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KaiNexus Blog

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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

Big Hairy Audacious Results: Why a BHAG May Be One of Your Best Tools for Continuous Improvement.

Posted by Jake Sussman

May 4, 2017 7:05:00 AM

We’re not saying that your CEO needs shave his or her head, but depending on your organization’s improvement goals (and your executive’s attachment to their locks) it might be a great idea!

To explain, back in 2016 KaiNexus set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, known as a BHAG. A BHAG is a daunting, clear, and compelling goal an organization sets, which should not be financially driven, but it should be something that, if the organization achieves it, would really move the needle forward and indicate the organization has accomplished something.

Jim Collins coined the term BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) in his book Built to Last, which he coauthored with Jerry Porras. As Collins explains on his website jimcollins.com unlike a mission statement, a BHAG is a powerful mechanism to stimulate progress.

“All companies have goals. But there is a difference between merely having a goal and becoming committed to a huge, daunting challenge,” Collins explains on his website. “A true BHAG is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort– often creating immense team spirit.  It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”

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An Introduction to Process Control Charts

Posted by Greg Jacobson

May 3, 2017 7:02:00 AM

Donald J. Wheeler, PhD is a world-renown expert in continuous improvement, having worked with W. Edwards Deming and later writing the classic book Understanding Variation. 

Wheeler once wrote and said, "Statistical Process Control is, at its heart, about getting the most from your processes. It is about the continual improvement of processes and outcomes. And it is, first and foremost, a way of thinking... with some tools attached." 

I’d like to thank him for providing the perfect quote for a blog about process control charts because measurement, control, and improvement are exactly what they are designed to enable.

What is a Process Control Chart?

Process control charts (or what Wheeler calls "process behavior charts") are graphs or charts that plot out process data or management data (outputs) in a time-ordered sequence. It's a specialized run chart. They typically include a center line, a 3-sigma upper control limit, and a 3-sigma lower control limit. There might be 1- or 2-sigma limits drawn in, as well. The center line represents the process mean or average (and sometimes the median).

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Topics: Lean, Six Sigma, Improvement Process

"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

9 Ways a Lean Management System Propels Positive Change

Posted by Maggie Millard

Apr 28, 2017 8:16:00 AM


I was at a neighborhood gathering the other day when I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years.  She asked me what I had been up to, so I told her a bit about my role at KaiNexus and mentioned that we have software that helps companies achieve success with business methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma.

“Oh,” she said. “I figured they just used spreadsheets and email.”

I didn’t want to hog the conversation or turn a social event into a business lecture, so I just responded that there are a lot of reasons that organizations are more successful if they use software to support improvement efforts.

I was trying to be chill then, I’m not now. You’ve come to this blog for a reason, so hopefully (unlike my friend) you are interested in the gritty details about how a Lean management system can act as a booster rocket for positive organizational change. Here are nine ways that spring to mind.

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Topics: Lean, Software, Continuous Improvement Software

8 Standard Work Blunders You Can Absolutely Avoid

Posted by Maggie Millard

Apr 27, 2017 7:52:00 AM

Standard work (sometimes called “standardized work”) is a term that practitioners of a continuous improvement methodology such as Lean, Kaizen or Six Sigma have probably heard before. It is simply a detailed written description of the most efficient and effective way known to complete a particular process or task, safely, with the highest quality result.

The goal is to reduce variation and improve key performance indicators (KPIs) related to delivery, quality, and cost measures. It also makes it possible to predict how long a task will take, no matter which employee does it.

The approach is straightforward, but there are a surprising number of ways to mess it up. I blame some of that on the name.

Standard work is an accurate description of what it is, but I think the name gives some people the sense that the Standard never changes and that employees should blindly follow it without comment or complaint. Nothing could be further from the truth. Standard work is the baseline or “floor” for improvement, not the ceiling. Ignoring this notion leads to a bunch of big mistakes. Here are some of the worst ones.

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Topics: Change Management, Continuous Improvement Software

Continuous Improvement Leadership at Mohawk Paper

Posted by Maggie Millard

Apr 26, 2017 7:52:00 AM

Though we work hard to give you as much information as we can about continuous improvement (CI) and the many related methodologies, we can’t hide – nor would we want to—that we are a CI software provider. As proponents of CI software, we have always talked about how combining the right technology, improvement methodologies, and engaged leadership styles can create a balanced culture of CI that will maximize and sustain impact over the long haul.

Recently Mark Graban, our Vice-President of Improvement & Innovation Services and founder of LeanBlog.org, interviewed Ben (Chip) Whitaker from Mohawk Fine Papers, a company that sees technology and software the same way that we do, and has recently launched CI software across most of its departments. Whitaker is the Director of Business Process Management and IT for Mohawk, which is North America's largest privately-owned manufacturer of fine papers, envelopes, and specialty substrates for commercial and digital printing.

Mohawk was founded in 1931 according to the company’s website, and as Whitaker explained, some of the equipment the company has is even older, dating back to more than a hundred years. But despite its history, the company has been using technology to look forward and seek success for quite some time.

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Topics: Customer Testimonials

Fact: Continuous Improvement Software Helps You Implement MORE Improvements

Posted by Greg Jacobson

Apr 25, 2017 7:33:00 AM

One of the things I love about working at KaiNexus is how much joy we each take in the successes of our customers. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a call, text, or email from someone on our team who logged into a customer account to check on something and discovered an improvement with an astronomically high impact, a ridiculously successful engagement rate, or a steep improvement curve. We're all constantly reveling in the cool things our customers are accomplishing.

One of the impacts KaiNexus has on these organizations is that they see a massive increase in the number - and quality - of improvements that they're able to implement once they roll out KaiNexus. We've spent years studying how and why introducing technology has such a startling impact on implementation rates, and recently asked some customers to share the impact KaiNexus has had on the implementation of improvements in their organizations.

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Topics: Continuous Improvement Software

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

A Preview of Next Week's Webinar: The Nexus of Lean & Zen

Posted by Maggie Millard

Apr 21, 2017 3:26:49 PM

Recently, Mark Graban, VP of Innovation and Improvement Services interviewed next week's webinar presenter Kevin Meyer, on the KaiNexus Continuous Improvement Podcast. Let's take a look at that interview and get psyched for the upcoming webinar!

Meyer is a co-founder and partner at Gemba Academy. He has over 30 years of manufacturing leadership experience in the automotive lighting, telecom electronics, and medical device industries. He has been responsible for lean transformations at Sylvania, Abbott Laboratories, Newport Corporation, and most recently as President of Specialty Silicone Fabricators. He guest lectures on business, manufacturing, and leadership topics at his alma mater Rensselaer as well as CalPoly. Meyer is on the board of directors of two technology companies and two regional public policy councils, and actively supports early stage entrepreneurship by investing with SLO Seed Ventures and mentoring startups at the SLO HotHouse.  

I think the story of how Meyer got introduced to Lean is fascinating. It was back around 1996 when he was working for a large medical device company and was transferred out to run a facility in Utah. In the interview, Meyer said that "when you're part of the corporate world, you don't ask questions when you get transferred, you just go." Turns out, some questioning might have been prudent; he arrived to find that this facility was running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year - and was still running 6 months behind schedule to downstream plants.

As Meyer put it, "what do you do in that situation, besides panic?"

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