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May 1, 2012

Avoiding Conflict at Your Workplace

By Charaee May 1, 2012

Workplace Violence, Any Time – Any Where

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.  It can affect and involved employees, clients, customers and visitors. Homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.

There are four recognized types of workplace violence.  They include:

  1. An employee involved with a criminal outsider (e.g. robbery)
  • Assailant has no business relationship to workplace
  • Motive is to commit robbery or other criminal act
  • Accounts for most of fatalities from workplace violence
  1. An employee involved with a client (e.g. customer, student, patient)
  • Assailants can be current or former customers or clients such as passengers, patients, students, inmates, criminal suspects or prisoners
  • The workers attacked typically provide direct services to the public

In some industries, violence by customers or clients occurs on a daily basis, especially verbal threats

  1. Assailant has employment-related involvement
  • Current or former employee or manager
  • An employee involved with a co-worker
  1. An employee involved with a spouse or other significant relationship
  • Assailant confronts a worker, at the worksite, with whom they have a personal relationship outside of work.
  • Personal relations include:
    • Current or former spouse
    • Lover
    • Friend
    • Relative
    • Acquaintance

Companies should take it upon themselves to:

1. Develop a Workplace Violence Prevention Policy

    • A policy should carefully define what workplace violence is, and should be written to complement any existing policies that deal with assistance programs. The policy should also let employees know what help is available from the employer.

    2. Train Employees

      • Procedures need to be developed to respond to situations in which violence erupts in the workplace. Employees should be trained on what specifically they should do when they spot it. Emphasis should be placed on how coworkers or close friends may assist in detecting potential violence. In addition, training should be given to managers and supervisors, human resources personnel and company security. The policy and procedures need to be communicated to all employees, with their specific reporting protocol.

      A number of different actions in the work environment can trigger or cause workplace violence. It may even be the result of non-work-related situations such as domestic violence or “road rage.” Workplace violence can be inflicted by an abusive employee, a manager, supervisor, co-worker, customer, family member, or even a stranger.

      Whatever the cause or whoever the perpetrator, workplace violence is not to be accepted or tolerated.

      April 24, 2012

      TWI Job Relations Session 1

      By Pat Boutier April 24, 2012

      Management Culture or Cultural Engineering & TWI Job Relations Blog

      Please read and answer the two questions below:

      Why do managers think they don’t need to learn how to deal with employees?

      Do any of the numbered items below ring through with yourself, or with managers you have observed?

      1)”Basically if a manager has treated one personnel problem successfully, he thinks everyone should be able to handle it too.”

      2) “Everyone has had a tremendous amount of personnel training, they should know how to deal with people problems.”

      3)  “I just wish they would all grow up and behave.”

      4) “We don’t have any real personnel problems, everyone is happy to have a job.”

      5) “Management doesn’t have it on their priority list.”

      A- Myself: please select one or more of the numbered responses, 1-5:

      B- My management: please select one or more of the numbered responses, 1-5

      April 17, 2012

      LSS and the Business Process

      By ayanez April 17, 2012

      Most industries or service provider’s organizations think that the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology should be tailored to their particular processes, culture or company idiosyncrasies.  The fact is that LSS is rather universal and can be applied to manufacturing industries that may include: high volume with low number of parts offered, high number of parts with low volume, chemical continuous processes, paper mills, insurance companies, Information Technology, banking industries and most recently to the healthcare industry.

      Even pure manufacturing companies have many business processes that, in many cases, are the constraint operation. These business processes may include: purchasing, accounts payable/receivables, accounting, human resources, IT, etc.  The fallacy is thinking that the only processes that need improvement are those related with manufacturing and thinking that business processes have little or no impact in improving quality, reducing lead time, lowering the cost or eliminating waste.  I have experienced that business processes can have a much bigger impact on reducing cost or lead time than manufacturing processes.

      I am a LSS instructor for Green and Black Belt and, one of the requirements for the GB/BB to get certified, is for the students to submit completed projects for certification.  In addition I provide coaching to GB or BB to assess that the projects follow the Define, Measure, Analyze Improve and Control (DMAIC) methodology.  While comparing manufacturing or business completed projects side by side, I have noticed that the projects are a mirror image and it is hard to differentiate them apart.  Granted, certain LSS tools need to be modified to accommodate a particular industry or process.  The main causes in a Fishbone diagram will be different between a business and manufacturing process and the same can be said about completing a Value Stream Map.

      My recommendation is to not overlook business process.

