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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

What are the Key Competencies to needed for a KPO position within an Organization?

Hello @thetoyotagal followers,

This post comes to you from with Michael Balle' - The question this month was:

What would you say the most pertinent competencies are for a team member to be promoted to join an internal Lean team (Kaizen Promotion Office) whose responsibility is training and facilitating Kaizen?

This was my response below, for other lean practitioner's viewpoints visit !!  

I like the question and I will try to answer from a duo perspective. One being a person who was hired and developed under specific competencies at Toyota and secondly through the lens of the trainer/leader. You know I think its important to not only look at how you promote into a KPO position but also what is the filtering process to bring team members into an organization before they even have an opportunity for promotions. Think of it as a leading indicator that is predictive for people capability.
In my humble opinion you have a higher rate of success with the development of people if you have the ability to be more selective to begin with. I know it isn’t always feasible just sharing my personal experience.
Before I walked through the turnstiles at the first Toyota plant in North America I had to go through a robust hiring process- I suppose that was necessary when you had 150,000 people wanting 1500 jobs which was the situation in 1987. So the “sifting and sorting” (I like to look at it as the 5S’ing of people), based on the competencies that Toyota wanted in their employees in order to “further” develop them once they were on the team. I found out later when I was in Human Resources training and development that the “initial” hiring competencies were:
  • Listening capabilities
  • Teamwork (working with different personalities and functional areas (silos)
  • Personal Initiative
  • Problem Solving capabilities
  • Leadership qualities

So if scoring well in these areas landed me a position on the most coveted team, then what enabled me to get promoted into leadership and/or training roles within the company such as a KPO or Organizational development group? If we follow true continuous improvement thinking (DAMI- Define the standard – Achieve the standard – Maintain the standard – Improve the standard) then we must always be looking for specific competencies that further develop and enhance our workforce and our cultural infrastructure that supports long-term growth and sustainability.
There are so many facets to people development and the “thinking” behind it that we really have to look at it holistically from a team member to the true north perspective.
Internally at Toyota (after you were hired) they looked at some specific areas/competencies that team members (any level/role) were required to “demonstrate and be evaluated on” that moved the needle for personal development and growth. There were different variables for moving into kaizen support roles but the many of the competencies needed for succession planning were:
  • Accurate information Gathering & Analysis (ability to go and see and separate assumptions and opinions)
  • Unbiased Innovative Thinking (ability to envision the order to customer value stream using leading/lagging indicators and fact based thinking)
  • Coaching and Teaching Problem Solving (TBP)
  • Develop Countermeasures incorporating mid to long term perspective
  • Appropriate decision making based on Business conditions (flexibility to the ever-changing market)
  • Perseverance (ability to overcome barriers and constraints and gather the necessary resources/stakeholders)
  • Allocation of management resources based on Organization’s priorities (ability to direct change management for company priorities)
  • Establish Business Framework and Systems (Values,True North and Culture)
  • Appropriate Assignment and Consistent and fair performance review (ability to understand team member capability and stretch assignments/challenges)
  • People Development
  • Realization of the mission and vision based on the company values
  • Building Mutual Trust and Respect (executives to management to team members)
  • Ability to understand proper Delegation (based on resources and KPI’s)
  • Accurate Self Awareness (ability to see your own gaps in your daily work / line of sight to the company true north)

I feel with competencies such as these in place it can allow you to have the right people in the right place at the right time. I was always told by my Japanese trainers that having good processes in place will give you the results you need. Most organizations do not take the time to develop good thinking processes therefore results are skewed and mediocre at best. Invest in your people and the criteria and standards they work with and what you will find is a slow but advancing progression of thinkers empowered to make a difference not only in a KPO role but every role.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Please follow Ernie and I on our new Business Facebook page!

Hello everyone, 
Wanted to share with our followers that we created a new Facebook Page for Teaching Lean Inc.  Keep up with all the great things we are sharing about Lean on a weekly basis!   Please "like" if you have a FB account!  

See you there! :)

Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Live Podcast Interview- Teaching Lean the Toyota Way with Ernie and myself by Gemba Academy!

