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CI Tools

What is customer value and how do you define it?

The journey to transform your business into a continuous improvement enterprise should start with the definition of value. The CI business management model defines the value of a product or service from the customer’s point of view. How much your product or service is worth for the customer? What are the expectations?

How do you find the answer to those questions? Only the customers themselves can tell you. There are a couple of ways to get their input, talking with them, or using social media. The best time for a conversation is right after they received the product or service. Ask about their experience. What do they like? Do they have any suggestions? Listen to what they have to say and watch their demeanor. Social media accounts are another way to receive feedback from customers. Review the comments and ratings often. You can also create polls to survey their opinion.

The information from these three different sources will give you the value definition from the customers’ point of view. Value definition is a critical piece to start your continuous improvement quest. You will use it to classify each process as value-added or non-value-added. Value-added activities are those that transform input into output or change materials or information. In other words, the customers are willing to pay for it. Everything else is non-value-added or waste.

When you go to a restaurant, you expect to receive on a reasonable amount of time the plate you ask. You also expect that the staff follows any special instructions like cooking the meat the way you request it. You will pay for the food and the service without hesitation. If the restaurant messed up with your plate, that is a defect. Now they have to prepare a second plate, which is overproduction. Both things are waste or non-value-added activities. I bet that you, the customer, are not willing to pay for them.

Businesses need to complete various processes that are critical for operation but do not add value to the customers. Examples of necessary non-value added activities are hiring, payroll, and month-end financials.

The entire flow from the customer order to product or service received is drawn using a value-stream map (VSM). VSM is a special type of flow chart where you can visualize the flow of information and materials. This map is a tool that allows you to see waste and plan how to eliminate it. How to create a VSM will be the subject of a future post.

The priority of continuous improvement is to eliminate waste. Waste elimination will create faster and bigger results. Second, it is to challenge and reduce the necessary non-value-added activities. Minimize the quantity of non-value-added steps will further improve flow and reduce costs. Finally, you will work on optimizing value-added steps.

CI 101

What are the key elements for continuous improvement success?

key elements

The answer to the question of what the keys to a successful lean implementation are depends on who you ask. Most people will say that discipline and determination are key.  Others will include skills, passion, know your goals, and luck.  If you are convinced that lean is the strategy you will use to frame your business decisions, you must know the keys to a successful lean implementation.

The key ingredient for a successful lean implementation is creating a continuous improvement culture.  The objective is to change from traditional thinking to a lean thinking approach.  Changing behaviors and beliefs that have been part of the company’s soul since birth is not an easy task, it is a big challenge.  A fundamental part of the culture change is to care more about people’s motivations, viewpoints, and how to develop their skills.

The culture change is not possible unless leadership buy-in and support the transformation.  Leadership defines the organization culture if they don’t change their attitudes and behaviors, success is a dream.  If you are the owner of a small business, you are the person who needs to drive the change and align purpose, process, and people.

Communication at every stage is crucial.  People need to know what, why, how, when, and who.  If the current culture is not good with communication, this will be the start.  The team is now your ally, you work to facilitate their work and develop their skills.  The more they know, the more engagement and willingness to help will be.  They need to know what the problem is and what you want to accomplish with a continuous improvement strategy.  Set the tone by including them in the decision-making process.  For example, ask for help to establish the baseline and stretch goals for the implementation.

You would think that there is no need to clarify the frequency of continuous improvement activities.  Unfortunately, it does need an explanation.  A common mistake is to believe that it is ok to base the implementation of CI events only. CI events are good, but you need to promote CI thinking every day.  Lead by example every day by looking for waste and ways to eliminate it.  Why are we doing this?  How can we improve it?   Use the culture change to promote daily improvement activities and events as training opportunities.

For effective improvements, your team will need to have the right tools.  An early step is to identify which tools make sense for your operation and train the team.  You can find a responsible person who works with you to design the roadmap to growing the CI culture and identify the tools to support it.  A good start is to review how the current leadership culture has shaped the work environment.  Define the gap between that and where you want to be.  Knowing the current environment, you can create a motivating climate for the lean journey.  You will design a toolbox with the basic tools you will need to support the lean implementation journey.

