4S – Standardise

In the standardise stage we can access the greatest benefits of 5S. Standard work is the lifeblood of continuous improvement. Without standards, there can be no improvement, but without standardisation sustained improvement cannot be achieved. The reason for this is that inevitably improving a process will change the process. If multiple methods are improved over time the likelihood of one or more of the improvements conflicting increases. If the process is standardised, it creates trust between operators and reduces the opportunity for confusion and errors.

One way to develop and standardise is to create standard operating procedures (SOP’s). These should be simple, clear and easy to follow. The people who operate the process should create the SOP’s, since they are the process experts. The SOP should include

  • details of all required equipment, including safety equipment, to do the task
  • best practice and tips to make the task easy
  • instruction on what to do if the process moves outside of control or specification limits

In addition, the SOP should be mistake proofed and act as a standalone training tool. As with any process, regular auditing supports consistent application fo the process principles and practices.

More than anything else we are trying to create habits and change behaviour such that 5S isn’t an additional activity, it is just how things are done. This requires us to move through the following sequence

  • Unconscious Incompetence
    We are unaware that our processes or tasks are poor and in need of improvement.
  • Conscious Incompetence
    At this stage, we become aware that our processes or tasks are in need of improvement, but perhaps need graining and support to make the changes.
  • Conscious Competence
    Having had the help and support we become competent, but it is a daily struggle. We are doing all of the right things, but we must think about it constantly and ensure we review best practice.
  • Unconscious Competence
    At this stage, we have achieved the state of business as usual. We don’t consider what we do as special, because it is everyday business. We must guard against complacency though, if we don’t strive for improvement and excellence we may degrade into unconscious incompetence.

When trying to make change happen, one must consider the balance between driving forces and restraining forces. We always try to drive improvement, however, whenever we increase the drive, the resistance increases. To enable change to proceed, we must remove the resistance not increase the drive.

We also start to use the visual order created previously. Abnormalities should be visible and information shared and obvious. Red tags should be actioned and resolved. There should be a cleaning plan. The process should be documented in SOP’s, everyone should be trained and everyone should be following the process. Staff should be encouraged to improve the process in  a controlled manner, working to a separate SOP for process improvement.

3S – Scrub

Whilst the obvious impact of scrub is to get the area clean, there are a range of added benefits that greatly enhance process improvement. Rather than becoming a laborious chore, cleaning becomes a checking process that leads to continuous improvement.

Making cleaning processes a routine part of the process highlights abnormalities. These abnormalities become items to be fixed, and fixing them requires us to learn about the process and solve problems. The habit of solving problems is continuous improvement, and working in a continually improving work place encourages employees to make a positive contribution. Since each employee can see how their own efforts are expressed in the process, they are more likely to feel some ownership of the process and take pride in their work place.

Making cleaning a habit doesn’t happen by accident, it requires a strategy involving leadership will to stop the process for cleaning, and plans to ensure cleaning becomes standard work. Cleaning plans should follow the 5W1H model;

 

The aim of cleaning plans is to clean little and often, with everyone having the responsibility to clean as they go. Eliminating root causes prevents dirt and debris building up and reduces the time spent cleaning. When combined with visual sweeping, this technique becomes a powerful source of improvement. Visual sweeping involves looking at all work surfaces, floors, aisles, storage areas/containers and equipment and really seeing the condition of each area. You are looking for dirt and debris,  equipment that is ready to use, missing or damaged parts or fixings, excess materials, damage, storage, or any other defect relevant to the work done in that area.

As with 1S and 2S this exercise should be repeated every 3 to 6 months to adjust for changes in working practices and area usage.

2S – Straighten

Straighten is focused on organising the workplace to reduce waste. To do this we must clearly understand the frequency of use of each item. When this is understood we can decide where items should be placed and make the workplace visual.

To decide where items should be placed, we should first understand the flow of the area and look for evidence of waste. We consider 7 types of waste

  • Transport
    Do we need to move items to different locations for work to be done. If so, we could move the items closer together.
  • Inventory
    Inventory is cash tied up in the business. The longer that cash is tied up in inventory, the greater the risk of obsolescence. In addition, high cash demand for inventory increases the cash gap, stifling growth.
  • Waiting
    Waiting is `wasteful at the best of times, however, what must be tracked is waiting at bottleneck resources. Bottleneck process steps are rate-determining and limit output already If they are waiting it is impossible for the process to recover lost time.
  • Overproduction
    Production of more than is needed is a waste since it consumes time and resources, potentially taking them away from orders that the customer is waiting for. Adding stock to warehouse where it may become outdated is also an increased risk
  • Overprocessing
    Processing items more than necessary, or duplication of effort are clearly wastes or resources. Duplicated processing or elongated processing times reduce capacity and add to costs.
  • Defects
    Making something incorrectly will result in either rework or replacement. Replacement means that item took twice the materials expected, rework means it took far more labour than expected. If the item escapes from the organisation and reaches the customer, it will result in complaints and possibly loss of custom.

Understanding the flow of materials and work in the business can be accomplished using a spaghetti diagram. These are created by tracing the movement of work on a floorplan. Similarly a physical process map can be used by placing post-its for each step on a floorplan, connecting the dots and calculating the distance travelled. The diagrams can then be analysed for waste, congestion or any other problems that may contribute to ineffectiveness in the process.

Having identified the problems a new process layout can be created to eliminate as many of the problems as possible.
Some things we use daily, some weekly, some monthly and some rarely. Clearly they don’t all need to be here right now. Using the information from 1S about what is needed, decide how often items are used. Daily use items should be at the workstation. Items that are needed on a weekly basis should be close by, and as the usage gets less frequent the item can be further away. Items that are used infrequently can be in storage.

Now we know what is stored and how often it is used, we can place things to make the workplace visual. In a visual workplace, it is obvious where to go to find what they need, where to return it and what needs to be done.  Item recoil is the hardest thing to build into the system. How can we ensure that itens are returned to their correct storage location? There are many ways, using colour, shadow boards, labelling, and floor markings.

As with 1S, 2S must be repeated every 3 to 6 months to ensure routines are maintained and that the arrangements remain cinsistent with process and business needs.

1S – Simplify

We are going to run through each of the steps of 5S identifying the critical activities that enable the process. The first S of 5S is

Simplify

Simplify is about removing all that is unnecessary from the area. If each of us considers the area we work in, how much of what is around us is really needed, here and now?

The first step in 1S is to take photographs of the area as it it. Don’t try to tidy up, just record how it is. Take careful note of the position you took the photos from, since you will be taking after photos from the same location. The next step is to ensure that everyone involved in the process is safe. Identify the risks in the process and ensure everyone involved also understands the risks. Provide training and equipment to all staff and ensure that waste disposal routes are appropriate for the type of waste.

We need to understand what should be at our work station. The first step in deciding what should be at your work station is to decide what happens at your work station and write it down. This should be done by the people who work in the area; once there is a written description of the activities that happen at your work station, it is possible to determine what tools, equipment, jigs, materials, and other items are necessary

At this point carry out a red tag event. The people who work in the area should use the information about what happens in the area and the tools and materials needed to carry out the work. Everything else should be red-tagged and moved to the red tag storage area. Items that have been moved to the red tag storage area should only be stored for a limited time. Typically items are moved into the area within one week and disposed of after four weeks. Managers and heads of department should review the items in the red tag area on a weekly basis to identify items that would be expensive or impractical to replace, items that can be used effectively elsewhere and items that can be disposed of. It is always good practice to check not only if an item is needed, but also how many are needed.

Finally don’t think of 1S as a one-off event. It will need to be repeated every 3 to 6 months because items will be brought back to the area and not returned to storage and over time the usage of the area could change.

5 steps for preparation for 5S

Many people have heard of 5S, however, people often think of 5S and associate it with housekeeping. So, is 5S just an extreme form of housekeeping? Certainly not!

5S was originally used in Toyota to improve performance. The ‘5S’ referred to five simple everyday Japanese words that everyone would understand. The thought process was that by keeping the words simple and grounded in day to day language, the worker could focus on the intent not remembering complex terminology. When this technique was first imported to the west, the trainers used the Japanese words and created an obstacle that should never have been part of the process. The driving force for this was seeing the task not the process. Copying the Japanese implementation across language and cultural boundaries failed to communicate the philosophy and structure behind the process. 5S is an integral part of kaizen linked to elimination of waste and focus on value. For that reason, I use five simple English words – I only teach in English.

