The Long Tail of Problem Solving

As you may have noticed there are few unique types of problems which have very large impact (Financially or in some intangible way). As we get to the process level on the shop-floor we come across hundreds, if not thousands of low impact problems. If we plot all these problems we see something which look like a Long Tail distribution.Longtail

Though the solution of the individual problem in the “Fat Tail” may have a small impact, but together they contribute to the largest portion of the gain if solved.

How do we solve so many problems simultaneously without overloading our resources. This makes us realize the importance of empowering each and every person to solve their problem. What ever tools you use, like A3 , 5 Why, Ishikawa Diagram,  etc. to train should be aimed to decentralize the problem solution. When we have each and every person in the organisation trained in this manner it creates a synergistic effect allowing to solve several problems large and small simultaneously.

Lean Management – Driving force of Lean Transformation

How many times have you successfully implemented change using lean tools only to realize, after few weeks or months, that the manager and other people  have either reverted back to the old methods or have found ways to circumvent the newly established methods.

We learned the hard way that lean transformation cannot be supported and sustained with  traditional management system

Most of the times traditional management is results driven and may not focus on the process. Thus there is no inherent  motivation for the manager to improve the process. Also when lean tools are applied  this type of management does not provide a sustainable system to integrate, improve and sustain changes with daily feedback to realign to solve problems as they arise.

The “Lean Management” provides the framework to drive the lean culture. As identified by David Mann in his book “Creating Lean Culture“, there are 4 elements that makeup the Lean Management:

1. Leader  Standard Work

2. Daily Accountability

3. Visual Controls

4. Discipline

Leader Standard Work sustains the systems integrates the changes made during the transformation process. Visual Control and Daily Accountability helps keep the process and people aligned to solve problems as they arise. The Discipline of the leader ensures that standard work is followed and the whole system works coherently.

Leader Standard work – A bite a day keeps audit away!

I was reading “Audit Vs. leader Standard Work” by Mark Rosenthal and I suddenly realized what potential we have created at our work place.

Over the course of the year we have grown very fond of the audits. Especially for 5S and we are developing audits  for maintaining other lean management systems put in place. So far they worked fine and actually helped us to stay on track and also creating in culture of continuous improvement. So you may be wondering why that is bad?

As Mark explains Audits are snapshot and often people will try to fool the system to be good for the audit but bad on other days when there is no audit. Now I wondered why it was not realized at our place?

The reason for this was simple , we had unknowingly incorporated that in our Gemba Walks. This ensured continuous followup of all the set systems on daily basis. This was an important move,  addressing to issues as we walk through the workstation was part of our Leader Standard Work (LSW). This kept the systems in check on day to day basis, for example an operator was informed about parts without any designated place immediately when it was seen rather then waiting to conduct the audit.

This has inspired me to think of new system where in we will no longer need audits as we will do bit of checking everyday by enabling it through LSW of responsible people.

Some things which helps to achieve this goal :

1. Try to break down big monthly tasks into smaller weekly  tasks , similarly weekly to daily tasks.

2. Use knowledge gained from issues of shop floor modify LSW to fit systems put in place to avoid these issue in future

3. Even if you have to use audits initially , make them stricter , raise the bar up as people start getting better

4. be disciplined to resolve issues  immediately rather than waiting for the next formal  audit

I am hoping to learn more by looking at audits and leader Standard work from this Perspective and ultimately be able to stay away from audits  by taking a bite a day using the Leader Standard work.