Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How can the Chief Information Officer contribute to a lean transformation?

Hello everyone,
Sharing with you my post from Theleanedge.org (Michael Balle's) website of Lean Practitioners coming together and answering questions about Lean transformation/implementation.

The question this month is:

How can the Chief Information Officer contribute to a lean transformation? 

Go here to visit The Lean Edge or read below:


When I see or hear this question, I pause and attempt to grasp the situation of what does a “major lean” transformation mean to an executive or the “process owner” of the lean journey. By answering this question it helps me understand their own ability to grasp the magnitude of what they are attempting and their role in it. Not many stop to ask this question and assumptions are made. When I’m at various organizations or conference sessions I think one of the commonalities among these folks is asking – How do I get my leadership onboard? They also ask- Will my Lean contributions be successful to the overall goals if my leaders aren’t bought in to the process? These repetitive questions tell me a lot about the current state of many organizations and their attempts at change and who’s changing it. This is a very good question, one that many in the Lean community can benefit from based on all our experiences.

I think when I hear the word leader it defaults me to “servant leadership”, based on what my Japanese trainers taught me. In the past traditional leadership is about “people work for me”, in a Lean management system it means ” I work for my people”, this is a paradigm shift in thinking for some people and their leadership styles within the organization. I think the first step for higher level leadership who are responsible for changing the way an organization does business begins by developing this action which leads to a habit. I believe the most simplistic way of starting this habit is to ask – where is this organization in regard to where we want to be? This can be in the context of the key performance business indicators (KPI), in regard to the customer value stream, the processes / standard work that deliver the outputs/services, our ability to develop people, and our mechanism to see abnormality. These are avenues to grasp the situation and understand the causes, barriers and constraints that are preventing an organization from getting there.

I also think its key for higher level leaders to understand- what are we actually measuring? So many organizations I talk to tend to be tipping towards the result side of measures, I tend refer to this as “leading and lagging” measures or (process and results). If we measure the majority of lagging indicators it hinders us, or even to some extent, masks the true current state or our ability to see it. For example, I will use the airlines as a way to explain where you can choose to measure as an organization. Most airlines I’ve experienced measure “on time” as when they leave the jet-way. Most customers may see that measure a bit differently. Just because I leave the jet-way on-time doesn’t necessarily mean I will be on-time to my destination. What are the processes in between that are more leading and can be more predictive to the customer need enabling us to make modify work, as well as the things that are controllable to reduce waste on a leading side. If we are being a more predictive organization this can be an important factor to enhancing our Lean management system. If I track Safety incidents, that’s a lagging historical indicator; its good I track it, but its better I find a leading process indicator to prevent the lagging. I think many executives aren’t at a 5000 to 500 foot level in the organization to understand this concept and tend to overlook the importance of measurements and how they cascade downward to the daily work.

If I am a true lean leader and lead as an executive then I must play a heavy support role in understanding what and how are we measuring against the customer need and how am I looking at processes that are as value-added as possible to the value stream. I often suggest to folks that are balancing the scales of the leading and lagging indicators that it is an important discussion to have and understand – “how are we doing>> and how do we know? This is also important how we cascade this thinking throughout all levels of the organization (50000 foot to 500) otherwise known as Strategy deployment. I don’t think its realistic for executives to spend all their time on the floor (the go see), but I do feel they need to have a “finger on the pulse” as to current state versus ideal through their management team and people who are doing the work. So I do think there is a percentage of time necessary to grasp this and be a presence out there building mutual trust and respect within the organization. So I think it’s fair to expect our CEO’s, Presidents, Vice Presidents and so on to be that servant leader we discussed above, they must attempt daily to play a support role by enabling the front lines and their management levels to have the resources necessary to deal with abnormality against a standard. They must support the organization by having the ability to see through the same lens when it comes to Problem Solving (PDCA), speak the language and overall be seen as someone that isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty and empower people to believe they are capable of doing extraordinary things. Development and empowerment of people can determine the rise and fall of an organization. I believe this is the beginning of how you create an infrastructure of the culture necessary to have long-term growth and sustainability. So what’s in it for me should be clear and concise, because an organization that engages, involves, challenges and empowers people at all levels to always think about where we are and were we want to be at all levels can be a contagious feeling. One I experienced first-hand and consider “price-less”. It can be done it’s all about the discipline and accountability for doing it. As I’ve hear Jim Womack say – Lean is not always about what to “do”, its about “doing” it. You jump that hurdle- you are well ahead of the game.

