Category: Culture change (page 1 of 2)

Change a Culture with Reasonable Expectations

We all have gone on diets in our lifetime and some of them are successful and others end up as a forgotten resolution. Changing a culture is similar to a diet. First you must have a plan. Cold turkey is usually the worse strategy and miracle solutions just don’t exist. The successful diets and culture changes are the ones taken in small steps and limit expectations for set periods of time.

Culture change will not happen quickly. The struggle you may encounter is competition with consultants who promise a steadfast overall change in a short time span. If you are not gradual in your change, you will fail. How many quality improvement initiatives and programs have come and gone? Most initiatives that are too broad reaching and aggressive fail because of two reasons. It too costly to force huge change quickly and only small steps to improve are sustainable. Initiatives that are too large in scope and possess extremely high expectations have traditionally rolled out and take extraordinary labor resources and cost at a high rate which no organization can afford. Consultant packages that fail are usually too aggressive and ignore the fact that people need a “soak” factor to buy into the changes. Consultants need to justify their results and invoke management by objectives that are not contiguous with culture change. They are on a time schedule to make revenues and measureable results quickly.

You must make several small changes and let them soak into the work environment allowing employees to embrace the changes and see the benefits. This allows management to caress the attitudes of the workforce so that they see the tasks as theirs. Management cannot force a lean journey through presentations and communications. We must put task initiatives in place and work with employees to allow their acceptance and desire to sustain these initiatives. When the first segments of your plan are now sustained by the workforce because they own it, roll out the next set of initiatives. A journey to lean takes years and is an ever improving initiative. Educate, communicate and empower the sustainment of the program.
Leadership cannot roll out a program that is too comprehensive, esoteric and urgent. Employees, and leaders, are creatures of habits and they believe their current methods and current tasks are the most efficient way to achieve results. They view change as a threat to their skill set and intelligence in many cases. We must use their talents and skills to ensure that tasks are complete and transferred from one employee to the next. People will reinforce changes to others if the changes necessary and therefore risks are minimized. We must foster employee’s choices and guide them to the correct path. Leaders need to allow the process to mature and provide ongoing communication. Employees must embrace the change for it to sustain and they will be more successful if they are supported by their peers and leaders. When change becomes the norm, you will succeed.

Know who your informal leaders are. If they are not bought into the process and change, it will not succeed. Once those employees take ownership of the changes they will reiterate the need to others without management intervention. Forced overall change without the organization’s ownership will not sustain. The organization must own the culture and management must be perceived as supporters and “roadblock removers”. Anecdotally, I can speak of corporations that struggled to create common sense culture changes because leaders just rammed their philosophy into the organization. The lack of “buy in” by the general population left the organization with a lack of ownership. Change agents are empowerment drivers and they provide the cheerleading for the organization to change. Dictators do not sustain change by intimidation but create an “us versus them” environment. You must understand that your people want to be the best and complete the best job possible. Empower them to change but give them a reasonable amount of time to own the culture.

Finally, you must reward small successes. The rewards do not have to be huge nor monetary. A simple rewards program that stimulates continual improvement will revive personnel after they have taken extensive efforts to improve the organization. Allow your groups to make mistakes and do not jump in on every error and redirect. If you continually correct your workforce, it will become your program and not theirs. You must think about the lessons in life that we really remember and those that we made errors within tend to be the ones we remember. Your workforce will appreciate the fact that you allowed them to correct their own mistakes and will assure you through future actions that they will not repeat them. Embrace your organization and appreciate all the effort s they take to improve the company. Provide a vision, a strategic plan and then cheerlead the organization forward

This Year’s Production Challenge

The year has begun. There are several things to be considered when setting your strategic plan in place for the new year. What corrections did you need to make in the last quarter to bring in the previous year as a success. Did those corrections simply accommodate your metrics or did they change the business for the better? A simple example is waste control. At the end of the year, did you not scrap out hardware that you should have dispositioned to attain a cost of poor quality or financial number? Were you balancing your scrap rate against an inventory goal and abandoning better business practices to hit a metric? Did you push high dollar products in front of lower revenue ones that your customer desperately needed? All of these practices are a fault of your prior year’s execution of the strategic plan. The problem with the aforementioned is that you are probably having a very tough first quarter. With that being said, you must analyze what did not execute properly that you have to adjust in the upcoming year.

