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Six essential skills for lean leaders

by Chris Reed

11 07, 2019 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

Six Essential Skills for Lean leadership – Questions?

  1. What sort of direction should you provide for your lean programme or is it largely ‘bottom-up’?
  2. What’s the main role of a lean leader?
  3. Go to the Gemba (workplace) – but what do you do when you get there?
  4. One of the lean principles is to ‘engage and empower’ your employees – how would you do that?
  5. What one lean discipline should you instil in others?
  6. Is it worth learning about lean? Surely how the tools and roadmaps work can be delegated to practitioners?

Six Essential Skills for Lean leadership – Answers?

  1. What sort of direction should you provide for your lean programme – help to determine what ‘True North’ is with your leadership team and use this for the guiding direction for the programme. Primary focus in a lean organisation is the horizontal flow of value. Set clear targets aligned to the business plan and then help your teams take small steps to get there (Plan Do Check Act)

True North example

Where does your organisation want to be in 3-5 years time?

What will it look, feel like?

Core  values, principles

Eg for a Health Care organisation

'the patient first and foremost'
  • What’s the main role of a lean leader? Be a champion and sponsor of lean and change and check that the lean process is effective (working on the right things).
    • Every lean organisation must address
      • Purpose – provide value to customers
      • Process – smoothly flowing value streams
      • People – engaging every employee touching those value streams to eliminate waste and sustain/improve flow
    • Expect and seek value for money from lean initiatives makes obvious business sense so a lean leader should become an advocate for all key improvement projects that are eliminating waste and improving flow on key customer value streams in the business.
  • Go to the Gemba (workplace where value is added and/or where there is customer contact) – Go see, ask why and show respect! Go and observe and discuss the facts. Go and See is the entry ticket into lean management. The concept is to be on the field not at your computer looking at the statistics of the last few games.The purpose of a gemba walk is simple: to see and understand how more value can be created with less waste. A lean leader should also ask the critical question ‘is this a key value stream and what should it provide for our customers?’ before diving in to fix it! Show respect not by saying ‘we trust them to do a good job’ but by asking what problems do they have, deeply understand their issues and discuss potential countermeasures.
  • People must be engaged and empowered in understanding and improving the key processes that create value desired by the customer if organisational and customer purposes are to be achieved.  ‘Engaging and empowering’ your employees – can be achieved by leaders by
    • Providing the challenge for personal achievement
    • Building on people’s ideas
    •  Establishing mutual trust and respect.
    • Listen, share thoughts, feelings and rationale
    • Asking for help
    • Providing support  (make decisions they can’t) without removing the responsibility for action
    • Being fair about pay and benefits
    • Meaningful work and variety in assignments aligned to a common purpose
    • Providing a sense of community
    • Allowing an authority to commit
    • Creating an ability to measure own performance
    • Allowing participation in decisions
  • What one lean discipline should you instil in others?  Change the mindsets and behaviours to focus on the ‘what’ not the ‘who’. This single switch will help move the organisation to developing a problem solving culture. This single move will help to seek out root cause rather that just stop at a symptom or higher level issue.
  • Learn about lean?  Your curiosity about lean will become infectious. You can contribute to the programme not by becoming necessarily a subject matter expert in say lean tools (although you need to commit to self development to learn to live by the True North values) but in many other ways such as; using your network for best practise site visits, channel new lean ideas into the company by which you can make a massive contribution.  The job as a leader is not to come up with the right solutions but to put staff on the right path so they can solve their own problems with their own knowledge and experience.

