Lean and Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement Tip – Don’t Forget WIFM!

When implementing a Continuous Improvement (CI) activity, it’s important to show your operators the “What’s in it for me?” or WIFM, to boost their motivation and engagement.  Here’s some simple but impactful metrics that address the WIFM for CI.

Sometimes when we undertake CI activities to improve a process, we as leaders tend to forget the WIFM aspect for the operators in the process.  Sure a big part of the intent of CI is to engage and empower our operators to have a higher level of involvement and ownership in the success and improvement of the business, but at the end of the day, CI also needs to have positive impact on what they do everyday.

Although we do want our operators to understand and care about our management metrics such as Safety, Quality, Productivity, and Cost, unfortunately sometimes what they hear is that we want them to work faster, harder, or go without.

An effective way to motivate and inspire operators to identify CI and drive improvements in processes is to establish key performance metrics that directly impact their process.  Typically these indicators are inputs or leading indicators that if improved will impact the outputs or results you are trying to improve at the overall process level.

Examples of some good input metrics that have meaning to the operators include:

  • Distance they walk in a shift
  • Total number of steps they take
  • Number of twists of their upper body
  • Number of reaches
  • Total weight lifted
  • Number of decisions made per cycle
  • Ergonomic burden score

Before your kaizen or CI activity, work with your operators to define the key metrics and measure them.  Then make them visible by listing the before condition on a flip chart, white board or other means of display.  Next engage with the operators to determine ways of improving these metrics through the kaizen or CI activity.  Track the improvements for each, or the after state, to clearly show the improvements being made that directly impact the operators every day.

What other metrics do you track of this nature to show your operators the WIFM and positive impact your CI activity is having on their process?  Leave a comment.


*Feature Image republished with permission by High Performance Solutions

Other Related Posts:

Do your processes “tick-off” your operators?

Do You Have What it Takes to Lead Continuous Improvement Teams?”

Do Your Continuous Improvement Teams Have What It Takes To Win?


You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.




Lean and Continuous Improvement

Are Stand-up Meetings Effective?

At Amazon we refer to our busiest time of year as “Peak”.  Each year as we prepare the teams for Peak, I recommend to establish a stand-up war room style of meeting.  As it is such a busy time and there are so many things that the teams have to manage and control, a stand-up war room style meeting makes sense to me.  You can review and cover a large amount of metrics and issues very quickly focusing on the most important while improving communication and engagement.

I’ve used stand-up meetings many times and found them to be an excellent way to stay on top of the most critical things, increase bias for action and ownership, while not taking up too much of the team’s time in meetings.  So why don’t more leaders utilize stand-up meetings?  I just don’t get it!  I think maybe leaders don’t use stand-up meetings because they can be difficult to get set-up and functional?  Or maybe this style of meeting just seems too simple to have any great effect?

Here are some of the advantages of a stand-up war room style meeting:

  • Use of flip charts and white boards make on the fly changes in format and material easy, quick and cheap
  • Open communication, more participation of the entire teamIMG_20181206_0903402
  • Meetings are more action based then reporting out of metrics
  • Team members get a better bigger picture understanding
  • Moving around the room keeps things moving and people engaged
  • Metrics are visual for all to see and understand where there are opportunities
  • Problem metrics stand out
  • There is more accountability of each team member
  • Great participation from all members
  • Faster, more effective meetings
  • Better focus
  • Engaging
  • Continual improvement in the process
  • Save time later by capturing risks, lessons learned, successes, new records, shout outs, actions, and new ideas

I had the opportunity to “stand” through what we call a Daily Deep Dive meeting that has been structured in the stand-up war room style at our YYZ4 Fulfillment Centre.  The team there refer to this as “The Command Centre”.  I found the meeting to be very effective and those in attendance also seemed to think so.  This is what some of them have said about this style of meeting:

It’s good to see all around and maximize human potential and deep engagement every day, especially outstanding individual and team accomplishments. Our new implemented visual daily standup meeting that I like to call it “powerful information command center” helped us to move from assuming, telling, blaming and reacting, To the essential measurable objectives, fact-base data, checking process consistency and opportunities to support people in process for Area readiness with communication, problem solving, organization alignment and holding each other accountable and Not unattractive or unloved wallpapers!

