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
Archives by Tag 'improvement'
Lean Frontiers

Dave Meier: In Toyota improvement ideas and efforts were expected but voluntary

By Lean Frontiers, - Last updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2014
As CEO of my company I have a grasp of lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I'm CEO, I find it difficult to ask my people to make time for improvement work. They’re already completely busy doing their regular work. Moreover, this company is in the outdoor sports industry, and many people join these companies because they want time to climb, backpack, canoe, etc., and I'm reluctant to ask them to work more hours and sacrifice time for these activities. Any advice? First off I want to say that when I worked at Toyota it was ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: Conitnuous improvement is more than repetitive improvement

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2014
As CEO of my company I have a grasp of lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I'm CEO, I find it difficult to ask my people to make time for improvement work. They’re already completely busy doing their regular work. Moreover, this company is in the outdoor sports industry, and many people join these companies because they want time to climb, backpack, canoe, etc., and I'm reluctant to ask them to work more hours and sacrifice time for these activities. Any advice? Hi Edgers, I believe an improvement in the true lean context is continuous (as opposed to ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The key is to learn to level the workload for improvement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, March 30, 2014
The Lean Edge: How do you make time for improvements? As CEO of my company I have a grasp of lean and have experienced it in my career, but now that I'm CEO, I find it difficult to ask my people to make time for improvement work. They’re already completely busy doing their regular work. Moreover, this company is in the outdoor sports industry, and many people join these companies because they want time to climb, backpack, canoe, etc., and I'm reluctant to ask them to work more hours and sacrifice time for these activities. Any advice?" I believe the key to ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: It’s not about formal boundaries between firms, but about the dynamics of improvement

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Monday, November 11, 2013
In trying to understand what to in source and what to out source, it is first important to recognize what we are trying to accomplish: create the possibility for high speed problem seeing and problem solving as the engine for improvement and growth. The key point is that exceptional performance levels are won by exceptional rates of internally generally improvement. Improvement, in turns, means finding where problems are occurring and concentrating time and resources on them to convert the ignorance at their core into useful knowledge that separates us from the pack. In effect, those who win do so by ...

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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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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Productivity and Improvement

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
In theory this issue of measuring productivity is pretty simple but in reality it is usually complex for a variety of reasons…In general however I don’t like the question of “is there a specific lean way to measure productivity”.  I will elaborate on the topic with some background information and explain my concern and attempt to make some suggestions. First off here are a couple of quotes from the eminent British Nobel Prize winner (1906) J.J. Thompson regarding physics. The quotes also apply to lean as far as I am concerned. “To measure is to know. If you cannot measure it you ...

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Samuel Obara

Sammy Obara: It depends on how many people you really need to make the effort on this specific improvement to take place with its adequate adjustment of standards.

By Samuel Obara, - Last updated: Sunday, June 3, 2012
Maybe the core question ends up being:  whose role is it to improve? The question seems too simple now: When we say we are improving specifically the "standards", and if by that we mean improving standardized work and its three documents, then very often that is done by a team as small as 2 people, the team member and his supervisor (or many times a process engineer), who can document, do time taking, record steps on paper, etc. On an extended definition, I think that in most cases, when we say we are improving standards, it is implied that there has been an improvement in the process first, so ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: A Lean Leader strengthens the business by developing people through coaching process improvement at the gemba

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Saturday, March 3, 2012
A Lean Leader strengthens the business by developing people through coaching process improvement at the gemba. When we think of a traditional leader with adjectives like charismatic, decisive, visionary, inspiring, tough, bold, and transformational.  This is a western interpretation of the leader as the individual who changes the game, turns the company around, makes the tough decisions, and gets results, results, results.  When we see results, and especially when we see a turnaround in the performance of a company, it is the CEO who gets interviewed and talked about.  It is understandable that Western leaders have big egos since they are ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: The True North “Ideal”: A source of tension for continuous improvement

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
In Toyota thinking, there are at least two indicators that a problem is occurring that needs to be resolved. -- The first is a sign that the process is not in control and that the process is understood imperfectly. -- The second, the 'True North Ideal,' as we called it in "Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System," is a source of relentless tension for improvement and innovation--even when the system is capable and in control. 1- Specification, Built in Tests, and Problems as sign of gap between expectations and actual experience. "Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System <http://hbr.org/1999/09/decoding-the-dna-of-the-toyota-production-system/ar/1> " begins ...

