Monday, December 28, 2015

Want a eye opener? Yamazumi yourself!

Happy Holidays to everyone!  This is my last blog post for 2015, it's been a great and exciting year for us.  Teaching Lean Inc is looking forward to a very busy 2016 -- #lifeonplanes takes us to many places this coming year!  Follow us on our journey to #movetheneedle!

So I thought for a bit trying to come up with a end of year blog post and I brainstormed various subjects, some of which have been covered to some extent and some not as deeply.   I settled on one we discuss during our sessions that was taught to us very early on our learning path by our Japanese trainers.

So what is a Yamazumi chart?  Basically its a "stacked" bar chart that can illustrate various aspects of a process such as:

  •  Wait time
  •  Walk time
  •  Process time
  •  Machine time
  •  Set up time
  •  Rework/Repair
  •  Delay work
  •  Wait Kanban time
These are several of the elements to describe what can begin to create a yamazumi chart.    Other important factors to take into consideration are:
  • Process capacity
  • Machine capacity
  • Manpower capacity/level loading
  • Takt time (what does the customer need and it repeatable and attainable)
  •  Mix capabilities / level loading
What we find is that many organization (not just manufacturing) have a hard time answering these questions.   These were never asked in the beginning with a customer and assumptions, estimations, and opinions are made as to how to best produce our product, output or service.   Most are able to "wing it" and somehow at the end of the day, week or month we make it work.  But this process is often not repeatable/sustainable or the most value added way to do business in regard to company key performance indicators.  

Here is a picture of a Yamazumi chart being managed based on current state and what the standard should be.  

 As you can see there are many work elements (stacked magnets) that create the entire work process (some of which are the items above).   The red line going across is the standard takt expectation so we are clearly able to see the gaps at a glance.  This allows the trainer to re-balance or kaizen in order to meet the internal and external customer expectation.    It's a great visual tool to see abnormality very quickly as well as the team being involved with where they are in regard to the standard. 

Another valuable way I was taught the Yamazumi tool was to do this for my own personal work each day.   Basically it was a very intriguing way to learn what we actually "do" in a 40-50-60 hour work work and putting that work into categories like value add, non-value add, ancillary work, rework etc. 
Our trainers gave us this task to one understand how to track and measure, and two to gain an understanding of wasteful actions that we tend to accept as the norm.   So we tracked items like:

  • Training and development time (on the process/in classroom)
  • Gemba time (at the process)
  • One-on-one meetings
  • Staff meetings
  • Team leader meetings
  • Phone calls (differentiated by subject matter)
  • Andon call answer (or problem awareness discussions)
  • Kaizen time
  • Problem solving at the process
  • Scrap/Rework
  • Reoccurring problems
  • Human Resources 
  • Corrective action conferences (attendance issues etc)
  • KPI board management
  • Set-up work (before and after shift)
  • Shift to Shift meetings
  • Quality Circles
  • Safety task force
  • Productivity management
These are a few to get you started but by all means aren't meant to be an all inclusive list.  There are many items that come up daily we "react" to.  We have to determine whether or not its value add or non-value add to the customer/organization. 

When I document all the items I did for a full week I then began to put them into the categories that I mentioned above.   Some of them may go into a misc. category similar to a pareto chart.   Most you can categorize.   

What I found was amazing after doing the exercise.   A personal note- the more honest you are with your documentation and categorization the more you will learn.    After looking at all the categories and visualizing my week in a pie chart I made an important realization - that 30-35% of my work was actually non-value add to our organization and customer.   Now this doesn't mean I sat at my desk twiddling my thumbs, (some could be-lol) it means that there is no value in some action items you documented.  For example rework, or "do-overs" - having to deal with the same problems day after day.   Some would say only solving the symptom not the root cause.   There were many examples of that among other findings I was accepting as the norm.   Until I could actually visualize it some of the items were never considered as a gap to standard.  After that valuable lesson I never looked at what I did each day the same, it made me think at a different level and analyze actions and decisions I made and to teach that thinking to others. 

