Friday, December 28, 2012


One area that people keep debating is why 5S does not sustain. There are various responses out there ranging from management not caring to too much culture change. I think the answer is simple. We are still treating it as a philosophy and not as a tool to see and solve problems. After all, problems are what keep us from satisfying the customer, from doing our job without interference.

It also takes the entire organization working as a team. It is not about management supporting 5S, supervisors meeting targets of 5S, and it is not about line workers doing the tasks of 5S. It takes everyone to understand it is about continual improvement and the elimination of waste. It takes everyone to see waste and to problem solve to remove it. Everyone has the responsibility. Few actually practice it. Why? Is it because of company or department politics, the hierarchical structure, or pressure to produce and not concentrate on quality? No. It is because they do not understand the purpose of 5S.

Like the other TPS tools developed to solve Toyota’s problems, which can cross over to solving our problems, the premise is visualizing and systematically eliminating waste. The 5S tool serves just that purpose. Yes it is nice to have things sorted, straightened, shined, standardized,and sustained. However for what purpose? I do not believe anyone knows how to answer that. Using a hand tool as an example:

  • If it is sorted you will have the most often used tools closer to you, eliminating the waste of motion.
  • If it is set in straightened out the tools are easy to find and to put away, which eliminates the waste of delay.
  • If it is shined the tool is more likely to be functional and any abnormality can be seen, which eliminates delay, motion,and perhaps rework.
  • If it is standardized the above is repeated by everyone, eliminating the waste of perhaps defects,over-processing, and all the others.
  • If it is sustained, everyone is on board.

So what? We do it, but why? Where is my reward?

We make a big deal about management and cultural conditions that support 5S. We allocate time, teach, advertise, audit for awareness. We recognize achievers. With all this we still cannot sustain a simple thing as 5S. We know where to punch in on the clock and we do it on time. We know where the cafeteria is when it is lunch time and we use the cafeteria. We know how to perform our work task which we are being paid for and we do it. So why is 5S so difficult?

There are cause and effects to everything we do. Some positive and some negative. When it is positive we repeat it next time. When it is negative we learn, we problem solve, we implement solutions so that it will not happen again. We make it positive again. This is within our nature, our inherent need to improve. To fit 5S into our daily routine without being a culture shock, we need to understand how it applies to the process, to quality, to ease our work load from working around problems . . . waste.

I look at and teach 5S differently. Sure, I still use the typical training and implementation that most everyone seems to follow. However I start with the reason of Why Do We Do It?

  • If it is sorted you are most likely to use the correct tool for the job, reducing if not eliminating the chance of creating a defect or defective product.
  • If it is set in order, and you see it out of order as you go through your tasks. You can ask Why did I do that, or Why did the tool get placed over there. This indicates there is a problem in the process, and you need to fix the problem so it is not repeated. 
  • If it is shined you will know when it is broken and need of repair. Things typically do not break all of a sudden. There are leading indicators that should send signals to someone that it is in need of repair before loss of use. Cracks, leaks,excess noise, excess abrasion, all can be leading indicators and can be found if we keep it shined. 
  • If it is standardized, you can train personnel, and be able to rotate to a different job when needed. 
  • If it is sustained, you know you can begin work after the last shift as soon as the bell rings, and less likely to make a mistake because of it. 

I worked for a company that did not audit 5S, management was not closely involved, yet 5S sustained. What was in it for the employees? The reason I saw was the employees understood how it made their life easier. They recognized that if they practiced 5S now, along with other quality initiatives, they get the work done and get to go home on time, while satisfying their customer. They are also more willing to come to work the next day knowing the other shifts do the same, hence they are looking forward to another good day. There is self satisfaction.

Is this the sole answer? No. There are many possibilities. However, if we stay on the track that management needs to get behind it, it is difficult for culture to change, that you need to assign responsibility and audit, yet there is still no change in your 5S, perhaps you have got it wrong. This is one definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. Do you wash and wax your car just for fun? Do you get dressed up and to go out to meet people just for fun (well maybe so)? What is the motivation? What is the purpose? What are we to get out of it? If you satisfy that need, the work of 5S becomes much easier.

