Sunday, July 6, 2014

CEO's journey with Lean- How to get everyone on board?

Hello everyone,
It's already past mid year and we are saying hello to July.   I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.  Ernie and myself find ourselves teaching all over the U.S.   Met lots of great folks on the Lean Journey!

This next post comes to you from again.   My colleagues and I are answering questions about a CEO and his journey to improve and gain buy in.

Here was my response to the question of the month posted by Michael Balle'.

This question/situation reminds me of the power-point slide we have all seen where the arrows are going in different directions. Since I’m not there to see it leaves me to make some assumptions because I do not have the ability grasp the situation, get the facts and ask why. At times when I’m at a conference I hear similar stories about lack of “buy-in” or getting the right people on board with my initiatives or desires for improvement. When I’m faced with this situation I always fall back to the essence of what I was taught through experiencing good characteristics of a successful culture. It’s often daunting to explain the entire infrastructure around a successful lean culture (I personally don’t call it “lean” these days but that is what people respond to). When a high level leader such as a CEO has problems getting everyone enthused about change it can be numerous potential causes for the current state to the ideal. I often refer to it as conflicting KPI’s (key performance indicators). As some of my colleagues have mentioned results are often important and some aren’t too concerned as to how people get them (process versus results). When I do an assessment of leading to lagging indicators most (95%) of organizations track lagging business indicators, maybe 2% of what they track are actually leading “predictive” indicators to let them know they need to make change to effect the results. They spend their time reacting to historical data, which is impossible in the present moment, so when each functional area potentially has conflicting “result oriented” indicators then of course the arrows will go in different directions. This unfortunate situation doesn’t allow for vertical and horizontal alignment therefore creating problems/resistance. In some organizations I see quality battles over productivity, if we work harder (not always smarter) we can improve our productivity rates (because we have KPI’s that are driving this based on a needed quarterly result), but our quality begins to suffer because we didn’t utilize a sustainable process to maintain productivity without effecting quality, this happens a lot in a more granular level which can play negatively with morale or the ability to gain buy-in.
I’ve often used two questions to get a finger on the pulse of the morale in an organization. If you ask these questions randomly across different levels and functional areas it gives you a good snapshot of how people feel.
Question 1. – Do you believe this company/organization (insert your company name) has your best interest at heart?
Often I get various answers from “yes I do”, to “meh, its just a job”, to “no, this place is all about results”. So I assess (grasping the situation), and try to determine did the company itself create this by the “aimless arrows”, or do we just have a bad seed here? Believe it or not most people want to do a good job, but they are hindered by badly designed processes and lack of purpose or direction (true north), to ever feel they are a value added member of the company. So I let them vent, talk and express and I ask them if they would let me ask them another question.
Question 2. – Do you come to work everyday with the best interest of the company/organization at heart? (Reversed)!
Well it’s interesting to see their initial responses. The ones who really were negative or down towards the company often break eye contact with me. I've done this in sessions before and when its over I’ve actually had a couple of people (who weren't excited about training) say, “you know you really made me think of that one, I don’t usually come in the door with the best interest of the company at heart”. They go on to tell me why and this is when I suggest we get other leadership together and we all just listen to the people since in reality, they are the most important asset.
When faced with companies similar to what the CEO states they are really wanting the magic formula or an “easy way” to do it all and everyone be “happy”. They often know lean and all its glory can be successful but getting other people to believe it is well– disappointing. So how can you make it engaging? This is a question I ask myself as a sensei every time I go into a company that is struggling. I can’t tell them all the things they should be doing and how because their infrastructure just isn’t prepared to support it.
I try to simplify concepts and give them something that could possibly stick easier than common approach of just telling.
I like to use something I created called GTS6 (to the sixth power) + E3 (to the 3rd power) = DNA GTS6+E3=DNA. This often hits some of the different learning styles in the room and gives a kick start in how they should increase their value as a “servant” leader. How do I know this? I assess each one of my sessions for “key learning’s or take-away’s” and one of the most repeated learning’s is this “formula”. I have others but this may help with this particular question. So what is it you ask?
GTS6 (all leaders should practice this everyday- think of it as “leadership standardized work” simplified).
1. Go to See
2. Grasp the Situation (a. What should be happening? b. What is currently happening? c. What is measurable gap? (to allow you to)
3. Get to Solution (so you can)
4. Get to Standard (so you can)
5. Get to Sustainability (so you can)
6. Get to Stretch (so you can raise the bar and improve-CI)
We do this to allow E3 – Everybody, Everyday, Engaged which slowly develops and creates DNA (Discipline and Accountability for my actions)! I will go out on a limb to say if you can get your leaders to practice each one, starting with first and just engage in dialogue it can begin to bridge to gap in understanding purpose (why am I doing “this”). This whole situation can be slowly altered I believe just by changing actions of people to begin to gain their buy-in and understanding of the true north of the organization. Lean is about developing people to create good sustainable and repeatable processes that give us the “results” we all covet. That was a valuable lesson from my Japanese trainers, almost a secret to us from them that if you focus on your people and their processes then results is outcome. Very simple, just not easy because we tell ourselves we just don’t have time. I will end with a quote from John Wooden I use very often – “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?” 
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kaizen? Good or Bad- In what cases do kaizen events help and when do they hinder? How to best use kaizen events to leverage results and support the lean culture?

Hello everyone, these weeks posts comes from  Its a great question I get in many of my sessions.  See my thoughts before to the question.

I always like to discuss the concept of Kaizen in my sessions. I feel it’s often very misused and even misunderstood in the Lean world. As far as that goes you can say the same about Lean I suppose. There are so many different definitions and articulations of that concept out there across different industries. I always say Kaizen without value to the organization can be wasteful action and potentially harmful to a culture. For example- counting how many kaizens we have “turned in”. This is when I ask for clarification of how organizations interpret the concept. When people say to me “we are doing kaizen”, I ask- “what are you actually doing”? They will reply “improving things”, I will say- “how do you know”, they will say “by making them better”. You can see this vicious circle you can find yourself in. As my Japanese trainer would say, “no measure no do”!
I really strive to pass on the real definition of continuous improvement to people that was taught to me through shared wisdom. My trainers always stressed to us if you don’t have standards in place and measures then there is no true continuous improvement (kaizen). I use an approach with organizations called DAMI (not DMAIC) – Define – Achieve – Maintain -Improve. This is the special recipe for true kaizen. Basically you define a standard that meets the internal and / or external expectations by understanding capability and customer pull. You then achieve it through repeatability and predictability of the process. Once that happens you maintain for stability, then the expectation should be to raise the bar (improve). Its shocking to learn from many places they actually don’t know what their capability is. To me its hard to know true kaizen without those crucial pieces.
When kaizen is given a label as the “event” it tends to become something we only do when we deem we have time for it. If you have to make time for it then that should be an immediate “andon pull” to how we lead / manage our organization and develop people. This can slowly get us off course and as a result bad habits can be developed by leadership . What you want to see is “Everyday-Everybody-Engaged” (E”cubed”). If you are an organization that is trying to develop your culture/people then continuous improvement should be part of your/their daily work – on the floor, at the process engaging in dialogue with the primary process owners to understand what should be happening versus current state. If you have standards or ideal states then it sets the stage for kaizen by the primary process owner (the heart and soul of your organization). A simple discussion with them can lead to improvement ideas, it doesn’t have to be an “event”, when it becomes more about a result driven measure versus a development process for people then we are more than likely trying to check off a box. Not saying this happens everywhere, but I see it more often than not. Kaizen needs to be grounded by setting standards, developing people and connecting the value to the company and customer- these actions shouldn’t be seen as an event but foundational.
I think the bigger improvements that require more time, resources, support, and learning opportunities should require leadership involvement and connections to the KPI’s in a more formal, visual. and planned way. These opportunities then pave the path for more learning and empowerment of people which conditions them to make the connection to their role and kaizen should start to be more the norm versus us nudging. A role of a good leader will foster that in people. We were always taught to look for very small things and build our “waste awareness muscle” within our areas and outward to the touch-points of our customer. (Order to customer value stream). Again kaizen or improvements not linked to value to the company and customer can be wasteful action.
So I think kaizen is awesome if done in the correct context as explain above. It’s a necessary process for long term sustainability, growth and flexibility with our ever changing market. We must always try to keep our competitors in our rear view mirror and ensure we look at people as the most important asset of the organization. As Zig Ziglar once said – “It’s better to train someone and lose them than to NOT train them and keep them”. So build true kaizen into your daily culture, not an event we create time for.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What is the role of a sensei in your organization?

Hello everyone, it's hard to believe it is summer-time already.  The year is going by quickly.  Ernie and I are traveling a lot this year continuing to spread the good word about lean and how companies can think differently.

This blog post is coming to you from with host Michael Balle'.   I write for several blogs now so I try and "cross-share" here when I can.

The question at the moment is:

What is the role of a sensei in your organization?

Looking through the lens I see lean through, I think the word “sensei” can be subjective.    I think each and every one of us can have a different definition of what a sensei is based on our own experiences.    These differences doesn't necessarily make any of us right or wrong, just perception I suppose; and what our current knowledge base is compared to others on the journey.   For example I could have a client who has studied for 5 years and internally to their company they might be considered a sensei based on their 5 years of practice.    I think there also can be a distinction between practicing lean and theorizing about it as well.  For me it’s all about how you learned, what processes you improve to get good results, and how you develop others and their thinking based on your past experiences practicing it.  Teaching past failures along our own journey are such a part of a sensei/trainers role. 
When I learned from my Japanese trainers, at that particular time (1988-1998), I didn't refer to them as a sensei (as the word), they were my trainers to me.  I personally correlated that particular description to my Karate instructor in my younger days, but I think the same thinking applies.  He was a 6th degree black-belt and I had only made it to first degree.  So I would always consider his experience and knowledge to be greater than mine hence the title. 
      My trainers/sensei’s were there to teach me how to think, help me learn, witness me make mistakes and channel my frustration at times.    I always felt they knew based on their “hands-on” experience and also who they learned from.   Some of my trainers had learning opportunities with Taichii Ohno.   So I always considered them to be a source that “lived, breathed, and felt” what it was like to learn with trials and tribulations along the way.    They also understood all the fundamental skills and technical knowledge to do the job based on their time in grade.  Those fundamentals being:

Development of people (Respect)
Problem Solving
Leadership skills
Teamwork (across the silos-order to customer)
Initiative (practice Toyota Way)
Go See
The “Thinking” Production System (TPS)
I remember learning TPS from a very small handbook (3″ x 4″) that was written half in English and half in Japanese, our trainers had them and always made sure we learned the “thinking” (principles and philosophies), and maintained the integrity of it at all times, even when production wasn’t going to plan they were willing to stop the line and ask “why”.    When we learned we were always on the floor (gemba).   I cant remember a time when a “trainer/sensei” had me in the classroom going over a PowerPoint. 
 Although it is necessary sometimes these days, their teachings resided where the work happened with many questions as to why, how, where, what and when?   I learned by doing and they were my shadow(s) along the way.   Although I didn't always see them, they knew when something was right or wrong, so they would get to the root of it, and ensured I learned with hopes I wouldn't make the mistake again.    As they would always say – “1st mistake is learning- 2nd mistake for same reason is unacceptable”.   I never forgot that and try and guide my students in that way today. 
I’ve been called a sensei myself and honestly I wouldn't consider that a title on a business card, I just consider it a privilege to have learned from some of the best and now blessed to share it and continue to learn as I grow.   A true sensei has the knowledge, but shouldn't be above learning from others with less experience or “fresh eyes”.  I’m personally a sponge, I soak in all I can to learn how to be better the next day, that is a role of a sensei/trainer to me – Continuous Improvement, right?
Until next time
Tracey Richardson 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How do you make time for improvement?

Hello everyone, I'm bringing this post to you from where I contribute to the questions there posted by Michael Balle'.   This weeks question is one many ask of me in my sessions.   "Time"!  :)

“How do you make time for improvement?”

When I see this question about time its immediately takes me to countless moments during my sessions when I’m asked this very question repetitively by different levels of leadership.  It’s one of my favorite questions to answer and I do so by utilizing a famous quote from the late John Wooden to help explain my personal thoughts “If you don’t have time to do it right this first time when will you have time to do it over? This ignites my conversation that all companies have the time to do improvements it’s just that they are “choosing” to spend so much of that time doing non-value added activities that have been deemed as the norm.  If someone actually documented for one week how many non-value added activities are taking place it would be alarming to any team.

  I experienced this myself at Toyota during my production tenure and was able to re-align a team leader and team member as a result of studying a yamazumi chart that placed our activities into various categories (non-value add, value add, and ancillary set up work).   It was a great way to differentiate what should be happening (standards) versus what is currently happening and recognize waste in many forms within our daily work.  Remember one of the most overlooked forms of waste is the development of people.  If the workforce isn’t conditioned to see it, waste becomes the norm and that is where your time truly lies.   This applies everywhere not just manufacturing, you just have to learn to see it and not accept it as part of the furniture and develop others in this way at the process (gemba) by constantly asking questions.

I think what happens in most companies that lean is defined a certain way or an opinion has been formed because the purpose of it or the improvement hasn’t been fully explained or related to the key performance indicators of the organizations (value add).  When this doesn’t happen it usually this falls under the umbrella of an add-on, flavor of month, program, extra work or my personal favorite is – lean= less employees are needed.

 The paradigm shift that needs to happen is to uncover what is already there in the form of resources and time.  Leaders have to be taught to lead in a way that recognizes those hidden nuggets out there as the conduit to recondition the mindsets of team members at all levels to see lean as developing the people to see find the “coveted time” in the form of wastes.   Once small successes are experienced and replicated you can begin to see the shift in the culture that becomes more of a pull system for more knowledge than a push.  People will actually ask to be part of the initiative when they see the value.  As leaders we must explain value!   Pushing improvements (lean thinking) on an individuals at all levels without purpose and value explained creates the perfect recipe for reluctance in people to “take on” something else.

Everyone wants a balance of family and personal time to work time, when the scales become tipped it’s time to pull the andon and ask why this is happening.   I can promise you that the time is there you are after, it always has been, and it’s up to you and your team to uncover the treasure!  I learned to never say I didn’t have time to a Japanese trainer, they could always see waste when we thought we had improved it all.

Until next time, 

Tracey Richardson

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What is the place of temporary workers in Lean?

Hello everyone, 
Is it Spring yet?

Im sharing my post from hosted by author Michael Balle'.    The question on the The Lean Edge I answered was:

What is the place of temporary workers in lean?

So being raised at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK), I had the pleasure of seeing our temporary worker program evolve over many years to meet the needs of the company in an ever-changing market. I was also fortunate to be involved in certain areas of curriculum and training in the mid 2000’s for the program. Internally the term “variable workforce” is often used which implies exactly what it is, but for the most part it’s often called the “temp-to-hire” program. There is a purpose often with a good outcome if goals are met, unlike some temporary programs that are developed with different intentions.
So if you think about business models most businesses shouldn't hire their full time workforce based on their highest production volumes if there are fluctuations. This could create certain levels of muda, muri and mura, so it’s best to first understand capabilities and customer pull so proper decisions can be made in regard to the correct number of manpower needed to create the product or service. A basic lean principle often overlooked. So a variable workforce is often used to allow for flexibility regarding attrition, promotions, product line changes, training, and growth – at least from my experience.
I think for the temporaries and for the company (Toyota) they share a “win-win” situation. So the temp-to-hire program was started for the temporary worker to “try out or pilot” what it is like to build a car every 57 seconds for 8 to 9.5 hours per day. In true Toyota fashion it’s common to run a pilot before full blown implementation occurs, this program very similar. I can speak from my eye-opening experience at 19 when I started there that you utilize muscles in your body you didn’t think existed as we ramped up to an average of 540 cars per shift. This program is not just a variable workforce is much more robust. There is a specific hiring process for temporaries which look for specific competencies such as – listening, problem solving, teamwork, initiative and leadership. Those who meet the pre-hiring expectations are then placed into a ramp up program that includes specific TPS curriculum, physical fitness and an interval percentage introduction (25%-50 %….) to 2 jobs on the line. This program protects the team member by arming them with information and standards of how Toyota does business (expectations), as well as keeping them safe ergonomically. So the introduction prepares them for being part of a well renowned team.
This temp-to-hire process can be view as a filtering system for those who decide this particular line of work isn’t for them, which allows for others who find it’s a “good fit” an opportunity to be successful in the overall temp-to-hire program which take 15-24 months on average to complete depending upon some of the factors mentioned above.
Those who complete the criteria (attendance, KPI expectations, curriculum tests, and evaluations) are placed in the hiring pool to become a full time team member. This way when a temporary candidate goes through this process they fully understand the expectations of what it takes to “live” the Toyota Way (Value and Principles) and put into place Toyota Business practices (8 step problem solving).
This program to my knowledge is very rigid, yet easy to do if you are willing to understand that people are the most important asset in an organization and the determinant of the rise and fall of one. So if you don’t start with your future leaders in mind then you are failing as leadership. A Japanese trainer once told me that as a leader at any level that 50% of your job is to develop your people. Developed people can practice problem solving to see abnormality at a glance, when that capability is there we can start to move the pendulum to process versus results. So the training of the temporaries in the temp-to-hire program and the expectations we have of them has a great relationship to the lean principles of respect for people and adding value to our products and services through developing better systems. That starts with developing people.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Standardized Work for Kaizen: Define, Achieve, Maintain, Improve

