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Planning the value-stream map event

Planning the value stream map event is critical for success, do not take shortcuts.

Lack of visibility and clarity are common mistakes while planning all kinds of events.  Most of the time, the reason is not enough time spent on planning.  Given that it is a strategic tool, planning the value stream map event is crucial for success.  For that reason, you should ensure to complete this step without shortcuts.  This is the second post from a series dedicated to VSM.

Aim to provide clarity while planning the value stream mapping event

Ensure clarity about what is the subject by stating the scope of the event.  Describe what triggers the process, where it starts, and where it finishes.  Also, think about regulations, policies, or critical procedures that cannot change.  Those are the limitations or boundaries that cannot be crossed or change during the exercise.  In addition, indicate the specific conditions for the process map.  Does the map is for one product or service or a family of products or services?  Are you mapping the process for new customers or existing customers?

Based on the objective of the event and the process itself, determine how you will measure success. What metrics will you use to measure progress?  Learn the process’s actual and forecasted volumes.  Furthermore, the types of tasks manual or automatics, machines, or technology used.  That information supports the mapping discussion where capacity, inventory volumes, and staff are conversation points.  Besides, you should gather relevant data to accelerate those conversations.

The VSM team for the event

During planning, you also choose your mapping team.  The team should be a multi-disciplinary group representing all the functions along the value stream.  Because the VSM is a high-level map for strategic purposes, team members are managers and above.  In other words, people who have the authority to approve changes, assign resources and change current strategies.  To facilitate effectiveness, limit the number of team members to 5-10 people.

The focus of the preparation stage is to get clarity and information.  However, that is not the only objective.  Like with any kaizen event, you need to communicate its purpose.  Gaining support from leadership before the event starts is convenient for success.  For that reason, ensure that all leaders know what you want to accomplish and why.

The facilitator must ensure that all team members have a basic understanding of value stream mapping. Also, they need to know the basics of lean manufacturing principles.  For instance, knowing what waste is, is critical to achieving the mapping objective.  If there is a knowledge gap, then it should be closed before the event.

There is more regarding the planning the value stream map event

Another activity for this stage is to determine who is the owner or champion of the value stream.  That is the person accountable for the performance of the value stream that is the subject of the mapping activity.

Other planning actions are choosing the date(s) of the event and location.  For instance, to ensure that all necessary equipment and materials are available.  In addition, to coordinate break times and snacks or lunch. 

Once the plan is complete, it is time to share it with the event sponsor and the champion.  If all agree, the next step is the event itself.  In part 3 of this series, we will address the first step of the value stream mapping event, draw, and understand the current state.

What are the steps to create a value stream map?

Value stream mapping is a high-level tool where we can see the process from request to delivery.  It is used to create strategy.

Value Stream Map (VSM) is a high-level tool used by leadership for strategic planning. It represents the flow of material and information through the value stream. It is a tool that allows you to see waste.  In addition, you can create your plan to eliminate it.  However, this is not a one-person tool.  For best results, organize a kaizen event to create the value stream map with a multi-disciplinary team.

Things to do prior to create a value stream map 

Like any other kaizen event or improvement activity, planning is critical for success.  During the planning stage, the facilitator will guide the team to prepare for the VSM event.  The preparation includes details such as team composition, scope, and limitations.  

Steps to create the value stream map

At the kaizen event, the team must complete three critical steps.

  1. Draw and understand the current state map.
  2. Design and draw the future state map.
  3. Develop the plan to arrive at the future state.

Understand what you want to accomplish before start drawing

What is the motivation or reason for wanting to do a value stream map?  Do you want to understand how the organization works from order requests to product or service delivery?  Or is there a need to learn how to serve your customers better?  The objective of the event must be clear before executing the planning phase.  

Knowing what you want to learn from the VSM facilitates the process of forming the team.  You want to have a cross-functional team of managers and decision-makers from all the areas that cover the process under study.  Remember, this process map is a high-level study of the process; the purpose is to make tactical decisions.

Planning is so crucial that I will dedicate an entire post to talk about it in detail.  More posts will follow with the different steps of the value stream mapping process.

How do you identify all the steps in the value stream?

