The ogre principle
Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. CAKE! Everybody loves cake! Cakes have layers!
Shrek: I don’t care what everyone likes! Ogres are not like cakes.
Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious!
Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.
Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!
Changing is like an ogre. Stinky? Maybe. Makes you cry? Sometimes. And be sure that most people don’t like it.
And changing certainly has layers: it’s easy (well, not that “easy”, but you know what I mean) to simply focus on the process and forget everything else, but this is an error. There are many aspects to consider, some of the most important are:
- The “productive” process: what activities you do.
- Is there a work standard?
- Is the work standard used as a continuous improvement tool?
- Are critical operation points clearly indicated?
- Are quality parameters clearly indicated?
- Is work balanced and shyncronized?
- The “management” process: how you control work.
- Is work flow visible?
- Is performance visible?
- Are problems evident?
- Are escalation processes clear?
- People: those who do the work.
- Is there enough capacity?
- Do operators have the correct skills / training?
- Structure:how people is organized
- Does the structure promote fast problem solving?
- Does the structure promote communication?
- Is there a clear process owner?
- Leadership: leaders behaviours
- Do leaders check frequently the process at the gemba?
- Do leaders remove the barriers that prevent improvement?
These questions are just some examples, a comprenhensive reference checklist can be found in many Lean books (one of my favorites: “New shop floor management” by Kiyoshi Suzaki). All these aspects are very important and should be evaluated during any improvement process. Sometimes one of them is more important than the rest, but failing to see the complete picture can cause a unexpected (but probable) failure.