Problem solving, the core of lean implementation


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This is a transcription of a Business901 podcast with Tracey Richardson, president of Teaching Lean Inc.. She has over 22 years of experience in Toyota methodologies including: Lean Problem Solving, Quality Circles, Lean Manufacturing tools, Standardized Work, Job Instruction Training, Toyota Production System, Toyota Way Values, Culture Development, Visualization (Workplace Management Systems), Continuous Improvement (Kaizen), Meeting Facilitation/Teamwork, and Manufacturing Simulations.

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Problem solving, the core of lean implementation

  1. 1. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean Implementation? Guest was Tracey Richardson, President of Teaching Lean Inc. Related Podcast: Problem Solving really the Core of Lean Tracey Richardson, president of Teaching Lean Inc., has over 22 years of experience in Toyota methodologies including: Lean Problem Solving, Quality Circles, Lean Manufacturing tools, Standardized Work, Job Instruction Training, Toyota Production System, Toyota WayValues, Culture Development, Visualization(Workplace Management Systems),Continuous Improvement (Kaizen),Meeting Facilitation/Teamwork, andManufacturing Simulations. Tracey ispassionate about assisting Organizations orCompanies who are on the “Lean journey”and wanting support implementing keyelements for success. Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  2. 2. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsPrior to Teaching Lean Inc., Tracey was a Group Leader in thePlastics Department at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentuckyfrom 1988-1998. She was one of the first team members hiredwith the fortunate opportunity to learn from the Japanese trainersgetting hands on experience from the experts. As a GroupLeader her responsibilities were to oversee all team members insafety, quality, productivity, cost, and training and developmentgoals for her groups. Throughout her ten years at Toyota Traceytook various training courses to improve her abilities in theToyota Production System and Continuous Improvement. Sheaccumulated over 460 hours of class time and priceless lessonsfrom her trainers/mentors.Related Podcast: Problem Solving really the Core of LeanTracey’s Website: http://www.teachingleaninc.comJoe Dager: Thanks everyone for joining us. This is Joe Dager,the host of the Business 901Podcast. Participating in the programtoday is Tracey Richardson. Tracey is the president of TeachingLean Incorporated, and has over 22 years of experience in Toyotamethodologies, including lean problem solving. Tracey, could youjust give me a brief history about yourself?Tracey Richardson: Yes, Im from Toyota Motor Manufacturing;is my background. I started there in 1988. I was actually hired inas a team member in the plastics department. I quicklydeveloped a passion for the systems and the methodologies. Iwas blessed with the opportunity to get to work with theJapanese trainers, and they were there by our sides, teaching usand mentoring us, along the way. Not only did I have theopportunity to do that, but I also had the opportunity to takeseveral problem solving courses, standardized work, and theToyota systems methodologies. Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  3. 3. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsI spent three years as a team member on the production floor.And then I was promoted to team leader, which is first level linesupervisor, and over several of the different lines that we had ininstrument panel trim. I worked as a team leader for five years,and I went through various courses to be promoted, and some ofthe core education content that they require.After five years, I was actually promoted to group leader, which isthe first level management for Toyota. I was over 45 individuals,with five team leaders, and that took me up until about 1998. Atthat particular point in time, I decided to leave the company as afull-time employee, and I actually went back to the company as aconsultant or instructor, contractor... a lot of different words forthat.I actually worked in the Human Resources training anddevelopment, and actually taught courses for Toyota at TMMK,which is the Kentucky plant in Georgetown, and also across someof the North American plants. So, I still teach there, on occasion,when theres a need for the courses in the Human Resourcesdepartment, like problem solving and some of the standardizedwork, and pre-promotion training classes.I also teach outside of Toyota with various organizations that areinterested in lean implementation, standardized work, the Toyotaproduction system methodologies, and one of my favoritesubjects, obviously, is the lean problem solving. So, I spent a lotof time on the road, working with companies interested.Joe: I always picture working with the Japanese, that they neverwould give you a direct answer, they just would ask questions:the Socratic Method or whatever. Is that true?Tracey: Yes, it is. I cant tell you how many times the trainerwould look at you and say, "Please explain your thinking?" Youlook at him like, "Why do you want to know? Whats so special Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  4. 4. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsabout what Im thinking?" They were constantly asking, "Whatshould be happening? Whats the standard? Whats your currentsituation? What is your gap? Is it quantifiable? Why are youlooking at this particular point in the process?" And they werevery inquisitive in wanting to understand your thinking, and also,to develop your questioning, because, as you move up leadershippositions at Toyota, its the expectation that you mentor yoursubordinates, or the folks that work under you. So, they werestarting that questioning with me at an early age. I was veryyoung when I started at Toyota, and that caught on.I started doing that myself and found myself asking those samequestions to the folks that worked for me: my team leaders and itwas that type of mentoring that developed our culture.Joe: So, what youre saying is that problem solving is really howyou lead in with lean, or the questioning is really the core of leanimplementation.Tracey: Yes, it is. I think when you look at organizations; itskind of difficult, at times. People say, "Oh, I want to implementthis tool, or I want to do TPS, or do Just- in-Time." Those are alltools that, most of the time, are counter-measures to some typeof problem that theyre having. And a lot of times, companiesdont understand, "What is the problem that Im having that Ineed this tool for a counter-measure?" And I think if you developthe thinking process of your work force, then youre tapping intoa potential that most dont take the time to do, because, I thinkour human capability is very high.Folks that are out there working a job every day are consideredthe "professional," in my opinion. They know the ins and outs. Ifwere developing the thinking at the front lines, all the way upthrough the president, then you have a powerful dynamic thatallows a company to be successful for the long term. Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  5. 5. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsThats sustainable, and thats a repeatable, continual process. So,the core, I think, of lean implementation, is to understand theproblem solving methodology and the thinking.Joe: How do you really get a work force engaged in problemsolving? I think about going out there to the line, do they reallywant to be engaged in it, or do they just want to go in there, getdone with their job and go home?Tracey: Well, I think theres a combination of both, and I think alot of it is leadership setting the example. If leadership doesntcome down on the floor, and they stay in their office, so to speak,and theres no interaction or engagement and those questionsarent being asked on a daily basis, then, sure, I think youregoing to have more of a lackadaisical work force that does justwant to do their eight-ten hours and go home. I think it startswith leadership setting the expectation very high, that we dohave standards. When we are below standards, "Whats theexpectation of me, at that point?" The leaders have to ask theright questions. Its also good if you visualize your problems inthe workplace.For me, in my experience at Toyota, we had the visual board.Some folks call them the scoreboards. We were always able tosee where we are, in regards to the company standard: theexpectation of where we should be. When we werent, we hadthings like, quality circles that allowed our member engagementat the floor level, to be able to get involved and make change.Thats a way to engage the work force: suggestion system. We dohave kaizen events, or what we call, "Jishuken," which is aproblem solving event. I think, its up to leadership to really setthe example, and set those expectations high for that work forceto have, when the manager comes down and theyre doing theirgo-and-see on that daily basis, and sometimes hourly basis, in Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  6. 6. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemssome ways, that the expectation is there to always, "Where am I,in regard to the standard?"Ask those questions, because, as a leader in the organization, Iwas always asking questions of my team leaders and teammembers, "Whats happening, whats going on, what should be?Is there any variation today?" Its developing that problemawareness. If you have that engagement, and that buy-in, andthat conversation, then those folks are going to have a tendencyto be more engage in problem solving. That empowerment canmake a difference.Joe: When you say that you have to be actively engage, what ifyoure not that type of person that, its not easy for you toarticulate yourself? You struggle to draw those questions out ofother people. A lot of people in management have been justtelling people what to do for years. Now you need to ask thatperson, even though you might know the answer yourself, or youthink you do.Tracey: I think thats the key point. In my experience at Toyota,everything was a repetitive type motion; just standardize work,but the questioning, the daily activities, the looking at the keyperformance indicators like quality, safety, productivity and cost.Looking at those aspects and getting that engagement in thatperson and saying where are we today in regard to quality, whereare we today in regard to safety. Its that repetition, becausewhen I saw my boss or my assistant manager come to the floor, Iknew the questions that they would ask. You get used to that. Itsa repetition and youve develop that in your work force of thatproblem awareness or problem consciousness. It becomescommonplace. It seems difficult to explain but those questionsbecome repetitive.When I teach my courses, I go through and talk about thecoaching aspect, and what questions do you ask of a leader, as a Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  7. 7. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsleader of your subordinates and the folks that work under you. Soit becomes normal when they start to understand the expectationin their daily activities.Thats where you get that kind of alignment to the companybusiness perspective. Some people call it Hoshin or StrategyDeployment, thats when youre getting their engagement andbuying, when youre speaking that language on a daily basis.Joe: So a lot of it is, is just being there and making that walk tothe shop every day. Having those conversations, talking to peopleso theyre not like pulling away from you when you walk up there.Tracey: Exactly. And I was always told as a leader, 65 to 70%of my role or my job expectation should be coaching, anddeveloping my people. You cant do that from behind your desk.And you also dont want, when your presence as a leader is onthe floor, for them to think its a bad think. Oh, the managerswalking down today, what did we do wrong? We dont want thatto happen either.It needs to become common, it needs to become natural whenthey see the manager, that theyre there as what we call aservant leader. Theyre there to say, what can I do to help youtoday do your job better and how can we think through it. Thatswhere the problem solving comes in.Joe: Explain a little bit to me, on problem solving, what can Ilearn by taking a problem solving course? Is the course a full daycourse?Tracey: It depends on your expectations, sometimes I spendthree days teaching problem solving, some days I may onlyspend four to eight hours. It depends on the companysexpectations, but we kind of go through the methodology of justunderstanding the steps and clarifying what are the specific Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  8. 8. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemssteps, and we clarify the problem and go through themethodology, have some practice in some case studies. Maybeeven look at some sample A3s, I even have folks actually gradeA3s and tell me whats wrong with them, so to speak. I givethem not-so-good A3 examples--and based on what they learnedin class and going through the steps and methodology anddiscussions--then they tell me what could be better, so itsimmediate application of their knowledge that was learned inclass, to put it to use and to see.There are different learning styles, youve got the kinesthetic,visual, auditory, and a lot of people like that "hands-on" and theability to be able to work at a problem and do that goal and see.So, we try to bring as much of that as we can when were in acourse where were not at the Gemba or the work site.Joe: While you were talking, I thought about the word problemsthat I had in school and how much I hated them. Thats not whatyoure going to give me on an A3 to look at if I come to yourclass, is it?Tracey: Oh, definitely not. Because I dont like the wordproblems, I personally struggled with those word problems, and Ithink its because maybe when I went to school people werentdifferentiated by their learning style, and Im very kinesthetic andvisual. So, sitting through and thinking through a word problemwas terrible for me, I mean, it was just agony. I think whatsreally neat about the A3 is it brings out for the visual learner, forthe kinesthetic, the hands-on. Youre going to go see, youregoing to ask questions, youre going to get to look at a process,theres a design to the work and I think it takes you there,instead of sitting behind a desk. Like my trainers used to alwayssay, "please, go to the Gemba, do not solve problem at desk,"was some of the things that they say. I think those problems thatI sat at my desk when I was a child trying to work through, I Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  9. 9. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsdidnt like that so well, because my learning style is definitely"out there" and in the middle of it, hands on, kind of touchy-feelytype problems.Joe: One question I always have for people because they talkabout senior management being engaged, and they talk aboutthe person on the line and standard work; but I always look atthat poor middle manager, because hes the guy that has to meetproduction schedules, meet quality standards, meet all of thesedifferent things or its his job.Hes the guy. Hes one of the most crucial parts of anyorganization. How does he react to something like this? Do themiddle managers want the senior managers at the floor level withtheir people?Tracey: Thats a good question. I think in your typical,traditional manufacturing, your answer would probably be "no". Idont want to see, if I see my senior manager, then that meansIm doing something wrong. And problems are a bad thing, "letshide the problems" kind of mentality, and I think in myenvironment that I was kind of brought up in, you want to seeyour, or at least I was encouraged to see them on the floorbecause that showed that they were interested in the actualwork. You know, a lot of times we say that senior managers aredoing the high level stuff and they dont need to understandwhats going on the floor, thats what the middle managersshould take care of, or in my case, the group leader level. "Youtake care of the floor, Ill take care of whats going on here."I think to have that, what we call, kind of catch ball conversationwhere they come down to the floor, they see whats happening,then Im able to just discuss issues with them to take back upand maybe I need a resource, or maybe I need a stakeholderinvolved thats above my level so I have that ability to have thatconversation to let them know whats happening in the, at the Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  10. 10. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsfloor level, at the team member level, you know what the moraleis about and to have that ability to discuss that with that level orperson, I think thats priceless.I think, you know, it gives the ability for the senior managementto, cause you know theyre responsibility is that strategydeployment and you know and being able to you know, makethose indicators in improving quality, safety, productivity and costand in you know what we call that vertical and horizontalalignment through all the functional areas, not justmanufacturing. So theyre thinking more strategic but to go outon the floor and actually see whats happening, I think itspowerful.It kind of reminds me of the show thats on TV now which, Ithink, "The Undercover Boss, " to me thats going to the Gembaand they actually see whats happening and thats, that shows aprime example of folks coming out of the office and getting to seewhats really happening on the front lines and what really runsthe company.Joe: How do you really develop people and organizations? Doyou start teaching them problem solving and teaching them howto solve problems throughout the whole organization at once ordo you start with senior management and work your way down orvice versa?Tracey: In my opinion I think its very important you know,when a company may contact me and you know we want to dothis type of training and you know Ill always ask, "Is your seniormanagement willing to come to the class and sit in andparticipate and understand if were going to try to change aculture and the middle managers or the front line folks dont seethat buy-in from the top, then sometimes it gets deemed as youknow the flavor of the month. Oh, this is another one of those Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  11. 11. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemscourses theyre expecting us to do it but when it comes to them,theyre high level for some reason so they dont have to do it.Sometimes you dont get that buy-in and the cultures very weak.You know in the environment at Toyota, you know people werelooked at as the most important asset of a company and theyrealso the determiner of the rise and fall and so you know its verycrucial to develop each person at each level within their job scopeand to understand and see problems through the same lens, ifyou will. If Im turning in an A3 to my manager above me andthey may be turning it into the person above them then were allspeaking the same language, were seeing it through the samelens or asking similar questions about the process.When you start at senior management, that mentoring capabilitycomes downward and theyre asking the questions, then themiddle management comes down and asks the questions and itsall consistent. You know, its lean communication if you will. TheA3 is about what I need to know about the problem and itsputting it in a storyboard format so when you start at the top,and it comes down to the workforce, then you have thatimmediate buy-in I feel and that culture is the strongest whenyour leaders are walking the walk so to speak.Joe: You said to me that people have a tendency to jump to theright side of the A3 to solve their problems. Could you elaborateon that but first kind of briefly outline an A3 to me in casesomeone doesnt have one in front of them or arent familiar withit?Tracey: An A3 is in the PDCA format and PDCA, for those of youguys that arent familiar, is the Plan Do Check Action. Our Leanproblem solving process will follow that. So we start on the leftside in understanding what is the problem? What should behappening? Whats my gap? Then we look at breaking down theproblem into smaller, more manageable pieces. Then we tend to Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  12. 12. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsprioritize one, and then we go to the process. We look and seewhat is happening and where in the process is the point ofoccurrence. Then we set our targets, and thats all done on theleft side. So its kind of a storyboard if you will an 11 by 17formatted sheet of paper, in boxes based upon the information inthose boxes. So I just described the left side.Then the right side, if you will, gets you into root cause analysis,developing countermeasures, seeing those countermeasuresthrough, and then being able to get into the check and check theeffectiveness. Did the countermeasure address the root cause?What I call "thinking in reverse"-youre going backwards throughthe A3 to test the logic.Then at the end youre going to standardize the policy you mayhave changed, the procedure, the practice, or maybe thestandardized work. Then its standardized and then you sharethat. So the A3 is kind of a way to write down and share withothers, communicate with others the problem-solving process orthe thinking that you used to be able to share that in a formattedway. Obviously we call it The Lean Problem Solving.So when we jump to the right side of the A3, as you talked about,what we have a tendency to do when we problem solve is jumpto the right side and say, "I already know what thecountermeasure is. Im going to jump there." So youre missingstep one, where you identified a problem, or breaking it down,looking at the processes.We even step over the root cause because we already know whatthe countermeasure is because were basing it on our experiencemaybe or this has happened before. Nine times out of 10 youreusually just tackling a symptom and the problem comes back. Itsbecause we didnt use a good thinking process or goodmethodology to get actually to the root cause. Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  13. 13. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsWhat drives us to do that is what I call "process versus results."When we get result oriented and our manager may say, "Hey, Ineed the answer to this. I need it now. Do whatever it takes. Fixthis problem."When you manage that way youre telling that person, "It doesntmatter to me how you fix it. Just fix it." Normally that has youjump to the right side of the A3. Youre jumping tocountermeasures before you ever understand what truly theproblem is where is it in the process, and what was the rootcause?Joe: One of the great tools of Lean is the "Five Whys" to get toroot cause. Can you explain why you dont use three whys, fivewhys, seven whys? I mean how did they come up with the fivewhys and whats that really mean?Tracey: Right. And its funny you say that because when I firststarted in my career at Toyota, everybody was like; "You got tohave five whys!" My first question was, "Well, what if its only twoor what if its three? What if you start asking too many times?"So that was one of my first questions, too, and how it wasexplained to me is that its not about five or two or 10. Its aboutthe thought process behind your thinking. Are you asking why?Do you need to go deeper? Do you need to go even deeper whenyoure asking why?Because most of the time symptoms are at the surface, and theroot cause is normally below the surface. Thats getting into thedesign of the work, into the process, into the specificstandardized work steps that folks are doing out there on a dailybasis.Keep asking why allows you to get deeper other than just "Oh,Ive got to solve this today. Ive got to hurry up and get theanswer so I can make my boss happy." That "five why" allows Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  14. 14. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsyou to get into the work, and thats where the answers are is inthat work.Ive had many A3s, hundreds of A3s to where they will vary. Imight have only two whys, to where I get down to the actual rootcause by just asking two. Or Ive got examples where Ive had 10and the thing that you want to be aware of is if you ask why toomany times, then it changes the scope of the problem.I have several examples in class and one of them kind of talksabout the alarm clock going off. Well I can ask why. Well thepower went out. Well why did the power go out? Well there was astorm. Well why was there a storm? If you keep asking why,youre getting into things that you cant control.We try to say OK, where is it within the chain, the why chain thatI can control that an effective counter measure will address thatroot cause and all the symptoms or all the whys up the chain thatlead you back to the problem.You dont want to go too far, because again it gets you out of thecontrol and it changes the scope of the problem. Because if youget in asking about storms and the clouds not liking each otherup in the atmosphere, then youre counter measuring somethingthat has nothing to do with your problem. Thats when you do thewhy down test and the therefore back up through the chain toestablish that cause and effect relationship.The whys is probably a very difficult piece in the A3 because ittakes going to the process. It takes looking at the work andasking those why questions until you get down to the factor that Ican make an effective counter measure on. That takes discipline.Joe: The other part that I think is really important, when you sitthere and you talk about problem solving, is everything a Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  15. 15. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsproblem? I mean problem solving kind of has a negativeconnotation to it.Tracey: Yes, I think people sometimes think that "Oh everyproblem I have, I have to get this A3 out and sit down formallyand write this and what is the gap and have this formal processevery time we have a problem." And I have this question often inclass and what I say is what were trying to do is to develop yourthinking and it becomes intrinsic to you. And what I mean by thatis you dont necessarily need an official A3 form to actually solvethe problem. You can go through the steps in your mind, askyourself "What is happening? What currently is going on? Whatshould be? Whats the standard? What do we have to base thison? How many times does it happen during the day?"You can do a lot of problem solving and narrowing down to theprocess and get to root cause without ever getting an A3 out.This happens on an hourly, maybe even minutely basis at Toyotawith their andons. An andon is a cord that you pull to say "Wehave a problem." It could be something very simple. It could besomething that it takes two minutes to solve. It could besomething that we need to take a little more time at the end ofthe day or between the shifts, working with the other shifts tosolve the problem.Its the thinking and the questions and the repetition of that, thatyou get better and better to where I dont need an A3 to solvethe problem. The A3 is only there for the bigger problems toshare this and document this in a storyboard type format. Itwould need to be filed away to say if we have this again we havedocumentation of our thinking and what we did.Try to differentiate between your daily problem solving and thequestions you may ask versus when do I get the A3 out andactually have to document the problem. If I was to shut the linedown for 20 minutes, that would require an A3. If I had one little Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  16. 16. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsscratch on the side of a door, I might do some quick problemsolving asking questions what should be, whats happening. Andlooking at the environment, what created it, getting down toasking some whys.I can do that very quickly because Im versed in the process.Thats what we try to do on a daily basis is verse folks, ask thosequestions and get them used to doing that. So our front lines arevery equipped to do that type of problem solving and thats whatthe andon is there, that immediate problem id and awarenessthat theres something that just went out of standard and weneed to discuss it.Joe: I had a podcast one time with Michael Balle, he said thereason the andons was there is to facilitate learning.Tracey: Yes.Joe: Its really a learning culture and I thought that was a greatanswer because everybody always thinks an andon shuts downthe entire line and everything comes to a halt.Tracey: Right, right.Joe: And its not at all. Its an opportunity to teach and alert.Tracey: Yes. Youre exactly right and thats a nice way to put itbecause most folks fear the andon, its a bad thing, we dont wantproblems, we want to keep the line running. And its a paradigmshift for most folks to think about "Oh my gosh, its OK to stop.We want to stop, we want to learn and we want to prevent thisfrom coming back." Imagine that, to get rid of a problem and nothave to deal with it on a daily basis. So youre exactly right. It isabout learning and enhancing those skills of our front lines all theway up through to the supervisor. Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  17. 17. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsJoe: You made a statement that lean is process-focused. Canyou tell me a little bit what you mean by that?Tracey: Yes, when we talk about lean is process focused; thereare a lot of processes within lean. Youve got your problemsolving process, it follows a methodology. You might have a valuestream process that follows work through specific steps andsequence of events that happen. What lean is like you said, werewanting to see the wasteful action or whats non-value added tothe customer within those processes. So lean, the core to me isunderstanding problem solving and to be able to dig deeper intothe work, the design. Why did we design it this way? Who createdthis? Is this outdated, do we need to look at a different way andcontinuing to tap into minds of the workforce to get them to thinkof a better way to do it constantly. Thats through problemsolving and understanding standardization is kind of thebenchmark for kaizen. Without standards we cant have any.When we talk about lean and looking at processes, itsunderstanding as we look, were looking at it through the lens ofasking why are things this way? Can they be better? Can they beimproved?Thats digging into the work. And thats where, as leaders, wehave to understand the high level thinking of why were doing it,the purpose, being able to align the organization with a purposeor what some call a true north.But its very lean gets you into the work and into the processes,looking for the ways, and as youre doing that, youre askingthose questions, why is it this way and how can we improve? Soto me its very oriented around problem solving and theprocesses involved in what you do on a daily basis.Joe: Youre putting on a workshop for Lean Enterprise inIndianapolis... Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  18. 18. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsTracey: Yes, I think the "Specific Lean Problem Solving" is Junethe 24th. Were actually doing two sessions. One is the "Managingto Learn, " which is the 22nd and 23rd, which is a two day, thatsJohn Shooks book, "Managing to Learn, " and the "Lean ProblemSolving, " is on the 24th.Joe: Why should I go to your workshop? There are other onesthere, why should I go to yours?Tracey: Well I think, youre right, there is a lot of good activitygoing on in all of the LEI workshops, but I think when we talkabout, looking at making improvements and utilizing tools andcoaching, a lot of the courses are going to be around that, to meI think its important to understand problem solving first. A lot oftimes companies will jump to the tools and they dont understandthe usage and they dont understand why they need em and Ithink the tools will raise problems. The Toyota production systemis there to raise problems and if we dont arm our workforce, orindividuals with a solid problem solving process or way to thinkthrough problems when we bring in these tools, or when werecoaching folks, I think you put the cart before the horse, so tospeak.I think the problem solving is essential and the other things fallinto place. I cant stress enough, and when folks ask me, we wantyou to come and discuss lean implementation, where do we startand my first answer, weve got to understand problem solvingbefore anything else comes together.Thats just my opinion, others may say differently about where tostart but I think from what Ive read, my experience over the lasttwenty two years in speaking with a lot of my colleagues thatproblem solving and developing a thinking process for yourorganization is foundational towards continuous improvement andusing some of the other tools that are offered in the mini-courses Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  19. 19. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsthe LEI offers, I think it just kind of builds upon and you canimprove from there.Joe: Why do you think problem solving and even the Socraticquestioning, OK, you see that a little bit, but, why do you thinkthats not taught more in individual, lets say lower level classesor even in high school, really just a basic thing on how to askquestions?Tracey: Ive often asked that question myself and Im not sure Ican answer that fully, I know I have my opinion, you I thinksometimes it puts accountability on a person, when youreteaching problem solving to understand it at a level to be able toteach. For me, doing it at Toyota on a daily basis was one thing,but being able to teach others how to do it and mimic the actionsthat you need to be as a leader, sometimes is very difficultbecause problem solving can be a discipline and a very involvedprocess. It takes a systematic thinking approach and sometimes Ithink in schools, they just dont get that deep into looking atproblems and theyre more concerned about core curriculum likemath, and math has a lot of problems in it, but you know to beable to think through, what is root causes, I never knew thoseterms in school, root cause and gaps and processes and howthings work, I just dont think we ever dug deep enough intowhat truly problems were and really to understand the industryor, anything outside of a school workforce.So Im not sure, why that isnt more embedded into thecurriculum because I think thats a weakness in a lot ofcompanies is that skill to look at what is truly a problem and howdo we go about solving it and just speaking through thatlanguage because I take it for granted at times because Ive beenversed in it for twenty two years but when I go to folks that dontunderstand it, Im thinking, "Wow, theres a culture out there thatdoesnt think like I do." You have to go back to the basics and Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  20. 20. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsunderstand. Its a great question, and why it isnt in our schoolsystems a little deeper than what it is today.Joe: Is there something youd like to add to this conversationthat maybe I didnt ask?Tracey: Well, I think weve captured the essence. I think itsimportant. Im not sure we touched a lot on it, but I thinkvisualization in a workforce of problems, being able to have thosescore boards visual, and for workers to see whats happening inmy group or my team in regard to what the companysexpectation of me. Its always a visual problem awareness. Thatgets that engagement and that buy-in. For me at Toyota, when Iwas there as a leader, we would have our daily meetings at thoseboards to discuss, "Heres the problems that were having today."Its very open, very visualized. And I think a lot of companies thatIm working with now are going towards that workplacevisualization piece that actually brings the problems to thesurface and shows that daily where-am-I-where-do-I-need-to-beconversation.That drives that engagement and that buy-in that we weretalking about earlier of the workforce to see the problems. TheJapanese always, "Please make problems visible." And I thinkthats a key to being able to do the repetition of theproblem-solving steps, is to see the problems every day there,look at the trends, and see how the variation is from day to day.So I think that visualization piece is key.Joe: I think that is becoming more key as time goes on.Someone once told me that if youre not visual, youre not Lean. Ithought that put it pretty much in a nutshell there on that. Youare also seeing more tools because as we become more reliant onmachinery and automation, I think its harder to distinguish whenthere is a problem. Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  21. 21. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsTracey: Right, people would like to jump to those tools as quick."This companys doing it, so we need to do it," you know? 5S isalways one that "Well, weve done 5S." And my question is, "Whydo you need 5S? Lets talk about what the problems yourehaving that 5S is the countermeasure for?" That sparks a wholedifferent conversation because they never ask that question,"Why do I need it?" versus its a tool, it sounds good, and itmakes everything in its place. But its about standardization.Standardization is, again, the benchmark to improvement andbeing able to know when somethings out of standard.But they dont talk themselves through it. I can tell somebodyhow to do something all day and what to do, but unless weexplain the purpose or why its important, then those toolssometimes lose their value. I think it goes back to understandingproblem solving first. What is my problem? And then those toolscan be inserted as countermeasures once we understand ourcurrent situation better.Joe: How can someone get a hold of you?Tracey: I have a website. So my website, and my email is ThenI also have a blog, which is “” Sothose are ways. You can get a hold of me email or through LEI,so theres various ways.Joe: Id like to finish up by thanking you very much, Tracey. TheBusiness901 podcast will be available on my blog and also on theBusiness901 iTunes store. So again, thank you. Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901
  22. 22. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Joseph T. Dager Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Ph: 260-438-0411 Fax: 260-818-2022 Email: Web/Blog: Twitter: @business901 What others say: In the past 20 years, Joe and I have collaborated on many difficult issues. Joes ability to combine his expertise with "out of the box" thinking is unsurpassed. He has always delivered quickly, cost effectively and withingenuity. A brilliant mind that is always a pleasure to work with." James R.Joe Dager is President of Business901, a progressive company providingdirection in areas such as Lean Marketing, Product Marketing, ProductLaunches and Re-Launches. As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt,Business901 provides and implements marketing, project and performanceplanning methodologies in small businesses. The simplicity of a singleflexible model will create clarity for your staff and as a result betterexecution. My goal is to allow you spend your time on the need versus theplan.An example of how we may work: Business901 could start with aconsulting style utilizing an individual from your organization or a virtualassistance that is well versed in our principles. We have capabilities toplug virtually any marketing function into your process immediately. Asproficiencies develop, Business901 moves into a coach’s role supporting theprocess as needed. The goal of implementing a system is that the processeswill become a habit and not an event. Business901 Podcast Opportunity Expert Status Is Problem Solving really the Core of Lean? Copyright Business901