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F O RS I O N
           S
D   I SCU
             Let’s Retire the PDCA Wedge
            What really keeps performance from slipping back?

        Mike Rother
        Jeff Uitenbroek
        August 2011
                                                       nt
                                                 roveme
                                              Imp




                                     Wedge indicating
                                     standard or
                                     standardization
                                     to hold gains

    Mike Rother                                     RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   1
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
        Dear Lean Community,
        We may have a bug in our programming, which is hampering our
        efforts to achieve continuous improvement.




        The PDCA wedge may be a creation of an occasional-improvement
        mindset, which allows for backsliding between events, instead of
        a mindset of continually improving and learning.



Mike Rother                                           RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   2
IS THE PDCA WEDGE BASED ON A MISCONCEPTION?
                 There is a popular concept that
                 we can utilize standards to
                 maintain a process condition.
                 Such standards are often
                 depicted graphically as a
                 wedge that prevents the
                 process from backsliding.

                 However, it is generally not
                 possible simply to maintain a
                 level of process performance.
                 Process performance tends to
                 degrade no matter what, even if
                 a standard is defined, explained
                 to everyone, posted and
                 regularly audited.

                 This is not because of poor
                 discipline, but due to
                 interaction effects and entropy,
                 which say that any organized
                 process naturally tends to
                 decline to a chaotic state if we
                 leave it alone.



      Where did the wedge concept come from?
 Mike Rother                                        RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   3
ITʼS PROBABLY NOT FROM DEMING

                                 In the “Act” part of the PDSA cycle, Deming talks about
                                 “adopting the change.” That is, if a solution or
                                 countermeasure has been successfully tested you
                                 might decide to make it permanent.

                                 Deming seems to be talking about standardizing not to
                                 prevent slipping back, but simply in regard to putting a
                                 tested countermeasure into place.

                                 Deming makes a different statement on the topic of not
                                 slipping back: you have to keep turning the PDCA
                                 wheel. To maintain gains and uniformity, you have to
                                 keep improving.


          “Continue the cycle, over and over, with never-ending improvement of
          quality, at lower and lower cost.”
              ~ W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, p181


          “Quality of a product does not necessarily mean high quality. It means
          continual improvement of the process, so that the consumer may
          depend on the uniformity of a product and purchase it at a low cost.”
              ~ W. Edwards Deming, 1980




Mike Rother                                                         RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   4
ITʼS PROBABLY NOT FROM TOYOTA
         The Toyota way of thinking about many standards is that
         they are more like something you are striving to achieve.
         The standard itself doesnʼt make anything happen. Itʼs a
         definition of where you want to be.


                           Standard                          Standard

                Actual                                         Actual


         A “standard” is a description       “Standardized work” means, in
         of how a process should             essence, that a process is
         operate. Itʼs the intended,         actually operating as specified
         normal pattern.                     by the standard.



              Consider this: Toyota is achieving quality excellence not
              because processes are done the same way each time, but
              because Toyota is striving to achieve the target condition
              of processes being done the same way each time.
              Itʼs a subtle but important distinction.

Mike Rother                                                    RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   5
WEDGE WAY versus TOYOTA WAY

                   Wedge thinking                   Toyota thinking
            When an abnormality occurs         When an abnormality occurs

                              Weʼre slipping        We arenʼt
                                  back              there yet
                                                                 What is preventing
               We need                                          us from reaching the
              to maintain                                        target condition?

         The operators                                              Management is
        are responsible                                              responsible

           We need more                                              What is the
            discipline!                                              next step?




       In the wedge way of looking             The Toyota way of thinking
       at it we think an abnormality           turns this around: the
       means weʼre slipping back,              abnormality means we have
       and itʼs someoneʼs fault.               not yet have reached the
                                               target condition. There are
                                               still obstacles.
Illustration from Toyota Kata, page 115

Mike Rother                                                 RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?     6
WHY DID WE COME UP WITH
                    THE WEDGE CONCEPT?
          One reason may be that we think in terms of improvement
          projects (start, stop, move on), which leads us to an audit &
          compliance mindset.
          This thinking may in turn be based on a desire for certainty
          and misunderstanding of what is ʻscientific.ʼ


                      • Quantification and precision
   What we
                      • Objective and certain
   may think
   scientific is      • Reveals what is there
                      Eg: a standard is definitive



                      • Involves uncertainty,
                        ambiguity & incompleteness
   What
   scientific         • Never free from error
   really is          • A process of discovery, via
                        systematic trial and error
                      Eg: a standard is a hypothesis

Mike Rother                                              RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   7
WE NEED A STANDARD, OF COURSE
              Thereʼs no genie who, without us defining the desired
              standard, is going to make processes work in a way that
              serves customers with highest quality and lowest cost.

              But, likewise, just because weʼve defined a standard does
              not cause a genie to appear and make things so and hold
              entropy at bay.




                       So a process needs a standard.
                           But how does it work?


Mike Rother                                               RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   8
A STANDARD IS LIKE A TARGET CONDITION
              A standard is an idea of where you want to be


                                                         ent
                                                    rovem
                                                 Imp




                                                         Itʼs here!

                                    The standard
                                    is not here

         Rather than a backstop, a standard is something you aspire to.
         Just waiting for deviations and abnormalities and then
         reacting to them is not enough. Without something to strive
         for, entropy will set in no matter what you do.

Mike Rother                                             RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   9
BOTTOM LINE
                        Thereʼs no steady state




              The point is that any process is either slipping back
              or being improved, and the best and perhaps only
              way to prevent slipping back is to keep trying to
              move forward - every process every day - even if
              only in small steps.