      February 2, 2012

      Coaching To Accelerate Improvement Projects

      By ayanez February 2, 2012

      There are several elements that can affect the time to complete an Improvement Project (IP). The following is a partial list than can influence the time to finish a project:

      • Project selection that is relevant and linked to corporate goals
      • Type of project (e.g., Kaizen, Lean, Six Sigma or Design for Lean Six Sigma (DFLSS))
      • Scope of project
      • Project financial impact
      • Ease of implementation
      • Roles & Responsibilities of Stakeholders
      • Project sponsor support or engagement
      • Training
      • Coaching Green (GB) or Black Belts (BB) candidates
      Coach Fitz

      Image via Flickr

      As GB/BB concludes their training, they are assigned an IP that they would facilitate and take to fruition. Some belts think that Lean Six-Sigma (LSS) is about using as many tools as possible for each phase of the DMAIC methodology. This is where the coach can provide feedback on what tools make sense to use and provide a direction on the next steps.

      The coach can also lead the facilitations of the first kaizen events and have the belts participate on the event, and learn from it, so that they can lead such event.

      The coach does not need to be an expert on the process but needs to have a vast experience on the DMAIC or DFLSS methodology. The coaching sessions should not be prescriptive, meaning guiding the belt step by step, but rather should be treated like a sounding board where the belt can bounce ideas.

      Coaching should take place on a biweekly basis and should last for about one hour. The coaching is more efficient if the belt provide information before each coaching session.

      The bottom line is not to overlook coaching sessions.

      Do you use coaching in your company? Have you seen a difference in the impact of project completed?

      December 8, 2011

      How do you move a barn?

      By Mark Sessumes December 8, 2011

      Furthermore, what does moving a barn (click link for video) have to do with Lean?

      Moving the barn

      Moving the barn

      • Moving the barn is like moving an organization.
      • There’s a BIG difference between the tools and the ability to develop the various working parts to be successful.
      • There were tools involved – saws, rulers, welding equipment, hammers.  But that’s not the key to success.
      • Many different roles with different responsibilities.
        • Someone in leadership had a vision and compelling need.  They had to know where they were and where they wanted to go.
        • Leadership recognized the value of ‘people power’ , not simply cutting edge technology.  No cranes or trucks involved but there was innovation (or at least ingenuity).
        • Leadership created a plan with many parts – preparation, communication, coordination, schedules, execution, etc.
          • Someone had to build the hand rails.
          • Someone had to recruit the people.
          • Given the caps, overalls, and cowboy hats, I bet there was barbeque involved.  Someone had to prepare it.
          • Someone had to announce instructions using the bullhorn.
          • Someone had to run the video camera.
        • There were measures.  Someone calculated the weight of the barn and the number of people to know each had to lift their 90lbs.  They knew how many feet to arrive at the destination.
        • The announcer was coordinating the actions of the group.  He was also giving them recognition and encouragement.
        • People had to show up and participate.

      TMAC’s emphasis in Lean deployment is the ability to identify and prepare the different roles to fulfill their respective responsibilities to move the organization along the journey to achieve the vision.  Tools are integral to the journey but in themselves are insufficient.  Working in ‘the white space’ beyond the punctuated activities related to training, events, and projects requires that we develop each role to fulfill their responsibilities.

      • Top Leadership – focus, inspire, and engage the organization.  From strategy development/planning to management systems to measurements, recognition/rewards, communication, etc.
      • Value Stream Managers – transform the value stream.  Create and implement the VS management system (not just a map), and actively manage the transformation to the future state across multiple improvement activities.
      • Supervision – change behaviors.  Designing new methods and creating a sum of daily habits conforming to the new methods are two different things.  Supervision focus on changing behaviors including but not limited to safety, standardization, simplification, scientific method, social responsibility, and self-discipline.  There are multitudes of mechanisms to accomplish each.  What do you use?
      • Workforce – participate.  Either in structured projects or equally importantly, outside of formal projects/events.  Getting them to show up, mentally, physically.
      • Coaches – guide and mentor the other roles.  Are you prepared to guide top leadership?  Do you know what they should do?

      What are you doing to work in the white space?

      November 15, 2011


      By jcrosswell November 15, 2011
      Change sign

      Are you open to change?

      When implementing Lean transformation projects one concept that I have always included in the training material is R=Q X A:

      (R)esults = the (Q)uality of the solution times the (A)cceptance.

      Recently I have worked on a large transformation project that includes a significant quantity of classroom training and Rapid Improvement Events (RIE) over several months. In the past there have been some disappointing experiences with companies that seem to want to implement Lean  only to go through the motions - and ending up in a place where they could not sustain the improvements they made. The culture of the company that I am currently working with is very traditional and relatively resistant to change. The management is knowledgeable of the benefits that can be achieved by using Lean practices but they are reluctant to make significant changes. My working partner and I are helping the RIE teams develop Lean processes. We agree the changes the teams have come up are low risk and are very doable. In fact, since we began working with this company we have always agreed that common Lean techniques such as cellular flow could be applied to almost all the customer’s value-streams.

      However my partner and I do disagree significantly on our approach.

