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KaiNexus Blog

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6 Pressing Questions Your Employees Have About Continuous Improvement

Posted by Maggie Millard

Sep 13, 2017 7:35:00 AM

We’ve written quite a bit on this blog about the questions that business leaders and managers ask us about continuous improvement (CI), Lean management, improvement technology, and more.

Today, we thought it would be useful to focus on the questions that your employees almost certainly have, especially if a structured approach to improvement is new for your company. Front line employees are often reluctant to ask questions of management, but you can bet they ask each other.

In order to make sure that folks have accurate and helpful information, it pays to answer these questions - even if they are never openly asked.

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Topics: Change Management, Employee Engagement, Spread Continuous Improvement

Why Process Control Charts are a Roadmap to Improvement

Posted by Matt Banna

Aug 1, 2017 7:13:00 AM

Organizations that subscribe to the Lean or Six Sigma business methodology, and others that are devoted to continuous improvement, often use a host of visual management tools to achieve consistency and introduce positive change. Kanban, huddle boards, and value stream maps are all very popular and effective. Process control charts are another valuable visual management tool for recognizing and reacting to process variation.

Here are the details about why they are so useful.

Statistical Process Control

It is probably helpful to begin with a definition of process. A process is quite simply anything that gets done. It could be putting gas in your car, filling out a time sheet, delivering source code to QA, or checking in a patient. Each of these activities results in some output. Sometimes it is a product, but often it is a service or a deliverable to the next process. In addition to the result of the process, data is also generated. Statistical process control is the act of using that data to make the process better. The data might be related to timeliness, cost, quality, or quantity.

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Topics: Lean, Change Management, Six Sigma, Improvement Process

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 Software vs. Excel

Posted by Maggie Millard

Jul 14, 2015 11:07:00 AM

There's an old saying that goes, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” I firmly believe that Microsoft Excel is the hammer of business software. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Excel. I love a pivot table and a “nested if” statement more than most. A spreadsheet can do a lot, which is why it is so often used (dare I say abused?) in situations where no other perfect solution is apparent. In many organizations, this is the case with continuous improvement. Rather than investing in technology specifically designed to support improvement efforts, some organizations rely on Excel or another spreadsheet program. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each approach.

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Topics: Change Management, Continuous Improvement Software

Unclutter the Prefrontal Cortex of Your Organization with Hoshin Kanri

Posted by Mark Jaben

Jun 4, 2015 7:31:00 AM

There is an inconvenient truth about our brain. It is not into reality. It is into plausibility.

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Topics: Change Management, Hoshin Kanri

Improve Your Life in 29 Easy Steps: Continuous Improvement at Work

Posted by Maggie Millard

May 28, 2015 11:49:00 AM

Developing a culture of continuous improvement is one of the most important things you can do for your employees, and your business. Empowering people to make daily improvements to their work increases job satisfaction, productivity, and retention. It shows that you respect your employees and value their contributions to making your business better, and gives you more eyes and brains focused on increasing the value you provide to your customers. Really, it's a win-win.

Increasing job satisfaction isn't just a nice thing to do -  it makes financial sense, too. According to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics, turnover can cost an organization 33% of an employee’s total compensation, including both salary and benefits. Although some turnover is enviable, engagement programs have been shown to combat it. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management found that companies with strategic engagement and recognition program reported a mean employee turnover rate 23.4% lower than retention at companies without such a program.

If you work at a company that doesn't value employee engagement in continuous improvement, the following steps to improving your life will sound pretty familiar to you. If you're the leader of such an organization, I'd suggest changing the way you manage improvement - before too many of your employees make it to steps 27, 28, and 29. 

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Topics: Change Management, Employee Engagement

4 Common Gemba Walk Mistakes: Are You Slipping Up?

Posted by Jeff Roussel

Mar 26, 2015 7:23:00 AM

As I started to put together some thoughts on this blog post about some potential Gemba Walk hazards, I recalled a quote by Mike Dooley, author of the New York Times bestselling, Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams.  He said, “Great intentions become tragic action when delivered without careful thought.”

Gemba Walks are an important part of continuous improvement initiatives in many companies.  They are designed to offer leaders the opportunity to observe work, in the place where it is being done, in order to gain insight into current processes and see (or listen to) opportunities for improvement. Your Gemba Walk is unlikely to become tragic, exactly, but it can be less effective - or even counterproductive - when some of these common mistakes are made.

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Topics: Leadership, Change Management

PDSA: A Scientific Approach to Continuous Improvement

Posted by Greg Jacobson

Mar 23, 2015 7:26:00 AM

Dr. W. Edwards Deming is considered by many to be the father of modern quality improvement. Among other important insights into how businesses could become more efficient, reduce costs and increase customer value, he popularized Plan-Do-Study-Adjust (PDSA), a four-step cycle used to achieve continuous improvement in processes and products.

The PDSA approach, sometimes called the Deming Cycle, is based on the scientific method, which approaches problems through hypothesis (plan), experimentation (do) and evaluation (study). In business, the output of a successful PDSA cycle is a new standard that institutionalizes the improvement. The cycle can begin again and further improvement can be achieved.

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Topics: Change Management

The Value Of Sharing Our Mistakes and Opportunities for Improvement

Posted by Mark Graban

Feb 17, 2015 6:31:00 AM

We’re all human. Nobody’s perfect. I’ve produced 215 podcasts and there was that one time when I forgot to click “record” while recording a phone call with one of my guests. I owned up to it and said that it was my mistake. No excuses. We had to do the podcast recording over again. I did start using a checklist, though, that helps ensure that I don’t forget important steps (such as clicking “record.”) I haven’t made that mistake a second time.

But… I did manage to make a similar mistake during one of our KaiNexus webinars. I forgot to click record! That, again, created rework for myself and our co-founder Greg Jacobson, MD. We had to re-record the webinar before we could post that for attendees and those who had missed the webinar. We also use checklists for our webinars and have, again, avoided making that mistake a second time. As in operating rooms, we have to be disciplined about using checklists each and every time, to prevent human error from creeping back in when we get cocky from not making a mistake in a while.

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Topics: Change Management, Collaboration

Standard Work: The Baseline for Continuous Improvement

Posted by Jeff Roussel

Feb 3, 2015 2:34:00 AM

Merriam-Webster defines “improvement” as “The act or process of making something better.” The very word is relative. To determine if something has been made better, you must first answer the question, “Better than what?”  For many businesses, this is a more difficult question than it may seem. If processes are undocumented or performed differently by different teams or people, it can be difficult to establish a baseline, let alone measure the results of any improvement efforts. That’s why standard work is central to business process methodologies that aspire to practice continuous improvement.

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Topics: Change Management