1. Were your goals too aggressive and based off a desire or ones that had a sound detailed plan that was executional? Many times we set our goals off a desire and not as a strategic plan for improvement. If you look at your projected sales for this year, have you detailed the inventory you will need to attain the increased sales goal? Drill down the data to assure that your year-end projections are based off a carrying inventory that will be required for success. Failure to do so will result in a starved inventory for production in the first month of 2023. Assure that material planning is accurate and that you realize the inventory you need for 2023 is in place that does not deficit the beginning of 2018. Realize that in the last quarter of 2022 you must execute your material properly and not delay material receipts again. Detailed and verified inventory plans are required for each year’s success.

2. Waste planning is essential to success. Whether it be productivity, effectively or scrap and rework levels, your strategic plan now has to be compared to what was executed in 2022. When you set your goals for 2023, you must ask whether they were too aggressive or too lax. Did the goals for scrap materialize or did you hold back execution burdening the upcoming year? If you let your business run and execute to normal practices at the end of the year, congratulations as you did not manage the business to metric attainment. Observe those practices that were successful and which ones required intervention. Determine what the product flow actualizes and understand that unless you have a level three plan that is aggressive for improvement, your goal cannot be aggressive for attainment. A detailed plan for improvement is necessary for any step change and that plan must be reviewed with the responsible managers and the executors of that improvement plan.

3. Plan your sales plan off customer demands. You cannot be overly optimistic in creating the annual operations plan. Base that plan and make adjustments off of the market indicators for the industry you are in, firm contracts that are in place, spares sales that are based off of previous years realizations and firm forecasts, and reasonably project any new product introductions. Being overly optimistic will realize a plan that fails and one that is too conservative will starve your business of resources.

4. Develop a production start plan. At the onset of the year, you will be able to project production starts and build in outsourcing and shared resources. You can also deliver a plan that executes the entire year. That plan will require a review and adjustments throughout the year, but you will be able to project resource and material shortages and the risks associated with them. You must finalize your start plan months in advance to set the demand for material, manpower and process capacities. The failure of many production systems is the inability to project a starts plan and executing it appropriately.

5. Review your plans with all levels of the organization. Include the quality, materials, planning, procurement, and production groups. If possible review that plan with the hourly associates that produce the product. They will either validate the plan and attempt to perform to it or they will point out shortages that you may not have realized. Communicate the entire production plan so that everyone in the organization understands where improvements must be made and when resources will be strained.

Make 2023 a business based off sound date and not from opinions or speculations. The success to you year is based off a strategic plan that executes and is measured so short term adjustments may be made accordingly.

Managing Culture Change

Managing culture changes up and down the organization can be challenging and tedious in a profit conscious environment. As we attempt to change the entire organization and methodologies in production, we encounter many different perspectives and paradigms on the path. Making a change to a leaner more productive environment will incur some costs, interrupt production in small segments, require training of employees throughout the organization, and demand patience from all aspects of the population. As we grow the mindset of the hourly and middle management associates, we must remember the true mission of business is profitability. Upper management and executives must remain patient as any quick changes are usually not sustainable and any long term changes to the business model will take time. The management of change will require a balancing of production’s current needs and the implementation future changes that will enhance growth and efficiency.