      Since this organization has proven to be very conservative, I have taken the approach of supporting the limited changes they approve whereas my colleague continues to try and persuade them to embrace larger changes. In some cases his approach has intensified their resistance. I see it as a “human relations” issue. I agree that the company will get better results with more significant changes, but since management is very conservative I support their limited approvals. So far this has worked well and is continuing to improve. Once the employees gain experience with the limited changes they are taking more initiative to continue improving their processes. The teams have actually continued the changes to some processes to the point we originally estimated could have been achieved by making the larger change initially. I think either approach could be the most appropriate depending of the situation. I would like to hear from others who have had similar experiences and your success using one or the other approach:

      A)     Accepting a limited amount of change to begin with, relying that the small successes will help continuous change become part of the culture

      B)      Pushing for higher expectations and risk that larger changes will be resisted or not approved.

      Which has worked better for you?

      Related Post:
      How to get Results: R=Q x A

      November 3, 2011

      What is Value?

      By raikman November 3, 2011

      Does that activity add value?  The answer can provoke friendly debates, heated arguments, tears, hurt feelings, and the occasional fist fight.  And that’s just among lean project team members!  It can be even worse between lean practitioners and front-line workers, whether they are in a factory, warehouse, retail store, or office. 

      Think about it from this perspective:  How would you feel if someone told you ‘What you do all day long is not a value-add activity’?  That is the reason it is important to make a"Value Added" distinction between the person performing an activity, and the activity itself

      Yet despite the difficulty of defining value, it is a key skill for any successful lean practitioner.  In the book Lean Thinking by Womack & Jones (1996) they proposed a basic approach to implementing lean that consisted of a five step process.  The authors stated that “Specifying value accurately is the critical first step in defining lean thinking”. 

      In other words, before you can move forward in applying various lean concepts it is important to begin with a clear understanding of what constitutes a value-add – and non-value-add – activity.  In the book mentioned above the authors address this topic further by noting that:

      “Value can only be defined by the ultimate customer.   And it’s only meaningful when expressed in terms of a specific product (a good or a service, and often both at once) which meets a customer’s needs at a specific price at a specific time.”

      Several years ago I investigated the topic of value in order to make a presentation at an engineering conference.  What I discovered was that different writers had different explanations of value-add.  Consider these definitions from that research:

      Value is added by changing the form of something or by moving it closer to the customer

       Activities that must be performed to meet customer requirements

      Value-added time may be thought of as any time spent on actually transforming the product toward its final configuration.

      Value-added steps (or activities) are those that matter to the customer (external or internal); all others are nonvalue added.   If there is disagreement over whether a step is value or nonvalue-added, it is best to err on the side of calling it value-added.

      •   Patrick Shannon “The Value-Added Ratio”  Quality Progress, [March 1997]

      Any activity that increases the market form or function of the product or service.  (These are things the customer is willing to pay for.)

      •   MEP Principles of Lean Manufacturing  [1999]

      The overarching themes seen in these definitions are two-fold:

      1)      Change to materials OR information

      2)      Something for which a customer will pay

      In other words, if an activity results in a change to materials OR information AND if a customer would be willing to pay for that activity, then said activity should be classified as value-add.  Examples in the world of manufacturing include tasks such as cutting, welding, assembling, and painting.  In terms of service processes, examples include checking in a person at a hotel, answering technical questions via a helpdesk, mowing a lawn, and assisting a customer with the use of a new product. In the world of transactional processes, examples of value-add activities include capturing customer requirements, analyzing data, writing reports, making key decisions, and communicating needed information. 

      Of course, there are always some activities that fall into a ‘grey zone’ in terms of value-add.  In the manufacturing arena two examples are tooling costs and setup charges.  Many firms routinely charge fees associated with activities associated with these two process steps.  Yet neither of them result in a physical change to materials. 

      Another such example is inspection.  In some industries a supplier is required by contract to inspect their product before sending it to the customer.  So in essence the customer is willing to pay for this activity.  Yet inspection does not result in a physical change to a product.  In office processes inspection or review activities are very common.  Such steps are often put in place due to some problem that may have occurred months or years ago.

      So should these tasks that fall into the ‘grey zone’ be classified as value-add activities?  From a lean purist standpoint, I would say no.  But from a practical standpoint I would be willing to accept that they are value-add.  At the end of the day, it is more important that you agree on a definition of value-add at your firm, and are consistent in how it is used.

      In Part 2 of Defining Value we will explain a fundamental lean measure to use when examining the level of value-add in a process: Process Cycle Efficiency.  Also covered is an explanation of this measure in terms of both typical and world-class firms for various types of business processes.  Finally, Part 2 will include a discussion of how to categorize activities performed due to regulatory and similar requirements.

      November 1, 2011

      Slips and Trips and Falls – Oh MY!

