Monday, February 9, 2015

Got Questions about Lean culture and Problem Solving? Ernie and I will be on The Lean Post Wed 2/11 to answer questions.

Ernie and myself are doing an "Ask us anything" post about Lean culture and Problem Solving and any other lean questions.  If you would like to join in.  Visit   Will be live at 8am Feb 11th, 2015 (Wednesday), hope to field as many as possible.    Hope you can stop by!

Ernie and Tracey Richardson
Owners of Teaching Lean Inc.

What should be the "target" value-add percentage in a process?

Hello everyone, Happy New Year a little late.  I was traveling on the road all of Jan so this was my first week at home.  Sorry for the blog delay.  Trying to spread the good words of "Lean Thinking" all over!!  

This blog is a cross-blog share from where thought leaders are discussing this question--here are my thoughts below.

In the past several months I have had this question come up actually in different industries. So how should one determine or “calculate” value add percentage within a process (micro)? This can be subjective depending upon what you are measuring and how, but I know, based on my Japanese sensei’s, you can weave through a process and determine its value add and non value add content/percentages if you are conditioned to see it and categorize it. In manufacturing type work, by nature, can be easier to “see”. In M & I flow (for example) the “day and the life” of signatures needed on a document electronically, well– it’s not as easy but can be done if “go see” is involved with any primary process owner taking you through their steps.
In my infant learning stage of lean thinking, before we called it that, I was told a good goal to start with is a 70% value add process. This says that we understand with any process there can be minor layers of non value added categories (described below). Our first goal is to recognize it and second is the minimize it. For example where I worked in Plastics we had mold changes daily. It was an accepted process we embedded into our day, and the changes were part of set up or ancillary work that supported the process, but its non value add to the customer in all reality. Our goal is not to eliminate it in this case, but to minimize all the waste involved in it–so waste within waste. If mold changes were steaks we would want a filet mignon version.
I was taught by my sensei’s a tool called a Yamazumi board. This was a multi-function tool we could use for various things. This is basically a cycle bar chart in its essence, but this one is based on customer expectations which makes me back step into process capacity, machine capacity and manpower. Factoring all those in one could (if taken the time) can determine a takt time. If I have some level of takt time based on customer pull I can them determine a process necessary to meet expectations. Many are unwilling or unable to take the time to look through this lens of thinking for various reasons, some out of their control. The yamazumi can categorize a process into the various type of work it has. I’ve seen elaborate yamazumi’s the Japanese trainers would create for an entire line trying to minimize and re-balance the work to be as value added (without muri and mura) as possible. You would have colored magnets that could be moved around that would describe for example – waiting, walking, machine time, delay work, downtime, conveyance, rework and actual working time. This would be considered a “grasping of the situation”.

Once this is understood based on go and see then the challenge begins to try and minimize the non value added factors listed above and improve the process to achieve some stability for standardization. We cant improve without a standard so all this thinking helps up understand we need a starting point. If you can factor all these into a process and minimize waste to create a 70% value add process for an individual then you are creating a benchmark to be competitive no matter what industry you are in. If more organizations took the time to categorize work and develop people to see recognize the differences– the need for “fire-fighting” would minimize drastically. By determining value add from non value add it sheds a whole new light on process versus results and leading and lagging indicators and how organizations measure. When I answer the original question it can be overwhelming for individuals, leaders and executives to realize how much waste is really there and its the accepted norm. If you translate that “norm” to hemorrhaging costs then it gets “real” in a hurry! The buzz from my some of my sensei’s I still get guidance from still practicing today that 75-80% is sought after to be competitive with the kaizen spirit of always raising the internal bar. So a challenge for all LE readers is to try and differentiate value from non value add and then put them into categories to minimize. It’s really eye-opening, I promise. :) – 
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Friday, November 21, 2014

GTS6 = E3 = DNA - Take a look inside if you want to break the code !!!!

Hey everyone, 

I'm #crossblogging again :).  I seem to be writing for so many other sites that I don't have enough "home-time" to write on my own blog.

I want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to see my columns, posts and blogs so I'm sharing a link this week from

Here is a short link to my column on GTS6 + E3=DNA - Break the code to Standardization, Sustainability and Kaizen.  #greatstuff #lean

Click here to break the "lean" code :) !!

