We took a bit of a post break over the summer but will pick-up where we left off talking about leading problem solving in non-manufacturing environments. This is post #4 in the series. If you missed the others or need a refresh, here they are:

 

1 Second Understanding in non-manufacturing

 

TIM WOODS (8 forms of waste)

 

Teaching your eyes to see with TIM WOODS

 

A core responsibility of any leader is to help identify problems and challenges for their teams to get engaged and resolve. A great way to do this is through gemba or “go & see”. If you are not familiar with this term, we will include some links on the topic at the end of the post. Gemba can be done alone or with your team. There is a place for both.

 

One of the many purposes of gemba is to look for evidence. Evidence that things are going well, and to identify opportunities for improvement. If done regularly, you should be able to discover needed improvements before they lead to a significant situation or crisis. When it comes to opportunities, you are looking for standards not being followed, lack of standards, or signs that there is a some form of abnormality that is not being addressed. Let’s look at examples of each.

 

All companies have some form of standards, policies, or rules that are documented and employees are expected to follow. However, far too often we don’t use gemba to check on them to confirm if they are being followed or not. If not, why not and what do we need to do? As a result, a crisis or urgent situation is usually when we take action, dropping everything else to attend to it.

 

Here’s a very common example where a company has a smoking policy which states smoking is only permitted in the designated smoking areas. It’s easy to assume that the policy is being followed, until an employee lodges a formal agency complaint against the company that they are entering the building every day walking through a haze of smokers at the front door that needless to say are not in the designated smoking area. Your day, just evaporated!

 

Using gemba of this nature is to take a walk and look for evidence. Not only do you observe people using the designated smoking area or not, but is there evidence that this standard is not being adhered to? How? Are there cigarette butts outside of the designated smoking area? Can you find cigarette butts near the front doors or other non-designated locations? If so, this is evidence that the standard is not being consistently followed and action is required.

 

This is beyond a 5S issue with cigarette butts on the ground!

 

While doing so, you may discover other unrelated evidence that you weren’t expecting. For example in this picture, there is remnants of yellow caution tape on the hand railing. Why? Upon further investigation it is determined that these steps often ice over and so the stairs are closed. However, is this addressing the root cause? Is this a good solution? Again, further action is warranted.

 

The second evidence gemba is about looking to find where there is a lack of standards or absence of good practices currently in place. Gemba of this nature may begin with a specific focus item or theme, or a simply a search for any abnormalities.

 

 

For our example let’s assume that we are leading a team that works on confidential new product designs. The team has doubled in size in the last year. Although there isn’t currently a standard or policy in place, it’s always been the practice to secure confidential information at the end of each day. In this case, you may want to do a gemba of the work place to see how many confidential documents, files, drawings, etc that you find unsecured after the team leaves for the day. Based on the evidence found, action may be required.

 

The last evidence gemba is where we want to find problems or opportunities before they become a big deal. There are two effective ways to do so. The first one is very easy and is guaranteed to reveal exceptional opportunities. Do a gemba and just talk to your team and simply ask “What frustrates you?” They will tell you! These frustrations are problems that are bubbling and definitely already distractions, but if left without action, will eventually become a significant issue.

 

The second way of finding problems or opportunities is to walk the work place looking for abnormalities and then think beyond the obvious for possible explanations and/or ask questions to solicit insights from them. The potentials here are endless and somewhat dependant on the environment and work performed. Here’s a brief list of some common potential issues in non-manufacturing environments:

 

  • Team using makeshift materials for laptop/monitor stands or creating their own stand-up stations – evidence of potential ergonomic concerns and/or inflexible workstations.
  • Excess paper in the recycle bins next to printers or photo-copiers, evidence of potential frequent equipment jams or poor printing capabilities.
  • Team members searching for documents, materials, or equipment to perform their jobs, sharing of the same between them could be evidence that the team has outgrown the previous levels of core essentials to efficiently do their jobs.

 

After you have used gemba to gather the evidence in any of these 3 scenarios, it is time to engage the team to understand the root cause, determine appropriate actions, and to implement the necessary changes to drive resolution to solve the problems and make improvements.

 

For those interested in learning more about gemba, please review the following articles:

 

10 Important Steps of Effective Gemba Walks or “Go See”

 

The Different Types Of Gemba

 

Gemba by any other name is… go & see! Gemba is NOT just for manufacturing processes!

 

3 Steps to Having Time for Gemba

 

 

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As we move towards the ‘new normal’, our need to adapt the way we execute our work will demand an increase in our continuous improvement and innovation (CI&I) activity.

 

As you do this, I would encourage you to follow the logic I use for future state design – THINK TO S.E.E – Simple, Elegant and Effective. 

 

When you approach CI&I, the focus should always be on simplifying how we do our work – it is much easier to make things more complicated than it is to simply them.   Solutions should be elegant or well-designed following design thinking methodology.  And finally, it is critical that processes are effective in delivering internal and external customer value.   

 

Developing and executing future state design using the THINK TO S.E.E approach does take more thought and effort, but the effort will have a much higher rate of return.   Quoting Mark Twain – “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter”. 

 

If you would be interested in attending a virtual skill development session on the THINK TO S.E.E methodology, please let me know. 

 

Keep improving. 

Scott

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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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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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