I also did this exercise with my own team leaders as a way to develop their thinking as well.  What we found as a team was enlightening.   We were actually able to re-balance a team leader to another area that was going through a minor model change.  We didn't have to hire another person, we utilized our current resources and maximized the value.   This was such a valuable lesson for me/us along our learning path (which never ends).   I encourage you to give it a try sometime.  Shoot for a 70-75% value added week.  It gives you a standard so you will be able to determine current state and see your gaps! As Nike says"  Just Do It! --- I say -- "Yamazumi Yourself!!" :) #yamazumiyourself !!  
Until next year
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Imagine a world without Standardization

We spend a lot of time with different industries across the U.S, and Canada working vertically with CEO’s to primary process owners and horizontally across the functional silo areas that create the order to customer value stream.  The majority of them understand the concept of standardization or standard work and feel strongly they are implementing the right things – some are very close.   Once we hone in on specificity of the steps we often uncover they are a bit vague, which can allow wiggle room for interpretation or preference by the individual.   One of our favorite responses when we discuss the importance of standardized work processes is – “but my job is creative and you can’t standardize my creativity!”  Our favorite response is – “we would never try to!”  We just want you to “create” in the most value-added way for the customer internally and externally taking in consideration of the greater product or service value stream.

Standardization is there for a couple of key reasons:

  1. 1.      To control the process not to constrict it (over-processing).
  2. 2.      To have a baseline/benchmark for improvement (kaizen).
  3. 3.      To have a documented process for training (JIT/TWI).
  4. 4.      To quickly see abnormality at a glance (problem solving).
  5. 5.      Elimination of unnecessary variation (quality/cost control).

So can everyone take a brief moment and imagine yourself about to have a surgical procedure and someone mentioned there wasn’t total accountability for the protocols taken to complete the surgery but they said we are “pretty sure” everything would be fine.  Are you good with the words “pretty sure?”  There are numerous standardized steps that must be followed in those situations to ensure patient health and safety.  I think we all are thrilled of the creative skills the doctor has gathered over their tenure, but our goal is to wake up with the issues resolved,  zero incidents, and not worry if everything step was taken or not.

Have you ever thought about our roadway systems without stop light signals?   We all know or should know the default “standard”, if the power goes out, that the intersection immediately implements a “4-way” stop process.   How many have seen the sustainability of the default process for over 5 minutes?    Most often we see chaos after a while and the potential for near misses and/or accidents to take place.    This situation is a great example of the quote I use – A good culture is what people do when you are not looking.   I know we all get frustrated when we get stopped by a yellow light, but I would rather have the standards in place than not mostly because I understand the purpose.

Lastly, if you have ever flown into a larger airport you know there is zero tolerance for not following the control tower standards.   What if several pilots decided that they wanted to get there faster and disregarded the instructions for what altitude, which runway, or time of landing.  Would you ever fly again if there was variation in that standard based on how creative the pilot wanted to be to bring us in based on their past training or experiences?

Point is, standards are all around us every single day, at stores, online shopping, banks, and countless other examples.  It’s amazing to actually stop and think about it in our personal lives- give it a try.   Our cultures drive us to put as much standardization that is needed at that given time knowing standards can change based on a situation/event or changing needs.  Since we were young we inherently know many of these standards through routine conditioning and have evolved as the world of technology and other thing have.   Think about the last time the high majority of you have gone inside to pay for gas at the pump.  We like this convenience and change, but we can’t seem to embed the same type of thinking in our work lives as easy.   Many are resistant to change even though it’s “suppose” to be better.   We have failed to explain purpose if this is where you find yourself as a leader. 

Taiichi Ohno said – “there can be no kaizen without a standard”, so if we don’t set a benchmark for improvement, training and variation then an organization/industry can leave themselves open for damaging situations not just with a customer, but their own branding.   There are a plethora of examples of companies not having enough standardization for quality and cost control and some weren’t able to change rapidly enough and lost customer trust. 

Just remember when we set a standard there must be a purpose for the steps involved (explain why it needs to be this way) if you are unable to clearly explain then you should reevaluate the decision process at each step.  Also create as much value as possible leaving the smallest wasteful steps out (reaching, walking, waiting and mental burden.)  Most importantly through this process involve your people, engage and discuss at the process - they know!

