Sunday, February 08, 2009

Two Golden Geese

The longer I work in and study Lean systems, the more I am drawn to the amazing applicability of a few basic practices. It's as if I own a goose that lays golden eggs; it takes only half a brain to realize I'd best nurture this goose well.

And in this case, it is not one goose but two.

The first goose is the daily start up meeting.

Taking only six to eight minutes, a work-group leader gathers all of her team members at the start of the shift. She then does a very short and prescribed thing each day. Standing next to a visual display of work group information, she greets the team, sincerely. She briefly discusses the previous day's work, how the actual results compared to the planned results. She then describes this day's plans. She asks the team about any schedule issues which might affect their work that day. She answers any questions or makes a point to answer them later. She then wishes everyone well at the start of the day.

Every day.

Why does this work? It sets the tone. It answers the most basic of questions about the work day. It resets the minds and expectations of the team members from the chaotic world outside of work. It is a point of daily contact.

It's an egg of gold, at the start of each shift in each work group.

The second gold-producing goose is the simple workplace walk through.

I've done this for years and it simply never fails to improve something; either a question answered, an insight I gain, an improvement to be made. And it costs nothing but time.

The walk through is exactly that. A leader getting to the place the work happens. Literally. To a place he can touch the work and, literally, have his elbow touch the elbow of the person doing the work. If elbows don't touch, it isn't close enough. When that close, the leader must see, hear and sense the reality of the work place. And, once doing that, things improve. Always.

What is really amazing here? Both geese are free. Public Domain, baby. No intellectual property rights violated. Both can start now. No seminar to go to. No consultants to pay. You decide...and the goose is yours. From that point, you just feed and care for the critter. And daily get a gold egg.

I'm talking to myself. And to you.

Go enjoy the gold.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Make mine sausage with extra cheese

My colleague April came up with an excellent illustration last week which I'd like to share.

While training some new associates on the use of kanban cards, she discovered some misunderstandings. Some felt that they needed to take the card, walk over to the supply crib, get the supplies and walk back to their workplace. They didn't grasp the use of the kanban post and the role of the water spider to come by at prescribed times, take the cards and replenish the supplies.

"Think of it this way," April started in. "You're at home and want some pizza. You have two options, right? You can get in your car, go to the pizza place and bring it home. Or you can call the pizza place and have it delivered."

Everyone nodded, their mouths salivating slightly for some tomato paste on thin crust.

"Well, the kanban card is like the pizza delivery guy. You place the card in the post and that's the 'order' to be delivered later."

Lights came on. The kanban card is the order. That's all I need to do.

April then used the opportunity to show waste: "Further, you don't want to make all those trips to the pizza joint. That's just wasting time and gas." Everyone nodded.

"And, you know the best part of our 'delivery' via kanban?" She had some puzzled looks and she knew she had the audience. "You don't have to tip the driver!"

She made the point, and made it memorable, with a clear, simple example from everyday life.

Feel free to use it!! And don't forget the bread sticks!

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