Until next time, 
Tracey Richardson

Sunday, November 9, 2014

What are the Key Competencies to needed for a KPO position within an Organization?

Hello @thetoyotagal followers,

This post comes to you from with Michael Balle' - The question this month was:

What would you say the most pertinent competencies are for a team member to be promoted to join an internal Lean team (Kaizen Promotion Office) whose responsibility is training and facilitating Kaizen?

This was my response below, for other lean practitioner's viewpoints visit !!  

I like the question and I will try to answer from a duo perspective. One being a person who was hired and developed under specific competencies at Toyota and secondly through the lens of the trainer/leader. You know I think its important to not only look at how you promote into a KPO position but also what is the filtering process to bring team members into an organization before they even have an opportunity for promotions. Think of it as a leading indicator that is predictive for people capability.
In my humble opinion you have a higher rate of success with the development of people if you have the ability to be more selective to begin with. I know it isn’t always feasible just sharing my personal experience.
Before I walked through the turnstiles at the first Toyota plant in North America I had to go through a robust hiring process- I suppose that was necessary when you had 150,000 people wanting 1500 jobs which was the situation in 1987. So the “sifting and sorting” (I like to look at it as the 5S’ing of people), based on the competencies that Toyota wanted in their employees in order to “further” develop them once they were on the team. I found out later when I was in Human Resources training and development that the “initial” hiring competencies were:
  • Listening capabilities
  • Teamwork (working with different personalities and functional areas (silos)
  • Personal Initiative
  • Problem Solving capabilities
  • Leadership qualities

So if scoring well in these areas landed me a position on the most coveted team, then what enabled me to get promoted into leadership and/or training roles within the company such as a KPO or Organizational development group? If we follow true continuous improvement thinking (DAMI- Define the standard – Achieve the standard – Maintain the standard – Improve the standard) then we must always be looking for specific competencies that further develop and enhance our workforce and our cultural infrastructure that supports long-term growth and sustainability.
There are so many facets to people development and the “thinking” behind it that we really have to look at it holistically from a team member to the true north perspective.
Internally at Toyota (after you were hired) they looked at some specific areas/competencies that team members (any level/role) were required to “demonstrate and be evaluated on” that moved the needle for personal development and growth. There were different variables for moving into kaizen support roles but the many of the competencies needed for succession planning were:
  • Accurate information Gathering & Analysis (ability to go and see and separate assumptions and opinions)
  • Unbiased Innovative Thinking (ability to envision the order to customer value stream using leading/lagging indicators and fact based thinking)
  • Coaching and Teaching Problem Solving (TBP)
  • Develop Countermeasures incorporating mid to long term perspective
  • Appropriate decision making based on Business conditions (flexibility to the ever-changing market)
  • Perseverance (ability to overcome barriers and constraints and gather the necessary resources/stakeholders)
  • Allocation of management resources based on Organization’s priorities (ability to direct change management for company priorities)
  • Establish Business Framework and Systems (Values,True North and Culture)
  • Appropriate Assignment and Consistent and fair performance review (ability to understand team member capability and stretch assignments/challenges)
  • People Development
  • Realization of the mission and vision based on the company values
  • Building Mutual Trust and Respect (executives to management to team members)
  • Ability to understand proper Delegation (based on resources and KPI’s)
  • Accurate Self Awareness (ability to see your own gaps in your daily work / line of sight to the company true north)

I feel with competencies such as these in place it can allow you to have the right people in the right place at the right time. I was always told by my Japanese trainers that having good processes in place will give you the results you need. Most organizations do not take the time to develop good thinking processes therefore results are skewed and mediocre at best. Invest in your people and the criteria and standards they work with and what you will find is a slow but advancing progression of thinkers empowered to make a difference not only in a KPO role but every role.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Please follow Ernie and I on our new Business Facebook page!

Hello everyone, 
Wanted to share with our followers that we created a new Facebook Page for Teaching Lean Inc.  Keep up with all the great things we are sharing about Lean on a weekly basis!   Please "like" if you have a FB account!  

See you there! :)

Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Live Podcast Interview- Teaching Lean the Toyota Way with Ernie and myself by Gemba Academy!

