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Lean for Knowledge Workers [Webinar Transcript]

Posted by Danielle Yoon

Mar 21, 2022 10:36:00 AM

Lean for Knowledge Workers Webinar RecordingKim Moscarda, Director of Moscarda Solutions, recently joined us on the KaiNexus webinar with Mark Graban, Senior Advisor with KaiNexus. In this webinar, he shared some insights into the application of Lean methodologies in a knowledge worker environment. If you haven't had a chance to watch the webinar, you can access the webinar recording here. You can also read the webinar transcript below.

Mark Graban:  Hi, everybody. Welcome to today's webinar. It's part of the KaiNexus Continuous Improvement webinar series. I'm Mark Graban, a senior advisor with KaiNexus, and I'm excited about today's webinar. It's titled "Lean for Knowledge Work," and it's going to be presented by Kim Moscarda. He's the Director of Moscarda Solutions, joining us today from Australia.

We have attendees from every continent, all corners of the world, and I'm sure we have people joining us today from many different knowledge work settings. There's a lot to learn and a lot to discuss later during the Q&A. Welcome. Thank you, everybody, for being here today.

Our presenter today has worked in the energy industry for over 25 years as both an individual contributor and a leader across several disciplines, including continuous improvement, asset management, and project management.

Kim is passionate about continuous improvement. He's here at the right place. Our audience shares that passion. Kim believes strongly that lean principles can be applied to any team in any industry to achieve high levels of performance.

Kim also believes that effective leadership is essential for any organization to transform its performance, and he works with organizations to share his skills and knowledge to improve leadership capabilities and implement business improvement solutions.

Kim, I'm pleased that you're here presenting today. Thank you for joining us late in the evening where you are. With that, I will turn it over to you.

Kim Moscarda:  Thank you very much, Mark. Welcome, everybody. Hopefully, this session will be enlightening for some and trigger some thoughts in others. Lean for knowledge workers, this is what it's all about, so a bit of an insight into how lean methodologies can be applied in a knowledge worker environment.

As you can see from the picture and as Mark mentioned, most of my career to date has been in the petroleum industry, probably not your typical lean environment, if you'd like. I started off as a mechanical engineer and then worked on various projects, eventually moving into a management role looking after teams, leading teams.

I've worked on offshore FPSOs, which you can see in the picture. I've worked on gas plants and other facilities in different locations around the world. I've worked with field operations frontline workers, but also worked with knowledge workers, obviously, being an engineer as well.

The last, I guess, decade of my career has predominantly been around continuous improvement in operations, in petroleum operations, culminating in a 2019 lean deployment for BHP Petroleum Australia.

Today, I wanted to share some of the things I've learned over the years and in particular, how I believe continuous improvement and lean methodologies can be successfully applied in knowledge worker environments.

Kim:  Just to give you a bit of a brief of what will be covered today. I'll be talking a little bit about the model that I use, which is probably going to be familiar to most of you. I'll touch on what lean for knowledge workers means to me.

We'll then go through the BHP case study, which we'll hopefully give you some insights into what happens in reality. Then I'll talk a little bit about some of the pitfalls and the challenges that I faced, or have faced over the last period of time, with continuous improvement in lean deployments.

Finally, we'll talk about opportunities for lean practitioners in knowledge worker environments, which I think is quite exciting to me and hopefully to others as well. First off the model. As you can see, this is the model that I use in my role now as a consultant in the lean space.

You'll notice that it's pretty much similar to a lot of the lean deployment models that are used around the place. The pillars for me around operational excellence: purpose, mission, vision, impact, and customer focus. Then you have the branches coming off that.

I'm not going to go into those into any particular detail, but what I did want to emphasize is, this model as it is, is as applicable to a knowledge worker environment as it is for manufacturing or any other processing type industry.

I guess, the challenge for the group and put your questions in the question space. Do you think lean can be effectively applied to a knowledge worker environment? Looking at this model, a fairly typical type of a model, do you believe there's a better approach or a different approach? Really interested to hear what people think there.

