Saturday, September 20, 2003

The Pace of Improvement

In a post a few weeks ago, I mentioned that blogs might be less frequent due to a lot of efforts on kaizen events here. For once, my prediction was correct. Before I let this go to my head and move to a career on The Weather Channel, here are some of the things I've learned in the last few weeks.
  • It takes practice. Most individuals and nearly all companies are not set up to change rapidly. The same can be said of an exercise program; you start to jog, your leg muscles let you know something is different. We have paced this recent move to stretch, but not break, our resolve. Not anywhere near world-class yet; sure are moving beyond our usual pace.
  • Adapt to local conditions. One practical example: what the rest of the Lean community calls a "kaizen event", we call a "blitz." I don't know why, but our folks here are a lot more comfortable with the Germanic term than the Japanese one. It works; we use it.
  • It reshapes your expectations of change The rapidity with which kaizen events can bring about change has affected many of our folks' perspective. "Gee, maybe we can implement that sooner!"
  • How do you handle the "rest" of your job? Each event generates things to do. We are starting to see how that impacts each person's "regular job"...Especially mine!! Don't have this one figured out yet, and if you looked at my office you'd agree.
  • Goal clarity is crucial. The one thing I've been thrilled with is the simplicity and clarity of the goals of the individual kaizen events. As a result, we've hit almost all the goals. Simple is good.
  • Simple, real-time documentation is essential. Simplicity extends to the documentation of the outcome of the events. We're not as good on this as we need to be yet.
  • Visual tools are critical here too. We're setting up a separate scoreboard just to be visual about our progress (or lack thereof) in doing events. Whereas scoreboards in most of our work areas are tactical in nature, this is more of a strategic scoreboard. Public. In the middle of our office area.
Lots going on. Lots of hours of work. Lots of progress. A brutal business environment. I remain convinced the Lean strategy is central to serving customers well.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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