Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turkey. Baseball. Coherence.

In that mellow, happy interlude between the Thanksgiving meal and the parade of pies for dessert, my mother-in-law posed a question to me which needed an answer.  

"So, just what IS going on with the Chicago Cubs?"  

My oldest son joined the discussion, an inter-generational reflection by three die-hard Cub fans on the direction of our favorite team.  The new management of the team (known for having the longest stretch of futility in major American sports, 103 years since winning baseball's World Series) is trying to fill the numerous gaping holes in the Cubs' lineup before the season begins again in April.

"But who are they going to get?" my perceptive mother-in-law continued. "We have no pitching.  Who will play first base? Can anyone hit?"  As usual, she was correct in her questioning.  

My son weighed in.  He pays particular attention to pitchers and his recitation of the low level of starting and bullpen talent slowly deflated the happy feelings still lingering from the meal.  

"So, is there ANY hope?"  his grandmother sighed.  

Only with a consistent approach, I suggested.  "Consistent?"  Yes.  Only with a broad framework of making decisions, selecting talent and making game decisions could the Cubs change their trajectory.  There are several such frameworks in baseball...the Cubs have never embraced any of them.  Good decisions, when uncoordinated, make for a disjointed organization.  And 103 years of futility. 

In the business world, understanding Lean gives such coherence to decision making.  It is this, far beyond its mere tools, which makes it a powerful concept.  

Would Lean help the Cubs?  I'm not going that far.  But it does mean a lot for most of our organizations. 

Keep learning.


Friday, October 28, 2011

On Implementation

This morning's Wall Street Journal had a long article about the latest European bailout plan.  A major bank leader observed the results of the effort and said this: 

"The implementation challenge is higher than the design challenge."
And this is not only true for Europe's economic crisis.  It is true for every bit of organizational design we do. 
Only when we implement do we have any impact. 
Good to keep in mind when designing.
Keep on learning.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Right Sizing: A Full-Bore Example

When we talk about "Right Sizing" in Lean, the typical context is a machine way bigger than we need or a department spreading out to take available space rather than keeping machines and people close to each other. Yet it remains a difficult concept for many to grasp, especially when so many of us feel "bigger is better." 

I was thrilled, therefore, to stumble upon a marvelous small cafe during a vacation trip recently.  The Czarnuszka Soup Bar in Ephraim, Wisconsin demonstrates right-sizing with the best taste ever.  

Paul owns, operates, cooks, cleans, markets, and loves the CZ Soup Bar. I talked with him three times during our week in the area, the last a substantive conversation during a slow period on a Thursday afternoon. His story is instructive.  

Paul has been in food service for nearly 20 years, living in commercial kitchens, hoping to do something on his own.  Familiar with this small, tourist-oriented area north of the more famous town of Green Bay, Paul developed a plan over the past few years.

He looked for a small space, which he found about a year ago.  He then fitted it with a single stove, small but adequate refrigerator, seating for 12 people inside and 12 more on the porch.  He worked out a plan for a simple but compelling menu plan: Four soups and two sandwiches each day, the menu written on a chalk board.  He'd pick the soups, based on what was in season and what seemed pleasing to customers. He made it with passion, from scratch, from the heart.  He worked out the marketing plan; a simple photo of the chalkboard posted each morning on Facebook.   He worked out a personnel plan: he could do everything, needing no employees. 

He opened his dream in May, 2011.  Through the warm summer season, he did OK.  But his plan was to stay and prosper as the tourists left, the Wisconsin temperatures cooled and local residents still wanted tasty soups.  When we met in late September, the plan was gelling.  I witnessed a steady stream of customers, all enjoying the warmth and aroma of homemade soup in a cozy setting.  I saw a smiling Paul, feeling like it was coming together.  

What does this say about right sizing?  How did Paul right size?

  • His facility.  The small store was what he could manage himself.
  • His equipment.  The kitchen had just what he needed; no extra.
  • His marketing.  With a small menu, a photo on FB works great. 
  • His location.  He picked a small town where a small soup bar had a chance of succeeding. 
  • His menu.  The offerings each day are's a soup bar, after all, not a diner.  This lets him deliver what he knows he can make well.
  • His technology.  A chalk board is far more flexible than a written menu.  Paul can shift it (and does) daily.  He told me how he enjoys experimenting to find what works.  
  • His expectations.  This is the biggie.  At a strategic level, Paul rightsized.  Paul knew what he wanted; independence, a way to make an adequate if not extravagant income.  And he sized the entire enterprise to do just that. 
Will he make it?  Time will tell.  But Paul sure set it up well.  