Hello everyone, 

I'm very excited to share with you a live Podcast interview by the Gemba Academy w Ron Pereira.  He interviewed Ernie Richardson (my husband) and myself about various aspects of lean, culture, TPS, usage of tools, our learning's from our Japanese trainers and much more!!  We were honored to be considered by Gemba Academy!  Thank you for the opportunity!   Hope everyone enjoys!!!

Click the shortened link below!

Link to the Gemba Academy Podcast with Ernie and Tracey Richardson

Until next time
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Monday, October 27, 2014

What is the difference between Visual Management and Visual Control?

This month my blog post comes from again.   The question of the month was - What is the difference between Visual Management and Visual Control.    Please take a look at Michael Balle's website to view other Lean practitioners!

   I will answer your question regarding visual control versus management based on how some of my Japanese trainers, coordinators and leaders articulated it to me and how I personally practiced it during my time at the TMMK plant in hourly and salary positions. This question comes up all the time and it can turn into semantics very easily, similar to asking someone what are the 5S’s. I think there are 20 different versions out there, the explanation and purpose of it become crucial.
So I like to look at visual control as the “micro” side of the fence and visual management as the “macro” side. Let me explain.
So when I was a team leader in Plastics at TMMK, particularly to the Headliner group I was working for, each morning/afternoon I would have many granular visual control type charts I had to fill out/document to allow me to understand (perhaps hourly to daily) how my processes and equipment were running compared to the known standard per each condition. I may have to record oven temperatures before shift, after lunch and at the end of shift, robot calibrations at start up to the specific cc’s (cubic centimeters) that was expected to create a quality part. Other examples could be first piece checks at start up (and after breaks and lunch) to give me to have a set of parameters within a 2 hour window when something may have changed. These were all micro level visual control mechanisms at the process level to help team members at a process level to know where they were compared to ideal state/standard in all scenarios. Some have often asked me if using “yellow tape” to visualize where something should be placed fall under visual control and I would say “yes”, 5S type visuals like shadow boards are visual control mechanisms to see abnormality at a glance. All necessary to determine how we manage to the process and upward.
Visual Management is a more macro vision of the process supported by all the visual control charts in place that should cascade upward to higher level goals (KPI’s). Some of my colleagues have mentioned Floor Management Development System (FMDS) and Toyota Business Practices (TBP) (PDCA described in 8 robust steps). FMDS is a visual management system that displays the KPI’s at a group which supports the department visual boards, and upward to the plant level. The group level needs the “process” visual controls to determine which indicators are pertinent to track on a daily and weekly basis. In headliner we may track the top 3-4 discrepancies common for that part (tears-adhesive issues, misaligned brackets and delamination). Now these are somewhat (lagging KPI’s-results) because they happen within our process (a defect if you will), we want to dial in on the group visual control measures (leading KPI’s-process) to minimize these quality issues and become more predicative in nature–it’s how we control to the standard.
So we would know how the headliner group is doing in regard to Plastics process KPI’s as a department and upward to the plant hoshin KPI’s. As Jon described nichijo kanri which is daily management – kanri cycle is micro PDCA cycles (TBP thinking process) that have to happen hourly / daily and in some cases with our andon system (problem awareness) every second or minute. So really if you want to cascade the hoshin level KPI’s downward and have a catch ball effect upward to from the floor then visual control mechanisms are crucial to visual management at all levels. That is true hoshin kanri (strategy deployment). The beauty of FMDS is that it involves the people development side that engages every process owner allowing them to understand at a granular level how they contribute to the immediate KPI’s as well as the department and sometimes plant levels.
Visual control isn’t just about manufacturing like many think. If you create an output, service or product that has internal or external customer expectations then you can develop visual control process measures to tell you when you may or may not be meeting the expectations. A combination of leading and lagging KPI’s can be created by an organization to react initially but the ideal state is to be more predictive and make changes to the process (visual control) in order to manage the results. My Japanese trainers would always encourage us to first look at the process (visual control) to get results, its just the best way to manage that allows you to be predictive before defects/discrepancies happen.
Visual Control and Visual Management are a piece of a larger pie I call “the cultural infrastructure” that develops the DNA (discipline and accountability) in each team member in the organization to recognize their line of sight to the goals therefore contributing not only to their own job security but the long term sustainability and growth of a company.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How do you deal with difficult people in the workforce - especially when it comes to Lean Implementation.

Hey everyone, is it really August?  The summer is flying by.  This weeks post is about dealing with workers who may not be totally "bought in" to a Lean implementation.  Check out w/ Michael Balle' @thegembacoach

This is always an interesting topic to discuss, because there are so many contributing factors weaving us through an exhausting web to find the actual root cause(s).    I remember a story during my time at the TMMK plant years ago, I will leave names and specifics out to protect the innocent.
A higher level leader had all their ducks in a row to terminate a person after several failed attempts to change attitude/behavior towards their job and meeting company expectations.  This leader felt in their minds that all avenues for success had been exhausted.   It is difficult to terminate a person at Toyota for quote “performance” issues when it can be deemed as a subjective / grey area to prove without a shadow of a doubt.  It also poses other questions I will address about culture and behaviors.
So every termination (at the time this took place) had to be reviewed by a high level Japanese executive.   The high level leader came in and stated the entire case with all the proper documentation records of the person up for termination.  The Japanese executive looked at everything carefully lifted his head up and asked the leader “have you done everything possible to make this person successful”?  The high level leader stated “yes I have”.   The Japanese executive said to the leader, “then you have failed”.  The Japanese executive went on to sign the termination papers but there was a greater lesson there for the leader (who went on to lead differently from that moment).
When you take on the role as a leader 50% of your job is developing people.  This was within congratulatory statement my trainer said to me when I became a leader myself.    It means as a leader we not only have to get the work part of our job done but we have to foster and cultivate people, even the more difficult ones.    The lesson above wasn’t just saying that everyone is perfect and without issues and its all on the leader, it’s more about problem awareness and leading indicators about behaviors that are tipping towards the traits described in the question.  If it gets to that level of behavior we have potentially missed the opportunity to intervene which leaves us in a reactive mode versus proactive.
When I work with companies I observe deeply the demeanor of the people doing their daily work.   I also like to ask questions.   It’s not too difficult to assess at times whether a person is just genuinely a “bad seed” or is there an underlying  cultural issue stemming from the company side that is creating the defensive claws to come out.   Most of the time it’s not the person believe it or not.   The Japanese trainers taught me a deep lesson in differentiating the person from their process.  I use a parody in my sessions as the “5 Who’s and the Root Blame”.   The trainers would encourage us to “never blame a person first”, this is often difficult when there is a garden variety of personalities out there and product must be made – meaning “I do not have time to babysit”!   Well believe it or not 80% of the time it’s a badly designed process that is creating the deep rooted behavioral issues.   If you can be a servant leader and gather the resources to mend and control the process (building mutual trust and respect) then you can start to see a shift in behavior in the disgruntled person.
If you take the Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) its a test that tells you your personality preference.   During my time at TMMK we used this test to assist leaders in understanding their own personality as well as all the other ones out there that could be the opposite of us.  It looks at being an introvert or an extrovert (among many other traits) for example and lets you know your strengths and developmental areas with that preference.   Many times when we start asking questions and getting to know someone (past a work argument) we learn the nuances of personalities.   As a leader we must learn and understand how to recognize certain traits that can be resolved through differentiating learning or how you ask a person to perform.  No different than perhaps a child in school that is acting out for some reason.
A personal example I can share about myself is when I was hired at TMMK I was considered an introverted person.   I can remember the first time I was asked to do a presentation with a microphone in our Plastics group, it was terrifying to think about.   My leaders knew I tested well for potential leadership, but recognized one of my areas of development  was speaking in front of others (some would argue that point now-ha).   So I was given small tasks to build confidence to reduce my fear.   If I would have been forced into a larger situation against my natural preference then I could begin to “act out” in various ways.   This is not the answer to all “people problems” but as leaders we must do 5 why thinking on each individual and get to the root of the behavior, if we find we have created it through badly designed processes, developmental approaches or not getting to know our people well enough– then as the Japanese executive said “we have failed”.
A couple of last thoughts to think about is a more rigid hiring process.   A rigorous sifter that allows people who may not fit all our expectations can “self-eliminate” through some pre-assessments in place to help us with the “just in time” process of people –right people, right time, right process!  I remember in 1986 there were 150,000 people looking to get one of the 1500 jobs available at the TMMK plant being built.   It took some of us 1-1.5 years to get our foot in the door.   The assessments were looking for specific competencies in people to allow the company to succeed along with a very robust human resources policy management system that wouldn’t allow for a disgruntle person to resist and persist in their ways.  Those 5 competencies we all were assessed on were:  Initiative, problem solving, listening, teamwork, and leadership skills.
I like to think of a robust HR policy management as part of a company’s DNA (discipline and accountability)!  If you have policies in place that hold you accountable for your actions, attendance, performance and initiative then its hard to get to a level of behavior you describe in your question, if you do it’s a very low percentage.   Not all situations are the same and in some rare cases you might find a person that is impossible.  For me there should be filters in place to keep them from getting in and disrupting the harmony, but if they do get in then its our responsibility as leaders to ensure that person is successful and we see the leading indicators with their behavior before it’s too late –  as the ole’ saying that we all have heard — “if the student hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught”
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Sunday, July 6, 2014

