Improved organization with multi-colored sailboats

Good morning,

As I mentioned last week, I am no longer engaged in full time work as I am now doing part time consulting, overseeing my disabled son’s programs, maintaining a household, and keeping my mind, body, and spirit fit. As I have been adapting to this shift in lifestyle, I really didn’t have plan to manage it all beyond typical task lists.

As we know, task lists don’t necessarily translate to “plans” so I really wasn’t planning much and lo and behold, the days started slipping by. I was getting things done but it felt disorganized for my purposes and several elements, such as my spiritual condition, were being undernourished.

I decided I needed something different than what I am accustomed to so I dug into journal planner kind of thing to see what folks are doing and what I am not.

One thing I discovered, which I’d heard nothing about, is this massive trend of bullet journaling. After watching a few online tutorials, I noted that, for me, it involved way too much fluff, redundancy, and creativity, none of which I am down with for a journal planner. The whole thing reminds me of the scrapbooking trend.

During my sifting through the bullet journal tutorials I stumbled onto a minimalist approach to a journal planner. The guy I watched was a busy entrepreneur and his practice really struck a chord with me so I adopted many of his elements.

My journal planner now incorporates a daily and weekly tracking with sections that includes cheat sheets (lean/six sigma/project management, etc.), personal finance, goal setting, business ideas, and projects.

Note: My past practice has been to include client notes into my daily planner and journal but along with implementing my new journal planner, I set up and use MS OneNote for client notes. This method has instantly enhanced the quality and availability of information since I no longer have to dig through pages of black ink notes to find a short note.

Much of the bullet journal approach uses periodic templates, which I painfully watched being drawn and redrawn in the tutorials. I watched one woman redraw a single month’s calendar 3 times on 3 different pages. Not being one to waste time with redundancy, I designed my daily and weekly template, a scorecard of sorts, in an address label format then printed and placed them on my daily pages.

Granted, this makes the journal planner a bit thicker but for a 3-month range, it is not bad. You can see an example of a daily page below.

JP Template

And then keeping with the spirit, I picked up a few colored gel pens to make it a bit more of a fun visual experience because I did like that element. Almost all of my planners have been written in black ink for many years.

This leaves me plenty of space for tasks, notes, and other tidbits worth noting journal-style.

I am now one week into this and it’s feels pretty good. I can see where I miss my targets and what I can improve on.

And I did get super creative and drew a sailboat, in multi-colored ink mind you, on last Saturday’s page because it was boat day.

Thanks for stopping by.

Off the road again…

It’s been a while since my last writing.  A lot has happened since.

I am off the road, finally, and hopefully, for good.  It’s been quite a while since I have not been traveling for work other than a 1-year respite at job in Milwaukee.  The majority of the last 12 years I have been spent working out of state.  And now I’m home.

It’s nice.

I like it.

A lot.

The family enjoys me being around as well.  In fact, we have switched roles a bit with my better half moving to full time, me moving to part time local client work and being the primary contact for our son.  Yes, that means I am driving Dad’s Taxi, making dinner, cleaning the house, and spending a lot more of my time getting things done, something that is very difficult to do when spending 12 hours a week flying, driving, and waiting.

And we bought a boat.  Yep, a beautiful vintage 27’ sailboat that we sail on Lake Winnebago, which has plenty of room to play.  I was even able to get to an Iron Maiden concert a few weeks back and looking forward to seeing Elton John in Milwaukee in a month.

boat2

Did I mention I like being off the road?

And I landed a couple local clients.  I am working with a local fabricator and manufacturer of industrial equipment on continuous improvement and soon will be adding program and project management.  I am also working with a local financial services firm who is representing a local contractor in the sale of that business.  It’s good work and I appreciate being home every night and in fact, being able to work from home.

I do have some topics for some future blogs so I will be back next week.

Thanks for stopping by.

Standard work? Nah, I got this.

I’ve worked with numerous client and companies on turnarounds or improvement projects in small and medium-sized shops.  The technology is often tried and true, usually considered old school, if you will.  The processes contain nuances and require finesse at times but generally speaking, if they were to apply some standard work, based on the fundamental principles of the technology, the companies I’ve worked with would be a lot closer than they are.

Standard work is a Lean Manufacturing term that, according to isixsigma.com is defined as follows:

Detailed definition of the most efficient method to produce a product (or perform a service) at a balanced flow to achieve a desired output rate. It breaks down the work into elements, which are sequenced, organized and repeatedly followed.

You know those perfect cookies that your mom or grandmother made?  They were no doubt created using the same ingredients, the same process, the same oven and temperature, and the same nuances nearly every time and the results were almost always predictable.  Yummy good cookies, right?

If you tried to make the same cookies in your own kitchen, the results might be different based on the variables in your process.  An extra minute in the oven, a different brand of butter or vanilla, a different cookie sheet, or anything that can create a shift in the standard process.

When a process is so out of control that no two jobs are alike, settings for process temperature, humidity, and timing are ignored, materials storage conditions are highly variable, and employees do it their own way, what can we do?

We create standard work.  Identify the correct environmental conditions, equipment settings, and material storage and handling requirements and stabilize all processes.

We then create standard work procedures that clearly define everything that allows us to replicated the process then teach and instruct every employee to follow them.  Teach the why it matters.  These procedures become the new standard and the only time they change is when the processes undergo controlled changes based on improvement.