The 5S’s are;

Simplify
Straighten
Scrub
Standardise
Sustain

Another misunderstanding from the west was adding a sixth S, safety. Safety is of vital importance, however, adding safety as the sixth S misses the point. The five S’s are grounded in an assumption that everything is safe. If the process isn’t safe don’t wait for 5S, deal with the safety issues before starting 5S, after all why would you work with an unsafe process?

Preparing for 5S is vital and too often organisations don’t invest enough to ensure they create the right environment that allows employees to succeed. There are five critical steps to creating the right environment for employees to succeed at 5S.

  1. Create policy and a plan.
    To implement 5S successfully the organisation must establish a clear policy that documents the benefits of 5S and the roles and responsibilities for implementation. The leadership team must be united on the need and purpose of 5S. The team who create the policy and plan should be drawn from all levels of the business. This is to ensure that the potential pitfalls and problems are identified and discussed. Through this discussion the business can ensure alignment between all levels of the business and significantly reduce the opportunities for conflict. The policy should explain the behaviours and standards the business will adhere to regarding 5S.
  2. Write the Procedure.
    Document the process for implementing and managing 5S. 5S is a form of standard work and supports employees and management alike in understanding the benefits and advantage in standardising working practices. Implementing 5S without standard work will make the process much more difficult than expected.
  3. Create a red tag format and area.
    Standard red tags used throughout the business create consistency. This consistency ensures that everyone is clear about the meaning and purpose of any red tag in the business. The red tags also contain standardised information allowing correct identification of the item, date tagged, reason for tagging and disposition of the item. This item can then be placed in a fixed area for disposal or storage.
  4. Create a red tag log.
    Red tagging alone won’t create a clear picture of the items in the business that are not required. The red tag log allows management to track items and the decisions made regarding their disposition. The log also allows tracking of location, cost and stock level.
  5. Communicate the plan and train those involved.
    Once all the preparation is done, communicate why 5S is important and what benefits implementing 5S will bring. Once this is communicated throughout the business select the first team to implement 5S and train them how to implement the process.

Preparing properly for 5S will increase the speed of adoption and the likelihood of success. The leadership must understand their role in the process. Leadership should not be dictating, they need to collaborate with the workforce. The most effective activity that leadership can undertake is to identify and remove obstacles to progress, ensuring that employees have the tools and resources to succeed.
Read the future posts on how to implement each of the steps of 5S

 

New Explainer Video

I have started using Doodly for explainer videos. I have my first creation done, now I need your help. What do I need to adjust to improve it?

All feedback will be appreciated!

Consulting

Marketing and statistics

I had a really good day yesterday. I was fortunate enough to have a project proposal selected for use by Lancaster University’s Business School for an MSc final year project in Marketing.

Getting a project selected is both a support and a responsibility. I didn’t realise that the project accounted for a fun third of their final year marks. Although they have nothing left to do for the remainder of this year, it is a serious responsibility for both the students and for me to ensure that two things happen. We must ensure that the project runs smoothly and yields a successful result. In this case, a successful result means a market study that helps my business. Of equal importance is ensuring the students achieve the highest possible marks in their final dissertation.

One interesting discussion centered around co-operation compared to collaboration. I have long held the belief that whilst most organisations work hard at co-operation, it isn’t really what they need to do.You see co-operation is what happens when all parties set out to give the minimum away and achieve the maximum personal and functional gain, regardless of the impact on the overall organisation. Collaboration is a different matter altogether. Collaboration requires all parties to be open about their wants and needs, then work out how to deliver the maximum possible benefit for all parties, whilst ensuring the needs of the business are protected.

Collaboration creates trust and bonds teams together within functions and across functions. This bonding, and trust creation makes collaboration a key aspect of process improvement, and project work.

So how did this apply to a marketing degree project?

The students and I are inextricably linked for the next few months. If I have not explained the project brief clearly enough, they will be unable to achieve a high degree mark .That is why I must ensure that I answer their questions fully and act on the tasks we agree. For their part, the students must work through the brief diligently and ensure they answer the questions thoroughly. It will be interesting to see what results come from the project.

The students now have a few weeks to create their marketing proposal, once that is agreed, they will conduct the market research over the summer and present it back to me in August. I seem to have two very smart young ladies taking care of my project, I look forward to the insights and strategies that come from their analysis.

Consulting

Lean? Six sigma? TPS? How about just improving the customer experience.

There are so many models out there for process improvement that I fear the reason for having the models gets lost. You can’t see the wood for the trees. How do we get back to seeing what is in front of us?

What lies at the heart of all of the improvement methodologies?

I would argue that the reason for doing any of this is the same; a basic desire to improve the business. The next question is to improve what? Why improve at all? All businesses are there to service the needs of their customers, whether that need is for doughnuts, cars, phones, accountancy services, medical aid, it doesn’t matter. If we can find a way to service the customer’s needs better, then perhaps we can find a way to make everyone’s job more secure and grow the business. If we can make more money along the way even better.

So why do we obsess about all these different methods?

Everyone tries to understand how someone else, who we perceive is better at something, does it. We all study someone, we are taught subjects in school, how to answer questions, how to solve problems, how to make things better. Unfortunately, our education systems teach us to copy, imitate rather than innovate, so we look for models and systems to copy since that is our conditioning.

Therein lie the seeds of ruin for many improvement projects. We go, we study, we focus on what, but we fail to understand why. The real question for improvement is, why do it? Many companies who engage in process improvement, lean or six sigma projects do so to reduce costs. That cost reduction is often accompanied by job losses, which works in the short terms, but destroys trust between workers and management, and makes future improvement projects almost impossible. This is because there is an internal, short term focus for the business. Management are changing every 3 to 5 years, every new set of management focus on the perceived deficiencies of their predecessor, then proceed to change the direction to make things better. W Edwards Deming identified these factors in his seven deadly diseases. Short term goals, lack of constancy of purpose, job hopping by management, performance reviews, focus on visible figures, excessive medical costs, excessive legal costs.

American Management thinks that they can just copy from Japan. But they don’t know what to copy

W Edwards Deming

How do we succeed?

As Simon Sinek observes, we must start with why. Why do we want to improve? Is it to better serve our customers or to make more money? As United Airlines have recently shown, just saying that your customers are a priority isn’t enough. If customer service was at the heart of their principles, that video of security guards dragging a paying passenger from a flight would not have been possible. To truly succeed, a business must focus on improving the aspects of their product or service their customers value most. It must not be done to simply improve margin, but to reduce the level of defects, improve customer satisfaction, eliminate the opportunity for defects, reduce lead time, reduce waste.

This focus will lead the business to look at the process for creating customer value; reducing defects, eliminating the opportunity for defects, reducing waste all deliver lower costs for the business and better service for the customer. Reducing waste and defects means that less time is wasted on defect correction and replacement, this gives a shorter lead time and lower costs. Determining a long-term strategy, and setting in place a review process to ensure the strategy is sustained will ensure constancy of purpose. Focusing on these factors and ensuring that all the changes are sustainable for the long term may be harder, but is ultimately much better for the business.

In summary, focus on your customer needs, plan for long term success, and make changes that are consistent with your long-term goals. Don’t copy what others have done, understand the link between their long-term goals and improvement activities. Once this is understood for their business, focus on your own business and use only the tools and techniques that support your own long-term goals AND your customer’s needs. If you ever find a conflict between these demands, always choose your customer’s needs; long-term success can only come from repeat business, and repeat business only comes from satisfied customers.

Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.

W. Edwards Deming

Consulting

Finding your company way

I have been thinking about why many lean and six sigma programmes struggle to gain traction. We all know the methods work, you only have to look at people like Toyota and GE to see that. What do they have that others are missing. I have an idea of what causes many of the problems, I would be interested in your views.

Most businesses chase cash investment to grow, sometimes they need cash investment just to survive. At the same time, they deem change to reduce, time, resources and cash used by existing processes too expensive, too difficult or unsustainable! This seems counter productive.

