“BOOM! Down goes Muhammad Ali.” Billy Taylor’s powerful voice echoed throughout the halls of the Mass Mutual Center as a room full of onlookers jumped in their seats. A gripping image on the screen showed the greatest heavyweight champion in boxing history splayed out lifelessly on the canvas. Would he admit defeat? Or would he continue to fight on? And what does this have to do with lean?
This story was not really about boxing; it was about perseverance, and the message was clear. Becoming lean is not easy, and organizations looking for a quick win are sure to be knocked out of the fight in the blink of eye. Lean is a struggle, and it’s precisely that struggle that builds within us the strength to carry on. We must realize that whether it’s boxing, lean, or life in general, everyone – even the great ones – eventually fall. It is the great people and the great organizations, however, that find the will to get back up.
The 2014 Northeast LEAN Conference
This was just one of many powerful messages delivered last week at the 10th annual Northeast LEAN Conference hosted by the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership (GBMP). For two days, some of the top lean thinkers in the world gathered in Springfield, Massachusetts to share their unique perspectives and success stories along the theme of this year’s conference: Putting People First.
Couldn’t be there in person? No worries. The KaiZone has you covered! I’ve sifted through my copious collection of notes – thanks again, OCD – to bring you some of the key messages and golden nuggets from a few of the many outstanding lean thought leaders that presented.
Jaime Villafuerte – Director, Lean Six Sigma, Jabil
Jaime’s talk, entitled The Secret to Sustained Success, echoed the importance of creating a kaizen culture within an organization in order to achieve sustained success. To demonstrate the power of the kaizen approach, Jamie challenged several teams in the audience to take the Marshmallow Challenge.
Successful teams, however, followed a more kaizen-like approach, based on learning through informed experimentation; it is through many, small rapid experiments – PDCA cycles – that the best teams were able to expose the hidden assumptions and flaws in their intuitive thinking.
Russ Sacffede – retired VP, Toyota Motor Manufacturing & Toyota Boshuku USA
According to Russ, Lean is defined as the setting of standards aimed at continuous improvement for the engagement of all team members in the elimination of waste. In other words, Lean is composed of a “technical side” which makes waste visible and a “people side” that eliminates the waste through problem solving and innovation.
On the technical side, many companies fail to achieve lean success because they simply copy the traditional lean tools used by Toyota without first defining the functionality of their underlying system. Organizations must first define the systems and processes and then adapt the tools to enable the desired outcomes. “Lean tools” should never be taken simply at face value.
On the people side, there are four keys to people development: participation, identity, equity and competency. In other words, people will actively engage in the practice of improvement when they are given the opportunity to improve (for example, suggestion teams, quality circles, etc . . . ), ownership of their work, equal standing and respect, and the appropriate training and guidance. The more people, however, that are engaged in the improvement process, the more important it will become to make sure that actions are aligned in meeting the overall goals of the organization, which is accomplished via the hoshin kanri process.
Bruce Hamilton – President, Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership (GBMP)
I got my first exposure to lean thinking by watching Bruce Hamilton’s Toast Kaizen about 8 years ago, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been a big fan of his work at the Old Lean Dude blog and on his free webinar series Tuesday Tea Time with the Toast Dude ever since. The highlight of my conference experience was having the chance to hear him speak on the topic of management kaizen.
We often think of kaizen in terms of the tangible: the shop floor, the equipment, the people, etc . . . but the same thinking needs to be applied to the prevailing management system if we are to ever achieve lean success. By making many, small changes in how we manage, we are better able to align our “strategy, organization, policy and people in order to create a favorable environment for company-wide continuous improvement”.
Jamie Bonini – Vice President, Toyota Supplier Support Center
I literally could not type fast enough to keep up with all of the first-hand TPS knowledge that Jamie was able to fit into a 50 minute presentation. Simply amazing presentation, and impossible to do it justice without actually being there. However, what struck me most was that quite possibly the most powerful guidance given was also one of the more simple messages.
We often over-complicate management in a lean organization, making it more difficult than it truly needs to be. It is Jamie’s perspective that top management has four essential roles that they must play to achieve sustainable TPS results:
- Show strong and visible commitment.
- Learn TPS correctly, and with enough detail that they can teach it to others
- Build an environment that will surface problems
- Go and see the gemba in detail (frequently) in order to grasp the current condition
Top 5 Quotes from the 2014 Northeast LEAN Conference
Hope to see everyone at the 2015 conference!