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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Up and Coming Public Lean Training sessions to share

Hello everyone, 
Ernie and I are off to a busy year of teaching this year, many great things happening!

We have been getting many requests for training and up and coming "public sessions" we are doing across the next several months.

I thought I would share them with you!  We would love to see you in one of these sessions - 

March 3-4 the Pre-Summit session to the Lean Transformation summit in Orlando FL.  Ernie and I are teaching Managing to Learn A3 - take a look. 

For more information about the Lean Transformation Summit go here:

Keep an eye out on for the Chicago session May 13th-16th- teaching Managing to Learn and Problem Solving aligning people, purpose and process.

Keep an eye out on for the Seattle Washington session June 17th-20th teaching Key Concepts of Lean, Problem Solving aligning people, purpose and process, and our new Gemba Walks session.

So come and see @thetoyotagal and @thetoyotaguru at these sessions.  We would love to see you.  Great things happening in 2014.  Time to change the way your company does business~~ !!

Until next time
Tracey Richardson
Ernie 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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How do you involve and organization in PDCA and Lean Thinking across all functional areas and departments?

I would like to share another post I contributed to on Michael Balle's The Lean Edge - check it out other opinions from Lean Authors and Practitioner's!!

How do you involve and organization in PDCA and Lean Thinking across all functional areas and departments?

I often like to start off by discussing the scientific method (PDCA) by differentiating the “process” from the “tool” side of it. These are two very different things. When I visit clients or do public sessions my experience from grasping the current state that more people (various levels and industries) see it as a tool. Some would argue to say it is, my preference and how I was taught is to fully understand the thinking process behind the tool. So if you are trying to move your organization to see through the same lens its often good to clarify expectations and explain why changing a business model or how you think is necessary. I tend to refer to it (as others have) as horizontal and vertical alignment/thinking (harmonizing the silos). So vertically within all your departments from the process owner to the president there should be an alignment of “thinking” and horizontally across the functional areas (ie – accounting, payroll, human resources, manufacturing or service output, engineering, design etc) there should be a similar lens to articulate through.
Organizationally most are naturally silo’ed, some see this as a negative, I see it as a functional necessity since everyone in the organization has a different line of sight and role to the overall value stream, the commonality “should” be the company key performance indicators, true north and the people development side (back to process). These should always be your guiding beacons to guide the occasional “stray arrow” back towards alignment. I think if you focus on certain commonalities in an organization such as understanding the process from order to customer, (regardless of industry, product or service) then it will immediately give you a couple of areas to close in on which could be:
1. What are our the percentage of leading KPI’s to lagging KPI’s in your organization?
A leading indicator is one that is predictive and lets you know when the process needs change. A lagging indicator is nice to understand and necessary to see the ultimate result of business but its also historical information. Its hard to make change once something has happened. If we are only tracking results across the organization then chances are we are reacting. So a good business model through use of the scientific method is to always look for process leading indicators that in turn effect your results. My Japanese trainers would always insist – “Results are the outcome to good processes”.
2. Do you have visualization of the problem, and are there known standards?
This can really be effective if each team/department/section can develop a visual management system in order understand and grasp the current state at all times. Developing the people side of this thinking requires a certain level of standardization within your processes- this is a discipline that requires a leader at any level to hold people accountable. If you have a best practice for a process then it allows you to see abnormality at a glance, this is priceless in understanding and dialing in on process indicators that can be tracked to improve the standards, to me it is its on mini PDCA cycle that happens at the process owner level. This should then continue to work upward into the next level supervisor and assist in how they lead and develop their people. It all sounds incredibly simple and it can be if the “D and A” is being built and practiced within the culture (Discipline and Accountability).
3. Are you leaders actions tangible to the company values?
Most organizations have a set of values they go by or have a beautifully framed and matted picture of them (the values) in the lobby area. This can be spectacular for someone visiting or a customer to see, but what does it mean internally to your people? I was always taught that company values should translate to actions, this way I’m walking the walk and people belief that I have the best interest of the company and people at heart. If you can’t translate values to tangible actions sometimes the true meaning of what a company is about is lost in translation which in turn could create moral issues. This is one area that should be recognized as you are trying to “see through the same lens”. It can alleviate potential conflict, and develop your leaders to a more “servant leadership role”.
I think all these areas listed above (among many others) can help develop people and bridge the gaps of what the company is trying to accomplish through the entire value stream and how each person at a process level plays an important role in making that happen (line of sight). I think it boils down to respect for people and ensuring they understand the importance of seeing through the same lens and how utilizing their extraordinary brain power is such an asset to the organization, without people and their ability to grow could hinder your long term success and sustainability as an organization. One of the most overlooked forms of waste is the “under-utilization” of people and their ability to “think”.
Until next time
Tracey Richardson

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How can the Chief Information Officer contribute to a lean transformation?