In summary

  1. Create a ‘True North’ vision
  2. Ask are we working on the key value streams for our customers?
  3. Go See, Ask why?, show respect
  4. Help engage and empower employees
  5. Focus on ‘what’ not ‘who’
  6. Commit to learning about lean

References for Lean Leadership

  1. ‘Creating a Lean Culture’ by David Mann ISBN 978-1-4398-1141-2
  2. ‘The Lean Manager’ by M.Balle and F.Balle
  3. ‘Irresistible Change Guide’ by Heather Stagl. www.enclaria.com
  4. ‘Gemba Walks’ by James Womack ISBN 978-1-934109-30-4
  5. ‘The lightning of empowerment’ by William C Byham ISBN 0449 00282-9
  6. Toyota Kata by Mike Rother ISBN 978-0-07-163523-3
  7. ‘Toyota way to lean leadership’ by Jeff Liker July 2013 [STUDENTS NOTES - WWW.TOYOTAWAYTOLEANLEADERSHIP.COM]
  8. Practice seeing to be a better lean leader by Karyn Ross in Lean Leadership Ways 19 Jun 2014 http://www.industryweek.com/blog/practice-seeing-be-better-lean-leader
  9. Improve people first by Karyn Ross 31 Jan 2014  http://www.industryweek.com/blog/improve-people-first

Researched by

Chris Reed, Director and Master Black Belt , Lean6Sigma Ltd . www.lean6sigma.co.nz

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“Have we got a process improvement project or an implementation project?”

by Chris Reed

10 17, 2019 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

We regularly get questions from potential customers asking our opinion on what makes a (good) process improvement project in preparation for them working on their improvement projects and developing their own capability through our Green Belt programme.

In many cases customers are confused because they have been given a project to ‘do’ and they are not sure if it qualifies as a Green Belt project; they often do not know the difference between a process improvement project and an implementation project, and how would they? If they work in an environment where they are traditionally given projects to ‘manage’ i.e. implement, then the temptation is to assume their Improvement project is the same.

A project that is focussed on working on a problem where the solution is not known, and identifying the root causes of the problem and then developing and testing solutions to address them before implementation, is alien to them.

When this same dilemma exists you need to decide if the project you are thinking about is suitable for an improvement project.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Is there a problem to fix but no obvious solution?

Are you currently at the stage where you know there is a problem, but you don’t yet know all the root causes?

Do you have some ideas on which process/es are causing the problem but you need to investigate further?

Do you have enough data to be confident about the current performance of the process/es, or do you need to gather data so that you can be sure on what is actually happening?

If any of these sound familiar you are being asked to lead a process improvement project suitable for a Green Belt study using a generic continuous process improvement as shown below:

Generic Continuous Process Improvement model

If the work has already been done to understand the problem and identify solutions, and therefore your job is to implement the defined solution, you are starting at the part of project management  element of implementing a known solution. There is nothing wrong with an implementation project – you just need more of a project management approach and less of an ‘investigation’.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction.

Things to consider

1.The project should be ‘do-able’ over the period of about 3 months.

2.It should be neither too big nor trivial.

3.It should address an issue, which is important to your organisation.

4.You will need a ‘Sponsor’ to provide guidance and to assist in removing barriers and getting resources.

5.Customer concerns are usually priorities.

6.It must be something which you, with your Sponsor’s support, can obtain the authority to change.

7.It should require a small, carefully selected team (3-7 people) to investigate, work on and implement solutions – not merely recommend solutions.

8.It should not be a ‘fix the world’ problem which people have struggled over for years and got nowhere

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Lean Six Sigma in a nutshell

by Chris Reed

10 14, 2019 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

Lean tools are used to streamline processes that don’t add value to an end user or customer by eliminating ‘waste’ and making them flow.

Lean is therefore associated with improving the supply of services – with faster flow,  needing less effort, with less transactional ‘inventory’ and fewer defects.

Lean is a customer centric process and studying lean techniques will focus on what’s of value to your customer to reduce process variation and waste to provide a service exactly what’s needed at the right time.

Lean has been described as a ‘culture’ because it works best when everyone gets involved and people adopt the mindsets and behaviours to make it work.

In an organisation with a lean culture you are likely to see:

Continuous improvement towards a long term vision

People seeing activities as processes that can always be improved

Less non value added activities

Visual signs of how the organisation is doing.

