<![CDATA[Leading with Lean <br />by Philip J. Holt - Blog]]>Tue, 22 Aug 2017 07:31:31 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[The Problem's at the Gemba, solve it at the Gemba]]>Thu, 01 Sep 2016 15:10:46 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/the-problems-at-the-gemba-solve-it-at-the-gemba
Gemba is one of those Japanese words that are used frequently by Lean Practitioners and the use of these terms is sometimes perceived as being intended to mystify what should be simple concepts. However, I'm an advocate of their use where they truly differentiate from their English (or French, German, Chinese, Dutch, etc.) equivalent in terms of meaning and when their usage is effectively explained to the audience.

To this end there are a few Japanese / Lean terms that I often use, as I believe that each of them truly describes and communicates an intent that their English equivalent can't and provides me with the opportunity to teach my audience the meaning without any pre-existing prejudice. Gemba is one of those such words (I have listed a few others at the end of the article), as its translation, the place where the work is done or workplace, just doesn't describe sufficiently the meaning of 'Go to Gemba'.

If I say to someone that they must 'Go to the Workplace' or 'Go to where the work is done' this could be interpreted in multiple ways and may not be in the manner in which we intended. It is true that we could teach the full meaning but what the term 'Go to Gemba' allows us to do is to not only teach an effective way of applying Lean Thinking but to create a mantra that all team members can challenge themselves and their colleagues with on an on-going basis.
The fact of life for most organisations is that they have many and multiple problems and that a lot of these problems manifest themselves as issues that land on the desk (or in the email) of people at least one level above the work floor. It is common that these team members try to solve these problems through email, meetings or Skype calls, without the full facts and without the insight of the people actually doing the work. This often results in sub-optimal countermeasures or over-processing, caused by problem solving the symptoms rather than the root cause(s). Click here to read more on this subject.

What we all ought to do is the practice of 'Go to Gemba', whereby we go, physically, to the work floor and problem solve with the people who do the work. Better still, if we enable, through training, coaching and empowerment, the people who do the work to solve the problems themselves, as they happen, we can ensure that problems are solved at the Gemba on a daily basis. In fact, in an Operationally Excellent organisation, we would expect to see that around 85% off all problems (by quantity) are solved at the work floor team member level and that, when escalations are made, the people who support the team members do so at the Gemba.

Often we find ourselves with problems escalated to us even though we are sitting in an office hundreds, or even thousands, of kilometres from the workplace, meaning that we are unable to be physically present at the Gemba at short-notice. In this case, there are some questions that we must answer, in a specific order:

1. Am I the right person to solve this problem or is someone at the Gemba better suited to solve it? Has it been escalated to me for hierarchal rather than true problem solving reasons?

If the answer to this question is that someone else should be solving the problem, then it makes sense to delegate to them and to support them through coaching and providing them with the empowerment to do so. If the answer to this question is that we are the correct person to solve this problem, then we should move to the second question. However, before doing so we should consider carefully if this is truly the case or whether we are disabling or, even worse, failing to hold people at the Gemba accountable for solving the problem.

Assuming that we still believe that we are the correct person to own the problem solving, then we need to consider question 2:

2. Am I getting as close to the Gemba as I can, engaging with the team members at the Gemba through virtual means (Skype, Lync or Telephone, minimising the use of email) and am I working on a fact basis, truly deriving the facts of the problem and drilling down to understand the root cause(s)?

By taking the time to consider both of these questions, we are more likely to set ourselves up for success.

Modern, global organisations make it more challenging to delegate the problem solving to the Gemba team members, as we tend to have many people in global or regional roles who have responsibility for multiple locations and processes stretching across geographies. However, it is my experience that, in many cases, it is still possible to delegate the problem solving to those people at the Gemba. To do so we must have the willingness and right mind-set in place with both the senior and junior members of the team.

Going to Gemba (Genchi Genbutsu) is one of the 14 Toyota Principles and is essential if we are to avoid symptom problem solving or problem solving at such a high level that the proposed solution takes too long due to its complexity. Go to Gemba means much more than its English translation and is a way of thinking and a belief that the problem can only be solved if we are where the problem actually occurs.

This is uncomfortable for many leaders and a barrier to operational excellence for many organisations. Nevertheless, it is eminently possible with the right mindset and belief that:
"The Problem's at the Gemba; Solve it at the Gemba" 
<![CDATA[A Quality Mindset]]>Thu, 01 Sep 2016 15:01:14 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/a-quality-mindset
I was thinking about the fundamentals of Operational Excellence during some Hansei time and, no matter which way I look at it, I believe that the foundation is a Quality Mindset and that 5S (Work place Organisation) has to be the fundament of this.
The original Toyota Sensei: Taiichi Ohno
A trigger to this reflection was remembering a story told to me by an ex-Group Leader at Toyota, turned Lean Consultant:
One day in their Engine Plant in Deeside, a Toyota Lean Sensei was visiting from Japan and was walking through the plant. They were proudly showing him the efficiency of their operations and he complimented them on their 5S, which made them very proud.