CEO's journey with Lean- How to get everyone on board?

Hello everyone,
It's already past mid year and we are saying hello to July.   I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.  Ernie and myself find ourselves teaching all over the U.S.   Met lots of great folks on the Lean Journey!

This next post comes to you from again.   My colleagues and I are answering questions about a CEO and his journey to improve and gain buy in.

Here was my response to the question of the month posted by Michael Balle'.

This question/situation reminds me of the power-point slide we have all seen where the arrows are going in different directions. Since I’m not there to see it leaves me to make some assumptions because I do not have the ability grasp the situation, get the facts and ask why. At times when I’m at a conference I hear similar stories about lack of “buy-in” or getting the right people on board with my initiatives or desires for improvement. When I’m faced with this situation I always fall back to the essence of what I was taught through experiencing good characteristics of a successful culture. It’s often daunting to explain the entire infrastructure around a successful lean culture (I personally don’t call it “lean” these days but that is what people respond to). When a high level leader such as a CEO has problems getting everyone enthused about change it can be numerous potential causes for the current state to the ideal. I often refer to it as conflicting KPI’s (key performance indicators). As some of my colleagues have mentioned results are often important and some aren’t too concerned as to how people get them (process versus results). When I do an assessment of leading to lagging indicators most (95%) of organizations track lagging business indicators, maybe 2% of what they track are actually leading “predictive” indicators to let them know they need to make change to effect the results. They spend their time reacting to historical data, which is impossible in the present moment, so when each functional area potentially has conflicting “result oriented” indicators then of course the arrows will go in different directions. This unfortunate situation doesn’t allow for vertical and horizontal alignment therefore creating problems/resistance. In some organizations I see quality battles over productivity, if we work harder (not always smarter) we can improve our productivity rates (because we have KPI’s that are driving this based on a needed quarterly result), but our quality begins to suffer because we didn’t utilize a sustainable process to maintain productivity without effecting quality, this happens a lot in a more granular level which can play negatively with morale or the ability to gain buy-in.
I’ve often used two questions to get a finger on the pulse of the morale in an organization. If you ask these questions randomly across different levels and functional areas it gives you a good snapshot of how people feel.
Question 1. – Do you believe this company/organization (insert your company name) has your best interest at heart?
Often I get various answers from “yes I do”, to “meh, its just a job”, to “no, this place is all about results”. So I assess (grasping the situation), and try to determine did the company itself create this by the “aimless arrows”, or do we just have a bad seed here? Believe it or not most people want to do a good job, but they are hindered by badly designed processes and lack of purpose or direction (true north), to ever feel they are a value added member of the company. So I let them vent, talk and express and I ask them if they would let me ask them another question.
Question 2. – Do you come to work everyday with the best interest of the company/organization at heart? (Reversed)!
Well it’s interesting to see their initial responses. The ones who really were negative or down towards the company often break eye contact with me. I've done this in sessions before and when its over I’ve actually had a couple of people (who weren't excited about training) say, “you know you really made me think of that one, I don’t usually come in the door with the best interest of the company at heart”. They go on to tell me why and this is when I suggest we get other leadership together and we all just listen to the people since in reality, they are the most important asset.
When faced with companies similar to what the CEO states they are really wanting the magic formula or an “easy way” to do it all and everyone be “happy”. They often know lean and all its glory can be successful but getting other people to believe it is well– disappointing. So how can you make it engaging? This is a question I ask myself as a sensei every time I go into a company that is struggling. I can’t tell them all the things they should be doing and how because their infrastructure just isn’t prepared to support it.
I try to simplify concepts and give them something that could possibly stick easier than common approach of just telling.
I like to use something I created called GTS6 (to the sixth power) + E3 (to the 3rd power) = DNA GTS6+E3=DNA. This often hits some of the different learning styles in the room and gives a kick start in how they should increase their value as a “servant” leader. How do I know this? I assess each one of my sessions for “key learning’s or take-away’s” and one of the most repeated learning’s is this “formula”. I have others but this may help with this particular question. So what is it you ask?
GTS6 (all leaders should practice this everyday- think of it as “leadership standardized work” simplified).
1. Go to See
2. Grasp the Situation (a. What should be happening? b. What is currently happening? c. What is measurable gap? (to allow you to)
3. Get to Solution (so you can)
4. Get to Standard (so you can)
5. Get to Sustainability (so you can)
6. Get to Stretch (so you can raise the bar and improve-CI)
We do this to allow E3 – Everybody, Everyday, Engaged which slowly develops and creates DNA (Discipline and Accountability for my actions)! I will go out on a limb to say if you can get your leaders to practice each one, starting with first and just engage in dialogue it can begin to bridge to gap in understanding purpose (why am I doing “this”). This whole situation can be slowly altered I believe just by changing actions of people to begin to gain their buy-in and understanding of the true north of the organization. Lean is about developing people to create good sustainable and repeatable processes that give us the “results” we all covet. That was a valuable lesson from my Japanese trainers, almost a secret to us from them that if you focus on your people and their processes then results is outcome. Very simple, just not easy because we tell ourselves we just don’t have time. I will end with a quote from John Wooden I use very often – “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?” 
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kaizen? Good or Bad- In what cases do kaizen events help and when do they hinder? How to best use kaizen events to leverage results and support the lean culture?

Hello everyone, these weeks posts comes from  Its a great question I get in many of my sessions.  See my thoughts before to the question.

