Lean and Continuous Improvement

Are Invisible Signs Hurting Your Team’s Culture?

Signs are an important visual control and many serve meaningful purposes.  But, have you ever seen an invisible sign?  I’d be willing to bet you have!  You may have even made an invisible sign yourself at some point.  So how do you create an invisible sign?

Don't sit on fence

You can see invisible signs everywhere!   They can be found in parking lots, airports, workplaces, and pretty much any public place.  They are incredibly easy to make.  Below are two of the generally industry accepted ways to make an invisible sign.

  • Create a sign following some kind of incident to state the obvious with the intention the sign will prevent re-occurrence.
  • Create a sign that treats adults like children.

Caution-Toaster-Is-Hot_thumbInvisible signs are a clear warning that something is wrong and you need to look deeper.  In the first example, these type of invisible signs may indicate that root cause has not been determined.  Installing an all too obvious sign can be a ‘sign’ that action for the sake of saying action has been taken is at play.  Unfortunately, often this is done following a safety incident.  Those doing the investigation don’t know what else to do.  It was a “freak” incident, or the person wasn’t following the safety rules or paying attention.  However, what this invisible type of sign is saying is that root cause has likely not been determined and further analysis is required.

The second type of invisible sign is equally concerning and likely points to a culture

Flush after use.jpg
2 Automatic-flush Urinals with 3 signs – “Please Flush After Use”

and/or leadership issue.  No adult likes to be treated like a child, yet we see it far too often.  No doubt, sometimes in the workplace things arise that makes you wonder, but you need to ask yourself, which came first?  Were the employees acting like children first, or were they treated like children first?  This type of invisible sign shows that there is likely a cultural issue going on.  Typically along with that is a leadership issue as well.  I say there is likely both because the nature of these invisible signs actually points to a less than desirable culture.  The leadership, in an attempt to curtail undesirable behaviours, put up signs rather than recognize and address the deeper rooted cultural concerns.  This then spirals, creating an environment where leadership treats the employees as children.  Of course this can happen the opposite way, where leadership starts by treating the employees as children which creates an undesirable culture.  Either way, the posted signs serve no other purpose but to drive this poor culture creating a respect issue between the leaders and employees.

Watch for these invisible signs.  Once you train your eyes to see them you will be shocked how many there are, where they are, but being able to see these invisible signs you’ll know what to really look for!

Here’s my favorite…. this was not staged!

Conserve paper sign

 

Other Related Posts:

Who the heck needs standards?

Contact me:

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.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com 

Gemba, Lean and Continuous Improvement

See More Going Backwards!

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, we can see more by going backwards!  Our natural instinct is to start at the beginning and move forward towards the end.  This makes sense as time and our lives move forwards, but if you truly want to see, try going backwards starting at the end.

I suppose this advice could be applicable to evaluating your life too!  You know starting at the end and envisioning your final moments and then working backwards from there to the present, and using this visioning to make changes in your life today.  But that’s not my field.  I’m talking about process reviews and gemba.  Sorry!

When reviewing an entire process or supply chain, it’s very important to start the review from the end and work backwards.  This maybe the end of final test, the end of the manufacturing line, or the loading dock.  Sometimes, right from the customer.  The reason for this is to be able to understand the upstream processes from the downstream “customer” perspective.  By walking the process backwards, you will learn and understand the critical or key points required for the downstream process and be more attuned to look for the success attributes and negative impacts when you get to the upstream process.  You can compare the expected condition to that of the actual condition to identify potential issues and then be prepared to look for and identify potential causes of these abnormalities when you move to the upstream process.

Process vs gemba flow

Walking a process backwards can be very enlightening and usually opens your eyes to many improvement opportunities.  These findings can be of safety, quality, productivity or cost in some manner or another.  The reverse perspective is eye opening!

I recall working with a leader that was trying to improve the cycle time of a process.  After a period of time and several process improvements, although they had improved the cycle time, there remained significant variation in the results and on occasion the cycle time was not achieved.  They found that the main part of the process was being completed within the cycle time.  So during their investigation, they skipped this part of the process as it was obviously working well.  The problem was that the carts containing the completed product were being misplaced.  Time searching for the carts in the next process step resulted in the overall cycle time sometimes not be achieved.  Efforts had then been put towards making the carts more easily recognizable from other process carts and improving the visibility of them.  So together we walked the process in reverse.

Walking the process backwards, we asked the operator in the downstream process where they obtain the carts from the upstream process.  They were fully aware of where it was and gladly took us there.   So far so good!   As we walked to the location, they advised us that the carts are rarely found there.  When we asked why, they said it was because the other operators would drop the carts closer to the lunch room out of convenience when going for break.  So typically they would just go there and start looking for the carts.  When we arrived at the designated location, it became a little more clear what was going on.  The 5S was horrible.  The lines to indicate where the carts should be parked were worn out and worse, the bar codes to which the operator was to scan the carts into were worn out as well.  Other carts and equipment that were not supposed to be located there were taking up space designated for these sub-assembly carts.

We then spoke to one of the downstream operators and asked them how they scan the carts into the designated locations when the bar codes were damaged.  They showed us the small bar code cards they had made up and carried with them!  Problem solved!  What this meant is they could very easily scan the bar code at any location regardless of  where the cart was physically.  Of course this wasn’t the intent, but…  that’s what happened.  Further questioning of the operator indicated that they really didn’t have a good understanding of what the bar code was for and that the location of the cart was critical to their downstream internal customer.  Most operators have the best of intentions, so because the space was occupied with “other stuff”, the operators thought it was a good idea to scan their portable bar code cards and drop the carts at another similar process where carts were placed.  It was coincidence that this was close to the path to the lunch room.

Sure, these issues could have been identified by walking with the process flow, however, with the walking backwards perspective, your questions are different and the answers come from the downstream customer who views things from a different perspective than the operator in the previous process.  This allows you to determine the key points and success factors much faster and more efficiently.  Using the example above, for sure the poor 5S and worn out bar codes would have been found walking with the process.  However, it is very possible that the issue would not have been resolved because we may not have determined that the operators had the portable bar code cards, or learned that they really didn’t understand the intent and criticality of scanning and placing the carts in the designated location, and may also have assumed it was poor operator behaviour of dropping the carts on their way to lunch.  A lot of time and frustration could have easily resulted and the root cause not determined.

If you don’t already walk the process backwards, try it next time and leave a comment as to whether you found it beneficial.

Other Related Posts:

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

Gemba Walks – Tip #1

Gemba Walks – Tip #2

4 Necessities for Smooth Flow

Teaching your eyes to see

 

Contact me:

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.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com 

 

 

Lean and Continuous Improvement

Top 10 Busted Myths About Continuous Improvement

Unfortunately there remains several inaccurate beliefs and thoughts about Lean or Continuous Improvement.  Based on my experience, here the top 10 “BUSTED” myths with #1 being the biggest misunderstanding!

CI Mythbusters

Leave a comment with any Lean or Continuous Improvement myths you feel are inaccurate or “BUSTED”!

Related Posts:

Continuous Improvement Tip – Don’t Forget WIFM!

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.

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?

share-showcase