However, he then went on to pick up a bolt off the floor, which was very obvious because of the high standard of their 5S. He proceeded to ask where the bolt had come from and, as they were unable to tell him, he pulled the Andon and insisted that they check the whole shift's engine output, which they did.
They found that one of the engines produced that shift was missing a bolt, the bolt that was found on the floor, at which point the Sensei gesticulated toward his head and said, in a dry tone, "Quality Mindset".

Effective 5S is an enabler of a Quality Mind-set and one of the first things that I learnt about Lean Thinking is:
"If you can't do 5S, you can't do Lean"
However, although still predominantly seen as a manufacturing 'Lean Tool', 5S is the essence of Lean Thinking and is just as necessary (probably more so) in the office environment, as much waste is created due to the mismanagement and disorganisation found in many knowledge and administrative systems.

Errors due to multiple versions of the same document, email strings that are reacted to at different points and a general misalignment of standards are massive and create rework and defect levels in the office environment that would simply not be tolerated in a manufacturing environment.

It is therefore crucial that we all ensure, regardless of where we are in the organisation, that our 5S is a central focus of our Lean Deployment and the basis of our Operational Excellence.
<![CDATA[Leadership Stamina]]>Fri, 03 Jun 2016 12:04:00 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/leadership-stamina
In my LinkedIn and Lean-Master.com articles I have described the numerous differences between a Lean Thinking and a Traditionally Thinking Organisation. However, if I had to choose just one thing that I believe truly differentiates the two it would be Stamina, the ability to keep going long-term, even when it becomes difficult or there are other interesting alternatives to seduce the Leadership.
No matter how well the Organisation deploys Lean Thinking and drives its Lean Transformation, it will take a significant amount of time to become a truly Lean Organisation and most Organisations have been on the journey for 10 or more years before they feel confident enough to say that they are at a level close to World Class. This is not to say that the benefits from the Lean Transformation won’t be gained earlier than this; in fact most Organisations start to see the benefits within only a few months of the start of the Transformation; but this is precisely the risk, as complacency often sets in and a ‘declaration of victory’ comes too soon. This may be explained in terms of Kotter’s Change Leadership approach and is a likely root cause of failure for any Business Transformation.

The Organisations that have truly become Lean Thinkers; such as Toyota, Danaher, Virginia Mason et al; have managed to maintain a long-term vision of excellence and have maintained the stamina to keep doing what they know needs to be done. Short term performance challenges haven't been allowed to derail their programs as they have progressed and new Leaders have not been permitted to ‘make their mark’ by introducing a new initiative that they have chosen to sponsor. Instead, new leaders have been required to learn and utilise the organisation’s Lean Business System to achieve their results and have been indoctrinated in this way of working.
It is inevitable that there will be at least one point, and possibly multiple points, in every Lean Leader’s stewardship of their Business’ Transformation when this challenge will present itself. Whatever the reason may be; for example, a change of leadership, external factors such as market changes or new ownership; the Organisation will either actively or passively begin to move away from the Lean Deployment approach and it is the duty of the Lean Leader to prevent this from happening.

This is a tough situation to be in and many people capitulate in this situation, either shrinking back into the new role that the shift of focus creates, moving into a new role in the organisation or leaving to pastures new. This is understandable, as it will be lonely to stand and fight this organisational loss of strategic focus when it feels like the whole of the organisation is moving away from them. Nevertheless, this is when the Lean Leader must take up their position as a leader of change, this seemingly lone crusader for Lean Thinking struggling against the reemergence of traditional short-term thinking in the enterprise.
However, it is unlikely that the Lean Leader is completely alone and, if they persist in Leading with Lean and the Leadership styles required, they will be able to form, at a minimum, a band of Lean resistance fighters across the business. This stamina, the unwillingness to stop doing what is right for the organisation in the face of short-term initiatives and programs, is what will ensure that the organisation’s Lean Transformation prospers and will assure the longevity required to gain the World-Class performance that is sought.
<![CDATA[Rewarding Execution, not Ideas]]>Wed, 25 May 2016 10:44:42 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/rewarding-execution-not-ideas
At their most positive, ideas are the fuel of innovation and an organisation without ideas is one poor of spirit. Nevertheless, ideas are sometimes used for self-aggrandisement rather than innovation and this can be a debilitator of performance, as team members are rewarded for their ideas rather than the delivery of results. This is an environment where highly ambitious ideas of what we should / could / will look like are valued and rewarded above actions that actually deliver more modest results.

