Friday, December 23, 2011

You want a tangible action for your leaders trying to do Lean? Try this! GTS "squared"

As I continue to work with various companies across the United States a common question I'm getting/hearing from clients is - "What should our leaders be doing"?   To me, they seem to be looking for "tangible actions" to tell their leaders to do in this Lean environment they are trying very hard to create.   So many want a magic wand to be waved and the transformation happens quickly.  I wish it was that easy.    As many of you know this isn't the case and Lean has to be "lived", "felt", "experienced", "seen", and backed up by high level leadership walking the walk.   When I was at Toyota the Japanese trainers would commonly use the word "behave".  To me that sounded like school, but when you think deeply about an action it can be interpreted as a behavior.

So to help answer that commonly asked question above I would like to introduce an acronym I would like to coin as a quick reminder that ALL leaders should "live".

Unfortunately on this blog I cant insert the little 2 that should go above the GTS, so I will spell it out for you.  GTS "squared".   What does this stand for you may ask?   Well let's remember it and start to spread it, its essential if you are trying to transform your company with Lean thinking.

Here is the behavior :)

Go to See & Grasp the SituationGTS "squared"!!

A leader must always GO TO SEE or Go to the Source, this is a habit that is hard to create.   We tend to rely on assumptions due to our experience or what someone has told us based on "tribal knowledge".   My Japanese training would often say - Please--Go Looking!!  Some knew minimal English but we knew what they meant :).     When I do my Gemba (at the work process) days with clients they often cant answer some of the questions I ask because they don't have the facts, just assumptions unfortunately.   Only until we Go To See, we often cant get to the true. 

Once we GO SEE, we must then Grasp the Situation, which is the 2nd half of the equation!   How do you grasp the situation?   Well my experience tells me by asking the right questions!  In my courses I give out about 200 questions leaders should be asking.  We will just begin with the 2 most essential questions a company and their leaders (at every level) should be asking.

What should be happening? (Ideal State or Standard)
What is currently happening?  (current state)

These 2 questions should always be quantified!  For example:

Productivity should be at 95%

Current productivity is at 85%

This will give us a 10% gap that we will begin to breakdown and ask further questions!

From my experience as a consultant of 13 years now, I find that MOST companies I work with (even ones that you may think should know) can't answer those 2 questions because they do not track the information or they just make an assumption.   To me, because I was raised with this thinking (at Toyota), they are simple questions; its just NOT easy to do or to develop this behavior in our leaders.   Some may ask why not?  Mostly because they are running around with a fire hose on their backs!  This type of problem solving is weak at best, and surely not repeatable for long term sustainability.    This is NOT the behavior we want but unfortunately its an easy way to do business and inherently learned from above.    Invest in your people, make your leadership accountable for GTS "squared".   It works, try it!
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sometimes the simplest examples are the best!

Thanks John Shook for sharing this with me. Sometimes when I train people they want elaborate examples to learn about waste and even how to identify it. As Ive taught, waste is all around us, sometimes we just accept it as "the norm" and never ask enough questions. John shared this with me this week, thought I would post on my blog. Sorry for my absence lately. I have become a sensei on the A3 Dojo at so its hard to keep up with everything with my travel schedule. I will try harder to post, especially the good stuff from the dojo!! Enjoy the example below, its probably something we all have encounter in one way or another. Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday everyone!! Here is the link. Enjoy!

Tracey Richardson

Monday, April 4, 2011

Organizational Purpose...Do you have one?

As I am typing I'm in amazement that its Springtime already. I will admit Im ready to travel in warmer weather. The year is definitely progressing quickly and I've enjoyed my training sessions thus far at many different companies across the U.S. My last post was encouraging each of you to grab a copy of Jim Womack's latest book Gemba Walks. I've just finished the book myself over the past few weeks in amongst my teaching and traveling. I have found it very informative as I too, like Jim; try to reflect on my own Lean journey as a teacher/sensei over the last 13 years. With that continual reflection process I've realized how I coached 13 years ago,right after I left Toyota, and how I coach now are a bit different. As Jim states in his book its "hopeful hansei". (Hansei: critical self reflection for the purpose of improvement). It is interesting how we evolve and learn from doing and making mistakes. My Japanese trainer always said "its ok to make them, just learn to ask why they happen and dont repeat!" My goal has always been to teach others not to make those same mistakes I did by sharing my learning process or as the Japanese say shared wisdom.