If we now look at how many improvement projects immediately look for reduced workforce overhead for justification we start to see the real problem. Someone recently commented to me that to expect anything else is unrealistic, because there are too many people in most businesses. If a manager has recruited such an excess of people to do the work because they have designed the work ineffectively, perhaps the first headcount reduction should be the manager! I wonder how many managers would enter into a project knowing that at the end one of the management team would be made redundant? I think the answer is none! Yet many of these same people expect their staff to engage in continuous improvement or lean projects, sometimes with a stated aim of headcount reduction, ‘for the good of the business’.

If your business is engaged in a process improvement project that increases capacity, the current perspective of many managers is to say “I can do the same with less resource!”. Is that in the best interests of the business? Wouldn’t the shareholders be more impressed with “I can do more with the same resource!”. This is a more challenging aim, one that places more pressure on sales and management since they are the people who have to find and win the opportunities.

We need to change the mindset of managers from short term ‘protect what we have’ to long term growth and winning new business. Settling for what is there today isn’t what got the business set up and growing. Consider Toyota’s transformation. Ohno Taiichi was not tasked with making better weaving looms, the core business of Toyota, he was tasked with preparing the business for making cars.
The objective of the Toyota Production System was not the product of short term thinking. It was set up to enable the vision of mass car production with limited resources, to allow a weaving loom company to manufacture cars cost effectively. Given that aim, would Ohno Taiichi have been concerned about headcount reduction as he sought process improvement? I can’t see it, I believe he was driven to generate cash and resources for growth by focusing on the customers’ needs, and developing a system of work that involved and engaged all employees in improving the system of work.

So many times I have heard that we have to adopt the TPS and the Toyota Way. Why would you do that if you are not Toyota? The real problem is that we have a consumerist, pick and choose approach to improvement. There are fundamental differences in culture between Japan and the west. It’s not about using this tool or that tool, it’s not even about recruiting the right sort of people. Let’s take a simple example, the attitude to rules. In Japanese society I am told that rules are very important, often more important that principles. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that the Japanese are unprincipled, far from it, this is just about the Japanese attitude to rules. Even if they believe the rule is wrong, they will obey the rule, because they respect authority and the need for order and harmony. Now look at the west, and rules are made for breaking. How could we possibly expect to put in place rules and have them adhered to, no matter what, when our societal attitude is that rules are made for breaking? Principles on the other hand, are adhered to rigidly. So if we agree principles and then try to get someone to act in a way that is not aligned with their principles, they will adhere to the principle, often regardless of the cost.

So how do we compete with companies like Toyota? I don’t believe the answer to is to mimic them, I think the answer is to work out what we want to achieve and the principles we want to operate with along the way. If we treat people as disposable, they will treat the business as disposable. It becomes a marriage of convenience, with commitment until it is no longer fun. Then we move on to the next company. This generates a short term view of employment, success and results that is destructive in the long term. What is the point of a development process that may take 5 years if the people involved at the start will be gone before it delivers? Bear in mind here that Toyota have been developing the Toyota way for 70 years and are still refining their process and thinking. If we implement what Toyota do today without considering how that is supported, initially our organisation won’t be able to cope since the infrastructure and common belief system won’t exist, then we will lose ground on them tomorrow and every day after because improvement won’t be in our ‘business DNA’.

If you want your business to be like Toyota, I believe the first rule is don’t copy them. Copies are often pale imitations of the real thing. They lack authenticity and integrity. Most of all they lack the inherent self belief that what they are doing is right underpinned by a rigorous understanding of why they are doing  it. If you want your business to be like Toyota, first work out what your customers want. Then work out how you can meet that need and make money – what is your business like?. The answer isn’t like Toyota, your business can’t be like Toyota because it isn’t Toyota. Start with understanding what you want to achieve, then move on to the principles of how that will work, then consider if rules are an appropriate way to implement those principles in your society. Don’t demand action from your workforce, first demand that your management understands their role. Then start working through the business processes in a disciplined, scientific way to understand what every part of the business is trying to achieve. Once this is known compare what each department is trying to achieve with what the business objectives are – do they align?

Plan what must be done

Do what has been planned

Check that the activity delivered the expected results

Act on the results, reinforce the practices and activities that yield successful results, change the practices that are not aligned or don’t deliver success.