      By Esteban Pedraza November 1, 2011

      According to OSHA slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents. They cause 15% of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities. It’s no secret that slip, trip and fall accidents increase substantially during the winter months. However, Slip, Trips and Fall incidents during inclement weather are preventable if we have a system in place to assess and manage the risks.

      Caution: Wet Floor Sign

      The system should identify the outdoor areas used by employees/ pedestrians most likely to be affected by water and ice, for example: – building entrances, parking lots, walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.

      The following are recommendations to help guard against Slips, Trips and Falls during inclement weather:

      Always try and wear the best non-skid shoe possible, especially paying attention to the type of weather you will be exposed to. Shoes that have worn, slick soles should not be worn. Avoid high heels during inclement weather. Select something that has a large surface area, which has good traction. If you work in an area where there is a lot of water, then pay special attention to brands that have superior anti-skid properties.

      Action should be taken whenever wet/freezing temperatures are forecasted. Local weather stations and their web sites are a great source of information.

      • Designate a Weather Team
      • Encourage employees to monitor weather reports to help prepare the workplace.
      • Increase awareness by posting daily weather briefings.
      • Distribute sand, salt or ice melt before employees are scheduled to arrive.
      • Use salt, sand, ice melt or similar on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions.
      • Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface from forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface
      • Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.
      • If warning cones are used, remember to remove them once the hazard has passed or they will eventually be ignored.
      • Institute frequent floor surface monitoring by designated staff throughout a weather event.
      • Have dry mops and wet floor signs readily available.
      • Consider closing side entrances if you lack the resources for frequent inspection and maintenance.
      • Post an employee at entrances during peak hours to encourage wiping feet on mats. You can also post a sign to get attention.
      • Purchase entry walk-off mats and make sure that they are not so thick as to block the swing of entry doors.
      • Extend mats 8 to 12 feet into the entrance to allow for the removal of moisture from shoes. A rule of the thumb is to have the mat long enough so that each footsteps on the mat three times.
      • Be sure walkways are clear before releasing staff early from work during storms.

      October 20, 2011

      Is “Tribal Knowledge” good enough?

      By rhernandez October 20, 2011

      According to Masaaki Imai in his book Gemba Kaizen – A Common Sense, Low-Cost Approach to Management, management’s two major functions are maintenance and improvement of processes. A basis for both is establishing standards.

      Don't kill the tribal knowledge

      Is your tribal knowledge good enough?


      1. Represent the best, easiest and safest way to do a job.
      2. Are the best way to preserve knowledge and expertise thereby ensuring consistency and continuity.
      3. Provide a way to measure performance.
      4. Provide a way to improve. Maintenance means following the established standard; upgrading standards is improvement.

      Standardization is required to build a viable quality system. If you choose to depend on “tribal knowledge”, improvement, consistency and continuity of processes are only as good as our memories.

      October 18, 2011

      Need more time? Lead smarter.

      By Mark Sessumes October 18, 2011

      Jim Croce, a popular singer and song writer from the late 1960’s and early 70’s, wrote and sang a song titled, Time in a Bottle. A few of the lyrics include:

      Bottle with a pocket watch inside

      Photo by hopeseguin

      “If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true……but there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them….”

      It occurred to me how applicable this theme is in management and leadership, not just our personal lives.  As leaders, we often spend a great deal of time preparing plans of all types –marketing and sales, sales and operations, master production, new product introductions, and improvement initiatives.  And although we have the best of intentions to execute the plans, it seems as though ‘there never seems to be enough time to do the things we want to do once we’ve found them’.

      In the book, Creating a Lean Culture by David Mann, an Organizational Psychologist, he identifies a 4 step approach to achieving the daily habits critical to building a desired culture.  And not surprisingly, it begins with Leadership.  Specifically, Leader Standard Work (LSW).  The other 3 steps include visual control boards, daily accountability cycles, and discipline.

      Leader Standard Work provides the mechanism to think through the ‘grand plans’ and design a set of recurring rituals and routines that each manager must perform.  To make it practical, LSW incorporates a Lean theme of smaller batches, more frequently.  Instead of lengthy management meetings held monthly, LSW strives to conduct review activities for a few minutes every day or every week.  This establishes a cadence that is much better at creating lasting behavioral changes than lengthy, infrequent reviews.

      Leader Standard Work isn’t a silver bullet but it provides a practical structure by which managers can plan and execute their daily lives and activities to support the grand plans they’ve spent great effort preparing.  LSW has shown to provide the structure and standardization needed to become more systematic in planning, doing, checking, and acting to create learning organizations.  Coupled with the Visual Control Boards, Daily Accountability Cycles, and Discipline, the 4 steps outlined in the book create a framework of an effective management system.

      What has your company done to incorporate Leader Standard Work?  How has it worked for you?

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