Archive | January 2015

Making actions visual


One of the “Lean management” pillars are the daily accountability processes, when assignments and tasks are reviewed and results (positive or not) are shared.

This is a draft of a very simple task board: one row for each person and a column for task status:

  • Scheduled (column 1): tasks to do, not started yet.
  • In progress (column 2): tasks that are being implemented but not finished.
  • Waiting (column 3): tasks in progress, waiting for other people’s work.
  • Finished (column 4): tasks finished, their effectiveness is being evaluated.
  • Actions (column 5): additional actions needed during the effectiveness check.

It can be completed with additional features like capacity management (make each sticky note or magnet bigger or smaller depending on how many working hours are needed to complete the task), capacity control (do not allow anybody to have more than 3 actions in progress), task status (color magnet to show if tasks are progressing ok or not) and many more.

The most important thing to remember is that quality is much more important than quantity: do not start hundreds of actions at the same time, hoping that some of them will work. Select carefully a few of the most critical ones and then implement fast so that you can quickly learn from the results and feed your PDCA cycles.

Book summary: Hoshing Kanri for the Lean Enterprise

“Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise” by Thomas L. Jackson is one of the best references for learning Hoshin and one of my favorite books about Lean. It includes a complete how-to guide and many examples and templates you can use. Of course a book alone is useless without practice, but it can make your first Hoshin journey (with the help of a coach/sensei) considerably easier.

Warning: This book contains the complete Hoshin Kanri system. Many times you don’t need all the tools, especially for the first Hoshin cycles, so just keep it simple. Hoshin is defined as “a set of experiments” so trial and error is part of the game.

Here you can find my book summary/notes, they are totally personal and absolutely incomplete, but maybe helpful for you!

Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise Summary

Inside the box


I attended a conference about creativity some weeks ago. It was based in a thinking method called SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking). I will not describe the method deeply, but I liked 2 of its fundamental and counter-intuitive principles:

  • Closed world: We create more innovative solutions when the resources in place are limited. Note that “innovative” means “radically different” and not necessarily “better”.
  • Function follows form: It is easier to imagine “what can I use this new thing for” (find a use for an existing object) than “I need an object that makes this, how will it look like?” (find an object for an existing need)

Lean works in a similar way many times. Sometimes we must work in a closed world with limited resources, and we come up with solutions that are not expensive or sophisticated…. but they work because they are based in deep observation at the gemba and often using the resources that were already there. It is human to think that if we had more money (people, time) our solutions would be better, but maybe it not the case and this scarcity of resources makes us more creative.

In the same way, PDCA cycles are experiments where we try to prove our hypothesis. We have many potential ideas (“objects”) and we want to find out if they work (“can I find a use for my object?”), so in some ways we are using the function follows form principle.

I’m not aware of any type of interaction between Lean and SIT during their development, but who knows?

More information about SIT:

Picture from:

A kind word and a gun

“You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.”

Al Capone

Lean is a team sport and one of the most important things to do is to communicate and influence others (remember, influencing is very different from manipulating). In most cases, aligning people to your project is the key for success, much more than the correct use of tools and techniques.

I attended a conference 2 weeks ago about the science of persuasion. This video summarizes the main ideas:

The basic concept is that people tend to say yes when any of these situations happen:

  1. People give back what they have received first, especially if it was personalized and unexpected (Reciprocity)
  2. People wants more of those things that are not abundant. The value of a product is as important as its cost of opportunity (Scarcity)
  3. People trust credible, knowledgeable experts (Authority)
  4. People like being consistent with the things they have previously said or done. This works best using voluntary, active and public commitment (Consistency)
  5. People tend to say yes to those they like: those who are similar to us, pay us compliments, have common goals (Liking)
  6. People like doing what similar others do (Consensus)

I found it interesting and I discovered that I had used the Consistency and Consensus principles in many projects to improve the chances of sucess. Anyway social sciences are never easy to validate and of course it is your choice to believe this or not.

By the way, the quote at the beginning of the post is often attributed to Al Capone, but in fact humorist Professor Irwin Corey said it. When you thought it was a Capone quote, were you more willing to believe it due to the Authority principle? 🙂