What you will observe in an organisation that is operating in this way is that there are a surfeit of ideas that are regularly delivered, often in the form of email but also in very nicely crafted PowerPoint format. However, coupled to this are a couple of other symptoms that point toward an organisation of idea mongers rather than innovative problem solvers, namely no formal review system for assessing the actual success of projects or programs and / or many ideas directed toward what others should do, rather than what I or we could do.
Referring back to Simon Sinek and his Why, How and What codification, whether it be the Wright Brothers, Apple or an operator on a production line, the idea that they have must be based upon the solution of a problem with meaning, even if that meaning is relatively small in the scheme of things. It must be a problem for which the solution will result in increased value for the customer and, above all, the person with the idea must take ownership for the success of its execution. The Lean Leader must therefore ensure that the organisation focuses on rewarding and recognising those employees who have not only delivered an idea for improvement but have assumed the accountability for its successful implementation.
<![CDATA[The Intelligent No: High performance through refusal]]>Tue, 10 May 2016 17:03:16 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/the-intelligent-no-high-performance-through-refusal
Saying no is generally considered to be negative and of course, by definition, it is. Therefore saying no is hard to do and most people find it particularly difficult as they develop a reputation for success, or are identified within the organisation as someone who gets things done. Whatever the reason, the demand for their services will inevitably begin to outstrip their ability to meet it and they will therefore face the dilemma of having more demand than capacity.

At this point they have two choices:

1. Over-promise against what is possible to deliver

2. Say No to the request

Unfortunately, the majority of people tend to favour choice 1, for a number of reasons but primarily due to 2 root causes; firstly the social and hierarchal pressure not to say no and secondly due to the common underestimation of the amount of work involved in their current workload and hence a false belief of having free capacity. The result of this is that they often fail to deliver on time and/or to the right level of quality what they have committed to, with a number of consequences including overload of work for themselves and their colleagues, damaged reputation and strained relationships.

I have written a number of articles about the Leaderships responsibility to prioritise and the techniques to manage priorities and capacity, such as: "It's the Leadership, Stupid", "The Leadership Performance Trap" and "The Meaning of Lean (The Universe and Everything)" and, whilst it is incumbent upon the Leadership to become better at prioritisation and remaining focussed, it is critical that all employees become adept at understanding their priorities, true capacity and, most importantly, saying no.
However, there is a distinct difference between saying a stark no and in responding with what I refer to as the ‘Intelligent No’, with the fundamental difference being that in the case of the former, the conversation is closed and the requestor is dissatisfied with the response, whereas in the latter case, if done well, the requestor understands the reason for the no and is happy with the alternative offered.
To illustrate, when beginning a Lean Transformation in an organisation, the Business Excellence Team will inevitably start in a small scale and will (hopefully) experience success. This success will elicit requests from other parts of the organisation and the natural response is to attempt to meet all of the requests. However, if this approach is taken, it is inevitable that the team will fail to succeed in all areas, as the demand will simply outstrip their capacity to meet it.
As an alternative, if the team applies the mindset of the ‘Intelligent No’, they will have determined the scope and objectives of the Lean deployment and the Lean Leader will have agreed this with the Organisation’s leadership. These priority areas, let's call them the Model Lines, will be where the team is expected to focus its efforts and, whilst a certain amount of support for all areas of the business will be provided in terms of some basic lean foundational training and for daily management and problem solving, the bulk of the capacity will be dedicated to the Model Lines.
The Business Excellence team are therefore empowered to say no to other requests, quoting the committed scope of the Lean Transformation, and can have an open and honest dialogue with the requestors, hopefully providing them with some advice on how to better utilise the available support or managing their expectations. This apparent ‘under-support’ may appear counterintuitive but will be one of the key enablers of success, ensuring that the Business Excellence resources are focussed on their goals and have sufficient capacity to meet them.

That example was about a Business Excellence Team but it could equally have been about a New Product Development Team, Marketing Group, Project Team or Manufacturing Cell. Fundamentally, it is about understanding what the priorities are, resourcing those priorities appropriately and then staying focussed on delivering what has been committed to, without distraction. This is what Operationally Excellent, World Class Organisations do every day.
This does not mean that the teams aren't challenged to do more. They must, of course, get better and reduce the waste in their processes to improve their capacity and performance. They also should not be allowed to 'sand-bag' capacity and so the 'Intelligent No' doesn't mean that teams are without stretch objectives and high performance targets.
The 'Intelligent No' is a call to action for Leaders to clearly identify, through solid Hoshin Kanri and Daily Management, what their expectations are for their team members but, crucially, for employees to ensure that they take the accountability to deliver but to clearly and honestly utilise the 'Intelligent No' and assure high performance through refusal.