Hello everyone, 

I'm very excited to share with you a live Podcast interview by the Gemba Academy w Ron Pereira.  He interviewed Ernie Richardson (my husband) and myself about various aspects of lean, culture, TPS, usage of tools, our learning's from our Japanese trainers and much more!!  We were honored to be considered by Gemba Academy!  Thank you for the opportunity!   Hope everyone enjoys!!!

Click the shortened link below!

Link to the Gemba Academy Podcast with Ernie and Tracey Richardson

Until next time
Tracey Richardson
Ernie Richardson 

Monday, October 27, 2014

What is the difference between Visual Management and Visual Control?

This month my blog post comes from again.   The question of the month was - What is the difference between Visual Management and Visual Control.    Please take a look at Michael Balle's website to view other Lean practitioners!

   I will answer your question regarding visual control versus management based on how some of my Japanese trainers, coordinators and leaders articulated it to me and how I personally practiced it during my time at the TMMK plant in hourly and salary positions. This question comes up all the time and it can turn into semantics very easily, similar to asking someone what are the 5S’s. I think there are 20 different versions out there, the explanation and purpose of it become crucial.
So I like to look at visual control as the “micro” side of the fence and visual management as the “macro” side. Let me explain.
So when I was a team leader in Plastics at TMMK, particularly to the Headliner group I was working for, each morning/afternoon I would have many granular visual control type charts I had to fill out/document to allow me to understand (perhaps hourly to daily) how my processes and equipment were running compared to the known standard per each condition. I may have to record oven temperatures before shift, after lunch and at the end of shift, robot calibrations at start up to the specific cc’s (cubic centimeters) that was expected to create a quality part. Other examples could be first piece checks at start up (and after breaks and lunch) to give me to have a set of parameters within a 2 hour window when something may have changed. These were all micro level visual control mechanisms at the process level to help team members at a process level to know where they were compared to ideal state/standard in all scenarios. Some have often asked me if using “yellow tape” to visualize where something should be placed fall under visual control and I would say “yes”, 5S type visuals like shadow boards are visual control mechanisms to see abnormality at a glance. All necessary to determine how we manage to the process and upward.
Visual Management is a more macro vision of the process supported by all the visual control charts in place that should cascade upward to higher level goals (KPI’s). Some of my colleagues have mentioned Floor Management Development System (FMDS) and Toyota Business Practices (TBP) (PDCA described in 8 robust steps). FMDS is a visual management system that displays the KPI’s at a group which supports the department visual boards, and upward to the plant level. The group level needs the “process” visual controls to determine which indicators are pertinent to track on a daily and weekly basis. In headliner we may track the top 3-4 discrepancies common for that part (tears-adhesive issues, misaligned brackets and delamination). Now these are somewhat (lagging KPI’s-results) because they happen within our process (a defect if you will), we want to dial in on the group visual control measures (leading KPI’s-process) to minimize these quality issues and become more predicative in nature–it’s how we control to the standard.
So we would know how the headliner group is doing in regard to Plastics process KPI’s as a department and upward to the plant hoshin KPI’s. As Jon described nichijo kanri which is daily management – kanri cycle is micro PDCA cycles (TBP thinking process) that have to happen hourly / daily and in some cases with our andon system (problem awareness) every second or minute. So really if you want to cascade the hoshin level KPI’s downward and have a catch ball effect upward to from the floor then visual control mechanisms are crucial to visual management at all levels. That is true hoshin kanri (strategy deployment). The beauty of FMDS is that it involves the people development side that engages every process owner allowing them to understand at a granular level how they contribute to the immediate KPI’s as well as the department and sometimes plant levels.
Visual control isn’t just about manufacturing like many think. If you create an output, service or product that has internal or external customer expectations then you can develop visual control process measures to tell you when you may or may not be meeting the expectations. A combination of leading and lagging KPI’s can be created by an organization to react initially but the ideal state is to be more predictive and make changes to the process (visual control) in order to manage the results. My Japanese trainers would always encourage us to first look at the process (visual control) to get results, its just the best way to manage that allows you to be predictive before defects/discrepancies happen.
Visual Control and Visual Management are a piece of a larger pie I call “the cultural infrastructure” that develops the DNA (discipline and accountability) in each team member in the organization to recognize their line of sight to the goals therefore contributing not only to their own job security but the long term sustainability and growth of a company.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson