Monday, April 26, 2010

Cutting Meeting Waste--you can do it privately

We recently invited folks to join in a group effort to cut the waste of meeting time.  I've been encouraged by the comments we've received.

One improvement we have made, already, is this.  The original idea Dan Markovitz and I had was to do A3 analysis in public...all of us would post the A3 our company was working with and we'd all be able to learn from each other.  

Yet, for some of you, that's uncomfortable.  First, it's a concern of looking "dumb" in public.  I understand that, having been visibly "dumb" lots of times.  Second, there is a legitimate concern about exposing any company information.  

So, if you'd like to participate but want to remain anonymous, let us know.  Dan and I will comment but no others.  

We have a few slots left in our maximum of eight participants.  Let us know if you want to be in!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Join us in an experiment to cut meeting time

Intriguing idea often come through unusual routes.  The idea in this post is one of them.

When I was at the Lean Summit in March, Jim Womack spoke quite passionately of a need to move beyond just the tools of Lean to an emphasis on Lean Management.  How do we better use the principles of Lean to run our companies, not just make our products?  This got me thinking much.

One evening at the same event, I finally got to meet Dan Markovitz, a cool guy and fellow blogger, author of Time-Back Management.  Dan has a real passion for how we use Lean to manage our time and do a much better job of getting knowledge work done.  We had some marvelous conversations, discovering many shared interests.  

Dan published a wonderful post last week; Meetings: The Plaque of an Organization.  In it, he quoted one of my heros, Peter Drucker, who wrote:

Too many meetings always bespeak poor structure of jobs and the wrong organizational components. . . if people in an organization find themselves in meetings a quarter of their time or more — there is time-wasting malorganization.

This lead to further conversations.  We all know that inventory, per se, is not waste though excessive inventory is waste.  Similarly, some meetings are necessary but excessive meetings are true waste.  And, since we know we can often cut unexamined inventory in half with little ill effect, can we do the same with meeting time?  We want to know.  So, acting on Jim Womack's assessment that "management is learned by experimentation, not by dogma", we are posing an open, on-line experiment. 

Dan and I  invite you and your group/company to join us in a group experiment to see if we can lower the quantity of meetings in each of our organizations. 

Here are the details:


  • To reduce the plague of meetings so that we can, you know, actually do some work


  • Participation is limited to the first eight companies (or groups) to respond
  • All members of the lean community are welcome to review the A3s at any time, or comment on the open access Google Doc


  • Dan Markovitz & Joe Ely will provide the problem statement for the A3 (this creates a uniform starting point for all groups)
  • Each company works simultaneously on its own A3
  • All A3s posted and readable (but not editable) on Google Docs to anyone who is interested during and after the course of the project
  • Comments/updates/funny cat pictures can be submitted on a separate Google Doc so that everyone can read them

Timeframe (75 days):

  • Target launch date: Monday, May 3
  • Target completion date: Monday, July 12
  • Two weeks to fill out the left side of the A3 (background; current conditions; goal; analysis)
  • Eight weeks for Do-Check-Act (proposal; implementation plan; follow up)
  • Report out/reflection by July 19

If you're interested in joining us, please send an email to Dan Markovitz (dan ATSIGN or me (joeely618 ATSIGN with your name, organization, and contact information.  We'll send you the link to the Google Docs area with the A3 template and problem statement.

Questions?  Comments?  Contact either of us

We hope you can join us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mental Models

It is way too easy for me to have a mental model of Lean as a straight process, much like going to University.  First you take the 100 level course, then the 200 level course and, if you persevere and get some funding, you might eventually finish graduate school.  Knock off the courses, check the boxes, get the diploma.  

Which is a disservice.  

Last week, we were grappling with a problem of inadequate supply of an intermediate component assembly.  We should have had enough but ran out, severely affecting the supply of final product to a customer.  Bad news.  Drilling into the issue with the folks involved, it became clear we had missed on one element of our pull system.  Basic stuff.  But we lost track of it. 

Gee, I thought we had passed that course.  Felt we had conquered that city, slain that foe.  I guess not.  And why did we miss it for several weeks?  Fundamentally, it was the wrong mental model in my own head.  I didn't circle back quickly enough to the basic pattern which triggered the problem.  I wanted to relentlessly move forward.  Even though I have written here just last fall about linear vs. circular learning, I still was stuck in a linear mental model.  Linearity runs deep.

Take a look if you are too linear today.  


Sunday, April 04, 2010

When Systems Annoy

At a recent local business luncheon, the conversation at my table turned to diets.  It became quickly evident that five of the eight folks were on one of various current diet methods and, boy, did they five of them enjoy talking about it.  Good carbs, bad carbs, nice calories, bad fat, happy fat, omega 3 (or 5 or 7, I can't remember), salted vs. unsalted frog tongue.  The detail, the intensity, the animation were all amazing.

The other three of us, unfortunately not seated next to each other, were caught in the withering caloric crossfire.  We sat silently, having nothing to contribute in the face of such enthusiasm and controversy.    

Yet one really good thing came from the otherwise dismal lunch event.

It reminded me, in the clearest possible way, how I can annoy as well if I prattle on about Lean systems around those who do not find it interesting.  

It's great fun to talk Lean systems with those who are interested.  Let's spare the rest of the world who just want stuff that works and doesn't care how it happens.  

Keep on learning.  Even learning when to keep quiet.