<![CDATA[When you're in a (Lean) Hole, stop digging]]>Fri, 06 May 2016 05:48:28 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/when-youre-in-a-lean-hole-stop-digging
Imagine a scenario whereby you employed a builder who you’d heard through recommendation was really good at building swimming pools. On the first day the builder arrives with their team and you inform them that they are required for two weeks and that they should start digging a hole in the back garden. Whilst the builder is rather bemused at the request, you are quite insistent that they should go and dig the hole and so the builder takes their team and does what they've been told. During your research you’d read that digging is a key part of ‘swimming pools’ and so you want to ensure that the builder is focussed on it.

The Builder and their team work tirelessly for a week but, upon your return you’re disappointed to find a rather deep, small diameter hole in the corner of the garden, something that looks nothing like a Swimming Pool and is located in the wrong place. After heated discussions with the Builder, it soon becomes clear that, whilst digging a hole might be essential to swimming pool construction, there are many other elements required to assure its successful completion.

After ironing out this confusion and answering some of the Builder’s questions about the requirements for size, style, usage and budgets, you are informed that the Pool can be constructed in 6 Days and are given a quotation that is within budget. However, you are also given an invoice for the Seven Days of work that the Builder and their team have spent digging the original hole.
Whilst the above may seem a little ridiculous, it is analogous with many scenarios that I have experienced when a ‘Lean Expert’ has been requested to support a team or project. It is surprisingly common that the requester’s motivation seems to be that they have been told that they need a Lean Expert by someone (maybe their boss or a colleague who’s had great results utilising Lean Thinking) or that they’ve heard that they should do a Value Stream Map or run a Kaizen Event before executing the Project. It is not unusual in this type of scenario that the Lean Expert is requested for a fixed period of time and expected to be available to facilitate the application of whatever tool or technique it is that the team may believe necessary.

Inevitably in this situation, the team experience a similar disappointment to that of the swimming pool metaphor, with some form of Lean Tool or technique having been applied (a hole having been dug) but the business outcome that they desired (the swimming pool) being far from sight. This results in both the team members’ and the Lean Expert’s frustration and is deleterious to the relationship and to the credibility of the Lean Program in the organisation.
This often happens because both the requestor and the Lean Expert have forgotten to start with the why and instead both parties have focussed on each of their versions of the what, resulting in confusion over the how.

Whilst all of our team members are accountable to properly define the why of an activity, the Lean Expert must take a leading role in assuming the responsibility not to simply ‘dig holes’ where they are asked to but to instead ensure that a clear ‘Problem Statement’ has been defined in order that the objectives of the activity, project or event can be defined and the Charter agreed. This ‘A3 Thinking’ approach is core to Lean Thinking and will ensure that the appropriate intervention and Lean methodology is selected and that the team, including the Lean Expert, are fully aligned on why they are doing what they are doing, what they aim to achieve and how they will go about doing so.

Often, taking the time to challenge the request for one’s time can be difficult for the Lean Expert for a number of reasons, including where hierarchally senior people have made the request, due to the momentum of the associated project or program or simply because of the time required in the short-term to adequately think about the why (Plan) rather than simply reacting to the request (Do). However, ensuring rigour around the planning part of the process always results in a better outcome and so these barriers must be overcome.

Lean Thinking is more than just the application of the toolkit and being a Lean Expert is more than simply knowing the Lean Tools. It is therefore essential that the Lean Expert acts as a Lean Thinking Coach to the organisation, determining where their time can be best spent and refocussing the welcome requests for their help to maximise the impact. This shouldn’t and musn’t be done in a distanced or parochial manner but instead through partnering with the requestors and taking them through the development of the A3 Charters.

The well-worn saying goes; “When you're in a Hole, stop digging”; and for the Lean Expert, and their colleagues, it is critical that they avoid digging holes where they’re not needed.

For more information on ‘Start with Why’, please see the following links:
  1. Simon Sinek’s Video
  2. Simon Sinek’s Book
<![CDATA[Autonomation: People and Automation working together]]>Sat, 30 Apr 2016 22:44:08 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/autonomation-people-and-automation-working-together

If we are to believe the recent news reports, many of the jobs currently undertaken by humans will be automated within the next 20 years and in a report on the
BBC website the figure given was as high as 35% and on their site even gave the possibility to check the likelihood of your job becoming automated.

However, the general concern in the media seems to be in the vein of what is sometimes referred to as the
'Luddite Fallacy', whereby the assumption is that the automation of jobs and the technological unemployment associated with it will cause structural unemployment. Therefore the insinuation is that if 35% of job types are automated, ergo the numbers of people undertaking those roles will become permanently unemployed.