It is all about workgroup engagement and utilization of management practice and a Thinking system as we know Lean is a people system, not a technical one.

— Jeff Walters, Operations Manager, JLL —

At first, it was hard to adjust as we went through so many iterations of metrics and considerations of what should be discussed, but now it’s second nature.

— Agnes E. Pienio-Ganthier, LP Manager, Amazon —.

The Command centre really helped us to stay focused on key actions within stipulated timeframe as each action had an owner with an expected deadline. While we were celebrating successes each day, we were capturing Lessons Learnt along the way on one of our command centre walls. Most productive Deep Dive meeting format in my time at Amazon so far.

— Pawn Kukreja, Sr Operations Manager, Amazon —

The command centre has encouraged a higher level of engagement between departments as the audience is able to focus on the key points raised by the presenter that require immediate action. As a result, the quality of the information translated to leaders is enhanced by allowing appropriate stakeholders to quickly identify any necessary actions required to close a gap. This minimizes the requirement to parse through the noise to truly understand the root cause.

— Sharon Lai, EHS Specialist, Amazon —

At first, I thought the new format would extend the length of the production meeting. However, by sticking to a tight cadence that is actions-focused, the meeting is now more streamlined. Moreover, having everyone walk around the room together improved engagement and constructive discussions.

— Tony An, Sr Operations Manager, Amazon —

So there you have it!  Are stand-up meetings effective?  Well, straight from the leaders that are living this style of meeting at their busiest and most important time of the year, it certainly would seem like it!

What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of stand-up war room style meetings?  Have you found them effective?   Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement

Do You Have What it Takes to Lead Continuous Improvement Teams?”

As a judge recently at the Share Showcase 2018 competition organized by High Performance Solutions, I was reminded as I listened to 12 high powered teams present their projects, that there are some very common characteristics of both the projects and the leaders of the teams.  In the last post “Do Your Continuous Improvement Teams Have What it Takes to Win?”  we reviewed what makes a successful continuous improvement (CI) team.  Here in this post, we’ll review what characteristics of the senior leaders of these teams had in common.

The characteristics that really stood out are:

Passion – Super high passion around CI and their teams.  Fully believe in their teams and the CI methodology.

Empowerment – Empower their teams to solve problems, be creative and innovate.  They let the teams figure it out.  They don’t get in the way. 

Coaching/Mentoring – They are coaches and mentors to the CI team members rather than their boss or manager.  They guide and give advice, they don’t tell the team what to do or how to do it.  They let the team fail.

Obstacle/Barrier Removers – See that their role is to remove obstacles or barriers that prevent the CI teams from achieving their goals or targets.  Provide additional resources and obtain necessary approvals.

Supportive –  Provide positive re-enforcement and encouragement to the team along the way.  Push them beyond what they think they can achieve.  Pick the team up after failure.  Encourage them to keep trying.  Help them to succeed.

Patient – Give the team time to learn, explore, succeed, and fail.  This doesn’t mean that there are not timelines and targets the teams need to achieve!  However, they are patient in letting the team figure out the best options and solutions even when they know the answer.

Recognition – Provide recognition to the team and the individual members both internally and externally for their achievements and learnings.  They don’t take credit themselves, but rather give it wholeheartedly to the team and its team members.   They are proud of their teams and the accomplishments and they show it! 

Celebrate – They ensure that successes and milestones, in addition to final results and achievements, are fully celebrated with the team.  Celebrations do not have to be huge and cost a lot of money, but rather provide opportunities for the team to share in their success as a team and as a company.

We either succeed or fail as a team!

The GM of the Centerline team, which won 1st place in the Share Showcase, commented that they bought pizza for the entire plant when the one team representing just one line achieved their target because he wanted to recognize and celebrate the contributions that everyone in the plant made to this team achieving their goal.  After all, he said, everyone supported in some manner by loaning labour or resources at some point or another.  He went on to say that the plant either succeeds or fails as a team.


Leave a comment:  What other common characteristics of the leaders of successful CI team do you see?


Lean and Continuous Improvement

Do Your Continuous Improvement Teams Have What It Takes To Win?

