The Old Sugar Shack

 

There are plenty of tools out there to help us with continuous improvement projects or for problem solving, but it's not about the tools!  It's about the mindset.  The mindset to simplify, make things better, reduce errors or defects, and reduce waste.

 

It's that time of year, at least where I live, that we anticipate warmer weather soon.  We hope!  That means the sap will start running for the annual maple syrup season.  A friend, that owns a farming business, asked me to help him tap some trees and hook up the sap lines in preparation for the sap to start running.  Sure beats the old days when I helped empty the buckets!  Man that was hard work!

 

Snyder Heritage Farms has various products, one of which is maple syrup.  Although not considered a large farm, they tap 2,500 trees with 3,800 taps pulling approximately 250,000 litres of sap through 24,000 feet of small lines. The small lines converge with 10,000 feet of larger main lines leading to the evaporator which boils the sap down to produce about 5,500 litres of pure Canadian maple syrup in an average season.

 

 

Even though I had helped in previous years, I was given a brief training course by the owner, Kevin Snyder, on the standard work to install the taps and connect the sap lines.  Kevin gave me some key quality points to ensure the hole was drilled properly, the tap installed correctly, and the line secured tightly.   What impressed me most though was his continuous improvement mindset.  He had determined the most efficient paths to walk through the bush to minimize walking, placement of the tractor in proximity to where we would need to reload with taps while minimizing the walking distance to/from the tractor to do so.  He established working zones for each helper to maximize coverage while eliminating any duplication or cross over.  He had nail pouches to hold the taps, harnesses for the drills so they were easy to carry and to set aside when not drilling, while eliminating the risk of setting them down in the snow and then leaving them behind.  All these things make sense, but what struck me most was his mindset.  He was very focused on making the process as efficient as he could to both reduce the burden on the tappers and make them more efficient, while also improving the process to reduce defective tap holes, taps, and hose line connections that could impact vacuum pressure and reduce sap yield.  At one point I complimented him on all the improvements he had made and for his mindset.  Kevin's response as he trekked off into the snow covered bush to put in more taps was,

 

"When you're the little guy, you have to be efficient!"

 

It is true smaller companies need to be efficient, but so do larger companies!  Unfortunately, sometimes larger companies lose focus and forget the importance of the team's mindset by hammering out new tools while insisting the team find a "problem" to apply them.  Tools are important, but it's the mindset that is most important because mindset is what creates the drive for continuous improvement.  After all, not everything needs a tool to improve.  Sometimes, just pure observation, common sense, and know how is all that is needed.  Mindset coupled with tools can be powerful, but when you have a bunch of tools without mindset, everything looks like a nail waiting to be hammered!

 

Maple Weekend - 4th & 5th April 2020

 

If you are near the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Snyder Heritage Farms hosts "Maple Weekend" on 4th & 5th April from 10:00am - 4:00pm where you can bring your family out to their farm for an instructional tour of the sugar shack and how maple syrup is made, take a tractor ride to visit the maple bush, and enjoy freshly made pancakes and sausages.  It's a fun couple of hours for the family on a nice spring day, and of course, there's lots of fresh maple syrup!

 

Snyder Heritage Farm
1213 Maple Bend Rd.
Bloomingdale, Ontario

 

 

 

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Visual control boards may not look overly complex, but establishing an effective board and establishing a robust review cadence can be more challenging than initially anticipated.  The benefits, however, can be phenomenal!  We learned first hand what some of these benefits are during a recent visual control benchmarking gemba.

 

On 12 and 13 February, High Performance Leaders Inc. (HPL) facilitated a visual control board workshop for the Technology Team lead by Travis Vokey, VP and Head of Technology at Dream Unlimited.  The first day was a workshop focused on the key attributes of visual control boards, and a working session to begin defining the team's value proposition and key performance metrics.  On the second day, there was a benchmarking gemba to Crystal Fountains, Baylis Medical, and Bell Mobility to see and learn first hand from their experiences and existing visual control boards.

 

Our focus during the benchmarking gemba was to see non-manufacturing areas.  Since there can be a stigma that visual control boards are only for manufacturing, we wanted to see how different businesses, industries, and non-manufacturing teams set-up their boards and use them.  We saw boards used by Sales & Marketing, Product Design, Process Engineering, Equipment Engineering, Project Management, and yes one from Manufacturing.  We reviewed boards at the tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 levels, with tier 1 being at the working staff level and level 4 the organizational level.  Each host company had a representative appropriate for each level of board explain how their boards work and how they are used.

