At this time of year, we all tend to reflect on the year that was and also start thinking about the year ahead. As you consider 2019, what you would like to achieve and the changes you would like to make, please realise that you have the power to determine and control the outcomes and results for the year.
Our theme for the first quarter 2019 is Continuous Improvement:- Continuous Improvement in your personal and professional development as an individual and Continuous Improvement in your leadership skills and workplace results.
Individual Continuous Improvement for Success in 2019
Consider this definition of success.
“Success is the progressive realisation of predetermined, worthwhile, personal goals” – Paul J Meyer
Most of our readers will have seen and heard this definition before. In 2019, set new, challenging and worthwhile goals in all six areas of life using the Total Person Concept you were introduced to in your LMA program. Break these goals down into action steps with realistic deadlines. Make these goals “SMART Goals”.
Commit to living a life of personal and professional goals accomplishment and Continuous Improvement. Accept that you have the untapped potential to develop your current skills, abilities and qualities, as well as developing new and exciting ones. This is only natural as we are all hard wired to strive for improvement in what we do.
While the tools and practices of Continuous Improvement are often seen as ways to improve business systems and performance, they also apply to our own personal development and growth. Embrace the concept of becoming a better you in all areas of life in 2019.
Workplace Continuous Improvement for Success in 2019
Much has been written in recent years about the concept and practice of Continuous Improvement in the workplace. The pursuit of never ending increases in productivity, quality and profit underpins most strategic as well as operational plans. In fact, Continuous Improvement is often presented as a methodology or set of systems that successful organisations embrace to ensure that they survive and prosper in a competitive and ever-changing market.
But Continuous Improvement is more than a system or a process applied to an organisation, department or a work team. It is a state of mind, a set of values and a commitment to never accepting the notion that “things can’t be done better”. Continuous Improvement begins with the idea that there might be a better way. It involves people, processes and persistence to provide an ongoing means of remaining competitive and successful. It relies upon effective teamwork, willing management and vigilance from the people at all levels of an organisation. Importantly, it works on the premise that improvement will come from anywhere and anyone within the team, department or organisation, not just from the top down.
In 2019 you and your team can build a framework for continuous improvement within your area of responsibility. This is the choice that you, as the leader, can make.
Encourage your team to look for new and better ways to do things – to accept an “Above the Line” attitude for their actions in your workplace. Promote innovation and change. Motivate individuals to risk, learn and grow their professional competencies. In short, accept the challenge in 2019 to engage them in the positive group dynamics that evolves when everyone is focused on, and seeking, Continuous Improvement.
During the next quarter we hope the ideas and content we provide will be of significant value to you as you make 2019 your best year ever.
No matter how hard we tell ourselves that good things come to those who wait, our instinctive need to see big things happen fast is a part of our human nature. While many of us make a commitment to change in theory, in practice it can be much more complicated than simply setting a goal and working to achieve it.
Fortunately, by following the concept of Kaizen (1% improvement) every day, it will enable you to get off the roller coaster ride of feeling like a failure and being angry with yourself because you have given up on achieving your big goals. Instead, the 1% improvement philosophy will reward your efforts towards daily achievement, not momentous change in short bursts.
Despite the immense positive aspects of the incremental improvement model, it is still worth constructing a system around your new commitment to ensure yourself the highest probability of success.
For example, if one of your goals is to eat healthier, this is not something that can be achieved by doing it once or twice off. To achieve a better diet is a day-to-day commitment to yourself and your health made through the conscious choices you make with your food with each meal.
To put the concept of continuous improvement into action, the first thing you need to do is not focus on how much weight you wish to lose, rather focus on creating a system or process that enables you to cut back on the more negative food groups you gravitate to and replace the with positive options instead. This may by through a journal, a calendar or an app, just as long as it is a system that works for you and keeps you self-aware of the day-to-day commitment you have made and the progress you are making.