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Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis: Engaging the public sector in improvement is vital to the national interest

By Pascal Dennis, - Last updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Like Art, I've found government to be the most challenging environment for Lean thinking. Root cause: the customer usually has no alternative provider & therefore can be ignored -- (sadly, but more or less safely). In my experience, government workers span the gamut of capability & engagement. Some are terrific & would excel in any environment. Others simply don't care.  The attitude of the latter seems to be, "Where you gonna go...?" But engaging the public sector in improvement is vital to the national interest. It's a big competitive advantage, in fact. Greece exemplifies the effect of a vast, disengaged public sector. (Who is going to invest in Greece?)  But Greece is not ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Always Room for Improvement

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Monday, February 21, 2011
The Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued their release of the study performed in conjunction with NASA engineers with regards to the safety of Toyota vehicles with regards to the potential causes of sudden unintended acceleration. The finding was a positive one for Toyota. The results of a ten-month study by 30 NASA engineers of possible electronic causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles was released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). "NASA found no evidence that a malfunction in electronics caused large unintended accelerations," said Michael Kirsch, principal engineer and team ...

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Orry Fiume

Orry Fiume: Rather than cost accounting, look out for cash improvement

By Orry Fiume, - Last updated: Tuesday, January 18, 2011
This is a question that has been asked in every Lean Accounting workshop that I have conducted over the past 10 years. Probably the single biggest reason why we can’t see the gains in the Profit Statement is because most companies still use full absorption standard cost accounting.  In this system any deviation from standard is treated as a variance. As we implement Lean we satisfy some of our current demand from existing inventories, resulting in improving inventory turns…which is a good thing.  However, since our people are not producing product, by design, that shows up in the financial statements as ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: The essence of the Toyota Way is respect for people and continuous improvement

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I read Mike Rother's response and he gives an excellent  detailed explanation beyond which I will undertake.  I think there are two problems suggested by the question  First, the definition of lean as "eliminating waste" is inherently limiting.  Second, there is an implicit assumption that everything one should do should eliminate waste, and no activities should be undertaken that actually are not considered "value-added activities." These are both limiting assumptions.  Here are some examples of wasteful activities one would eliminate if we make these two assumptions: --all maintenance, especially preventative maintenance -- any inspection --any material handling --any accounting I could go on but you get ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: Excellence is the common goal. Discovery, be it called improvement, innovation, or invention, is the means

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Monday, November 22, 2010
Arguing the merits of lean versus six sigma versus agile versus any other quality method creates a distraction of debating labels and the artifacts associated with each rather than understanding the fundamentals that allow some organizations to achieve levels of performance unmatchable by others. The truth is there are very few organizations that have achieved exceptional levels of performance based on a capacity to continuously improve and internally generate innovations broadly, consistently, and with tremendous speed and velocity. That handful certainly includes Toyota, which converted itself from a second or even third rate automaker in the late 1950s into an exceptional ...

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Mark Graban

Mark Graban: Lean is about continuous improvement and respect for people

By Mark Graban, - Last updated: Monday, November 22, 2010
As helpful as Wikipedia can be, it's also not the definitive source on many topics. In this case, the description of "Lean" is sorely lacking the people element. Lean and the Toyota Way are about both "continuous improvement" and "respect for people." Taiichi Ohno wrote that these were "equally important pillars." Equally important - let's emphasize that. Too many organizations focus on just the "continuous improvement" piece, even if "continuous" means a series of infrequent kaizen events to them. We have to focus, also, on the people side of things. One could argue if you focus ONLY on the people side, ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Improvement and Objectives

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I think several of the posts already address the first part of the question regarding how objectives are set but not as much has been said about how it is different from traditional management by objective. I'll try to focus more on the latter part of the question from a Toyota perspective and then end with some words of caution and play somewhat of a devil's advocate role regarding the use of ideal states as objectives for the sake of lively discussion. In Toyota of course a big emphasis is placed upon the topic of Kaizen or continuous improvement. The kanji ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Communicate clearly improvement expectations, with specific objectives and work with each manager to develop a plan

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Monday, October 11, 2010
You said four very positive things in this question.  1)  You are the manager of the pilot site and you are taking responsibility for lean, 2) you are using a pilot site to gain experience and deep learning, 3) you have a lean sensei to teach you, and 4) the lean sensei is pushing you to delegate downward to get better sustainment.  Just by virtue of those four key points you are ahead of many companies that assign lean to a lean six sigma department to deploy broadly across the company with minimal ownership by management.  A good sensei will ...

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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: There are no particular tools that are better than others to get to continuous improvement.

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Sunday, July 18, 2010
In my new book in progress we talk of three levels of lean (inspired by David Meier).  The outer level of the sphere is proliferation of tools by the experts which by itself is a "lean facade."  This level is not sustainable.  If the experts teach managers the tools and they embrace and apply them they can get to the next level of "management as lean implementers."    This level is sustainable, but typically managers tend to be sporadic in making improvements "when they have time."  The best companies then advance to "continuous improvement by the work group."  The final step ...

