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Making your information Timely, Accurate and Actionable

Five Guys Pizza, East Nashville’s best!

When you hear the word “lean”, most people immediately think of going on a “diet”. Say “lean” to my husband and he thinks I’m asking him to give up his beloved pizza. However, I’m not.

When I use the term “lean” I’m really asking him to take a more holistic view and while there may be room to “give up” a slice or two, there may be other variables that would bring about a more effective change to his well-being.

In a manufacturing environment, going lean is a complete philosophical approach and means looking at the whole. Lean should apply to all of your processes and all businesses.

Lean eliminates the “ 7 wastes” from the work flow – whether you are stocking shelves in a supermarket, closing the monthly books in finance, processing shipments, production on the shop floor or communicating the engineering direction.

A finance person recently explained to me that lean in their world represented three things: timely information, accurate information, and actionable information. That really resonated with me.

In our manufacturing world, focusing on timely, accurate and actionable information would make a huge difference.

  1. Timely (7 wastes: waiting, overproduction)
    Just like on-time parts delivery, on-time information ensures work flow continuity. Getting it too soon, it can get lost or be OBE (overcome by events). Getting it too late, bad decisions may have been made.
  2. Accurate (7 wastes: defects)
    Measure twice, cut once isn’t just a saying. Think about it. Rushing just to hit a deadline is pointless if the information is flawed. You were “on time” but you were “on time” with bad data. Are congrats really in order? Make sure you include enough time in your schedule to double check.
  3. Actionable (7 wastes: inventory, overproduction, over processing)
    We swim in a world of data. Lots and lots of data. We don’t necessarily need more data but more effective data. Data that we can use. Meaning, we need to spend more time asking the better question so we get better metrics. Take time to ensure what you have spent hours creating is something someone can use, make a decision with, or clearly communicates eliminating questions.

In the end, you may not have to get rid of pizza, but rather you need to understand how that pizza fits into your overall lean scheme.

Be intentional

Finding your circle’s touch points


Feeling blue?

When an organization undertakes a “redo”, finding your spot in the new organization is similar to starting a new job. You learn what your tasks are to create the outputs you are accountable for. You soon find the circle (some would argue “circus”) that defines your day, your goals and your contribution to the organization.

Eventually, you learn how your circle affects other circles and those circles touch other circles, and so on. You also learn you’ll have to overlap with some people or teams to ensure everything that needs to be done gets done. For example, someone in your organization is formally responsible for continuous improvement but that doesn’t mean everyone else is absolved of responsibility for driving continuous improvement. Your circle overlaps with the continuous improvement person’s because everyone is responsible for continuous improvement.

If you only do your own “circle” and not take into account how it interacts and overlaps with your surrounding “circles” means:

  1. Some things will not get done. It is inevitable. Throwing “it” over the wall isn’t the same as overlapping. All it means is your desk is clean but your co-worker is cleaning up your mess. You’re better than that. “Know before you throw.”
  2. The organization becomes weaker. A chain is a series of interlinked circles. Unlinking them means your organization will have much weaker pulling power the next time you run into a “tree-stump of a problem”
  3. There will be a communication blackout. Like a brownout that runs through a city, some blocks will have lights while other neighborhoods will be plunged into darkness. Instead, why not maintain your circles and make sure there aren’t any gaps in them? Interaction promotes understanding. It ensures you know why your customer needs something, not just what they need.

Overlap is a catalyst to change. It creates an environment to share. It invites people to be curious and ask questions that could get you thinking about something you have never thought about. It promotes continuous improvement.

If you find yourself saying “that’s not my job”, ask yourself if you are leaving a gap.  When establishing roles in a new organizational structure, it may not be your job, however if you see a hole it is your responsibility to the team to find a way to fill it.

Be intentional,

Quality comes “Before the Floor”

Customer quality expectations are rising. When you buy a new TV, computer, iPad, (insert your shiny new gadget here) you expect it will work and be free of defect from the get go. You don’t want to take delivery and find a defect.

Let me say it again, customer quality expectations are rising. We’ve all been trained to expect “perfection”. This perfection is expected throughout the entire supply chain. If you took a typical supply chain at its most basic level and backward chain it, it would look like something like:  “End” Customer (retail or commercial) > Seller (retail or commercial) > OEM > Tier 1 Supplier > Tier 2 Supplier > Tier 3 Supplier…

At every point in the chain improved quality drives improved schedule, improved costs, improved RONA, and improved process efficiency. In lean lingo, defects/scrap are one of the 8 deadly wastes. Within each link, your customer needs your parts to be defect free in order for the manufacturing processes to be defect free. The end customer will thank you. (Or at least not write a negative review on Yelp.)

Quality starts and ends where everyone internalizes and participates in the quality cycle. Everyone. But where does all this “improved” begin? I’m inclined to think it starts “before the floor”. Before you go all chicken/egg on me… let me explain.

Nowadays we have enough computer models and “invisible” processes which are the norm in the manufacturing world. SO much so that we can take them for granted. I come from an era where Deming wasn’t always as popular as his legacy is today. But these invisible processes are foundational to the manufacturing floor. Quality inputs deliver quality outputs.

And just as the hard working folks on the floor assemble, mill, measure, or wire something to create an assembly, knowledge workers add, subtract, input and shape data to create and maintain the process(es). Any error in the data causes rework or “information scrap” in the form of time wasted.

Just as floor craftspeople strive to build it right the first time, knowledge workers strive to deliver the report, spreadsheet, system conversation, product design — “right the first time”. Surprisingly, lean concepts for the floor, such as poky-yoke, also work for the knowledge worker. Six sigma and black belts work for the floor and the office.

A culture of quality starts when each of us strive for less errors and more execution of excellence. No matter what our job is.

Be Intentional,

Do Your Metrics Measure Up?

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Excerpt From: Hertz, Noreena. “Eyes Wide Open.”

You have heard it said that “you get what you measure”. I have seen this to be very true. However, not always in a good way. I have seen the wrong metrics produce unsustainable balance sheets, or worse, drive companies into the ground. I have seen leaders hold this axiom as the final truth, operating with the thought process of, “Set up the metrics and no steering will be required”.

Do You Measure Up

Pick the right size measuring cup (metric) for the job. One size doesn’t fit all. Image courtesy Jay Holobach.

The issue is that metrics are not created equally. Not everything critical to foundational sustainability can be easily measured. Force fitting a metric, just to have a pretty graph in a powerpoint that doesn’t tell the real story, drives the wrong focus and fails to deliver progress in the end. Worse, we waste time measuring the inconsequential, pulling much needed resources from that which is foundational to success and sustainability. Pick your metrics wisely.

Don’t get me wrong, metrics are necessary – for communication, for helping assess trajectories, for accountability, or for driving improvements. They are critical for a healthy enterprise to stay healthy. They are critical for a team to know if they are making progress and sustaining. But they have to be the right metrics, and they can’t be the end-all. In addition, we must put the same energy on dealing with those things we know are critical, yet can’t be easily measured.

What in your sphere of influence “counts, but can’t be counted”? What are you personally doing to improve “what counts” – even if it has no metric? When we find and improve these things, we will be building a stronger, sustainable culture that we all want to be a part of.

Be intentional,