Operations & Management
Without standard work, there can be no kaizen!
Taiichi Ohno once said that without standard work there cannot be any kaizen. We’ve probably all quoted this in some form or another when we’ve done our training, but what does it really mean? Let me offer my two cents worth.
First, let’s remember that fourth S from our 5 Ss – standardize. It’s the driver behind the fifth S, which is sustain. Most 5S programs fail because they really only achieve the first three Ss – sort (Seiri), straighten (Seiton) and shine (Seisco). Standardize (Seiketsu) is what will connect the new task to peoples’ accountabilities and make sure everyone understands it. Sustain (Shitsuke) follows that closely, as it reinforces the link to accountabilities, ensures the follow-ups are done and more.
So the driving force behind any 5S implementation can be thought of as standardize. Getting three Ss is easy, but translating that into standard work and making it stick can be difficult.
I once interviewed a young worker at the then-new Honda plant in Alliston, Ont., and asked him if he knew the five Japanese words from 5S. He said he didn’t, but that the spirit of 5S was simple. What it meant to him was that his mother didn’t work there, so he had to pick up after himself!
When it comes to understanding standardized work, there are a few things it should and shouldn’t do. Standardized work should:
• Include photographs and/or drawings.
• Ensure tasks and activities in a process are performed in the same way every time.
• Be developed with staff input and expertise.
• Include guidelines that are posted throughout the process at each point of application.
Standardized work should not:
• Specify absolutely everything. General guidelines are a good place to start, then improve them with kaizens once you have buy-in. Address the big gaps first, just as you would do in a Pareto diagram.
People often forget that 5S and standard work suggestions should come from the floor and not the boardroom. If you try to force the change top-down, you will lose your opportunity to really connect people to their continuous improvement efforts. They will view this as another “project” and lose interest as soon as the “project” is done. This is made worse when organizational leaders try to manage Lean by assigning it to the Project Management Office. It’s not that I dislike the PMO, but very often they’re only getting check marks for project highlights and not really engaging people in a Lean delivery.
Kaizen is the change process to apply the Lean tools and target waste. As such, it should keep true to the following guidelines:
• Kaizen is not a traditional project management deployment; rather it has an intense focus on action and speed.
• It emphasizes action. Here’s a key concept: “try-storm” a new idea. This is the opposite of “brainstorm,” where nothing gets done.
• Kaizens are where new ideas are tried quickly.
• Kaizens should involve fairly quick iterations: Try-Observe-Improve. (Hence the synonymous nature of Kaizen, PDCA, A3 and the Deming Wheel. They all mean the same thing.)
• Lastly, a kaizen is not about how much something will cost, it’s about creativity. This is particularly true if you’re just starting on your Lean journey. You want people to become familiar with the process, not in having the process “win.”
Remember, Toyota says that it uses “wits not wallets” to bring its Kaizen suggestions to bear on any problem. Sound simpler than having it run through the PMO? It is. In fact, there’s even a Kaizen “top 10” list!
1. Discard conventional fixed ideas. Be creative.
2. Think “how” to do something, not why it can’t be done. Penalize negative thinking.
3. We do not have bad people, just bad processes. The process needs to be simple enough that anyone can follow it.
4. Do not seek perfection. Do it right away. Quick and crude is better than slow and elegant.
5. Correct mistakes immediately. Defects inhibit flow.
6. Do not spend money on Kaizen. All that this proves is that you have a lot of money.
7. Question everything. Ask “why” five times.
8. Seek the wisdom of 10 people rather than the knowledge of one.
9. Wisdom will surface when faced with hardship.
10. Ideas are infinite. Execution is the key.
Remember that without standard work, there can be no kaizen. Standard work is the means by which a kaizen becomes standard operating procedure. Without standard work, the level of improvement can drop to below where it was when you started!
Finally, if you’re implementing kaizen, here are a few dos and don’ts:
• “Just do it.”
• Be creative, especially in adopting the tools.
• Include a target sheet and use it. Fix an end date to all kaizen activities. Keep that date tight and follow up and report out.
• Have a hansei discussion (right after the implementation).
• Have a yokotan discussion (to bring the implementation to everyone’s attention).
• Have fun!
• Resist change.
• Make it a “big budget” action items list.
• Make all action items IT-oriented.
• Forget to use proper tools.
• Forget to talk about your successes.
From the bookshelf…
The Lean Manager: A Novel of Lean Transformation by Michael Ballé and Freddy Ballé
This book has won the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award and it’s the sequel to The Gold Mine. It addresses one area that I’ve noticed many struggle with – how to become a Lean manager and to transform themselves and their workers through the discipline of Lean.
I’ve often argued that Lean is the single most important business tool you can master. I’ve even said that it’s more a way of life than just a “tool.” Yet companies still struggle to sustain their Lean gains. They ask about advancing beyond isolated gains from deploying lean tools to fundamentally changing how they operate, think and learn.
The answer to the question of how can they learn to go beyond Lean turnaround to achieve Lean transformation can be found in The Lean Manager. It will help you to go beyond what James Womack called “the era of Lean tools” to where you will be able to help sustain their ability to learn and improve operations and financial performance, while continually developing people.
In this book, we follow plant manager Andrew Ward as he goes through the challenging but rewarding journey to becoming a Lean manager. Ward learns to use a deep understanding of Lean tools, as well as a technical know-how of his plant’s operations, to foster Lean and sustaining continuous improvement. In doing so, the authors show you Ward moving beyond fluency with tools to changing his behaviour as a manager and leader. He shifts from giving orders and answers to asking the right questions so people do the right root cause review. He learns to use tools to unleash the creativity of people, so they learn how to solve problems as well as teach others to solve problems. Ward learns how to create Lean managers.
Question from the floor:
Question: I’m sure you’ve had this question before. I can’t seem to get my employees to get started in a standard work initiative. They’re OK with doing a short-term kaizen or 5S, but they’ve got all kinds of excuses for not doing standard work. Can you help?
Answer: Yes, I can! I’ve heard it all, from “that only works for the Japanese” to “we tried it once and it failed.” Although, to be fair, most of the time I hear it now from healthcare. They say that they’re dealing with people and people aren’t cars. While they’re right, people are NOT cars, they still have to go through a process. It’s not right that medicine just “wings it” and it’s not right that you do, either.
In his book, The Birth of Lean Conversations, Taiichi Ohno once said, “Improve things little by little. Make sure that the process that caused problems this morning doesn’t cause problems this afternoon. The way to increase your hourly production volume is to recognize problems when they occur and to make the necessary improvements to prevent them from recurring.”
With standard work, checklists or best practices, you’ll be making sure that the “morning” problems are taken care of permanently and don’t become “afternoon” problems!
As Masaaki Imai, a mentor of mine, once said, “Good kaizen depends on the active cooperation of your employees. You might think you’re on the right track. But unless your employees are taking part actively, you’ll never get the full potential of the improvements. That’s why we’re going to keep working on this until the people in the workplace think we’ve got it right.”