I've decided to share selected short snippets from Gemba Walks across my next few posts that has reinforced my thinking and allowed me to learn from another viewpoint. We are so lucky that that viewpoint comes from Jim Womack and his experiences. As a consultant its always educational to internalize another sensei's perspective to enhance your own teaching methods. Thank You Jim for sharing with all of us your learning as you have walked over these past few decades.

This post comes from the first section of the book which is "Purpose" (pages 1-18).

As a company do you understand your purpose? How would you define that to others? Some companies may say, "To make a profit!" Is that an unrealistic purpose? Don't we need to have a profit to be successful? I think underlyingly it's a no-brainer that we should make a profit if we want to stay in business. I feel if we look at purpose in a little different perspective, then the outcome of a correctly stated purpose can be linked to your profits. Let me explain.

So if "making a profit and growth" is your company's purpose. Ask yourself, does this purpose have anything do to with what your customers want from you? A better way to look as this is to ask: What does your organization do to solve your customers' problems better than your competitors so that customers old and new will pay good money for your products and buy more over time. Now this is that outcome I was referring to before. If you focus on that question, then by default you will have profits and growth based on customer satisfaction. When we say "make money" that is a result, not a strategy for achieving it.

To some,this is a different way to think about an organization's purpose, as I've always stated in my training sessions that is if you focus on a good process then results will come I believe. In this case, a good process is defining an Organizational Purpose that solves the problems for the customer.

Ask yourself this: What do your customers want that you aren't currently able to supply?
- Lower price
- Better quality
- Rapid Response
- Better Support
- Flexibility

So what do you need to do better to satisfy your customers in order to survive and prosper?

So does your purpose support your goals, the company's, or the customer? It's definitely something to question and rethink if its all about the money for you.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Must Read!! Check out the Press Release on- Gemba Walks by Jim Womack

Hello everyone, I would like to share with you an exciting book that was just released by the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI - called Gemba Walks by Jim Womack. I am currently reading this book and have been so engaged with Jim's experiences and messages based on his "Gemba Walks" over the past few decades. I would highly recommend this book no matter what your level of experience may be with Lean. It's a MUST READ!! Im attaching the press release below from LEI. Get your copy today!!


New Lean Management Book, Gemba Walks, by James Womack Challenges the Prevailing By-the-Numbers Management System

On sale today, the latest book from the researcher who led the team that coined “lean production” explores why lean management is better than the currently dominant management system.

Cambridge, Mass., March 14, 2011 -- In the ground-breaking book Gemba Walks, leading business thinker Jim Womack shares a simple approach to business that will help every business leader, policy maker, and anyone working earnestly in any organization re-think how they go about creating value, delivering service, and fulfilling purpose.

Drawing on 30 years of experience as the pioneer in explaining and popularizing the Lean Management System, Womack illustrates the power of rooting improvement efforts in the “gemba,” a Japanese word referring to the place where work takes place, and where value is created.

“How do we understand the gemba?,” asks Womack. “And more important, how do we make it a better place—one where we can create more value with less waste, variation, and overburden?”

Womack provides answers based on trips to countless companies where he keenly observed how people worked together to create value, while applying the critical lean management practice of: go see, ask why, and show respect.

Value-Stream Walking
For the past ten years Womack has shared his thoughts and discoveries from these trips through a monthly letter to the Lean Community. Now, in Gemba Walks, Womack has selected and re-organized his key letters, as well as written new material providing additional context.

His book contains a wealth of insights derived from the seemingly simple process of visiting the gemba, asking questions, and showing respect. Gemba Walks shares:

• a broader historical view of the recent events of the automobile industry, sharing fresh insight into the ascendancy and recent troubles of Toyota, the bankruptcy of General Motors, and the events since.
• a new essay titled “Hopeful Hansei “on the steady forward march forward of lean thinking.
• a deeper understanding of the practice of lean as the most important advance in management thinking of the past 50 years, one that is fundamentally different—and fundamentally superior to the currently dominant management system.
• a methodology for walking value streams from beginning to end to learn the current condition and the most promising areas for improvement.

