Tag: hoshin kanri

To Strive For Perfection Or Not To Strive For Perfection… That Is The Question…

Mornings at my house aren’t chaotic, per se, but they are quite busy.  Our two little school age kids still need a lot of help getting dressed, fed, and ready.  Waffles are their preferred choice of breakfast food.  Everyday.  With butter, syrup, and whipped cream of course.  And we all like our sleep, so we get up with only the minimum amount of time necessary to get everything done before we head out the door to school and work.

So it is not unheard of for a mistake to be made, between preparing breakfasts, packing lunches, making sure outfits match, getting on the snow pants, making sure the right earrings are in, making sure the library books are packed (oh, and we didn’t read it in the past week?  By all means, let’s read it right now)…. you get the idea.

One of my duties is to make sure both kids have water bottles filled and packed.  Not a difficult task.  But for some reason, sometimes it is hard to remember to get it done, catching it at the last minute before we get in the car.  99 times out of 100, they have their water bottle. But I missed one morning, completely forgot.  Before you scold me too much, of course they have drinking fountains and cups available at school… they survived.  But I still felt bad.

So I began wondering… how can I prevent this from ever happening again?  What system can I create, what checks can I put in place?  A dry erase task list on the door to the garage?  A reminder that pops up on my phone?  Ask my wife to do a double-check?   Five sets of water bottles, with a circle labeled M-T-W-R-F under them so it is clear if today’s bottles have been utilized?  Ask the kids to learn to take responsibility themselves? (You’re right… silly thought…)

Nothing I was brainstorming appeared to be simple and also immune to human fallacy.  With all my ideas, there was still a chance I would forget, walk by the reminder without noticing because my brain was focused on the big meeting I had that day, still a chance a defect would get through.  And I don’t think my budget request would be approved for RFID chips in backpacks and water level sensors in water bottles and a connection to the car that wouldn’t let it start unless full water bottles were detected to be in the vehicle…  (I tested that hypothesis… it was correct… budget request denied)

Then I began thinking about an important question…. did it matter?  If a mistake was made and I missed the water bottles every once in a great while, should I care?  The kids weren’t unhappy… the teachers didn’t send any nasty grams home… I didn’t get yelled at… much… it might only happen two or three time a school year.  Really, the only thing driving me to attempt to improve here was my standard desire to eliminate defects and strive for perfection in anything and everything.  So I chose to let it go.  This time.

Why do lean transformations fail?  Why are they abandoned, sometimes after several years, even with wins and excitement early on?  Of course there are many, many factors, endlessly debated in books and blogs and conferences and online forums, and every situation is different.  But I think a key one is in the title of this post.  Are you as a company, as an organization, committed to striving for perfection?  Whatever your version of perfection is?

As your organization becomes more competent in identifying waste, identifying problems in your processes, the amount of opportunities you could work on begins to outweigh your capacity for actually working on them.  And as the water is lowered, and more systemic, complex, and multi-functional problems and opportunities are surfaced, developing simple solutions that are easily implemented gets harder.  People begin to ask – do we really need to spend time on that?  I’m busy – can it wait?  That seems hard… I’m not sure we will see the immediate benefits of this effort for a while – I’d rather focus on bringing in the quarterly numbers.

Selecting the right things to work on and improve is not always easy for large organizations, and lies somewhere between having an onerous improvement idea/initiative prioritization process that stifles the very spirit of making problems visible in the first place, and simply choosing to work on whatever problem we see today and never solving things through to root cause.  What are the one or two most important things you must accomplish to achieve your business plans?  Improve those processes that will help you deliver them.  Kaizen those obstacles that sit in your path.

If you have developed a clear understanding of what perfection is for your organization, and if you are committed to achieving it, then those questions should become easy to answer.  Does improving this process help you along the path towards your goal?  Or said another way, are the problems you see preventing you from achieving those goals?  If so – the answer is yes, you should spend the time and energy to improve.  If you don’t have that vision of perfection, or if you aren’t committed to it, then the questions and debate will continue to swirl.  Less-committed team members will see lack of clarity and commitment and begin to drift back to their old methods and ways of doing work.  Highly-committed team members will continue to want to improve what they believe makes sense, but will become frustrated when other team members, leaders, and functions are not coming along with them.

Vision – Commitment – Alignment – Discipline.  These are keys to continued progress towards your goals of perfection.

If you’re wondering, yes, it did happen again, several months later.  And the kids survived, and nothing bad happened, and heck, the boy seems to prefer having no water bottle… but for a moment I still wondered what I could have put in place three months ago to have prevented the miss.  The moment passed, and then I made another waffle.

2013 Summer Reading List

I had a very nice father’s day weekend.  Mudpuppy PorterI got to spend some time with a very good friend of mine biking for a good cause.  And on Sunday, my family handed me several great gifts, including two assorted six packs of beer.  Does it get much better than that?  I’m anxious to try the Central Waters Mudpuppy Porter.  I’m also an avid reader, and was excited when I opened wrapping paper (well, after my three-year old opened the wrapping paper) holding two books by my favorite authors – Calico Joe by Grisham, and the new Inferno, by Dan Brown.  I’ll probably stay up much too late for several nights in a row burning through the pages.

I’m also an avid reader of Lean related books, although I try not to read those when I’m on my way to see the sandman.  Throughout the quarter I’ll try and keep track of several titles I might be interested in reading, or that might apply to something we’re trying to accomplish at work, and order them in a bundle.  And when that bundle arrives… well, sometimes it just feels like Christmas in July.  As was the case this week!

2013 Summer Reading

Why did I choose these titles you ask?  I chose Lean Thinking because I think it is important to read about the history that helped shape the way we think about lean today.  I chose the Toyota Way for the same reasons, and although I have the Fieldbook, I’ve never read the original.  I chose the Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement because I’m a very big fan of the Toyota Way to Lean Leadership, and this book appeared to have a focus on linking strategy to performance.  I’m hoping to find nuggets to use as we continue to learn about what hoshin kanri looks like in our organization.

I chose Real Numbers because we seem to spend egregious amounts of time discussing how to manage our budgets, and I’m really hoping for a few insights to help me figure out how to help others see the waste I do.  Everything I Need to Know About Lean I Learned In First Grade is a great lean overview book that I’ve read before, but thought I’d add to our group’s lean library.  People, also with Martichenko as an author, seems to be well connected to my teaching themes this year around how to be lean leaders.  As does The Lean Turnaround, by Art Byrne, who touts having implemented lean successfully in over 30 companies.  I’m hoping he’ll have some messages that can help me convey the importance and value of a well-developed and aligned strategy deployment system across our business.

Does that seem like too much to read?  Probably, especially considering I already have several others in the queue!  But, I’m excited to get to some of them.  I opened up the table of contents for Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement and saw chapter titles such as “Lean Processes Start with a Purpose”, “Sustaining, Spreading, Deepening: Continuing Turns of the PDCA Wheel”, and “Continuous Improvement as a Way of Life”.  They might end up a little higher on my priority list.  And The Lean Turnaround boasts titles such as “Don’t Just Do Lean, Be Lean” and “Lean Everywhere”.

I once asked a lean author (whose work I respect very much) what blogs or books he reads to keep up with new information.  His answer surprised me a little, when he said in general he avoids reading books and blogs because most of what he reads is just a slightly different take on concepts that have already been explored.  He believed the best way to learn was simply to do – to apply the concepts, to kaizen, and to improve.  It is true – you can’t truly learn what it means to think lean from a book, you have to experience it for yourself.  I think for now though, at this point in my journey, I still have many concepts that I can absorb by reading the teachings and anecdotes of others.

Maybe after another 20 years of doing this, I’ll feel the same way he does about new books and blogs, or whatever medium we’re using then.  But I hope not.  I hope I still have a fire burning in me (and a humble spirit) to learn something new everyday by listening to what others are experiencing.

Turn Our Waiting Room Into Just… A Room. How’s That For A Hoshin?

Ikitt‘ve enjoyed many of the commercials GE has put out over the last few years.  They seem to have struck a nice balance between informing about technology and entertaining the audience.  I mean, how many times do you find a new way to use KITT in today’s advertising world?  One of the first I remember was “Healthcare Re-Imagined – Love Story” which showed how improved technology can help patient care.  And who can forget the little kid capturing the power of wind?

geimaginationatwork

The most recent agent smithbrings in Agent Smith from the Matrix to explain to us how GE technology in hospitals is improving patient care and reducing waiting time.  And at the end, I think I heard a pretty good hoshin!  Here’s some of the dialogue from the video, Agent of Good:

GE has wired their medical hardware with innovative software to be in many places at the same time…  Using data to connect patients, to software, to nurses, to the right people, and machines.  Helping hospitals treat people even better while dramatically reducing waiting time.  Now a waiting room… is just a room.

There are some additional videos from the GE website connected with this video, including aventura-hospitala visit to Aventura hospital in Florida where we hear snippets from the hospital staff on how they believe the technology is helping them improve the quality of care.  In an earlier video one statistic they throw out is that the system has helped reduce the waiting time for patients by 68%.  Not bad!

If you spend a little extra time, you can find little coded spots (I’m not sure why they made it so hard and repetitive) using the time bar in the first extra video that give additional facts, such as:

  • A typical hospital can expect nurses to get an hour per shift back to spend on patient care, up to 250 hours annually
  • Can help increase equipment disinfection compliance up to 90% at a typical hospital so equipment is there and ready to go faster.

Now, I’m not always an advocate of a complex, capital-intensive electronic system being a countermeasure.  In the first year, or even months, you usually find so many things you wish you had known about when you designed the system, but to change now would mean costly rewrites to software or changes to hardware that you’ve already sunk a lot of money into.  Before developing such a system, first I’d ask, is there a simpler, more manual way to get the same job done?  In fact, many times someone develops a new shiny system just hoping to find a problem to attach it to.  But, if you develop a system to solve a problem, if you take time to define the problem and study your potential countermeasures,  and then design an electronic system to implement the solution and sustain it… well, then there’s not much to argue about!

From the additional videos, I heard several comments from the hospital workers that were really focused on how they use the system to improve patient care:

  • Everything is tagged and is specific to that equipment, and I can go into the system and see exactly where it is in the hospital and see that.  And since my area is critical, it’s a matter of life or death.
  • The GE software helps me provide better care because I’m able to get to the equipment sooner that is often vital to that patient
  • When a patient comes in to a hospital, they expect to be treated efficiently, effectively, and returned to their home.  The GE software is the catalyst that has helped us improve the bed management system.
  • It wasn’t until the GE software was implemented, that we were able to significantly reduce the amount of time a patient waits.
  • For that nurse to have that extra 5 or 10 minutes to spend with a patient, it makes a world of difference.
  • What if, we were able to see that a nurse only got to spend 2.7 minutes with a patient?

Hoshin kanri is usually associated with setting strategy.  I’ve always associated it with the image of a compass pointing you in the direction you want to go, towards your ideal state, or what I’ve heard called an organizacompassnorthtion’s “True North”.  Many times a slogan, or a short set of phrases, are associated to help bring imagery and meaning to the purpose of your organization.  A simple (and Toyota) example would be Lexus with “The relentless pursuit of perfection”.

A hoshin helps focus your organization’s improvement efforts by outlining a vision of where you want to be someday, even if you may never get there.  As you implement lean, you may create a great kaizen process, hold many improvement events, reduce changeover times, 5S the heck out of your maintenance area, create wonderful management systems with visual controls…  but at some point you may sit back and reflect from a distant vantage point and ask yourself, do we know why we did all of this improvement work?  If you are operating with a hoshin in mind, you should be able to connect most of your work towards the achievement of that ideal.

“Turning waiting rooms into rooms” may be a smaller hoshin, for one area of patient care, so it isn’t likely a rallying cry for the entire healthcare industry.  But it is connected to improving the patient experience, and is something just about anyone can relate to.

Does your company’s lean transformation have focus and purpose?  What’s your hoshin?