walls without explaining "WHY" its important. (Check out my previous blog posts).

I believe a company must give direction with their selected values and "put-to- life" those expectations. I tend to call them "Tangible Actions" to the values. These actions should be something an employee can understand and integrate into their daily activities. For example these bullet points below could be considered "Tangible Actions" to the Values.
  • Have a Customer First approach (looking from the eye of the customer).
  • Having a "Line of Sight" to the Company Indicators when problems are solved.
  • Taking Ownership and Responsibility to making a difference in the workplace.
  • Visualizing the company goals and status in work areas or the production floor sharing with employees the current situation.
  • Judge each situation finding the facts using the "Go and See" for yourself approach.
  • Never giving up - a commitment to complete the task/problem at hand
  • Using a complete and timely process when solving problems (with the Customer in mind)
  • Follow a good "thinking process" to solve problems (PDCA management steps)
  • Ensure there is Thorough Communication between all stakeholders within the company
  • Develop Standards within the company to easily see problems when they occur
These are just a few "tangible actions" that can assist in creating a strong culture within a company. So the next time you see the mission statement hanging in a company's lobby take a second to ask yourself what does that really mean?
Til next post
Tracey Richardson

Saturday, February 28, 2009

PDCA (Plan - Do - Check - Action) Management (Macro and Micro)

Do companies really see the importance of those (4) letters in the alphabet when it comes to doing business effectively and efficiently? The PDCA cycle is (4) simple letters but a powerful management tool when understood by a company as a way to do business. Dr. W. Edwards Deming was responsible for creating this "way to manage/think" and introduced it to the Japanese in the 1950's when Ford Motor Co., didn't seem to be too interested at that time to embrace the concept. The original process was actually PDSA, the "S" standing for "Study"...Plan-Do-Study-Act. When the Japanese embraced this management tool they changed the "S" to a "C" to create the "Check".

When I teach this "way to manage" process I also introduce the terms "MACRO" PDCA and "MICRO" PDCA... because I think its very important to company's and their employees to understand all the dynamics in this management process, some like to also refer to it as "small scale" or "large scale" PDCA, it all means the same in the eyes of the company as long as the employees are thinking through their daily work which should support the company's business goals.
A company's first step in implementing the PDCA management system is to understand what is happening within each step of the process. Proper planning is an essential element for successful implementation. Within the Japanese culture, in general, when they are given a year long project for example, they will immediately "plan" for 9 months of that year and implement for 3 months. On the other hand, some traditional cultures (like us Americans at times), could be given the same project and we would plan for 3 months and have a frustrating implementation for 9 months because we tend to jump to the answers(the how) first instead of the problem first (the what).
A company must understand "Why" and "What" they want to accomplish each year, set company business indicators to measure those accomplishments monthly, share those indicators with employees, and give the employees the resources and opportunities to solve daily issues which contribute to the overall business goals. This goes back to my first post in having a "line of sight". This concept is in essence what I'm referring to as MACRO PDCA (business level planning as a company) and MICRO PDCA (employees solving daily problems supporting the business goals). This visual can show the micro PDCA activities supporting the business. This I believe is a key factor in creating a culture driven towards continuous improvement.

Til next time,
Tracey Richardson

Monday, February 2, 2009

What is the importance of "Jidoka" Building in Quality within your culture?

Often when I'm instructing at various companies I will ask the question. How do you ensure you are building "Quality" into the products you make? Are all your team members building the product with the "customer" in mind? Do team members understand how they are contributing to the companies goals when they build these products? These are all important questions to answer in regard to the strength of the "culture" within your company. How do you define Culture:

The basic philosophies that a given group has invented, discovered, or developed in learning to cope with arising issues that have worked well enough to be considered valid, and therefore, to be taught to new team members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those issues.

Does your company have a strong culture? Do your team members (employees) believe in the work standards and goals your company has? When it comes to Culture, Toyota isn't perfect but they do demonstrate a strong belief system within the team members better than most companies today.

These questions take us back to the basic philosophy Toyota has in regard to Standardized Work. Standardized work is present for every position on the production line. How is Standardized Work defined:

Record of best known method to perform work repeatedly and orderly in order to ensure production without waste

The Toyota Production System "house" (TPS) has 2 main pillars - Jidoka, Just-in-Time, and Standardization as the foundation of the house. Taichii Ohno often said "Without Standards there can be no Kaizen", hence the need for Standardized Work, and the foundation of what Toyota builds its production system on.

Where does your company rate in regard to Standardized Work development? Does your leadership see it as important? It's a foundational piece to Culture and continuous improvement that most overlook as a need for success.

Til next time,

Friday, January 23, 2009

Why does Lean "Implementation" fail with most companies?

It has been my experience with companies that are trying to implement lean or change, is that one of the main reasons their "lean initiatives" fail is that TOP management feels its a "program" for the workers to try, and not necessarily a requirement at their level. Some management feel they may be exempt from the change because of their experience, time in grade, or an earned title within the company. This is a common belief and a major stumbling block for long term sustainability in a company trying to change its business practices.

When a company attempts to create a positive "culture"; lean thinking should be practiced by all levels (team member to the plant president). One of the keys to a successful transition is to ensure a company has "buy-in" from your team members doing the work, and that the company explains the "why" along with the "what".

By doing this the change it creates a "value-added'ness" (a Tracey word) to the team members doing the work and they are more apt to understand the bigger picture (company business plan) than not. It's easy for anyone to tell someone what to do, but explaining "why" it's important is often left aside. The "why" should be related to the Company's Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) i.e. Quality, Productivity, Safety, and Cost. I tend to call this the "Line of Sight". When a team member has a line of sight to what the company is trying to accomplish, then they have a better understanding of what is value-added and non-value added work (waste).
Till next post...
Tracey Richardson