And a best-ever example of right sizing.

Keep learning. 

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Moneyball, the movie

This afternoon, I saw the movie Moneyball.  I have seldom been so moved by a film.  

And I mention it here because this true story is the best metaphor I've ever seen of the need for a clear-cut philosophy of organizational success which is reducible to practice.    


The need for clarity of objective.  The need to describe it.  The need to get buy-in.  The inevitable resistance.  How, in a change setting, the situation often (always?) worsens before improving.  The need for valued assistants. How to make decisions consistently and confidently.  How the human and the structural interact.  The self-doubt.  Partial vs total success.  

This film captures the life of an organization at multiple levels.  I strongly recommend it to you.  

One note, especially for my readers outside the United States.  The film is entirely built around the game of American Baseball.  A knowledge of baseball improves comprehension; a working knowledge of baseball statistics and baseball history helps more.  Yet, even without this, many of the lessons will flow for you. 

I was familiar with the book from which this movie was made.  Yet the film captures organizational change in a way no book ever could. 

And it is an excellent way to keep on learning.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Questions to Get You Unstuck

Had a perplexing and complex problem recently, which really had me up the proverbial creek sans paddle.  When I remembered something I had read some time ago from David Allen.  He suggested asking these two questions when in such a situation:
1.  What is our desired outcome?
2.  What is the next step?
And this helps.
The first question is a broad one.  Where do we want to end up?  What is the aim of this project, this set of tasks, the solution to this problem?  If we were planning a trip, we'd answer it by saying "We want to arrive in Denver by 5pm on the afternoon of the 15th." This question establishes the goal, the point at which you would say "There, did it, I'm satisfied." 
The second question is a very near-term, tactical question.  What is the very next step I need to take?  What is the single action I can take now which moves me closer to the outcome?  What specific, single thing must I do in the next hour?  For our trip, we'd answer it by saying "I need to get on-line an book a flight to Denver on the 15th and make my reservation today."  Or I might say "I need to compare the price and time of flying to the price and time of driving to Denver, this afternoon." 
I applied this to my perplexing problem.  The first question settled the nature of the tension I felt; two competing agendas were clashing and I stated how each could be satisfied.  The second question then became obvious; a conversation with stakeholders in each of the two competing agendas.  Suddenly, I was unstuck and moving.
Try this, as you keep learning.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Mistake Proofing--why we should love annoyances

A central element of Lean is developing processes which MUST produce a correct result.  Don't get distracted by the Japanese term jidoka; we simply mean by it "mistake proofing." 
Process excellence buddy Dan, a.k.a. "The Kaizeneer" recently posted a short video which is an excellent example.  It lasts a minute and illustrates years of expreience.

Several points of note:
-This is a non-manufacturing example.  You can mistatke-proof many processes.
-It is very simple.  This improvement required virtually no cost and very little time.
-It makes the process work, every time, with no special instructions. No emails or documents or posters required.
-It solves an annoyance.  The small things, the proverbial "pebbles in the shoe" are the source of many small improvements like this.
Look for some annoyances and see what you can go. 
Keep learning.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pull. Please.

We ran out of a production supply yesterday.  It surprised all of us. 
To my delight, the key folks involved immedately went through a simple 5-Why exercise.  They discovered root cause, which turned out to be a good thing, related to some positive developments elsewhere in the company which required more of the stuff we ran out of. 
But how to avoid having this happen?  Clearly, the countermeasure in this case could not be "Hey guys, be less succesful over there". 
Digging a little deeper, they discovered we were purchasing this supply on a schedule, not on demand.  Put another way, we were "pushing" the procurement, based on the day of the week.
How'd that happen?  We understand pull, making a replenishment only when needed.  Why didn't we do it in this case?
Was it simply forgetfulness?  Or perhaps the convenience of plopping down an order reminder as a recurring task in a calendar?
I don't know. 
But the mistake sure helped us assess the error.  And I hope our error might help you assess if you have "push" somewhere you need "pull".  None of us ever fully arrive.
Keep learning.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thanks for Reading!

Seth Godin published this post 2 days ago.  I paste in its entirety:

Consumers and Creators

Fifty years ago, the ratio was a million to one.

For every person on the news or on primetime, there were a million viewers.

