In this phase you will build the foundation of your business management system. The focus here is creating the structure upon which you can apply the variety of tools that support Lean operations. The team will emphasize creating flow and eliminating waste. It will also become extremely accustomed to using Standard Work and other forms of standardization to stabilize processes. Finally, we roll out kaizen events during this phase.
While our approach is linear, we do recognize that there is somewhat of a catch-22 situation here. Kaizen events and Standard Work are not as effective without a range of tools to use to improve processes. But the tools are much harder to implement and sustain without kaizen events and Standard Work. We chose this order because we have found that the gains from starting on the structure first are higher than trying to implement tools independently. We’ve also found that a good mentor can teach some of the tools on a just-in-time basis when the situation warrants. Don’t feel like you can’t coach a team to mistake proof a process because poka yokes are introduced in the next phase.
Leaders also see a significant change during this phase. The most notable is that they will start using daily management to run their operations and monthly operations reviews to keep things on track.
Another significant part of this phase is the establishment of a pilot area. This is simply a production area with a highly motivated team that is willing to be the test bed for new systems.
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Detailed Volume Information
The purpose of this phase is to create the core framework upon which to apply other continuous improvement tools.
As mentioned in the previous volume, the starting point of this phase is somewhat flexible. The program leader will decide when the core skills from phase 1 (Starting the Journey) are widespread enough to support the changes in phase 2. The first activity in phase 2 though, should be the creation of a resource team.
Do not proceed to phase 3 until you have completed a few cycles of monthly operations reviews. During this period of time you should be able to complete the final sections of phase 2.
Expect to spend at least 6-12 months in phase 2. This will give you the time to run a handful of kaizen events, create Standard Work for many processes, and complete a few cycles of operations reviews.
Like most of these phases, the time it will take is dependent upon the motivation of your team, the number of mentors available to coach people through the sections, and the size and organization of your company.
The time will also be affected by how much overlap there is between what you currently do and what this business management system calls for. If you are already doing effective monthly staff meetings, you may just be tweaking the process for operations reviews. If you already have solid documentation of your processes, and those processes are followed by employees, implementing Standard Work will take little effort.
Focus on Processes: Everything a company does can be boiled down to a process. Even highly flexible, creative jobs are processes. When a process is followed the same way every time by every person doing it, it provides a basis for improvement. If the job is done haphazardly, things will never get better.
Learn to Learn: Most people take a passive approach to learning. They just absorb lessons rather than try to dive into problems and take wisdom away from failure. To be successful at building a continuous improvement culture, you have to take a different approach to learning. An organization will not get better unless it learns from its collective mistakes. This implies both individual learning and organizational sharing of knowledge. To complicate the matter, people have three common failure modes in their learning. The first is that they don’t recognize their gap in knowledge. Basically this means they don’t know what they don’t know. The second problem is that they don’t acknowledge the gap. If they don’t know something, they tolerate that lack of understanding. And the final problem is that they don’t know how to go about closing the gaps that they do recognize and care about. That just means they don’t know how to learn effectively.
Build and Empower Teams: One of the knocks against Lean and continuous improvement is that it treats people like robots. This is true only when it is poorly executed. Standard Work and other forms of standardization do require people to do work the same way every time. The problem is that many leaders force standardization but go no further. In an organization with a good culture of improvement, teams are not only allowed but are encouraged and even required to improve their processes. In addition, great teams are given the skills and authority to make decisions in the absence of leadership.
Create Structure: An effective business management system built upon a continuous improvement culture demands a great deal of structure. While conventional wisdom says rigidity in processes stifles creativity, the truth is that when the structure is well designed it does the opposite. The framework makes managing day-to-day operations easier. It also provides a robust support system for handling problems. The end result is that individuals are able to accomplish more with less effort. This kind of structure does not happen by accident though. It takes a substantial investment to build it, and it must be maintained to keep it from crumbling.
Embrace Simplicity: Mark Twain famously said something to the effect of, “If I had more time I would’ve written a shorter story.” There’s a paradox that it can be harder to build a simple solution than a complicated one. That’s because we have been conditioned to look to advanced technology as the go-to solution, and we marvel at the number of buttons on a machine as a badge of honor. The truth is that simple is hard. It can be a challenge to rein in our urge to make bigger, more sophisticated solutions when a simple one will suffice. In the end, though, simple is easier to use mistake-free, and it breaks down less often than complexity. A rule of thumb is to look for the simplest solution you can find to a problem, then make it simpler.
In this phase, the risk returns to a high level. This is because there are tangible changes that are taking place. Employees are asked to alter the way they do their jobs. And managers are being asked to lead in a different manner. Without a strong commitment by top level leadership, it is easy to get off track.
The biggest risk is lack of initiative. There will undoubtedly be problems as you try to implement so many new things in such a short period of time. If the team is approaching the change halfheartedly everything gets dragged out and might even be forgotten. If this happens too often, the program can wither on the vine.
Conduct monthly PD/Ops Reviews.
Require countermeasures for “misses”.
Require daily management in all production areas.
Require Value Stream Maps for all production areas.