Among the gems in this book:
• why companies need fewer heroes and more farmers—the types of managers who “work daily to improve the processes and systems needed for perfect work and who take the time and effort to produce long-term improvement.” In other words, “to provide the “steady- paced continuity at the core of every lean enterprise.”
• how “good” people who work in “bad” processes become as “bad” as the process itself.
• why the real practice of showing respect comes down to helping workers frame and solve their own problems. He sheds insight into the way that lean managers and workers solve problems as the essential activity.
• why the lean manager has a “restless desire to continually rethink the organization’s problems, probe their root causes, and lead experiments to test the best currently known countermeasures.”

Gemba Walks also shares Womack’s insights on topics ranging from the application of specific lean tools, to the role of management in sustaining lean, to stories that will challenge and encourage lean managers to press ahead in a new and important way of working.

LEI Chairman and CEO John Shook notes, “Simply seeing—and communicating—lean practice is but one way that Jim Womack has inspired others. Jim gives encouragement in the real sense of the term: courage to try new things. Or to try old things in different ways. I don’t know if there’s a stronger embodiment of showing respect than offering others the courage to try.”

Gemba Walks
- By Jim Womack
- Published, March 14, 2011, Lean Enterprise Institute
- 348 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-934109-15-1
- $25.00 (paperback)
- $9.99 (e-book)

Until next time,
Tracey Richardson

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What does the word "Lean" mean to you or your Company?

As I travel around the U.S. working with various companies that make a variety of different products, I realize a common denominator throughout them. How do they define the word "lean", as well as the word "culture"? What I have realized is very interesting!

When I first started consulting I felt it was all about the "tools", and that's what companies seem to want, so of course, that's what they got. As I have matured as an instructor/consultant I, like many, I have led and learned at the same time. In my experience at Toyota, especially back when we were led by the Japanese and their questioning approach; we all as new leaders were being led but at the same time leading others, so it was bringing about the "respect for people" and developing the workforce as a team. I can't ever recall in my time at Toyota (Toyota Motor Manufacturing KY - TMMK 1988-1998), that we ever labeled what we were doing in a specific word like "Lean", nor did we really think about our daily actions as a "culture". It was just in the atomsphere. It wasn't until I left Toyota to teach others, that those words started to surface. Somehow we felt the need to give it a name, and as I've experience the last 13 years as a consultant, I feel that can have somewhat of a hindering effect.

I guess my point is many companies today misuse or even misunderstand the word "Lean". I suppose in order to practice what I teach, I too, must use a continous improvement approach to enhance my efforts to be the best instructor I can be in the minimal time I have with a specific company. In otherwords, how can I best translate my 23 years of experience in a manner of a couple of days? The Japanese call it "sharing wisdom". What I have learned is the more you call it "lean" or some word to label what you are doing, it tends to create the "add-on" feeling versus - "this is how we just do business"!

When I start my training sessions, to get a finger on the pulse, I ask each participant to define the word Lean and Culture. It's been amazing to see that a very high percentage of companies define it "only" as elimination of waste, or "do more with less" mentality. Which by definition can be a correct assessment of lean, but in my experience the KEY element they are excluding is ___________? Take a guess? How about PEOPLE--engagement, involvement, and development. To me, its the common thread I see missing in the vocabulary of companies trying to implement Lean, especially LEADERSHIP. The paradigm shift in thought that Im trying to embed in my sessions today is - #1 - Without people the tools with NEVER sustain longterm. #2. If you try to label your daily work as "lean" then it can be seen as the add-on.

What Im trying to say in a simplistic way... lead by actions. I spoke of this in a previous post go here If I lead in such a way that fosters the thinking and development of people by simply being "on the floor" and "asking the right questions", then by default many times - Lean and Culture HAPPENS, and guess what?? We don't have to call it anything but HOW WE DO BUSINESS.

Hey, its simple, its not easy!!

As Nike has said all along - Just Do It! No need to label, we surely didn't at Toyota. It was an expectation of our job, not a choice. Now go ask questions at the Gemba and involve those people!!!

Until Next time,
Tracey Richardson

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pathway to creating a "Lean Culture"

As I travel around to various clients they are always asking me, "How do you implement or create a culture like Toyota has"? I tell them that's a very loaded question :). There are so many aspects of creating that culture it's hard to give a short answer or even "wave a magic wand" to say... "Here is what you should do!!". I wish I was that good .

How I see it, you really need to differentiate the People side of Lean versus the Tool side. The People side will always be the most difficult aspect of the disclipline needed to create this thing called Culture. The tools are just what they are, mostly countermeasures to change some discrepancy in our process. For the tools to be successful, People must understand their involvement or the purpose behind the tools. As I have stated in previous blog posts you must explain from the company perspective the WHAT, HOW and the WHY of any change or expectation within a persons work.

When I teach my Problem Solving sessions I usually spend 3 hours on the cultural side before I ever teach the 8 steps of problem solving. I describe the process or path a person/leader must go through in order to help create the people side of the culture I call this the "Culture Chain", it goes like this.


Now let's summarize.

Every company must start with Values or Principles. These are the guiding beacons that we can relate specific tangible actions in our daily activities that brings to life the values. For example Toyota has a set of Values called the Toyota Way. They are:

  • Go and See
  • Teamwork
  • Challenge
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Respect for People
These are tangible actions I can relate to in my daily work.
The next aspect is Beliefs. Do the people believe in what the company is trying to accomplish through their Values/Principles? Do people respect their leaders? Do people believe that the company has their best interest at heart? Do people come to work with the best interest of the company at heart? (Mutual Trust and Respect). These are all aspects of the Belief system within a culture. For example, while I was at Toyota I could honestly say that I believed in what the company was trying to accomplish each day through our rigid standard work. It meant something, I had a bond with the product I was creating. Our leaders tried very hard to "live the values" through their work each day. In the beginning we had sensei's (Japanese Trainers) helping us along the way. The belief in what you are doing is essential in creating a Lean culture. The person as to bond with the product and the company, and leaders must be servants for their people in order for them to succeed in their daily work. If the culture breaks down at the Belief part of the chain; "lean" will only be seen as a "program, or flavor of the month". In order for a belief to take hold for the individual or leader it must become part of their daily Thoughts when they walk in the door each day.
If that belief becomes an intrinsic thought then its more likely to become an Action(s) that they are doing everything they can to live the company values (Go See, Teamwork .....etc). Leadership's responsibility is to develop their people and be that servant leader we discussed. The leader therefore has to study harder. This is a difficult task in most traditional mindsets, which in turn contributes to an unsuccessful implementation of a Lean Culture. All eyes are on the leaders and they can make or break the lean culture very easily. This is why when I train at various companies I ask for their leadership to be trained first if possible.
Once I have the:
Values>>Beliefs>>Thoughts>>Actions accomplished (as stated above).... then it starts to become a Habit for me. This is where I was at when I worked for Toyota. It wasn't a choice, or a convenience thing for me, as a leader at Toyota the disclipline really became a Habit for us. Take working out for instance, in the beginning its a chore, you make yourself do it, in some ways you dislike it but you know the reward/belief is a healthy self. Once it becomes a habit for you then its part of your routine, the disclipline is more intrinsic--it's part of your day. At Toyota we never used the word lean or culture really, it was just how we did business; in essence it was the Character of our workforce. The key to all this is following the steps above and holding people accountable for that disclipline; that again is very difficult in a traditional mindset. Most company's never see Lean past the "tool phase", partly because their people do not believe in the system and leaders are "telling" not "developing".
Once your workforce has built that character then its the destiny of the company to be #1 in their market, basically Im saying by default the process will get the results. Most company's rely on the manage by the number or results only, forgetting the people along the way. As it says in the Toyota Way values book --"People are the most important asset of the company and the determinant of the rise of fall of the company"- Eiji Toyoda. So please focus on the people side and ask yourself the question--Where am I in this "culture-chain" of thinking?
Until next time,
Tracey Richardson