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The Lean Blog by Velaction

This Lean blog is dedicated to providing useful Lean information that both changes the way you think about continuous improvement, and gives you tools to act on those changes. It is the only blog backed by The Continuous Improvement Companion, our extensive Lean reference guide.

Confidence is a key principle for world-class companies. They don’t concede victory to other dominant players in the market. Granted, there is a fine line between confidence and overconfidence, but in world-class companies, the line between the two is often much further off in the distance than it would be for a company that doesn’t have the same history of sustained high performance. World-class companies take on challenges knowing that their systems will get them there, even if they don’t know the path yet.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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If you don’t track how things are going, getting better is harder than it should be. Can you improve if you don’t track things? Sometimes. The problem, though, is that problems are often subtle and sap resources without you even knowing it. Others are noticeable, but are hard to compare with each other for prioritization purposes. And still others are obviously problems, but are hard to pinpoint the exact nature and magnitude of the problem. There’s an old adage, “What gets measured, gets done.” A strong business system relies heavily on measurement to drive the improvement process.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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You may have gotten to Phase 6 on the backs of strong leaders and a handful of motivated individuals. But your company will not thrive once you arrive here unless you get everyone bought in. The ‘full’ in this principle actually has two meanings.

The first is that you need everyone to be engaged. Every person who is resistant is like an obstacle that disrupts your culture. The ‘full’ also means the level of engagement of each of those individuals. Being OK with the change is not enough. They need to embrace the culture and be able to act in the absence of specific guidance.

This is a unique principle in that it is both the cause and the result of success. The more engaged a team is, the more likely the team is to be successful. The more successful a team is, the more likely they are to be engaged. Note that this reinforcement cycle also works in reverse.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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The more you think in terms of systems, the more effective your company will be. Don’t just focus on drawing up Standard Work. Look at the entire work management system. Knowing how you will train people, and even hire people, can drive the way you document and structure your work.

Thinking in small chunks can make processes extremely efficient…locally. But sometimes local efficiencies hurt the big picture. And even once you start thinking in terms of systems, your work is not done. You have to continually improve those systems.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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There is an old story about a company that sourced a component from a Lean oriented supplier in Japan, and insisted that the vendor met a 2% failure rate target. The Japanese company balked and resisted that rate, but the purchaser insisted. Finally the Lean company relented and agreed to the 2% target. When the first order of 100 components arrived, there were 98 in the box, and 2 separated with a note saying, “Here are the two bad components you wanted. We still don’t understand why you need them.”

The point of the story is that one company lived by a zero defects mentality and the other followed the traditional path of assuming that there would always be some failure rate. Now, in truth, no process is perfect. But the pursuit of perfection gets you a lot closer to zero defects than accepting that a portion of your work will always be shoddy.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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There is a common misconception that inspections are an indicator of a good quality program. The truth is that inspections mean complacency. They require that you understand the failure modes and know what to look for.

That means you have known problems that you are accepting. A better way is to go after each item you inspect for and find a way to keep the error from happening at the source.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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Most people go to work to do their job. When a company becomes focused on continuous improvement, that is no longer enough.

The true turning point of a company on its Lean journey is when employees begin to take personal responsibility for making their own work better. Obviously this means that managers need to let go of the feeling that they are the ones that dictate how work is done.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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One of the barriers to both creating flow and providing value is that companies are not organized to do either effectively. They tend to have their management system set up in functional silos. To deliver something to the customer it must cross several managerial boundaries. Each manager has his or her own budget and agenda.

Instead, companies should map their value streams so they can better understand how to get products to customers in the best way. They should also organize their management system by value stream so leaders can think globally instead of functionally.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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Taiichi Ohno, the father of modern Lean is credited with saying something to the effect of “without standards there can be no improvement.” While the translation may not be exact, the gist of it is what is important.

The first problem is that if there is no standard, it is impossible to recognize when an abnormal condition presents itself. The second issue is that if you do recognize that something is wrong, how do you make a change to something that is always changing? Standards provide the foundation so you are not chasing a moving target when making improvements.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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Flow is a central concept in Lean operations. It is basically the premise that work should never sit. With this as a target, several things happen. The first is that lot sizes are reduced. Work doesn’t flow if it has to wait for a production run to be completed.

Flow also drives waste reduction. The things that prevent flow all tend to be wasteful and costly. Excessive distances between processes, waiting time, poor parts quality, and the like are all reasons why batching is commonplace. The only way to achieve flow is to relentlessly remove that waste.

In addition to the obvious cost benefits, operations that flow move much more quickly. The lead time from when a customer orders a product until they have it in their hands is much shorter in a production process that focuses on flow.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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Most people base the way they think on fight or flight. In the early days of cavemen, people had only those two basic reactions to a problem. How they chose to respond to an event was based primarily on its similarity to something they had seen before. In their situation, it made sense to do this because many situations were a matter of life and death.

In the modern world, though, people are seldom strapped for time in the same manner. Yet they often use the same basic mechanics for coming up with a solution. They make quick assessments based on what they had seen before and choose from one of the first responses that come to mind. As your organization evolves on its continuous improvement path, those quick responses are no longer good enough. The bar will have been raised so high that most simple problems will have been eliminated. The problems your organization faces will be more significant and more complicated. Teams will need a structured process to solve them.

That will require a substantial understanding of the problem, complete with a clear problem definition and significant data collection. The PDCA cycle, DMAIC, and 8D are all structured ways of thinking. In addition to helping teams come up with better solutions, these processes make it easier to communicate what was done.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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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, simplicity 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.

ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT TRANSFORMATION PRINCIPLES

CI Transformation Principles are the guiding rules that apply to all companies that are trying to make changes. They are similar to natural laws. Learn more about how principles guide your Lean journey in our entry on ‘Principles and Values.’

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About the Gotta Go Lean Blog

The Gotta Go Lean Blog focuses on Lean at the front line. We help managers and employees work together to make Lean more productive for the company, and jobs more satisfying for workers.

To help you make your continuous improvement efforts more effective, our Lean blog offers a variety of different types of articles. You may see traditional articles, Lean terminology, videos, and podcasts.

We like to think the Gotta Go Lean Blog is unique in its style and content, but we also stand apart from other Lean blogs in one major way. We link our content to The Continuous Improvement Companion,our award-winning online reference guide, so you are never without detailed information about the topics we talk about.

So read a few of our articles to make sure you like our style (you can find previous articles here), and then sign up at the top of this page to get the Gotta Go Lean Blog delivered right to your inbox.

Finally, we want the Gotta Go Lean Blog to be a community for like-minded Lean thinkers. We'd love to hear from you in the comments section of our blog posts.

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