This month's episode of our Ask Us Anything webinar series kicked off with some excitement about the KaiNexus team's upcoming tour of the Toyota plant in San Antonio. Mark's gone to the plant a few times already, but this will be the first time that the whole KaiNexus team is getting together to make the trek down there. Maybe you're wondering why a technology company is taking a day off to tour a manufacturing plant... so Mark asked Greg.
Mark and Greg both have extensive expertise in Lean and continuous improvement, but the rest of us are technology experts - not improvement experts. While we don't provide Lean consulting or anything, it's still important that every member of our team have a good understanding of basic improvement concepts to work with - and develop for - our customers. A lot of this knowledge comes from the education portion of our new employee onboarding, but we couldn't miss the opportunity to go to the Gemba at Toyota and see how the experts apply this information. The lessons we'll learn here are applicable to any industry, including our own.
Now let's look at the audience questions Mark and Greg tackled in this webinar.
How do we sustain and grow our developing CI culture? How do we keep everyone active and engaged? What can technology do to sustain improvement?
The key to sustaining an improvement culture is in the leadership. It's the role of leaders to encourage people to speak up, recognize people when they've made improvements (or tried), and continuously coach people. The mistake people make in sustaining an improvement culture is that they devote a lot of time and attention to it at the beginning, and then think they can scale back effort once the culture reaches the "sustain" stage. Greg argues that the beginning of an improvement culture is when you should expend the LEAST amount of energy; that the real work begins when it's time to deepen and sustain the culture.
Greg then answered that technology portion of that question, by reminding the audience that whatever you're using to manage continuous improvement - paper, bulletin boards, email, etc. - (unless you're sticking with the oral tradition) you're already using technology. The question then isn't whether technology is necessary to sustain improvement, but rather, whether you're using the right technology to sustain improvement.
The answer to that depends on what question you're trying to solve. If you're trying to do an A3, a sheet of paper works fine. If you're trying to collaborate and give visibility to the whole organization and create searchable organizational knowledge, then paper is very limiting technology. Upgrading to a platform like KaiNexus solves that problem, and sustains improvement by enabling the collaboration and reporting you need.
How do you connect continuous improvement, Lean, and quality?
Mark says that these terms are not synonymous, but they're definitely overlapping. There are different frameworks for defining Lean and understanding those is important to seeing how these terms relate.
The Toyota Way mindset is based on the two pillars of Continuous Improvement and Respect for People. It's not Lean without an attempt to engage everyone in Kaizen (aka continuous improvement).
Another way of defining Lean is the Toyota Production System framework, which is based on the two pillars of Just in Time (the right products to the right place at the right time) and Quality. So there you have quality, right at the core of Lean.
How do you motivate and encourage leaders to have leader standard work?
The key here is providing some intrinsic motivation. If you go to your leaders and say "Implement standard work," you're going to have a hard time solidifying adoption. Instead, you want to focus on leader standard work as a solution to a problem. Ask the leaders to think about what problem standard work will solve. What problems matter to them? What is their motivation to try something new, get out of their comfort zone, and to take time away from their other activities? Tapping into this is how you're going to motivate leaders to adopt standard work.
How do you balance the need and benefit of standard work with encouraging people to think outside the box and continuously improve that work?
As Taichii Ohno said, "Without standards, there can be no Kaizen." If you don't have a standard, you can't improve on that - you just have complete randomness. Standard work doesn't mean checking your brain at the door - it means getting everyone on the same page so that they can work together to improve. Therefore, it's the role of leaders to create a culture that encourages people to experiment with the standard to find incremental improvements.
You can learn more about how to create that culture in this webinar on demand -