Until next time,
Tracey and Ernie Richardson


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Recognizing waste is a "Golden" Opportunity at Kinross Round Mountain Gold Corporation

Ernie and I have been blessed to be a part of the learning journey with our friends at Kinross Gold Mine, in Round Mountain, Nevada.  We had the distinct pleasure of meeting several of their continuous improvement team back in 2012, and it is been a true learning "excursion" for us all.   We often admit they are one of our unique clients in location and their gemba is just indescribable (see pic above). The term "going to the gemba" has been redefined for us at Kinross to say the least.  There was absolutely nothing that could prepare us for the trek outward to Round Mountain (4 hours from Las Vegas).

  The sheer natural beauty that surrounds the mine, residing at approximately 6065 ft. elevation; as well as the internal anxiety I had my first trip out.  So imagine if you can for a moment going "home" (within eyeshot of your work every day), and all your neighbors are your co-workers.  Imagine going to the local grocery store and you know everyone's face that surrounds you.  Think of a place where there is no traffic, no stop lights, no Walmart or shopping opportunities, no fast food or restaurant chains,  just people living simply between spectacular mountain ranges where a vast amount of wild animals roam freely. 
Each worker, regardless of their level in the organization, goes to their process each day as if they were an owner which invests them all towards their future.  Without the efforts put into succeeding, failure would most likely result in uprooting their families, one that now have children who work there.  The town of Round Mountain combined with the mine and the workforce have created an all-inclusive community for their people which includes a K-12 school, library, recreation center, fitness center, golf course, post office, gas station, grocery store, daycare and churches. 

Our Kinross family enjoyed watching us "acclimate"  at our very first session in 2013 to life between the mountain ranges, but what we all didn't realize that it was the start of a great opportunity to visualize together how to do business a bit differently.  We excitingly admit that after a "Kinross training session" we can feel the enthusiasm for change in the air and the urgent motivation from everyone to get back to their roles and make an impact.  The energy there is contagious, and the discipline and accountability for actions are inching towards the norm.  After almost two years of training (customized for Kinross by Teaching Lean Inc.) and demonstrating learned knowledge at the gemba their recent improvement efforts at the mine have shown early success.  This has created an environment where the majority of the workforce are empowered and have become invigorated by the opportunity to extend the mine life and improve the way they do business.  They are evolving towards an environment where employees feel like they can share their ideas and make change happen.  Much of their workforce has taken ownership in the overall improvement effort and the need to change for the better.

As many of you know the price of gold is controlled by the market so flexibility and adaptability is crucial to when prices are on the lower side.  As history has shown us when the price of gold drops; so can employment in the form of layoffs, and cutbacks and mines may have to close the doors to their operations.  As Ernie and I make that trek from Las Vegas to Round Mountain, we are often reminded along the way of the once booming towns that are now just an eerie remnant of what the market can do if an organization does not apply forward thinking.  Round Mountain Gold is working diligently through developing their people and improving processes to avoid another deserted town in the canyons of Nevada.  They are very aware that the price of gold and ore reserves will determine the mine life unless they are all willing (entire value stream) to do business differently. 

Everyone is vested and realizes their job security depends on their ability to think their way into mining more effectively and efficiently.   RMGC is comprised of 900 employees – approximately 1,000 (including contractors at the mine).  Their vertical roles start with their General Manager “equivalent President level", Department Managers, Superintendents, General Foremen, Supervisors, Leads, and workforce.  All the functional areas (silos) of the mine have to work together to optimize production & efficiency of mining/processing.

Some have been intrigued and asked - "What is the value stream of a mine?"  So at a high level I can describe that it starts with: 

Geological determination (where does the gold reside) >> Mine planning>>Mining>>Hauling>>Processing>>Milling>>Leaching>> Refining>> Gold Bar

Let me share just one example of how waste was discovered at RMGC through the development of people.  So looking a bit closer at the "hauling" value stream:

Some of the work is done with excavators and front end loaders, so the areas of focus that can impact company KPI's are-- (productivity,hang, load and operational delay time)

Once loaded, hauling is an integral part to getting the ore to the next step of the value stream which is processing.  RMGC utilizes a fleet of 785 (150 ton), 789 (200 ton), 793 (260 ton) type hauling trucks.  (I will have to admit the tires on some of these are almost as tall as my house).   The granular value stream steps they are keying on are:   Motion waste, truck exchange time, load time, travel w/load time, dump time, travel empty back to loading equipment.  This is all considered cycle time.