Six Sigma is a robust diagnostic toolkit and a measure of process capability that focuses on process variation and defects which often present themselves as ‘issues’. The real benefit of learning how to apply six sigma methodology is to increase the depth and texture of the process analysis to understand what the data is telling us in terms of trends and correlations so that we can identify what are the priority issues and their root causes are and what would be appropriate countermeasures.

So lean is often associated with process speed and six sigma with defect diagnostics – together they form a process improvement roadmap and toolkit of choice to deliver continuous improvement.

Our experience has led us not to dive straight in with the business operators and scatter a few lean tools around but to provide alignment with the senior team first. An outcome from this alignment workshop is to identify a pipeline of value stream project opportunities and lean journey topics for improvement.

These projects after prioritisation should then drive the lean six sigma deployment – the focus on impact projects, the type of training, the choice of candidates and the front of house or back office location. Projects can be accelerated using rapid improvement workshops.

Key tactics are to focus on a key value/revenue/service stream to yield the biggest opportunity for applying lean six sigma.  Investigation of the current process before heading off for the solution is vital to understand the current state capability and the process details so that the waste can be identified, interpreted and later eliminated.

Lean Six Sigma cannot be ‘imposed’ it has to be adopted by engaged and empowered staff – it isn’t just about the learning of new tools but more about the handling of acceptance and change. The best lean six sigma programs provide incremental rather than big transitions towards all staff becoming involved towards a continuous improvement culture.

A typical lean six sigma deployment would involve the following six steps:

Foundation. Map out the requirements and introduce the concept of a lean journey model framework.

Assessment. An audit with the senior team of the current process capability of the organisation using appropriate topics and measures.

The focus is to complete your improvement projects aligned to the business plan. We help you to establish a lean project pipeline and build a training plan.

Building capability. Candidates work hands-on in small teams with their projects throughout the training programme using both lean six sigma technical and change tools.

Performance. Improvement projects are tracked to completion and to update the lean journey metrics.

Sustaining. An internal lean coordinator is appointed to help deliver ongoing training.

Lean Culture. The engagement behaviours needed to support a lean culture are identified and reinforced including self-managing process improvement.

Lean Six Sigma Journey Model

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Capturing the Voice of the Customer

by Chris Reed

06 13, 2018 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

Capturing the Voice of the Customer Aim The Voice of the Customer (VOC) aims to establish who are the key customers of the process under investigation and what their high level requirements are. A process customer is someone who is closely affected or touched by the process output and often ‘receives’ the output. A stakeholder is different since they are interested in the process improvement but do not always receive the process output. Benefits Lean is a customer centric process and meeting customer needs is a key principle for process improvement. The VOC identifies both internal and external customers and captures their needs in a clear and concise way so that the process improvement has a focus to deliver improvements that are of value to the customer(s). Solutions generated should be checked for alignment with the customer needs. How it works Generating VOC is an important task and the process improvement team should initially identify who are the internal and external customers and then estimate what their needs are. The following workshop flipchart shows a list of customers for a process and their high level needs. Depending on the complexity of the process a range of techniques can be used to gather and validate the VOC:

  • Affinity diagrams
  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • Interviews – face to face
  • Direct observation
The VOC needs to be converted from general statements about the process performance to clear measurements depending upon whether the main issues are for example quality, cost or delivery speed. The phrase ‘Critical to X’ is used where X represents this main issue. VOC steps are
  1. Identify the customer groups
  2. Determine what their high level needs are in customer language
  3. Translate the customer language into specific values
  4. Validate the specific values
Tips – capture VOC in the investigation phase of the project but the earlier the better – accept that there will be different customer categories and different needs some the same and others conflicting eg we want a high tech solution and we want a low cost solution. Remember that customers can be internal and/or external and they may have the same or different high level needs. Speak to people in the process!

