Posted by: knightbird | December 28, 2011

Presentation at the TWI Summit

I have agreed to present at the TWI Summit again. It will be held from May 14-19, 2012 at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, FL. The actual Summit is 2 days long (15 & 16) with extra optional sessions before and after. My talk will be on sustaining lean thinking in an organization through TWI. I will be focusing on our Restoration to Health Strategy, which was made possible only because of the many Lean driven improvements at Chugachmiut. We have freed up resources, including staff time and cash, which allow us to do more service for our customers. Our formula is simple in concept, but difficult to execute.

The concept is to Respect your People and teach them to Continuously Improve systems. We use Kaizen (of varying lengths of time now, from 3 days to hours) for teaching our employees the art and science of improvement. Lean Thinking is about teaching all employees the philosophy and tools for improving value. We respect their talents and abilities. There is also substantial benefit for employees following this approach—the organization has a better change of surviving into the future. Their jobs can be better secured as a consequence of improvement.

Improvement is actually easy. You help your employees map the process you want to improve. They brainstorm improvement then decide on the ones that are currently achievable. Though project planning, the improvements are implemented. The processes are then improved frequently through identification of defects and correction of the act that causes the defect.

The difficulty in execution comes about because of the incredible resistance to change among board members, executives, managers and employees. Employees can be convinced of the benefits in their first Kaizen, but are very skeptical of management. Why improve your performance if it only means that you have to work either harder, or your job is eliminated. For managers, Lean Thinking is viewed as a means to reduce their power and authority. Executives have typically worn a “Cape” throughout their career and feel great satisfaction in crisis management. If they are good at politics, they seldom view their performance as the cause of problems. It usually is. If you are able to break past this resistance, and secure improvements then a good Executive understands the concept of Entropy and how to prevent it.

Sustaining the improvement is difficult. Entropy is not. Improvements gradually decay back into chaos without a sustainable method of maintenance. One of the tools of maintaining improvements is creating a culture of continuous improvement. Entropy can’t settle in when improvements keep coming. The second tool is teaching the improvements to current and incoming employees. This is where TWI comes in. In the original TWI Program, it was important to identify the standard work for an employee. Until you have standard work, you cannot really improve the work you do. What usually happens in a workplace without standard work is incredible variation in how the work is accomplished, with negative consequences. The system in a workplace that hasn’t improved is chaotic, but can still be called a system if tolerated by management. Employees figure out ways to get the work done. The negative consequence is a high rate of variation and considerable amounts of waste. As the organization begins to improve its processes through identifying effective standard work, it has a need to deploy this standard work throughout the organization. This is the role of Job Instruction (JI). Standard work is broken down into job instructions and taught to each employee involved in the improved process in a short and effective way.

I have described the results of such a system many times in public presentation and this blog. Maybe I am wrong in thinking that improvement is easy. So few Alaska Native organizations have interest in adopting Lean Thinking as a management system. This is one reason I am grateful for the opportunity to speak about our implementation of Lean Thinking at conferences such as the TWI Summit. It is always refreshing for me to see other Lean Thinkers and innovators. Hope to see some of you there.

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