We get a lot of questions from leaders about which continuous improvement tools and techniques they should use. Is DMAIC better than PDSA? Should I do Gemba walks or daily huddles? When do I use incremental improvement vs. a Kaizen event? These are all reasonable questions, but the great news is that most continuous improvement tools, including those popular with organizations that use the Lean or Six Sigma methodology, work very well together. In fact, in many cases, they were developed jointly.
Apr 19, 2019 7:32:00 AM
Apr 17, 2019 2:07:17 PM
There are lies people tell for selfish or malicious reasons. They come up in business from time to time, but far more common are fairytales that are told out of a desire for the fiction to be true. Sometimes folks think if they repeat something often enough, it will become fact. We believe that’s the reason for so many of the myths we hear about the electronic suggestion box. Lots of people (and vendors) sing their praises, but we’ve yet to find an organization that was transformed after implementing a way to collect anonymous employee ideas. Here are a few reality checks.
Apr 16, 2019 2:45:06 PM
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."
- Bruce Lee
Kata is a Japanese word that means form. In martial arts, it refers to a detailed choreographed pattern of movements that are practiced alone or in groups. Kata was a way that training methods and the most successful combat techniques were passed from generation to generation. This systematic approach to training allows students to develop the ability to perform the movements with reflex-like precision; they become second nature. When someone is new to the practice, the moves will look difficult, but once they become a master, each action will look effortless and smooth. Repetition, precision, and attention to form are the prerequisites for mastery.
Apr 12, 2019 7:56:00 AM
DMAIC is a structured, customer-focused, data-driven approach to problem-solving. The acronym stands for “Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.” It is often associated with the Lean or Six Sigma business methodologies but can be valuable for any organization looking to support incremental improvement.
Apr 11, 2019 7:46:56 AM
Hoshin Kanri is a strategy deployment approach that is popular with organizations using the Lean or Six Sigma business methodology and others that commit to continuous improvement. The object is to define the organization’s “True North” and drive toward it, reaching breakthrough goals while still managing daily incremental improvement. When properly executed, organizations have used it to improve profitability, sustain growth, enter new markets, and deliver innovative new products to customers. (If you are not familiar with the approach, you can learn more about it in this post.)
As useful as Hoshin Kanri can be, it doesn’t always work. We’ve seen some organizations achieve great success and others give up in frustration.
While every organization is different, here are some of the common problems we see when Hoshin planning hits a dead end.
Apr 10, 2019 7:37:44 AM
Starting a quest for operational excellence is one of the most significant steps an organization can take. Operational excellence involves focusing on the customers' needs, keeping the employees engage and empowered, and continually improving processes in the workplace. It requires effective problem-solving, collaboration, and leadership.
While the concept of operational excellence is not new, today’s most competitive companies take a modern approach to achieving excellence by leveraging software designed to help manage the journey toward perfection. The most helpful solutions include each of these thirteen key capabilities.
Apr 4, 2019 8:32:00 AM
As I prepared to write this post, I did a Google Search of, “Visual Management Software,” just to see what popped up. The top 4 posts were about visual project management software. So, it’s not surprising that lots of folks think that’s all there is to visual management technology. Project management software is something that executives will often approve for other people to use, but not something they get excited about for their own use.
But visual management is much more than just project management. Ideally, the entire organization would be managed visually. Why? Because, when presented with information visually, people are significantly more likely to understand and retain it than if the information is presented in other ways. Visual management makes it easier to identify problems and interruptions in a workflow or process. Visual control is a powerful tool for continuous improvement. It makes it easier to engage workers, gives leaders critical insight into operations, and helps to ensure results come in as expected.
We’re not talking about a simple task manager app; we’re talking about using visual management software as the dashboard for running the organization. Here are some of the features that the C-suite will love.
Apr 3, 2019 7:43:00 AM
Every business leader we talk to says that they would like to achieve continuous improvement. We’ve never heard one yet say, “Nah, who needs that?” But, strangely, not every organization has implemented a structure to support improvement or worked to develop a culture that values it.
That seems odd, right?
It turns out that this isn’t the result of leaders who are stupid or lazy. There are a lot of ways to rationalize against the effort and investment it takes to make using a continuous improvement cycle part of everyday operations. But if you press on these ideas a bit, you’ll find that they deflate under pressure. Here are a few that we see quite a bit.
Apr 2, 2019 12:59:05 PM
We talk to people who are interested in investing in software to support their continuous improvement efforts every day. Some of them are already using the Lean business methodology, others are just rolling it out, and still others are taking a “Lean light” approach by leveraging some of the principles without adopting all of the techniques. In any case, leaders want to have a good understanding of what to expect and how a Lean management system can help them achieve their goals. Fortunately, we are well positioned to share what our customers have told us happened when they invested in technology to bolster their improvement and waste reduction efforts.
Mar 29, 2019 9:04:00 AM
“We say seeing is believing, but actually, we are much better at believing than seeing. In fact, we are seeing what we believe all the time and occasionally, what we can’t believe.” – Robert Anton Wilson
Gemba walks are a critical continuous improvement technique. They are useful for leaders at every level but particularly eye-opening for executives and other top-level managers. Why? The simple process of going to the place where works is done, showing respect for workers, asking questions, and reflecting on observations can change one’s perception of how well a process is operating. It also offers an opportunity to build trust and increase employee engagement. Many direct supervisors and mid-level managers practice Gemba walks, especially in Lean organizations, but it is important for executives to do them as well. That’s why we’ve put together this Gemba walk template for executives. It addresses elements that would be less important to managers who are closer to the process daily.