Archive for January, 2012

A Reinforcing Loop of Kaizen and Respect

A Reinforcing Loop of Kaizen and Respect

whirl and reach out

We are going through the editing and typesetting process for our upcoming book Healthcare Kaizen  this week.

After not really looking at the manuscript for a few months, a particular line stood out and made me think, as it’s the description of a “chicken and egg” dynamic – what comes first in Lean, TPS, and Kaizen: respect for people or continuous improvement? You can’t have one without the other.

We wrote:

By January 31, 2012 5 Comments Read More →
KaiNexus Education Video #5 – Moving Beyond Suggestion Boxes

KaiNexus Education Video #5 – Moving Beyond Suggestion Boxes

Here is the fifth in our series of short, simple Kaizen education videos  from KaiNexus, a software startup where I am on the management team.  We are embedding these videos into our web-based software, to provide short tips and hints for our users (see the whole series). We’re also making the videos available on  our YouTube Channel and our education videos playlist. Subscribe to our channel to be notified of each new one that’s released.

By January 30, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking” – But in a good way?

There has been a lot of buzz over last Sunday’s New York Times article “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work.” It’s good to see issues of manufacturing competitiveness talked about in the media and among my Facebook friends who usually aren’t talking about factories. So why aren’t iPhones assembled here in the U.S.? Apple used to build Macs in California. I used to work for Dell when they built PCs in Texas. Now,  Apple products are made by Foxconn in China and the Dell factory in Texas is now closed. My iMac, my Kindle Fire, and my iPhone – all made in China – in some conditions we would never tolerate here.

As I blogged about recently, Steve Jobs blamed the lack of U.S. production on a lack of skilled technical workers and supervisors and he said to President Obama, “those jobs aren’t coming back.” I questioned whether that is true, considering the U.S. has lost millions of manufacturing jobs due to the China trade deficit  and there have got to be plenty of experienced people looking for work.

The NY Times article points out that producing in China isn’t just about low wages. It seems to me that it’s about the unfair advantages of a country where workers aren’t free. I’m all for companies making profits, but I wish those profits didn’t have to be made on the back of people suffering under the tyranny of a repressive, totalitarian, “Communist” government.

By January 27, 2012 34 Comments Read More →

Your Thoughts on Recent Articles about Apple, Foxconn, and China?

This week, I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of articles about working conditions at the Foxconn facilities in China. These stories are primarily focused on Apple, but nearly any computer, gadget, or mobile device is made there, ranging from iPhones to Android tablets to my Kindle Fire.

I have a longer blog post teed up that I might post tomorrow – a combination of some analysis with a bit of emotion, which I’m trying to temper.

The items that I’ve read (and you might want to read or listen too) include:

By January 26, 2012 Read More →
Podcast #136 – Paul Akers, His New Book “2 Second Lean”

Podcast #136 – Paul Akers, His New Book “2 Second Lean”

MP3 File (run time 21:18)

paul-akersOur guest for episode #136 is Paul Akers, President of FastCap and author of the book 2 Second Lean. Here, we are talking about the new book and how small improvements that save 2 seconds in your daily work can contribute to an engaging and fun “Lean Culture.” You can also view a video recording of the discussion here on YouTube.

Paul was previously a guest on episode #122, talking about LeanAmerica.org, so please check that out too.

For a link to this episode, refer people to  www.leanblog.org/136.

ADVERTISEMENT: This podcast episode is brought to you by Creative S

By January 26, 2012 2 Comments Read More →
Guest Post: Is your management system the constraint in Kaizen?

Guest Post: Is your management system the constraint in Kaizen?

Mark’s note: Today’s guest post by Bart Sellers is a timely contribution to follow up to  yesterday’s post about the ThedaCare Business Performance System and the journal article about that great work. Bart has been a frequent commenter here on the blog and I’ve enjoyed working with him through the Society for Health Systems (come join both of us at the upcoming SHS conference where we are both presenting on Kaizen).

Organizations that are trying to engage staff members in Kaizen (continuous improvement) efforts often ask questions about how many ideas they should be getting from each employee and how to motivate or inspire more Kaizen.