Then do it again.

Keep doing this until there is nothing that can be improved upon, wither by listening to other thought processes or by applying new knowledge

You see the pattern. If you do this you will develop your own way, tailored to your business and social environment. Then perhaps, if you are very disciplined, one day people will be talking about the {insert your company name here} Way. They may even prefer it to the Toyota Way. Who knows, you might get Toyota coming to learn from you. Toyota had the advantage of learning first hand from Deming, Juran and others. They had the presence of mind to write down much of what they were trying to convey, for which we should be grateful. Their guides are not a buffet of choices, they are hard practical realities, hard to understand and even harder to implement,

I was recently reminded of one of Dr Deming’s favorite quotes:

“American managers are stupid. They think all they have to do is copy from Japan, but they don’t know what to copy”

To be honest I think we can remove American managers and substitute Western managers.

I would add my own favourite Deming quote:

“You don’t have to change. Survival is not compulsory.”

Finding your own way is hard, but it is the only way to get to somewhere new and exciting.

One final point, if you ever do get to the point where you think nothing can be improved, get out there and start talking to people. You have missed something and if you don’t find it and use it your competitors will

Consulting

Lean Management, Lean Manufacturing or Lean Leadership?

Wherever you look in the world of Lean, people are talking about Lean Manufacturing. Lean manufacturing is going to revolutionise your business, even if you don’t manufacture anything, all you must do is apply the tools and you will see improvement. Is it really that simple? Did Toyota just wake up one day and say we will apply these tools and everything will be brilliant, or is there a little more to it?

Anyone who thinks it is just about the tools really hasn’t heard the lean message. You see, Lean is not a set of tools or just about the application of certain techniques, it is an approach to business and way of thinking that is very different to the normal thought processes present in modern business. Given that so many businesses are trying to replicate the work done by Toyota, it is worth taking a few minutes to consider how Toyota apply the concepts that are known as Lean in western manufacturing.

The original work on manufacturing as a process was done by Henry Ford when he moved the product through the production steps instead of moving the process steps to the product, and became the blueprint for automotive manufacturing. At the end of the second world war Ohno Taiichi was tasked by the head of the Toyoda family with changing the manufacturing basis of Toyota from weaving looms to car manufacturing. It was recognised that the existing automotive model of high stock would not work for Toyota, hence Taiichi was tasked with developing a manufacturing process that could deliver the variety of features required without holding massive stock levels. One aspect of this that is often missed is that Ohno Taiichi was tasked with creating a uniquely Japanese model of manufacturing.

This is entirely consistent with the aims of the Meiji restoration, where the Japanese industrial revolution sought to adopt modern thinking, technology and methods that were aligned with Japanese values. In the author’s opinion, this is a vital consideration when trying to understand the Toyota phenomenon. At the end of the second world war, the Japanese had to rebuild their manufacturing base and industrial experts including Deming, Juran and Fiegenbaum went to Japan to help restore their economy, all at the time that Toyota were looking to develop their manufacturing process. This amounts to a powerful opportunity with unprecedented drive for change.

In 2001 Fujio Cho was president of Toyota and he launched ‘The Toyota Way’, which built on the previous work and created a clear structure to explain the concepts and provide a framework for success.

The five core values employed by The Toyota Way are as follows

1. Challenge : to maintain a long term vision and strive to meet all challenges with the courage and creativity needed to realise that vision

2. Kaizen : to strive for continuous improvement. As no process can ever be declared perfect, there is always room for improvement.

3. Genchi Genbutsu : to go to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus and achieve goals

4. Respect : to make every effort to understand others, accepts responsibility and does its best to build mutual trust

5. Teamwork : to share opportunities for development and maximise individual and team performance

Is this lean manufacturing? It doesn’t sound like it to me, it sounds more like a management philosophy than a set of process tools, so perhaps we should be thinking more about management than simply manufacturing. The Toyota Way seeks to deploy the thinking well beyond manufacturing, applying the thinking to the whole organisation.

Taking a moment to consider the implications of these values we find that there are certain elements that must be recognised for Toyota’s success to be replicated.