Whilst I in no way wish to minimise the impact of any type of redundancy on the people involved, let alone that which is brought about by automation, I do believe that the progression of technological advancement is both inevitable and beneficial to society and that it will, as has been witnessed continually in industrial history, result in a demand for additional and new roles. Just think of the numerous roles that the IT revolution has created, with many of the jobs having been non-existent 20 years ago and, in some cases, even 10 years ago (just think of the role of 'App Developer').
However, the real challenge for both society and businesses is in ensuring that both the people entering the workforce from school and those whose roles are automated have the right skills that those new jobs demand.Nevertheless, there is a different concern that, whilst not new, I see as increasingly prevalent and contrary to the very Lean Thinking and Lean Leadership that I believe delivers superior customer service and hence business performance. This is the prevalent view of automation as a 'silver bullet' to solve problems and reduce costs and this view is gaining momentum, especially as the technology becomes more sophisticated, reliable and cheaper across most areas of industry.

If we think about it, fundamentally the Leaderships of almost all Organisations have the same strategic objective, which is to improve their respective enterprise's performance. That is common whether it is a Multi-national corporation, NGO, Government Department or a family run small business. The only difference is that the metrics of performance might be different and the aspects of performance that they value will differ.

To make this improvement, the organisation needs to firstly understand what its customers value and secondly improve its capability to deliver that value. That is where automation can play a strong role but, and this is a big but, only when the automation is implemented and deployed in unison with the other key elements of capability, that of i. capable processes and ii. competent and engaged people.

It is in this aspect that organisations often fail to implement automation effectively, as they deploy technological solutions without proper attention to the processes and people development aspects of capability. Furthermore, consideration toward the customer value is often ignored, with decisions on automation made based upon the 'efficiency' of the value added portion of the value stream, as opposed to considering the total Lead-time and hence the amount of waste within the system. This can, and often does, result in value streams that have highly automated processes but long-lead times, impacted by a high level of defects, waiting times, over-processing, over-production (a favourite of automation) and the inherent inventory it leads to.

This is not to suggest that automation is a bad thing to do, quite the contrary, but it must only be done with an equal attention to the people and process development. This approach, where the system of capability is created, is what in Lean Terms has been named ‘Autonomation’ and is a hybrid word formed from the words automation and autonomy. It has a history that dates back at least to the ‘intelligent loom’ developed by Sakichi Toyoda at the end of the 19th Century, which was able to stop itself when a thread broke, allowing the operator to intervene and solve the problem. It was this approach to, and belief in, Autonomation that has informed the thinking of Toyota since its beginning and enables a key element of the Toyota Production system, Jidoka.

Recently Mercedes illustrated the advantage of Autonomation with the assembly line for their new ‘S-Type’ when they opted to utilise smaller, more flexible robots, working side-by-side with their team members and with much more focus on the flexibility that people bring in delivering customer value. The S-Type is one of their premium offerings and, as such, they need to be able to offer their customer a plethora of options, which requires that nearly every car going down the line is different in some aspect. This is where human intelligence and flexibility, combined with the consistency and labour saving attributes of robots and designed into a capable process, provide the capability required to deliver customer value most effectively.

For automation to truly be automation, the machine or robot must not only be able to reliably and consistently execute the process but must also be able to both detect and solve defects. Very few automation solutions can do this and therefore human intervention is generally required and, where the human aspect is treated as subordinate to the robot, the organisation will be penalised by low effectiveness, delivered as low productivity, service and quality. However, where the automation is clearly positioned as the enabler of the performance of the team members, they will take ownership of the process and deliver the customer value that we need.

Whilst the implication of the article might be that I am referring to the world of manufacturing, what I am talking about is relevant to any part of the Customer Value Chain or its enabling functions and I was inspired to write this article after attending the Infosys Confluence Conference. The event was held in San Francisco this week, where the theme was ‘Zero Distance’ and many aspects of automation and robotisation were presented and discussed. Being responsible for my company’s partnership with Infosys BPO, I am well aware of the high level of competence that Infosys have in this area and we are jointly working on a number of automation initiatives in the Accounting Operations processes that they support us in.

Nevertheless, we have learned that the efficacy of the automation is only as good as the competence and engagement of our people and the effectiveness of the processes that it supports and have therefore embarked on our joint Lean Transformation whereby we ensure that all 3 elements of capability are addressed. This aims to ensure that we adequately adopt the philosophy of Autonomation into our approach.

Getting beyond an automation led approach to efficiency and instead developing an Autonomation strategy toward Operational Excellence will take, as always, more time and effort in the planning but will ensure that the performance improvement is significantly higher and far more sustainable.  It will ultimately ensure that we continue to live the Lean Leadership Paradigms of Long-term focus of purpose, utilising proven and reliable technology, building a culture of stopping to fix problems, standardising tasks and processes and using only reliable technology that serves our people and processes. Above all, it will help in the most important aspect of a Lean Thinking organisation, that of respect for people.