Once you have created the system that works, you can then break down your system into small actions or behaviours that will allow you to progress with the least amount of resistance and effort. Commit to these actions on a daily basis until your original system is habit. For example, commit to changing junk items from your shopping list to positive alternatives for each week and then increase the number of items each week after that.
Along with setting clear, incrementally focused goals, the other important factor about incremental achievement is that you must be able to evaluate your 1% successes. We will look into some of the ways you can measure your progress in our next blog .
5S is an organisation method with a clear goal: to create a clean and efficient working environment.
When properly implemented, the 5S Method helps identify how a workspace should be organised to improve efficiency and effectiveness by identifying what is needed at each step of a process and ensuring it is immediately available.
Sort: Separating of the essential from the nonessential items – is each item of use?
Straighten: Organising the essential materials – is every useful items where it should be?
Shine: Cleaning the work area – is everything clean and stored properly?
Standardise: Establishing a system – does everyone know the 5S Method in your workplace?
Sustain: Establishing a safe and sanitary work environment – are team members reminded about 5S on a regular basis in an engaging way?
There are many benefits to implementing the 5S Methods into your work area or office. The 5S steps are particularly useful when your overall goal is to reduce many forms of waste in any process or workstation:
Optimised organisation – By sorting and straightening the workplace, team members will spend less time looking for items, determining how to use them and returning them to the correct station. If all employees have heightened awareness of the 5S system, each individual will be working in a way that makes achieving workplace goals easier.
Efficiency – The 5S system compells organisations to improve efforts aimed to eliminate waste through improving products and services, and thus lowering costs.
Larger storage capacity – Standard 5S implementation results in the reduction of unnecessary items from production facilities, freeing up space that can be used more effectively.
Heightened safety – A focus on cleaning well-used areas and standardising practices ensures heavily trafficked areas are safer and general worker understanding of consequences of their actions are understood.
Morale is increased – Making it routine to implement proper procedures and discipline to avoid backsliding is one of the main objectives of the system. This practice improves the chances of avoiding dark, dirty, disorganized workplaces, which can foster lower morale among employees.
By encouraging your team to respect their workspace and watch for problems, positive change affects the performance of your people and your organisation’s culture. When implemented as part of a larger Lean initiative, the 5S Principles method can reduce waste, improve quality, promote safety and drive continuous improvement.
As a highly efficient lean manager in a waste conscious lean business, you will be aware of the most common forms of Waste. Once you have identified the sources of Waste, and how much it is costing your business, you should now turn your attention to the most cost-effective way to reduce different types of Waste disrupting your team and your cash flow.
After applying the DOWNTIME (Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Not Utilising Employees, Transport, Inventory, Motion, Excessive Processing) method of identifying Waste sources in your business, it’s time to come up with solutions to combat these costly issues in your business.
Defects in product can cause costly problems for any business. It can lead to valuable material been thrown out or reworked. One solution to combat defects would be to offer concession pricing to a customer made aware of slight defects or fire-sale pricing so that defective material can still be sold. An even better solution would be to utilise the 5 Whys to get to the bottom of quality control issues that may be amended to control unreliable processing that causes defects in the first place.
Overproduction usually occurs from making something too soon, too much of, or faster than is needed. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? In reality, it can become a huge problem because it hides other elements of waste, such as undetected defects in runs of inventory and product damage. One way to clearly identify where overproduction happens and how to combat it is to utilise the Kansan system to enable the pull of production through your processes.
Reducing waiting times may be one of the easier Waste issues to tackle, but it still involves planning and execution of processes to create the right environment for improvement. One easy way to reduce waiting times is to put in place clearer communication processes so changeovers between teams and workstations are minimised.
Not Utilising Employees
One of the most wasteful actions an organisation can undertake unwittingly is to box people into a specific role with particular tasks, effectively limiting how and where they are able to contribute. Instead of limiting your people, let them explore talents that aren’t specifically a part of their job description. Sometimes a solution to a problem or a more efficient way to complete a task can be found by asking the right person with the right set of skills.
