Lean Frontiers: Are they differences in getting middle management on board from getting executive management support?
Are there differences in getting middle management from executive management on board for 1) developing the lean enterprise and 2) direct engagement on their part? What are the differences, if any?
Posted on May 9, 2015
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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean across a decentralized network

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, July 4, 2013
Lean is not just about developing problem solving capabilities but about using them to improve the value creating processes that in turn deliver steadily improving results for the business. So as always the place to start is defining the exact nature of the business problems you are trying to solve. This will in turn show you where your processes are broken and where to focus your lean efforts to greatest effect. Doing lean without a clear purpose is unlikely to be sustained for long. There is no doubt that improving performance across a geographically disbursed network is difficult. Let me share ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The people in the organization must learn a new way of thinking and acting, what also means unlearning, which is more difficult then learning for the first time

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, July 1, 2013
There is a lot of good advice from my colleagues. I would like to be the voice of reason and suggest that you are correct that this is a big challenge. The way I learned to deal with a challenge is to break it down into pieces and deal with it piece by piece, the basis of Toyota Business Practices. The problem is as follows: You have many different organizations with their own functional leadership spread across America. We know that to significantly transform a single organization, like a plant or a software organization, takes dedicated senior leadership, ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: We Can Tell You How to Find the Answer

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Friday, June 28, 2013
Question:  How can Lean be sustained across a decentralized group geographically spread out? The daily behavior of people -- the social side of Lean -- is primarily what defines a culture of continuous improvement. Lean behavior as observed at Toyota is fractal. That is, each element of the organization is using the same basic pattern of working -- the way we do things around here. This in sum produces the organization's processes, products, services and business results. If 'sustaining in a decentralized organization structure' is your current challenge, then I think you should apply your organization's Lean behavior pattern (kata) to that ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: The best way to assure sustainability is to establish a strong process management culture with clearly defined processes

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Friday, June 28, 2013
I frequently work with large organizations with dispersed workforces and nearly always begin with tried-and-true value stream mapping to provide clarity about the interconnectedness between various work teams and to, ultimately, shift siloed thinking and behaving from function-centric to customer-centric. The next step I take is situational. It's often helpful to organize the company around value streams, while building the means to assure policy consistency within specific functions. In a highly structured company that's organization chart-dependent, this can often be accomplished by creating solid-line reporting across the value stream and dotted-line reporting to functional leaders. It's sometimes beneficial to centralize certain functions to create greater organizational flexibility (e.g., call centers with significant ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: sustaining requires well prepared and conscious leadership

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Friday, June 28, 2013
It sounds like you already have introduced lean to a great extent and that you were satisfied with what you did (otherwise you wouldn't be seeking ways to sustain). Your challenge is specifically in the sustainability of what you did in a decentralized organization that you have. Besides being decentralized, you may want to consider some other factors that typically make sustainability tougher: Size, larger organizations just seem to have a tougher time sustaining lean company wide (of course there are exceptions). Employee turnover, organizations with high turnover and temporary labor seem to have more difficulties ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Develop a shared language for improvement

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Friday, June 28, 2013
Aligning across disparate silos might be our biggest challenge. As you suggest, Joel, sustaining Lean in a single plant isn't enough. Decisions made upstream & downstream can quickly erode the factory's gains. For example, a chaotic scheduling process will hobble even the strongest factory, as will, expensive, hard-to-build designs. How to avoid this fate? Here are a few thoughts (from "The Remedy -- Bringing Lean Out of the Factory", by yours truly): 1. Develop a home-grown management system based on, say TPS, but tailored for your industry & culture. (Please do not simply copy TPS -- it might not fit.) Develop, thereby, a shared language of ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: Start Local!

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Friday, June 28, 2013
Start local! There will be plenty of waste and opportunity for improvement without the burden of tying it all together. The core change for the culture is totally unrelated to full global value stream integration. Learn how to listen to the voice of the customer. Learn how to identify the work that you do that your customers so not care about (waste). Learn how to use defects as way to see what can be improved. Learn how to make work visual. Learn how to work across functional line as you focus on processes. Learn how to evaluate demand. This will take a couple of ...

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Sandrine Olivencia

Tom Ehrenfeld: Don’t cherry pick lean principles, lean is a complete business system

By Sandrine Olivencia, - Last updated: Friday, June 28, 2013
There’s a massive amount of energy behind the lean startup “movement” today, which I find both exciting and a bit worrisome. Today I still see a gap between the loud buzz of the Lean Startup “movement” and broader cultural and widespread acceptance. N.B. when I say Lean Startup, for the time being I see this as the Lean (Software-based-Venture-chasing-Home-run-seeking) Startup. A subset of the overall startup world, to be sure, and not an unimportant one. Yet I’d like to see the learning from the Lean Startups gain broader traction. Has this community been able to codify the key principles in ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Learning from The Lean Startup movement

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Monday, June 24, 2013
I can see at least three divergent ways of answering this question – which makes it an interesting one to mull over! First, the Lean Startup clearly hit a good topic (and a nerve) by focusing on the numero uno principle of lean “understand value from the customer’s point of view.” Jim and Dan have been very clear on this point from the outset, but the lean movement has hitherto not come up with a methodology (tool?) to address the how? As a result, most lean programs out there are focused on cost improvement, cash improvement rather than customer value improvement. ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: The Lean Startup

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, June 11, 2013
There is a lot we can learn from the Lean Startup movement. I am grateful that this question provoked me to read the book again more carefully, and I urge others to do so too. First it tells a good story well – better than most lean books. Second it is written by an entrepreneur and business person, rather than an expert or consultant, who has struggled to use lean ideas to solve a very different set of business problems in his own businesses before sharing his results and reflections with others. The book stretches our experience and should help ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Let’s focus on similarities and not differences and see Lean as a whole

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, June 2, 2013
Great question! I'm happy to have a venue to share some thoughts I've been having myself about this subject. At its core, Lean Startup and "the original Lean" (as I call it) have a lot in common. And, in some ways, the Lean Startup movement has surpassed most companies' attempts to adopt Lean principles, practices, and tools. BUT... and it's a big but...I feel the movement is producing a fair amount of confusion in the marketplace due to the word "Lean." And I don't think it serves anyone well to have two separate "Lean" movements. There's a lot to learn in the Universe and it seems to me ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: If you develop people results will follow!

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, June 1, 2013
So how "lean" is a lean start-up? What an intriguing; yet, difficult question to answer- there are so many tangents of this in my opinion. For me I suppose it has a lot to do with how you or your organization defines Lean itself. It's amazing when I ask this question across various industry's the answers I get that are so far away from the true essence of Lean, no wonder its only a short-term "project" for many- start up or not. I think this within itself drives the thinking of an organization and how ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Certainty Bias versus Reality

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Question:  What can we learn from the Lean Startup? I think the current popularity of the Lean Startup approach, with its emphasis on iteration, experimentation and a willingness to "pivot" based on what you learn from the experimentation, has the potential to help Lean thinking evolve. Given a choice between a statement of certainty and a non-certain statement we tend to prefer the certain statement. This bias is potentially dangerous because any ideas or plans we have are actually only propositions that need to be tested. According to some neuroscientists, feelings of certainty and conviction are involuntary mental sensations, not rational conclusions. “Declarations of ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The challenge for a startup is Sales

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I am not sure there is a special category or set of circumstances that make a start-up a unique organizational form for lean. What does make it different? 1. The company is brand new so there is a chance to start to build a lean culture from scratch. 2. People can be hired who fit the culture and philosophy the company is striving for. 3. It is a time of unique challenges to make the business viable, and if successful a time of tremendous growth which has pluses and minuses for lean. I am on the board of directors for ...

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Mark Graban

Mark Graban: Good lean practices which start with an obsession with customers

By Mark Graban, - Last updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I think the Lean Startup movement is off to a good start. When I first saw Eric Ries give a presentation about this at MIT in late 2009, I worried that it was just going to be a buzzword... but there's some real Lean Thinking there. It's not quite the complete management system and philosophy that Lean / TPS provides, but there are some good Lean principles that are spreading, including: Customer focus: The Lean Startup (TLS) is pretty customer obsessive... understanding the day in the life of your customer ("get out of the office!" as they say) and what their ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Hoshin and purpose

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, May 16, 2013
It is good to see the growing interest in Hoshin planning. It reflects the struggles many organisations are having in turning lean improvements into business results. But it is a mistake to reach for a new tool without first being clear about the business problems you are trying to solve in doing so. I first learnt about Hoshin from the outstanding management team at the Nissan plant in Sunderland in the UK that opened in 1986. Over the next few years I watched them struggle to make Hoshin the core of the way they managed and then to teach Hoshin to ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Strategy starts by grasping the situation on the the shop floor

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
To be honest, I don’t believe I’ve ever gone into a company saying: OK guys, let’s do your Hoshin Kanri. Most companies have a management-by-objectives system in place, most companies do try hard to define overall goals and break them down into local objectives – and they certainly check performance against targets in order to pay out bonuses (or not). The question, to my mind, would be: what is specific about Hoshin Kanri that does better than ol’ fashioned management-by-objectives? Leadership is by and large about dictating what needs to be changed and carrying the changes through –hopefully for improved performance. ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Getting all the stakeholders involved to agree on the destination

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Tuesday, April 30, 2013
As a resource, I would suggest the book Getting the Right Things Done, by Pascal Dennis, or the Hoshin articles by Darril Wilburn. A common theme on those resources indicates that there is one tricky and sometimes difficult to accomplish element of Hoshin Kanri. And that is the early step of bringing all the "liars" to the room (at the same time). Even when that is possible, the job is far from done. I recently facilitated a smaller scale PDCA (Hoshin is a PDCA in larger scale in my view) with the executive team of a multi billion dollar company. Although that same team ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: A Practical Approach for Attaining Strategic Objectives

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Monday, April 29, 2013
Question: Where to start with Hoshin Kanri in a not-yet-lean company? The Lean community has been talking about strategy deployment for 20 years. In short, the objective is arrows lined up (i.e., individual process improvement efforts working toward common goals) and an up-and-down dialog that keeps both the top and the operational levels informed about unfolding realities. So far so good. But the approach we took to operationalize this idea has not been very effective. We tried to copy Japanese companies' mature Eastern approach, called Hoshin Kanri, but basic principles of skill-building and brain science suggest this benchmarking or copying approach won't work ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Start with 4-step “Hoshin Lite” to gain consensus on priorities

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, April 28, 2013
In The Outstanding Organization, I address my concern that companies often attempt Hoshin planning prematurely, before they’ve established a strong foundation for success. I describe a 4-step “Hoshin-lite” approach I use for clients who aren’t ready for the full monty as it were. The significant behavioral changes that are needed for the successful and full deployment of Hoshin Kanri often take years to develop–and that’s if the leadership team is committed and stable. My “lite” version (which I obviously recommend) focuses on identifying problems vs. solutions, gaining consensus around the priorities, reducing the number of priorities, using a modified version of ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Hoshin Kanri’s aim is to establish line of sight

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, April 27, 2013
Thanks Joel for your question, I think it is one that many can benefit from. Based on my experiences with various industry I feel that this is a key area that is often discounted, and somehow organizations think through osmosis that the people just somehow know what they should be doing on a daily basis that cascades upward to "something" but not always a defined strategic business plan. I often ask the organizations I visit what their true north is and/or business indicators and to my surprise a common response is the"deer in headlight" look. If they ...

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David Meier

David Meier: Hoshin Kanri is Direction Management

By David Meier, - Last updated: Saturday, April 27, 2013
I am sure someone else will mention that Hoshin Kanri is more specifically translated as “Direction Management.” Within any language there are words that describe conceptual aspects in a culture and are not directly translatable because the other language does not have the same exact thing. Hoshin is one such concept. It is a process and it is intended to get a group of people aligned around specific targets. It is SIMILAR to Policy Deployment or Management by Objectives so sometimes that is what it is referred to, but there are significant differences in HOW Hoshin is applied. I don't ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: hoshin kanri links the kaizen activities of leaders and work groups at all levels so they are working toward common goals

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, April 27, 2013
In "The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership" we have a 4 step model of leadership development.   We place Hoshin Kanri fourth, after self development, developing others, supporting daily kaizen, and finally hoshin kanri.  What hoshin kanri can do is link together the kaizen activities of leaders and work groups at all levels so they are working toward common goals.   In a sport, for example, basketball, a game plan can do that.   But imagine the perfect game plan with a bunch of novice players going up against professionals.  It will be a blow out.  The novices do not have a chance ...

