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.

Gemba, Lean and Continuous Improvement

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

Many associate gemba as a manufacturing activity, but in reality it is an invaluable tool that any leader can use regardless of the industry, business, process, or function. Gemba means nothing more than going to the workplace to see. The workplace can then include anything where work is performed such as a construction site, ER room, automotive repair garage, control room, accounting office, school room, maintenance job, or food buffet line.

The purpose of gemba is to go and see the process, engage with the employees (team members, operators, associates, cast, staff, techs, etc) that are doing the work. It is to engage with them 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 to correct them. Point and case; safety, quality, productivity, and cost applies to pretty much any business or process, so why wouldn’t go & see or gemba apply?

The principles are the same when doing a gemba in a non-manufacturing environment as they are in a manufacturing environment. It starts by going to the workplace and engaging with the workers there. Explain to them why you are there, that you are interested in what they do and want to learn about it. Watch what they do and ask questions to understand why they do what they do. Ask them what they think can be done to improve the process. Ask them about things you observe that capture your interest. No doubt, between you, you will identify several things that need to be improved. It is very important in gaining their trust and respect, to then prioritize a manageable amount of items to go after. Discuss these with the employee or team and set a reasonable timeline and approach to taking action.

Most jobs or positions have some level of standardized work or standards to which the process is to be done. This is typically how someone gets trained in the first place. For example, a maintenance technician typically has a detailed preventative maintenance (PM) routine or a standard operating procedure (SOP), while a control room will have defined standards of alarm limits or frequency of checks/recordings that have to be made. Regardless of the job, there will be defined tasks that have to be done, documentation to be followed, training material, or standards to be followed. These are key documents to request, check, and audit how they are being followed. This also leads to key insights as to the cause of safety, quality, productivity, or cost issues if they are not being followed. Even more so if they don’t exist. If they don’t exist, how are people being trained? How do you know it is being done the best way to get the best results?  This then should be your starting point to standardize the task, document it, and get all those doing the function to follow it.  Only then, once it is standardized and everyone is following the standard can you make improvements.

Gemba is an extremely powerful tool in a leader’s toolbox regardless of what you do. Don’t miss out on this just because you think this is a manufacturing tool!

Here’s some other gemba posts you may find of interest:

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

Gemba Walks – Tip #1

Gemba Walks – Tip #2

A Leader’s Best Question

3 Steps to Having Time for Gemba

 

Gemba, Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

3 Steps to Having Time for Gemba

A very common question I’ve been asked over the years is,

I don’t get out to the floor anymore, what can I do?

Most people understand the importance of gemba and going to the floor to see and understand what is happening.  However, many leaders as they continue to move up the corporate ladder or take on more responsibilities, struggle finding the time to do gemba.  They give priority to everything else and essentially hope they have time to go to the floor.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  If left to chance, it won’t happen.

Well, the solution isn’t glamorous or earth shattering at all, but with a little discipline and planning, there is hope.

 

1. Schedule time for gemba.  It starts by literally placing time in your calendar by scheduling an event or meeting weeks in advance.  In fact, make it a never ending recurring meeting.  Schedule them several times a week so that should you have a priority conflict, you still have time in your calendar that week to do gemba.  As an example, if you want to have time for a 1 hour gemba twice a week, I recommend scheduling a 1 hour “Gemba Walk” event three to four times a week for the entire year or longer.  When slotting these Gemba Walks, select times that increase the odds of them actually occurring.  Don’t swim upstream fighting the workplace currents.  In other words, step back and think of your typical week.  There are generally days and times that will be easier to do gemba than others.  Select those time slots and not the days/times when you know there is likely to be a high risk of other conflicts, priorities, or conflicting business conditions.

2. Make gemba part of your weekly personal planning.  As you do your personal planning for the coming week, ensure that you review your calendar paying particular attention as to when you have your gemba’s scheduled.  Check for conflicts and adjust as necessary.  This provides you the opportunity to decline meetings if gemba is a priority over them, or to reschedule your gemba to ensure it happens rather than accepting meetings regardless then wondering why you have no time to do gemba.  If you proactively scheduled more gemba time slots than you need you can make a decision to cancel some or leave them just in case a last minute issue arises during the week.

3. Add “Gemba Walk” to your Leader Standard Work.  Add the number and frequency of Gemba Walks to your Leader Standard Work (LSW) as this can be an added reminder for you to complete it, but more so to provide you with a record of how you are doing.  If you are completing this aspect of your LSW, great no action required.  However, if you look back at your LSW and see that you are frequently missing it, or perhaps always missing it on a specific day/time, then you can think about why and what you need to do differently going forward to increase your ability to attend your gemba.

