Monday, March 18, 2013

How do you change a standard?

My next post below is from a question I answered at by Michael Balle'.   This question this month is:
How do you change a standard? - Standards are often described as ‘the best way known to perform a certain task’. Using Job Instructions, people are trained to work according to standards. Kaizen can then be used to improve standards. In this case the ‘best way’ has changed. Does this mean everybody needs to be retrained ? If so does this imply the rate of improvement is limited by your capacity to train? Or does it imply that ‘standards are local’ confined to a small group where one is able to learn from one another on a daily basis ?
My response:
This was a thinking process I had to get used to at Toyota, we never got to “settled in” before something changed on us. At first it was frustrating, but then as the purpose was explained it became the “norm” then it was expected for us to do this without being told, you know, like our “job” imagine this :) . This was something that was evolutionary because you never were complacent to just be happy with maintaining, if you did, you were expected to “purposely create a gap”. Think about that, what type of organization makes a problem when there is none – Wow what a place! :) . When I teach about this thinking I use a simple approach that evolved out of my time at Toyota, that I have developed an acronym for called- DAMI (Define Achieve-Maintain-Improve). So many people constantly change things (thinking this is actual- continuous improvement), but I ask, do you have a standard before you change? So I just want to be clear that before we change something it needs to be written and documented so its a benchmark for improvement.
So I see this same process happening within different layers of the organization sort of like peeling back an onion (functional areas and levels), but to me the process of change is exactly the same no matter where you are (involvement of people is expected). It is first and foremost that people understand the – “what-how and why” of everything that they do without compromising any of the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of the business. So for example at the various layers you may make a policy change that effects the entire organization (more macro perhaps). I remember as we grew at TMMK and doubled our size it created a safety concern with traffic inside the plant with an increase of our tugger drivers, one of the countermeasures to that was to have – (STOP-POINT-CALL) visual signs placed on ALL intersections of the plant floor in the team member walk path. So this would be a plant-wide standard that would need to be addressed, cascaded, communicated and enforced at an individual level. So again the “what is it, how we will do, and why its important” thinking that ties back to the business. After the signs were in place it was up to all the supervisors to take us to the gemba (where a stop-point-call-sign was) to visually show us the new standard for the ”stop-point-call” process and ensure that we understood the actions expected of us. If we didn’t follow the standard after the training then we could be held accountable for our the lack of action with our human resources department. So in this case everyone did need to be trained and we never compromised production in the meantime.
** A side note that helped us at Toyota to discuss some of these “constant changes” were two embedded 5 min talks each day during our breaks that was considered company time. So there were 2 – 15 min breaks a day, 10 min was “your” time, 5 min was “company” time twice a day this; was our standard of doing business that embedded respect for people and communication. I remember many times utilizing this time given to ensure understanding of our ever-changing standards which was how we did business to stay ahead of our competition. Also we had a 1 to 5 ratio of team member to supervisor at each level so this helped with the training aspect as well.
This same process described above was used at the department level, team level and individual process level. No matter what change was made in any area we ensured understanding. It was my/our role as a team leader and as a group leader (as well as other levels) to involve people in the standard and why it needed to change when we had ideas to improve. One important thing to remember was that there was a process for changing. We didn’t have a the ability to be a renegade and change it just because we wanted to or thought our way was better, this wasn’t tolerated nor supported our teamwork value. We first discussed our idea with others that did the process to see if it made sense, then began discussing with the team leader (first level supervisor). If they both parties felt comfortable after the discussion a “trial” took place (maybe a day to a week long)- (going back to DAMI- so we are defining and achieving), to see if it was repeatable and predictable, once that was proven (using PDCA thinking with an idea) then we decided to involve the other shift to get further input, then if everyone had buy-in we created a new standard and documented it, then everyone was trained to ensure they were comfortable with the change. What is great to remember here, if you have good buy-in then there are less issues when the change is made because proper “nemawashi” has taken place before the standard is actually changed. I think most organizations may just make the change and that is when the potential issues can begin and productivity and quality could be compromised. If you follow a good process to change then the likelihood of it hindering production or key performance indicators are much less.
  I think it really goes much deeper to a discipline and accountability factor here, if you make it a standard, then it’s your responsibility to ensure its documented, understood, and practiced so the KPI’s aren’t compromised and this happens through proper training, with hopes that Job Instruction or Training within the Industry are being practiced.
I realized during my time that we had less problems in the work area because standards were set, if you look at most A3′s (PDCA theme reports), when you get to the root cause analysis section it usually comes down to 3 areas that it will fall into. Those are:
Lack of Standard
Not following a Standard
Wrong Standard (not valid to customer today)
So I remind folks to train to the what-how-why model when you make changes then there is more time to spend on proactive problem solving than reactive. A message I learned from my trainer was “never be comfortable, if you are comfortable then you are not learning” – So change it up folks, if it isn’t broke–BREAK IT!! then TRAIN it!!
Until next time
Tracey Richardson