So, in short- optimum utilization of haul trucks (improve productive time) & loading equipment is crucial to their business:
        Reducing operation delays
o   equipment inspection
o   fueling
o   blasting
o   scheduled break times
o   shift & shift change

There are various value streams but looking at one focus area>> a 793 Haul Truck with a capacity of 260 tons, a grossly generalized number would be about 1 oz of gold per load (~$1,150/oz.) With 800 loads per day, and the improvement of overall utilization of equipment; an extra five loads per day can be achieved. This practice demonstrates the application of the "One Second Rule" we often use in our sessions and have written about in previous blogs.  So if waste can be reduced in the value stream, then five extra loads of ore moved per day equates to approximately 2,000 more ounces each year.  You can do the math.  Amazing when you look at each specific value stream how it can contribute to the overall in grand ways. We call this cost translation.  This is one of many examples of waste elimination that results in adding more value and positively affecting productivity and costs.   

So rather than accepting closure of the mine as the fate of many before them, the employees of Round Mountain Gold are proactively working together to raise the "gold" bar and continue to learn and build on the successes they are achieving each day.  They have to lead, empower, engage and challenge each other believing that future "mine life" is totally possible and attained through continuous improvement and people development.

Kinross Round Mountain Gold mine with the support of Teaching Lean Inc. will be telling their "story" of how they are changing the way they are doing business differently to extend the life of their mine and uniquely created community at the Lean Transformation Summit in March of 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.   If you are interested in learning more about them and being a part of the Summit, go to  

Ernie and I would like to personally thank:
Frank Wagener, Vicente Ramirez, and Deanna Hall for all their hard work and willingness to share some insight to their business practices and helping us share this very unique blog.  They are part of the continuous improvement team at Kinross Round Mountain, they are truly visionaries and change agents for Kinross, and we are thankful to call them friends.  We look forward to seeing your future evolve through people development.

Until next time, 
Tracey and Ernie Richardson 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lean Leadership "Unplugged" Webcast Recording

HI Everyone,
If you missed the live webcast today facilitated by Chris Burnham - Featuring myself, Ernie Richardson, Sam MacPherson, and Jamie Flinchbaugh.  We were discussing many aspects of #Lean #Leadership as a prelude to the Summit on Lean Leadership next month in partnership with Lean Frontiers next month in Atlantic Beach, FL.

Please check out this link to watch -

Come join us in sunny Florida next month!!!
Until Next time
Tracey Richardson

Thursday, August 6, 2015

PDCA, Fitness Apps, and Using Social Media to Improve Our Health

Happy August Everyone,
#crossblogging from The Lean Post

I often find it difficult to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle with my travel schedule these days. When my husband and I are home, it’s much easier to follow the standardization techniques we’ve created for ourselves with regard to meal choices and exercise. Similar to lean thinking and practice, it’s a choice we’ve made to create a “business” lifestyle. We’ve decided how it is that we want to think about our health, just as how at work, a team will decide how they want to think as an organization about their business.
I remind myself that I become healthier by following the same attention to process with personal health as I do when applying Lean, which is mostly about understanding mindset and how to measure success. Am I focusing on process or results? If I want to lose weight, for example, when I step on the scale, what I’m looking at is simply a “lagging indicator”. It’s what I do next in terms of process that determines the result of what the scale will tell me the next time I jump on.
As I try to be proactive about my health, I find social media, technology, and apps to be helpful in this regard. Whether you have them or not, you’re probably aware of the Fitbits, Jawbone 24s, and countless other models out there that help us track data about ourselves and the choices we make on an hourly basis. Many of these apps have the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) process embedded within them if you look deeply.
When I look over my personal current state (grasp the situation), and see how am I doing against the standards I have set, it takes me back to my production days at Toyota when I had to track hour by hour where my team and I were against the standards we set as well. It’s fascinating to me how in depth you can get with your own behaviors if you are willing to track them. Some people are reluctant to do this because it may tell them something they aren’t ready to hear.
Take Fitbit, for example. (I’ve used three different apps to find the right one for me, comparing the different measurements offered to customers). If you are willing to play along, it will ask you to set standards for yourself so in a sense it’s allowing you to set you own takt time with the hopes that kaizen will be applied when those standards are met, raising your own bar. You can track and set goals for:
  • Tracey RichardsonSteps in a day (miles walked/ran)
  • Sleep (awake, light deep)
  • Water intake
  • Calorie intake
  • Calories burned
  • Food categories
  • Floors climbed (stairs- elevation)
  • Heart Rate (resting and during a workout)
  • Active Time
  • Weight (Current and target)
Think about it… within an organization we are always looking for process indicators to be more predictive to our outputs. Most organizations track lagging, results-oriented indicators. This means we are reacting to results that happened months ago. But are we able to make changes to that process that took place 3 months ago? What we really want to do is search to find the leading indicators to make change in the present before it ends up on the lagging report. 
The parallel I see with lean thinking and personal health decisions is about how we look at what we do. We have the ability to make change each day/hour in order to meet our goals. For example, if it’s 12pm and I only have 1,500 of my 8,000 steps allotted for my day, then I know I must change my process in order to meet the standard. The same goes for calorie intake. If my goal is 1,500 calories a day and I went to Cracker Barrel and had “Uncle Hershel’s breakfast”… then I may be way off my calorie ratio for the day! So what does this tell me? If I want to try to meet my standards, I must exercise or reduce my calorie intake for the rest of the day.
Health isn't about always being perfect. Just like in our organizations, we all have imperfect days. It’s how we change our process to meet expectations that is important. We all want to be able to have a nice dessert or treat from time to time… we deserve it, right? We just have to understand moderation. Just like in an organization, we don’t try to implement every improvement we want to make or new activity or behavior at once. It’s a process of changing our daily habits, changing how we think, and working toward the milestones we set in order to create new ones.
The other thing I like about Fitbits or Nike Run apps is the friendly competition they create among “friend” networks! If I see my friends are walking more steps than me, it’s an internal motivator to keep up or even do better. We all have some level of that competitive gene! For me, I’ll do whatever it takes to find fun in healthy practices and share them with others. In our business life, our “friends” are our competitors and we should always try to stay one step ahead of them to keep them in the rear view mirror. Just as apps show our competitive side, in business healthy competition can lead us to improve our processes for better profits and long-term sustainability. I personally love seeing the way lean thinking and practice translates in everyday life The more we can see it in our own lives, the easier it is to get buy in in our workplace. This is the same thinking we want in our work lives, whether we lead or are the ones doing the work.  
So challenge yourself to see the PDCA that is all around you in this new, technologically advanced world. I try not only to build muscle for the purpose of my own personal health, but to flex my problem solving muscles as well. It’s all about finding ways to translate personal behaviors into different choices – at work and at home. Always, focus on making sure you #movetheneedle! #lean #fitness #PDCA #Problemsolving #workout #measure
Until next time,
Tracey Richardson

Monday, July 6, 2015

Why do we like change in our personal life, but not at work?


Here is a post I made on that I am sharing here with my followers.

Why do we like change in our personal life, but not at work?

It's enlightening to me when Ernie and I ask during a session, "how many people have the latest smart phone version of their phone", we get an 85% hand raise from the participants.   We deepen the conversation with the participants by asking:
Tracey/Ernie: - "was the current version not working?"
The participants: the majority answer, "yes it was working".  
Tracey/Ernie:  "if was working properly why would you change?" 
The participants: "we wanted the latest technology"
Tracey/Ernie:  "so you are expressing to us that you like change?"
The participants: "Absolutely!"
So we grin and continue on with one more question for the participants, we ask - "How many of you have the same TV you had 20 years ago?", again the majority of hands show there has been a change.   Similar to smart phone and other electronic gadgets these days we tend to gravitate towards the latest and greatest.  So we have come to the realization that most people within this facet of life, love change.  Why is this?  
So we ask, "if you are so willing to change in your personal life, why is change in your work life so difficult?"   When new concepts of thinking are introduced to a business why are they looked at with such judgement? For example, we can use 5S - how many people remember their first experience with it?  Do you remember thinking of it as an "add-on?"   Usually the first response we get is, "we have always done it this way and it's worked well--I don't have time for this!".  Our response is "oh really, didn't we just establish change is good?"   We are so open to it when we are in control of it, but yet we aren't in other facets such as work.  It's fascinating to me what dynamics in our minds change.   We have shown we like it, now how do we tap into that source for work.   It's like re-framing our viewpoint in a sense.  We need a hook!
We continue to fuel the flame and ask, "do you do business the same way you did 20 years ago?"   We refer to our personal pasts and share "if we made the same model of Camry we made when we started (1988) would it still sell today?"  Probably not as well, right?   We try to make the point that change is a part of who we are as individuals (from the moment we are born) and what should naturally take place within an organization to meet the need of the ever-changing market.   The problem is it doesn't, we migrate to a comfort zone and for some reason we like to stay there, as in ~ "we make plenty of profit now, why rattle the tree?"  As we know from experience it takes a little shaking to get the fruit sometimes.  
We feel that if an organization takes the time to explain why change is important, then people may find the buy-in process a little more acceptable.  For instance if you are an Apple person, we may often watch the infamous Fall "announcements" about the latest and greatest Iphone.   We as the consumer then make the decision as to whether we upgrade or not--did they present a good hook?.   From what I see as a smart phone owner this tactic must influence the market well enough to encourage change, otherwise you wouldn't see a new one out each September.    
So the question is how do we tap into area of our brains that is so accepting of change and create that feeling within our work lives.   It's intriguing to us, we will continue to look for ways, how about you? 
Ernie and Tracey Richardson - @tracey_san

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

SDCA versus PDCA- when to use them.

#crossblogging from a Linkedin in article I wrote this month.

I know many of us have been exposed to Plan-Do-Check-Action (PDCA), (note some earlier versions from Deming the PDSA (Plan- Do-Study-Act) cycle).  Both being a scientific, process oriented, approach to solving problems efficiently and effectively. 
Often times if we have a known standard in place and a measurable difference in the current state, I like to refer to that as a caused gap.   This means there are root cause(s) that need to be investigated and sought out at the gemba.  Basically a discrepancy in a process (doesn't have to be manufacturing).   Caused gaps use the PDCA process to get back to the original standard. 
Another usage of PDCA is for a created gap problem which is more strategic in nature.   A scenario could be I am meeting an expectation and looking or proposing or strategizing a new way or standard.  Raising the bar through continuous improvement bringing to life the visual staircase depicting kaizen. 
Here is a short video I did with The Lean Enterprise Institute using a visual to show caused versus created gaps:
During my tenure with problem solving I have come to the realization there are 3 commonalities when you get to the root cause analysis step.   Once confirming the true root cause based on facts you can categorize them into 3 bucket areas.  They will fall into either:
  • Lack of a standard
  • Not following a standard
  • Wrong standard (not valid to the customer anymore)
So can you recognize the similarity?  - Standards!   I share with clients if all our A3's are telling us we needs standards I wonder how many A3's or problem solving events could be reduced if we just set standards to begin with.  Imagine that theory.  
One of my early lessons from my Japanese trainers was Standardize-Do-Check-Act - (SDCA).  This was a process we often used when we knew there wasn't a established standard and by potentially setting one that it "could" remedy the problem properly by following the process.  It's not as simplistic as it sounds and you have to gain some experience to determine when you use SDCA or PDCA.  Both processes can move the needle for your organization if the time is taken to practice.   
When using SDCA you start out with standardization first, putting what you know to be the best known standard in place that meets the internal and external customer needs.   Once you determine the correct standard you continue the process by putting it into place with the "Do" phase and "Checking" the effectiveness of your change based on the performance measures before you change and after.  Otherwise how are you going to know it was the right standard, so you must stay true to the process just as PDCA.   When you have determined it's meeting the expectation then the "Act" is to make it the new documented policy or procedure and share it with other affected areas.  This becomes the benchmark for improvement. 
As you develop your problem solving muscle you can begin to make the determination when its best to use PDCA or SDCA.   Either process must be followed thoroughly without taking the short cuts that are often driven by results of solving it quickly, instead the process of efficient and effective problem solving.  
Until next time
Tracey Richardson - @tracey_san

Friday, May 22, 2015

What it Takes to Share One's Wisdom: A Q&A with Tracey Richardson

Hello Blog readers - Sharing a column from The Lean Post - out many other posts from Lean Thinkers here as well!!   