              The best way to sustain results is to make
              improvement toward your vision part of normal
              daily activity.

              Fortunately, striving toward a target condition is
              highly motivating, brings a team together and can
              be a lot of fun.



Mike Rother                                             RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   10
SO LETʼS RETIRE THE WEDGE




      Itʼs a lifelong process of striving, for which we are well equipped.
          We can practice, learn and teach a fundamental way (a kata)
      for meeting challenging target conditions along uncertain paths.

Mike Rother                                              RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE?   11

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Retire the PDCA wedge

  • 1. F O RS I O N S D I SCU Let’s Retire the PDCA Wedge What really keeps performance from slipping back? Mike Rother Jeff Uitenbroek August 2011 nt roveme Imp Wedge indicating standard or standardization to hold gains Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 1
  • 2. SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT Dear Lean Community, We may have a bug in our programming, which is hampering our efforts to achieve continuous improvement. The PDCA wedge may be a creation of an occasional-improvement mindset, which allows for backsliding between events, instead of a mindset of continually improving and learning. Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 2
  • 3. IS THE PDCA WEDGE BASED ON A MISCONCEPTION? There is a popular concept that we can utilize standards to maintain a process condition. Such standards are often depicted graphically as a wedge that prevents the process from backsliding. However, it is generally not possible simply to maintain a level of process performance. Process performance tends to degrade no matter what, even if a standard is defined, explained to everyone, posted and regularly audited. This is not because of poor discipline, but due to interaction effects and entropy, which say that any organized process naturally tends to decline to a chaotic state if we leave it alone. Where did the wedge concept come from? Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 3
  • 4. ITʼS PROBABLY NOT FROM DEMING In the “Act” part of the PDSA cycle, Deming talks about “adopting the change.” That is, if a solution or countermeasure has been successfully tested you might decide to make it permanent. Deming seems to be talking about standardizing not to prevent slipping back, but simply in regard to putting a tested countermeasure into place. Deming makes a different statement on the topic of not slipping back: you have to keep turning the PDCA wheel. To maintain gains and uniformity, you have to keep improving. “Continue the cycle, over and over, with never-ending improvement of quality, at lower and lower cost.” ~ W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, p181 “Quality of a product does not necessarily mean high quality. It means continual improvement of the process, so that the consumer may depend on the uniformity of a product and purchase it at a low cost.” ~ W. Edwards Deming, 1980 Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 4
  • 5. ITʼS PROBABLY NOT FROM TOYOTA The Toyota way of thinking about many standards is that they are more like something you are striving to achieve. The standard itself doesnʼt make anything happen. Itʼs a definition of where you want to be. Standard Standard Actual Actual A “standard” is a description “Standardized work” means, in of how a process should essence, that a process is operate. Itʼs the intended, actually operating as specified normal pattern. by the standard. Consider this: Toyota is achieving quality excellence not because processes are done the same way each time, but because Toyota is striving to achieve the target condition of processes being done the same way each time. Itʼs a subtle but important distinction. Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 5
  • 6. WEDGE WAY versus TOYOTA WAY Wedge thinking Toyota thinking When an abnormality occurs When an abnormality occurs Weʼre slipping We arenʼt back there yet What is preventing We need us from reaching the to maintain target condition? The operators Management is are responsible responsible We need more What is the discipline! next step? In the wedge way of looking The Toyota way of thinking at it we think an abnormality turns this around: the means weʼre slipping back, abnormality means we have and itʼs someoneʼs fault. not yet have reached the target condition. There are still obstacles. Illustration from Toyota Kata, page 115 Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 6
  • 7. WHY DID WE COME UP WITH THE WEDGE CONCEPT? One reason may be that we think in terms of improvement projects (start, stop, move on), which leads us to an audit & compliance mindset. This thinking may in turn be based on a desire for certainty and misunderstanding of what is ʻscientific.ʼ • Quantification and precision What we • Objective and certain may think scientific is • Reveals what is there Eg: a standard is definitive • Involves uncertainty, ambiguity & incompleteness What scientific • Never free from error really is • A process of discovery, via systematic trial and error Eg: a standard is a hypothesis Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 7
  • 8. WE NEED A STANDARD, OF COURSE Thereʼs no genie who, without us defining the desired standard, is going to make processes work in a way that serves customers with highest quality and lowest cost. But, likewise, just because weʼve defined a standard does not cause a genie to appear and make things so and hold entropy at bay. So a process needs a standard. But how does it work? Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 8
  • 9. A STANDARD IS LIKE A TARGET CONDITION A standard is an idea of where you want to be ent rovem Imp Itʼs here! The standard is not here Rather than a backstop, a standard is something you aspire to. Just waiting for deviations and abnormalities and then reacting to them is not enough. Without something to strive for, entropy will set in no matter what you do. Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 9
  • 10. BOTTOM LINE Thereʼs no steady state The point is that any process is either slipping back or being improved, and the best and perhaps only way to prevent slipping back is to keep trying to move forward - every process every day - even if only in small steps. The best way to sustain results is to make improvement toward your vision part of normal daily activity. Fortunately, striving toward a target condition is highly motivating, brings a team together and can be a lot of fun. Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 10
  • 11. SO LETʼS RETIRE THE WEDGE Itʼs a lifelong process of striving, for which we are well equipped. We can practice, learn and teach a fundamental way (a kata) for meeting challenging target conditions along uncertain paths. Mike Rother RETIRE THE PDCA WEDGE? 11