When we are able to do this we will ensure that our Capability is maximised, delivering Operational Excellence and rewarding our Customers, and hence our Business, with a significant improvement in Quality, Service and Cost.
<![CDATA[The Leadership Performance Trap]]>Tue, 23 Feb 2016 21:40:47 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/the-leadership-performance-trap
One of my all time favourite comedy programmes is Black Adder, which has a certain dry humour and a razor sharp insight into historical events.

One such moment is in an episode of Black Adder goes forth, the series set in the British Trenches of the First World War, when Captain Black Adder discusses with General Melchett the 'Brilliant New Plan' of Field Marshal Haig for the next 'Big Push'.

He correctly predicts the approach when he asks whether the attack will involve climbing out of the trenches and walking very slowly toward the enemy guns, a plan that he comments has been unsuccessfully attempted many times before. General Melchard responds, quite seriously, that it is for this very reason that the enemy will not expect them to do it again and that they'll be caught unaware. 
The subtext of this interaction is that General Melchett and his fellow Generals probably know that this will not work but are bereft of, or afraid to try, new ideas.
The theory underlying the comedy in this sketch is debated by historians and it is not my intention to have that debate in this article but it is clear that the Military Leadership of the time were struggling to adapt to the industrialisation of warfare that the 'Great War' heralded and that their inability to do so, relying on outdated stratagems, cost many lives and probably extended the duration of the war.

Whilst, fortunately, the consequences of poor strategic decisions in business are rarely as devastating as those in war, the mindset behind this stubborn persistence in a particular strategy is similar and must be overcome if an Organisation is to prosper and attain excellence. All too often firms continue with an approach that consistently fails because they are unable to consider or attempt alternatives.

This drives a cycle of poor performance, a trap that they get caught in:

1. The Business Performance is below par
2. Improvement programs are instigated to address the issues and improve performance
3. The programmes fail or are only partially successful
4. The Leadership initiate more programmes similar to the first to 'catch up'
5. Repeat nos. 3-5 until a) bankrupt or b) acquired
What you will observe in these Organisations are symptoms such as:

1. Multiple initiatives, with so many priorities that there are no priorities
2. Overloaded staff, unable to keep up with the workload being placed upon them
3. Continual reorganisations, with lay-offs a normal part of the annual cycle
4. A Large Transformation Function and ubiquitous Consultants
5. Ever changing and misaligned Priorities, with different functions and areas of the business having seemingly different objectives
The root causes of these symptoms may differ from Organisation to Organisation but common ones that I observe are:

1. Leadership impatience - an inability to allow change and the impacts of a programme to come to fruition, ignoring Kotter's change leadership approach
2. A deficit of Problem solving ability - the inability to truly understand the root causes of the Organisation's poor performance
3. Inadequate Policy Deployment / Hoshin Kanri - unstructured breakthrough improvement planning
4. Poor Daily Management - management attention is spent mostly fire-fighting daily operations

The types of initiatives within the Organisation's improvement programmes will also be very obviously that of a Perennial Poor Performer, with very little focus on waste reduction and Value Stream improvement and a big focus on wage arbitrage, head count reduction and large scale IT solutions. Spreadsheets with FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) analyses will abound and be used to demonstrate the degree of FTE reduction required to meet 'benchmark' cost levels.

The antidote to this is Lean Thinking and I discussed in my earlier article, "The meaning of Lean", how an acronym for Lean can guide the right thinking:

LEAN = Leadership, Excellence, Analysis and No

1. Leadership: In Lean Thinking this is not just for those people provided with a leadership job title but the enablement of everyone within the organisation to take leadership in their own domain. By setting the appropriate boundary conditions, taking a People focussed approach to our business processes and ensuring that everyone is focussed on what the Customer / Consumer perceives as value, we can ensure that daily management assures continuous flow (of products, information, knowledge and services) throughout the Value Stream.

2. Excellence: The pursuit of excellence is absolutely core to Lean Thinking and its continuous pursuit is enabled through some of the key tenets of a Lean Business System. Utilising small batch sizes, continuous flow, built-in-quality and pull systems (not only for products but also information, knowledge and services), based upon the customer demand, daily management drives rapid problem solving and Kaizen. Team members are encouraged to constantly experiment with improvements to the system and through go-to-gemba (go to where the value is added) Leaders are able to coach and act as teachers.

3. Analysis: Lean Thinking has its foundation built on fact based decision making, through the application of A3 Thinking and a short-interval control approach, whereby people are rapidly involved in problem solving, using the appropriate tools (including both the Lean and Six Sigma toolkit), to find the root cause and implement countermeasures. However, experimentation and learning is a major element and therefore 'at-the-gemba' problem solving with 'cardboard engineering' experimentation is common and this approach is not just for the shop-floor but is applicable all the way to the board-room.

