A Lean Team Needs a Goal


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How to know what to work on, so your team doesn't waste the limited time it has for making improvements.

Published in: Business, Health & Medicine

A Lean Team Needs a Goal

  1. 1. What’s the Goal? A True Story About a Fictional “Problem” By Jeff Liker & Karyn Ross February 2014
  2. 2. Ask anybody what should be improved and you get many answers…problems are EVERYWHERE! Try doing 100 hours of work in a 60 hour week! The IT is slow, unusable, & out to get me! If customers only appreciated what we do for them.. sigh People are incompetent! How can we decide which ones to work on so that we avoid wasting precious improvement energy?? 2
  3. 3. Once upon a time in AnyServiceCompany USA*… * Look carefully and you’ll find this story in any service company… 3
  4. 4. The Boss assembled an Improvement Team to work on what he perceived as a “BIG PROBLEM” “We have counselors to give our agents in the field live information to address customer concerns. The East Coast Division understands the rules and procedures. But when West Coast Division counselors answer spillover questions from the East they are inefficient, do not understand the problems, and give out bad information. What can we do about this problem?” 4
  5. 5. The Improvement Team had lots of meetings and brainstormed lots of ideas for solving the problem... But they couldn’t agree on a solution they believed would work… they didn’t know what to do… 5
  6. 6. So the Improvement Team facilitator, who had read lots of books, but had little experience using a systematic, scientific approach to leading an Improvement Team, asked his friend, an experienced Toyota Kata Coach, to join the group. 6
  7. 7. The Coach met with the group and quickly spotted the reason that the team couldn’t decide on a solution! No current condition had been figured out… No target condition set… They just had a that there was a problem and LOTS of ideas for solutions…But no FACTS whatsoever… 7
  8. 8. First, the coach helped the Improvement Team understand the current business objective by looking at specific business and customer needs… The CHALLENGE 8
  9. 9. Then the Coach helped the Improvement Team gather some basic current condition data for the process: They went to the East Coast and West Coast counselors’ gemba, investigated the sources of information used, timed the process, documented the process steps and looked for similarities and differences… They even went to talk directly to the CUSTOMERS! 9
  10. 10. When the Improvement Team looked at REAL DATA from the process steps & timing… AND at what the customer SAID they wanted… They were shocked to learn… I am a happy customer….. ① ② ③ ④ There were no systematic differences in how cases were processed East and West! There were no differences in efficiency! There was no difference in the quality of advice given…AND…. The customers were equally happy with the advice from both East and West! 10
  11. 11. The Improvement Team was surprised and disappointed… They said: “There really wasn’t a problem… It was just a lot of effort and we wasted our time.” 11
  12. 12. But DID they REALLY waste their time??? Not as long as they learned that… 12
  13. 13. 1. We need to know the Challenge (where we WANT to be according to the current business objectives and specific customer needs) and we need to get real data AND facts about the Current Condition. (Improvement Kata) 2. We need an experienced Coach to guide us, so we learn to follow a scientific improvement pattern step by step. (Coaching Kata) If we don’t follow a set process for defining the Challenge and the Current Condition AND don’t have an experienced coach to guide us, we will get lost in solving the “problem of the day” and lose sight of what will really affect our customers and our business. Chasing problems that aren’t really problems is its own waste! 13
  14. 14. The Morals of This Story Are Many… 14
  15. 15. Lesson 1 Even educated, intelligent people with process improvement training can get together and assume they know what the problem is and then jump to solutions with little or no analysis PROBLEM SOLUTION 15
  16. 16. Lesson 2 Whether in services or manufacturing, the improvement process is the same and should start with a clear direction based on a clear goal that matters to the customer and to the business 16
  17. 17. Lesson 3 Starting with a clear goal that matters to the customer and the business will lead to a definition of the Challenge 17
  18. 18. Lesson 4 The Challenge should be systematically pursued by breaking it down to successive concrete and achievable Target Conditions which are worked toward one by one 1 week – 3 months 1-3 years Concrete Hard Metrics Successive T/Cs to achieve the Challenge Distant Often Vague “Principles” © Mike Rother 18
  19. 19. Lesson 5 The next step is to collect real data (information) and get the facts (what we observe) to understand the current condition 19
  20. 20. Lesson 6 We do not need to agree on the “right answer” in advance. We should run experiments to test our ideas, following Plan-Do-Check-Act. The Path of Discovery is unclear! Current Condition Target Condition Small, rapid experiments advance our knowledge quickly 20
  21. 21. Lesson 7 A Coach helps Learners follow the Improvement Kata, but provides enough leeway for them to make (and learn from) harmless mistakes 21
  22. 22. And Finally… Every improvement activity is a learning process! And learning, after much hard work, that the real “problem” was that the Improvement Team didn’t start out by defining the direction, is an invaluable lesson! 22
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