I always like to discuss the concept of Kaizen in my sessions. I feel it’s often very misused and even misunderstood in the Lean world. As far as that goes you can say the same about Lean I suppose. There are so many different definitions and articulations of that concept out there across different industries. I always say Kaizen without value to the organization can be wasteful action and potentially harmful to a culture. For example- counting how many kaizens we have “turned in”. This is when I ask for clarification of how organizations interpret the concept. When people say to me “we are doing kaizen”, I ask- “what are you actually doing”? They will reply “improving things”, I will say- “how do you know”, they will say “by making them better”. You can see this vicious circle you can find yourself in. As my Japanese trainer would say, “no measure no do”!
I really strive to pass on the real definition of continuous improvement to people that was taught to me through shared wisdom. My trainers always stressed to us if you don’t have standards in place and measures then there is no true continuous improvement (kaizen). I use an approach with organizations called DAMI (not DMAIC) – Define – Achieve – Maintain -Improve. This is the special recipe for true kaizen. Basically you define a standard that meets the internal and / or external expectations by understanding capability and customer pull. You then achieve it through repeatability and predictability of the process. Once that happens you maintain for stability, then the expectation should be to raise the bar (improve). Its shocking to learn from many places they actually don’t know what their capability is. To me its hard to know true kaizen without those crucial pieces.
When kaizen is given a label as the “event” it tends to become something we only do when we deem we have time for it. If you have to make time for it then that should be an immediate “andon pull” to how we lead / manage our organization and develop people. This can slowly get us off course and as a result bad habits can be developed by leadership . What you want to see is “Everyday-Everybody-Engaged” (E”cubed”). If you are an organization that is trying to develop your culture/people then continuous improvement should be part of your/their daily work – on the floor, at the process engaging in dialogue with the primary process owners to understand what should be happening versus current state. If you have standards or ideal states then it sets the stage for kaizen by the primary process owner (the heart and soul of your organization). A simple discussion with them can lead to improvement ideas, it doesn’t have to be an “event”, when it becomes more about a result driven measure versus a development process for people then we are more than likely trying to check off a box. Not saying this happens everywhere, but I see it more often than not. Kaizen needs to be grounded by setting standards, developing people and connecting the value to the company and customer- these actions shouldn’t be seen as an event but foundational.
I think the bigger improvements that require more time, resources, support, and learning opportunities should require leadership involvement and connections to the KPI’s in a more formal, visual. and planned way. These opportunities then pave the path for more learning and empowerment of people which conditions them to make the connection to their role and kaizen should start to be more the norm versus us nudging. A role of a good leader will foster that in people. We were always taught to look for very small things and build our “waste awareness muscle” within our areas and outward to the touch-points of our customer. (Order to customer value stream). Again kaizen or improvements not linked to value to the company and customer can be wasteful action.
So I think kaizen is awesome if done in the correct context as explain above. It’s a necessary process for long term sustainability, growth and flexibility with our ever changing market. We must always try to keep our competitors in our rear view mirror and ensure we look at people as the most important asset of the organization. As Zig Ziglar once said – “It’s better to train someone and lose them than to NOT train them and keep them”. So build true kaizen into your daily culture, not an event we create time for.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What is the role of a sensei in your organization?

Hello everyone, it's hard to believe it is summer-time already.  The year is going by quickly.  Ernie and I are traveling a lot this year continuing to spread the good word about lean and how companies can think differently.

This blog post is coming to you from with host Michael Balle'.   I write for several blogs now so I try and "cross-share" here when I can.

The question at the moment is:

What is the role of a sensei in your organization?

Looking through the lens I see lean through, I think the word “sensei” can be subjective.    I think each and every one of us can have a different definition of what a sensei is based on our own experiences.    These differences doesn't necessarily make any of us right or wrong, just perception I suppose; and what our current knowledge base is compared to others on the journey.   For example I could have a client who has studied for 5 years and internally to their company they might be considered a sensei based on their 5 years of practice.    I think there also can be a distinction between practicing lean and theorizing about it as well.  For me it’s all about how you learned, what processes you improve to get good results, and how you develop others and their thinking based on your past experiences practicing it.  Teaching past failures along our own journey are such a part of a sensei/trainers role. 
When I learned from my Japanese trainers, at that particular time (1988-1998), I didn't refer to them as a sensei (as the word), they were my trainers to me.  I personally correlated that particular description to my Karate instructor in my younger days, but I think the same thinking applies.  He was a 6th degree black-belt and I had only made it to first degree.  So I would always consider his experience and knowledge to be greater than mine hence the title. 
      My trainers/sensei’s were there to teach me how to think, help me learn, witness me make mistakes and channel my frustration at times.    I always felt they knew based on their “hands-on” experience and also who they learned from.   Some of my trainers had learning opportunities with Taichii Ohno.   So I always considered them to be a source that “lived, breathed, and felt” what it was like to learn with trials and tribulations along the way.    They also understood all the fundamental skills and technical knowledge to do the job based on their time in grade.  Those fundamentals being:

Development of people (Respect)
Problem Solving
Leadership skills
Teamwork (across the silos-order to customer)
Initiative (practice Toyota Way)
Go See
The “Thinking” Production System (TPS)
I remember learning TPS from a very small handbook (3″ x 4″) that was written half in English and half in Japanese, our trainers had them and always made sure we learned the “thinking” (principles and philosophies), and maintained the integrity of it at all times, even when production wasn’t going to plan they were willing to stop the line and ask “why”.    When we learned we were always on the floor (gemba).   I cant remember a time when a “trainer/sensei” had me in the classroom going over a PowerPoint. 
 Although it is necessary sometimes these days, their teachings resided where the work happened with many questions as to why, how, where, what and when?   I learned by doing and they were my shadow(s) along the way.   Although I didn't always see them, they knew when something was right or wrong, so they would get to the root of it, and ensured I learned with hopes I wouldn't make the mistake again.    As they would always say – “1st mistake is learning- 2nd mistake for same reason is unacceptable”.   I never forgot that and try and guide my students in that way today. 
I’ve been called a sensei myself and honestly I wouldn't consider that a title on a business card, I just consider it a privilege to have learned from some of the best and now blessed to share it and continue to learn as I grow.   A true sensei has the knowledge, but shouldn't be above learning from others with less experience or “fresh eyes”.  I’m personally a sponge, I soak in all I can to learn how to be better the next day, that is a role of a sensei/trainer to me – Continuous Improvement, right?
Until next time
Tracey Richardson 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How do you make time for improvement?

Hello everyone, I'm bringing this post to you from where I contribute to the questions there posted by Michael Balle'.   This weeks question is one many ask of me in my sessions.   "Time"!  :)

“How do you make time for improvement?”

When I see this question about time its immediately takes me to countless moments during my sessions when I’m asked this very question repetitively by different levels of leadership.  It’s one of my favorite questions to answer and I do so by utilizing a famous quote from the late John Wooden to help explain my personal thoughts “If you don’t have time to do it right this first time when will you have time to do it over? This ignites my conversation that all companies have the time to do improvements it’s just that they are “choosing” to spend so much of that time doing non-value added activities that have been deemed as the norm.  If someone actually documented for one week how many non-value added activities are taking place it would be alarming to any team.

  I experienced this myself at Toyota during my production tenure and was able to re-align a team leader and team member as a result of studying a yamazumi chart that placed our activities into various categories (non-value add, value add, and ancillary set up work).   It was a great way to differentiate what should be happening (standards) versus what is currently happening and recognize waste in many forms within our daily work.  Remember one of the most overlooked forms of waste is the development of people.  If the workforce isn’t conditioned to see it, waste becomes the norm and that is where your time truly lies.   This applies everywhere not just manufacturing, you just have to learn to see it and not accept it as part of the furniture and develop others in this way at the process (gemba) by constantly asking questions.

I think what happens in most companies that lean is defined a certain way or an opinion has been formed because the purpose of it or the improvement hasn’t been fully explained or related to the key performance indicators of the organizations (value add).  When this doesn’t happen it usually this falls under the umbrella of an add-on, flavor of month, program, extra work or my personal favorite is – lean= less employees are needed.

 The paradigm shift that needs to happen is to uncover what is already there in the form of resources and time.  Leaders have to be taught to lead in a way that recognizes those hidden nuggets out there as the conduit to recondition the mindsets of team members at all levels to see lean as developing the people to see find the “coveted time” in the form of wastes.   Once small successes are experienced and replicated you can begin to see the shift in the culture that becomes more of a pull system for more knowledge than a push.  People will actually ask to be part of the initiative when they see the value.  As leaders we must explain value!   Pushing improvements (lean thinking) on an individuals at all levels without purpose and value explained creates the perfect recipe for reluctance in people to “take on” something else.

Everyone wants a balance of family and personal time to work time, when the scales become tipped it’s time to pull the andon and ask why this is happening.   I can promise you that the time is there you are after, it always has been, and it’s up to you and your team to uncover the treasure!  I learned to never say I didn’t have time to a Japanese trainer, they could always see waste when we thought we had improved it all.