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!  Wow its 2014 seems 2013 went by in a flash.  I guess time flies when your teaching Lean right :).?

I would like to share with you my post from The Lean Post by The Lean Enterprise Institute.  I have been writing several columns for their new site so I think its fitting to post them on my blog as well. 

This column is an interesting one I believe because I spend a lot of time discussing it in my sessions, this process described in the column as DAMI (Define-Achieve-Maintain-Improve) is actually the standardized work for Kaizen!

Take a look- please feel free to respond at the bottom of the article with comments or if you thought it met your expectations. 

Click here to view the new column called  -

Standardized Work for Kaizen: Define, Achieve, Maintain, Improve

Click here to see other columns I have written on The Lean Post.

Until Next time,
Tracey Richardson

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is there a lean approach to organizing value through the value chain? When to outsource or not?

Hello everyone!  Happy Holidays to you all!!  

This post is shared from my post on

Question this month:

Is there a lean approach to organizing value throughout the value chain?
Automotive companies tend to outsource all except body and engine, and service organizations such as banks and insurance companies are now arguing they should do the same in order to become lean. Is there a specific lean approach to where value should be in the supply chain? Is there a unique Toyota way of doing so?

My reply:

There can be several ways to determine when outsourcing is an option for an organization.
How I share my thoughts about it to others is based on my experience inside and outside of Toyota. I believe there must be a need to outsource a process, service or product. So what is that need or criteria?
This means there should be an overall “value-add” to the company business indicators in making this decision /change. Just to outsource without increasing value can be considered just a manpower reduction, and unfortunately many industry would consider that a Lean activity -(Less Employees Are Needed).
Manpower reduction alone can ignite the already existing fear that may be present in a declining culture of conditioned people, who have by default; made a clear extinction between management and themselves. (We versus They= people versus management).
When examining this decision as an organization, there will be many factors that will help clarify the next steps.
One crucial factor would be the need to control quality. If the product, service or process is highly sensitive (“zero tolerance” type policy) then this particular process may never be a candidate for outsourcing. In my world at Toyota these would be critical items such as brakes, air bags, or steering columns on a vehicle.
When there is a product, service, or process that is a possible candidate for outsourcing (added value has been determined), then a review of the supplier’s capability and capacity should begin. This vetting process ensures the product will meet necessary quality, productivity and cost expectations which should align with customer need internally and externally.
When a supplier is selected this should be the beginning of a long term relationship that fosters ongoing cost, production and quality improvements. This should be “leading and learning” dialogue between the company and the supplier with continuous improvement as a backdrop.
The overall bottom line with an outsourcing decision should have no impact on the final output in regard to quality, however by adding value it will have a positive result on the production, costs. For example, if an organization has increased demand for their product then decisions should be made about how the outsourcing process should be used to support this demand. (Rebalancing or reallocation of work using value stream mapping from order to customer). This process, if done correctly, should help build mutual trust and respect with your workforce, and engage your people in this value adding process along the way – they are truly your most important asset.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson