Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why we often overlook standard work

In all of my lean journeys or implementations the use of standard work is often down played or overlooked. This relatively easy concept is very critical to ensure on-going success, quality processes, and continual improvement.  Standard work contains four elements- Content, sequence, timing and outcome.  It should define what steps are taken, when they are taken, how long each step will take and the expected outcome from these steps.  Adding pictures is very effective when creating standard work.  While the manufacturing floor is often the easiest to document, the largest gains are made in the office setting.  These documents help remove the tribal knowledge that gets built up over time and create and manage pull process in the office.  Some nontraditional examples include pilots’ checklist, providing quotes to customers, requesting quotes from supplier, and order entry forms/drop downs.
There are several reasons on why this would be passed over or not documented.
The first reason is typically lack of time.  It’s our wiring that wants us to move onto the larger issues and work on the next task rather than completing those that can be seen as non-critical.  During an improvement event it is critical to take the added time and fully document the processes that will make up the business’ standard work. This will ensure that months down the road future state plans are still being followed.
The second reason for skipping standard work is lack of understanding. I’ve seen several situations that only a couple people will be following the new process so the step gets skipped altogether. Again, while the day to day users don’t need the standard work document it’s a good reference for auditing later and/or training purposes. This document acts as a basis for all future improvements.  Once it’s time to come back and revisit the process you’ll already have a good jumping off point to start future improvements.
The final reason that we skip standard work is fear.  This is most common in an office setting.  Some employees fear that if they share the exact details that they’ll be either given more work or are replaceable.  As you tackle your lean journey, you’ll want to ensure that people’s fears are removed.  The goal should be to free up time with the use of standard work to have them working on different things that bring more value to the customer.

The use of standard work will only benefit your business.  While it may feel like a daunting task, just start with one area or process each week and document the process.  Over time, your database will begin to grow and you’ll have a solid foundation for driving improvements as the business grows.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

5 easy steps to help your purchasing department and conserve cash.

Whether you are a new start-up or an established business in need of a more efficient purchasing system the right tools implemented correctly can have a huge impact on operations and your bottom line. A well-structured process provides the business confidence in their purchasing while eliminating potential waste. This process provides a way to conserve cash and make good decisions on where savings can be made while supporting the performance and sustainability of the business.
Let’s get started:
1.    Collect Data- This may seem simple enough but learning to pull tribal knowledge from people that may be hesitant to share can make this quite difficult. You may also run into poor record keeping, determining the what, where from and when will be a huge asset if successful. You’ll want to collect as much raw data as possible, what was purchased, who from, the quantity, the frequency and the price paid. Some valuable additional information that often is overlooked is price breaks available, terms of sale, and the logistics or shipping information. In short, you will want to obtain any and all purchasing data
2.    Build a database- Now that you have sufficient data you’ll want to create a repository for it.  In the lean world this is called a Plan for Every Part (PFEP).   The PFEP is exactly that, a plan for every part.  It provides granular details on all items at all levels.  We are currently focusing on the purchased component level.  This database should be your bible for your procurement organization or individual.
3.    Validate/Ensure accuracy- With the data collected and stored in a logical format, the next step will be to validate for accuracy.  You likely will not have time to go through this to ensure all records are accurate so just start to take little bites at a time.  This step includes reviewing receipts, copies of invoices, or calling the supplier to confirm the data.  You should start with the larger dollar and high frequency/quantity purchases as they will have the most impact and provide the biggest opportunity for savings.
4.    Communicate- You’ve built a great tool and for it to be success it must be utilized by the organization as a whole.  It’s critical that everyone understands the concept, why it’s being done and the goal of the tool.  It should also be kept easily accessible, the goal is to have this readily avail to all members of the team.  By doing so, you can avoid creating another tribal knowledge situation.
5.    Analyze- This database is a great start for purchasing decisions.  It will provide a great insight of where your cash is going, how long it will be tied up, and your potential partners you’d want to create as the business develops or continues.

These are the 5 basic steps to creating a standard for your procurement team.  Executed efficiently, it will prevent rogue purchasing events from happening and give a baseline to compare how your spending is trending.  Cash conservation is good for any company at any stage of their business.  This tool will provide an easy to follow, logical, and analytical device to provide savings.   Contact Taktion Consulting to obtain a free copy of the PFEP tool. (

Is a Blind Leader better at driving engagement?

Are you familiar with Lean and the 7 Wastes? Have you learned to see these in action? The notion is simple really, eliminate waste and watch efficiency and profit margins rise, but what does it mean to see? With proven success, Toyota’s mapping methodology was translated by Mike Rother and John Shook in Learning to See, published in 1999. Learning to See visualized stream mapping and created a guide that could translate across industries based on the concept that seeing is key to success. What if there is still more to learn? From the standpoint of employee productivity, I would challenge you to think about if you are still learning to see. 
Daniel Kish has been called the real life Batman. Daniel is a blind man who learned to see through echolocation and is now able to function in ways never before imagined for the blind. His skills have surpassed all previous heights and he is able perform day to day activities that we would typically think of as requiring assistance independently, even riding a bike. Daniel’s story was recently told on NPR’s podcast, Invsibilia.  Daniel’s attributes his success to expectations. He believes essentially, that the low expectations of what blind people can or should do hold them back from doing things that we all take for granted.
After hearing his story, I asked myself about the expectations that we place upon our employees.  Employees are the most critical and valuable assets in our business. Are we seeing our assets through to their full potential? Do we create environments where the expectations for our valuable employees are to continually improve the business on a daily level or do we just ask them to meet the hourly requirements with the occasional request to assist with a special project in an often unconscious hope that they exceed expectations?  This is called the Pygmalion effect and our thoughts and expectations are essentially communicated through our nonverbal interactions. In the Pygmalion effect, the nonverbal communications of these expectations result in higher performance. With these high expectation employees, our nonverbal interactions vary subtly from those we do not hold to the same standards, the slight variations though often un-noticed hold power.

If we could somehow harness the power we hold when communicating with high expectation individuals we could bring drastic positive change to our business.  In practice, we don’t verbalize our lower standards to individuals and we have little control over our nonverbal interactions so how can we develop our communications to see the new expectations for all? How do we learn to see the full potential of the assets that are our employees?