I recently shared some data with Mark Graban about the participation rate of employees in kaizen (“ideas” for some of us) based on department size for a group of hospitals that have recently implemented an idea system.   See the chart below:

By January 25, 2012 2 Comments Read More →
ThedaCare’s “Business Performance System” – and a 10% Target

ThedaCare’s “Business Performance System” – and a 10% Target

One of the most powerful thoughts in the book On the Mend: Revolutionizing Healthcare to Save Lives and Transform the Industry  (by John Toussaint MD and Roger Gerard PhD) is the quote; “the ultimate arrogance is to change the way people work without changing the way we manage them.”

While ThedaCare started their journey with a series of weeklong “Rapid Improvement Events,” they learned that leaders at all levels had to adapt and change their ways, from top to bottom, for a Lean culture to take root for the sake of their patients, staff members, and organization. Conflict of interest statement: I used to work for the Lean Enterprise Institute, which published On the Mend and had a partnership with the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value).

Toussaint has posted, via his blog, an article that appeared in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety called “ThedaCare’s Business Performance System: Sustainable Continuous Daily Improvement Through Hospital Management  in a Lean Environment” by one of their senior leaders, Kim Barnas.

By January 24, 2012 3 Comments Read More →
Lean in the Livonia Public Schools

Lean in the Livonia Public Schools

I grew up in Livonia, Michigan, where I was fortunate to have an outstanding public school education (without the district, to my knowledge, needing teacher “pay for performance” or such silliness during the 1980s).

In the past year, I’ve heard of some initial training that a friend of mine in the Lean community was doing for the Livonia Public Schools. This consultant also, coincidentally, grew up in Livonia and I’m not sure he wants to be public about his volunteer role with the district or I would give him credit here.

My mother sent me the latest Livonia Public Schools newsletter, which includes a front-page mention of Lean as applied to their substitute teacher call-in process.

By January 23, 2012 7 Comments Read More →
Guest Post: Talking Lean at the Baseball Winter Meetings

Guest Post: Talking Lean at the Baseball Winter Meetings

Mark’s Note: Today’s post is a second guest post from a new blogger, Chad Walters. His first post appeared last Friday. I was happy to be able to meet up with Chad to share some local Dallas BBQ while he was in town for the Winter Meetings. Chad blogs regularly at his site: LeanBlitz.net.

ChadI traveled to Dallas last month to attend the Baseball Winter Meetings and promote Lean Blitz at the Baseball Trade Show. While I, as a lean practitioner, can see the use for lean with sports organizations, one of my plans was to talk with some of the major and minor league teams in attendance to gauge their interest. Here’s a smattering of what I learned.

The concept of continuous improvement was clearly very foreign to them. I probably spoke with representatives from over 100 teams, and exactly zero had heard of lean. I can count the number of teams that had heard of Six Sigma on one hand. That’s not a big deal – I myself had been doing process improvement many years ago before having even heard of “lean” so it would be illogical to think teams aren’t looking for ways to do things better.

By January 20, 2012 6 Comments Read More →
A Vivid Example of Gaming the Numbers on “The Office”

A Vivid Example of Gaming the Numbers on “The Office”

NBC’s “The Office” is often a good source for clips that illustrate the opposite of Lean thinking. Last week’s episode was a continuation of the subplot where the new CEO gave Andy, the Scranton branch manager, a goal of doubling sales growth to 8% by the end of the quarter.

Dr. Deming, I think, would have disapproved because it was an arbitrary target without a method. There was no discussion about how to hit the goal (or if that was even the right goal) — there was just the pressure to get it done.

So what happened?

By January 19, 2012 6 Comments Read More →
A Nice Kaizen Example from the PACU

A Nice Kaizen Example from the PACU

Mother, son serve together in AfghanistanKaizen” is a Japanese word that means “change for the better” in the context of ongoing “continuous improvement.” The so-called “kaizen event,” a weeklong focused improvement effort is one type of kaizen, but it’s not the only type. A powerful form of kaizen is the practice of small improvements that don’t require a formal team or an entire week.

One recent example I can think of comes from the PACU, or Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (aka recovery room), where patients are cared for after a surgical procedure. A daily problem existed – it was not really seen as a problem, but it turned out to be easily fixable, once somebody was aware of the waste in the process.

By January 17, 2012 0 Comments Read More →
A Lean Lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Lean Lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Carved in Stone - (Explored)As we commemorate  the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, this quote caught my eye, from one of Dr. King’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail.

Dr. King wrote, in part:

“…the  means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.”

He’s referring to non-violent means for driving societal change. This is a powerful principle and it also reminds me of a core Lean management principle.