The explosion of magazines brought the ratio to 100,000:1. If you wrote for a major magazine, you were going to impact a lot of people. Most of us were consumers, not creators.

Cable TV and zines made it 10,000 to one. You could have a show about underwater spearfishing or you could teach people to make hamburgers on donuts. The little star is born.

And now of course, when it's easy to have a blog, or an Youtube account or to push your ideas to the world through social media, the ratio might be 100:1. For every person who sells on Etsy, there are a hundred buyers. For every person who actively tweets, there are a hundred people who mostly consume those tweets. For every hundred visitors to Squidoo, there is one new person building pages.

What does the world look like when we get to the next zero?

Writing this blog since 2002 has been and continues to be a fun pastime for me.  I'm certainly aware of functioning at that 100:1 level.  It's a select audience who is interested in and willing to read about Lean and why it works and when it doesn't work.
So, this post is merely to say a heart-felt "Thank you" to all of you readers!  I appreciate you!!
Keep learning.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Strategy or Slogan?

Today, August 4, 2011, was a rotten day for the financial markets.  The Dow Jones, S&P 500 and NASDAQ indexes all fell by 4.3%, 4.8% and 5.1%, respectively, in one single day.  

That is data.  What does one do with it?  How does it affect behavior for one holding stock investments?

I got thinking about this while connecting dots between two conversations earlier in the day, neither of which had anything to do with the financial markets.

First, I talked with a senior manager I've known for a long time who leads a local manufacturing company.  The subject was "how do you know the cost of each product".  With clarity and energy, he literally used the back of one sheet of paper to describe exactly how he calculates the cost of a product.  He described how he calibrated this method, how he checks it, how he can easily and quickly compare his cost to what a customer is willing to pay and, thus decide whether or not to pursue a particular deal.  It took all of 4 minutes to explain to me.  He had taught this to his managers and used this method for the past five years.  They all knew what to do when faced with a pricing decision.  I asked him if it had worked through the vicious downturn I knew his company had endured in 2009.  He smiled and said "This was our lifeline."  

He had a strategy for product pricing.  A robust strategy.

After lunch, I spoke with another friend who works for a different local company.  Their business has picked up wonderfully in the past 6 months and they were planning for a busy fall and winter.  Yet, he seemed perplexed.  It seems they have waffled in several aspects of taking advantage of these opportunities.  They had two legitimate paths to take; yet it was unclear which of the two paths company leaders want to take.  I asked him how this was affecting him and other employees.  He described a couple of big meetings during which senior managers shared a catch phrase intended to inspire.   It was a good phrase; short, alliterative, catchy.  Yet, it did not shape behavior.  People could interpret what it meant based on their own background and interests.  

He had a slogan.  A clever slogan, but only a slogan. 

It was late in the afternoon before I even had a chance to note today's free fall in the financial markets.  I emailed a friend on the West Coast who works in the investment industry and asked him, jokingly, if he was talking people off the proverbial ledge.  He responded, marveling at what he termed a "bloodbath".  But he then commented on the advantage certain investors enjoyed if they had a well-grounded investment strategy.  "It's days like this one which show the usefulness of a strategy."  Those without a strategy, he went on to explain, don't know when to sell or when to stay in.  Those with a strategy do; in fact, those with a strategy buy or sell the mistakes of those without, to their own advantage. 

I've personally shaped a clear, written strategy for managing my investments over the past three years.  It holds up.  It told me, immediately, what to do with today's market information.  The strategy has worked in up and down markets.  I'll sleep well tonight.  

A strategy shapes behavior. 

Which brings me to my point:  Lean is a strategy.  It is a comprehensive plan which shapes behavior.  It is understandable.  It is robust.  It allows an entire team of people to know what to do in the face of a wide range of situations. 

No customer will buy a single thing from us just because we do Lean.  They will buy only if they like what we have for the price we offer.  Our strategy for delivering those products is to use Lean principles.  The customer doesn't care about our strategy, so long as we deliver.  Yet a Lean strategy is central to delivering.  

A strategy shapes behavior.  It must tell responsible people in the organization just what to do in certain situations.  It may be boring.  It may be dull.  But it is likely very effective.

Why do people resist charting a clear strategy?  Is it laziness?  Is it fear?  Is it a desire to keep all options open at all times?  I don't know.  

But I do know a strategy beats a slogan.  Any day.

Keep on learning.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lean Cupcakes

A couple weeks ago, one of our teams was trying to adapt to a new system.  They knew it would help but it was a change in a long-established routine.  

Our engineer in charge came up with a good idea.  Yes, she talked with them with the usual bromides: "You guys can get this!"  "It'll make your jobs easier, once you get the hang!"  "Don't worry about making mistakes, this is just a trial period."   She needed to say that.  And she knew she could connect as a person besides connecting as a technical expert.

She brought in cupcakes. 

As a way of saying thanks, all the reminder signs had images of cupcakes on them.  The chatter was "Hey, we'll get this new system started and then there are cupcakes at break time."  There was a bounce in the step, a sense of fun, a sense of "play", even though the task at hand was quite serious. 

We don't have to be stuffy.  We can have fun.  And, boy, we often need to have some fun.

Go find some cupcakes, as you keep learning.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Why measure it if you are not going to do anything about it?"

I was at a medical convention years ago, listening to a surgeon ask his fellow sugeons in the audiance, Socratically, how they would handle a particular case he was describing.  One suggested a specific lab test. 
"What do you do differently if the test is below normal?" asked the speaker.
"So, what would you do differently if the test is above normal?" he queried.
"So why measure it if you aren't going to do anything about it?" was the indignant retort.
An important moment, which I've thought about a lot over the years. 
We have many metrics.  But do we use them?  Do we plot the trends and take actions?  Do we even state, explicitly, what we expect a metric to be?  A range within which we will be happy? 
Why get on the bathroom scale to weigh yourself if you don't a) have a target weight range and b) a plan to modify your diet/excercise if you go above the range and c) a plan to increase your caloric intake if you are below that range?
If you don't have those three, be honest and just tell yourself stepping on the scales is for entertainment purposes only.
If you are not going to act on your business metrics, be honest and tell yourself they are for enternatinment purposes only.
Keep learning.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement by Jeff Liker and Jim Franz

This book is deep enough to be virtually required reading for anyone implementing Lean.  Why?? 
Jeff Liker walks the talk. This alone makes this book truly credible and makes it a necessary read for each of us seeking process excellence.   I got the chance to read it soon after publishing and I found it very appealing. 

In this latest effort, Prof. Liker and coauthor Jim Franz take us deeper than kanban and hoshin kanri to the real philosophy behind Toyota's consistent expertise in manufacturing. The authors use insight and experience to tell the story of WHY Toyota has achieved excellence. The consistent theme is the PDCA cycle. This practice is not new; Demming gave it to the world years ago. But just as the concert pianist and brand new piano student can both play a C-Scale, the master has done it longer, better, with more nuance and breadth. So Toyota has more deeply understood the learning from PDCA than any of the rest of us. 

Most useful, to me, were sections such as chapter 5; "Lean Out Processes or Build Lean Systems?" In these more philosophical chapters, Liker and Franz both force and lead the leader into deeper understanding of WHY; why does Lean work for Toyota when it seems to underperform for others? Is it a kanban card which sparkles more brightly? Is it better charts on the wall? Or is it the investment in people made in the context of process excellence? And, if so, just why is this the case? 

It's a long book. You won't read it in one setting. Similar to Liker's other books, there is just a lot to work through. There are more case studies here which will add for some readers and clutter for others. But, face it, it is tough to make a process-oriented business work so don't be surprised you'll have to work to understand this at a depth to be sufficiently useful. 

This book reaches the level of Womack and Jones' "Lean Thinking" and Spears' "Chasing the Rabbit" as necessary books for Lean leaders to read and know.

Keep learning.  This book will help.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gumbo from Gemba

I was recently watching the popular Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with the irrepressible Guy Fieri as host.  If you haven't seen it, the show's shtick for the 30 minutes is to find three out-of-the way restaurants, each with local color and some unique foods.  He then takes cameras into the kitchen and, with rapid conversation and aggressive tape editing, describes how a killer inside-out burger or Mama's Meatloaf comes to be for faithful patrons.  

Why is the show popular, though??  I wondered and observed.  

They shoot the show in the kitchen.  For a restaurant, this is truly gemba, the place where value is created.  The kitchens are often cramped, dingy, greasy; hardly from an ad for an appliance maker.  The chefs are not actors but cooks, people who both know and love what they do.  

The fact that this is so appealing tells me a lot.  People want to know about how value is created.  They are interested in what goes on.  Dare I say, they would like to know about the process which leads to the result?  The kitchen clatter on the show is as much about technique as it is about ingredients.  