To put it another way, the current methods of implementing 5S seems to speak to the person at the end of the line saying, “we have no clue how it affects your paycheck, but trust us anyway and just do it”. People at the end of the line keep hearing that in different fashions from management, and basically are fed up with it. Treat them the way they want to be treated, as stakeholders.

Lastly, if we cannot explain 5S as a means to eliminate waste, would 5S then not be a waste in itself?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Do not get bogged down on A3 and VSM . . .

A3 Thinking, and I am contemplating including VSM, is the Toyota story board for documenting problem solving. And I do want to stress documenting. The real context of the A3 and VSM is to Gemba, to involve the stakeholders, so a satisfactory ending to the story can be accepted and supported by all.

When you do not understand something you spend time trying to understand. However, when forms are used some people seem to get bogged down on the mechanics of using the form rather than the intent of problem solving (including myself). Probably because at the end of the day you want to document your findings in a format others can understand, sometimes thinking this is the only important thing. However, for A3 and VSM you need to keep reminding yourself you are uncovering and telling / painting a story for others to follow. It does not matter if you change technique between stories, as long as the individual story is understood by all. 

And I will now add, it is not about paper size when we are talking about A3 thinking. However, I do agree a 1-page document does force you to be concise. And it just so happened that A3 paper, close in size to the 11x17", was the size that was practical for electronic transmittal at the time Toyota started all of this.

A3 and VSM requires you to be a sleuth, investigator, probing and asking why, getting others involved to provide bits of information. These bits by themselves do not mean anything, however when put together they tell the true story of what happens(ed). Knowing the details addresses true root cause. Not knowing the details is jumping to conclusions. What is needed is a learning experience for all through involvement at some level. This gained tribal knowledge then keeps the continual improvement wheel turning.

Do not expect to get an A3 or VSM right the first time. It should and will take several rewrites. Though I have not produced many A3's, I can speak of my process development experience where I had up to 23 revisions in my process project for one flow chart. I do not expect an A3 or VSM to be revised or rewritten so many times, however I am open to the opportunity. 

Ownership is very clear in an A3. The person working the A3 is the responsible party, no matter what their rank is within the company. This holds the responsibility with a single source, rather than leaving it unclear or a result of groupthink. The owner follows and learns the PDSA cycle (Deming Cycle or PDCA if you still prefer). The owner learns the true value of A3 and VSM; Gemba – the real place, or Genchi Genbutsu – Go see the problem. This is the belief that practical experience is valued over theoretical knowledge. You must see the problem to know the problem.

A3 and VSM are about the research and uncovering all that can be uncovered, and to develop a reasonable countermeasure to improve the situation1. It is not about the format and fitting information into pigeon holes. As with anything involving change, this will be a struggle. The goal should be to use constant effort to embrace change, making it easier to do A3’s as you move forward.

As I had been VSM trained, and now realize it was with intent, I am not going to go through how to use the forms. You need to go beyond the forms first, learn for yourself, become a different person for yourself. You need to do the hard work of Gemba, Genchi Genbutsu. It will become a form of enlightenment, freeing you of the burdensome day-to-day status quo culture and toward kaizen.

Do not get bogged down in the mechanics of A3 and VSM forms. Explore, become a sleuth, involve stakeholders and keep them informed of your progress. Compile the true story from short stories of others. Make sure the end of the story has a positive outcome toward kaizen. And I will state here, keep the customer in mind.

For the best information on A3 thinking read the book "Managing to Learn".

1. John Shook, Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process (Cambridge, MA: The Lean Institute, 2008), 2.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Standardized Work . . . What is it?

In the Lean world many are confused on what Standardized Work is and what it can do for you.  Do realize this came from Toyota.  The definition I use from Toyota is:  Work that is organized around human motion that creates an efficient production sequence without Muda.  (Click here for Toyota’s exact definition.)   It is made up of three elements:  Takt-time, work sequence, and standard in-process stock.  The definition is simple, yet many complicate it.  Also note my training from TSSC (Toyota Production System Support Center) and their Toyota representatives, specifically went out of their way to state “standardized work” and not to say “standard work”.