By January 16, 2012 4 Comments Read More →
A Lean Guy Watches Moneyball

A Lean Guy Watches Moneyball

When it first came out, I was a big fan of Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game about the Oakland A’s major league baseball team and the unorthodox approach they took to building a team (under the leadership of General Manager Billy Beane). Now that the movie, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, is out on DVD, I watched it (as the first movie I downloaded to my Kindle Fire) for general enjoyment and with an eye for “Like Lean” concepts that I had remembered from the book.

I’m not a movie reviewer, so you might want to first read Roger Ebert’s review and summary of the movie and then I’ll give my Lean perspective.

By January 16, 2012 12 Comments Read More →
Guest Post: Finding Waste at the Stadium

Guest Post: Finding Waste at the Stadium

Mark’s Note: Today’s post is a guest post from a new blogger, Chad Walters. Chad and I share a strong interest in sports — me as a fan and Chad as somebody who is working to bring Lean thinking to sports franchises, stadiums, and sports equipment makers. Chad will have guest posts today and next Friday and, hopefully, as an ongoing contributor. You can read his take on Moneyball  via his blog (and here was my take).

ChadSports organizations/teams are essentially small businesses having low numbers of employees, important business processes like sales and accounting, offerings for customers, and the need to attract new customers and work on improving their offerings to suit customers’ needs. The main difference from other industries is the type of offering – products/services versus an additional entertainment experience of “being at the game.”

As is the case with traditional small businesses, sports organizations suffer from wasteful activities too. Here are examples of where they turn up at stadiums.

By January 13, 2012 5 Comments Read More →
Welcome to a New Sponsor: CreativeSafetySupply.com

Welcome to a New Sponsor: CreativeSafetySupply.com

I always like to give a brief shout out to new sponsors when I have them. I have a brand new sponsor, starting out for the next two months, in a company that will be relevant to a Lean audience – they are Creative Safety Supply. They are running two ads in the right hand column of the blog and they are going to be sponsoring an upcoming Podcast episode, as well.

By January 12, 2012 3 Comments Read More →
Suggestion Boxes are Disliked & Ineffective Around the World

Suggestion Boxes are Disliked & Ineffective Around the World

suggestion boxI love employee ideas and continuous improvement, but I really dislike suggestion boxes. As I’ve said, they are well intended, but the whole suggestion box process is usually pretty ineffective.

I see more and more articles about the failures of suggestion boxes, including “idea management” software companies who promise “a suggestion box that actually works” or such (see my post on how Kaizen and KaiNexus are different than suggestion boxes and idea management games).

Recently, I read articles from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, even, about how suggestion boxes don’t work.

By January 12, 2012 5 Comments Read More →
Steve Jobs as a Model Leader? As a Manufacturing Leader?

Steve Jobs as a Model Leader? As a Manufacturing Leader?

Think Different...As I wrote about after his death, I am appreciative of the products and services that Steve Jobs brought to the world.  That said, some of his behavior, as reported in the biography written by Walter Isaacson (the simply titled “Steve Jobs“) is less than admirable.  Some felt the need to dance on his grave, but maybe enough time has passed where we can take a balanced view of his leadership approach, particularly in the manufacturing realm. Jobs isn’t really associated with the production of computers and devices –  he’s known as a design guy and a software guy.

By January 11, 2012 9 Comments Read More →
An Inc. “Best Small Company Workplace” & Their Lean Culture

An Inc. “Best Small Company Workplace” & Their Lean Culture

As I was cleaning out a pile of stuff in my office, I found an unread issue of Inc. magazine from June 2011. One of their “Best Small Company Workplaces” was Hopkins Printing in Columbus, Ohio: “Survival of the Smartest: Hopkins Printing has staked its future on cross-training.“)

Far too often, “best workplaces” profiles focus exclusively on the perks and incentives that are offered in a workplace. Things like free backrubs, gourmet meals, and car wash services are somewhat superficial or they are a form of extrinsic motivation.

I love it when organizations, small or large, in any industry, utilize Lean to tap into the intrinsic motivation that’s so powerful in creating an engaging, successful company.

Hopkins is a company with 100 employees and revenue of about $17 million. They are proof that you don’t need to be a huge company to utilize Lean, nor do you need to be a high-volume repetitive manufacturer. As a commercial printing shop, they face a number of competitive challenges that Lean has helped address.

The owner an

By January 10, 2012 3 Comments Read More →