Consistency is very important; you cannot change the framework to make decisions every time something is not working.  Regardless of how challenging the problems are, keep using lean thinking.  Remember, leadership is responsible for creating and modeling culture.  Your employees will be watching, they will do what you do, not what you say.  If you go back to your old ways, they will too.  When problems arise, go where the action happens, go, and see.  Observe and ask why, ask your team for ideas, try something new, and measure the effect.  Make from every situation an opportunity to learn, and always celebrate the wins!

In summary, the following are the five key elements for a successful continuous improvement or lean implementation:

  1. Leadership buy-in and support
  2. Culture change to lean thinking & people’s development
  3. Effective Communication every step of the way
  4. Use the right CI tools, create your own toolbox
  5. Continuous improvement everywhere, every day, by everybody
CI Tools

What is a strategy? Do you have one?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What is strategy?  Do you have one?  Or do you have a plan to achieve your business goals?

Many people confuse strategy with planning.  A strategy is the game plan for strengthening your business performance.  It establishes the framework to make decisions, how to conduct business, and deliver value to your customers, and achieve target revenues and profits. Planning is how you are going to achieve the business objectives and goals.

A plan without a strategy will not be effective.  Every organization needs a shared vision of where it is going, what is the business model, and what will drive decisions.  The strategy is how you are going to overcome the biggest hurdles, is what guides everybody in the same direction.

Planning comes after you know where you are going and what will frame the decision-making process.  Effective planning requires a look into the company’s strengths and weaknesses and to take countermeasures.  

Lean is a business management system, that when it is implemented as a whole, constitutes a great framework to conduct business.   The goal of lean or continuous improvement is to provide the customer with the highest quality, at the lowest cost, in a shorter time.  By using lean as a strategy, you will set your business for success.

Hoshin planning is the process used to identify and address critical business needs and develop people’s capabilities.   Continuous improvement or lean is a strategy to win by developing the team into problem solvers.  At times of economic uncertainty, it is critical to respond to changes in the business environment as fast as possible.  

When you and your employees know how to identify and respond to the daily challenges, the opportunities for success grow exponentially. Never is late to change your strategy, and win!

Home

How can you organize your garage?

Is your garage a mess? If the answer to that question is yes, you are not alone. Around 50% of homeowners rate the garage as the most disorganized place in the house. It is where garden equipment and tools, sports gear, and holiday decorations end up. Do you think there is not enough space in the house for all the stuff you have? The fact is that 80% of the clutter in most homes is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.

My recommendation is to 5S your garage. You know already that 5S is an excellent tool for organization and it works everywhere. Let’s use it for the garage!

Remove everything and place it on the driveway in like by like categories. Have an area for items that are either broke, don’t need, or you are not interested in keeping. As you removed things, ask these two questions: Do I need it? Do I need to keep it here? For example, the garage is not the best place to store your insurance and mortgage documents. Do you have a shack or closet outside where you can keep garden tools? Have an area for those items and set aside as well. Use a sign to indicate the future location or not needed status.

With the empty garage, you can see how much space you have available. Check the keep in the garage categories to have a sense of how much space you need. Think about the best way to store them and the best location. There are lots of garage organizing solutions on the market. Design the storage areas for the garage. What do you want to do? Do you want to park your car? Do you need a work area?

The following are examples of organizing ideas:

  • Go vertical! Space is a high-end commodity, utilize it wisely. 
  • Create overhead storage for kayaks or bicycles, or to hang bins.
  • Hang heavy items from the wall using gear tracks and hooks. There are hooks of different sizes and styles for light or heavy stuff. Use them for power tools, ladders, hoses, and others.
  • Check on organizers for specific uses like a broom holder and garden tools organizer or a sports gear organizer.
  • Create a shadow board for the most used tools.
  • Use open shelving whenever you can.

Although, you assign a place for everything first and then shine, this time it is a good idea to clean the garage first. It is easier to clean before you start hanging organizers and placing shelves. Pressure wash the garage, starting with the ceiling, walls and finally the floor. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can rent one or just use a regular hose. After cleaning is done, you can paint the garage if you want. Avoid bringing back dirt and dust by cleaning shelves and toolboxes before moving them into place.

Put organizers and shelves in place and then move back in all the stuff you will keep. Start with what goes overhead and then move to the walls. While you put everything in its place, think again if you want or need to keep it. As a rule of thumb, anything that has not been used in the past year should be removed. Hopefully, by the end of this step, you can park your car inside the garage again.

For the standardization piece, you can create labels to indicate what goes where. I like shadow boards because they don’t need an explanation. They are easy to understand and use. If you plan to do some work in the garage, place a trash can to ensure all trash goes to the right place.

Decide what to do with those items on the not-needed pile. Options are: give it away, garage sale, donation, recycle or trash. Do not move them back to the garage! Keep yourself a deadline to dispose of them. Put in place those items that you decided to locate somewhere else.

To keep the housekeeping and organization, put in the calendar a periodic inspection and cleaning of the area. Make this a family activity engaging everybody in the garage cleaning. That way, they will be more willing to cooperate in maintaining the organization and cleanliness. Now go ahead, open that door and let your neighbors see your state of the art garage. Enjoy!

Office, Productivity, Time Management

How do you deal with distractions in the workplace?

Udemy for Business surveyed US workers in 2018 about distractions at work. More than half (54%)  said that their performance is not as well as it should be because of workplace distractions. Half of them think that they are significantly less productive. The top two distractors mentioned were chatty coworkers and office noise. They also indicated that open office layout and digital distractions are affecting the ability to focus.

Even if you don’t work on an office setting distractions are affecting your productivity too. Here are some tips to avoid them.

  • Know when your focus and creativity levels are higher and plan to do your most difficult tasks during that period. Block that time in your calendar and notify everybody that you are not available unless it is an emergency. 
  • If you are a morning person, try to come earlier to the office and take advantage of the quiet space. If you are a night owl, you can stay later to tackle those tasks.
  • When you need to focus on an important task while everybody else is present, set some rules. Let everybody know in a polite way that you need some “Do not Disturb” time.
  • Create the perfect environment, avoiding distractions. Turn off all notifications, chats, and social media. 
  • Set specific periods to interact with business emails and social media.
  • Keep your work area clean and organize to avoid visual distractions.

Regardless of how hard you try, somebody or something will distract you. There are a few more things that you can do. For example, learn how to manage distractions like emails and office noise. Learn how to manage your emails, using blocks of time to work with them. Use headphones to cancel the noise or have a sign to tell people that you would like to not be disturbed during that time.

Also, remember that having a good night’s sleep and healthy eating habits will help you to have the energy to concentrate. Find your own trick, and keep the focus!

Office

Do you need 5S in the office?

There is no doubt that sometimes offices are scary.  There are too many things to do and it feels that no time to do them.   It is easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if it is cluttered and neglected.  There are many benefits of get organized, offices are a great place to practice 5S.  The following are signs that you need to 5S in your office.  

  • Office workers spend too much time searching for information or missing documents. 
  • Folders and other documents piled on your desk
  • Documents on top of cabinets
  • The filing cabinets have documents that you keep just in case, or things that you know are duplicates.
  • Your desk drawers contain a mix of items, from snacks to old pens, to things borderline trash.
  • Your office or cubicle is a mini supplies room.

I want to share with you some tips for 5S in the office.  Let’s see them one step at a time.

Sort – When in doubt, move it out.  What do you need to do your job?  Needs are things that are necessary to perform the job tasks.  You only keep what you need to accomplish your job.

  • Information regarding how long documents are stored and the official storage location for them is contained in the company document retention policy.   
  • Empty all your desk drawers, file, and storage cabinets and go over all the items inside.  Relocate what does not belong to the appropriate place.
  • Remove documents that by policy, you don’t need to keep any more or another person or department should keep.  Check that they have a copy before trashing or destroying the documents.
  • Try to go digital for everything you don’t need to keep a hardcopy.
  • Move out of your office or cubicle all the extra office supplies you keep.

Set in Order – A place for everything and everything in its place!

  • Create electronic folders to file those documents that you need to have, but not necessarily need a hardcopy.
  • If it is possible, move furniture, filing documents and small equipment like desk printers in such a way that follows the information flow.  
  • Assign a drawer to one type of things only, for example office supplies or personal items.
  • Those files and other items that you use more frequently should go closer to you.  
  • Think about how you are going to organize the files in the cabinets, and how you will divide the documents in sections.  Use names that are pertinent and easy to understand.   
  • Remove safety hazards such as materials blocking aisles, doorways and exits.

Shine – Make inspect and clean part of your daily routine.

  • Clean all furniture and cabinets inside and out using appropriate tools and supplies.
  • Inspect while you clean.  
  • Repair or request repair for what is not quite in good condition, like missing screws for handles.
  • Clean your computer keyboard and desk printer.

Standardize – Follow the standards daily, success is a habit, not an act.

  • Set clear expectations with clear rules and polices that includes daily activities and frequency for non-daily activities.
  • Non-daily activities should include regular audits to ensure everybody follows the set rules.
  • Update or create the retention files policy and create an easy to follow job-aid to help the entire team to understand and follow it.
  • Make official all the temporary markings for your file cabinets and desk.
  • Establish minimum and maximum quantities for all items in the supply room.
  • Make 5S part of the on-boarding training for new employees.
  • Recognize and reward achievements in the 5S Program.
  • Have a bulletin board for all 5S activities, including recognition.

Sustain – Cleaning and organizing is a practice, not a project. Make 5S part of your daily routine.

  • Ensure everybody participates of the 5S Program
  • Do daily walks to ensure everybody is following the rules.
  • Make 5S part of your daily work, include 5S new and comments on daily performance meetings.
  • Conduct monthly audit and communicate the results.  Use them to recognize the best.

As always, 5S in the office is a team activity. Reclute your team to implement 5S and make it part of the daily routine. You will see results right away, the environment in the work area will be so much better!

CI 101

Is visual display and visual control the same thing?

A visual display share information at the point of need

Do you know the difference between visual control and visual display? A display tells information, and control prompts some action.

A visual display shares information or standards. It provides the right information, in the right format, at the point of need. Some examples are bin labels to identify different parts or materials, floor markings, safety signs, and defects displays. Work instructions and other types of job aids are also examples of visual display. Bulletin boards to share information like the safety record for the year, open job postings, and changes in policy are a very common visual display.

A visual control calls for action when something happens. The standards are part of the workplace, and a warning makes you notice that something abnormal happened. Sometimes, visual controls not only warn that something happened but also organizes behavior. When an operator pulls an Andon cord, the line stops sending a powerful signal warning of problems in the line. Everybody knows the warning means that the line stopped, and help is needed to fix a problem. The ultimate goal of a workplace is to have visual controls that prevent defects. Mistake proof controls use techniques that make it impossible to make mistakes.

Warning and call for action, organize behavior, and defect prevention are different levels of visual control. A visual display is the first step before you start building visual controls into the workplace. Many companies never moved from this stage, and wrongfully think that they have visual controls. To avoid that same mistake, keep improving one step at a time to reach the ultimate goal, to have mistake-proof controls.

Electronic / Virtual, Office

Is managing your email inbox driving you crazy?

Manage your emails effectively

Do you know that the average office worker spends 13 hours per week on emails alone? A typical business professional sends and receives 122 emails daily. With those numbers, there is no doubt why you feel like managing your inbox is all you do.

To avoid going crazy for your emails, apply housekeeping and organization to your inbox.

Like every time you want to use 5S, start sorting out the messages that you don’t need. Browse your email in the lookout for promotions and subscriptions. Sometimes you subscribe to a digital newsletter or give away your email address to obtain some information. You are not interested in keeping the subscription anymore but never unsubscribe from it. Go ahead and unsubscribe now, do not touch that email more than once! Do the same thing with promotions that you don’t want to receive anymore. Identify spam emails and put them on the spam folder immediately.

While you browse for emails, make a list of those that you receive periodically and need to keep. Think about customers, suppliers, invoices, and your team. To set in the order, you have to prioritize and categorize your messages. Create categories like my team, finances, insurance, customers, and suppliers. You do not have to go through all your emails, but make sure you include your most frequent contacts.

To shine or clean your inbox archive or delete emails as you go. Make a routine to read your emails during certain times of the day. Reading emails every five minutes is a productivity killer. I read emails first thing in the morning as part of my routine to create the agenda for the day. Check again before lunchtime, and then before going home. Make sure your key people know that if they need your attention, they should text or call you.

Now is time to standardize. Use the contact list you build to create and assign categories to your contacts. With Outlook and Gmail, you can create color-coded categories or filters based on certain criteria. Also, you can assign priorities. For example, invoices have high priority, but digital newspapers are a low priority. Change your email settings, so incoming emails go straight to the appropriate folder or have the right label.

To ensure your inbox is under control, create rules to sustain the tidy state. Daily, as you check your emails, decide what you need to do with the information received. Create tasks or events using the message and then archive or delete. Establish a frequency to revise your emails looking for contacts that need to be categorized or are not relevant anymore. 

Your inbox does not have to drive you crazy. Stop the insanity and 5S your inbox!

CI Tools

What is Visual Control?

Road traffic safety is an example of visual controls

The ultimate goal of 5S is to create a visual workplace. Visual controls make problems visible, communicate status, and improve performance. They also guide people to stop or prevent abnormalities.

A key component of road traffic safety is the group of lane markings, traffic signs, and signals. Think about a street’s intersection. The traffic light and pedestrian crosswalk are visual controls. As a driver, if you are facing a red line, you know that your right of way has ended, and you stop. A pedestrian uses the pedestrian signals to know when it is safe to cross. In the workplace, you can use visual controls to warn when it is time to buy more office paper or to communicate that help is needed.

Everybody in the work area understands the visual control objectives and knows what to do with the information. They work because when looking at them, everybody understands the same thing and act the same way.

If you use a chart to show orders completed per hour, you should be able to know if there are delays by looking at it. What you see will tell you if there is a reason to hurry up or just relax and keep your pace. Another example is the red tags used in the Red Tag Campaign as part of 5S. These red labels indicate that something was out of place, and call your attention for action.

If you want to create visual controls remember the following:

  • Make the team part of the visual control design process.
  • It must be visible at a distance, choose wisely the font type, color, and size.
  • Avoid cluttered signs and charts, it has to be easy to understand.
  • Use color code and fewer words whenever is possible.
  • Visuals communicate a standard and actual performance.
  • Ensure that the entire team knows what it is, the objective and rules. Even when they participate in the design process, a meeting or training to share those details is important. This will ensure everybody understands the same thing and reacts the same way to the signals.

In future posts, I will talk more about examples. For now, look around and identify visual controls around. Think about how you can apply this tool in your business. Any ideas?

Office

How do you organize your desk at work?

How to organize your desk at work and keep it organized

How organized is your desk at work? A messy desk is a common cause of poor time management. Piles of papers, magazines, and folders on your desk make you waste time searching for what you need. Take a look at these fun facts.

  • The average US executive wastes 6 weeks per year searching for missing information in messy desks and files.
  • A person who works on a cluttered desk spends, on average 2.5 hours looking for things.
  • The average desk worker spends 3 hours per week sorting piles trying to find the project to work on next.

Don’t be like them! A cluttered space makes you feel overwhelmed. Creativity and productivity are not good in that state of mind. Tidy up your desk and keep it that way.

Start by sorting what you have on the desk. Do you need to keep all those papers? Recycle or shred what you don’t need. If you need the information but not the physical paper, scan the document. Make sure you create virtual folders for them with logic names that represent the content. If you already used them and need to keep the hard copies, file them on the appropriate file cabinet. Control the papers around you at the source. The best practice is to think before you print. It is good for the environment but also for your time management and office supplies budget. 

As you move papers out of your way, you will uncover other items like mail and lost invoices. Get rid of what you don’t need and put those items that need further action in a dedicated bin. Make the habit to deal with incoming mail daily. Some times people pay bills late because they can’t find the bill or don’t remember if they receive it or paid already.

Dispose of everything that is trash. Why you have pens without ink or snack envelopes on your desk? Dispose of what you don’t need as soon as you don’t need it.

Check the drawers too! You will find more papers, snacks, and extra office supplies. It is convenient to dedicate one drawer for your things, like snacks. Create a share location for office supplies to reduce unnecessary inventory. Keep on your desk just what you need. How many pencils or black pens you need at a time?

Most people like to have things on their desks that make them feel at home. A picture frame with our kids, a pencil holder with the logo of our favorite team, you name it. That is ok but control the quantity, one or two items should be enough.

To sustain your progress take 5 minutes at the beginning and end of the day to manage your desk items. Start each morning planning your day. Retrieve and organize the documents you need for immediate work. At the end of the day sort your papers and mail and take immediate action. Recycle, scan, or file those documents, do not accumulate thinking that you will need them later. Many companies establish a clean desk policy to control sensitive information from lying around.

There are multiple benefits to keep your desk clean. It saves time and money. Uncluttered desks reduce overwhelming feelings and stress and increase productivity. A clean desk keeps sensitive items confidential and makes a good impression. Take back all that time and develop your system to ensure not falling back to the old ways.