Going back to the model, from a knowledge worker perspective, yes, everything in here is relevant, but there are certain elements of the model that are probably more impactful or more effective in the knowledge worker space. Now I'm going to be talking a little bit about some of those as I said.

Kim:  When we talk about lean for knowledge workers, I'd like to...Mark's done this already in the intro, but talk about the definition of what is a knowledge worker. We use the knowledge worker term quite a bit. For me, I've got a very simple view of what a knowledge worker is.

Pretty much someone who turns information into something of value for the customer. It could be mechanical engineering, turning material data or stresses and strains into a pipeline design. It could be a geologist using seismic survey data to identify oil reservoirs.

Basically turning the raw product, which is the information into something of value to the customer. Very much in the same way as in the manufacturing environment, resources type environment. People turn raw materials into something of value for the customer. Its laying principles in that sense should be applied.

Some of the things that I've again found to be more relevant for the knowledge workers include purpose. Purpose is generally where I've found for knowledge worker teams a little bit different to potentially, say, field teams or manufacturing teams.

Purpose is what I've found to be a more effective place to start for knowledge workers. I guess, the reason for that is, when you're in the field, or you're on the line, your purpose is pretty clear. For example, in the petroleum industry, oilfield worker that's about more barrels, or a miner on a mine site, it's about more tons.

For someone on the line, it might be about more units. You can put your hands on that stuff. You can see that stuff. It's a lot easier to quantify. I think, though, for knowledge workers, exploring and understanding their purpose, why they exist, it can be a little bit more difficult and potentially confronting as well.

Because they can't put their hands on it all the time. They can't always see the fruits of their labor. This is one of the reasons why we start with this, because teams, especially knowledge worker teams, do need to connect to purpose to be effective.

What I've seen already in my short time as a consultant is that most organizations have explored purpose. They have these nice mission statements, vision statements, and other bits and pieces.

They haven't cascaded those down through the organization so that everyone at all levels in the organization has a personal connection to that purpose. When you're talking about knowledge workers, if you can build that personal connection to purpose, then you'll all of a sudden have someone who's happy to come into work. They're energized. They're solving problems. They're really keen to improve.

You can get a lot of knowledge in particular knowledge workers by exploring purpose in that way. The other thing that we found is probably more relevant to a knowledge worker type environment, or more powerful potentially, is turning strategy into action. What does that mean?

All of us that have been in that knowledge worker environment, been possibly in big organizations. We've been to those town halls where the CEO or the managing director gets up and talks about the strategy for the next year or next two years, or five years or whatever. The sound of trumpets in the background.

Generally, what people in the audience are waiting for is, they're looking for those keywords, the danger words. Words like future proofing or transformation. Because to a lot of the companies, those words mean that there's going to be organizational reductions cuts, which is not what anyone wants.

What that means is, the strategy of the business or the organization is not being sold to the workers properly. The more and more I work with companies, the more and more I see this where that hasn't been translated. The strategy hasn't been translated into improvement priorities for the individuals in the business.

I guess, for knowledge workers, more so than for the field workers, again, they're probably a little bit more thoughtful about that. They're looking for the translation of company objectives into improvement priorities. That's what I found, I guess, for the knowledge workers.

If you can do it really well, though, if you can build that golden thread between the company strategy and long term aspirations, you can build that golden thread all the way down to the individual knowledge workers and their teams and their priorities and their KPIs, then it can be quite powerful.

The other thing that we've found quite effective when dealing with knowledge workers is talking about value and having value in the language. What do I mean by that? When we talk about value, different definitions, but again, simple definition, is what does a customer prepare to pay for?

That's effectively the value of something. With knowledge workers, a lot of what they do on a day-to-day basis is not necessarily something that you can put a value on.