Standardized work is not a guarantee you will produce quality.  What you are doing is base lining the process for problem solving, and improving your chance to repeat the process.  Variation is always present.  Your aim is to understand and minimize the variation in the widest process window possible that produces something acceptable to the customer.  Standardized work is a repeatable process that assists in controlling variation in the process.  Standardized work helps in identifying waste.

I have watched some of Deming’s lectures on DVD.  I have a few more to complete.  One thing I keep walking away with is Deming mocking Standardized Work and Work Standards as providing quality.  This is because “true values do not exist”.  If it happens, it is random.  It is not repeatable.  Deming also has stated “uncontrolled variation produces low quality”.  Standardized Work does help control some of the variation.

“Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen.” – Taiichi Ohno

Standardized work is the base line, the bench mark, for continual improvement, and I will add I use the concept in problem solving.  In problem solving we need to know the base line condition in order to determine if we have a problem or not, and whether we are “improving to” or “improving from”. 

The definition of a problem I like to use is: The difference between what is and what should be.  There is way to look at a problem too.  Are you correcting something or improving something (the “to” or “from”).  And yet there is also a way to look at the problems potential.  Is it sporadic or chronic?  Each of them shares similar if not the same problem solving techniques.

Generally we look at problem solving as “what went wrong”.  Sometimes we may need to ask “what needs to go right”, is standardized work still in place?  In either case, we need a bench mark to compare, to do a gap analysis from “what it is” to “what it should be”, or “current state” to “future state”, or “where I am now” to “where I want to be”.

Standardized work does involve some forms, time studies, calculations, charting, however you go to the extent necessary to visualize waste.  At the initial start of standardized work I recommend you start at the high level activity within the cycle of work.  There will be plenty to keep you busy, developing the work sheets and training personnel on how to standardize their work sequence, and then for the personnel to question “why did I do that out of sequence” in order to identify problems.  As you improve the process, you can then drill down into more detail, uncovering more waste in the process.  I would like to highlight that the forms are important, however I am not mentioning them here because more important is the philosophy of a repeatable process, one that you can see waste as it happens, and to kaizen out that waste.

So what is it? – Work that is organized around human motion that creates an efficient production sequence without Muda.  It is that simple.  Oh, and also add it is a good baseline for problem solving.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Be a novice and report mistakes . . .

Reporting mistakes or near misses are an important topic to me, yet it is the least discussed in the business world. Why is there not a cultural environment allowing reporting of mistakes or near misses? What brought this to mind was an article on poka-yokes titled, “It’s Not Rocket Science” by the Old Lean Dude of GBMP (Bruce). This was also brought out in the book, “The Nun and the Bureaucrat” by Louis M. Savary and Clare Crawford-Mason, which was accompanied with a documentary CD titled, “Good News . . . How Hospitals Heal Themselves”. The point being made was, how can we improve our processes if we keep wanting to point blame for mistakes and near misses?

My experience has been, when team members tell me they inadvertently induced something into the process to create a bad part (caused variation), or just plain mixed up the sequence, I would say out loud “Cool, there is something I can improve!” And I thank them for giving me this opportunity (yes, I really do that). The team member now becomes my customer whom I have to satisfy.

As the Old Lean Dude pointed out, hassles create stress for the employee. Think of it as employee harassment if you will. We have been educated on harassment and how it can affect people. In harassment you do not say or do certain things that can be construed as offensive, making the other person uncomfortable, making the other person wanting to stay away from you, work in another area, or sometimes just plain quit the company. In other words, stress. Punishing team members for mistakes becomes stressful too. The environment for reporting should be the opposite of harassment, meaning you Want to report you did something wrong that created the defect or defective product / service / information, and without ridicule or fear of a write up.

The nice thing about a team member reporting a mistake is that they made it, they can tell you about how they made it, and most likely they have a solution to prevent it from happening again - a poka-yoke. Is their suggestion always the best one? Sometimes, and sometimes not, however Never say No to their suggestion. Think about it, ask yourself why would they choose such a solution, how does it affect safety, the process, quality, the human side of standardized work? Can everyone else use the poka-yoke with the same success? Does it add too much cycle time or perhaps reduce cycle time? There are many questions to ask. As you ask, use that team member as your sounding board, weighing the pros and cons, developing a better mouse trap by piggybacking of the team member’s solution to developing perhaps a better solution. Do not revert to the 8th waste - under-utilization of human resource.

Another piece of information from both the above references was “near misses”. It seems all of the team members know about the near misses, but never the supervisor. I agree. Near misses are caused by the process, and the team members have learned how to deal with them because the supervisor does not want to. These near misses may be a greater portion of waste than we realize. It causes the team member to develop work arounds. It burdens the team member with more responsibility/hindrance to meet TAKT. This is where production boards need to be put in place and the team members allowed to write in misses and mistakes that caused missed pitch/cycle/TAKT in the process. This should be a “no blame” board. It is then the supervisors Standardized Work to review this board, assign responsibility to resolve these issues, set the due date for closure, and to report to management.

Communication is the most sought after tool, yet it is one of the lower skill sets each of us have. We may talk well, persuade well. But do we listen well, empathize well, show concern in our posture, facial expression, and eye contact. Why are team members afraid to report mistakes? Is it because supervisors do not care or not wanting the added responsibility? Or, is this totally different in that the team member is tired of reporting and seeing nothing ever done? Most likely both.

One other credit I want to give to the Old Lean Dude is the quote he cited, “Creativity comes from involvement” by Rollo May. And as the Old Lean Dude wrote, “No one cares more about the quality of a job than the person doing it . . .” Mistakes are good. We learn from them. I have made plenty and will make plenty more, and will be very vocal admitting when I do. How else do we (or the process we work within) improve?

I would like to leave you with the following quotes:

“Motivation is everything, tools and methods are secondary. Any tool or method will work if people are motivated. And no tool or method will work if people are not motivated.” – Michinkazu Tanaka (What I learned from Taiichi Ohno)

“People working together with integrity and authenticity and collective intelligence are profoundly more effective as a business than people living together based on politics, game playing, and narrow self interest.” – Senge

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

And lastly:

“Never listen to the shop veterans . . . wisdom is born from the ideas of the novices.” – Taiichi Ohno

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Golden Bee-Bee

Most understand what we mean when we say “critical path”.  To help us keep focused and in context for this blog entry, the critical path describes the longest path in duration that needs to take place, which in tern becomes the minimum time line of a project.  To expand the thought a little further, also think about it as a bottleneck in a process causing it to be the critical path.

Lean manufacturing, Kaizen, TPS, look for incremental improvements.  It does not really matter what part of the process you apply it to, because your intent is to eliminate waste of all forms and in any process.  Most of this is accomplished through observation, or perhaps observation and data.  This simplistic concept of incrementally eliminating waste is to sustain the improvement once it is proven and accepted.  It takes effort from the team or individual who observed and defined the problem, who gave it proper scope and planning, successfully implementing (the most difficult part), confirming the problem is corrected with any supporting tools in place, making it a Standard.  This is the PDSA (plan-do-study-act) cycle (or PDCA for check if you still prefer).

A LinkedIn post (which linked to a presentation) caught my attention and frustrated me when I read it.  I jumped to a conclusion that someone was preaching once again “This Is The Way”.  I am not too far off in that, and even I can be that way at times in my own preaching.  What the reader (meaning you and I) need to remember is the person writing it, whether the post I read or what I write myself, most likely has a target point to make.  One that is specific in example and solution, that indeed will work every time or almost every time.  Whether we convey it properly in clear thought or writing can be another story.

