Issue 16 – Nov 2013


Issue 16 • Nov 2013

Lean Training – What is most the common cause for Lean Transformation failure?

I will not likely do this topic justice.  John Kotter, in his bestselling book Leading Change, delivers compelling evidence on why major change initiatives fail.  I recommend anyone that is pursuing a lean initiative to read this book.  You can now get used copies of this book from Amazon at very reasonable prices.  My comments on this topic are meant to be additive.  I have no desire to deliver an antagonistic point of view.

Without a doubt, the number one reason lean transformations fail is lack of leadership. While every leader is enamored with getting world class results and improving top line and bottom line results, many leaders make the same common mistake.  They believe that everything around them needs to change, but that they are generally exempt from this change themselves.

Having been working with process improvement now for over 15 years at the very senior levels of different organizations, I am now positive the single most important factor in being successful in a lean transformation is getting the highest levels of the organization to think, act, and behave differently.   What I currently see is not poorly scoped improvement events, poor team make-up, poor measures, etc, but rather poor leadership behaviors and leadership practices that drive the culture back to status quo.

In the first six months of a typical transformation, we see value stream actions plans, Kaizen cycles of improvement, Standard Work, and various types of visual management.  These operational changes are geared toward getting team members to take action.  It is the collection of actions that shape behavior and the collection of our behaviors that shape culture.  Improvement related behaviors are fundamental to a lean transformation and constitute the building blocks of any improvement system.

What typically changes with senior leadership in the first six months of a transformation?   Operational Reviews, Staff Meetings, Rounding, Performance Management, Leader Standard Work, Strategy Development and Deployment, Budgeting Systems and Approaches, Individual Behaviors and Role Modeling, Visual Management Systems for Leadership Processes and Results Tracking, Problem Solving, Project Management, Recruiting Processes? The answer is usually…not much.

Most organizations do not lead lean enterprise transformation by changing senior leader processes, behaviors, and actions (with good reason). Without a measurable improvement that moves an operational metric in a meaningful way, you will not get the attention of the senior levels of the organization.  This is understandable. However, if you are in year two or three of your transformation, and have not started to take on some of the leadership processes, actions, and behaviors listed above, you are not on track to be successful in the long term. For transformation to occur, the way leadership thinks, acts, and behaves must be changing.

There are many reasons why leaders may not have started to do things differently.  Some of these reasons include: no one to coach leadership, lack of interest, no accountability systems, lack of skills, competing priorities, external strategic pressures, leadership turnover, unaligned incentive systems, senior leader (the top person on site) is not engaged, lack of patience, no ability to connect leadership practices to improvement performance, comfort with current practices, and /or results and budget have been acceptable in the past.

Regardless of the reason, leadership engagement is THE necessary ingredient for successful transformation.  I'd ask you to look at your transformation. Are your senior leadership thinking, acting, and behaving differently?  Next to process stability of the 4M's, leadership engagement is key to long term success. RB

Hoping versus Happening? - Metric Alignment

This article deals with metric alignment. It addresses selecting metrics and aligning daily management systems that support aligned daily management. Metrics align when the movement of one metric causes the movement of the metric above it (Whether positive or negative).

An organization’s metric on Supply Costs moves favorably when each areas use of supplies decreases. The same with customer satisfaction, safety scores, productivity and so on. The key is that there’s a target number for both the strategic and local measure. The local metric is directly aligned to “move the needle” of the upper metric. Often people will “align” to a statement such as “provide great customer satisfaction.” Such alignment not only lacks accountability, but also removes the pressure to improve and to contribute. It also removes focus/alignment as any metric selected can be said to link to that statement and whether we affected it or not is unknown.

It’s just as important to align daily management practices to support department or strategic objectives. This begins with metrics that fit nicely into daily measurement. Remove daily measurement and watch interest and impact fade rapidly. A metric that measures what happened that day is much more dynamic, actionable and interesting. Causes of real-time issues are easier to track as are results of rapid experiments to improve. Daily management is driven by systems that often need improving and typically developing.

Your measurement systems are the glue that hold daily management practice and aligned metrics together. Sometimes, of the systems that are in place, many need designing. Since a metric evaluates the effectiveness of a process/processes or parts thereof; the system for designing, implementing, and sustaining the Standard Work is critical for alignment. Without Standard Work, we're simply hoping.

The metrics and visual management boards that support the metrics themselves involve a system including things such as data collection, plotting, reviewing, analyzing and problem solving. Part of the review may include huddles and how they function to drive the aligned metrics representing a potentially key component of the review system.

Another important piece of succeeding with aligned metrics is to establish a leadership system. This may include leader Standard Work that should include auditing. Many areas use Kamishibai to drive audits; an excellent tool. These systems are highly effective and bringing them to life can be exciting, an excellent learning opportunity, and will align the area's daily management with the metrics.

In summary, you should now have a better understanding of metric alignment and broadened awareness of what actually is aligned. Alignment begins with a linking of strategic objectives and tactical metrics with targets. The realization of favorable system level metrics occur when the lower level metrics are directly aligned and management and leadership behaviors focus on local level improvement. SN

Training toward Lean Certification - Some spots remain

For those of you wishing to pursue lean certification, Breakthrough Horizons is pleased to offer another workshop in support of Lean Bronze Certification.

The four largest and most recognized lean and quality improvement organizations standardize their curriculum and certification standards to create a universal standard for Lean Excellence.

These organizations include The Shingo Prize, the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), and the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Each of these organizations offer conferences and workshops on a wide variety of quality improvement topics and are worthy of attendance.

There are three levels of certification; Bronze, Silver and Gold. The Bronze is the initial certification and most pursued. Certification requires passing an exam, 80 hours of application and training, and the submission of a portfolio demonstrating mastery of the concepts. It is the premium certification because it requires application and demonstrated proficiency.

Attending a class and passing a test, or sitting through computer based training does not make you an expert. Expertise is earned through repeated application of the Scientific Method.

The Breakthrough Horizons public workshop is a 3-day facilitated training session that goes over all of the lean concepts needed to become bronze certified. The workshop uses a combination of didactic and praxis approaches to hardwire the concepts into the students thinking allowing for real-time application later.

We are pleased to announce the next public workshop will be in January of 2014. Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto is hosting the training session on January 8, 9, and 10. The class will be capped at about 30 participants to allow for optimal classroom interaction.

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