Tracey Richardson

Friday, August 2, 2013

What do effective leaders actually do every day? GTS4 (to the Fourth power)!!

Hey guys, Im sharing my post from the new Lean Post at the Lean Enterprise Institute, read below or check it out on Lean.org --http://www.lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=43

What is GTS to the Fourth Power????

I'm often asked: "What should our leaders actually do in a Lean culture"? People want to know specific actions to guide their activities. They want a "recipe" to follow. Some folks want to wave a magic wand that suddenly transforms everything. Wouldn't it be great if anything were so easy?
In reality, Lean has to be lived, felt, breathed, seen, and experienced. It must be reinforced by senior leaders who walk the walk and set high expectations for team members. When I was at Toyota, the Japanese trainers commonly used the word "behave." At first, this sounded like the kind of directions we were given as kids in school, but when I thought more deeply about it, I realized they were speaking about particular behaviors. Behaviors and actions that created good habits, developed the character of team members, and fostered a learning culture.
So when I am asked about leadership and responsibility, I reply that lean leadership is a way of doing business, not simply a process to "think" through or try on for size. I call this idea (which really is a way to remember key behaviors and actions) "GTS4" (GTS to the fourth power)". What does it mean? Here are the four steps involved in the GTS thinking process:
Go to See --> Grasp the Situation --> Get to Solution --> Get to Standard = GTS4
The starting point for any lean thinking activity (and the beginning of the PDCA process) is Go To See (GTS), also known as Go To the Source (GTS). This habit is hard to develop, since we tend to rely on assumptions formed from our experience or from what someone has told us. My Japanese trainers would often say, "Please--Go Looking!" They may have known just a minimal amount of English, but we always knew what they meant. When I visit the gemba with clients they usually struggle to answer my questions because they lack the facts—the measurable data to work with. Instead, they have assumptions. It is only when we GO SEE and talk with the people who do the work every day that we can uncover the truth of what is really going on.

Why GTS4? Going to see is just the beginning. Once we GO SEE, we must then Grasp The Situation. We do this by asking the right questions! Let's start with the three most essential questions a company and its leaders (at every level) should be asking themselves:
  • What should be happening?
  • What is currently happening?
  • What is your measurable (gap) between the 2 above?
The first question is aimed at defining the ideal state, or standard. The second question defines your current state. Consider your problem as the gap between these two conditions. This type of "thinking" is really the first step in framing a problem in the Plan-Do-Check-Action (PDCA) process. In this clarifying the problem step, it is essential that you have a measurable "gap". This enables the problem owner to see a measurable difference once the process is defined, root cause(s) found, and countermeasure(s) implemented. So the answers to these two questions should always be quantified! For example, this visual shows the Ideal-Current-Gap:
The Gap
This gives us a $21 gap we can begin to break down and ask more questions about!
Most companies I work with (even ones you'd think should know!) can't answer those 3 questions. As a result they have difficulty framing a problem as a simple gap between what should be happening and what is actually happening because the measurability just isn't being tracked at the process.
I was raised with this thinking at Toyota, so these questions feel natural to me. But helping others develop this kind of thinking is a challenge. Too many leaders are too busy running around trying to fight fires or make fixes based on loose assumptions. This type of problem solving is weak at best, and surely not repeatable for long-term sustainability.
The next GTS is to Get to the Solution. If you have properly grasped the situation then this leads you to ask further questions like: What are the processes that address the gap? Then we look for the places, blocks, bottlenecks or "points of occurrences" within processes that help us understand root causes and finally, countermeasures. As mentioned above, this is PDCA. If we are able to complete this process by practicing the last GTS, and our countermeasures are effective, then we want to proceed to the fourth and final step: Get to Standard.
Knowing what to do as a leader can feel like an unwieldy question. But consider GTS?. It's not easy, but it is fairly simple. The challenge is less a matter of being lean than it is asking ourselves if we are really practicing lean thinking—a way of thinking that starts by going to see, grasping the situation, getting to a solution, and ultimately, getting to a standard. It won't feel natural at first, but it can be learned!
Until next time
Tracey Richardson