Until next time, 
Tracey Richardson

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What is the place of temporary workers in Lean?

Hello everyone, 
Is it Spring yet?

Im sharing my post from hosted by author Michael Balle'.    The question on the The Lean Edge I answered was:

What is the place of temporary workers in lean?

So being raised at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), I had the pleasure of seeing our temporary worker program evolve over many years to meet the needs of the company in an ever-changing market. I was also fortunate to be involved in certain areas of curriculum and training in the mid 2000’s for the program. Internally the term “variable workforce” is often used which implies exactly what it is, but for the most part it’s often called the “temp-to-hire” program. There is a purpose often with a good outcome if goals are met, unlike some temporary programs that are developed with different intentions.
So if you think about business models most businesses shouldn't hire their full time workforce based on their highest production volumes if there are fluctuations. This could create certain levels of muda, muri and mura, so it’s best to first understand capabilities and customer pull so proper decisions can be made in regard to the correct number of manpower needed to create the product or service. A basic lean principle often overlooked. So a variable workforce is often used to allow for flexibility regarding attrition, promotions, product line changes, training, and growth – at least from my experience.
I think for the temporaries and for the company (Toyota) they share a “win-win” situation. So the temp-to-hire program was started for the temporary worker to “try out or pilot” what it is like to build a car every 57 seconds for 8 to 9.5 hours per day. In true Toyota fashion it’s common to run a pilot before full blown implementation occurs, this program very similar. I can speak from my eye-opening experience at 19 when I started there that you utilize muscles in your body you didn’t think existed as we ramped up to an average of 540 cars per shift. This program is not just a variable workforce is much more robust. There is a specific hiring process for temporaries which look for specific competencies such as – listening, problem solving, teamwork, initiative and leadership. Those who meet the pre-hiring expectations are then placed into a ramp up program that includes specific TPS curriculum, physical fitness and an interval percentage introduction (25%-50 %….) to 2 jobs on the line. This program protects the team member by arming them with information and standards of how Toyota does business (expectations), as well as keeping them safe ergonomically. So the introduction prepares them for being part of a well renowned team.
This temp-to-hire process can be view as a filtering system for those who decide this particular line of work isn’t for them, which allows for others who find it’s a “good fit” an opportunity to be successful in the overall temp-to-hire program which take 15-24 months on average to complete depending upon some of the factors mentioned above.
Those who complete the criteria (attendance, KPI expectations, curriculum tests, and evaluations) are placed in the hiring pool to become a full time team member. This way when a temporary candidate goes through this process they fully understand the expectations of what it takes to “live” the Toyota Way (Value and Principles) and put into place Toyota Business practices (8 step problem solving).
This program to my knowledge is very rigid, yet easy to do if you are willing to understand that people are the most important asset in an organization and the determinant of the rise and fall of one. So if you don’t start with your future leaders in mind then you are failing as leadership. A Japanese trainer once told me that as a leader at any level that 50% of your job is to develop your people. Developed people can practice problem solving to see abnormality at a glance, when that capability is there we can start to move the pendulum to process versus results. So the training of the temporaries in the temp-to-hire program and the expectations we have of them has a great relationship to the lean principles of respect for people and adding value to our products and services through developing better systems. That starts with developing people.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Standardized Work for Kaizen: Define, Achieve, Maintain, Improve

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!  Wow its 2014 seems 2013 went by in a flash.  I guess time flies when your teaching Lean right :).?

I would like to share with you my post from The Lean Post by The Lean Enterprise Institute.  I have been writing several columns for their new site so I think its fitting to post them on my blog as well. 

This column is an interesting one I believe because I spend a lot of time discussing it in my sessions, this process described in the column as DAMI (Define-Achieve-Maintain-Improve) is actually the standardized work for Kaizen!

Take a look- please feel free to respond at the bottom of the article with comments or if you thought it met your expectations. 

Click here to view the new column called  -

Standardized Work for Kaizen: Define, Achieve, Maintain, Improve

Click here to see other columns I have written on The Lean Post.

Until Next time,
Tracey Richardson