4. No: In my experience the 'secret formula' of Lean Thinking is Hoshin Kanri (or Policy Deployment) and the one area that most organisations struggle to apply. Having the courage to say NO to the multitude of opportunities that an organisation has and to have the 'laser-like' focus required to choose only those few things that will truly provide the break-through results is extremely difficult and only a few organisations have the level of discipline and stamina required to truly do this. Without this ability to say no, most businesses tend to overload their people and fail to execute effectively.

Those organisations that have embedded Lean Thinking into their Company Culture have demonstrated superior performance over significant periods of time and prove that Lean is, above everything, about integrating a Principle driven approach to an Organisation's Management Philosophy.

Unfortunately, just like General Melchett and his peers, the Leadership of a large number of Organisations will continue to send their team members (or should I say FTE) marching slowly toward the enemy's guns.
<![CDATA[My Job is Non-Value Add!]]>Sun, 31 Jan 2016 20:09:29 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/my-job-is-non-value-add
In my role heading up the team that is tasked with guiding Philips Accounting Operations' journey to Operational Excellence, I often use my Hansei time to consider whether I am adding sufficient value for the Customer. However, figuring out exactly who my Customer is and what Value Add ultimately is can be a complicated discussion and, as my job is certainly not to complicate things more than they already are, I simply consider that my job is waste or Non-Value Add (NVA), plain and simple, and, as with all NVA in the Value Stream, must be removed.
The team that I lead is responsible for managing the key elements of Operational Excellence within Accounting Operations: 
  • Partnership Development and Contract Management with our BPO Partner
  • Quality Management
  • Data Analytics
  • Our Lean Transformation

These elements, and the drive for Operational Excellence, are key to the delivery of our Strategy and therefore I consider that my team are currently fulfilling essential roles, and I must say that they're all doing a splendid job!
Nevertheless, if I apply the Lean Thinking that I must, we have a duty to our Organisation and our Customers to consider these activities as, at best, currently Essential NVA and in the long-term as simply NVA and must aim to simplify, reduce and remove as much of this work as possible and thus the need for the roles must be minimised, embedding, as much as possible, the activities into the Standard Work and the Daily Management of our Operational Teams.

People are never a waste or NVA but the roles, or part thereof, that they do might be.
At this stage I feel obliged to clarify that I'm talking about the roles of my team and not the people. People are never a waste or NVA but the roles, or part thereof, that they do might be. Our People are, in fact, our only appreciating asset and this is the essential NVA that my team work on presently: 

Developing our People's Lean Thinking and their competence in applying it in their daily work.

However, as a measure of the team's success, we must reach the point, as soon as is sustainably possible, whereby our services in these roles are no longer required, as we need the Operational Team members to be just as skilled, if not more so, than we are in the utilisation of Lean Thinking in their domain. At this point my team members should move into either another Transformation or into an Operational leadership role.
By thinking in this way, I hope that my team and I can adopt the mindset that, everywhere that our intervention is required, there must be competence gaps in the Operational Team that we are having to fill and that, by definition, this is wasteful (NVA) activity. Therefore, if we can develop those competences in the Organisation and ultimately remove the need for our intervention, we can increase the value add significantly. Similarly for my role, if I'm successful in Coaching and Developing my people, the first step of success must be to remove the need for my role, as the team should develop into an autonomous, self-directed team, co-developing their plans with the business and executing with excellence.

I realise that it is uncomfortable to think of our roles in this way but a lot of us do fulfil roles that, in the medium to long-term, must be considered NVA and it is my view that we should embrace this fact and be the architect of the role's eradication. This should not be seen as a negative thing, as if we do it well we will increase the fulfilment that we derive from the role and have a significantly positive impact on our Organisations, developing ourselves in competences such as Lean Thinking, Coaching, Change Management and Leadership. This will be a platform for our next career step, helping us to develop a career path delivering more value add for the Customer.
I realise that it is uncomfortable to think of our roles in this way but a lot of us do fulfill roles that, in the medium to long-term, must be considered NVA and it is my view that we should embrace this fact and be the architect of the role's eradication.
Circling back to my own role in particular, whichever way I look at it, ultimately the need for my role must be removed if we are to consider our Transformation to a Lean Thinking, Operationally excellent Organisation a success and I must make it a personal mission to develop our Organisation and our People to the point that my role is defunct.

Simply put, my job is to make my job redundant!
<![CDATA[Simply Philips: The Legacy]]>Tue, 29 Dec 2015 16:13:59 GMThttp://lean-master.com/blog/simply-philips-the-legacy
Around 7 Years ago, as the Regional Leader for Europe and North America, I was privileged to be part of the small team that Launched 'Simply Philips' in the Philips Consumer Lifestyle Sector and, due to the proven success in the early years, saw the expansion of the program across the Manufacturing and Supply Chains of the Lighting and Healthcare Sectors.