The presentation I am referring to is titled, “Let’s Retire the PDCA Wedge; What really keeps performance from slipping back?” by Mike Rother and Jeff Uitenbroek, August 2011.  The intent (and correct me if I am wrong when you look at the presentation) is that something is throwing a wrench in the works, keeping us from moving forward with continuous improvement.  The thought is our definition of a Standard may be the cause.  It was also mentioned that no matter how well a Standard is implemented and maintained it will go through entropy (degrade and become a waste of energy).

The presentation then sited some information on Deming’s PDSA, suggesting that the cycle needs to keep turning for never ending improvements.  The presentation also mentions Toyota and the difference between Standard and Standardized work.  Standard meaning something you want to achieve, and Standardized work as operating as specified by the Standard.  It also implies that in “wedge”1 thinking, when we slip backwards we believe we lack discipline and want to blame someone, whereas the Toyota way of thinking recognizes an abnormality that we just have not figured out yet.  Sort of like a Kanban being an admittance you do not know how to go 1-piece flow yet.

For me the Deming cycle is about continual improvement.  However Deming's focus is generally on reducing process variation.  There is not a guarantee you will produce quality.  That is dependent upon the how the process was setup and maintained (another form of Standard).  There is never a focus on the team member who is willing and able, because we know he cannot affect the output of the process.  The process is the process.  However continually improving will guarantee uniformity (good or bad) at a low cost.

Toyota has gone to great lengths to specify what they do is Standardized work, and not Standard work.  I have gone through Toyota’s supplier training where this was drilled into me.  Toyota defines Standardized work as, “. . . organizes all jobs around human motion and creates an efficient production sequence without any “Muda”. Work organized in such a way is called standardized work. It consists of three elements: Takt-Time, Working Sequence, and Standard In-Process Stock.” They went out of their way in class to discourage the use of the word Standard.

I have seen the “wedge” graphic with and without the wedge, and really never put any emphasis on it or used it in my education of others.  I do know that when QS-9000 converted over to TS-16949, there was an emphasis to change “continuous improvement” to “continual improvement” (as stated by the AIAG personnel who educated me on TS).  The purpose was to get away from the mind set of continuously improving without checking that you sustained first.  The graphic was a straight line ramp for continuous improvement vs. a stair step process of continual improvement. 

The “wedge” presentation did suggest that one reason we use this mindset is to comply with audits.  I would rather hope the audit system changed their process to meet what we need to be doing in our process.  The presentation also suggests we do need a Standard in order to satisfy the customer, however the Standard itself will not stop entropy.  So the suggestion is, the Standard needs to be a target, a set of conditions to be met in order to satisfy the customer.  This is what others and I call “positive tension”.  You put enough spring force (improvement) pulling on the PDSA wheel to keep it rolling at a given velocity (so that you do not become cyclical), resulting in it going up the incline indicating continual improvement.

I do agree with the “wedge” presentation that there is never “steady state”, but “constant change”.  Whether we like it or not this is very true.  However, it is also human nature to not want change, or to view change as a bad thing.  To me this is because life, for the most part, moves slowly for us.  We do not see the changes per se because it creeps up on us.  This gives us time to absorb, condition, and make it a norm or Standard in our lives.  Business is different.  In the never ending quest to bring in more revenue, to increase margins, we choose to want to do better than the Jones' as it were.  If they have it, we want it and we want something better, all to maintain current and to attract new customers.  Change is quick, requires thinking, requires revised processes (continual improvement), requires us to work, looking at an ever changing target, rather than taking life slow in increments to yesterday’s Standard.

I do contend that maintaining a Standard will keep the process from slipping back. (Similar to the stair step graphic for TS-16949.  Once sustained on the step you do not roll back.)  The only entropy taking place should be when the Standard becomes outdated through Kaizen.  The high complexity of business makes this so variable that we cannot draw a line in the sand and say “removing the wedge is the way”, or even “using the wedge is the way”.  You need to see Your problems and solve Your problems.  Can the “wedge” presentation be Your solution?  Sure.  Can it be the wrong solution?  I am just as sure.  One application I believe the “wedge” presentation will always work is in marketing.  You will need to continually innovate to not only satisfy, but also delight the customer.  Where it will not work is automotive Tier 1 supply.  Having a Standard (which I should really say "Having Standardized Work") helps maintain a statistically controlled process, and enables you to problem solve when the process becomes out of control and to Kaizen.