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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: What to learn from Toyota for those who already haven’t … Improvement and Innovation needed now more than ever

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Monday, July 12, 2010
BACKGROUND: WHY LOOK AT TOYOTA?  BECAUSE IT CAME FROM BEHIND TO DOMINATE ITS COMPETITION! Understanding the tremendous commercial success of Toyota, rising from an uncompetitive auto maker in the 1950s and 1960s, to the most dominant in the world by 2000s, and understanding the vast benefit that has come to some that have diligently sought to emulate Toyota--sharp reductions in time and cost, with vast improvements in quality and responsiveness, is reason for others who have not yet to look more closely. Toyota's success, after all, is rooted in its ability to generate and sustain broad based, high speed, relentless improvement and ...

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Sebastian Fixson

Sebastian Fixson: How does an organization build the appropriate culture such that problems (failures, mistakes, …) are seen as opportunities for improvement of the organization rather than opportunities for individuals to lose face, their job, etc.?

By Sebastian Fixson, - Last updated: Sunday, June 13, 2010
The negative press that Toyota recently received in association with the recalls, made me think about an issue that on one hand seems to be central to lean, but on the other is very difficult for many organizations to actually do.  That is: confronting ‘problems.’  As earlier blog entries discussed, there are two ways of looking at something like Toyota’s plant closure announcement: (i) It simply is the extension of Toyota’s commitment to ‘stop the line’ when a problem is detected to find the root cause no matter how expensive, or (ii) the size of the expense for the plant ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: People, Product, & Process Improvement

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Thursday, May 13, 2010
The difference between innovation and lean will depend a lot upon semantics and whose definition of "innovation" and "lean" we are using. For whatever reason the innovation tag seems to be applied a lot in situations where people are looking to improve products. The lean tag seems to get applied to factories trying to improve production processes. Successful companies though will need to work upon improving products, processes, and their people as well. In Toyota the concepts of respect for people and continuous improvement (Kaizen) are the pillars of the system. Kaizen has a strange connotation to me at least here ...

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Michael Balle

Michael Ballé: Program vs System: Lean’s ambition is to propose a full business model, not just a productivity improvement program

By Michael Balle, co-author of The Gold Mine and The Lean Manager - Last updated: Sunday, April 4, 2010
A few years ago, at the first French Lean Summit, one participant would stand up at the end of every presentation and ask “what about six sigma? Couldn’t this be done better with six sigma?” – until José Ferro, President of the Lean Institute Brasil answered with his incomparable charm that he didn’t feel competent to answer, having never worked with six sigma, but that the Toyota veterans he knew absolutely hated six sigma for its anti-teamwork spirit. The idea of having a green belt or black belt present to senior management the work of an entire team, he explained, ...

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Mike Rother

Rob Austin: What advice can lean offer about breaking the dysfunctional cycle of “fire fighting”? How do you shift the focus from urgent rework to systematic improvement?

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Thursday, February 25, 2010
I know of a service delivery organization plagued by administrative difficulties. Many service requests are mishandled. People within the organization who handle things effectively become known, and then everyone goes to them for help, which causes them to become overwhelmed; usually they either burnout and quit (or move to another job), or they become ineffective as a result of being overwhelmed. The reward for doing good work is that you get buried by an overwhelming volume of additional service requests. One problem this organization has is that its people don't have a habit of making problems visible. When you point out a ...

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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: Making Improvement & Adaptiveness Part of Your Culture

By Mike Rother, - Last updated: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Question:  Does lean ever become part of the culture? As implied in the question, the lean task is not just to introduce new techniques, principles or solutions, but to establish a culture of continuous improvement, adaptation and innovation. Here's how I see the culture-change issue at the moment: Changing the culture requires changing mindset. Edgar Schein defines organization culture as the set of shared basic assumptions that operate unconsciously and govern behavior.  I think of culture as the personality or character of the organization. Organization culture, in turn, develops out of people’s mindset, which is a subconscious, habitual way of thinking and ...

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Art Smalley

Art Smalley: Improvement is usually not simple or easy

By Art Smalley, - Last updated: Friday, January 1, 2010
Tom Ehrenfeld asks an interesting question (link). I like to tell people that there is both an "art" and a "science" to doing lean in a healthy meaningful way that will deliver sustained results. The science part for example is the ability to analyze an operation in detail in terms of time, motion, the work elements, the types of waste involved, and the basic physics of the process (cutting forces for metal removal, welding, etc.) understand root causes and make improvements. The Toyota Production System has lots of simple tools to help people analyze their jobs, spot waste, and then ...

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