Monday, May 30, 2005

Multi-level Change Efforts, part two

Multi-level Change Efforts, part two

A few days ago I wrote about different levels of change strategy. When I wrote it, I thought about mentioning a fourth, higher level of change efforts, one that really fundamentally alters a way of doing business. But I didn't have a clear handle on how to explain it, so chose not to mention it at that time.

Well, sure enough, here is an example of just that level of effort as we learn Toyota eyes new cost-cut strategy.

Like our friends at Toyota didn't already have a clear cost-cutting strategy??

Yes, they do. And they keep making the strategy better. And they continue to set the standard for waste eradication. And it represents this fourth-level strategy.

Take a look at the article. Two points jump out at me.

First, they are looking at radically rethinking component parts. Instead of making screws more efficiently, why not make parts that don't need screws?

Second, rather than whine about high steel prices, why not increase the yield out of the steel they currently use?

In both cases, they think about optimizing the entire system...not just one sub-part of the system. A crucial understanding Frank Patrick's made clear in his post I pointed to last week.

Also note: this strategy is based on the already-legendary relationship of Toyota with its supply base. They are counting on (depending on?) their suppliers to come through. The promise to these suppliers is increased volume. Any lean initiative has to lead to top-line growth to bring about it's full potential

I hope this is helpful.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Multi-level Change Efforts

Multi-level Change Efforts


My blogging buddy Frank Patrick made a profound series of points last week and I'm only now able to find the time and space to comment. 

His comments were profound as they speak to the understanding of how genuine improvement happens.  Frank ruminated, out loud, on
the need for big change.  Then, he discussed further the role of smaller change events.  

He is right on both of them. 

Effective Lean systems have change happening, simultaneously, at three levels. 

At the lowest level, individuals are improving and documenting the improvement implementation regularly.  World-class companies see two implemented local improvements per person per month.  Yes...two per person per month.  The really good companies and departments often exceed three per person per month.  Most implemented with no capital.  A simple movement of a tool.  A rotation of a receptacle.  A flip-flop of two sequences. 

The next level up is the improvement event.  An organized, planned 2-5 day push for an improvement in a single area.  Involving 4-8 people and spending less than $1,000, it shoots for a substantial improvement in productivity, safety, yield or all of the above.  Some call these "kaizen events" others call these "blitzes."  The name doesn't matter.  Doing it does.  World-class companies devote 2% of each work team's work time to this each month. 

The next level up is the strategic initiative.  This can last up to six months and ties some large-scale operational goal into a series of improvement events.  It is linked tightly to corporate strategy.  This is also called policy deployment,  hoshin or
hoshin kanri.   Only one of these goes on in each plant at a time.  It targets quantum improvements in company performance. 

These three levels happen constantly.  They are not in tension...they are in harmony. 

And it is very tough to develop.  And almost impossible to duplicate.  And those who do have a huge advantage. 

I hope this is helpful

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What'll you do for a dime?

What'll you do for a dime?


Last summer, I wrote about Michigan's recycling plan for plastic bottles, one in which point-of-use machines in stores grind up bottles and issue a paper receipt for 10c for use in the store. 


My sister-in-law and excellent thinker Lise Schools lives in Michigan and provided an update to me this morning on how this simple system affects behavior:


I'm becoming a savvier Michigander on this $0.10 deposit.


1. At parties. When people leave parties, they take their bottles with them (liter pop bottles, 6-pack bottles). I've watched people walk throughout the host's house tracking down their bottles.


2. The price at grocery stores. Not all bottles are returnable. The ones that are returnable cost more, but you get the refund. So when doing a cost comparison of tonic water at the grocery store, I had to factor in the deposit to see which brand was actually cheaper.


For a dime!!! 


Motivation does not have to be expensive.  It does have to make sense.  The point-of-use grinders and the immediate (though small) economic reward alter behavior.  Positively.  Cleaning up landfills.  Reducing roadside litter. 


The applications on a micro level in our companies (and even with our kids) are enormous.


I hope this is helpful.  And that you recycle a bottle today. 

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Why I write so much

Why I write so much


I knew there had to be a reason.  Then I read this and it all made sense. 


If you learn by writing...go write some more today.  I've filled 14 personal journal and 23 work journal.  Gee, and there is this blog thing. 


Yeah, writing works for about a third of us.


I hope this is helpful. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Seconds Matter

Seconds Matter


A friend called yesterday, asking for some input on a kaizen event she was going to run soon.  Upon inquiry, the goal of the kaizen was to standardize a particular assembly process.  We talked about the goal and then I suggested she measure both the entire process and the individual steps of the process in seconds, not minutes.  Long pause.  "Really?"  she said. 


Which got me thinking...just why did I say that?  Why was it obvious to me and seemed to be an "ahaaaa" to my friend?


·         Seconds have more precision than decimal minutes.  Her process needed to get to a cycle time of a little over four minutes.  That's a coarse measure.  It was better to describe it as 239 seconds.

·         Seconds provide a good unit for addition.  It is difficult to add minutes and seconds.  And with a total target time of 239 seconds and at least 12 steps in the process, it makes sense to measure all of them in seconds, then just add.  Works well on a calculator. 

·         Seconds are then easy to build into the process with some timing mechanism.  Implementation flows from the event more easily. 

·         We aren't used to thinking in seconds.  Thus, it jogs our minds in a way that build creativity. 

·         Seconds have symbolic importance.  If I measure something I seconds, it means seconds are important.  If I measure it in minutes, then only the minutes are critical.  When my high school track coach suggested he'd be better off timing me with a calendar rather than a stopwatch, he said something clearly about my foot speed.  The units we use matter. 


I hope this is helpful.


Friday, May 06, 2005




With tongue firmly planted in cheek, my colleague Mike sent me the following email this morning.


Nancy, Craig and I did have a very good meeting yesterday. We talked, discussed, chatted, spoke and uttered our needs. Then we lectured, informed, addressed, and sermoned on our desires. After that we mulled, pondered, considered, and contemplated on what we needed to prioritize. Then we all worked together to form a consensus that we understood, realized, and comprehended.  We ended up with final plan that we all appreciated, grasped and recognized as a wonderful solution to big problems that were no longer any big deal. Pretty good meeting.


My blog buddy Frank Patrick has led his home blog page for years now with this quote:


It is a common delusion that you make things better by talking about them. - Dame Rose Macaulay


Mike captured this in humorous form.  I hope you have a productive meeting today.




Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Do a kaizen event on Mondays at 10pm eastern

Do a kaizen event on Mondays at 10pm eastern


So I walk into our family room last night and my wife says "Hey, you have to see this!"  She was watching the HGTV cable channel airing of a seemingly odd program Debbie Travis' Facelift.  Yet, I found it fascinating and it drew me in. I had been there before, it seemed. 


And then I realized why.   


It was a kaizen event.  Right in my house!!


The hour-long show features the star (a certain Debbie Travis, who, I learned, is a paint guru) and a team of remodelers go secretly into a persons home and completely overhaul an area in just a few days. 


And it really is a kaizen. A very focused effort on a small area in a short amount of time.  Preplanning of what they will do.  A budget.  Sequencing of tasks.  A very accountable result.


And all of the emotions of a kaizen event are present.  Things go badly.  People get stressed.  Plans change.  They have to think on the fly.  They have to get creative.  And it feels awful, midway through. And they deliver. 


If you want to get a feel for a kaizen with no concerns about proprietary knowledge slipping away, this is a very good option.  With the possible exception that most kaizen events don't have a witty, clever host with a British accent, the elements are all there.


If you like Lean, you might like this show.  I hope this is helpful.