I want to include an example of standard work as it applies to me.  Something simple, yet something I feel is important to my brand.  My logo contains 7 different colors, none of which pop up in MS Office programs when I am trying to match.  I contacted my logo designer who provided me with the RGB color numbers used which allows me to match any of the 7 colors used in my logo.  Simple, right?  The chart below is always nearby to enable me to quickly select and match my colors.

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I can NEVER make a mistake matching my colors now.

Thanks for stopping by.  Take care of yourselves in the cold.

 

 

Waste

So now it’s time to talk about waste.  Muda.  Non-value-added.

There are a few ways to list the 8 sources of waste but for the sake of simplicity, I will opt for using the DOWNTIME acronym.

  1. Defects
  2. Overproduction
  3. Waiting
  4. Non-utilized talent
  5. Transportation
  6. Inventory
  7. Motion
  8. Excessive Processing

So here’s a few things you need to know about waste in any form.

  • It rarely fits into any one of these buckets.  For example, inventory is often found waiting to be processed and requires transportation to move it around sometimes by highly skilled workers.  Inventory is also easy to overproduce just to make sure there’s enough and can contains defects waiting to be found.  And for materials susceptible to environmental conditions, it can spoil rendering it, well, trash.
  • Every value stream contains waste.  I’ve never seen a single example of a waste-free stream.  Often, we will map a value stream for the first time and find over 90% of the activities to be considered waste.  Remember, value is defined by the customer, not the producer.
  • Waste is money.  It will pull profits out of your process if it is not eliminated.  It will create safety, quality, delivery, and cost issues.  It can make your customers very unhappy with you because it might not fit their definition of value.
  • Sometimes waste is necessary.  Usually it is not.
  • Waste likes to hide.  It can be wiley.  Sometimes it can only be seen when you look for it.  The good news is there are tried and true methods for identifying and eliminating waste.  Plenty of ’em.
  • Once you learn to see it, you will see it everywhere.  Everywhere.

So how do we see waste?

We draw a map.  A big, beautiful map.  Using sticky notes.  When we are finished with our map, we will see the waste.

It will be glaring.  It will be ugly.  But when we put our our waste goggles on and see it, we can begin to do something about it.

Up next:  The Value Stream

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Michael Bates has over 35 years’ experience as a Lean practitioner, including 30 years’ leading manufacturing, engineering, and service operations.  He holds numerous Lean certifications and is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt.  Michael is also certified in Project, Program and Portfolio Management.

Value

In my last post, I mentioned the game-changing book Lean Thinking by James Womack and Daniel Jones.  They get right down to business with the 5 principles of Lean, the first of which is Specify Value.

Value can only be defined by the customer and it only has meaning when it is expressed in terms of a specific product that meets the customer’s needs at a specific price at a specific time. 

Value can only be created by the producer.  Womack and Jones state that this is the reason producers exist — to create value for the customer.  So, to restate this from a from a Lean perspective, in order to produce value it first has to be defined by the customer.

I have led product development projects that we, as the producer, defined the value to the customer and can say that the products and related services were, at the end of the day, off the mark.  Assuming we new best resulted in costly product feature changes and launch delays.  A couple of the lines never fully recovered and the 3-year life cycle was plagued with inefficiencies, delivery and quality issues, engineering mishaps, and ultimately, reduced margins.

Our most successful projects involved key customers in the features design process and subsequent service of our flagship products.  This allowed us to hear their definition of value and design a product flow that delivered that value successfully throughout the 3-year life cycle of the product.  The momentum of that success carried forward into the next flagship redesign, which proved to be more successful.

Once we understood the value as defined by the customer, we deployed lean methodologies in all areas of the organization and lo and behold, we had some pretty favorable margins as the result of the cultural shift.  It’s easy to speak in terms solely of the product, but we dug in to truly understand our customers’ business models which ensured timely invoicing and payments.

Value.

Up next: Muda

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Michael Bates has over 35 years’ experience as a lean practitioner, 30 of which while leading manufacturing, engineering, and service operations.  He holds numerous Lean certifications and is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt.  Michael is also certified in Project, Program and Portfolio Management.

A Year to Make a Can of Soda?

I recently, for the umpteenth time, listened to Lean Thinking – Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation and in my opinion, it stands the test of time.  This gem keeps Lean, or Continuous Improvement, simple.

Regardless of the product or service, it is as important as ever to understand the value to the customer, the value stream that brings the product or service to the customer, how to ensure your product or service flows based on demand pulling it through your value stream, and the importance of continuously striving for perfection.

My well-worn book has plenty of marked up pages and the audio book brings the familiar and soothing voice of Mr. Womack into my car.

You must experience this if you care about bringing value to your customers.

And yes, it can take up to a year or more to make a can of soda. Pick up a copy in the media of your choice and find out why.

Your thinking will never be the same.

 Have a great day!

Michael

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Lean Six Sigma is simple.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet tonight.

Lean is all about increasing the throughput by eliminating waste.

Six Sigma is all about improving quality by reducing variation.

Lean Six Sigma is a highly synergistic combination that brings value to the customer.

You can call it whatever you’d like but the principles are the same.  Find the waste and the sources of variation, identify the root causes, and implement solutions to eliminate the sources of waste and variation.  When you’re done with that, do it again.

Every process has waste and variation.  Your job, everyone’s job, is to learn to see it.  Google it if you don’t know how.

That, my friends, is continuous improvement in a nutshell.  But please, just keep it simple.

Thanks for stopping by.

Michael