Lean Roadmap Newsletter
Becoming a World Class Enterprise 
6th Edition
Our discussion on "How to Get More Out of Your Lean Implementation" from Edition #2 continues with:
1) Combating "Can't"
2) Measure Only Those Things You Wish to Improve (and Limit Those Measurements to Five)
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Combating "Can't"

by Mattie Watson
Picture this. You are in a team meeting. The group has identified and defined a legitimate and significant problem. They have gathered data and performed a root cause analysis. They are on a roll, tossing out ideas and possible solutions. Then it happens. An innocent comment heard in teams around the country. "We can't do that!" The positive charge in the room vanishes and "reality" sets in.
AAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!  I hate the word "can't!" I hate what the concept does to teams and individuals and I hate the lie that it perpetuates. I can't, we can't, you can't, they can't. Why not? Who says? Prove it!
Okay, perhaps I get a bit emotional about this topic. It's just that I have seen what "can't" does to teams, individuals, creativity, and problem solving. It's not good. In fact, there is not much that is more destructive to the problem solving process than the casual toss of the word "can't." Unfortunately, "can't" tends to be used as the politically correct reason why an action should not be taken. Why? More importantly, how can we stop it?
The word "can't" usually means one of three things. Leaders must determine the real meaning of the word before they can choose the best antidote. Let's explore the possible meanings. Although the issues are addressed as singular (I), they apply to teams, also.
1. I am not allowed. There is a sense that someone's permission is needed before the individual can proceed.

Antidote - Help the individual (or team) assess if this is an accurate perception. Either the leader will provide the permission or, better yet, help the Associate understand when permission is and is not required. Establishing boundaries, limits of authority, and expectations of responsibility will be very helpful. In organizations that are transitioning from traditional leader/follower styles to participative/interactive environments, this information will need to be repeated continuously until the behaviors change.  
2. I don't have the skills or ability. This implies there are competency issues - either not knowing the necessary information or lacking the experience or talent needed for the task.

Antidote - Assess the skill of the individual and provide training or coaching as needed.

3.  I don't want to. If we do this, we could get in trouble. On the other hand, this seems like a lot of work. Or, we could fail. 

Antidote - This is the most troublesome issue to accurately assess and change. Speak with the Associate privately and ask what specific concerns she has. You may need to ask someone else to talk to the Associate if you feel he may hold back his true feelings from you. Corrective action will need to be assessed based on the issues identified. 
While "can't" may seem debilitating, realize it is based on a belief system that may not be accurate. Taking the time to understand the real meaning and addressing these issues quickly will help the organization make progress much faster.

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Measure Only Those Things You Wish to Improve (and Limit Those Measurements to Five)
by Larry Rubrich
Measurements are powerful aids in your Lean journey. You can only improve those things you measure, but too many measurements, or measures that are used incorrectly, will turn that power against your Lean efforts.
When organizations start the journey to become World Class (the Lean journey), everyone, especially management,  gets all excited about the opportunity Lean presents to improve the morale and culture, to solve problems, and make improvements.
Unfortunately, this excitement flys in the face of the fact that all organizations have hundreds of problems and processes that need to be improved. Combine this with a group of supervisors and managers who all have different agendas and ideas of what should be fixed or improved, and you end up 15-20, or more, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in most areas of the organization.
For most associates in these organizations, who are just now being exposed to an empowering environment and the accountability that comes with it, this is empowerment, accountability, and information overload.    
Since the associates cannot solve all problems at once, the initial excitement over Lean is exchanged for frustration and improvement paralysis. The organization's Leadership Team is frustrated because a lot of money was spent on starting the Lean implementation and it appears to have produced few results. The results as viewed by the Leadership Team are actually less than what actually has been achieved. This is because the Leadership Team views the results by their impact on the "system," bottom line, or the organization's goals. Since there is no common improvement agenda, many of the improvements are "spot" or departmental improvements which may result in no system improvement.  
The net result is everyone blames the Lean process as being much less powerful than advertised.
Here is why Policy Deployment and Lean Implementation Planning is the most powerful Lean activity any organization can accomplish! 
It starts with the Leadership Team choosing 3-5 organization goals for the upcoming  fiscal year (one of these is always safety). These goals, in general, are targeted at what the organization needs to look like 3 to 5 to 7 years in the future so the organization will be competitive and growing. These goals set the Lean improvement agenda. In general, there are no Lean activities allowed that do not support these goals.
Next, the Leadership Team, along with as many other members of the organization as possible, brainstorm ideas to achieve the goals. Using normal brainstorming rules, a list of improvement ideas is developed.
After the ideas are prioritized, a Lean Implementation Plan is developed. This plan lays out who is responsible and accountable for the idea implementation and its timing. 
It should be noted that the actual measurement for the deployed Lean improvement ideas will vary by areas of the organization. For example, if one of the organizational goals is to improve  profitability, the deployed idea (from the brainstormed list) supporting this in accounting may be to reduce the days to "close" the financials from 5 days to 1 day. Their measurement sheet would chart "days/close." In maintenance, their deployed idea, supporting improving profitability, may be to reduce unplanned equipment downtime. Their measurement sheet would chart "% or minutes of unplanned downtime per day." For the office order entry cell, their deployed idea may be to reduce order entry lead-time. Their chart tracks "days or minutes of lead-time.              
Some additional thoughts on measurements:
  • Do not measure anything you do not plan on doing something about   
  • Do not use measurements as a weapon to beat up another person or department 
  • Operational and administrative measures are cascaded down from the top level organization goals using Policy Deployment. The top level organizational goals are generally financial.
  • Most people in the organization would not know how to deal with a financial goal such as improving Cash Flow, but they may know how to manage inventory levels if given the opportunity
  • Most people in the organization would not know how to deal with Operating Income, but they may know how to improve up-time on their machines if given the opportunity

Remember, no improvement team should ever meet without a clear and concise goal that is linked to the goals of the organization.  

Put the proper measurements and goals in place and then empower your people. People are naturally goal oriented and they generally like a challenge. They will achieve these goals if you let them. 

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Next Issue:

  • Daily Management - What is it and Why is it Important to Your Lean Implementation? 
  • The Challenge of Empowerment
Free Seminar
Policy Deployment & Lean Implementation Planning
When: Thursday, May 14th from 9:00 - 11:00 am
Where: Candlewood Suites, Appleton, WI (Highway 41, exit 137 College Avenue, College Avenue West to 4525 W. College)
Free Continental Breakfast
A Few Seats Remain, Registration Required: Email kelly@wcmfg.com, or call 260-637-8064


Larry Rubrich
WCM Associates LLC
2009 WCM Associates
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