A sound plan for implementing lean and improved productivity needs to have a detailed approach. You will need to rely on your most experienced personnel and use them as a sounding board for the changes your want to make to the current model. However, those same employees may resist change as they believe they are operating as effectively as possible. You must share the vision and strategic plan with all levels of the organization and you must brainstorm the shortcomings and roadblocks the company will encounter. Employees at all levels must agree with the need for change and embrace the vision to be the “Best of the Best”. Middle management must allow employees to make decisions and empower them to design their own work areas. While all aspects of the plan may not be totally popular with the workforce, you must gain consensus. As an agent of change, you will need to prevent protectionism from the different internal business sectors. Individuals may resist anything that increases responsibility or work load. You can prevent this by guaranteeing employees that you will be keenly aware of the pain factors in the new organization and any undue workloads will be addressed and compensated with efficiency, teamwork, flexible work schedules and manpower changes.

A major challenge for any transitional change is the ability to manage the “knee jerk” reactions of executives. When profits appear to be affected in a negative manner, many will try to delay, augment, and change the path you have strategically created. You must realize their position and their responsibility to continually turn higher profits. When business markets may slow, cost cutting moves may be necessary. You need to assure that labor and costs associated with the implementation of improvements are not significantly hampered. You must assure them of necessity for improvement and continually communicate your plan, the risks, and the timeline for recovery. No executive will force you to make improper decisions that will stymie long term improvements if they understand what is causing impacts and the duration of them. A change agent cannot be inflexible to executive’s demands and they may have to comprise the length and/or effects of plan. However, a well constructive plan will have those contingencies built into them and therefore the move to a more effective and productive environment will continue. Executives must beware of the miracle promising consultants and those that do not have a plan that fully explains the time elements, support and cost associated with their program. There are many books on the subject and how to implement but most are naïve, unproven, and without the strategy of managing the implementation. There are too many textbooks on the subject and few success stories from following them.

In conclusion, the greatest asset that you can contribute as a change agent is the understanding of the paradigms, the communication of vision and strategic plan, creation of a contingency plan for setbacks and creating open communication to all elements of the business environment. Be patient and do not expect everyone to accommodate your needs. As a leader of change, you must be the most flexible and adjust your plan to accommodate everyone else in the organization. However, do not let your plan be so manipulated that it is not effective. Compromise, embrace your organization, understand their perspectives and meet the needs of the entire company. If a culture change was an simple endeavor, it would have evolved naturally over time.

Five S Implementation

The 5S initiative is one of the most difficult to accomplish in your lean journey. The efforts to sort, simplify, sweep, standardize and sustain are the backbone of lean. Many companies roll safety as the 6th S, but in reality that is a mistake. 5S is about the lean manufacturing of business. For businesses to treat the safety of employees on the same plane as lean is a critical mistake. In the hierarchy of business and employee needs, employee safety is the most critical and far more important than efficiency and is the baseline of the hierarchy. The emphasis on the 5S is overlooked and considered by many to have aspects that are optional and not necessary for productivity improvements. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Sorting is necessary for several reasons. First a sorted facility reduces inventory waste, eliminate the use of un-standardized tools or parts, and eliminates confusion to employees who are at different training levels. It also increases usable space by the elimination of storage for unnecessary items, obsolete tooling, and duplicate materials. Having the correct tools visually noticeable in each workplace allows both the operators and supervisors to realize any shortages that may exist. If you look at effective assembly operations, tools are placed in the proper places before, after, and during production. Have you ever had the home project and did not return the hammer to the proper place at the end of a project? Then in a couple of months when the next project is started you floundered to find where you left that hammer. The same is said for the wrench on an assembly line. After the daily production is complete, if an operator leaves the wrench in an undesignated location, they will have trouble starting the next day’s production on time. Therefore, efficiencies are dwindled from their optimum. Communication between shifts and workers becomes more effective in a well sorted environment and much of the extraneous discussions and frustrations disappear as everything is where it should be located. Finally, a poorly sorted operation effects the quality of product. Tool substitutions are minimized as all the proper tools are always available to everyone. The application of any incorrect parts or subassemblies are eliminated.