As a judge recently at the Share Showcase 2018 competition organized by High Performance Solutions, I was reminded as I listened to 12 high powered teams present their projects, that there are some very common characteristics of both the projects and the leaders on the teams.  None of these are a surprise, but it was fascinating with the consistency to which these characteristics were demonstrated across the 12 competing teams.

The characteristics that really stood out are:

Simplicity – Ability to break down complex or difficult processes, functions or projects  to very simple easily understood steps, tasks or responsibilities.  Simple is better.  Solutions don’t have to be complex or cost a lot of money to implement.  Tools and solutions implemented can be simple but have significant positive and material impact on the problem tackled.

Visual – make key or important elements, control points, status, or results very visual with various visual control mechanisms, control boards, kanban cards, flow charts, etc.

Clear Goals/targets – Ensure that the project or team goal and individual targets are understood, clear and the entire team is aligned towards the achievement of the goal.  Start with understanding the current condition, end state, and the gap needed to close.

Engagement – Total involvement and engagement from all levels, from shop floor employees to top management.  Positions, titles, and hierarchy are neutralized and everyone has an equal stake of ownership in the projects and the outcomes.

Communication – Full transparency of the problem, boundaries to work within, budgets, challenges, and barriers/obstacles to name a few.  Focus on improving basic communication between teams about a problem or process status.

Idea Collection – Everyone’s opinions and ideas are heard equally.  No idea is ruled out.  Everyone on the team has a voice and opportunity to share their ideas and suggestions.

Perseverance – Never give up.  When something fails, learn from the failed attempt and try again.

Motivation – An overwhelmingly positive attitude about their jobs, contributions, their leaders, and company.  Proud of what they have achieved and wanting to do more.

I love coming to work now!  It’s not really even work.

This was a quote made by one of the employees of the winning team from Centerline.  He really meant it.  That is employee motivation and engagement any company wants to achieve!

Watch for the next post “Do You Have What it Takes to Lead Continuous Improvement Teams?”

Leave a comment – What other aspects or characteristics have you observed that successful Continuous Improvement teams exhibit?


Leadership, Leading People Series, Lean and Continuous Improvement

Leading People Series – Part 3 – Undercover Boss?

Leading People Series – Part 3

People modelIn the Leading People Series, we’ll examine some key points to consider when leading people.  Part 3 is about how important going and seeing what is going on, or not going on as the case may be, is so important when leading people.

Do you need to be an “Undercover Boss” to learn what is happening in your organization?  No!  Many people think that “go & see”, or as often referred within operations as “gemba”, is a manufacturing only tool.  I think that is a big mistake!  I believe that “go & see” is a leader’s most important tool and in fact, I think it is the secret weapon!  When I say secret, I don’t mean like on the “Undercover Boss” TV reality show where the leader pretends to be someone else in order to almost deviously figure out what’s going on in their organization.  What I mean is, that go & see is an extremely effective tool for a leader to truly understand what is happening in their organization, see the challenges their team is facing, demonstrate support by removing barriers, while providing coaching and empowerment to their teams.

Although there are all kinds of “how to” have an effective go & see or gemba, just start by going to see the process of interest, regardless what it is.  Go and see it with your own eyes whether it be an administrative function, physical process a team member has to perform, customer facing interaction, user interface, spreadsheet, location of an incident, whatever the situation, just go.  Just watch for several minutes or cycles to see the abnormalities and ups/downs of it while asking questions to understand.  Start with that, what you have to do next will become clear.

Go & see is to engage with your team by showing an interest in what they do, how they do it and to assist them in being successful at it.   Our teams come to work and want to do a good job and it is a leader’s job to help remove the barriers that get in the way of our teams doing the best job they can. Over time, waste and inefficiencies seem to creep in or inadvertently get added that can cause safety, quality, productivity, or cost issues. By going and seeing, a leader is more likely to find these wastes and inefficiencies and can take action with their teams to correct them.

“Like” if you regularly use go & see as part of your leadership toolbox.


For more information on go & see or gemba check out these posts:

10 Important Steps of Effective Gemba Walks or “Go See”

Gemba Walks – Tip #1

Gemba Walks – Tip #2

The best place for a meeting… is on the roof!

Teaching your eyes to see

3 Steps to Having Time for Gemba

A Leader’s Best Question

Gemba by any other name is… go & see! Gemba is NOT just for manufacturing processes!