 

The Dream team was able to participate in a regular daily huddle in action while at Crystal Fountains.  It was fantastic to see and hear the enthusiasm and see the high level of engagement from each of the host company staff members.  They were all believers in visual boards.  However, that was not always the case.  When we asked an engineering team who was the biggest skeptic when they first introduced the boards, an engineer stepped forward and boldly said "Oh, that would have been me!"  He went on to explain that he first thought it would just be more work and a waste of time.  However, now he admits, the board and the daily huddle has improved communication and work distribution.  He's now a believer!

 

It was motivational to listen to each of the host company staff members talk about what they like about the boards and how they have made their jobs easier, improved team work, and driven solid improvements.  Here's some of benefits and results they shared with the Dream team:

 

  • The boards and huddle have improved our cross-functional communications
  • We have much better visibility to unplanned work
  • Saves so much time and there's less stress
  • Made us care about each others work, and we want to help each other
  • I know what's going on now
  • It's not about not being successful (when a target is missed), but rather what do you need to be successful
  • People feel empowered to get things done

 

When properly established, visual control boards add value to both the teams and the leaders.  Laura Conquergood, VP of Operations at Baylis Medical said, "when I want an update on a project, we just go to the board.  We don't schedule a meeting."  Jongmu Lee, Director Creative Operations at Crystal Fountains said, "whether I'm in the building or not, I know the team is coming together and discussing important topics."  Many of the team members and leaders at all 3 host companies similarly stated, that communications had improved and wasteful meetings had been dramatically reduced.

 

At Bell Mobility, the Regional Operations team is involved in over 2,000 projects across the country.  Approximately 8 years ago they started tracking key aspects of their projects using typical white board style visual control boards.  Then about 3 years ago they implemented digital boards (D-boards) to track and coordinate these massive projects between all stakeholders across the company.

 

According to Nitin Gautam, Network Access Manager and Robert Dillenbeck, Senior Manager, Territory Operations at Bell Mobility, the D-boards provided certain advantages over the traditional visual control boards including:

 

  • Reduced cycle times to update the boards and get information
  • Staff working remotely can keep informed through the D-boards and have better engagement and participation in meetings
  • Quicker access to graphs and all data
  • Easier to roll up information and data from tier 1 to tier 4 levels
  • Executives can retrieve updates and information without requiring meetings to obtain project status

 

In my opinion, D-boards should be implemented with extreme caution.  As discussed in a previous article Should Smart Screens Replace Pen & Paper on the Shop Floor?, D-boards can be problematic with potentially lowering visibility if they are not frequently and routinely interacted with becoming nothing more than a information board that over time can become virtually invisible.  The most concerning problem though, is that changes to what is tracked and displayed can be slow and costly to revise and continuously improve.  So, if D-boards are going to be implemented, be sure to anticipate these problems had have a solid plan to address and overcome them.  No doubt they can be powerful and do offer some great benefits, but do watch out for the pitfalls.

 

The Dream team learned a lot and received some good advice from the 3 host companies.  A few of the key points they were advised on included:

 

  • Just start, don't wait for perfection
  • Encourage rapid cycles of improvement to the boards as you go
  • Make the boards easy to change quickly and easily
  • Use habit changing challenges to motivate and create new disciplines around the board cadence and routines
  • The staff or team members own the tier 1 boards meaning they update them and report out on status, not the managers

 

The two day workshop concluded with a Dream debrief where each of the Dream leaders identified the biggest thing that they had learned, and each making a commitment as to what they were going to do when they returned to their office.  With the mystery of visual control boards revealed, they are excited to embark on this exciting journey.

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LeadWell Series - Gemba Walks

 

Combining HPSC’s “build strong” and HPL’s “lead well” philosophies, the two companies collaborated to launch the “LeadWell Series” on 29 January 2020, to deliver short burst skill development opportunities for leaders.  Starting the series with the topic of “Gemba Walks”,  30 leaders representing over 10 companies participated in a gemba walk skill development segment, best practices sharing, and a gemba walk at Baylis Medical to practice their skills and to “go & see” the linkage between Baylis’s tier 2, 3, and 4 level leader boards. 

 

The LeadWell Series is intended to provide leaders with opportunities to improve their skills rapidly (3-4 hours) in areas of most interest and importance to them and then put them into practice at their operation immediately.  Topics are selected based on leader input and requests.  Each LeadWell Series topic is structured around

 

3 key pillars:

  1. Short burst skill development on a topic of leader interest
  2. Bench marking and best practice sharing
  3. A commitment to implement a best practice

 

What attending leaders are saying they liked about this “LeadWell Series – Gemba Walks”:

 

“Real-life examples”

“The guidance provided during the presentation of best practices for effective and ineffective gemba walks which framed the ‘go and see’ element of the event.”