Transport waste is any form of movement that adds no value to the product. Often resource heavy and time wasting, unintended transport waste can be costly and inefficient. To reduce the amount of transport time and resources needed, consider the current layout of your team’s workspaces. Could they be changed as per the principles of lean manufacturing? If yes, then actively create value streams and make that value flow at the pull of the customer. This will requires you to think more carefully about production lines and cells, ensuring that they contain all of the value adding processes rather than a functional layout.
Inventory waste is normally unnecessary stock that has accumulated in excess of the requirements to produce goods in time to supply demand. Think of every piece of excess stock as cash that isn’t in your pocket – the cost can quickly add up. Related to combating overproduction, dealing with inventory waste requires an attitude of making the business flow around the idea of Just in Time (JIT) production. Checking in with your Kanban system will allow you to see how fast stock is required, and where resources can be better utilised to help reduce wait times between product creation and shipping.
Excessive motion in your processes can give rise to a number of problems including lowered efficiency of your team and potential early breakdown of your machinery. To tackle motion waste, direct your team to utilise the 5S method of identifying each step in their operation to complete a task and pinpoint ways their methods of working could be improved.
Overprocessing occurs when work is added to a task but does not improve the overall value or customer experience of a product. The tendency to overprocess usually comes from a workplace having unclear standards, resulting in many workers doing more than they need to do to get the job done well. One easy way to combat overprocessing is to implement the use of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in the form of written instructions and guidelines. If your team knows exactly what they are doing with each task, they won’t overreach on each individual task and will be able to accomplish more.
With any or waste solution you implement, it is a good idea to focus initially on quick wins – things you can do immediately that will reduce waste almost instantly. You might also want to consider quick fixes such as putting in place a temporary solution to a problem to give you time to design a more permanent answer. The main focus should always be on dealing with those problems which are most costly to your business because they will have the biggest impact on your profits.
Originally a tool utilised by the car manufacturer Toyota, the 5 Whys system of questioning is now a popular practice in the world of lean development.
At its core, 5 Whys is an interactive thinking tool for identifying the root causes of problems. By using the 5 Whys, teams practicing continuous improvement are able to move beyond blaming one another for problems occurring and think beyond the specific context of a problem. Instead, the 5 Whys helps to identify a sustainable, coherent solution to resolve the issue.
In practice the 5 Whys is very simple, but can be more complicated in practice. Start with a problem statement, and then ask “why” until the root cause is revealed and the answers become absurd. Start by bringing your team together after an issue has arisen that needs an answer. Be prepared for intentional and unintentional bias in the answers you discuss here. Make sure the room doesn’t try to shy away from an uncomfortable truth, or try to reach an easy consensus. If there isn’t one definable problem, you’ll need to dig a little deeper to agree on which issue to focus on. This process in itself can be quite revealing regarding the mechanics and thinking patterns of your team. Once you have agreed on a single problem to focus on, continue along a line of questioning similar to the below:
Problem: The Sales Team isn’t meeting its monthly targets
Question 1: “Why is the Sales Team struggling to meet its targets?”
Answer 1: “There aren’t enough people following up leads.”
Question 2: “Why aren’t there enough people following up leads?”
Answer 2: “Because some of the Sales Team are also working on logistic issues in Operations.”
You get the idea – keep drilling down to new problem statements until you’ve asked “why” five or more times. Most of the time, large issues have many factors contributing to them. The last response in a long time of questioning get a little absurd, but it is worth pulling out answers from the team at each “why” point to highlight the complexity of the problem at hand.
At the end of this 5 Whys exercise, your team should have a good understanding of the problem and the factors contributing to it. As a team, discuss the resulting problem statements from each question. Odds are, you would have traced a path from the symptom of a much larger problem you need to address as a team.
It’s important to reemphasise that the purpose of the 5 Whys line of questioning isn’t to place blame. Rather, it is to reveal the root cause of why something unexpected or unpleasant has occurred while also uncovering small, incremental steps to ensure the issue doesn’t happen again.
Next blog we’ll be investigating another powerful lean leadership tool, Gemba walks .