Sharing Wisdom Interview:

What it Takes to Share One's Wisdom: A Q&A with Tracey Richardson

Toyota veteran, LEI faculty member, and Lean Post contributor Tracey Richardson has written for the Post on problem solving, A3 thinking, leadership, lean culture, and visual management, among other topics. We sat down with Tracey to talk to her approach to both teaching and writing with the aim of learning more about her process of sharing lean thinking with others so that they might better achieve their business and organizational goals.
What led you to not just practice lean, but teach?
Having the opportunity to learn from Japanese trainers in the early days at the TMMK plant (1988), sparked a passion for me to go into training and development not just for Toyota but outside as well. I've personally experienced how successful the "thinking" can be, how putting people development (respect for people) first and foremost can be. I'm also a very hands on visual and kinesthetic learner, so getting to go to many gembas across industries and share with people all the dynamics around problem solving and culture is priceless. As my trainers would say, I'm giving back and also "sharing wisdom."
What seems to work best in teaching lean ideas and practices to people who are just getting started?
I try to lessen the "tool talk" and "lean talk." I think when the labels are more important than the process and thinking behind it, people can lose the true intent of why they are doing something. It often becomes more about outcomes, return on investments, measuring the wrong things.

"When you make a decision to change the way you do business, it should hold you accountable for certain leadership actions – new leadership behaviors that engage and empower team members to want make a difference in their daily work."

When you make a decision to change the way you do business, it should hold you accountable for certain leadership actions – new leadership behaviors that engage and empower team members to want make a difference in their daily work. If people have an ability to impact key performance indicators for the organization, then they suddenly have a new line of sight. They understand their role in the organization or what their role could be. In other words, folks need to be supported in visualizing their own gaps in performance and then they need to want to learn more. That's how I learned. I had a responsibility to the company to contribute to the job security for then entire company as well as myself.
In the beginning we didn't call it anything but our job. When I teach, I try really hard to help people understand that investing in people and teaching problem solving – these are the actions of leadership. It's about recognizing nonvalue-add activities and creating value in every dimension of each functional area from order to customer. That is truly Lean to me.
And what's been most valuable for you about putting what you've learned into writing?
I like to consider myself a practical instructor using past lessons to teach others to translate the learning into their world. I love the classroom. I try to hit all the learning styles and have fun doing it. I think writing can be just as impactful if I can grasp the readers' attention like I do in class. I truly try to write as I would tell a story in class. So far people have given me good feedback, but I'm always learning, so feel free to give me more so I can improve how I share!
What's the hardest about writing?
I'll be honest, writing is not easy for me. This goes all the way back to when I was a kid. It takes time for me to extrapolate what's in my mind and put it into words. When I'm in the classroom I'm very animated and theatrical. If you taped my arms down I don't think I could talk! My fear or difficulty with writing is that I will miss some key translation points because I can't always put the depth of my learning experiences into the right words. I'm thankful to other authors and writers who share their wisdom, and I'll continue share what I can. It's a process like anything else.
What are you looking forward to seeing in the lean community? What new opportunities and challenges do you see ahead?
This is a good question for all of us who are trying to improve how we teach others and share ideas. I think a really important thing to think about is how organizations measure how they are doing. We often find the scales are shifted on the heavy side of results-oriented indicators which are historical in nature. I'd like to see the lean community shift that a little – shift expectations a little – in the direction of leading more predicative indicators so people can make a difference before they get the "3 month report". It also puts the focus on processes and standards, which is important for continuous improvement to actually happen and be measured.
People get so focused on outcomes and not the processes that get them there. Embedding effective gemba walks along with good visual management – these are also important factors for longterm growth and sustainability. I think our challenges as a lean community reside in raw discipline and accountability to practice the right thing even when it feels uncomfortable. My trainers would tell me if I'm too comfortable everyday, then I'm probably not learning.
Tracey Richardson will be teaching "Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process" at LEI's Washington D.C. workshopsJune 16-18th. Ernie Richardson will be teaching "Key Concepts of Lean" and bring a "virtual gemba" to the classroom using a Landcruiser simulation (to demonstrate the Toyota Production System, Standardized Work, 5S, Visual Controls, Kanbans, Work flow, Push versus Pull systems, and KPI integration). Ernie will also teach "Gemba Walks: A Management Process for Leading the Organization" workshop focusing on what a gemba walk is and isn't and how to run one by use of a real life gemba near the conference. Use the code "FACULTY" to receive a 50% discount on either workshop at the DC location only!
Until next time, 
Tracey Richardson

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lastest Podcast with Chris Burnham at Lean Leadership Podcast

Hello Everyone,

Wanted to share with you our latest Podcast w Chris Burnham at Lean Leadership Podcast.  Check it out.  Ernie and I share our Toyota experiences and stories of our time with our sensei's as well as today teaching others.  Enjoy!!

iTunes Link:

Until next time,
Tracey and Ernie Richardson

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Lean Thinking" in NASCAR- if you look close enough it's everywhere you GO !!

Lean Tools in 

By Ernie and Tracey Richardson
Owners-Teaching Lean Inc.


So Ernie and I attended the 2015 Daytona 500 this year with a little different lens than usual.   We were fortunate to receive “hot pit” passes which gave us access to the garages, and pits during actual live racing.   We were able to get up close and personal with every aspect of the race from behind the scenes.   So of course we were doing what we are conditioned to do – look for examples of lean and how each team uses the tools to be more effective and efficient.  It literally comes down to seconds, preparation, execution, continuous improvement and a little luck to cross the line in front.

As we were walking through NASCAR team trailer area, we noticed various 5S examples of how the Goodyear racing tires were being mounted and staged before the race for each team to pull from based on certain track conditions and even unforeseen events during the race.

We noticed how visual management was being incorporated by the pit crew in order to differentiate the rear from the front tires (different tape color being applied) and how to align the lug pattern on to the studs in the quickest way possible during the tire changes.  If you notice the yellow lug-nuts are actually glued to the rim to save time by the tire change pit member.  An ideal pit stop time is around 12 seconds or less to be competitive.  These visual controls are crucial for standardized work.

As we continued to walk down the pits we observed more examples of visual controls,  problem solving and data collection which allows the teams to understand the relationship of tread wear and proper air pressure. The relationship of these are necessary in order to meet track conditions before and during the race.   If you notice the various numbers that are visually displayed on the outside tire tread its telling the pit crew what the specific tread depth is on various areas of the tire in order to grasp the situation before its placed on the race car.

If you notice in the 2nd picture these tires had been removed from the car at one of the pit stops and immediately were measure by depth and pressure to understand how the tire is performing under the current track conditions and allows them to adjust the next set if necessary.   You could consider this a leading key performance type indicator that is predictive to future tire wear and the handling capabilities for the car/team.  PDCA throughout the race.

As we were visiting various pit areas we noticed the use of a Kanban and pull system with the gas replenishing process.   They come to the pit area in a Kanban of 4, then placed next to the pit wall for quick access and usage by the fuel replenishing pit member often called the “gas man”.   When these two are emptied it creates an open spot giving direction to the pit support crew to fill both slots for the next pit stop.  When all 4 are used the support crew refills the cart to restart the process.  It’s practicing just in time.
Another data collection point in the gas refill process is weighing the gas can before and after the pit stop to determine exactly how much gas went in and how much the race car is consuming during the race to understand when the next pit stop is necessary and to determine fuel mileage for the team.

Lastly, on our tour of pit row we noticed a wheel hub mounted on the side of a pit box for the tire changer to actually practice their standardize work of placing the lug nuts on and off in a specific pattern in order to master the timing and body placement during a pit stop tire change.   Tire changers are one of the essential parts of a pit stop, it can often make or break a team in how they come out and are placed after a caution or green flag pit stops.

It was very enlightening to get this special opportunity to see the things we teach in our sessions used so well with discipline and accountability for standard work with each of these teams.  We learned lean is everywhere if you just take the time to look for it.  NASCAR is a prime example of holding each member accountable for their actions and to always be looking for ways to continuously improving their processes.   Unlike most companies there are many more “leading” type key performance indicators allowing them to be predictive of their outcome, versus lagging and after the fact.   The next time you get to watch a race look for the lean tools in action they are there!  Keep the lean movement going—Green flag thinking!!!
Until next time
Ernie and Tracey Richardson