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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: The key differentiator is what leadership thinks it need accomplish: redesign of processes others use to conduct their business or acquisition of capability that they can cultivate, propagate, and engage energetically

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Friday, January 4, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment
What role a kaizen promotion office plays depends on what problem you are trying to solve.  Is it to make a single change in process design and performance or it is to change the ramp-slope at which an organization discovers its way to greatness?
For the former, organizations might want to stabilize otherwise chaotic processes–both those that are physically transformative and also those that are administrative.  Doing so has the obvious benefits of moving from the low performance plateau of disarray to the higher performing plateau of increased  efficiency and effectiveness.
In that case, the KPO staff can serve as “subject matter experts” on the particular topic of designing processes in a more rationale fashion: continuous linear flows versus job shop approaches; self pacing, self synchronizing pull versus disjointed push schedules; choreographed and standardized work versus disruption inducing improvisation.
For the latter, other organizations, and unfortunately a far fewer set, want to generate and develop an internal dynamic of constant problem seeing and problem solving, leading to learning as evident in improvement and innovation across a broad spectrum of effort.
In other words, they don’t want to “lean out” existing operations.  Rather, they want to create an environment of accelerated discovery like that which allowed Toyota to lift itself from competitive irrelevance in the late 1950s to the giant slayer by outstripping its rivals on productivity in the 1960s, quality in the 1970s, new model introduction in the 1980s, new brand introduction in the 1990s, and new technology most recently.
The non-stop race to develop ever better approaches to ever better undertakings requires a capability shift from those appropriate to executing known procedures towards known objectives to those appropriate for developing new procedures for new objectives.
In such an instance, a KPO is not working at the shop floor level doing the skilled craft work of process redesign. Rather–as exemplified by Toyota’s Operations Management Consulting Division (“OMCD”), the KPO is primarily responsible for developing people–senior leaders cascading down to shop floor in core capabilities:
— how to design complex operations to capture best
known approaches and how to operate them to see problems
when and where they occur,
— how to solve problems so as to develop new, useful knowledge,
— how to incorporate discoveries for multiplied, systemic effect, and
— how to model and coach reports so they too can
unleash the creative energy of the organization.
The specifics of size and staffing, of course, depend on maturity and size of organization, resource availability, severity of existing competitive problems, and the like.  Those factors all help calibrate on size of staff relative to size of organization.  The key differentiator on role, though, is what leadership thinks it need accomplish: redesign of processes others use to conduct their business or acquisition of capability that they can cultivate, propagate, and engage energetically.
Respectfully,
Steve

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