This can be quite confronting to knowledge workers, because when you start questioning them about what they're doing on a day-to-day basis, maybe questioning whether that's adding value. How much waste is in their day? They automatically get into defensive mode. It's about, what I do is important. Don't threaten me sort of thing.

As you work with the teams, and you explore that a little bit more, and you explain to them that, yes, you can have transactional activities, which enable value, that's fine. You obviously want to try to reduce those, but at the end of the day, sometimes they're necessary.

There's also stuff that they do, which they are transforming something. Transforming information. You start talking to them about that and start getting to think about what value means to them in their day.

The big thing is, identifying the waste, because for knowledge workers, probably more so than fieldworkers, manufacturers, and that stuff that I've seen, there's a hell of a lot of waste. Whether it'd be meetings that people are attending that they shouldn't be.

Whether it be approvals that are unnecessary. Whether it be reviews of documents that are unnecessary, whatever it is. There seems to be a hell of a lot of waste. There are opportunities here and we'll talk a bit about that down the track. Certainly, in the value space, I found that to be quite a big area for knowledge workers.

The other area, which I'm finding in the last nine months since I've started my business, is the area of processes. In particular for knowledge workers, there's a bit of a need there. It’s basically what we looked at at at the beginning. We look at the business's value chain.

As per the Michael Porter model, you have your primary activities, support activities. Within that, you have your core value-adding processes. Now, manufacturing line, the processes are quite straightforward. You got cycle times. You understand that it's quite quantifiable.

Whereas knowledge worker environments, it's maybe a little bit more difficult, but it's still a process. You can still map it out. You can do your swim lanes. You can identify responsibles. There is opportunity for knowledge workers in that space.

Problem-solving, that's a big one. For knowledge workers, if you're obviously coming from an engineering background, problem-solving is part of what you do as an engineer. Teaching the finance team for example, walking them through structured problem-solving. That was one of the things I found to be quite a bit of fun.

Introducing people to these concepts. These are smart people, but they're not always structured in how they approach problems. Simple things like problem-solving can be quite effective. The other big thing with knowledge workers is around managing improvement projects.

This is where you see a lot of the need from the business because knowledge workers tend to be very good at identifying great ideas, improvement opportunities. A lot of them are innovative. They've got lots of good ideas, but not always that great at executing them and turning them into reality.

This is where using Six Sigma type stuff and other bits and pieces can actually really help those knowledge workers turn those great ideas into reality.

At BHP, we've used products, the KaiNexus product for example, as a means to help do that. It's definitely something for knowledge workers that is very relevant.

The thing that I've found is that the improvement projects for knowledge workers generally are going to be more material. We'll talk a little bit about that a bit more. You're talking about potentially significant savings on your revenues. Just a few areas of the model which we found are more applicable for knowledge workers. Again, we came to get people's feedback on that. The BHP case study. I'm going to take you through how we approached the BHP Petroleum Australia deployment.

You're probably thinking BHP big mining company. If you didn't know, BHP is one of the biggest resources companies in the world. You're probably wondering, why did they get into lean? BHP has been around for a long time. Basically, they've had a lot of success. What they found in 2018, they did an assessment.

They looked at their performance over the last decade as the previous decade, and they saw a sine curve of performance. They would introduce an initiative, performance would go up, and then would drop off and that introduced another initiative. You get that sine curve performance.

They thought, "This isn't good enough, we need to do better." They said, "How do we emulate companies like Toyota who've got that continuous improvement curve going upwards all the time?" Hence we went onto the lean journey. I was lucky enough to be asked to help deploy the lean journey for BHP Petroleum Australia.

What we did is like I said, we started with purpose, phase one. We built that golden thread with the teams. We looked at returning those strategic objectives into the priorities. We also looked at mindsets and behaviors. Team norms, behaviors aligned to the company values. We found those important just to set the framework for the rest of the work.

In the next phase, we moved into the value chain, where we explored the value chain with each of the different teams where they fit in the chain. We explored, as I mentioned before, their core processes. We identified customer requirements for each of those core processes.

For example, we use the site POC tool, House of Quality, to identify requirements, identify success measures. We had quite a bit of success for that. The next thing we looked at is, we've identified the requirements, we've identified our core processes was, how does that translate into the day-to-day task routine?

We looked at roles and responsibilities. Then we looked at roles and responsibilities. We know who's doing what. What does our team demand? What does our capacity look like? How do we balance that?

We use some of those techniques, lean techniques, which use some of those to help the teams balance their capacity and demand. Going forward after that, we then moved into, we're ready to go now, let's have a look at building some aspirations and targets. Where do we want to be? What does the golden thread tell us?

What operational limits can we stretch? We did that with the teams. We then set up the visualization. We set up performance boards, workplace organization boards, continuous improvement boards, the capacity and demand planning boards. Some of those were virtual, some of those were physical.

Obviously, with knowledge workers, there's a tendency to want to have that electronic view rather than the physical boards. There was a bit of a mix and match, which was fine. We had the aspirational targets, the measures, the visualization. The next thing was around the routines.

This was a bit of a surprise for us. We discovered that a lot of the teams in the knowledge worker space, their routines were all over the place. Again, this is what I was talking to you about waste. We saw a lot of waste in those routines. People attending the meetings that didn't need to be there.

Meetings being held at the wrong level. Information being duplicated. Communications being duplicated. We did a bit of a clean up and that was quite successful. We really made sure that we spent a bit of time on that because that's how we hoped they would sustain those good lean practices by implementing those routines.

The next thing we looked at was, this was something that came up pretty much in the middle of all of this was, you may remember in April 2020, the oil price actually got down to zero. It's probably hard to believe now, but it went down to zero.

Anyone that has been involved in the oil industry at that time would remember the activity that started happening after that. There were a lot of focused cuts and other bits and pieces to help deal with this price shock. Now, at that point in time, we're probably halfway in through this.

What we did was, we understood that as a business, the deployment would maybe need to take a bit of a backseat in terms of the business response and keeping everything going. What we were fortunate in is we were asked to facilitate identifying some improvements, identifying some opportunities to help us with that price shock.

That fit in quite well with our deployment because we're able to demonstrate some of the techniques, the lean techniques in doing that. Again, that was part of the work that we did. Then the final bit in the latter stages of the deployment was about sustainment. Was about coaching.

It was about making sure people knew how to run the routines. They knew how to do structured problem-solving. Helping the team, teaching them how to fish basically. What was the end result and what was the prize at the end of all of this? I guess, if you look at that, we managed to save in the 12 months from the price shock.

We managed to identify about $250 million of additional cash flow from either additional revenue opportunities or savings. Effectively, was a very targeted campaign. We were able to identify a significant amount of money to help weather the storm if you like. If you look at that and say, "$250 million, that's great. What a success."

Obviously, there are a lot of people involved with that. There's a lot of focused effort. There's a lot of talent. A lot of knowledge workers in the team that was already had an existing continuous improvement mindset. To say that we were completely responsible for that would be a total lie, but we helped facilitate that effort.

When you look at that $250 million, that sounds great, but I know deep in my soul that we left a lot behind. There were a lot of things that we could have done better. There were a lot of things that we could have changed in the teams to make sure that it was continued to be sustained.

One of the reasons why we didn't do as well as we could for me was there wasn't that commitment from the leadership at the top, there wasn't that commitment. Then you ask the question, why wasn't there? There were a lot of reasons. Some of those reasons we knew about, some of those reasons we didn't know about, and stuff happening in the background.

One of the big things was later understanding lean methodologies. A lot of those knowledge workers in these environments, when they look at the model that I flashed up at the start, they'll look at elements of that and they'll say, "Yeah, I know that," or "I know this, I know that."

They'll look at that and say, "Yeah, that's all common sense. I do that all the time" sort of thing. That will be there the gut feel. The reality is, it's not just the elements on their own, it's the connectedness.

The connectedness of everything. How it all works as a connected piece. Going from purpose to strategic objectives, going to measures, then visualizing performance against those measures. Identifying your gaps, doing your problem solving, implementing your improvements. It's all connected.

When you understand the connection, that's when it becomes powerful. That's where we could have done better with the leaders. We could have helped them build that understanding. Part of that was, we didn't have enough time with them. They had limited time in completing priorities, especially at the time.

That was one of the reasons why we weren't able to build that understanding. Obviously, without that understanding was then very hard for the leaders to really role model the change. Rightly or wrongly, people tend to follow their leaders.

What we found was, if the leaders didn't understand, they didn't understand the benefits, they weren't able to role model, then they weren't able to tell that good change story to their teams. They weren't able to bring their teams along with in the journey. That was a bit of a pitfall as well.

The other thing that was a bit of a pitfall was preparation. Again, this is going into a knowledge worker environment. You're going to get found out if you're not ready. If you're not prepared, if you don't have all your guns loaded, you're going to get found out.

Unfortunately prior to us doing the deployment, there had been some misinformation of all sorts during the rollout which wasn't done very well. We're on the back foot in that space, but it just reiterated to me that preparation is key in this type of environment.

Coaching alignment and sending the same message that was also a bit of a problem. We had our coaches in Petroleum Australia, but then we had a broader team based in other parts of the world. Sometimes we're getting mixed messages, not only from the petroleum side but also from the BHP mineral side. That was something that caused a few dramas.

Finally, the final thing for me in terms of maybe a pitfall, but also a great opportunity is, one of the things I discovered was that I wasn't a very empathetic person.

Throughout the process, I discovered that I needed to be better at influencing people and also better with empathy, getting to understand individuals. Even as a peer which I was to most people, I still didn't have that influence and empathy that I needed. I've worked on that pretty strongly over the last 12 months to address that. Again, it's a pitfall there.

Exciting bit. What are the opportunities for lean practitioners? From my perspective, I've said this before, but the lean methodologies are as applicable to a knowledge worker environment. I believe there are some unique opportunities, in particular, they do provide.

Now, I've been doing a lot of reading of Michael Porter stuff. You probably have heard of Michael Porter, no doubt. These books are not the easiest reads in the world. I wouldn't say they're page-turners, but they're very informative and they've got some good insights.

One of the things I've discovered with the knowledge workers, and I'm seeing a need with some of the businesses I'm talking to, is getting them to understand their value chain. Understanding their own value chain, so their primary support activities, but also the value system.

Their supplier's value chains, their customer's value chains. Where do they fit in the environment? That's certainly a space where I see these opportunities. Thinking of the value chain then transforms into a competitive advantage.

When you look at Michael Porter's work, he talks about two ways to get a competitive advantage, so you can be the lowest-cost provider, which is very, very difficult, or you can differentiate. Generally, the preference on most successful businesses will differentiate.

In a knowledge worker space, you can differentiate from the quality of processes. Where you have your processes as we've discussed, every primary or support activity involves processes. If you can improve those processes and get them to the point where they're efficient, delivering exactly what the customer needs, maybe surprising the customer with what you can do, then you start building differentiation between what you're doing and what your competitors are doing.

Called business process improvement. The broader management system optimization is a great opportunity from my perspective.

We talked about cascading of strategic objectives. Introducing some of these knowledge worker teams to things like Hoshin Kanri. Showing them how they can cascade those high-level strategies into improvement priorities at their level. That's quite an exciting space for a lot of the leaders in these teams and these businesses.

It's one of those things that I probably would find a little bit surprising at some of the excitement that has been generated around that stuff. The other thing is, another opportunity especially for knowledge worker is around unlocking innovation.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of smart people, a lot of good ideas, but they're not always able to flesh those out in a structured way. Things like structured problem solving I've found can unlock some of this stuff that's sitting in their brains. Then I'll be helping them work with managing improvement projects and then turn those into reality. That's certainly an opportunity for us as lean practitioners.

Finally, the material improvement opportunity. A lot of knowledge workers are involved in the operational limits of different processes, so they're best positioned to identify the big hitters, the big wins, what I call material improvements.

If you can actually deploy that lean thinking to these knowledge worker teams and start generating these improvements, you can actually come up with some significant opportunities and significant wins for the business as we saw with the BHP Petroleum example, the Petroleum Australia example of 250 million.

Now, a lot of those ideas were not necessarily your straightforward standard ideas. Some of them are out of the box because of our exploring those operational limits, so again, some opportunities there.

I think that is the final slide. Hopefully, I've got you all thinking about knowledge workers and what lean means to them. Hopefully, you've been identifying some opportunities.

Mark:  Thank you, Kim. With that, we'll do Q&A. 

Here's a question from Faisal. He asked, "From your consulting experience, do you prescribe that an organization do some homework or do other preparation before they seek external advice or help? Ideally, what preparation would help an organization?”

Kim:  Yeah, 100 percent. What I've found talking to some of the companies over the last nine months is I'm not the first person that they've spoken to. They've been, I guess, disappointed in some of the individuals that I've spoken to.

I think not because of the individual is because they haven't been able to frame exactly what they want. It's a great question. What I've discovered is that you generally have to spend a bit more time with them to understand what they need, not what they say they need.

It's a little bit different from your strive for a manufacturing space or your other process industry. Where it's pretty clear cut, we want to implement five years or etc.

This one you do need to do a bit of exploration. Some of those things that I mentioned around value chain and other bits and pieces, they're things that I've discovered are becoming a bit more common.

Mark:  Thank you, Kim. Let's see. There's another question here from Andrew says, "First off, thank you for the presentation. How do you overcome the challenge of people being too busy to make improvements? Then also maybe being too busy to measure the before and after conditions to help document the impact of their improvements?"

Kim:  If I had a dollar for every time someone said, I'm too busy being busy, I'd probably be in Bahamas or something like that sipping a cocktail. It's one of those things, it's a bit of a copout.

When we looked at things like either the routines and the meetings, for example, what we discovered was, there's a hell of a lot of waste there. I guess that's why there was a bit of excitement generated about that, because all of a sudden, we're giving people time back.

What we found with people attending meetings that didn't need to be in meetings because their supervisor would get them to come along to explain something because their supervisor didn't understand that problem, which is not the way it should work. Anyway, that is a problem.

You have to focus on. "OK, you don't have enough time. Why don't you have enough time?" Let's have a look. Let's do a bit of downtime, do that downtime analysis with the teams and give them some time back. That could be a good way to start the exercise rather than going all guns blazing, free up that time.

Mark:  I agree with you. People say, "I'm too busy," that's a problem that can be solved. You laid out a couple of good places to look up. If improvement is important, let's figure out how to make the time.

Kim:  The other thing that was mentioned was around the measures before and after that. What I found was especially in the petroleum industry, we're very good at measuring stuff. We generally have a lot of that data and a lot of those measures.

I would say, it was probably not as much of a problem in terms of the time constraints there, but certainly putting a bit of structure around that was certainly helpful.

Mark:  One other thing I've found, was helping make time for improvement is starting with small improvements. A lot of times people think of improvement being a project. A project might likely be very time-consuming and very involved. People get scared off or it's harder to make available a huge chunk of time.

KaiNexus, we're big believers in the Masaaki Imai School of Kaizen. That says, start very small, baby steps. You maybe then start building confidence, and that helps people maybe then work up to bigger problems and freeing up time to work on bigger problems.

Kim:  That's a good point and it is certainly the right approach and what we found to be successful. The downtime, even that from the waste identification, especially when I start talking about time constraints. Why don't you have the time? Let's explore that.