Toyota are looking at a long-term goal with long-term planning. That doesn’t mean that short term needs are ignored, just that there is a difference between short-term or tactical activities and the long-term strategic changes that must be made. Throughout the organisation there is a recognition that long-term improvements are of higher value than short term benefits.

Similarly, there is a focus on continuous improvement of all processes, however the prioritisation of projects is based on a rational assessment of the business needs. The focus of Kaizen is to recognise the opportunity for improvement at both the tactical and strategic level, embracing new ways of thinking and working to achieve long-term benefit for the business.

going to see the problem at source, to find the facts to enable correct decisions to be made. It has been suggested that lean does not encompass systems thinking, however I believe it is clear from the first three values that systems thinking must be at work to enable the values to blend effectively.

Respect is an interesting topic. To whom should we show respect? It seems that often respect is confused with ill-discipline. I disagree with that view, lean teaches respect for the individual, for the supply chain including both customers and suppliers, governmental bodies, and the communities within which we work and live. If someone’s performance is unacceptable, you show them respect by telling them of the fact, not by ignoring their behaviour.

Teamwork does not mean silo behaviour. Teamwork means all aspects of the organisation collaborating to deliver the customer’s needs. I use the word collaborating deliberately. Co-operation results in each party yielding the minimum it can to gain agreement from another party to enable its needs to be delivered. In co-operation, I win you lose. Collaboration on the other hand requires all parties to be open with their needs and then for the team to work together to deliver as many of those requirements as possible.

Spear and Bowen proposed the 4 rules of the Toyota Production System in their Harvard Business Review Article.

Rule 1 : All work shall be highly specified as to content, sequence, timing, and outcome.

Rule 2 : Every customer-supplier connection must be direct, and there must be an unambiguous yes-or-no way to send requests and receive responses

Rule 3 : The pathway for every product and service must be simple and direct

Rule 4 : Any improvement must be made in accordance with the scientific method under the guidance of a teacher, at the lowest possible level of the organisation.

Now we are starting to see the errors in western implementation. Too often organisations seek to implement so called lean to achieve a reduction in costs and headcount, without a long-term vision of what the organisation wants to achieve.

Organisations then seek to implement lean exactly as the Japanese have done, without recognising the cultural differences, much less addressing them in line with long-term objectives.

The approach is reduced to the application of a series of disconnected tools without a coherent strategy for learning and developing knowledge.

The consequence is a confused piecemeal implementation with no coherent strategy. When this fails, the organisation will often blame the employees who have been diligently trying to implement a series of tools without a recognisable framework or set of common goals. Competition and conflict are commonplace in this environment and everyone strives to deliver disparate objectives and sometimes conflicting requirements all with short-term goals and often under immense pressure to succeed.

There is also intolerance of failure, and no recognition that lean aims to fail better next time rather than to be perfect next time. Implementations are often required in under two years to achieve that which Toyota have taken 50 years to achieve and are still working on.

Six sigma is treated as a different discipline to lean, with its origins in Motorola. It is worth noting Spear and Bowen’s rule 4 above. You cannot implement lean without embracing the scientific method. Scientific method requires data and evidence, to demonstrate improvement there must be clear evidence of a change, to clearly evidence a change one must employ statistical methods to demonstrate a significant change. Why then is there so much animosity between lean and six sigma? They are different approaches to the same objective. Scientific method also requires recognition of the system within which the process operates.

Lean manufacturing then, would seem to be a recipe for disaster, lean management is a vast improvement, however to achieve the most significant benefits from a lean deployment it is necessary to use lean leadership to succeed. Lean leadership also needs to recognise that the culture of both the organisation and the wider society within which it operates is relevant to how lean is developed, implemented and managed. Are you developing a lean implementation which is based on uniquely Japanese cultural values, or are you developing a lean implementation based on the relevant social values for your organisation and location?

In summary, the message for lean leadership seems to be don’t try to copy. Instead, understand the principles upon which Toyota succeeded and adapt them to your social, cultural and business situation. Understand your long-term vision for your organisation, then develop the strategies and make choices that are rigorously aligned with your strategy. Then you have a chance of succeeding if you stay true to your principles and work very hard at adapting the principles to your application.

As Deming has said, you don’t have to change, survival is not compulsory.