The above 3 steps have been my approach which has worked well for me.  I find step 3 is important over the longer term because the business and priorities do change over time.  It’s too easy to get caught up in the day to day urgent things that have to get done and before you know it, weeks have gone by and you aren’t getting to the floor as much as you should.  Weekly review of your LSW and looking back over the longer term will highlight to you that you need to take some action to course correct.

If you are already successful at doing regular Gemba, please share your approach in the comments for others to learn from.

 

Gemba, Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

Results are in: A Leader’s Best Question

Did you take on the Leadership question challenge last week?

If not, you can find out about it HERE!  It’s not too late to learn about it and try it!

If you did take on the challenge, this is where inter-activeness comes in.  If you found the question useful and/or will add this to your list of leadership questions going forward, click on “Like”.

For those of you that are willing to invest a little more time, leave a comment and let us know how it worked for you or what surprised you the most about it.  Alternatively, what is your favourite Leadership question to ask?  A comment only takes a minute and others will learn from your experience, or if they haven’t tried the question yet, they may give it a try as well!

Although I’ve used this question for a long time, what I enjoyed this week when I took on the challenge, actually was not the response or reaction I got from the people I asked, but rather later on during a gemba when I didn’t ask someone the question, one of the leaders on my team did.  Awesome!  That’s what it’s all about.  Imagine if all our leaders frequently ask this question and then act on the response?

If you like this question, be sure to add it to your Leader Standardized Work, make it a regular question when on a gemba walk, or during your next 1:1.

Leadership, Lean and Continuous Improvement, The Leader

Leader Standardized Work is for, well, EVERYONE!

I’ve never understood why so few leaders use Leader Standardized Work (LSW).  I’ve found it to be a great tool to help me be a more consistent and effective leader.  I’ve used LSW for years.  For me it’s my little voice reminding me of the most important things I need to do or that I want to do to be successful when leading.  Regardless of your responsibility, there is a certain component of it that is repeatable and therefore LSW is for, well, everyone!

Here’s some key points I found useful when it comes to LSW:

1.  Set-up LSW with a designated section for daily, weekly, monthly and Mid-long term (quarterly, semi-annual) based on frequency of completion of the task.

2.  Place tasks in the LSW that are important to YOU, that you must get done and also the ones that you want to ensure get done, checked, or confirmed because they are important to you or your business.

3.  Set your LSW up on a monthly basis, refreshing it at the beginning of each month.

4.  Have a method within the LSW to indicate which days you are on vacation and differently identified when you are out of the office on business.  This will help you plan more effectively when you complete tasks or provide you the opportunity to delegate if necessary.

5.  LSW should be dynamic, not static.  It’s ok to add and remove items from your LSW.  As priorities change, new systems develop, metrics improve or degrade, you may find that you need to make adjustments as to what you’re doing or what you’re checking and confirming.

6. LSW is for you, not anyone else.  It’s fine to show people your LSW, but I don’t advocate posting it.  It’s more effective if you carry it with you at all times to help you actually execute to it versus showing others.  As a leader, you should be checking your teams LSW periodically as well.

7.  If you’re not getting to something on your LSW, don’t beat yourself up, but rather find the root cause as to why you are not getting it done and determine what you need to do differently to achieve it.  After all, the items on your LSW were put there by you because you either need to get them done as a core responsibility of your job, or they are most important to you.  Use it to improve your self-discipline, motivate you, or to remind you to just do it!

8.  LSW must be an integral part of your personal planning system and routine.  It must be integrated with your schedule, your follow-up system, and your to-do lists.

9. Print out your LSW for the month, update it daily throughout the day as you complete tasks, and “pencil” in additional LSW tasks as you’re thinking of them throughout the month.

10. When you get really busy, that’s when you need your LSW the most.  Don’t abandon it then.  Use it to help you get the most important things done.  In a pinch when you just can’t do everything, use it to make an informed decision as to what will and will not get done.

I use an Excel spreadsheet for my LSW. To make things easier, I’ve added some conditional formatting for visibility of weekends, business travel, or when out on vacation. I prepare the LSW for the month, print it out, and then use it daily by marking tasks using a pen. LSW is an integral part of my daily, weekly, monthly planning system.

I hope you found this helpful. Are there any key points I’ve missed or in your experience you feel are most important?