Drawing a value stream map enables the process of identifying the steps in the value stream.

The value stream is all the steps required to bring a product or service from order to delivery.  The first lean principle is to define value from the customer’s point of view.  The second is to identify all the steps in the value stream and eliminate waste.  How do you determine those steps?

Identifying the steps in the value stream

A value stream map (VSM) represents the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service from order to delivery.  You identify value-add activities using the customer’s lenses as a reference.  This visual representation helps to accomplish the goal of eliminating waste within and between processes.  

The first step is to determine the scope and form the team to draw the map.  You need to decide the boundaries of the VSM event to be clear about what process you will be working on.  A process can start with the suppliers or the customer’s request.  Similarly, it can end with the end of the process at the site or the delivery to the customer.

In general, during the VSM event the team will complete the following steps.

  1. Determine the process family.
  2. Draw the current state map.
  3. Determine and draw the future state map.
  4. Draft a plan to arrive at the future state.

Benefits of the value stream map

Drawing a VSM enables a high-level view of the process, which uncovers where the stream stops.  Many times this map is the first time that people see the entire process from start to finish.  Therefore, it brings clarity to what happens between departments and the challenges associated.  For instance, it helps to see the materials flow and the information management as well.

The conversation around the drawing activity promotes discussions regarding efficiency, resources, and individual processes themselves.  The depiction of the process crosses departmental lines, which breaks silo thinking.  As a result, teamwork and collaboration drive the brainstorming process seeking improvement ideas.  Furthermore, it conveys the flow of action plans to execute those ideas.  

Another word about identifying the steps

Drawing the map is not the objective or the most meaningful thing of the VSM.  What matters is the thinking process to identify the process steps and identify the value of each one.  Moreover, the conversations around the subject, the collaboration within departments, and the clarity to see the opportunities for improvements.

In the next post, I will write more about the steps to draw the value stream map.

Using reflection to learn

You can use reflection to learn from your mistakes.

Do you remember the last time you felt defeated?  How did you feel after making a mistake?  Perhaps you felt angry, upset, or fearful.  How did you react?  What did you do after that mistake?  The way you respond during the heat of the moment is significant.  However, what you do after, is what is even more critical.  In continuous improvement, we use reflection to learn from our mistakes.  

Get in the habit of analyzing your mistakes.

I read an article from Justin Bariso regarding an online course he took from Garry Kasparov.  Kasparov is a chess strategist who uses reflection to learn from his mistakes.  Bariso indicated in this article that there is one lesson from Kasparov that stands out.  The lesson is that to improve at anything, you must get in the habit of analyzing your mistakes.

He recommends that the next time you commit a blunder, you should take some time to analyze it.  The analysis should start with asking yourself the following questions.

  • Why did I react the way I did?
  • What may I have misunderstood or have gotten wrong, especially in the heat of the moment?
  • What would I change if I could do it again?
  • What could I say to myself next time that would help me think more clearly?

Why using reflection to learn from your mistakes?

Making mistakes is part of our lives.   For that reason, we better learn how to deal with them.  When you are a leader, it is paramount to learn from those mistakes.  Moreover, to learn from the way we reacted to those mistakes.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those around you.  EI skills are a characteristic of good leaders and kaizen facilitators.  The reason is that people with a healthy amount of EI recognize their feelings and learn how to react to them.  Also, they understand how those feelings can affect other people.  

In a continuous improvement culture, you achieve your goal, or you learn.  There is no losing, and a reflection is a learning tool.  Kasparov’s provided a guide to learn from your emotions.  The answer to those questions will help you understand why you reacted that way and how you could do it differently next time.  This reflection will help to learn more about yourself and how you deal with your emotions.  Your top job is to guide and support your team.  Knowing your mental state will support your efforts to motivate and keep your team engage in the continuous improvement process.

Using reflection to learn from your mistakes and emotions

The truth is that reflecting upon your emotions is also a tool to guide your growing process.  It does not have to stop with our feelings after making a mistake.  I found that in our quest to be better human beings, it helps to learn how we react to some situations.  

For instance, we can learn to understand and deal with impatience, fear, anger, sadness, and others. Moreover, why do we feel joy and happiness from some activities?  In conclusion, through reflection, we can evaluate and learn from our mistakes and feelings.  Both things will help us to be better professionals and human beings.