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Lean Frontiers

Dave Meier: People need challenges to engage in their work, but they also need success

By Lean Frontiers, - Last updated: Monday, April 15, 2013
I have to say that it is unfortunate that "Lean" (or TPS or Lean Sigma or whatever) gets used as a sort of "weapon" against workers. This is of course contrary to the actual intent, which is more to "humanize" work. But like many things about TPS and life in general, there are apparent contradictions in many things. Toyota certainly attempts to maximize the "value" of the workers, but not in a brutal sort of way. At the same time there are high expectations from people. Toyota says, "We respect people by challenging ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: In high velocity learning, standardization is about capturing the best known approach in design, and seeing flaws in production

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Monday, April 15, 2013
To your quote: In France, the battle against lean is raging (as in: CEOs use lean for brutal productivity gains and Unions are dead set against it), Ironically, both adversaries in this contest share a common assumption: that standardization, visual management, and the like are for the purpose of control--management wants to exercise it, labor wants to avoid it. Also shared is the assumption that work is low variance but numbingly routine or non routine but high variance in quality and productivity. That, of course, misses the reality by which Toyota another superlative organizations succeed. All ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Transparency allows for better productivity (and can be stressful)

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Monday, April 15, 2013
The same way we have different ways to handle manufacturing scenarios: slow or high mix, low or high volume, custom or standard products, etc, etc… I think there are some distinctions when we talk about office environments.  There are those transactional standard procedures with limited variations, such as the one a postal service clerk would have at the counter.  There are those that can require a lot more decision making and unpredictable resources, perhaps as in mortgage banking.  There are those of knowledge creation, which may seem one of the most difficult ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: First translate purpose correctly by answering what-how-why – What am I doing, how will it be done, and why is it important?

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Sunday, April 14, 2013
It's funny (it's really not), no matter where I go to teach or what industry I'm in, there is always several folks in the group that define Lean as "less employees are needed"; this is a joke of course, but is it?   Art refers to it as something <mean>, I've heard many different types of analogies in my tenure as a trainer, I always ask why do we have to call it anything?  Is it necessary, could that be part of the program that labels get formed based on misunderstandings of intent? Who can really say!   To ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: We can have both pressure and mutual trust

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Friday, April 12, 2013
Visual management, within or outside of the factory, does indeed put pressure on workers. That's life.  Achievement requires commitment, which entails pressure. If there's mutual trust and an explicit understanding between workplace parties -- no problem. The deal goes something like this: Management: "We'll invest in your knowledge and capability.  We'll make you as marketable as possible.  We'll treat you with respect and share the bounty." Workers: "We'll help the Company succeed financially.  We'll show up for work and work to standardized work.  If we can't, we'll raise our hands and signal problems. We'll be flexible and do the work that needs doing.  We'll ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A problem can be a treasure if leaders make efforts to eliminate fear of failure

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, April 6, 2013
Certainly any tool or approach, technological or social, can be used for good or evil and people with power generally make the difference.   In a positive environment, that is fertile for lean, leaders makes a great effort to eliminate fear of failure.  It is often said that "a problem is a treasure."  This does not mean that you want to generate problems for the sake of creating treasures, but that finding one that is occurring and surfacing it is a treasure because now you can solve it. I was in an office ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Managers must walk the talk and not blame when someone falls behind or deviates from standard work

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Saturday, April 6, 2013
I work nearly 100% in office environments and the challenges are many for introducing Lean practices into a setting that is green with both measurement and continuous improvement, lacks standard work, and is often disconnected from external customers. Fear around being measured and seeking out variation is nearly always tied to experience with blame. I spend a significant amount of time with both front-line staff and leadership to shift the environment from a problem-hiding to a problem-surfacing one. Putting visuals in place is particularly challenging, but it can and must be ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Standardization and Lean

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, April 4, 2013
Discussions about standards and standardisation should always include a discussion of the context. Establishing standards in a traditional “command-and-control” environment or even using Tayloristic “do-it-to-people” consultants is very different to the intent and experience in a lean environment. What is important is how standards are established and for what purpose. In a lean situation standards are a manifestation of the scientific thought process that underlies lean thinking. Deeply understanding your own work and how this creates value for customers and end users and how to improve it is the right place to start learning how to think using the scientific approach. ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Managers must be teachers: training is a key responsibility of a lean manager, and operators standards and standardized work training tools

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Monday, March 25, 2013
As you mention job instructions, I’m assuming that you’re referring to Operations Standards Sheets. This lists de specific standards that must be met in order to achieve standardized work – safety standards, training standards, equipment operations and maintenance work standards, quality of materials, components and operations standards. I’m not sure how often these would change. Sure, kaizen might lead to modify these standards, but this would involve other departments in many cases, and certainly engineering – and isn’t likely to happen that frequently. On-the-job training is a fundamental part of the supervisor’s responsibilities. The objectives of such training are, firstly, to ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: The rate of improvement dependends on the culture and maturity of the organization, leadership alignment around priorities, and workforce involvement rather than training being any type of constraint.

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Monday, March 25, 2013
Like Jeff, my question is whether you mean “work standards” or “standardized (standard) work.” I view them as two different animals. A standard might be, for example, that you always insert a needle with the bevel up. Or that you always apply X amount of torque to a bolt. Or that a legal document always includes a confidentiality clause. Standardized work, on the other hand, is the process by which work gets done. The sequence of activities. Standardized work may or may not include defined standards. “The best known way” could apply ...

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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: Use standards as a rallying point, not in a punitive sense!

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Friday, March 22, 2013
Before considering the question directly it might be useful to understand that it only applies to the uptown white bread world of organisations that actually have standards, however misguided/informed the underlying thinking that created them may have been. There is, in the real world, a huge heaving mass of the economic sector that has very little comprehension of the benefit that ‘standards’ can bring to the organisation (this issue of establishing standards is perhaps the subject of another debate on The Lean Edge). I don’t feel that there is a simple Yes/No ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: We Don’t Think About Standards the Way Toyota Does

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Monday, March 18, 2013
Question:  Standards are often described as 'the best way known to perform a certain task'. How do you change a standard? We spent from approximately 2004-2009 researching how Toyota managers think. (You can't figure it out by asking them, btw.) Based on those investigations I can say that this sort of "standard = best way" question probably wouldn't make much sense to an experienced Toyota person. Their paradigm is just too different. What we found out about how Toyota people think about standards looks more like this: This paradigm immediately and automatically leads to two fundamental questions: Where do you want to be next? Where are ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Train to the what-how-why model when you make changes then there is more time to spend on proactive problem solving than reactive

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Monday, March 18, 2013
This was a thinking process I had to get used to at Toyota, we never got to "settled in" before something changed on us.   At first it was frustrating, but then as the purpose was explained it became the "norm" then it was expected for us to do this without being told, you know, like our "job" imagine this :).  This was something that was evolutionary because you never were complacent to just be happy with maintaining, if you did, you were expected to "purposely create a gap".  Think about that, what type of organization makes a problem ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: When standardized work is changed, every one who performs the job needs to be trained

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013
By standards I am assuming you are referring to standardized work.  There are many kinds of standards,   When standardized work is change everyone who performs the job, or audits the job, needs to be trained to follow the new standards--no question.   Presumably the change is for a reason in which case you would not want to ration out the changes over time based on the capacity to teach.   You need to make the changes and do the teaching.   There are many ways standardized work can be changed. For example, ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Lean engineering tools can be lifeless or brought to life with exceptional leadership and teamwork

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, March 16, 2013
With my associates at Liker Lean Advisors we have been working with product development organizations for the last ten years ranging from $1 billion businesses to Fortune 50 businesses.   As in all of my published work we believe in an organic approach, rather then an mechanistic tool-based approach.   There are many tools that Jim Morgan and I talk about in The Toyota Product Development System, such as a chief engineer's concept paper, value stream mapping, know-how databases, the big room (obeya) for project meetings, and the use of A3 reports.   These are all tools which can be ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean in Product Development

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, March 11, 2013
There is more to more to this question than meets the eye. I remember mapping the product development process for ready meals at Tesco fifteen years ago. We uncovered an enormous variation in lead times from concept to launch and eventually tracked the source of this variation to a bottleneck in the legal department several floors above the action. Nothing could progress until legal approved the proposed text on the packaging of the product, and they did this at unpredictable intervals to fit in with their other work. Balancing the workload and creating a regular cadence allowed us to compress ...

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Jim Morgan: Great people make great products

By , - Last updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013
I would like to extend my thanks to Michael Balle’ for the opportunity to respond to this question.  There are already many very good responses; I hope I can make a small contribution.  For me, product development is the center of the universe, where unique value is created from nothing…. or it’s not.  And that’s truly what is at stake.  It can seem complex and a little daunting.  But there is little that is more important to the success of an enterprise – and, in my view, it can be the most meaningful and rewarding work you ever do. Although a ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Learn to solve your engineering problems of today to design better products tomorrow

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013
First, beware:  there be dragons. My advice would be to take out “rapid” and “deploy” out of the vocabulary concerning new product development work. Any mistake made on the production shop floor can be fixed by putting the process back the way it was and catching up the missed production over the night shift or a week end shift. Mistakes in new product development won’t appear for a couple of years, and can cost the company its life – so slow and careful is the order of the day. The one catastrophic mistake to be wary of is to hire consultants ...

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Jim Huntzinger

Jim Huntzinger: It’s in the Relationship Process – Production and Product

By Jim Huntzinger, - Last updated: Saturday, February 23, 2013
I will post my answer in more of a story form – probably more appropriately my “comments,” as I am not sure there is a very specific answer.  And, in my experience, Michael is correct in the “much larger impact” product development can have on an organization financially.  (Although the significant financial impact results from improved and better processes, not from managing the financials per se.) Developing better product development, PD, come from many angles – as Art spelled out quite well in his post.  The old (and frustrating comment for many folks) comment, “It depends,” which Art, I believe, is ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Once product priorities are established, map the new product value stream

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
My advice is two-fold: First, applying a healthy dose of focus is the stuff champions are made of, so, yes, prioritizing is wise. In choosing which products to improve, there are many factors, such as margin (why spend your time on low margin or, worse, loss leader products?), technology (is this product’s technology being rendered obsolete in the short term?), customer relationships (put more effort into products that your best customers like), and so forth. Second, once your priorities are established (and you’ve reached leadership consensus, a key step in maintaining focus), ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: Include finance/accounting in the lean product development process

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Monday, February 18, 2013
If you have read about Lantech in the Womack and Jones, Lean Thinking, then you know that our application of lean principles in the product development processes yielded huge reductions in lead time.  And what better way to enhance margins than to have the first product to the market! However, the recommendation I have as you launch LPD, is to include Finance/Accounting as an essential team member.  There are two reasons: first, the finance person can help gather the financial information needed for target costing and evaluate cost impact of different design alternatives. ...

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Jeff Liker

Daniel T Jones: Lean and Productivity

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Let me add another perspective to the excellent posts by my Lean Edge colleagues. For me the lean approach to productivity is distinguished by a wider as well as a deeper perspective, reaching beyond the shop or department to the whole value stream, ideally all the way from raw materials to the end consumer. This engages everyone in thinking about customer value and how their work contributes to delivering that. But we are missing a trick if we just look inwards as lean folk often do at the metrics and actions that improve the quality and physical productivity of internal processes. ...

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David Meier

David Meier: Good units produced (total parts – scrap) / (Available work hours – wait Kanban) = GPPH (good parts per hour)

By David Meier, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The first point I want to make is that any measure has flaws and will not completely reflect reality. They should be considered indicators and in some way all refer to some sort of “standard” or desired condition. This is the basis for problem identification, which is the main purpose. Any measure is a “snapshot” of conditions during a specific time period and reflects many variables that are occurring. Some measures such as productivity are based on assumptions such as standard hours. The notion of standard hours is flawed in many ways that I won’t get into, but this measure can ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Who needs to use the metric and to what purpose?

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
There are two ways to read metrics:  one, to drive behavior, the other to better understand a problem – or both. Taylorist thinking is deeply ingrained in all our mindsets, and the usual fallback for any desired outcome is to slap an indicator-and-incentive on it. This usually works, but at the price of unexpected side-effects, which can often negate the very impact one sought. Metric improvement behavior is well studied, and if the reward is relevant enough, we now know humans will 1) do whatever they can to get the prize, 2) at the expense of all other variables, and ...

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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: Straight Delivery Rate (SDR) basically measures how much of your product went through your process(es) within the design leadtimes and quality parameters

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Monday, January 28, 2013
The adage that you get what you measure (and then some other bonus unexpected behavioural outcomes) is as true as ever. This has been lucidly described in this forum and in the literature. However, the central point still remains, and that is to achieve a specified result it is critical for one to understand the underlying processes. I recently listened to an interview with one of the South African Test cricket team members talking about how they became the world's best test cricket team (cricket, to my European and American colleagues is the game played with a flat bat and a hard red ball ...). What he said, ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Pay Attention to Outcome *and* Activity

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Monday, January 28, 2013
Question: Is there a Lean way to measure productivity? Of course there is. A short answer is that you measure both productivity and the process characteristics that affect productivity. Deming said and wrote as much many times, as has Professor H. Thomas Johnson. With Value Stream Mapping + the Improvement Kata we finally have a complete routine you can teach and practice to operationalize their principles. I'll summarize it briefly here. (1) Draw a future-state value stream map. At this level you can define desired "outcome metrics" like lead-time, cost, volume. What does this value stream need to deliver? Productivity is ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Metrics create a focus for the company so changes lead to meaningful business results

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, January 28, 2013
I agree for the most part with the observations of my colleagues.  Summary:  "You get what you measure" translates into "Let's measure what we think we want and we will get it."  There are two problems.    First, we often cannot measure what we want.  We want engagement, we want people to pay close attention to quality and safety, we want engagement, we want people to produce more in less time, we want people to product just what the customer wants, etc.  Each of the measures is a proxy for what we really want.  With many measures and pressure people work ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: Measure outputs generated by pathways of connected activities

