Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
- Thomas Edison
Ok, let’s first address the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the word FAIL. Some people are actually afraid of the word fail… But I contend – You haven’t failed if you learned something.
What is Fail-Fast-Fail-Cheap (FFFC)?
Stop spending time and money on developing new processes, products, or marketing messages without trying (at least) pieces of it out.
TMAC, the U.S. Department of Commerce Manufacturing Extension Partnership affiliate for Texas worked with a company that wasn’t getting all they needed from their vacuum system, it was not removing debris from the material they were cutting. They were ready to spend thousands to tens-of-thousands of dollars for a new solution. After listening to their concerns and watching the process, we came up with, admittedly what seemed like a dumb idea, which was simply make the vacuum pull over a smaller area.
Back at TMAC HQ we cobbled together a crude prototype and tested it with a milling machine and sample material. It seemed to work, so it was time to try it on the real machine.
Can you imagine walking into a company with a 2-liter bottle and a roll of duct-tape? As you can imagine they laughed – mercilessly. However, after a quick test our concept proved to be a rousing success. So much so that the customer didn’t want us to take back our prototype – it worked so much better than what they already had in place. For a minimal investment of time and money, we were able to test the concept – fast and cheap. If it didn’t work, back to the drawing board and no one was out much. This time it DID work, so the company moved forward with the adjustment without purchasing an entirely new system. This example of cost avoidance directly benefits your bottom line!
Function, not form, is key when proving out a concept.
On a side note, it is very important to ensure that sufficient resources, in terms of time, money or both, are spent to truly test out a concept. Many (including us) have encountered instances where there wasn’t enough time spent to test a concept, and when it failed, it was not clear whether it was the concept or the implementation.
Bottom line: The key to Fail Fast Fail Cheap is to spend minimum resources to get the concept off the paper and into the application so you can tell if it needs to be revised, killed, or finalized.
Do you have a proven system for testing your new ideas?
The purpose of conducting management review is for the management team to get together at determined intervals to
discuss how effective its business is. This included looking for “opportunities for improvement and the need for changes” to how the business is run.
To some organizations, holding management reviews is as dreaded and avoided as going to the dentist. Even dentist trips should occur twice a year for cleaning, so I recommend against annual reviews.
So how often should “Management Review” be held?
When should management review “results of audits”?
Why not within 5 working days after the audit is held?
When should management review “customer feedback”?
Why not the same or the same day received or the following day?
Or why not at a weekly management meeting and review applicable items? How often should management review open “action items”?
How often should management review key performance results (aka Quality Objectives)?
Certainly not annually.
You may have picked up on the recurring theme in the examples above. The answer to “How often the activities listed in “5.6, Management Review” (ISO 9001:2008) need to be reviewed?” is, it depends. It depends on how timely and effective you want your appropriate action to be. The ISO 9001:2008 standard does not say that all the activities listed in “5.6, Management Review” have to be reviewed at the same time. As long as all items of 5.6 are covered and records are kept, whatever frequency of management reviews enables the organization to run its business most effective is acceptable.
How often do you review?
Too often, companies are quick to implement new equipment in order to meet increased customer demand for products, without maximizing the utilization of their current equipment. Equipment changeover time is one area of the business that is often ignored and companies accept long changeover as a part of doing business. The changeover time of equipment can be a Hidden Factory just waiting to be uncovered. It is very common for equipment changeover from one product to the next product, to take a couple hours for completion. Companies often make several product changeovers per week, consuming hours of potential production time. If we could somehow reduce the changeover time from hours to minutes, we could have a dramatic effect on providing additional production capacity. This is what Dr. Shigeo Shingo discovered while helping to develop the Toyota Production System. Dr. Shingo terms his discovery SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies), and it prescribe that changeover time should be less than ten minutes for a given product.
What does SMED Involve?
Companies can systematically reduce changeover time on their equipment by following a simply four step method.
SMED Four Step Process
Finally, after completing the SMED four-step process a new changeover standard can be developed using the remaining internal and external steps. The new changeover standard should prescribe the changeover sequence and operators required to complete the changeover on the equipment.
For most companies that have not participated in any formal changeover reduction process on their equipment, applying the SMED approach typically reduces the changeover time by 50% when first applied. By continuing to work as a team, planning changeovers, practicing, being innovative and standardizing changeover methods equipment changeover times can continue to be reduced. Companies should strive to achieve the goal of single-minute changeover times and recapture the loss capacity due to long changeover times.
Historically, most companies have viewed their EHS department as a necessary evil that must be retained to avoid regulatory infractions. However, some companies have shifted their thinking to include their EHS departments as profit centers through re-classifying wastes as revenue streams and identifying opportunities for cost reductions and cost avoidance. This transition is becoming more noticeable as companies implement ISO programs, look for ‘Greener’ products and attempt to reduce the use of raw materials. The following include techniques to demonstrate to executive managers that an EHS department can serve as more than just an overhead expense:
And, as always, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. Without an accurate baseline, results are hard to demonstrate.
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:
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?
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Furthermore, what does moving a barn (click link for video) have to do with Lean?
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.
What are you doing to work in the white space?
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?
How to get Results: R=Q x A
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:
“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?
It was the second day of the E3 process and still the company refused to believe or accept that there were opportunities to improve. The day before we had shown them lights left on, areas over lit, compressed air leaks and poorly insulated equipment.
The facility manager was a long time employee of the company that had been in business for over 50 years. He nursed an unlit cigar that he held in the side of his mouth. I keep asking myself why did he not want to change? Could it have been that the company was making lots of money or the fact that he was close to retirement? Maybe he had just gotten lazy and was set in his ways. Was I going to be like him one day?
So we keep to the agenda of the E3 (Energy, Environment, Economy)…an on-site 2 day training to help manufacturers understand ways to reduce costs, utilities and other impacts to the environment. We took the group for a walk outside their buildings to look at things…we had just trained them on Learning to See, an exercise to help identify non-value outputs from their processes. The group included TMAC staff and 4 employees of the company. This included the maintenance manager, operations manager, quality engineer and someone from the sales staff.
As we walked around the property the maintenance manager commented saying “you guys just won’t give up..there is nothing out here to find”. We were running out of time, just one more hour and the workshop would be over. This was going to be a disaster…. So we walked up to one of the 60 yard solid waste containers, it was closed. I stood the group together in front of the dumpster and asked the team how much they spent each year on disposal. They all looked at each other and said “oh maybe $4,000 per year”.
So we took a look inside and discovered that there were over 100 wood pallets inside. Then someone said that this was just one of 3 containers that were picked up weekly. Then the operation manager turned to the others and asked “why are we doing this? How long have we been doing this?” For the first time the facility mangers cigar pointed to the ground as they all look puzzled. Once again the E3 process produced the results we were looking to find. The actual cost to dispose of their wood pallets was over $60,000 per year. This expense could be fully eliminated through recycling or reuse.
I slept better that night knowing that it wasn’t up to me to find future opportunities, but to just let the process lead the way.