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What should we measure?

by Chris Reed

05 10, 2018 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

  When we set out to improve a process we need to measure how it’s performing ‘now’ (current state) and later when we have updated the process (future state)  to verify any improvement. So what should we measure? We often start with a key customer requirement (for example quality) and then translate this as a business measure  (for example # of customer complaints received) and then further interpret it as an internal process measure (for example # of errors with delivered services/goods). A further insight into these business/company measures (often seen as lagging) and these internal process measures (often seen as leading) is as follows: What are lagging business measures?

  • A measure of results and outcomes
  • One that follows an event
  • Knowing the ‘score’ – a snapshot
  • Broader longer term focus
  • Tend to be measured at the organisation or business unit level
  • Examples – cost, efficiency, customer satisfaction, customer complaints
What are leading process measures?
  • Predicts goal achievement, you can influence them
  • Can be more difficult to measure
  • Enables pre-emptive actions
  • Signal future events
  • Tells you how the outcomes will be achieved
  • Tend to be measured ‘in the process’
  • Shorter term measures often measured more frequently
  • Examples – error rates,  in-process data capture, engaged employees, daily service levels.
A leading measure is “upstream” the lagging measure is “downstream”   Why use leading measures?
  • Prevent working on things you don’t need to
  • Focus actions on the right things
  • Improve the outcomes
  • Opportunity to influence behaviours focused on outcome
Why don’t more organisations measure leading measures?
  • Sometimes hard to follow
  • Can be harder to measure
  • Requires you to change habits
  • Lag measures feel reassuring!
Lagging and Leading summary
  • We need a combination of both
  • Lagging measures provide a connection with the customer and  the overall direction for the business process improvement project
  • Lead measures provide the actions for the individual to improve the process
What’s the way forward?
  • Identify the measures of interest to the customer
  • Determine what business lagging measures are a priority
  • Create a list of options for process lead measures and how you will measure them
  • Capture your current and future measurements

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What does becoming a Green Belt mean?

by Lean 6 Sigma

10 31, 2017 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

There are two levels of Green Belt namely Practitioner and Fully Certified

  • Candidates initially train to become Green Belt Practitioners (Part 1) in eliminating  process waste and improving flow using lean tools
  • Further training using  more advanced problem solving techniques to reduce defects and process variation can lead to becoming a Fully Certified Green Belt (Part 2).
Green Belts are usually seen as part time  problem solvers in process improvement - capable of leading projects and workshops Being a Green Belt also means being a mentor and coach in process improvement to Yellow Belts and other project team members A Green Belt qualification is internationally recognised and is a pathway course to becoming a Black Belt Green Belts are expected to develop as ‘change agents’ and become potential continuous improvement leaders Green Belts will see things differently and learn new tools including being able to evaluate customer requirements, sources of variation, root cause and how to sustain project benefits Learning how to facilitate acceptance of change will become a new life skill Green Belts will understand how to accelerate projects and increase team engagement      

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Process improvement – getting started.

by Lean 6 Sigma

10 31, 2017 | Posted in Good reads | 0 comments

Businesses naturally want to improve their  processes - who wouldn't?  But what are the indicators to suggest process improvement would be a good option and where should we start?  What are the building blocks to make sure we set off in the right direction? The following list of questions will start to provide a framework for your process improvement initiatives:

  1. Are there 'effects' evident to suggest process improvements may be needed? eg process inefficiencies, internal or external customer complaints and/or defective service or product delivery?
  2. Do we need to carry out some investigations to establish the 'causes' of these issues? (if the solutions are known then they should be implemented!)
  3. Is the senior team aware and showing a desire to fix some of the problems ?
  4. Are potential improvement projects  aligned to the business plans or strategies?
  5. Have the benefits  been estimated and appear substantial enough?
  6. Is an improvement project realistic and likely to be finished inside say six months?
  7. Have you have identified and spoken to any of the internal or external process customers?
  8. Have you have collected any data or evidence on the output metric or is it mainly anecdotal?
  9. Has anyone have walked and mapped  the process to check it out?
  10. Now you know if it is a valid process to fix - then you can ask who shall we assign/train to fix it?

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