Simplifying the operations are key to the lean process. This effort also reduces inventory as designers attempt to use common hardware that is readily on hand. This prevents special orders for unnecessary products. This also eliminates waste due to difficulty in using unique items and improves quality as options for misapplication become more limited. But the simplification goes further than design. It includes the arrangement of the workspace and encompasses shadow boxing tools and standardizing the best tools for the job. The development of simple jigs and fixtures improves the quality of product as a standard method of locating features is in place. Jigs can be designed with the same basics and mere detail changeovers accommodate mixed model production. As a manager, we should also drive the organization to the simplest functionality by reviewing each step of the operations with engineering, operations and quality concurrently. Do not merely accept the design from research and development as seldom is efficiency and productivity taken into account.

Sweep or shine is essential for several reasons. First and foremast is ensures a safer workplace. The cluttered workplace is one that is doomed for trips and falls. Clean and bright workplaces have a psychological effect on workers that is positive and is one where we are proud to employ ourselves. The lack of lighting can lead to poor morale and inefficient work. Shine can also assure that tools are in the proper condition for usage at all times. The lack of lighting also allows undetected visual defects and therefore the bright and shiny workplace is less apt to produce and ship nonconforming hardware. I painted all my machines white in a company. Initially, the thought of white machines that remove metal was frowned upon because it was not sustainable. As each machine showed a leak, the leak was fixed to prevent the need to repaint. That triggered an improved TPM program which reduced downtime by 21%.

The most difficult is the standardization of work. This effort integrates the sort, weep and shine and simplifying efforts. It ensures conditions do not deteriorate to the former state and facilitates the implementation of the aforementioned. The standardization of work ensures that work is performed the same way time after time and integrates an improved quality and predicable delivery plan. It is difficult to create the standardization of work and it is very time consuming. You must segment your workplace into sub-sections so that smaller successes can be declared and celebrated. It is essential that the format for the standardization is easy to implement and that any software you use is ready to use for its purpose. Do not use ad hoc programs as the documentation and implementation is difficult and strangling the organization with complicated programs will exhaust personnel. Eventually, your standard work will allow you to predict how many people are needed to attain takt time for work cells and will assist in allocation of resources necessary to attain customer commitments.

Making a habit of properly maintaining correct procedures and installing the discipline to regress requires that all personnel including management pay attention to detail. The consequences of not allowing employees to correct standard work when needed, to clean, sort, straighten the workplace, and allowing an environment of sustainment will deter any advancement of the lean systems your put in place. It will evolve a culture where employees will consider your journey as another program that went to the wayside and will make any revitalization of the effort more difficult.

Reflections on Successful Leadership

As we walk the path of guiding organizations to success, we need to question whether we are successful. Too many leaders are greatness in their own minds and they measure success merely by business metrics. As they progress down their strategic plan, one day they are woken to realize that their workforce in disengaged, reacting only to commands, lack empowerment, seek others to represent them, and are disillusioned with what success resembles. That leader will first defend their actions and accuse the workforce of being lazy, not motivated, and simply a reflection of a poor work ethic that is a culture problem. They will increase demands and employees will react slower and with resentment. Have you ever worked for a leader like this? We all have. They end up failing and hurting companies that take years to recover. They are the egomaniacs of the world. Every other sentence is “I”. They may not have started out this way but have slipped into a false sense of self-worth and accomplishment.
There are ways to stay away from the slide as a leader. You are nothing without your empowered, engaged workforce. You cannot lead a defeated organization using the same tactics that defeated them. Below is listed ways to avoid slipping into the trap.

1. Communicate every day with someone in your workforce. A regular conversation with the people from all levels of the workforce is necessary to keep a pulse on your organization. The continued communication develops relationships and allows you to receive feedback in a real time manner.

2. Don’t dismiss criticism. There are disgruntled employees everywhere but you cannot merely dismiss complaints as those of a poor employee. There is usually a shred of truth in every complaint or statement. It may be exaggerated and at times or may be something stated with an ulterior motive, but examine what is said. Do not over-react to every comment but place some credence in it and examine if what is told you is the truth.

3. Hold regular multiple group meetings. All Hands meetings should occur monthly, sub-groups should meet weekly and work groups should have a meeting format on a daily basis. While the finance world will measure this as indirect labor charging that shows a loss, the resultants for improved productivity will far exceed those small losses. There is no format for everyone. Some people will not speak out in a large group and some will feel secure in those groups and give constructive feedback. Small groups can also be intimidating for some people and there are work group clicks that will stop some from speaking up. Finally, hold regular skip level meetings on a regular basis. They should be a minimum of quarterly intervals. Skip levels eliminate the presence and intervention of middle management. People will speak more freely in these meetings and you will receive different feedback. Caution: Do not overreact or make promises to fix problems in these meetings. Doing so will result in group leaders and middle management feeling betrayed. You are there to gather feedback, describe your vision and strategic plan, and create list to investigate.

4. Be honest, loyal, ethical, and have principles each and every day. Do not deceive your workforce. There are always business situations that do not allow you to unveil everything to the entire workforce but you can merely state “I cannot comment on that now”, “We have not made final decisions regarding that matter and when we do we can discuss it”, “I understand your concerns and when we have answers to those we will discuss at the next meeting” etc. Do not lie. Your workforce will lose your trust and everything that is discussed at meetings will be merely dismissed as a possible misrepresentation.

5. Walk the walk of you employees. Walk their job with them for an hour every year. Learn what their job is and understand their challenges. While you walk their job with them, realize they are people that work to live. They have families, children, parents, schooling issues, financial burdens etc. Talk to them as a human being and a leader. Nothing makes someone feel valued more than when you walk the floor and can say, “John, how is the boy’s baseball team doing?” Mary, how is the daughter’s gymnastics coming?”, “Harry, how is mom doing”. It may seem impossible but you can easily take 250 hours a year and dedicate it to this activity.

6. Protect your workforce. Watch and listen for unreasonable management and team leaders. Pay attention to safety and join a safety committee. Realize ergonomic challenges. Prove to people you care because you do care and react quickly to safety issues. People are your greatest asset and protect them like the jewels they are to the organization

Be a leader that people embrace. Reward, recognize their achievements, thank them and show them they are important. If you do not understand or agree with most of these items, you are on a path to failure. Don’t delegate these items to others-walk the walk each and every day.


As we continue to actualize our production or service, we tend to make every attempt to hit our commitments and goals. What makes us unique as leaders is the ability to manage success. There is always a pattern of accomplishing our goals during our careers but we need to reflect on just what we are doing to accomplish those goals. There are several ways of meeting our deliverables and unfortunately we grew up in a society where leadership was recognized for “block and tackle” techniques. This methodology worked in years past and still can yield results on a short term basis today, but there are several elements that limits the success of this management technique in our present culture.

If you haven’t noticed, the world has changed. The mentality of the worker, the philosophy or labor, and the expectations of human resources are different than in the baby boomer days. Today’s workers have evolved, especially with Generation Z . The baby boomers strong work ethic was rewarded by companies by giving lucrative pensions and benefits . Companies revered loyalty and long term employment with one company. As global competition evolved, companies have been forced to pull back on benefits and have learned that employees that switch jobs and companies bring forth new diversity into a workforce. Generation Z functions different as they are social creatures that are flexible in nature and expect flexibility from institutions and companies. They are so flexible that employers are challenged to retain them if demands are too high. They expect instantaneous rewards and recognition for performance. They cannot be intimidated and sometimes can feel entitled to their job. Therefore we cannot intimidate them or insist they work long hours to please the company or their boss. They are now flooding the job market and leaders need to change their style from micro management and a demand persona.

The philosophy of labor has changed. The labor market will soon have more jobs than people as the prior boom generation retires. Labor’s paradigm is changing to one where employees desire constant increases in salaries and benefits and they do not react to an environment where people are expected to be patient for recognition. This requires that management spend a significant amount of time on the recognition aspect of employee management. Leaders must also determine how they can bridge the gap between expectations and business restrictions. There is always a way of managing a company to meet the business’s needs and employee’s expectations. This does require creativity and good communication with the workforce to determine methods that satisfy both criterion. Most studies show that monetary recognition is not the only avenue to engaging and delighting your workforce. Honest description of the business conditions will help employees understand what restrictions exist and the performance necessary to embrace monetary improvements.