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013
For technical systems, the logic is self evident that we link independent variables (e.g., "settings") and dependent variables (e.g., "states") through a causal logic, and measure both to be sure we are tracking well.  When we are not, the gap between anticipated and actual is trigger for corrective action--both immediate containment and update to a better model of input-output causality. Organizational measurement often fails by the being irrigorous in comparison. -- what objectives are being pursued are ill defined. -- what factors can be controlled to affect outcomes are ill chartered. -- how behavior affects consequences is not logically ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: 4 criteria for good metrics

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013
What great input from the other bloggers on this question.  And here is what I have learned: If you ask 3 people how a metric is calculated and you get 3 answers, it isn't a good metric. The metric needs to be simple to understand and to measure, because it's purpose is to drive problem solving. If all your metrics are outcome metrics (sales per person, inventory turns, shipments per hour) then add some process metrics. (how often was a sales order entered with incomplete information, number of times with unplanned downtime on the line, orders not entered within 2 ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Group leaders have to compute their team’s productivity standards

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013
As the ole’ saying goes “you can lead a horse to water……”, well you can give a person a measure but you can’t ensure it’s going to be totally value added.   I think most people understand the concept of managing by the numbers or objectives it’s more common than not; if you tell me what you need and you are my boss then I will normally do what is necessary to get you that number especially if it’s tied to my performance evaluation, bonus, wage increase, or promotion (*note just because I meet numbers doesn’t always mean I deserve a ...

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Orry Fiume

Orry Fiume: Look at families of metrics – any single metric can be dangerous

By Orry Fiume, - Last updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Great story Sammy and it is the perfect illustration as to why the use of any single metric can be dangerous.  That is why at Wiremold I always looked at "families" of metrics.  To me the most powerful "family" of metrics is Customer Service (i.e. on time shipment), Inventory Turns and Productivity.  If all three are simultaneously improving then you have to be doing a lot of things right.  In Sammy's example, where someone produced more than the customer required, productivity might increase but inventory turns would get worse so you would know ...

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Mark Graban

Mark Graban: Focusing on staff morale, quality, and waiting times leads to better productivity, but as an end result not a primary goal

By Mark Graban, - Last updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013
In hospitals, productivity measures are typically based on direct labor productivity or financial calculations (such as the oft-dreaded "Worked Hours Per Unit of Service" measure). These raw productivity measures are often easy to tabulate, but it doesn't mean that it's the most important thing or that it's meaningful to staff. A hospital can measure revenue per employee or the lab department can measure the number of tests completed per hour of labor, but they often struggle to measure things that are more important - like safety, quality, and waiting times. My ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Since metrics drive behavior, we want to be careful about how we establish them

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013
old question but very current, A friend of mine, ex-Geek Squad, told me BestBuy created an incentive bonus to those store people who sold the highest number of gift cards that month. Gift card sales indeed went up that month, I'm not sure revenues did, though. He said he and his friends sold their gift cards by easily convincing customers to pay for their already planned purchases using a gift card. It worked like this: They would get customers' payments for say a laptop (cash, charge or cheque), buy the gift card with that money, pay for the purchase with that card, and get bonus points ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Pick you sensei with care, the sensei manages the learning curve

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013
If you want live music for a party – do you decide how large the orchestra should be, or do you worry about picking the right conductor? There are two ways to look at this question: the taylorist-lean way and the Toyota-lean way. In the taylorist-lean way, the problem is quite mechanical. You’ve got a number of sites and processes, you want to apply the “waste-reduction” machine to each of these processes, and you need kaizen officers to do so. The question is then a matter of size and payback – how many kaizen officers do you need to hit every ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Academies and KPOs

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Every organisation needs a home for developing its lean capabilities. They may differ depending on circumstances and will certainly change focus over time. The first and most ambitious exercise I was involved in from 1993 was to create the first corporate university in the UK to develop lean capabilities across the Unipart Group of Companies in auto parts manufacturing and after-market distribution. “Unipart U” as it became known was truly innovative and drew directly on the Operations Management Group at Toyota, who at that point was providing Unipart with technical help on lean. It remains one of the most successful ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: You already have a KPO… It’s called “Management”

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Question: What practical advice would you offer to companies as they establish their Kaizen Promotion Offices? Establishing a Kaizen Promotion Office (KPO) was a worthy Lean experiment and failed hypothesis of late 20th century Lean efforts in the West. As with any failed hypothesis, it's highly useful if we take the lessons it provides and use them to adjust our approach as we pursue the target condition. That target condition goes something like this:  Improvement at every process every day that is aligned with strategic objectives. What we learned from the 20th century KPO experiments is that establishing a KPO tends to ...

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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: KPO or Production Control function?

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Sunday, January 6, 2013
The wording of the question takes as a given that a KPO should be formed and focusses on the practical aspects of creating and maintaining a KPO. The obvious linkage between OMCD in Toyota and a "KPO" is seductive to use as a template for other organisations. But one needs to be aware of the scale issue - Toyota's OMCD is a small group (around 25 people) that is Head Office based to serve the entire group globally. To the best of my knowledge there isn't an "OMCD" at each of its manufacturing facilities. ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: You are always leading and learning!

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Sunday, January 6, 2013
(a) What is the role of the KPO to serve the organization? When I see this question it takes me back to when I was taught the essence behind the Quality Circle Program and how they began at Toyota (back in the 1950’s) based on Taiichi Ohno’s vision of developing his people. I remember when I was in my assimilation hiring process (learning Toyota history) they discussed the fact with us (new hires) that the program wasn’t designed to necessarily save the company money (ROI) in the very beginning; it was more so to develop people in problem solving, and ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: The culture transformation through personal engagement is the only chance of success for a “lean transformation”

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Saturday, January 5, 2013
The role of the KPO is to launch the lean understanding in the organization by piloting and proving concepts and then later supporting the pull from the rest of the leadership for support/mentoring. Ultimately the KPO is the source of all future leaders in the organization as part of the organizational development efforts. I strongly support the idea of all the KPO team members sourced from within the company and using external coaches to develop this team. Why? Because the internal people know the business best and the lean concepts are not difficult to learn from external coaches. Additionally, this dramatically reduces the cost of the lean start-up ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Develop deep capability, don’t assign people to jobs in an office

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Friday, January 4, 2013
It is always difficult to add value when I wait until someone else has answered on the lean edge, particularly someone with the thoughtfulness and eloquence of Steve Spear.  I could simply say:  "I agree," but I will add a few thoughts.  Steve talks about the two alternative purposes which I will summarize as quick and dirty one-off projects compared to creating a high performance learning organization.  Few executives are interested in spending lots of time and money to be mediocre, but in fact that is exactly what they end up doing.  So ...

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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
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 ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Ringi is a tool to learn to define target conditions and practice meaningful hansei

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Saturday, December 29, 2012
There is always a temptation to see TPS tools as operational tools rather than learning tools. Ringi as an operational tool is nothing more than a corporate way to deploy hoshin kanri. So what? On the other hand, ringi as a learning tool is essential to both defining target conditions and practicing hansei – big topics! I had not thought much about ringi for a while. I first came across the term, what – twenty years ago (it’s scary when you start counting in decades!) as we were all discovering Toyota practices and trying to sort out the Japanese from the ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Ringi-sho is the formal approval process linked to hoshin kanri

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, December 29, 2012
I will have to admit when I saw the word Ringi in this question, it brought back many memories of my time at Toyota (TMMK).   It's not a word I've used or heard much since my time there, even though the thinking behind it could be more common if expressed differently. As others have mentioned above Ringi or (Ringi-sho) is not necessarily a Toyota creation, it is a Japanese term which when translated (with help from John Shook) means: A high-level formal authorization/approval process, usually for major policy matters, major projects and represents formal agreement (through nemawashi) of the authorizing parties (always including finance).  It ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Really? More Stabbing Around for Solutions?

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Thursday, December 27, 2012
Question: What is Ringi? Should that practice be adopted by Lean thinkers? The process of PDCA Thinking and Acting suggests we should experiment our way to a target condition. That is, when a step doesn’t work as intended (which happens all the time) you learn something valuable from that prediction error and you set up the next experiment based on what you just learned. In this way you create a chain of PDCA cycles toward the target condition; learning along the way and adjusting based on what you’re learning. What PDCA Thinking and Acting doesn’t say is that when something didn't work ...

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Arthur Byrne

Art Byrne: If a company is approaching lean as their strategy and implementing it aggressively [no dabbling allowed] and it thinks it can benefit from using Ringi

By Arthur Byrne, - Last updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012
Like most of the rest of you I never heard of Ringi before so I figured that I never used it. Then I looked up a definition, “a process where all those involved in implementing a decision have a say in making that decision in the first place”. Thinking of it that way, the way we always organized our kaizen teams more or less incorporated this approach. We always had value added operators from the area we were working in on the teams. We also had the leader or supervisor of that area on the team plus a member from ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Ringi is a formal process of writing up a proposal and getting it approved

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012
This question is a little different then some in that it asks about the connection between a group of Japanese words.  Not every organization is enthusiastic about learning new Japanese words as the lean lexicon is complex enough.  Actually these are really very old words, and both ringi-sho and nemawashi are not specific to Toyota, but to Japanese management more generally.  Anyone who was studying Japanese management back in the 1980s when the quality movement was in full gear learned these concepts--though in the abstract apart from a system. As you will see from the answers from some of my colleagues ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Ringi as used by Toyota, ensures that resources will be allocated according to the Hoshin Kanri for that period

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012
Great topic.   As to how widespread Ringi is in Toyota, I think most people in Toyota would be well familiar with this practice as it is used in all areas, from production to sales to IT.   In Toyota they refer to it as Ringi Sho, which is roughly translated to Approval Document.  But as some other Japanese or Toyota terminologies, this one should not be just roughly translated.  It brings a much deeper concept which makes it fair to use the Japanese terminology. Ringi as used by Toyota, ensures that resources will be allocated ...

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Jeff Liker

Daniel T Jones: Why is lean in sales so hard?

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, December 20, 2012
I have struggled with this question ever since we compared the striking differences between car distribution in Japan, Europe and North America in the “Dealing with Customers” chapter of The Machine that Changed the World. I spent the next decade researching every aspect of car distribution in the International Car Distribution Programme (www.icdp.net) and helping the grocery retailer Tesco to pioneer lean in grocery distribution and sales. My colleague Dave Brunt spent time as the lean champion at the Porsche sales company in the UK and has more recently had considerable success in coaching lean dealers across the world, based ...

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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: Revenue growth is a key part of lean thinking

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Sunday, December 9, 2012
This is an excellent question. I work with sales teams in at least 80% of the improvement work I lead, so it can and must be done. I agree with several of the Lean Edge team that part of the reason why Lean has been slow to capture the imagination of sales teams lies with Lean’s early, erroneous spin as solely a “manufacturing thing ” versus a broad and deep business management strategy that applies to all facets of an organization and to all industries. But I believe there are at least there two additional root causes. First, the financial focus ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Understand the value stream from order to customer

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Monday, December 3, 2012
This is a good question and one that doesn't facilitate itself for such a linear answer. I think all the responses so far have talked about many different ideas based on all our experiences out there with various industry and gives our readers some good perspectives to build on. I suppose being part of Toyota in the beginning (1988) when we were setting up the systems at TMMK we realized Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) wasn't necessarily part of our manufacturing plant (meaning onsite), they were a separate entity as Jeff and others ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Lean in Sales starts with Genchi Genbutsu and PDCA

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Monday, December 3, 2012
Interesting notes from different perspectives. The little I know about sales and its TPS practice comes from joint efforts when they were teamed up with us, production engineering, in my old days at Toyota. 1)      They did genchi genbutsu to its full extent.  A few examples:  Once, we went w/ sales people to the port of Santos in Brazil to follow up cars arriving from TMC to be sold in the Mercosur market.   Also, when in Japan, their first several weeks on the job included selling cars door to door.  Another example when I ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Learning to make hit products

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
This is a very interesting question: how can lean help boost sales? There are two ways of looking at this: one, applying lean thinking to the sales function, or two, increasing sales with lean. As I don’t much about selling, I’ll tackle the latter – how can lean boost sales without touching the sales function? If we’re not focusing on selling, the product had better sell itself! There are four very large challenges here: How can we grasp customer preferences to design a product they’ll like (and buy)? How can we design the product to deliver these functional performances as well as genera ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: We must think of the whole enterprise as a continually evolving system

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, November 26, 2012
If you look at the comments of several of my colleagues about bringing lean to sales they point out how important this is--to really connect the value streams of design-build-sell--and Wiremold was brought up as a company that in its heyday had made a lot of progress at the lean enterprise level.  Personally if companies have an immature lean system in manufacturing I suggest they start there.  It is visible, involves physical changes, and the typical tool set of lean applies in a clear way.  Wiremold started in manufacturing.  Companies that try to ...

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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: If we focus on eliminating the wastes associated with the selling process first, we can capture the imagination that lean and sales are great partners!

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Monday, November 26, 2012
Lean failing to capture the imagination of the sales team…what a question!  Our sales team loved the fast lead times. Our sales team loved the improved quality. Our sales team loved rapid pace of new product offerings. We loved to leverage the web for selling.  But just as every other department outside of manufacturing, the improvement cycle was not grasped without some tangible structured introduction of the power of eliminating waste in the process.  The sales team was certainly interested in activities that would make the sales job easier:    getting marketing ...

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Arthur Byrne

Art Byrne: If the CEO sees lean as a business strategy, he/she will involve sales from day one

By Arthur Byrne, - Last updated: Sunday, November 25, 2012
the answer to your question has to go deeper than just trying to explain “why lean has failed to capture the imagination of the sales team”. The issue isn’t so much sales but rather a lack of understanding of lean. If you think of lean as “some manufacturing thing”, and probably 95% of all companies and CEO’s view it this way then this should not be surprising. Heck, lean is most commonly called “lean manufacturing” so even manufacturing companies are confused about what lean really is. Lean is a business strategy. You can think of it as a time based ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: The lean system comprises three ‘loops’ in fact: Design, Make, Sell.

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Hi all, Good question. Building on Orry's points, the Toyota Business System is about growth -- and not simply efficiency. And you can't grow unless Sales is engaged. The system comprises three 'loops' in fact: Design, Make, Sell. As it happens, one of my favorite Toyota senseis, Shin-san, was a sales & marketing executive! Most Lean transformations focus on the Make loop -- and sub-optimize therefore. A chaotic, lumpy sales profiles will force even the most splendid Lean factory out of its 'sweet spot.' We'll have to  buffer with inventory, lead time or capacity. Engaging Sales, as Wiremold did, entails uncovering invisible governance obstacles. Incentive structures are perhaps the most ...

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Orry Fiume

Orry Fiume: Get field sales people to participate in shop floor kaizens!

By Orry Fiume, - Last updated: Sunday, November 25, 2012
I agree with the observation that the Lean movement has failed to recognize the importance of the sales team in capitalizing on Lean as a growth engine.  And I believe that the answer goes back to when we in the western world first started to become aware of what the "Japan, Inc" (AKAToyota) was doing.  It first manifested itself as "Just In Time" and we interpreted that as "just in time inventory management".  Later we recognized that JIT was part of something larger and we called that the "Toyota Production System".  But we ...

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Arthur Byrne

Art Byrne: First link the logical value streams through product families, then get change over times under 10 mins

By Arthur Byrne, - Last updated: Saturday, October 13, 2012
I assume that the parts made in the press shop are being consumed in the assembly shop. We had the same situation when I first joined Wiremold. We knew we wanted to get to a flow operation starting with the presses and going all the way to the finished box. We had a painting operation in between so it was even  a little more complicated. Where you want to go is to move the assembly operations to the ends of the presses so that parts can be finished from raw material to in the box as quickly as possible. You ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Depends on Your Goals

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Monday, October 8, 2012
Question:  Where do you think we should start the Lean process in the Press Shop? Seems to me the answer to this question depends on what customer-related challenge your facility is trying to meet. In Lean terms, what does your 1-3 year, dock-to-dock future-state value stream map specify as the desired condition, on the way to the (dock-to-dock) vision of 1x1 Flow at Lowest Cost? This future-state map is a place to inject general Lean ideas like where to flow, where to pull, the scheduling point and lead-time goals. With that overarching challenge or direction in mind, apply the rest of the ...

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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: Establish a daily pattern production schedule to sequence your presses

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Saturday, October 6, 2012
There is a huge difference between the typical “assembly” line production and the manufacturing environment. We are all guilty, to some extent or another, of trying to replicate the ‘sequential production’ paradigm into a world that experiences ‘non-sequential’ work loadings – a world of high product variability, short runs and shared resources. Herewith some ideas for you to consider. 1.       Close the feedback loop by linking your output requirements (i.e. your customer) with your input. Use the available forecasts to determine your plant loadings and establish a daily pattern production schedule. Use your existing layout as the basis for your planning – ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Flow if you can, pull if you can’t

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Monday, October 1, 2012
I was recently visiting a large German factory that manufactures industrial equipment – huge mix, low volumes. When I first saw the site, sometime last year, it looked like a plane crash, with cells and half-completed product all over the place – not surprising for a high variety long process product largely managed by the SAP. The plant’s management team had tried to streamline their flow by Value Stream Mapping extensively, filling in wall sized brown papers with hugely complex flows, and with little shop floor progress. Since then, they have completely changed tack and started by focusing on preparing ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Don’t confuse JIT shipping with a JIT system

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, September 24, 2012
We did work for a JIT seat assembly plant that shipped in sequence to automotive.  They were proud of the plant for being "lean."  After all it shipped JIT.  Walking through the plant it was obvious it was far from lean.   Yes they had an assembly line for the seats and yes they shipped in the exact sequence of the auto assembly lines.  But in reality they were sequencing out of a large inventory in an automated storage and retrieval system, the standardized work and training on the assembly line were awful, the line was not well balanced, built-in quality ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Start with Production Control and Empower People through Standards

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, September 22, 2012
Hi Andrew, I will answer to my personal experience in regard to this question.  I think its a good one, it can bring out many dynamics that fall under that umbrella of thinking "flow vs batch" so I will try to cover several of them within my answer.   When I was first exposed to the Toyota Production System (TPS) "thinking" in 1988 at Toyota Motor Manuf. KY (TMMK) I made an assumption that if you weren't practicing one piece flow then you weren't effectively practicing TPS.  Now to explain that statement I was in a 2-week assimilation class before I ...

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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: Is nemawashi checking the relevance of a solution and enriching it with key field actors, or simply promoting / enforcing it ? It is both – and which one is applied is dependent on your intent.

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Monday, August 27, 2012
Nemawashi is a double edged sword.  Both edges work equally well. Which edge to use is entirely dependent on the intent of the person initiating the engagement. I first came across the practice of nemawashi during new model launches. Especially during the (then) traditional sit down meetings to review project progress. Before we started to discuss and agree on the way forward, there was a tendency to every now and then “Shanghai” someone publicly. This, of course, leads to a spiral of retribution … and if that weren’t so debilitating on relationships and more importantly on getting the job done, it ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Nemawashi literally means “going around the roots” — so as to prepare a tree for transplanting.