The cooks are truly the experts...they know more than anyone about the product and the process.  Guy goes right to them and gets them to talk and explain.  

Do we, as lean leaders, spend enough time in gemba to get greasy, to smell the burned mistakes, to feel the heat, to sense the time pressure, to realize why the flour has to be stored where it is?  

And, if we do, are we not better able to explain why we do what we do, in a way that makes our gemba as attractive as the hot-dog joint at a resort?  

Mind you, some gembas taste better than others.  But we can each work hard to give ours it's time to be heard.  

Keep on learning.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

System Optimization, Chain Saw Style

Not that we really rush into these things, but my wife and I have talked for a couple years now about tearing out three huge, gnarly, 40+ year-old bushes in the corner of our back yard. And, once they were gone, what would we do with the 300 sq feet of space we'd expose? Gretchen settled on a pleasing, artistic plan during the winter and we awaited a break in the weather to do the deed. Last Saturday's weather looked favorable, so we rented a chain saw and went to work.

The Starting Condition

Our respective tasks became quickly obvious, due to skill and temperament. I got the chain saw and Gretchen wanted to make sure the pile of cuttings was stacked well in the street (she's on a city agency for tree health and knows the guys who pick up such cuttings...she wants to stay on their good side, you see). I waded into the bush, started removing one branch after another as Gretchen began dragging them, 2 or 3 at a time, the 40 meters or so to the street.

And it hit me; this was a process, just like any other process. So, could we improve it? And what could we learn as we improved it?

The task quickly got a lot more interesting (to me, at least) than merely a spring landscaping job. Several relevant facts became readily apparent:
  • It took me far less time to cut a branch than it did for my wife to drag it to the street.
  • We had only two people to do this job
  • We wanted to get the whole job done before the start of the NCAA Semifinals, around 6pm local time.
  • Safety was a factor when using a chain saw and lifting heavy, bulky branches
  • The end result had to be visually pleasing
  • The end result had to build, rather than stress, our relationship.
So, we did some job balancing on the fly. I added to my job; when I cut a branch, I then drug it out of the bushes to a "staging area" nearer the front, reducing her walk by about 10 meters. I made secondary cuts in branches, where necessary, to reduce the size of each branch (safety) and to make it easier to stack on the street (staying pals with the street department). In so doing, I slowed the pace of cutting (improving safety and allowing saw to avoid overheating). This reduced some of Gretchen's job. She had less walking and less work to identify and pull out a branch to drag.

Our visual system to implement this work balance was using a simple, limited "work in process" inventory...I'd leave one or two branches in the staging area. When Gretchen came and pulled them out, I'd cut a couple more to place as WIP. This simple choice had two unexpected benefits. First, it kept our back yard cleaner, as all the straggling branches were in one place, not spread all over. Second, it allowed her to watch the slowly unfolding deconstruction of the bushes. This served to better decide what to eventually leave which would be pleasant to observe out of our back window.

A further learning point from our formerly ugly bush; In doing this work balance, we intentionally "under used" our rented chain saw. It could have had a much higher duty cycle...I could have had all the cutting done in a little over an hour, rather than the three hours we used. Instead, we focused on system speed (getting the branches safely to the curb) rather than point speed (cutting as many branches with the saw as rapidly as possible).

The End Result

We were pleased with how this worked out. As we hacked away, Gretchen observed an unusual, circular set of large branches in one bush, which she felt we could shape into something attractive. We also kept, with a smile, a spruce which our middle son, now 30, brought home as a 4" sapling in third-grade. Somehow, that spruce has made it through three sons and over 20 Indiana winters. It has earned a little more room to prosper.

We cleaned up and sat down, together, to have lunch a little after 1pm, chuckling at how well we hit all the objectives of the morning. We had extra time to do some other tasks before cheering Butler on to it's win over VCU. One remaining task? I suspect a plate of chocolate-chip cookies might still be in order for the street cleaning guys.

Pile o' cuttings

Processes are everywhere. And we can learn from any process, if we choose to see. Good luck on your spring cleaning tasks and learn much from them!

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are they metrics or are they numbers?

In recent discussions about metrics, I've been wondering about the apparent fascination with metrics.

Each metric is a number.  Each is a measure of some activity, some process.  

But what do we do with the metric/number once we have it?

All too often, I see discussions devolving into how the number is derived or where it comes from or what the right unit is.  And I truly wonder if we like the metric or if we like the number. 