Hello everyone,
Sharing with you my post from (Michael Balle's) website of Lean Practitioners coming together and answering questions about Lean transformation/implementation.

The question this month is:

How can the Chief Information Officer contribute to a lean transformation? 

Go here to visit The Lean Edge or read below:

When I see or hear this question, I pause and attempt to grasp the situation of what does a “major lean” transformation mean to an executive or the “process owner” of the lean journey. By answering this question it helps me understand their own ability to grasp the magnitude of what they are attempting and their role in it. Not many stop to ask this question and assumptions are made. When I’m at various organizations or conference sessions I think one of the commonalities among these folks is asking – How do I get my leadership onboard? They also ask- Will my Lean contributions be successful to the overall goals if my leaders aren’t bought in to the process? These repetitive questions tell me a lot about the current state of many organizations and their attempts at change and who’s changing it. This is a very good question, one that many in the Lean community can benefit from based on all our experiences.

I think when I hear the word leader it defaults me to “servant leadership”, based on what my Japanese trainers taught me. In the past traditional leadership is about “people work for me”, in a Lean management system it means ” I work for my people”, this is a paradigm shift in thinking for some people and their leadership styles within the organization. I think the first step for higher level leadership who are responsible for changing the way an organization does business begins by developing this action which leads to a habit. I believe the most simplistic way of starting this habit is to ask – where is this organization in regard to where we want to be? This can be in the context of the key performance business indicators (KPI), in regard to the customer value stream, the processes / standard work that deliver the outputs/services, our ability to develop people, and our mechanism to see abnormality. These are avenues to grasp the situation and understand the causes, barriers and constraints that are preventing an organization from getting there.

I also think its key for higher level leaders to understand- what are we actually measuring? So many organizations I talk to tend to be tipping towards the result side of measures, I tend refer to this as “leading and lagging” measures or (process and results). If we measure the majority of lagging indicators it hinders us, or even to some extent, masks the true current state or our ability to see it. For example, I will use the airlines as a way to explain where you can choose to measure as an organization. Most airlines I’ve experienced measure “on time” as when they leave the jet-way. Most customers may see that measure a bit differently. Just because I leave the jet-way on-time doesn’t necessarily mean I will be on-time to my destination. What are the processes in between that are more leading and can be more predictive to the customer need enabling us to make modify work, as well as the things that are controllable to reduce waste on a leading side. If we are being a more predictive organization this can be an important factor to enhancing our Lean management system. If I track Safety incidents, that’s a lagging historical indicator; its good I track it, but its better I find a leading process indicator to prevent the lagging. I think many executives aren’t at a 5000 to 500 foot level in the organization to understand this concept and tend to overlook the importance of measurements and how they cascade downward to the daily work.

If I am a true lean leader and lead as an executive then I must play a heavy support role in understanding what and how are we measuring against the customer need and how am I looking at processes that are as value-added as possible to the value stream. I often suggest to folks that are balancing the scales of the leading and lagging indicators that it is an important discussion to have and understand – “how are we doing>> and how do we know? This is also important how we cascade this thinking throughout all levels of the organization (50000 foot to 500) otherwise known as Strategy deployment. I don’t think its realistic for executives to spend all their time on the floor (the go see), but I do feel they need to have a “finger on the pulse” as to current state versus ideal through their management team and people who are doing the work. So I do think there is a percentage of time necessary to grasp this and be a presence out there building mutual trust and respect within the organization. So I think it’s fair to expect our CEO’s, Presidents, Vice Presidents and so on to be that servant leader we discussed above, they must attempt daily to play a support role by enabling the front lines and their management levels to have the resources necessary to deal with abnormality against a standard. They must support the organization by having the ability to see through the same lens when it comes to Problem Solving (PDCA), speak the language and overall be seen as someone that isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty and empower people to believe they are capable of doing extraordinary things. Development and empowerment of people can determine the rise and fall of an organization. I believe this is the beginning of how you create an infrastructure of the culture necessary to have long-term growth and sustainability. So what’s in it for me should be clear and concise, because an organization that engages, involves, challenges and empowers people at all levels to always think about where we are and were we want to be at all levels can be a contagious feeling. One I experienced first-hand and consider “price-less”. It can be done it’s all about the discipline and accountability for doing it. As I’ve hear Jim Womack say – Lean is not always about what to “do”, its about “doing” it. You jump that hurdle- you are well ahead of the game.

Tracey Richardson