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18th Edition 

October 2012

In This Issue
WANTED: Teamwork
Managing Job-Site Inventories with Kanbans (kahn-bahns)
Lean Construction Facilitator Training


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Organizational and Project Teamwork!


There are Four Prerequisites for Teamwork to Occur in any Organization.
Part One: Great Two-Way Communication
By Larry Rubrich 

The four elements required for teamwork to develop in any organization are:


1) High levels of two-way communication

2) Team members with diverse backgrounds

3) Common purpose/motivated by mission

4) Common goals/measurements


This Newsletter will discuss element #1: High levels of two-way communication.


There is no teamwork in any organization without two-way communication. Two-way communication means that associates feel comfortable, confident, and secure in discussing ideas, instructions, job activities, goals, and potential conflicts (or anything else) with the Leadership Team and other managers.   


For a team to develop and be successful, everyone in the organization must have a copy of the playbook. This is the importance of doing the Lean Policy Deployment process. This deployment process, like a team playbook, outlines the organization goals (win the Super Bowl) and the activities (plays) that the team must execute to achieve the goals. The team has measurement systems (scoreboard) to track progress. The Leadership Team (quarterback and coaches) are constantly communicating verbally and visually with the team and sub-team members (offensive line, defense, special teams, etc.). The team makes adjustments along the path to the goal. One can only imagine the results of a football play in which the quarterback only communicates the "play call" to two team members instead of all ten in the huddle. However, this is most often the norm for Leadership Teams in American business.


Based on our experience, running many organizations from the general manager and plant manager level, we have learned and believe that 98 percent of people in organizations want to take care of their customers, they want the company to be successful, and they want to have jobs at the company in the future. To access these resources, an environment (culture) must be created in which these 98 percent know they are valuable members of the team. We must convey to all our associates the need for them to use their arms, legs, and especially their brain, in helping the Leadership Team create the future. The question for Leadership Teams and managers is the following: Do you want six to eight managers trying to achieve the company's budget, plans, and goals, or do you want the entire organization doing that?


Without this Leadership Team communication, people in most organizations will learn about what is going on through the "rumor mill." Change is discovered, not announced. Remember, a rumor's sole purpose in life is to fill voids in communication. Generally, the rumor mill is the most reliable way of obtaining information when the Leadership Team fails to effectively communicate. People know when change is in the wind. They see management going to off-site meetings and getting involved in different types of training. Managers and supervisors come back from these events speaking a different language and acting differently. If management does not effectively communicate the vision for the future and the impact that change is going to have on the organization and the people, then confusion and rumors ensue (as depicted in the model shown below).


Uncommunicated Change    

Human Nature and Our Reaction to Uncommunicated Change



Confusion and rumors begin to spread fear in the organization and resistance begins to develop. It now takes a great deal of effort to change or overcome the resentment that has set in. In some organizations, management is never able to change or recover from the resentment that has occurred. The above figure repeats itself every time a change is discovered and not announced.


An effective Leadership Team can short circuit this confusion, fear, resistance, and resentment loop by announcing a change and communicating it to everyone at the same time. Then by communicating, communicating, and communicating about the change, the Leadership Team can begin to develop interest from the organization in the change (see figure below). The Leadership Team must continue to grow this interest, enthusiasm, and excitement through ongoing communication updates to the vision and the plan for what the organization will look like one, three, and five years down the road.



Human Nature and Communication  


Human Nature with Change Communicated


It is important to remember that the communication from all Leadership Team members must be honest and consistent. When the Leadership Team "breaks the huddle," every team member must be reading from the same page. Leadership Team trust violations will greatly impede or destroy the Lean deployment effort. The organization is not expecting the Leadership Team to be perfect (mistake-free), but it is expecting the team to be honest.


In our next newsletter, we will discuss Element #2: Team members with diverse backgrounds.

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Managing Jobsite Inventories with Kanbans (kahn-bahns) 


The goal of Kanbans is to minimize the amount of inventory while eliminating inventory outages and shortages.  


by Ted Angelo


One deceptively small but remarkably effective tool of Lean is called kanban. This Japanese word refers to an approach to managing supply inventories. We have incorporated kanbans throughout our company and have been amazed at how such a seemingly simple concept can do so much to help us reach our goal with Lean: achieving value by eliminating waste. Kanban means "signal;" in this case, a sign that something must be replenished.


On almost any sizeable project, our people use a large number of hangers, straps, nuts, bolts, washers, all-thread rod and similar kinds of hardware. Since we have three to four trades working on any given job, we decided to put together a team to examine how we could standardize the management of our supply of these items on the job.


Our standard practice had been to return unused items from the job to the shop in miscellaneous cardboard boxes. Then someone would have to sort through them, requiring a fair amount of labor. What if we could develop a better way? 


The solution was Hardware Boxes. We selected an upright tool box on wheels with built-in shelves, which we outfitted with bins of various sizes. All hardware is identified and stored in the bins. The wheels on the box allow easy moving around the jobsite. On larger projects, we might use several of these boxes to spare workers from having to walk long distances to retrieve needed hardware.


Once the boxes are shipped to the jobsite, we arrange for the supplier to come to the jobsite and replenish the supplies, just as we were doing in the Tool Room. Once again, the supplier would know minimum and maximum quantities to be stocked. We established prices for the hardware before the process started, basing them on standard quantities that we would order.

When the job is complete, the Hardware Box is returned to the shop in one unit, the items already sorted instead of jumbled into many cardboard boxes. We've eliminated all the time wasted sorting through those boxes. And when the next job requires a large quantity of hardware, the Hardware Box is ready to be sent out to the jobsite. 


Is there a place where you can use a Kanban to eliminate waste?




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This Lean newsletter is the result of the collaboration of three organizations:
Grunau Company
Ted Angelo, Executive Vice President

Quality Support Services, Inc.
Dennis Sowards, President


WCM Associates LLC
Larry Rubrich, President


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  WCM Associates LLC, 2012. All rights reserved.
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