Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Plan vs Actual, part 3

Times on Palm for 10km Race, originally uploaded by joeelylean.

Plan vs. Actual, part 3

A distinctive of Lean is a deeply held conviction that we can understand both the steps in a process and the time it should take to do each process. Steve Spear of Harvard Business School articulated this most clearly in his two seminal articles on Lean (email me if you don't have these). And it is this understanding of time that many people miss.

Understanding the steps in a process is commonly understood. But articulating, then measuring, is less well know. Even less understood than that is involving the associates who do the work in the understanding of the time involved and giving them the tools to measure, real time, how they are doing with this time standard. All too often time standards are buried in hard-to-understood time studies that are neither current, visual nor relevant.

Which brings me to the rather unusual image above, which illustrates my entire point. This is my very own left hand and I took the photo before the start of a recent 10km road race I ran. The numbers are simply the cumulative times I wanted to hit at each of the six mile markers along the course and the bottom number was my proposed finishing time over the full 6.2 miles. (Those of you who are runners are welcome to chuckle at the glacial pace these splits represent...not to worry, I'm a pretty friendly glacier) I also added the work "UNINJURED" to the top, to remind myself not to strain a pulled left calf muscle I had tweaked a week earlier. Operatively, this meant I thought through my conditioning and my goals and broke them down to specific measures, which I could assess not at the END of the race, but six distinct times during the race. At a time when I could (at least theoretically :-) ) effect the final outcome.

And, thus, with only the technology of a ball point pen on skin and a $5 digital wristwatch, I had a full understanding of the Plan vs Actual. It does not have to be expensive or difficult.

We can give our people a way to know, by themselves, multiple times each work day, just how they are doing. They can make their own assessments of whether they are ahead or behind. It need not be complicated or fact it is usually best to be simple and cheap. But we MUST share the information openly and visually and involve our people in its development, measurement and improvement.

I hope this is helpful.

(If you want to know how my "actual" compared to my "plan", click here and scroll down to #141)

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