I also want to point out you cannot just continually improve willy-nilly.  If you do not improve on the critical path, you will not increase the velocity of the process, which is generally where our problems lie.  (Will using the Standard as a target necessarily put us on the critical path?)  If you incrementally improve, eliminating waste, there is a cost savings and some increase in velocity.  What should happen as you continually improve along the non-critical path is that the “bottleneck” in the critical path will expose itself, indicating your next continual improvement event.  As you improve you will have a shift in the bottleneck within the processes, and you attack that next.  Is the bottleneck always seen?  No.  Can the bottleneck be calculated?  Yes, if you have all the variables.  Observation is generally easier because of all the variables.  VSM (value stream mapping) also helps to find and see all the variables.

Using the “wedge” can help you determine if you worked on the bottleneck in the process or not.  What is your goal, your target?  If you stopped to observe the new Standard, has the system improved?  Whatever the Standard is, plateau or target condition, it should have removed the problem, satisfying and attracting customers through a system that is aligned to the customer, and through processes that support the system.

So, “This Is The Way” will never work across the board.  However you can “Choose Your Path” to make it work.  Be specific in your quest to solve a problem.  Do not look for the Golden Bee-Bee.

1 The “wedge” thinking is the PDSA wheel going up an incline, using a wedge to keep it from rolling back.  As you continually improve and move forward, Standards are put in place as a wedge to keep the PDSA wheel from rolling backwards.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Who's the Customer? Are your priorities set right?

Okay, I’ll say it again, “Who’s the Customer?”  Should I repeat it?  It is a simple thought.  Did I get you to drill down to whomever consumes the product / service / or information?  I may have.  If not, then good, because there are many customers to satisfy, with the primary one being the end consumer.

In this blog entry I want to emphasize the support needed from management to provide the product / service / or information to the consumer through VA (value added) activities.  Along with the VA there are many NVA (non-value added) activities.  Then there is the in between, the gray area, the “incidental work”.  It is NVA but essential in conducting the business.  I am not going to define each here because that is not the purpose of this blog entry.  I will, however, defer you to this link should you have questions:  Where to Begin with Lean: A3 Analysis” by James Womack

Value is added at the contact point of the product / service / or information.  As the contact point proceeds through the process, it carries the same level of importance at each VA activity.  When that activity is upset in any way, it now becomes the focus, to resolve whatever issues that made it go awry.  This is where the accountability board needs to be placed to log the issue and to assign a time and date, along with who is accountable, to permanently correct it.  Supervisor Gemba walks need to frequent these boards (along with shift pre-start meetings at these boards) to understand missed timing and to get things on track through problem solving countermeasures.  The department manager needs to daily Gemba walk these boards (and initialing), making sure there are no barriers to resolution and to verify accountability (that the countermeasure is in process or completed).  The department manager also enhances any countermeasures or ads to the supervisor countermeasures, along with answering to upper management as to how this happened.  Upper management needs to Gemba walk these boards weekly to assure adequate resources were given, accountability has been met, and that permanent corrective action is in place.  This is what industry terms "leader standardized work".

Let us refocus from leader standardized work back onto the customer and priorities. Look at just the VA activities from the beginning to the end of the process.  The people performing these activities are your internal customers.  Can you prioritize which of these customers is the most important?  If you have a normal, stable process, one that is on track, the answer is “no”.  If something has upset the VA activity anywhere along the value stream, then that activity or customer takes priority.

The point I want to make is, the further away from the VA activity, with respect to your own activities, the more you become “support” to the internal customer that needs help.  Many times people will say they need to finish a report or take care of a broken sink (something to that affect).  How is that aligned to the True North of customer satisfaction?  So what are your priorities?  It should be any VA activity that needs help, at any time.  We are all service to that end.  Once the process is again stable, then we can re-direct some of our energy to the incidental work, and never to the waste unless we intend to eliminate it.

