If the amazing insights Matthew Cannistraro shared with listeners in the KaiNexus webinar The Intersection of Culture and Technology: Capturing Improvement Where it Happens could be summed up in a few words, it would be that technology influences results.
Matthew Cannistraro is an Operations Analyst in the Sheet Metal Group at JC Cannistraro. He was joined by KaiNexus Vice-President of Improvement & Innovation Services and founder of LeanBlog.org Mark Graban, who hosted the webinar.
JC Cannistraro is a mechanical contractor who designs, fabricates and installs different systems for commercial buildings in Boston, with a specialization in hospitals and labs. It is a family business that has been transformed by technology.
“I think that that’s really important to understand, that like most organizations today, technology is a core part of all of our work flows. From design to installation, it’s a tool that everybody uses. And that is a really important part about how we use KaiNexus and how are improvement culture functions,” Cannistraro said.
Technology transformed them into a learning organization and allowed them to bring in young faces and to invite young students in co-operation programs, some of whom grew into leadership positions.
Before they started using KaiNexus, JC Cannistraro used their own internal continuous improvement program, in which they tracked improvements with Google Sheets, but at some point this program went dead, flatlining in the number of improvements adopted over time. To combat this, they started using 5S training to make new improvements. Cannistraro stressed that the important thing 5S gave their teams a shared understanding of what they tried to improve, which in turn allowed them to see more opportunities for improvement. In fact, the result was too many opportunities to manage and soon a better solution was needed.
“And then we found KaiNexus. And really it was that success of the 5S training that drove us to look for a better solution to tracking improvements.” Cannistraro said.
Now they get a good performance out of all 350 users in the system, with 2100 completed improvements in the last six months. Cannistraro went on to explain that improvements occur at the gemba—the place where the actual work happens—and are also captured there.
“It’s really hard to overstate the importance of that; as soon as there’s a delay between the origin of the idea and then getting it into the system you run the risk of someone forgetting to submit it, someone not submitting it accurately, it becoming extra work for them to submit it because they have to go back and do it, and you separate tracking improvements from making improvements,” Cannistraro said. “That’s a really important distinction that we want people to understand those processes as one and the same, that KaiNexus is an improvement platform, it’s not just an administrative tool.”
Another key point Cannistraro made was that perfect shouldn’t be made the enemy of good. At JC Cannistraro, employees are also given latitude to make changes without a manager first having to approve of them. Besides this, jobs are broken into small, repeatable steps, because one of the foundation principles of Lean is that variation is the root of all evil, and the more standard work you can create, the better you can predict how long it will take, and the easier it will be to improve processes, as improvements apply to every time the step is deployed.
JC Cannistraro tracks two kinds of improvement with KaiNexus: Adopted Improvement (AI) and Opportunities of Improvement (OI). An AI is a change that is already made in someone’s work that has a low investment and potentially a high return and doesn’t require anybody else to check in and help. Matthew shared an example of an AI undertaken by one employee; this employee created meeting notifications so they are always notified of a commitment at the right time. Thanks to KaiNexus, Matthew is now also able to use this improvement - as are many others now that it’s recorded and visible, he explained. In the system, total over time, JC Cannistraro has had 3032 AIs.
The other kind of improvement are Opportunities for Improvement (OI), which are ideas that need to be resolved with the help from somebody else. An example of this is that an employee had an idea for an upload template to send information directly, which could eliminate hours of manual data entries and save time, but couldn’t create this on her own, and thanks to the OI she was able to bring the idea to fruition.
“The reason we don’t use only the Opportunities for Improvement is because, for those ideas that are relatively straightforward to implement, we think that the Opportunities for Improvement creates an unnecessary amount of waiting. What really drove us to develop this distinction is the Lean concept of Flow Efficiency. And so we set up KaiNexus in a way to maximize Flow Efficiency for our improvement work.”
Cannistraro explained that they don’t use a lot of technology in the shop’s work flow, but that the preceding and following steps do, which created a vacuum in between. They are working to change that, but until they can, there has been a bit of a difficulty of deploying KaiNexus in the shop. One workaround they are trying is to use TV screens in the shop instead of paperwork for the employees to see what they must build, and they hope to get KaiNexus up and running on these screens as well.
“Technology, it’s not just how we improve, often it’s what we improve. And so we should remember that technology is a growing, changing, improvable thing, and the way we set up KaiNexus reflects that reality,” Cannistraro explained. “We were able to have KaiNexus set up the software in a way that made sense for us, that leveraged that concept of flow efficiency, and led us to have really good results. But it took thinking about how to improve the technology to get to that point.”
The technology makes it easier to acknowledge improvements, but also to socialize the improvements, which helps to set up shared behavior, which then helps to make a culture.
Through the process of deploying KaiNexus, JC Cannistraro has learned to define success and then to design a system that will be able to support this success, which for them meant having high engagement in a large number of improvements. Flow efficiency is important to them, knowing that with high engagement they could have an improvement culture within the organization.
Through the process, JC Cannistraro also learned that routine builds behavior and that most routines involve technology. By being able to carry KaiNexus around, employees are able to make a habit of coming up with improvements AND to capture them while doing it. This again helps to build behavior and culture.
The outcome from the process of deploying KaiNexus, Matthew reported, was that they could change from a learning organization in which people learned for the sake of learning, and transfer that energy for learning to an improvement culture in which learning is actually leading to a change.
“That’s what I think has really lead to us starting to see this positive improvement culture that’s really important, we think, to our success as a business and it lets us leverage our employees as a competitive advantage,” Matthew said. “Having a platform like KaiNexus that lets us deploy Continuous Improvement allows us to get the most out of everyone; it means that everyone’s empowered to improve their work and so people aren’t as frustrated with their jobs because they have the power to be the change they want to see.”
Watch the full webinar here!