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.
Oct 12, 2017 11:02:25 AM
DMAIC (Deh-May-Ick) is one of the most important tools in the continuous improvement toolbox. It is most closely associated with the Six Sigma methodology, but it is also used by those who practice Lean or don’t subscribe to a methodology at all. The reason that DMAIC is so popular is that it is a problem-solving framework that takes teams from discovering root causes to long-term, stable standard work. It is a repeatable process that employees can learn to apply to any number of process problems.
DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Motorola is credited with bringing it to prominence, although it was essentially an evolution of the improvement methodology used by Toyota.
A deeper dive reveals why it works so well.
Sep 26, 2017 11:41:25 AM
I recently joined a few of my family members on a trip to Disneyland. My 9-year-old niece from Utah was among the group. She’d never been to California before and had never seen a palm tree. She was fascinated by them, but also a little angry. “Why don’t we have trees like this at home?” she asked. I’m no botanist, but I explained to her that different plants grow in different places because they need certain conditions to thrive. The temperature, soil composition, humidity, rainfall, and other factors create the environment that determines what vegetation will take root. That’s why you don’t see cacti in a swamp, or tomatoes in the desert.
Over the years we’ve spent working with organizations interested in positive change, we’ve seen time and time again, that much like palm trees, continuous process improvement (CPI) needs certain conditions to flourish. Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on Mother Nature to create a conducive atmosphere. If you are just beginning your CPI journey, or if you are struggling to achieve results, make sure that these crucial prerequisites are in place.
Sep 15, 2017 7:21:00 AM
If you’ve never heard of an “obeya,” you’ll want to check out our VP of Improvement & Innovation Mark Graban interviewing Dr. Michael Johnston, Vice President Corporate Operations at Carolinas Healthcare System on the KaiNexus podcast.
As Johnston explained, Carolinas HealthCare System has been on an improvement journey for about eight to nine years, beginning with hiring consultants for some traditional project work before deciding to create its own internal continuous improvement department.
Johnston came to Carolinas HealthCare System about four and a half years ago, and soon after was asked to take over that continuous improvement department, which is called the Performance Excellence Center (PEC). At that time he noticed the department was divided into separate functions - including projects, six-sigma type work, traditional Rapid Improvement Events (RIE's), and Kaizen events.
Topics: Hoshin Kanri
Sep 14, 2017 7:25:00 AM
Eliminating waste is at the heart of the Lean business management philosophy. So much so, that there are eight defined types of waste.
Even if you are not an organization devoted to the Lean approach, it still pays to understand and be on the lookout for waste that can hurt the bottom line, slow production times, hurt customer satisfaction, and demotivate employees.
We can’t list every example of each type of waste, but perhaps considering a few will lead you to think about where you might find and eliminate waste in your organization.
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.
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.
Topics: Suggestion Systems
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.
Topics: Gemba Walk
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.
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.
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.