Management needs to step back and observe, asking “are we satisfying the system or the customer?”  Too many times I see we have layered on processes or reasons to do things for the sake of the system, and the customer ends up suffering whether they are internal or external.  The sad part is, we never see the suffering of the internal customer because we maintain our silos first, rather than aligning our activities to the internal customer needs, which intern are aligned to the value stream of needs including that of the end user.  This is why people preach that you need to understand your process, inputs, outputs, and to identify bottlenecks in the process.  This is where we VA, which ends up adding waste if problems are not addressed.

So I will ask again.  Who’s the customer?  Are your priorities set right?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Whether to Weather the Storm, or Peel Back and See

Running a business is basically the same, whether big or small, whether product / service / or information.  You have a process with inputs and outputs.  Multiple processes are linked through a value stream if you will.  The value stream extends from the raw material suppliers like mining iron or growing cotton, to the end user of this product / service / or information.  The question that needs to be asked is, “how aligned to True North is your value stream to the customer?”

How smooth we communicate those hand offs from inputs, through the process, to outputs converted to inputs to the next process, is what Lean manufacturing is all about.  It does not matter what size, color, religion, or political view your product / service / or information is.  What matters is how you communicate the inputs you need, so you can process, and provide the correct output to the customer.  You tell you suppliers what you want, when you want it, how much of it you want, and at what price.  You process the input by adding value.  The product / service / or information is transformed to the output to the customer.  This can be one process, several processes, and with as many intermediate inputs and outputs as needed.

What is the point here?  The point is, no matter how you look at business, you are satisfying the needs, wants, and desires of the customer through a thought out process that has inputs and outputs.  Do you have an established process?  Have you defined the output requirement to the customer (internal or external)?  Have you defined the inputs to the process that will give you the needed output?

I know if I were to provide the product / service / or information just by myself, that I could provide the correct output from my process(s) given the correct inputs, and in the correct sequence of events that need to take place in the process, with less waste than an entire company would.  Problem being, it would take me forever compared to an entire company.  So our need is to take that single person value stream thought and convert it to a multi-person task through the value stream.  Making sure we well define the process, outputs, and inputs.

Realize I have steered you to the thought of process, outputs, and inputs.  This is typical Six Sigma practice: knowing what your process is capable of, then what is the process to output to satisfy the customer, and finally what inputs do you need to do that.  What breaks that mold is when a process does not exist to provide the product / service / or information.  Then you would start with the output and work backward through the concurrent design of process and inputs.

The concept is simple.  Having everyone buy into the execution seems to be what creates the storm.  The silo mentality of “I need this first before I will let you do that”, which typically does not fully align to True North to satisfy the customer, gets in the way of our performance.  This causes gusts of delays.  This causes the missed “pitch” or “lead” if you will, making someone think that they can squeeze in a different project while they wait.  This intern begins the roller coaster of more unintended missed pitches in the process, turning the process into a hurricane.  Hence my leading paragraph into these blogs that we need take the risk of peeling back the layers of work around and to do it right the first time. 

Is it a bad thing if someone waits?  Can you not visually see them waiting?  Would you not ask yourself “why are they waiting?” and do something about the process?  It seems like waiting is a good thing if you can see problems as they occur.  The trick now becomes managing solutions to those problems as quick as possible, incrementally correcting the system and its processes. If the person instead of waiting filled in the time with another project, you would have never known you had a problem until it was too late. It is the worker that is being driven by old school supervision, creating an environment that “if I look busy I won’t get yelled at”, or in the supervisor’s case “if they look busy everything must be working fine.”

Whether to weather the storm, or stop and peel back the layers of work around, seems to be the decision.  Storms within your process, or incoming to the process, will create waste with a great potential of defects or defective products / services / or information to the customer.  As you allow the storm to take you away from True North, the competitor who can better steer True North will always make it there first, in a manner of speaking.