Finally, the next generation of workers have different expectations of human resources. In prior work generations, the worker did not engage human resources as deeply as they do today. Human resources was the element that defended them against unreasonable management demands and was a defender of worker’s rights. Seldom did people involve human resources in anything but these matters. Today, human resources is viewed as the element that helps workers remain in a safe, politically correct, and respected workplace. Workers expect that human resources will assure they are continually trained thereby allowing employees to grow in the organization. They are looked upon as the employee’s ally and employees use human resources as a sounding board for both work and personal issues. Human resources’ tasks have grown immensely in the last ten years as they have expectations from the workforce that assimilates both a counselor and personal carrier growth advisor.

In conclusion, our success as leaders is dependent on an engaged, self empowered workforce that is allowed to be creative and involved in determining the business’s future. This workforce is more highly educated and has characteristics that will not respond to older management styles. It is the leaders responsibility to change their tactics and embrace the new workforce’s personality. It is an enriching workforce that will guide us into a better workplace and one that self actualizes itself to a more productive society if we embrace them. Do not rely on the “Block and Tackle” micromanagement tactics as they will eventually fail. Leaders will be more successful if they accept this new generation’s philosophy and work with it to aspire the business to new heights of performance.

Embrace, Lead and Mentor Your Staff

Mentoring is one of the best tools that any leader can use within the workforce. The benefits are unlimited and the value is unmatched. While this is a time consuming activity for both parties, the long term benefits will create a better leader and an engaged, enhanced, and more skilled workforce. Academia can teach the basics of business philosophy and various modeled techniques, but the inside experience knowledge that education lacks is the understanding of the real workplace. Most textbooks are dated and because the workforce is fluid in their establishment of norms and it is difficult to continually update them properly. In addition, the act of mentoring builds relationships, trust, ethics, and team building virtues.

The mentor benefits greatly from the act. This process allows the mentor to give something back to the organization and the people in the workforce. It reminds the mentor to listen and actually sharpens their communication skill set. Intrinsically, mentoring also builds on the mentor’s self worth as they are usually listened to by the mentoree with enthusiasm. As a leader , the act of mentoring strengthens our interpersonal skills and builds relationships with our coworkers. Mentoring also takes the time to understand details that hinder people’s personal and professional growth. Finally, as we mentor we re-examine parts of our own self as we, as managers and leaders, do not always do what we preach to others. Employees will also include personal aspects of their lives ad that enhances the bond between a leader and their teams.

The mentoree feels valued through the time a mentor spends with them. The exude a self confidence as they go forward. Through the process the mentoree if forced to construct logical communication paths and improve their communication and listening skills. We also bridge the gap for the mentoree regarding conversational methods to speak to management constructively. The mentoree improves their interpersonal skill set and breaks down barriers that may have inhibited communication in the past. The most important factor in the mentoring process is the mentoree begins and continues to understand the organization, goals, culture, and business innuendos that are critical for them to advance.
The process is simple and should discuss some of the following:
Where are you going in your career?
What are your visions as an employee?
What are your aspirations?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses and how are you going to correct them?
Identify their top three goals.

You should make it personal if appropriate. Find out what the employee wants out of the relationship and determine the deliverables of the mentoring process. Set a time and time limit for the meeting and shut off all other communication during this time. Setup a schedule and stick to it. Discuss the options and opportunities for learning and development. Ask for a critique and constructive criticism of the company and its leadership. Most prevalent, break down the conversation barriers and truly embrace their ideas and concerns.

It is the duty of the organization to assure that the mentoring process is active. The top leadership should insist that every manager mentors someone and preferably not in their direct reporting chain. This process shows the entire organization that the organization does care about their development and as the process develops montorees will begin to mentor others. This process develops loyalty and understanding and creates a contiguous positive culture where we foster skills sets and empowerment. Finally, it creates a culture of cooperation and takes communication to new levels. Do not wait for your executives to insist on your mentoring others. take it upon yourself to embrace the process and also seek out a mentor for yourself. Your mentor may not be within the your company as there are times that we want to seek mentors that look at new perspectives. Take the leap and mentor and your will soon see the rewards. Care about your employees and take an active role in their development.

Getting Your Business Visual

One of the most difficult phases of improving business efficiency is implementing a visual workplace. We have all seen the isolated examples that consultants and academia recite but getting the correct systems in place for your business environment is essential. Do not adapt huge expense in getting the methods in places in their infancy of the conversion, but place simple methods that may require more administrative effort during development. Visual systems tend to evolve as the workforce becomes familiar with them and offer suggestions.
The most important visual systems are ones that show what is expected for outputs. You may want to simply invoke a white board that is updated daily with an indication of what is expected daily. As your system develops, you will include meaningful metrics of performance. This can be, but not limited to, a weekly output, monthly output, year to date outputs, efficiencies, productivity etc. The workforce will tell you what is meaningful to them and that which allows them to know how they are performing. Most industries show do not go beyond monthly information at this stage and save the year to date performance for all-hands meetings. If is essential that the posted information is meaningful. The system should evolve to a visual display of takt time versus performance. There are several digital displays that allow people to hit a toggle a button or switch every time a deliver is made. Either the lead or supervisor in the area can administrate the takt time. This allows a real time display of performance that is accurate to the minute.

Another vital part of the visual system is an Andon light. This is an indicator of two elements. The first is the performance obstacles in the cell. A red, yellow, green light display is easy to understand. A green light may indicate the work cell is on target and all assets are running correctly. A yellow light indicates that takt time cannot be met but all assets are running correctly. A red light that indicates there is an asset problem or material shortage that is slowing of shutting the cell down. The yellow light indicates that manufacturing or industrial engineering needs to speak with the cell for changes and/or resolution. The red should require that management, your maintenance group, or engineering needs to expedite resolution. It is essential that we react to those lights expeditiously because the lack of response will evolve a culture suggesting that the light is not valuable and executing the visual signal is therefore useless. The second type of Andon light is usually used in an assembly environment. This light would be a digital readout of any parts holding up the production of a cell creating delays and wait time. This light requires that communications be made to the cell and timelines associated with resolution be developed. None of these lights should get turned off or returned to green unless the issue is totally resolved or parts are now on hand. These lights should be periodically reviewed by dedicated personnel and certainly reviewed during a daily Gemba walks.

The next part of a visual workplace is a visual workflow. A hospital may put different stripes on the floor so that everyone understands where to go. It also can be signage that shows the steps or stations in a process. This allows everyone to identify workflow and observe any bottlenecks. This is easy to accomplish in a standardized high volume tasking but can be more contrived in a mixed model or tasking flow. However, they are all attainable and easy to implement.

Finally, we need to create Kanbans, Heijunka box or wheels, or other visual signals to accommodate lean pull and overproduction elimination. As we progress through lean, we will continue to reduce inventory and waste through more efficient methods of lean tool usage. There are many other tools and methodologies that can be implemented. Educate your workforce and empower them to implement what is the most effective communication methods for good productive flow and waste elimination. They know the processes and know what will indicate to them their performance. Enjoy the process and admire your workforce’s knowledge of lean implementation. They will make your system successful if you engage and empower them.

Standard Work Assures Consistency and Opportunities for Ever Evolving Improvement

The misconceptions of standard work throughout the consulting sector is staggering. Standard work is not merely written work instructions. Standard work is the application of the proper resources to the appropriate workload. It is the standard by which we can measure productivity and also allocate the proper resources to assure efficiency.

The simple portion of standard work is the visual written work instructions to all elements of the business. The instructions should assure that all personnel could complete the tasks with little or no training. While that is simplistic in nature and assumes there are no skill levels required for tasks, it is a goal that if not attainable can be closely assimilated. When we think of standard work instructions, we think of the operational ends of the business as it is a simple interpretation. For these work instructions, we should have step by step instructions stating the tools required, quality requirements necessary, critical features identified and visuals to assure interpretation is correct. However, the implementation goes greater than the operational end of the business. The application should include all interests including, procurement and the appropriate decision trees for a make /buy decision, financial reporting to assure consistency during attrition, management practices for capital ROI decisions and headcount allocations, sales with standards for meaningful profit margins, maintenance for continuous allocation of resources, quality for standardization of inspection standards, and many other elements that are necessary for the business. If these instructions rely on IT functions, screen shots should be part of the standard work.

As we assimilate the standards, we then need to look at our value stream maps to assure that the standard times for operations are level loaded through the production cycle. Once we have a level loaded value stream, we then can calculate the resources necessary for the volume increases and decreases. Our value stream should engulf more than a statement of operations and work tasks and should include the min/max of personnel and shift allocations, resources necessary to support those functions, and standards for operational efficiency. Finally, the value stream maps should then include a standard work contingency for each operational failure that can occur. Once those failure points are established, a risk level needs to be assigned to them. We can then prioritize the contingency plan development needs.

Standard work is ever evolving and is the backbone for predicable production and financial success. Implementation of standard work must grow with the evolving culture change to a leaner environment. The culture must understand that standardization does not threaten their job security as they define tasks, but allows them to spend their resources on creativity and strategic development. We must be patient with the evolution of standard work. If the workforce embraces the conceptual, we will actualize the benefits in a shorter time span.

Where Do You Begin?

You have taken on a new position or decided that a step change needs to be made to improve your business’s efficiency. Where do you begin and how do you make the transfer effective without slowing down the business to an unprofitable margin, alarming customers with late deliveries, or creating a total disarray of the business? We have witnessed many businesses over the years go through a restructuring plan that has severely effected the business in a negative financials and has forced the owners to recoil initiatives. These businesses then pull back to a ’year over year’ small percentage change and never make the step changes necessary to evolve the business thereby capturing new markets. There are steps that can be taken and a strategic plan that can be developed whereby all owners know what is expected and the pace of which improvements will occur. The following points must be considered to be successful on your journey.
1. You need a Vision that states where you want the company to evolve to in one, three, five and ten years. That vision must be accepted by the CEO, COO and the Board of Directors.
2. There must be a yearly strategic plan. This plan must be clear and must state details, expectations and risks.
3. Know your risks and the impacts of them. Divulge them at your strategic plan discussions. Too many plans are overly optimistic and do not inform the owners of the inherent failures that can happen to even the best strategy.
4. Contingency plan every avenue of defined risk. It is acceptable to have different levels of risk in your plan. Categorize them and all high and medium risks must have contingencies constructed ahead of time to ensure that the effects are minimized.
5. Do not change the plan to hit financials quarter points. You can adjust your strategy to accomplish the tasks necessary but you must not chase a metric for a quarter point and change your strategy in a haphazard manner.
6. Assure you understand how changes affect costs, workers and managers. Minimize wastes of people waiting, overproduction, procurement or idle equipment, and excessive stagnation and transportation of product.
7. Process change one piece at time. When you process change in too many areas, you cannot understand the data and the attributes. Therefore, you cannot construe a cause and effect relationship as the changes and their effects are muddled together.
8. Use Kaizen bursts to implement small changes to a larger value stream improvement.
9. Realize that new capital is a financial drag. The more the expense that capital incurs, the more cost structure you must absorb immediately. Think small and less expensive. Anyone can engineer a process with the most elaborate equipment. A good plan is one that uses current resources and equipment with some intermediate investments.
10. Realize that this is not easy. Never become discouraged. A failure or setback is merely an opportunity for improvement. You can accomplish the tasks if you plan out your process improvements. We tend to apply these improvements to the manufacturing world. In reality, the service industry needs the same overhaul and drive for efficiency.