More focus on achieving goals than people?

Managers, business owners, or entrepreneurs have many responsibilities.  One of them is to help their staff learn, develop new capabilities, and grow.   However, their most important job, being a servant leader, is not always a priority.  The reason is that leadership sometimes focuses more on achieving goals than people.

Why more focus on achieving goals than people?

In traditional businesses, the desire to meet goals drives the company culture.  Therefore, leaders focus on activities to achieve them.  Most of the time, the target is cost reduction.   Some cultures give so much importance to it that rewards reducing costs without regard to the means.  That is a way to promote a toxic work environment where achieving goals is more important than caring for the people.

On the other hand, in a continuous improvement culture, the focus is on the people.  Leaders understand that their job is to help their team to learn and grow.  Moreover, to build a culture of inclusion, respect, and collaboration.  The only way to achieve it is to keep people in the spotlight all the time.

Leaders and priorities

Hyper focus on the goals also causes another problem.  In their quest for achieving them, leaders may decide to do things on their own.  With that decision, two different things can happen.  One, they would stop training and mentoring, which will hinder their team development.  And two, they could go back to the control and command state.  These actions are the opposite of the learning and empowering environment that they would like to build.

Even when leaders recognize that the secret ingredient for the business’s success is their people, sometimes they lose focus on their team.  For me, this is one area where I keep working to improve.  I want to be so effective with my time that often, I do not allow myself to deviate from my goals for the day.   The problem is that sometimes that means that I only do what I planned.  For instance, I don’t take advantage of informal situations to keep building my relationships because I am focused on something else.  

How not more focus on achieving goals than people?

Highly efficient leaders know how to balance their time between people-focused activities and their other tasks.    We need to ensure that we included some time to fulfill our top responsibility with our team, build relationships, and enjoy being part of the group of people we work with.  Including the intention to do it in our daily plans is a way to ensure that we don’t overlook it.  Include a reminder to check on your colleagues and team members is not cold and calculated.  On the contrary, it is a way to recognize that it is so critical that it deserves a top spot in your leader standard work.

How to promote innovation, a must-know for leaders.

Leaders must know to promote innovation and the attitude to never stop exploring, learning, and growing.

Innovation is crucial for the success of any organization.  Finding out-of-the-box ways to improve the operation or satisfied your customers can give you a competitive edge over your competitors. Innovation can produce a new product or service.  It can also help you to empower your team.  Regardless of the purpose, creative thinking is a must.  Given the competition out there, leaders need to know how to promote innovation as part of the daily processes.

To promote innovation, develop your team’s skills.

To empower the team, leaders need to ensure they have what they need.  How do they know what skills to develop?  Some skills, like problem-solving or data visualization, are easy to recognize, but others are not.  If you are not sure, go to the best source for this information.  Ask your team member what do they need for success?  What skills or knowledge do they like to develop?  Then, evaluate if the request is reasonable or worth the resources. Finally, approve the request or work with them to find a solution that fits their needs and aligns with the company goals.

Create a safe place to learn.

One of the rules for a kaizen event is to create a safe place to learn, voice ideas, and test their hypothesis.  A safe environment is fundamental for a learning experience.  Employees are more likely to engage in the problem-solving or creative process when they feel safe.  Creating such a place is one-way servant leaders show that they care about their team. The absence of fear of losing their job or retaliation is critical for innovation.  

Even when there is no fear of losing their job, exposing themselves to failure is a deterrent.  Although in continuous improvement, you win or you learn, it feels like a failure if you don’t get what you expected. To change that, leaders will need to step up and model the expected behavior.  

Promote innovation modeling the expected behaviors.

They can model them in two different ways.  First, they can show how to react when they face failure.  Great leaders do not hesitate to show their vulnerabilities.  Leaders make mistakes like everybody else.  When people see the boss has fears or insecurities about following his ideas but do it anyway, they feel good.  It is that aha moment when they realize that their boss is human and feels fear like they do.  

The second way to model correct behavior is by demonstrating the expected reaction when things turn out differently than expected.  During those times, it is normal to feel defeated or upset.  However, it is the reaction to that feeling what counts.  Instead of roaming your sadness or anger, good leaders show their team that it is ok not to win all the time.  Ask your team how they feel and let them vent their emotions.  

After that moment of relief, reset the mindset by showing them how to reflect on the lessons learned. With those learning on hand, adjust the plan and test it.  Moreover, show them to never stop exploring, learning, and growing!  

Ask without telling, the art of asking questions

To make good questions and help your team to develop their problem-solving skills, you need to know how to ask without telling.

One thing that everybody does every day is asking questions.  We ask questions to learn, clarify doubts, or obtain information.  As a leader, you ask questions to learn about a situation.  Also, you make questions to guide your team on their learning process.  However, are you asking or disguising your solutions as questions?  To promote a learning environment, leaders need to ask without telling.

Sometimes a leader needs to tell

Leaders have the responsibility to communicate, set direction, and provide a purpose.  To accomplish them, they tell information and share news or concerns with their team.  Moreover, there are times when they need to set direction.  Sometimes, there is a need to change a strategy or adjust a plan.  When that happens, the leader tells the group what the change is and why it is needed.  Also, how it will affect them and the new expectations.  During these situations, telling is the right thing to do.

Another responsibility of leadership is to teach and coach their team.   The objective is to transfer knowledge and create capabilities.  While facilitating the learning process, leaders tell new information.

Finally, sometimes leaders need to advise people.  It is common to share previous experiences or tell a story to illustrate a point.  If that is the case, say what you are trying to do, do not hide it behind questions.  The best leaders are humble and compassionate.  There is nothing wrong with showing your humanity by using past experiences to illustrate a point.

Why do you need to ask without telling?

A servant leader’s job is to develop more leaders by teaching, motivating, facilitating, and supporting the team.  By asking questions without telling, they promote learning.  Also, their team’s confidence in their ability to solve problems and create more value grows.  As their confidence grows, their participation in the improvement process grows as well. 

A critical step to change the culture is to empower the people.  While asking questions with respect, leaders guide them to find answers by themselves.  By allowing people to use their brains and participate in the daily management processes and innovation, they feel more engaged with their work and happier when they come back home.  

How can you ask without telling?  How to ask better questions?

When you ask questions that people can answer with a simple yes or no, they don’t put too much effort. Closed questions do not lead to engagement or promote thinking.  When you don’t receive answers, the next thing you do is telling people what to do.  On the other hand, with open questions, people need to think.  Use the 5W and 1H to ask questions.  That is, reframe your questions using who, what, where, when, why, and how.

To keep the brain’s wheels turning, ask one question at a time and give people time to think.  In general, we are not comfortable with silence.  Therefore, right after asking something, people jump to tell their answer.  To be successful in asking without telling, you will need to become comfortable with silence.

Sometimes it is easier to ask closed questions.  Therefore, you would need to stop and think about how to reframe it as an open question.  There are two questions that I used often.  The first one is, what makes you think that way? or ” What do you think we can do differently?”  The second question I often used is, “How do you think we can accomplish that? 

Ask without telling that is what we should do.

Contrary to common perception, leaders are not supposed to have all the answers.  However, very often, they have ideas or solutions to share with the team.  During those times, tell the group that you want to share something with them.  You can always tell people, here is a suggestion and then ask how they can improve it.  Do not hide answers using questions.  Let people think, promote learning and problem-solving skills.

By telling, leadership is not fulfilling their responsibility of teaching and coaching.  Once again, this is a stop-and-think situation.  Think about your idea, do you have any doubts about it?  What parts of it need fine-tuning?  Use your doubts or unknown parts to ask open questions.

A continuous improvement culture seeks to foster a learning environment.  Servant leaders teach, motivate, facilitate, and support their teams.  Show them that you care by helping them to develop their skills and grow.  Learning how to ask questions without telling is a way to achieve that.

Accountability and visual display boards during the daily meeting

Using visual display boards during the daily meeting helps to keep everybody aligned with the company KPIs and drives improvements.

One difference between traditional culture and continuous improvement is the focus on the things that matter most. Another difference is that we want to make problems visible.  A daily management system supports both things by using gemba walks, daily meetings, and leader-standard work.  Daily meetings are the place to discuss progress and actions while keeping everybody aligned with the site KPI’s.  The use of visual display boards during the daily meeting is how this alignment occurs during the accountability portion.  

What is the daily meeting accountability process?

A daily stand-up meeting with the team is one of the fundamental activities of the daily management system.  However, the huddle meeting is not complete unless it has a visual review of the critical objectives.  The daily accountability process is the way to involve everybody in the organization to check progress and further action needed to close the gaps.  

This process is done through daily meetings at different levels.  These tier meetings typically occur at two or three different levels, depending on the size of the business.  Tier 1 is between the team leader and team members, and tier 2 is between the supervisor and team leaders.  A manager leads Tier 3 with the participation of a group of supervisors.   These gatherings help the team to keep the focus on the performance of the daily process.   Also, it makes visible the effect of their actions on the site metrics, which drive accountability.

We use a visual management system to track those metrics.  During the meeting, the discussion is around the results presented on the board.  During the conversation, we seek to answer two questions.  What we did well? and what could we have done better?   

What should be part of the visual display boards during the daily meeting? 

Every company goal must have a metric to measure progress.  Usually, what we use at the top leadership level does not make sense for the office or shop floor people.  Therefore, they must be cascade to the team as a metric that they understand.  That way the metrics, are aligned with the KPIs.

The board should be easy to understand by the people working in the area.  Everybody should know the meaning of each metric.  Also, they should know how their work affects the performance measured by each one.  The board should provide information to know when the process is out of range.  That way, they can see how yesterday’s actions affect performance.

The purpose of the visual display boards during the daily meeting

The meeting must be a safe place to discuss the problems, reasons, and possible solutions.  It is the leadership’s responsibility to ensure that it is that way.  While it is not the place for long problem-solving sessions, the group should agree on what actions to take.

When the design is correct, a visual system will help see what should happen and what happened.  The objective is to understand what happened and create the appropriate actions to correct the deviation from the target.

While reviewing the KPI’s, people should understand the results and the gap with the target.  Understanding what went well or not helps to learn the source of concerns and frustrations.  After this step, the conversation should focus on taking action to solve the daily problems.  When problems are too big to solve, capture the ideas for further discussion during kaizen events.

The goal of these tier meetings is to foster a collaborative environment for problem-solving, ideas sharing, communication, and learning.  The daily meeting is where we see problems and take action to make improvements every day.  The spirit of continuous improvement is making small improvements every day, everywhere, by everybody.   Live up to it by using the morning meetings and display boards to drive improvements!

Asking good questions, what is the value of it?

By asking good questions the right way, leaders can uncover the root cause of a problem, the later big product, and much more.

One way to build trust in the workplace is to listen.  Listening is the most basic way to show respect.  Another way is by helping your team to develop their problem-solving skills.  To help people to get to the root cause of a problem, asking good questions is critical.  Although solving problems is of great value, asking good questions brings more value than that.

Uncover the root cause of a problem and get more

It is necessary to ask comprehensive questions to uncover the root cause of a problem.  For example, use open questions to ask what happened, how, and how often. This kind of question makes people think harder before answering.  The thinking process may bring with it new ideas and different ways to see things.  Moreover, it unleashes the hidden talents of the people.  

When people feel that their work is meaningful, they feel better about themselves.  Higher self-esteem is part of a good mental health state.  Some benefits of good mental health are more clarity of thinking, better mood, and anxiety reduction.  People with good mental health also experience an improvement in relationships.  That is to say that something that started with someone asking good questions ends up helping not just the team but their family.

Ask good questions to build trust

If leadership often communicates with team members at all levels, they have the chance to create relationships beyond problem-solving exercises.  Informal conversations are the perfect vehicle to know the person behind each team member.  It is also a chance for those team members to learn the human side of their leaders.

Some leaders are nervous about asking their people for ideas.  This hesitance many times comes from the fear of being weak or not worthy of their position.  However, when a leader asks for help, it is shows vulnerability which helps to build trust.  In other words, they show that they are honest about admitting that they know everything.  Also, asking for help Is a sign of modesty.  Good leaders are humble and trustworthy.

The value of asking good questions

Asking good questions is a skill that every leader should have.  By asking, they help their team develop new skills and learn new ways to do things.  Most of the time, those learnings are applicable not just at work but also in other settings.  Problem-solving Is one of those skills that are helpful everywhere.  

Team members that learn more and participate more from the site decision process through brainstorming and other activities feel better about their jobs.  The feeling of being part of a group and have a meaningful job brings the added value of good mental health.  An individual with good mental health has better relationships at work and home.

Finally, problem-solving is a team activity.  Therefore collaboration, creativity, learning, and trust are added benefits of the idea’s inquiry process.  For the business, the value of asking questions Includes better efficiency and lower costs.  Above all, it can impact employee satisfaction and retention.

By asking the right questions in the right way, leaders can discover the next big idea for their business, the solution to what stops them from sleep at night, or how to change their company culture. Moreover, they will positively impact their team by helping them to grow.

Effective meetings, how to have them?

Effective meetings are a necessary evil.  They are fundamental for the growth of any business.

Meetings, everybody needs them, and at the same time hates them.  They have the potential to be a powerful part of any growth, innovation, or improvement strategy.  However, many times they turn into a waste of time.  Moreover, many times they are the reason why people allegedly have no time for other meaningful things.  As a leader, what can you do to ensure your business or organization have effective meetings?

Causes for ineffective meetings

Before discussing what to do to have productive meetings, let’s start with the common causes for ineffective meetings.  One thing that bothers most of us is not knowing the motive or objective of a gathering.  Lack of clarity regarding the purpose can lead to decline or not take it seriously.  For the organizer, the lack of a plan or objective leads to inviting the wrong people.  Maybe they will end with people that don’t need to be there.

Another cause for unproductive meetings is when participants arrive unprepared.  Preparation includes reading the objectives, search for backup information, read related reports, and others.  Lack of preparation leads to a repetition loop where players talked non-sense or repeat the same things discussed during the previous meeting.  Not being prepare also causes inefficient time management. Moreover, distractions, interruptions, and off-topic conversations cause lost time.  

There is no point in having a meeting without a record of the topics discussed.  Notes of the issues reviewed, ideas and opinions, action items, and decisions are critical for effectiveness.  Follow-up the progress on the action items and decisions enforcement is easier when there is a record.  It also eliminates different opinions or recalls about what happened.

Effective meetings require preparation

A productive meeting starts with the planning.  The first step is to define the objective of the meeting.  What do you want to accomplish with the reunion?  From there, you can decide what topics need discussion, how much time, and who should be there.  Avoid too many complicated subjects for one meeting.  Consider splitting the themes in more than one gathering if necessary.  

Second, prepare the agenda and list possible sources of information to facilitate preparation.  Third, separate a room big enough to accommodate the people you will invite.  If possible, avoid conference rooms close to areas with too much noise.  Also, ensure to have available all the tools or equipment that you will need.  

The fourth step is to send the meeting invitation.  Along with the invitation, explain the purpose of the meeting.  Also, send the agenda, scope, outcome expectations, and sources of information.  With this information, participants can prepare for the meeting.  Preparation will facilitate effective participation and better time management.  Communicate the rules for the reunion as part of the invitation email.  For instance, request to turn off mobile phones and refrain from using laptops or tables during the meeting.

To run effective meetings, leaders do the following.

  • Complete the adequate meeting preparation (objective, scope, agenda, and others).
  • Set clear expectations by opening the meeting summarizing the scope, purpose, and desired outcome. 
  • Continue the meeting discussing the points of the program.
  • Ensure that everybody on the table has a voice, promote participation.
  • Always take notes or have a designated secretary.
  • Respect the allotted time for the meeting by managing the time for each topic. 
  • At the end of the meeting summarize the outcome, decisions, and action plans.
  • After the reunion, send the minutes along with action items.  Ensure to include what, who, and due dates.
  • Set up time on your calendar for follow-up.

Meetings are a necessary evil to run a business.  However, they don’t need to be a waste of time.  A well-run meeting is fundamental for the growth and process improvement of any business.   Effective meetings are possible with proper planning, conduction, and follow-up.