A metric is simply an indicator, a gauge of some activity we deem important.  A number, on the other hand, is an arithmetic construct which can be averaged, summed, square-rooted and put into a spreadsheet. 

To fix a metric requires going to see a process to understand what really makes it work.  To fix a number requires analysis, averaging, summing, square-rooting, spreadsheeting. 

Processes are messy.  They usually involve people.  They don't always respond the way we expect.  

Numbers are clean.  They are usually abstract.  They average and sum and square root the way we expect, so long as our spreadsheet formulae are correct. 

Processes deliver product.  Numbers don't.

Is the fascination with numbers merely another example of taking the path of least resistance? 


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lean Behaviors: Trust

We don't talk about trust all that much in the Lean community. 
Perhaps we should a little more.
Why?  Because we ask people to do some rather counter-intuitive things as we try to set up a Lean system.  Like follow standard work even to the point of running out of raw materials.  Why do we do this?  So we can more quickly discover where other pinch points are.  We want to expose waste.  We, who think a lot about Lean and the systems thereof and want to find waste.
But, wait a minute, buster, says our associate.  I've seen this movie before and I know how it ends.  If I work hard and expose a shortage somewhere else, either I get in trouble or my pal who works over there gets in trouble and, either way, it isn't good.  No, I've learned to survive by making a work-around and then keeping the whole system "looking good". 
And she is right.  It makes no sense, based on her experience, to work hard to expose waste.
Unless you and I, leaders in our organizations, act differently as well.  Unless we demonstrate exposing waste gets rewarded, not punished.  Unless we walk the talk ourselves. 
Unless we say thank you. 
Unless we demonstrate respect for her opinion. 
That's trust.  And, without it, all the waste we so nobly hope to find remains hidden.
Keep on learning.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Review: Gemba Walks by Jim Womack

Jim Womack has done yet another wonderful service for the Lean Community with his most recent book "Gemba Walks".  I've already greatly benefited from it on a first read.  Why?


Repetition.  Creative, clear, shapeful repetition. 


Jim brings a remarkable clarity to the task of explaining, encouraging and directing lean implementations.  In this book, he pulls together his written record of walks through a multitude of companies over the past ten years.   He published these records in monthly email newsletters during this time, most of which I remembered reading.  This text shuffles the observations into themes.  Womack adds depth, context and linkage with brief paragraphs before each one.   


And the core theme comes through.  Repeatedly. 


Look.  Find the problem.  Work hard to find root cause.  Fix it.  Repeat.  Experiment relentlessly.  


With story after story, Jim explains how this simple pattern works when applied relentlessly.  And how getting bored with repeating this pattern is a plan for mediocrity or worse. 


Jim's relatively recent observation of outdated management systems undermining genuine excellence comes out in two new essays in the collection. 


For a person new to Lean, "Gemba Walks" will quickly teach much.  For those of us in the trenches, there is both encouragement and more than a few good kicks in the pants.  For senior execs trying to understand Lean, this is way better than more Power Point slides.

In many ways, this book may well also serve as an excellent reference.  Jim organized the chapters to align with common sets of problems we see.  One simple read of a chapter will take less than 10 minutes and I found each would trigger 2-5 quality ideas to test.  Soon.  


Simple steps, done repeatedly and consistently, work.  Womack explains this clearly.  Well worth the read.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A low-tech personal management system

It's a new year and I've noted a plethora of ads and blogs in the last week touting ways to "turn over a new leaf" by using some new technology tool on a phone or laptop.  It's a noble cause and useful endeavor. 
When it comes to organizing one's business and personal life, I've not found any better system than the one described in Getting Things Done by David Allen.  Importantly, GTD is not software but a system of principles.  I first read Allen soon after his book came out in early 2003 and went through several iterations of implementation.  I finally put a system together which worked.
The system is decidedly low tech; it consists of a small, organized stack of colored 3x5 inch index cards held by a bulldog clip.  No batteries to recharge, no Internet connection, no usage fees.  I wrote up the entire system in this post on the GTD Connect blog in April, 2008.  I re-read it last week in response to all the urgings to try new apps.  I chuckled that, 2.5 years later, the simple system I wrote up then still works, daily, for me. 
So, if you are trying to find a way to organize yourself, I commend GTD to you.  Feel free to use my  implementation to trigger your own thinking to take more effective action with less waste.
Keep learning.