Mark:  Next, we've got a question from Jill, who's asking you, “if you can talk more about how you introduce lean as a system, versus being a set of tools?” She adds the point, “people sometimes think when they use A3s or they have standard work that they're "lean."”

Kim:  That's a good question. This wasn't my analogy, I won't lay claim to it. I remember who put it in my head. It was basically the analogy of a laptop. The laptop that I'm using, the laptop that everyone else is using, has a system. Could be iOS, or whatever it is.

That's a system. All the software, all the different tools in that system all are integrated. Without that integrated system, those tools on their own won't work or won't be as effective. It's the same, I guess, from a lean perspective.

From my personal perspective, that was one of the great learnings for me over the course of the deployment was building that understanding of lean as a system. It takes time to do that. As a coach, what I try to do now is fast-track people's understanding of that connectedness.

I think that's where some of the lean practitioners fall down because they stick to the individual tools when they're talking to potential clients. The potential clients are just, "I know that" or "I know this." They're not seeing the connectedness. It's the connectedness that is the key.

One of the things is, I've really enjoyed my time so far as a consultant is actually seeing when the penny drops. Talking to a managing director about the value chain and core processes and improvements and process KPIs, and talking about connectedness.

Then seeing the penny drop, and then seeing them tell that story of connectedness to their people. That's waiting. They've got it. It takes time.

Mark:  One thing I liked about the visual that you shared of your lean deployment model is that it’s a collection of concepts and mindsets and broader business practices. You're very right to call it an integrated system. Toyota uses that language. It talks about an integrated system.

The challenge with an integrated system is that you can't take bits and pieces and expect it to work the same. I love the analogy. You talked about laptops, you can talk about a car. I want to go build the best in breed car.

If you were to get a Tesla battery pack, a Range Rover body, Mercedes electronics, and seats from Toyota, that does not create a system. It would not be a functional vehicle. Throw it back to you for one other question.

How do you help guide people to avoid this trap of, "Well, I like that piece of your model, Kim. I like that part of it," where they might be losing out on the benefits of that integrated system approach?

Kim:  To be honest, most of my success to date has been doing it on a whiteboard. When you can explain how it's all connected on a whiteboard, for some reason that seems to resonate. It's having the confidence or building that knowledge so that you can explain it as a system.

Like I said, the preparation for our deployment wasn't that great because we had a whole bunch of slides, a whole bunch of stuff, but nothing in a very good package. Hundreds and hundreds of slides.

Then, by the end of it when I was going through teams, coaching teams, or introducing new people to it, I was doing everything on a whiteboard. I was doing the whole session on a whiteboard. That's where I don't know, there must be some psychology towards it. When you can explain something on the whiteboard, it seems to resonate with people a lot more. 

Mark:  I'm with you. It's the same challenge of the book or a presentation, linear sequence.

When a lot of these ideas are so interconnected, you could talk about them in different orders based on the problems people are bringing up, the challenges, the questions they were asking. I could see that being helpful in the flexibility and it shows your mastery of a subject the fact that you're not reading the slides. You know that. You can try it out.

Kim:  What you find is, you get quite passionate about as well, because drawing all the different elements, and then drawing the connections, it's a bit like a painter working on a canvas. As you find yourself as you're talking about these things, demonstrating some passion around it. That is another important part of it.

If you can demonstrate that passion, that can lead to success with individuals as well.

Mark:  We've got another question here from Katie. She asked, "Going back to your case study of BHP, what tools did you use for the digital boards? What are some considerations for using digital boards versus physical boards?"

Kim:  Look, funnily enough, it was a bit of a challenge for us. We had Power BI. Everyone would be familiar with Power BI. You think with a company as big as BHP that we would have some technical person helping us build that sort of stuff, but unfortunately, we didn't. We're a little bit limited in our own skills.

The teams themselves were a little bit limited in their skill, so was quite easy to come up with...No. Not easy, but it was pretty straightforward to come up with a design once we'd identified the right measures.

Turning that into something that could be displayed virtually was a bit of a challenge, simply because we didn't have the expertise. Now, that's why I love the KaiNexus product, because I can see the potential.

When we were originally talking to KaiNexus, I was talking about all these other things that we could potentially build the tool for, but I scared everyone away. It's great to be able to have a tool that is intuitive. It includes that connectedness, so it goes from problem-solving to managing improvement projects, and that sort of thing.

It's very important. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a challenge unless you've got that sort of expertise in-house and available.

Mark:  I would encourage if people in the audience are unfamiliar with KaiNexus and the software that we make, we have a lot of customers doing digital boards on the KaiNexus platform. Kim, curious if you have thoughts around digital versus physical.

I started off doing improvement work with physical boards, whiteboards, bulletin boards. That's great for a local team. Once your organization starts getting larger, multiple sites, let alone multiple states or multiple countries, even within the same building, it's difficult to get visibility to a physical board.

Doing a digital board where you can have a large screen, touch screen TV. You can make that interactive and KaiNexus helps support that. I would encourage people to take a look at our website or reach out to us if anyone has questions about that. Thoughts on digital versus physical?

Kim:  Yeah. Definitely, the physical makes sense in different situations, as you said, a 5S board in a warehouse, obviously, that's something that's going to be most occasions physical and makes sense to be.

You raised a good point around being able to move through different organizations as you've got multiple layers in an organization. From a strategic point of view, you want to be able to see the strategic bit, then you want to be able to drill down into the tactical bit. If you wanted to, you wanted to be able to drill down to the operational piece.

That drill down isn't always a function or functionality of a product. We tried to do it with Power BI. We've had some limited success. The KaiNexus product tends to do that a lot better. Some people get stuck on the physical board. Some people get stuck on the virtual boards. There's room for both.

Mark:  They can coexist. Another question, we have time for one or two more here maybe. Andrew asks, "What was the ratio of small improvements, make continuous improvements versus larger improvement projects? Did that mix change over time? Where did the measured improvements tend to come from?"

Kim:  That's a really good question, because prior to the deployment, I was involved in a continuous improvement space. We had probably tried three or four solutions around identifying improvement opportunities and ideas. What we found was there was a whole bunch of the small stuff.

In that small stuff, there was a very small percentage of stuff that was material. Small stuff is for more good intentions, but it can become noise. It can actually stop you from seeing those material opportunities. It becomes too hard to manage the teams as well. They don't know where to start.

One of the things we found was, and this is where the beauty of the connectedness of the thing. You go back to the core process, go back to the value chain. Where someone identifies an improvement opportunity, it should either be related to a performance gap on the performance board, something which you control, could be related to a problem with your core process.

It should be traceable back to the core process that you own as a team. If you ever use the three-ply toilet paper, you will save $500 by using two-ply instead of three-ply, that sort of thing. You got to get rid of that noise. A great way to get rid of that noise is to focus on core processes. The team is focused.

When the team improves their core processes, what we call their process KPIs, those proactive measures start improving, but it's a good question. A lot of teams and businesses I've seen get bogged down in that because they end up generating a lot of noise, whereas the real value is in those small number of opportunities.

That's where the focused effort that we had posted the oil shock. We only had a small number of people working on it relative to the size of the organization. We put some structure around it. We made it quite clear that we didn't want any of the small stuff. We're just focused on the big stuff. You've got to set those boundaries as well.

Mark:  Thank you so much for the presentation. Thank you for doing a great job with the Q&A. Thank you to the attendees for submitting really good questions. Again, I want to thank our presenter today, Kim Moscarda. He's the director of Moscarda Solutions.

You can find him online at moscardasolutions.com.au. Thank you everybody for attending. Kim, thank you. Thank you again. Time for you to go to bed.

Kim:  Thank you, everyone.

Topics: Lean

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