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KaiNexus Blog

Everything Continuous Improvement

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Kade Jansson

Kade Jansson is a self-described "nerd", who enjoys blending business and technology to assist in lean and efficient practices. He grew up in Utah, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree from Utah Valley University in Business Management. Kade understands the importance of a technological advantage in today's fast-paced business world. Over the last ten years, he has enjoyed putting that knowledge to use while implementing business software into a variety of different markets. Loving his move to Austin, TX just over six years ago, Kade plans on staying. He enjoys the outdoors and spends as much time as possible camping, swimming, and disc golfing. He also enjoys tinkering with a variety of electronics and loves to drive his fiance crazy with the "latest and greatest" ways to electronify their home.
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Recent Posts

Bottom-Up Improvement: Finding Strength in Numbers

Posted by Kade Jansson

Aug 18, 2017 8:06:00 AM

There is power in “bottom-up” employee improvement, but it doesn’t get widely or easily embraced by organizations, meaning missed opportunities for improvement.  

That was the topic Mark Graban, our vice president of Improvement & Innovation Services and founder of LeanBlog.org, discussed during a recent KaiNexus webinar, Strength in Numbers: Improving from the Bottom-up, hosted by KaiNexus CEO and co-founder Dr. Greg Jacobson.

In today's post, we'll take a look at the high points of that webinar.

 

The “Top” to “Bottom” Pyramid

The “bottom” of bottom-up references the typical pyramid illustration used to visualize the management structure of an organization. That pyramid usually places the CEOs and executives at the top point of the pyramid, which then gets wider through the many management levels before the base layer of frontline staff at the bottom. Mark explained that to combat the hierarchical, and potentially insulting, placement of staff at the bottom of the pyramid, some organizations try to invert the diagram so that frontline staff, and sometimes even customers, are labeled at the top.

“We can draw whatever number of shapes we like,” Graban said. “If the organization just changes the drawing but doesn’t change the mindset, then that’s going to get people discouraged, that’s not going to lead to a culture of continuous improvement.”

Top-down improvement falls in line with command and control leadership, Graban explained. Command and control leadership holds the notion that executives are the smartest employees in the organization and therefore they make the decisions, and if employees would just do what they were told to do, then the organization would have superior results.

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Think Outside the Electronic Suggestion Box

Posted by Kade Jansson

Aug 7, 2017 9:48:43 AM

Employee suggestion boxes have been around for… well, we have no idea, so we’ll go with… ever. On some level, business leaders instinctually know that their employees might have terrific ideas on how to improve the business. After all, they are usually the ones who have the closest contact with products, customers, and workspaces. Collecting their suggestions is an inherently good idea so someone, way back when, stuck a box on the wall, labeled it “Suggestions,” and probably patted himself on the back. Of course, it’s 2017, so now there’s an app for that, and the suggestion box has gone electronic.

But although collecting employee ideas for improvement is an outstanding idea (and, we’d argue, a necessary one) and many organizations use some sort of electronic suggestion box tool, people often tell us that they lead to disappointment for both leaders and employees.

Here’s why.

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Topics: Suggestion Systems

10 Tips for a Successful Gemba Walk

Posted by Kade Jansson

Jul 20, 2017 8:11:00 AM

When we chat with leaders about how they are using various continuous improvement tools and techniques, Gemba Walks are often a hot topic. Interestingly, we find that people either view them as very effective and a great way to connect with the team and find opportunities for improvement, or they see them as a big waste of time.

What sets the two camps apart?

We find that leaders who get the most out of their visits to the Gemba have a few things in common. They generally follow each of these best practices. By adopting them, many leaders who didn’t get a lot out of their Gemba walks are able to make them much more useful.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

Implementing Lean Software? We’ve Got Tips.

Posted by Kade Jansson

Jul 5, 2017 3:36:32 PM

Most people will only be involved in a Lean software implementation once or maybe a few times. We help companies with improvement software deployment every single day. Because we’ve been around the block many times, we’ve seen what leads to success and which mistakes should be avoided at all costs. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned.

Think Beyond Software

This may be an odd thing for a software company to say, but simply providing employees with a platform to manage Lean projects will not guarantee improved business results. The practice of Lean requires a culture that supports continuous improvement, avoids blame, respects employee ideas, and rewards people who contribute to positive change. Without that foundation, it is unlikely that employees will embrace Lean whether they have the tools to do so or not.

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Get Executives Engaged

It is important for leaders to be involved in the roll out of Lean software for a number of reasons. First, their involvement sends a clear signal that the Lean methodology and the tools needed to support it are a high priority for management. Adoption will also be improved if people know that managers are using the Lean solution to make decisions and assess the performance of the organization. When people see and hear leaders referencing data from the system, they will know how it is used and make good decisions about their own inputs.

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Topics: Lean, Continuous Improvement Software

Common Questions About Process Control Charts

Posted by Kade Jansson

Jun 30, 2017 7:38:00 AM

There is a strong trend in organizations these days to apply improvement tools and techniques that originated on the manufacturing floor to other parts of the organization and other industries entirely. That’s because the basis of these tools and the approach aren’t really related to manufacturing at all. Rather, they are about control, organizational alignment, and efficiency. What organization doesn’t need more of those things? 

One tool that we are seeing gain traction in organizations of all types is the process control chart. Control charts can absolutely be used to track the quality and speed at which items come off a production line, but they can also be used to help leaders manage everything from employee satisfaction scores to hospital re-admissions. Because they are new to many non-manufacturing leaders, we get a lot of questions about how they work and how they are best used. Here are a few of the most common.

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11 Steps to an Effective Gemba Walk

Posted by Kade Jansson

Jun 6, 2017 8:23:00 AM

Gemba walks are an increasingly popular management technique. By visiting the place where work is done, leaders gain valuable insight into the flow of value through the organization and often uncover opportunities for improvement and learn new ways to support employees. The approach is a collaborative one, with employees providing details about what is done and why.

Great results depend on thoughtful planning, execution, and follow-up. Here are the most important steps you can take to ensure that your next Gemba walk is successful.

1 – Prepare the Team

It is important that the team members who will be observed and engaged during the walk have a good understanding of what a Gemba walk is and how it will be useful. They should know that the purpose is ultimately to remove obstacles that make it more difficult for them to add the maximum amount of value. Talking about the walk before it happens will help everyone feel more comfortable and open to the interaction.

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Topics: Gemba Walk

How Software Makes Gemba Walks More Effective

Posted by Kade Jansson

May 16, 2017 12:50:20 PM

We get the chance to chat with a lot of frontline employees, managers, and executive leaders about all aspects of continuous improvement. We love to learn about how organizations are using the techniques and tools of Lean and other methodologies to improve results and reach their most important business goals. Gemba Walks are a practice that comes up quite a bit. Some leaders find them to be incredibly effective and welcomed by managers and staff alike, while others find them to be a chore with disappointing results.

Why is that?

Proper technique is certainly an issue (there are lots of ways that Gemba Walks can go wrong), but the use of software to support the effort also makes a big difference.

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Here’s how it helps.

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Topics: Continuous Improvement Software, Gemba Walk

Common Questions about Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)

Posted by Kade Jansson

May 5, 2017 7:05:00 AM

We’ve noticed a theme to many of the conversations that we’ve been having with clients and at the events we’ve attended lately. Lots of folks have questions about the concept of Continuous Quality Improvement or CQI for short. We’ve put together some answers to the questions we are asked most often and even a few that people don’t ask, but they really should.

Is Continuous Quality Improvement Just for Manufacturing Companies?

This comes up quite a bit with many of the methodologies that our improvement management software helps customers manage. The literature around CQI and other techniques is full of references to manufacturing because many of the methods got their start in that sector. Approaches like Lean, Six Sigma, TQM and others were first applied in auto manufacturing and then spread to factories that made just about anything.

But other industries began to take note of the success of improvement efforts in manufacturing and realized that the core principles of CQI can be applied to almost any sector. We now see the approach being applied in healthcare, higher education, construction, software development, transportation and almost any industry you can name. This is because all of them are made up of a series of processes that can be broken down, analyzed and made better.

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Topics: Daily Improvement, Quality, Spread Continuous Improvement, Improvement Methodology

"Lean Thinking" and the 5 Principles of Lean Manufacturing

Posted by Kade Jansson

May 2, 2017 7:02:00 AM

James Womack and Dan Jones are the founders of the Lean Enterprise Institute and the Lean Enterprise Academy (UK), respectively. Their book, Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, is considered by some to be the bible of Lean manufacturing.  It was originally published in 1996 based on their in-depth study of Toyota’s fabled Toyota Production System (TPS). Philip Caldwell Chairman and CEO of Ford from 1980-1985, said of the book, “Truly remarkable...The most comprehensive, instructive, mind-stretching and provocative analysis of any major industry I have ever known.” 

Lean Thinking lays out the five Lean manufacturing principles; value, value streams, flow, pull, and perfection.  Here’s some insight into what Womack and Jones meant by each.

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Topics: Lean, Daily Lean Management

16 Questions to Ask on Your First (or Next) Gemba Walk

Posted by Kade Jansson

Apr 24, 2017 10:09:10 AM

Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho gave a brilliantly simple description of what to do on a Gemba walk. "Go see, ask why, show respect," he said. That’s it in a nutshell. During a Gemba walk, supervisors and leaders go to the place where work is done (the Gemba). They observe (not fix) processes and activities and ask questions that will help lead to future improvements.

“Why?” is certainly an important question, but it is by no means the only one. We’ve put together a list of other questions that may be useful, especially if you are new to Gemba walks or if you are taking a look at a process for the first time. They may not all make sense in your situation, but perhaps they will trigger additional ideas.

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Topics: Daily Lean Management, Gemba Walk