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Friday, August 17, 2012
Here are my thoughts. Nemawashi literally means "going around the roots" -- so as to prepare a tree for transplanting. The word evokes images of quiet, patient work: · Finding a the right spot for the tree, both physically and aesthetically, · Ensuring good sun, soil & drainage, · Digging new hole of the right depth & diameter, and then watering and fertilizing · Carefully transplanting the tree, filling in the hole, etc Thereby, we develop a 'shared understanding' -- another rich image. Lobbying, by contrast, implies hectoring, cajoling, and perhaps bribing. (In America, lobbyists vie with lawyers and politician's for the title of Most Despised Profession.) In summary, nemawashi ...

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Daniel Markovitz

Daniel Markovitz: Nemawashi is more than just lobbying

By Daniel Markovitz, - Last updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012
Lobbying (and yes, I’m thinking cynically of what happens on K Street in Washington), is an attempt by a small group to influence policy for the benefit of that group. The welfare of the larger institution is secondary to the welfare of the sub-group. Moreover, lobbying isn’t a learning exercise: opposing or alternative views aren’t incorporated into the lobbyist’s position. Nemawashi is also designed to influence policy, of course. But there are several significant contrasts to lobbying. First, the welfare of the larger group is a real consideration. Second, nemawashi is a dialogue, not a monologue — it’s a discussion in ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: In my time at Toyota, nemawashi was as common as the word kaizen

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Nema- what !? This is a frequent response I get when I use this term with clients or individuals who are on their lean journey.  I would like to take a minute to  just explain the word and its meaning because I feel many misuse this term/concept and sometimes getting everyone to see through the same lens is very helpful.  The Japanese often used metaphors like, "prepping the soil" or "digging around the roots" for successful planting or trans-planting, some have also said "laying the groundwork".  I often describe it as gaining consensus or building support with others, sharing of ideas, engaging and involving people at the ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Nemawashi is about genuinely being interested in the ideas of others

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Nemawashi was one of the distinguishing characteristics of Japanese management written about a great deal in the early 1980s when the Japanese seemed like an unstoppable business force that could do no wrong.  Over time as the "Japanese miracle" led to the lost decade, and it was no longer fashionable to imitate Japanese management fads it seemed to have become lost from discussions about business best practices.  At Toyota it has remained very important. For example, in the 1990s at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan they became aware that the American managers did not have a deep understanding ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Keeping Your Lean Transformation Focused

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Question:  How do we ensure constant focus and momentum in our Lean transformation? This may be one of the most discussed questions in the Lean community these days. Over the last 15 years there have been a lot of improvements, but lots of stagnation and slipping back too. In your question you mention you’ve been focusing on training people in visualizing, analyzing and solving problems. Interestingly, depending on what you mean that can be part of the issue. We find that reacting to abnormalities alone isn't a sufficient and sustainable approach to improvement. Better... What's the process team's next target condition, how ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Five years into lean

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Five years of lean progress should be rewarded with a vision of how the organisation is going to use the new capabilities of their staff and their value streams to exploit new opportunities that competitors will struggle to follow. By then I would expect top management to be setting the direction for lean, middle management to be focused on streamlining their value streams and the front line to be deeply engaged in problem solving. At this point it should be possible to rebuild the IT architecture of the organisation to mirror and support their lean processes. Then it is time ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: The company learns as long as the CEO learns at the gemba by supporting kaizen

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Sunday, July 22, 2012
The CEO of a construction company once told me that the day he was bored with the gemba, he’d better sell the firm. This, from a CEO who has more than quadrupled the value of his company in the past five years. This CEO has figured out that the company continues to learn as long as he continues to learn, and the gemba is where true fact-based learning happens. Senior management has a disproportionate impact on the firm because of its role modeling role. Chris Argyris, the influential organizational theorist that formulated “double-loop” learning pointed out the distinction between “espoused theory” ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Sustaining focus & momentum requires effective connected checking — our organization’s nervous system

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Monday, July 16, 2012
Good question & good reflections. I would add the following. Sustaining focus & momentum requires effective connected checking -- our organization's nervous system. We call it Level 1, 2, 3 checking, Level 1 being the front line. To Sammy's point, it's hard to beat daily asaichi at the front line, supported by leader STW checking what's important. But front line asaichi needs to be connected to Level 2 & Level 3. (Some problems are beyond the scope of a front line leader.  Without a help chain, they fester.) A number of enablers & subtleties here: ·         How to differentiate between Breakthrough vs. Run the Business work & ensure ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Self development leads to developing others

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, July 15, 2012
Based on your description I cannot tell what you have done in the 5 years, and know nothing about your processes.  As a general rule focusing on training people in visualizing, analyzing and solving problems is a great thing, particularly training managers.  In our new book on Developing Lean Leadership the Toyota Way we describe how to develop leaders and we are arguing that they need to be trained in just what you describe.  The model begins with "self development of managers."  They must want to become leaders of change toward concrete goals and to learn the problem solving approach.  ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: You get what you inspect, not what you expect

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Saturday, July 14, 2012
Ensuring a constant focus on lean efforts seems to be a current interest in many organizations. I believe that constant focus has always been a reward for constant inspection.   As manager Doug Jennings from NUMMI used to say, you get what you inspect, not what you expect. It would be very difficult if not impossible to keep the focus and momentum along the lean journey, if you don’t have a structure of constant follow up.  Some of the existing metrics/indicators in your organization, provided that they are correct, will have to be inspected daily, weekly, monthly or with the frequency that is ...

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Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson: Involvement and engagement of people at their process(es) where the work is being done must be a priority

By Tracey Richardson, - Last updated: Saturday, July 14, 2012
It's always music to my ears when I hear a company is willing to invest time in people development from the executives to the floor level of the organization.  I believe that the training of the concepts or values are just the beginning of the lean journey, the more difficult task is the sustainment, improvement and growth of leaders and their practices to ensure the company is doing business in a way that meets customer expectations through people engagement in the value stream of order to customer. As we have all heard throughout time in the TWI realm that "repetition is the motherhood of all skills", ...

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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Managing Horizontally as well as Vertically

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Silos are a symptom of a deeper problem in organisations. Getting rid of silos is not the answer to this problem. Traditional management systems organise expert knowledge into vertical functions and departments and use these to allocate resources across the organisation. So does Toyota. However following Toyota’s example, lean organisations also manage the flows of the work (or value streams) that create the value customers are paying for. This is in fact the primary purpose of any organisation, and profits are the result of doing so efficiently and effectively. These value streams usually flow horizontally across many departments and even across ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Time for Mindset Change?

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Monday, June 25, 2012
Question: "What are the five major things we need to do to help us successfully transform a silo based organisation into one focused on business processes, and what are the biggest risks we need to look out for?" To change the silo focus you'll have to change people's mindset, which developed out of them having been led and managed a certain way. Habitual behaviors can be changed and there are a few different ways to do it. One way is to deliberately practice new behaviors every day, which creates a new habit over time; like practicing in music and sports. Another is to ...

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