FAQs

All that you need to know.

FAQs

Q?

What is Lean?

A.

We view Lean as a management/business system for continuous process improvement based on two key themes: elimination of waste (or non value-added activity) and respect for all people. This management system is based upon tools and improvement approaches developed as part of the Toyota Production System. The term “Lean” (for Lean Thinking) comes from the book “Lean Thinking” by Womack and Jones.

Q?

What is Waste?

A.

In continuous process improvement language, waste is considered to be any activity that is not required to directly meet a customer’s need. In a commercial environment, any activity that does not change the form, fit or function of a product is considered to be wasteful. For a service environment, any activity that does not directly satisfy a customer’s need is considered wasteful. Wasteful steps and activities generally account for over 95% of the total work in a process. The goal is to eliminate and reduce the wasteful time and activity.

Q?

How do we know if we are ready to launch an improvement system?

A.

Readiness is a mindset. Breakthrough Horizons works with large and small companies, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, union and non-union organizations, and public and private corporations. Organizations that succeed share a common thread: engaging the people to do the work to relentlessly seek out and eliminate wasteful activity. We believe that everyone has the capability to improve, but that not everyone has the desire.
As a result, although improvement can be created from the bottom up, it must be led from the top down. Commitment from the leadership of your organization is a requirement for long-term success.

Q?

How much will it cost to improve?

A.

While there are some up-front expenses in infrastructure and training/capability building, the long-range cost impact of improving your organization should be zero. As wasted time and activity is eliminated, resources and capacity are created, and the cost of errors and defects is dramatically reduced. Throughput increases, which minimizes capital costs. Also, inventories are reduced, generating cash to grow your organization. Making positive impact in the areas of staff engagement, quality, lead-time and cost will generate a favorable return on your investment.

Q?

How many staff members will need to be involved in the process?

A.

In the long term, we hope to create a culture where everyone is involved in the process of seeing and eliminating waste. In the initial phase of improvement, the staff engagement will vary based on the frequency and depth of the improvement areas of focus. Each activity requires a different number of resources. Please contact us for more specific projections of your staffing needs.

Q?

What is kaizen?

A.

Loosely translated, kaizen means change for the better or incremental steps of improvement. In improvement language, the term kaizen also coincides with a rapid-cycle, team-based approach to improvement. The kaizen event (also known as a blitz or workshop) is a structured approach to improvement that simultaneously changes both the performance of the process and culture of the organization. A typical kaizen team consists of 6 to 10 cross–functional team members to create real change in an area of focus. This team usually meets consecutively for 3 to 5 days, delivering a new process with higher performance in a reduced time frame.

Q?

Can we just “jump in” and start making improvement?

A.

Absolutely! However, that might not be the best approach. W. Edward Deming, the quality expert, had a saying: ”Doing your best is not good enough. You first must know what to do, then do your best.” Most organizations benefit greatly from some infrastructure creation prior to “jumping in”. Breakthrough Horizons has the experience to guide you through the correct amount of infrastructure depending on the size of your project. For example, infrastructure can include establishing a steering committee, training your internal experts, developing the best strategic approach to your goals, and/or creating your “measure, capture and results” system.

Q?

Why can’t we do this on our own?

A.

Self-sufficiency is a goal of all organizations. Self-sufficiency is required for an organization to commit to creating its own business system, consisting of tools and approaches that, when combined, enable continuous improvement of both performance and culture. Every organization has different timeline for self-sufficiency; however, the organizations that approach self-sufficiency share a few key benchmarks:

  1. A number of internal experts have been developed
  2. Tools, process, resources, and an improvement strategy to support continuous process improvement are firmly in place
  3. Management can demonstrate correct behavior and use of tools
  4. Management trusts the tools and uses a ”Lean” solution in lieu of traditional approaches to problem-solving
  5. Results are sustained and the organization can budget for and expect year over year improvement