Fast forward to the present and we find a reinvigorated Manufacturing and Supply Chain across Philips and a Lean Excellence Model that is being rolled out End-to-End in the Idea-to-Market (I2M), Market-to-Order (M2O), Order-to-Cash (O2C) domains and throughout the enabling functions. The name Simply Philips Operating System was discontinued 4 years ago but the Philips Lean Excellence Model has continued to develop as we have learned from each step that we have taken.

Fig 1: The 4 quadrants of Value
To be at the beginning of an Organisation's Journey to Excellence is a rare opportunity and so I'm extremely excited to  once again be part of a team pioneering a Lean Transformation in Philips, this time in Accounting Operations, where we 'Kicked off' in November 2015 at our BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Partner's Delivery Centre in Pune, India. 

Our joint Lean Deployment, with Infosys BPO, will ensure that a key enabling function of Philips, its Financial Accounting Operations, will continue Philips'  Journey to Excellence through the removal of wasteful activity and the maximisation of value and, as such, covers a substantial part of the Lean Office Quadrant of Value. Working with Infosys BPO will also reinforce our strong commitment to the development of Partnerships with our Key Suppliers and a Value Stream Mindset, ignoring organisational boundaries and focussing on the Customer Value.

This launch required quite some reflection on the Lean Excellence Model and how best to deploy in this particular area of the Organisation and in 2016 we will launch in all of the major Global Accounting Operations locations.
Fig 2: The Lean Office Excellence Model
The Lean Excellence Model that we have developed in Philips is suited to all 4 quadrants of Value of the Organisation due to its Principle Driven, rather than tool focussed design, whereby it brings the People Systems and Process Systems together in union and, whilst recognising the importance of the Lean and Six Sigma Toolkit, has been developed to take the Organisation through a journey that develops its people, who then use the appropriate tool as it's needed. This means that the Transformation that the organisation goes through is managed with an integrity of purpose toward People as our greatest Asset.
This means that the Transformation that the organisation goes through is managed with an integrity of purpose toward People as our greatest Asset.
Fig 3: The Philosophy of Hoshin Kanri
The deployment of Lean Thinking will only be successful when it is integrated into the Business Strategy, as described by Art Byrne in 'The Lean Turnaround'. We therefore start by determining the need for change and establishing a Hoshin Kanri approach in the area of the Organisation, ensuring that the effectiveness of putting Strategy into Execution becomes integral to the Transformation.

This first step in the journey is a key enabler of successful Change Management and the Lean Excellence Model assures that the Organisation, and its People, are guided through the Change. Integrity to the Lean Excellence Model is probably my biggest learning over the last 7 years as, consistently, the areas of the business that have held true to the model have outperformed those that 'Cherry Picked', with a return to the fidelity of the model being their ultimate countermeasure.

Fig 4: The Lean Excellence Curriculum
The development of our People is a true success story in the Philips Lean Transformation, with thousands of our People Certified at one of the certification levels. We had a great platform to build upon, having had an established Lean-Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt Program, which provided Practitioner and Expert resources to support the development of our People.

However, the establishment of the Lean Excellence Curriculum brought into being a Lean Foundation Certification for everyone in the Organisation, aligned with the Lean Thinking principle of 'Everyone Solves Problems', rather than expert resources being the people who made Business Improvement happen. Through the certification of our people, with the aim of everyone at the Lean Foundation level and the appropriate number at each of the subsequent levels, we are creating a Kaizen Culture that is driving Continuous Improvement throughout our Business.

The Legacy of Simply Philips is a Business that has learned how to Transform itself into a Lean Thinking Organisation, with many areas of the Business working at a very high level of Lean Excellence, whilst understanding that we will only truly be Lean when it is throughout the whole. We have many of our People certified and practicing their learning on a daily basis, having changed the way that they work and having established Lean as the way that they do things and I'm excited to have the fortune to be a continuing part of its avant-garde.

We have many of our People certified and practicing their learning on a daily basis, having changed the way that they work and having established Lean as the way that they do things and I'm excited to have the fortune to be a continuing part of its avant-garde.
The Photograph at the head of the article is of a Class from one of the End2End Lean Leadership Classes, formerly called 'Simplicity in Leadership', which provides the training toward Lean Advanced (Practitioner Level) Certification.

The 'Simply Philips' team during the first year comprised of Craig Russell, John Von, Marcelo Higashi, Claudio Landeros, Peter Veltman, Larry Hoo, Anthony Howarth, Samuel Lim, Patrick Pisters, Rene Huijben, Henry Cheung,  Steven Fang, Arlene Creutzburg and I. 

There are many Lean Leadership Books out there but I have reviewed those that I think are of most use on my Book Recommendations page.

Follow Philip on Twitter: