Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Logical Thing To Do

When I was in college, I took a philosophy class, a requirement that was boring. 

One topic of discussion was “logic”.

The professor stood up in front of the class and said, “A cat has four legs and a tail. A dog has four legs and a tail, therefore a cat is a dog.”

Afterwards, he said nothing else.  

Silence. Crickets.  Chirp.  Chirp.

I couldn’t wait, so I raised my hand and challenged his statement, “I don’t think so.”

He asked me why?

I told him, "Cats aren’t dogs." 

He slapped his hands and screamed.  “EXACTLY!”

This professor then got on top of a soap box and, in so many words, said, the world was full of people, with power, who affected our lives; and, there was nothing we could do about it because we, as a human race, were inherently ignorant and stupid.

He stopped talking and scanned the room again.

I raised my hand.


He waved me off and challenged everyone to provide him with a 40-page, typed, term report with references to prove him wrong.

Remember, at the time, we didn't have the Internet nor word processors. It was then blood and guts, research.  Little did I know; I could use my martial arts training to provide a strong reference.  

At the time (1973), I trained in SF Chinatown and had the pleasure and honor of learning from Richard Kim, founder of the Zen Bei Butokokai ttp://, Master (Hanshi) Kim told us this story about kata.  

I remembered it well, driving the long distance from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to San Francisco.  Okay, I accepted being “inherently ignorant and stupid,” but I was, also, enamored in learning; and, I wanted to understand about so many things: Why we were in Viet Nam?  Why Kent State students got shot?  Why ethnics minorities were ethnic minorities.  Why S.I. Hayakawa was such a butt.  Why I liked listening to Jimmy Hendricks?  Why I wanted to be the next Bruce Lee?

About 200 of us sempais and gohais stood in attention between the long and arduous training to hear Hanchi Kim's words of wisdom.  Some carried small pad and pencils.  I wished I did, but my memory served me well, because in this lesson, he opened our minds to the responsibility of kata.  (For those of you who don’t know, “kata” was a set of pre-arranged techniques: blocks, strikes, kicks and punches that emulated combat, the karate way to develop skill and endurance. Breaking it down to brass tacks, it meant putting an opponent out with force but not kill.)

In kata, because we fought imaginary opponents, we could insert, should we wish, a “killing” mindset; but by doing so, must accept the responsibility and intellect behind this practice.  Training to take another person’s life should not be taken lightly because, he instructed, not only the techniques become second nature but the thoughts and intents.  To train to be inadvertent killers or murderers is not the way of martial arts and a person should know the difference.  The key word is "know."

In my report to the philosophy professor, I referenced this “kata” analogy, and he, surprisingly, agreed with my argument about how an individual without knowing was influenced to accept faulty logic.  We talked about how mainstream media, seclusion, and exclusion perpetuated a “if said enough times must be true” culture that, if not checked, affected others.

Could it be true that political pundits and talk show hosts were convincing unsuspecting souls that "cats were dogs" and not caring how this toxic repetition of faulty logic created irreparable harm? 

How is it possible to change direction in this culture? I suppose I'll have to pull an old Lean Six Sigma term "Kaizen" to help me out..."good change, one small step at at time."

Through intellect, rational thought, research and logic, I chose not to be "inherently ignorant and stupid,” and with "one small step at a time," I am convinced, good change is the logical thing to do.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Lean Six Sigma Explained

That is one great video by Dan Munson. I admire him because he makes it real.  And I love his elephant analogy.  As a kid, I was told learning was like eating an elephant, one small bite at a time.  So the journey of learning Lean Six Sigma is pretty much the same thing. Just try not to take big bites. You'll choke.

As a trainer, I've been asked to provide a simple explanation of what Lean Six Sigma is.  When I tell people it's a science based statistical backed behavior and processed management system, they pretend picking up their phones to excuse themselves.  

It's neither difficult nor simple and the following provides insight for those who have not studied this powerful management system.  Lean Six Sigma combines two business management strategies: Toyota’s Lean manufacturing and Motorola's Six Sigma system. While Lean focuses on creating more value with less work, Six Sigma system defines, identifies and eliminates defects in product design and development; a method that accelerates the decision-making processes, reducing inefficiencies and increasing quality.

Lean Enterprise was developed by James Womack, John Krafcik and Daniel Jones, brain trust engineering professors at MIT that aims at optimizing the production process by reducing cycle time; identifying the value of a product from a customer's perspective and costs of development.

Based on principles derived Ed Deming and his Total Quality Management Theories, Japanese manufacturing industry incorporated these concepts and adopted into the Toyota Motor Corporation. Lean is oftentimes referred to as TPS or Toyota Production Services.

Three types of waste have been identified by Toyota:muda “waste”; mura “uneven”; and muri “over processing". Lean manufacturing places greater emphasis on activity than on design or implementation. TPS has further identified seven deadly wastes popularly known in the industry as TIMWOOD, an acronym: Transportation; Inventory; Motion; Waiting; Over Processing; Over Production; Defects (and/or rework). Costs attached to each of these types of waste have been measured to be significant and are either passed to customer or recorded as a loss.

Bill Smith and Motorola created the Six Sigma business management system. This practice relies on statistical analysis to optimize an organization's production process. Those that undergo a stringent training process, like many martial arts, identifies and certifies knowledge levels with a color belt systems, the Master Black Belt being the highest level. What’s confusing is that Lean is a Japanese process and does not require this form of certification. With that said Six Sigma is validated in many Quality Manuals measuring the number of defects during a process with a goal to score no more than 3.4 defects per million.

Six Sigma seeks to eliminate defects through a process called DMAIC: Define; Measure; Analyze; Improve; Control which is different from Lean.

By combining the ideas, Lean Six Sigma creates a dynamic but yet scientific management process that increases production speed while decreasing variations. Lean is preferred by an organization to fine-tune its daily operations, while Six Sigma is used on the production process. So Lean decreases production waste, Six Sigma implements procedures that increase product quality.

Together Lean Six Sigma gives companies an effective method to address issues of speed, quality, and cost and eliminate steps that are wasteful while opening up opportunities for innovative options.

Final Note: Lean adds value by reducing cycle time; Six Sigma adds value by eliminating defects.

Boots on the Ground

Courtesy of
“Boots on the ground” was a phrase I used in the oil fields borrowed from the military exercise, when soldiers, with heavy packs and guns loaded, marched in combat cadence.   One of my jobs was to maximize value to the customer by reducing waste, cycle time and defects. As Lean Six Sigma and the concept of Continuous Improvement were relatively new at the workplace; along came with it, a distinct vocabulary and hard to grasp concept.  To reach common ground, I had to modify terminology and substitute metaphors so that I can work with management and rank-and-file.  Without common ground, it was next to impossible to have a conversation.  The phrase “boots on the ground” was synonymous to “value added.”

A major task to determine efficiency required the implementation of the Value stream Map or VSM. Takt and time and motion studies were conducted to isolate value added, non-value-added, non-value-added but necessary, and waste associated with jobs at the workplace. Since time and motion studies were not conducted prior to my assignment, I relegated hours with a stopwatch in my hands. Time-consuming, yes, but necessary.
Courtesy of
Discussions without data provided inconclusive but anecdotal evidence that reflected upon inconclusive methodology. Once the information was gathered measured and analyzed, I offered a worksheet, chart and report for review.  Since I was the only one qualified to perform this function, I dedicated time to come up with the appropriate conclusions, thereby establishing the, all too important, baseline. Cost was determined by segregating and itemizing per hour cost on labor, equipment and material. By separating and itemizing, I was able to provide a basis for analysis.

With  data and baseline accomplished, benchmarking was based upon International Standards Organization (ISO) 9001 and customer demands.

Courtesy of
What I just explained appeared complex and almost hard to follow with thoughts of fancy algorithms, complicated routines, equipment, or technology. 

But what it boils down to in a nutshell is how much time is actually spent with boots on the ground against time doing nothing?

Is it that difficult to manage and engage employees to focus on doing and providing the best job, products, service and transaction possible by simply asking them to keep their "boots on the ground?" 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Fat Wallet

Courtesy of
A very close friend carried a wallet that contained his life's history. Not only did it hold his driver's license, Social Security, bank and credit cards, pictures of his family, birth certificate, past payroll stubs, receipts, business cards, phone numbers written on errant pieces of paper, a rubber band, and a razor blade. Least to say, his wallet was a fat ball that could not fit in the back of his pants pocket and carried it in his hands, like a small weapon, an extension of his mind, body and spirit.

I would never expect him to part with it.  There's way too much history in it.

So, companies attempting to introduce change to people with set ways, it's difficult to find methods to convince those like my old friend to abandon his old wallet for a new, different albeit lean and efficient system.

To us old folks, there's a culture and history of respect. It cannot be ignored nor denied and those who think they can will find themselves fighting a long and losing battle.

What can be done?

First pick your battles. Resources are already limited. It serves no purpose to effect change on something or a task that's listed on the bottom of a tall totem pole to do list.

Not to be ignored copious notes should be stored and referred to when the time comes.

With that said, a strategy should target the best bang for the buck. Wins will certainly get the ball over the hill and create a momentum that picks up more support as gravity since it down the hill. This impetus will allow hardliners to acquiesce since as strong as they set on their principles. They are long-standing and loyal employees. In the past, they weren't going to impede progress if the consensus supports the overall cost.

Hidden factories not only drains efforts to meet customer demands it affect bottom line and company profits.

Kaizen translated means good change. UCLA professor of psychology, dr. Richard Mayer, Ph.D, indicated the most effective and lasting changes are those that come from taking small and incremental steps. This is the basis of continuous Improvement that some are too impatient to wait for him, as a result, implement unreasonable demands on the company's long-standing culture and infrastructure.

The solution?

Have two systems.

Allow the old to continue and then implement, for example, Lean Six Sigma changes. Have both work together and concurrently with the new helping the old to assimilate. It was around 1979 when I was first introduced to an 80088 computer get replaced adding machines, letters and journals, yellow notebooks, slide rules, pants, pencils, erasers, protractors, drafting tables, compasses, and that all too important pocket protector. I think I still have that pocket protector somewhere in my desk.

In college, I read the Medium is the Message by Marshall Mcluhan. I never envisioned, in such a short time, a world filled with so much technology and China being one of the strongest economic powers in the world; however, both were predicted.

Continuous Improvement is a way of life that morphs changes by its nature. Change was predictable based upon people not happy with status quo and young fresh minds said that impossible was impossible.

Progress has a mind of its own and there’s no purpose to get in its way.  Others may want to embrace it if they get to keep their old methods with them. To affect changes for those fat wallet owners, the first step is to have strong policies that employees are thoroughly educated; meaning, support it in writing. These documents provide the methodologies and processes that help all employees work predictably and consistently. Next is to conduct in-service training and offer mentoring to those technically challenged to ease in efficiency and productivity.

The old and new can both work and learn from each other.  Don’t make the mistake of implementing this resource incorrectly.

That way those who want can keep their life's history in their wallets as well as feel comfortable in accepting and participating in changes that will make work exciting, worthwhile and fulfilling.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lean Sigma and Transportation

The following is from Alan Kandel, writer and retired engineer who now focuses his attention to air quality in California and the impact transportation contributes to it.  Though short, his ideas provide insight for further studies and research.  

Read your latest post on process. Streamlining processes to make operations more efficient regardless of application should be pursued. I am reminded of transportation.

You would be amazed as to the amount of waste there is in the transportation realm. If you want to know just how much there is in the United States when it comes to driving then you'll want to check out the Texas A&M Transportation Institute's 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard; you would be astonished to learn how much fuel, money and time is wasted as a result of American drivers stuck in traffic. Building one's way out of the congestion mess (crisis?) isn't a solution. In my The Departure Track book I pointed out that according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, America's highways have a 42 percent congestion rate (in 2013). That's a 58 percent non-congestion rate which, by any measure, is failure. In industry, that would be unacceptable. So, why do we find it to be okay when it comes to driving? I am convinced that applying the continuous improvement, Lean Six Sigma principles to land use and transportation planning (the two areas go hand in hand) could really make a significant difference.

At any rate there is an interesting article about artificial intelligence in the Fall 2016 issue of Cal Poly Magazine ( The article of most interest to me is called "The Shape of Cities" - the focus is self-driving cars. If ever implemented, this has the potential to cause even more congestion than what there is already as people who would not otherwise be behind the wheel would all of a sudden be in vehicles being shuttled about autonomously, not to mention cars operating sans drivers waiting for their next assignments. It is a really interesting topic of discussion to say the least. - Alan Kandel

Friday, October 21, 2016

Story About Process

My past posts covered subjects like the Hidden Factory, Standard Operating Procedures and the "what, hows and the whys."  Most recently, I read a book by Clayton Christensen, who introduced the concept of Jobs To Be Done or JBTB. If you have time, pick it up; I highly recommend it.  It's titled Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice.

In one YouTube video where he spoke in front of an audience in Oxford, the person who introduced him indicated that his book was one of the top six management books of all time. After reading it I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Poka Yoke or Mistake Proofing

I've had conversations about the term “mistake proofing,” a Lean Six Sigma term taken from Toyota's Production Systems “poka yoke,” which means to set up a work environment where mistakes are virtually impossible.  The definition: Mistake proofing, or its Japanese equivalent poka-yoke (pronounced PO-ka yo-KAY), is the use of any automatic device or method that either makes it impossible for an error to occur or makes the error immediately obvious once it has occurred. (Source:  American Society for Quality or ASQ) Metaphorically speaking, the idea is if you poke an egg yoke while frying, it would prevent the mistake of it being under cooked, though some of us like it that way.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What is Lean Six Sigma?

(I’ve been asked to provide a down and dirty explanation of what Lean Six Sigma is; so hope this helps.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know, thanks!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How to Determine If You Need Lean Sigma

The big question is, now that you know a little about Lean Sigma, why do you need it when you feel your company is efficient and streamlined with customers happy enough with the quality and service you provide?

The comeback is:  “Are you sure?”

Monday, October 10, 2016

Kaizen in a Lean Dojo

As a martial artist for many years, I was taught dojo kun.  “Hitotsu, jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto” the first of five guiding rules in Shotokan Karate, one of the major martial arts systems originating in Japan, practiced worldwide, and founded by Gichin Funakoshi.  Translated it means:  Each person must strive for the completion of one's character.  When recited in the dojo after each class, it was shortened to “Seek perfection of character.”

Question is:  Can this same principle apply in a Lean Enterprise environment?