“New ideas and concepts I can try right away”

“Interacting with other leaders to discuss do’s and do not’s, lessons learned, and strategies that have proven successful.”

“Seeing what everyone is struggling with despite the company they belong to.”

 

Special thanks to Baylis Medical for hosting and sharing their boards and progress with everyone!

 

Leave a comment and let us know what LeadWell Series topics you would be interested in?

 

 

 

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Do you want to get yourself better organized this year so you are ready to lead more effectively?  Then these two tools will help you!  Yes you!

 

At High Performance Leaders Inc., we help develop leaders to be more effective, everyday!  Although there are many important aspects to being an effective leader included in our program, one straight forward but critical way is to get and stay organized.

 

Unfortunately, too many leaders say they want to spend more quality time with their teams, have more focus on their top priorities, and feel less overwhelmed.  Sound somewhat familiar?  Two vital tools that can dramatically assist with these far too common issues is Leader Standard Work (LSW) and a personal planning sheet and routine.

 

To assist in these areas, download these free basic LSW and personal planning templates and start off the year more organized!

 

Download tool here

 

Leader Standard Work

 

If you think LSW doesn't apply to you or your position, you are missing out on a very helpful tool.  LSW is not only for first line manufacturing supervisors.  It's a powerful tool for any leader in any business at all levels.  Another myth is that a leader's job is not standard, so therefore LSW will not work.  Absolutely there are aspects of a leader's responsibilities that are not standard, however, there are likely many responsibilities and actions that are standard when you step back and evaluate what needs to be accomplished.

 

LSW is simply an organized list of the most important responsibilities, actions, or tasks that a leader needs or wants to accomplish, and the frequency with which they need to be completed.  This list then is used to remind the leader what they need to get done.  When integrated into a robust scheduling and personal planning routine, it will result in improved results, accomplishments, and feeling of accomplishment.  It will also avoid important things from falling off the radar over time or when things get hectic.

 

Read more here on developing leader standardized work

 

Download template here

 

Personal Planning

 

Surprisingly many leaders also only use their calendar and maybe a note book for personal planning purposes.  This can lead to losing control of your time and schedule, and not having time to get to those things that are most important to get completed.  Important tasks or follow-up items may get buried within the notebook and get overlooked or forgotten.

 

A regular personal planning routine of reviewing your LSW, scheduled and new meetings, your priorities, outstanding actions and follow-up, is critical to being an effective leader.  Coupling the routine with a single page weekly planner can have a dramatic impact on a leader's effectiveness.

 

Update and revise your personal planner once per week, print it out and then keep it up-to-date throughout the week using the old pen and pencil method, or maintain it live on  your computer.  Your choice.  Add tabs to keep a log of actions or tasks that need to be completed at some point in the future, but that you don't need on the current week's planner.  Categorize the tabs based on key areas of your life such as, "Follow-up", "Actions", "@Computer", "Errands" etc.

 

If this sounds basic to you, great!  You should be all set and maybe already effective in this regard.  However, indications are that many leaders lack a robust planning and organizing routine.  A 20 minute weekly planning routine is all that is required to get organized and stay on top of the important things.

 

Read more here on personal planning

 

To assist in these areas, download these free LSW and personal planning templates and start off the year more organized!

 

Download template here

 

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Leader Standard Work & Hitting Targets

 

Combining a robust leader standard work routine with setting and hitting targets can be a powerhouse that delivers results!  It's not just a shot in the dark!

 

If you have followed my posts, you'll know that I've been a strong proponent of leader standard work (LSW) for a long time, however, I was reminded recently of the power of combining standard work and the setting and hitting of targets.

 

Each month I reset my standard work for the new month.  It starts by reviewing the previous month and reflecting on what worked, didn't work and why, and identifying any new priorities.  Then the baseline is revised by making some adjustments, adding or deleting tasks, or changing the frequency of some tasks.  I also include certain non-work items within my LSW.  These are things that are for personal or professional development, important family responsibilities, or when I'm trying to create a new habit.

 

Although this is a personal example, it still shows the power of combining LSW and targets.  At the beginning of last month when I was doing my LSW review I found that I was not happy with my daily exercise results.  It had been very inconsistent.  Although I was running, the frequency was very intermittent and inconsistent.   There were always reasons why for each miss, but when seeing the results for the month, none of them mattered, the result was the result and it wasn't what I wanted.  So,  I decided I needed to do something about it!  First, I added a "Daily Exercise" task to my LSW, and second, I set a distance target for the month.

 

The month started off well.  I was exercising more regularly and I was well on my way to achieve my distance target.  It was working!  Then, by conscious choice, I missed about a week.  With about a week to go in the month, even if I got back to my routine, I wouldn't make my distance target.  At least, not doing what I had been doing before the break in the routine.  I couldn't make up for the days I didn't exercise, but I could do something different for the days remaining in the month.

 

I changed the time of day when I would exercise.  This helped overcome some of the challenges (a.k.a excuses) that were creating barriers to my daily exercise.  Then, I started running further than I had been before to make up some of the distance.  Some may consider running further than usual was somewhat cheating, and perhaps it was since the intent was not the distance per se, but rather to exercise regularly.  However, on more than one occasion in that final week of the month, I exercised when I probably wouldn't have.  I had a strong desire to hit and exceed my distance target, AND, I wanted to check off my LSW each day indicating that I had exercised.  It worked, I exceeded my distance target with a day to spare, but I ran the last day of the month anyway so that I would have exercised every single day for that last week.

 

Maybe a simple personal example, but combining LSW and targets is a powerful tool and is equally effective in a business environment.  The target will give you the motivation to keep working at it and to find ways to achieve it, while the LSW will give you the reminder and sometimes push to take the necessary steps, or to complete the appropriate tasks, necessary to achieve the target.

 

In summary, here's a few key points to consider:

 

  • Reflect on your LSW each month and reset it based on lessons learned and new priorities.
  • LSW can include personal and professional items.  It's yours, so make it work for you!
  • Set challenging targets, then look at how to combine with LSW to assist in achieving the targets.
  • Don't beat yourself up for missing some LSW items when looking back, but rather figure out why you missed them and implement mitigation actions to achieve them going forward.

 

See more of Glenn's posts, HERE

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I’ve never understood why so few leaders use Leader Standardized Work (LSW).  I’ve found it to be a great tool to help me be a more consistent and effective leader.  I’ve used LSW for years.  For me it’s my little voice reminding me of the most important things I need to do or that I want to do to be successful when leading.  Regardless of your responsibility, there is a certain component of it that is repeatable and therefore LSW is for, well, everyone!

 

Here’s some key points I found useful when it comes to LSW:

 

1.  Set-up LSW with a designated section for daily, weekly, monthly and Mid-long term (quarterly, semi-annual) based on frequency of completion of the task.

 

2.  Place tasks in the LSW that are important to YOU, that you must get done and also the ones that you want to ensure get done, checked, or confirmed because they are important to you or your business.

 

3.  Set your LSW up on a monthly basis, refreshing it at the beginning of each month.

 

4.  Have a method within the LSW to indicate which days you are on vacation and differently identified when you are out of the office on business.  This will help you plan more effectively when you complete tasks or provide you the opportunity to delegate if necessary.

 

5.  LSW should be dynamic, not static.  It’s ok to add and remove items from your LSW.  As priorities change, new systems develop, metrics improve or degrade, you may find that you need to make adjustments as to what you’re doing or what you’re checking and confirming.

 

6. LSW is for you, not anyone else.  It’s fine to show people your LSW, but I don’t advocate posting it.  It’s more effective if you carry it with you at all times to help you actually execute to it versus showing others.  As a leader, you should be checking your teams LSW periodically as well.

 

7.  If you’re not getting to something on your LSW, don’t beat yourself up, but rather find the root cause as to why you are not getting it done and determine what you need to do differently to achieve it.  After all, the items on your LSW were put there by you because you either need to get them done as a core responsibility of your job, or they are most important to you.  Use it to improve your self-discipline, motivate you, or to remind you to just do it!

 

8.  LSW must be an integral part of your personal planning system and routine.  It must be integrated with your schedule, your follow-up system, and your to-do lists.

9. Print out your LSW for the month, update it daily throughout the day as you complete tasks, and “pencil” in additional LSW tasks as you’re thinking of them throughout the month.

 

10. When you get really busy, that’s when you need your LSW the most.  Don’t abandon it then.  Use it to help you get the most important things done.  In a pinch when you just can’t do everything, use it to make an informed decision as to what will and will not get done.

 

I use an Excel spreadsheet for my LSW. To make things easier, I've added some conditional formatting for visibility of weekends, business travel, or when out on vacation. I prepare the LSW for the month, print it out, and then use it daily by marking tasks using a pen. LSW is an integral part of my daily, weekly, monthly planning system.

 

I hope you found this helpful. Are there any key points I've missed or in your experience you feel are most important?

 

See more of Glenn's posts HERE

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I was reminded recently of the importance of Gemba or “Go See”. Or at least, I was reminded as to how few leaders actually do it or know how to do it well. In my opinion, Gemba is the most important tool a leader has. It provides you the opportunity to see what is really going on, to confirm what your team is telling you, to see what they aren’t telling you or they don’t see, to truly engage with your team, identify waste in the process, and is an important first step towards developing an improvement plan.

 

While observing a process with another leader recently it became clear that he was struggling to really see what was going on in the process. It was no wonder really. He was so distracted by everything else that was going on around the process. As a result of not really seeing, he and his team had made many significant changes to the process but were not achieving their targets because they hadn’t addressed the real problem.

 

Here are what I believe to be the 10 important steps for effective gemba:

 

1. Schedule time for gemba. A leader needs to spend focused quality time observing their processes. It will never happen unless you proactively block time in your calendar to do so. There are always other things that will steal your time, so invest in yourself first by having standing times reserved in your calendar for gemba. Then keep them.

 

2. Go see with a specific theme. If you are conducting what I call a leadership gemba – meaning you are going to check on your general operations and not a specific problematic process, go with a specific theme of what you are going to look for. For example, today my gemba theme is 'safety' and more specifically 'over-reaching'. This way you are focused and can train your eyes to see the themed area. This approach is far more productive and results in specific actions versus a long laundry list of “to-do’s” for your team, or even worse, a nice stroll with nothing really observed.

 

3. Introduce yourself and explain what you’re doing. Always introduce yourself to anyone whose process you are observing. Explain to them why and what you’re looking for. Put them at ease. No one likes to be spied on, particularly by the “boss”. Take away the concern right away and explain. It also shows respect.

 

4. Remain focused. When doing gemba don’t get distracted by other processes, people, or your cell phone. Remain focused on the task at hand. You don’t want to miss something. Typically it’s not a problem with the standard work that is creating a problem in the process, it’s either not following the standard work or the abnormalities that periodically happen that impact it. If you aren’t paying full attention all the time, you will miss these opportunities to see.

 

5. Remember TIM WOODS. When observing a process you need to look for all forms of waste. TIM WOODS is a good reminder of the various forms of waste.

 


 

6. Allow time to see the unseen. Gemba takes time as you need to give yourself enough time to observe multiple cycles of the process. Check that each cycle is completed the same way according to standardized work. In addition, you want to be able to see the abnormalities and periodic work that do occur in and around the process that otherwise are unseen and far to often go unnoticed.

 

7. Ask questions and request suggestions. Engage directly with the person in the process, when safe and appropriate to do so. Ask them questions about some of the observations you’ve made, such as “how often does this happen?” Seek clarification of your observations or assumptions. Most importantly, request their input. “If you could change one thing in this process, what would that be?” Ask their opinion on how to best improve the process.

 

8. Conduct on the spot trials. Try minor things right then and there to determine if there are better ways of setting up the process. Hold a tool, part, or indirect material for a few cycles to determine if there is an alternative home position that is easier for the operator. It’s a great way to get the operator involved early and demonstrate you are trying to help them.

 

9. Summarize your observations. Write down the opportunities you observed and estimate the associated time savings or burden reductions identified. This will allow you as the leader to determine how much improvement can be expected and to assist you in setting a target for improvement with your team.

 

10. Take action. Another great thing about gemba is that, unless you are dead, you will have to take action to improve the process. You won’t be able to stop yourself because you have seen the waste and you have many great ideas to make meaningful improvements. Whether it’s a quick action item or two, some “just do it” improvements, or a multi-day kaizen event it is critical that you take immediate action to obtain sustained improvement. If you don’t, you will lose the trust and confidence of the operators.

 

What would you add to this list? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts and experience in the comments below.

 

Related Posts:

 

     Gemba Walks - Tip #1

 

     Gemba Walks - Tip #2

 

     The best place for a meeting...is on the roof

 

     Teaching your eyes to see

 

     3 Steps to Having Time for Gemba

 

     Gemba by any other name is... go & See!

 

     Toyota's Worst Best Kept Secret & The Top Five Reasons For It

 

      Read more of Glenn's posts  HERE

 

    

 

 

 

 

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