Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kaikaku - Quantum Change (Part 2)

Kaikaku: How do we do it?  What’s it worth to us?

Let me open with an apology.  Back in December 2013, I promised that my next post would be about how to conduct a Kaikaku event and what you could expect from one.   Then life got in the way.  To keep my word, here is the follow-up post.
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Dr. Deming used to say that 85% of all problems are the result of poor systems (systemic failures).  Three years before his death, he adjusted that figure to 95%.  If systemic problems are so frequent, Lean needs a tool to improve them.  That tool is Kaikaku [radical, or "quantum leap" change].

Because Kaikaku events solve problems with whole systems, they cross-disciplinary lines, so a Kaikaku event must have representatives from the system's process Suppliers, the Process performers, and process Customers.  That usually makes up a pretty large group.  

It's not uncommon for Kaikaku events to take a year or more, but most last 3-6 months.   Before you start thinking “Who won’t I miss?”  STOP!  You want to put your best people on a Kaikaku team, as they will be solving a longstanding problem that spans multiple disciplines. You'll want someone representing you that others will respect and can articulate your discipline's concerns and needs.

The team will first completely document the existing process.  There are a number of useful tools for doing this, e.g. swim lanes, flow charts or, my personal favorite, an adaptation of Makigami. 

Using different colored 3” x 3” Post-It® Notes to represent every discipline involved, we create a single flowchart.  This is far more difficult that you’d think.  The reason is that, while many will assure you they know the whole process inside & out, I’ve yet to find a single person who actually does.  There are often steps performed inside one discipline that those outside that discipline never see.

Modified Makigami example below.

Once we’ve finished the modified Makigami, the team cycles back through to count the number of process steps and the number of times colors change from one process step to the next.  This is critical, since the more process steps, the longer the process Cycle Time; and because color changes represent handoffs between disciplines, and every one represents an opportunities drop the baton.

As the Kaikaku team is eliminating steps and handoffs, they are not only looking to streamline the process, but to make it more robust.

As stated earlier, a Kaikaku event can take 3-6 months; sometimes more.  It’s rare for the participants to be able to quit their day jobs and sequester themselves for that long, so teams usually meet at regular times to report on progress made against assignments handed out at the previous meeting.  

Although long, the results of a Kaikaku justify their expense.  The outcome is a process (system) that has been Beta tested - often more than once – proven to work flawlessly, documented completely, trained to all users and, only then, is it made the new standard.

Kaikaku embodies the meaning of Toyota Principle #13: “Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly.”

So, that’s a thumbnail of Kaikaku.  Give it a try.

Meanwhile, Get Lean, Stay Lean.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lean Without Leadership

A few weeks ago I told a colleague that I wouldn’t accept a contract for a Lean transformation comprised solely of Kaizen events.  At the end of our conversation, the colleague gently suggested that I “rethink that position.”  I knew they meant well, but in that instant I realized that we had very different expectations of Lean.

What I had been telling them was that Lean without leadership, i.e. Kaizen only, was a waste of the client’s money.  Why would I say that when Kaizens have the potential to do so much good and save so much money?  Why would I do it when I know that some organizations will look elsewhere for a consulting company that will do Kaizens only?

The answer begins with Toyota principle #1: “Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.” 

I assure you that I’m not the least bit hesitant to conduct Kaizen events and save boatloads of money … but, Kaizens alone won’t transform anything for very long.  Whatever the event improves will slowly drift back to where it started, and that will leave a bitter taste in the client’s mouth.  So ask yourself, does it sound as if the Kaizen-only approach starts with a long-term philosophy?

The answer continues in stating that what does transform cultures is top-down leadership of the transformation.  Together these two components: Kaizen & Top-Down Leadership, make up the full transformational package.  Kaizen saves money; Top-Down Leadership makes it possible to sustain those gains and transform the organization into a body that will continue to make gains.

What do I mean by Top-Down Leadership?

It’s exactly what it sounds like.  Those in the top leadership positions will lead the transformation by first living Lean.  Once they’re living it, they get their subordinate leaders to live it.  In turn, the subordinate leaders will get their subordinates to live it, and so on, and so on, until all the leaders are of one mind and share common knowledge.  Just so you know, there is a specific methodology called Hoshin Kanri used to develop top-down leadership and it's not at all hard.

Isn’t expecting top-down leadership a tall order?

Absolutely!  It’s why most stick with Kaizens and why few organizations achieve what they set out to achieve; or become what they have the potential to become.

Those reading who think all is lost, take heart.  Transforming is challenging, but not impossible.  In fact, the hardest thing for leaders to do is to accept the fact that they are going to have to personally change.  If you think you won’t save money until you’re fully transformed, fear not.  You’ll save it and, if you stay the course, you’ll save and make lots more.

Just understand that it will take time, but no more than if you take a Kaizen-only approach.  The difference in outcomes, however, will be huge.