Thursday, January 29, 2009

Discerning Leadership Potential

We're interviewing folks over the next several days for an open first-line supervisor position.  All internal candidates, there is quite a bit of interest.
What have you found to be useful questions to ask in such situations?  What observations might you advise us to make? 
Thanks for any help!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Generating Waste via email--an example

The concept of "Just in Time" not only applies to presenting a manufacturing process with the correct material just when required.  It applies to information as well.  And too much information is waste. 
Here's an example you may recognize.
A project leader emails a request to a group of people.  "Please do this task by the 20th of the month."  The leader can then monitor which persons have completed the task. 
On the 19th, the project leader sends out another email, perhaps even a copy of the first email only with a more emphatic subject line, to the entire mailing list she sent it to originally.  "Please, please, please do this task by the 20th!!!!  Dire consequences await if not completed!" 
In so doing, the sender creates waste.
Each of the recipients who correctly did the original request, before the 19th, are now interrupted.  "Did I do it?  Did I do it correctly?" each asks.  She has to check to see if indeed she did it correctly.  Why, yes, she discovers, she did do it correctly.  "Then, why did I get this second, more frantic, email?"  More waste.
The principle of "Just in Time" would ask the original sender to contact only those individuals who had not completed the task correctly by the 19th.  Why doesn't this happen?  It is simply easier for the sender to re-send to the original mailing list.  A minute saved by the sender costs hours of waste by the receivers. 
If you do this, stop. 
If you see it done to you, find some way to raise the question. 
And, if you can't raise the question safely, find someway to influence the culture so you can.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Doing Lean: Remember the Basics

I don’t know about you but the past week gave me some mental whiplash. The two weeks over the Christmas and New Year holidays went sleepily here in the US. Work was calm, I took some vacation, things seemed to flow with a happy, easy drift.

Monday, January 5 was a startling wake up. Like a race car coming out of a series of slow, easy turns onto a long straightaway, the sudden acceleration was alarming this week. It’s easy for me to lose my perspective in this sudden change; I suspect I’m not alone.

So, I’m reminding myself to pay attention to Lean basics this week, just to keep myself in the habit.

Make it flow I’m looking for anything that gets in the way of a product moving smoothly from start to finish, with no interruption. Evidence includes piles of stuff, people waiting, people in panic, wanting to “expedite”.

Cut the batch size A seldom-talked-about tool in Lean is to simply cut any batch size in half or thirds. Almost without question, just cut the bath size closer and closer to a single unit. But not just in a production setting. Have a monthly review meeting? Make it bi-monthly or weekly. Have a weekly status update? Do it on Monday and Thursday. It’s amazing to me but almost without exception, cutting the batch size improves customer service and speeds flow. I’ve got some work to do here.

Make the plan; measure the actual Assessing plan to actual shows many forms of waste and is so very, very easy to do. When actual is either better or worse than plan, I need to ask “Why” five times. This drives understanding and is a huge, almost free, source of improvement targets. But it assumes a) I have a plan and b) I can measure it. Both are easy. Both require a habit.

Local Improvements These three should unleash for us (and for you) a steady stream of improvements. Remember, world-class companies have 2 improvements per employee per month. Yes, per month. Find it, write it up, make it stick.

Here’s hoping for a very productive 2009 for all of us.

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