Archive | May 2015

Follow the blue dog

Innovation and error prevention are difficult but in most cases the limit is your imagination (just as Taiichi Ohno said in multiple occasions). Money is seldom a problem. This is a counter-intuitive idea but, in fact, when a project is too well funded (yes, it can happen) solutions tend to be way too complicated because “time to develop a good design” is often substituted by cash.

This is a wonderful example of what is called the “attribute dependency principle” which is a great and economic resource for error prevention. It consists in taking 2 attributes or variables which are originally independent and linking them in a significant way. In this case, the color of the dog indicates the beer temperature (blue means cold and white means warm). So simple, so good. According to the experts, 35% of design / error prevention solutions belong to this category. For more information about design and error prevention I recommend reading the book “Inside the box” by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg.

Error prevention is an art that needs patience, technical knowledge and imagination. When a great solution is put in place, wonderful things happen, like making sure that beer is served really cold!

The secret for world-class standardized work


Learn from the experts! Don’t miss this classic but still up-to-date article on standardized work by John Shook:


The common misconceptions about standardized work are incredible well summarized as follows:

  • Don’t confuse standardized work with work standards.
  • Don’t confuse standardization with commonization.
  • Don’t try to impose standardized work without also providing a structured improvement process, a clearly defined, unambiguous means of making improvements (kaizen).
  • Practice, practice, practice…
  • Don’t forget the critical role of the leader/manager.

The basic tools for getting things done are summarized here:


For more details, please read the article, it’s worth your time!

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Hoshin Kanri and policy deployment: the theory


Hoshin Kanri (also known as Hoshin Planning or Policy Deployment) is an important tool for any company. It is not just a tool to communicate the company’s mission: it provides the means to align work, coordinate people, test ideas, adapt the company to changes and check results. It is PDCA at the corporate level. Yes, Hoshin is a great tool and these are some of the wonderful things you could get from it:

  • It helps focus your company’s efforts in the long-term (even sacrificing the short-term if needed), making sure that everybody knows the top corporate goals and how their work can impact them.
  • It forces top management to select, prioritize and make visible the vital few initiatives the company needs. This will avoid department wars, each one fighting to put in place their own interpretation of what the goals are.
  • It’s based in nested PDCA cycles, helping your company learn and react quickly to changes. Everybody is testing and providing feedback continuously. Therefore one layer of the organization can learn from the work of other layers, understand the impact of each change and adapt their work consequently.
  • It is a tool that increases dramatically the sustainability of improvement work. Lean projects and actions will solve real problems and the people who can support the work and remove roadblocks will follow up the results using meaningful metrics.
  • It strengthens communication: senior managers find out too often that most of their people don’t know what the key corporate goals are (following George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place). Hoshin creates communication channels in both directions: top-down and bottom-up.

There are many books, articles and conferences out there about Hoshin. This is a starting kit that might be helpful for you:

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Voltaire, détail du visage (château de Ferney)

Voltaire, détail du visage (château de Ferney)

Voltaire once said “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien“, perfect is the enemy of good.

If you think, it is not a bad description of how PDCA works. Try a solution that makes sense, sounds reasonable or can help you learn. It does not matter if it is not perfect, just try it and see what happens. If you wait for the perfect solution before you start doing, you’ll probably wait forever.

3 videos with all you want to know about daily meetings

Daily meetings are basic for Lean Management. Are they simple? Oh, yes! And this is probably why they are so powerful and so easy to misuse. These are some questions and answers about how to run daily meetings:

  • What can you use daily meetings for? Daily meetings may have many functions, but are typically used to review actions, projects and key performance metrics. This review is a means for a higher purpose: align your people, help your people understand your business, help your people improve the processes they work in, grow your people developing them as great problem solvers.
  • How do you review projects? There are many ways. A good starting point is to check project milestones (using a Green – Yellow – Red status panel) with the project team. Whenever the team finds a problem, understand the nature of the issue and agree an action to solve it (using an Actions Panel).
  • How do you review metrics? Find out your main KPIs (Key Process Indicators) and look for trends. Again, a status panel will work great (Green = trending in the right direction, Red = trending in the wrong direction, Yellow = no changes) and your main goal is still to understand problems and find solutions.
  • Hmm, are you serious about “daily”? Yes!
  • Really? Absolutely! Checking actions or metrics too late makes it almost impossible to understand the root cause of the problem. Therefore nobody can put a meaningful action in place.

Check out this video by The Gemba Academy for more details:

  • How can you run a daily meeting? A typical agenda is: a) review metrics; b) review actions/projects; c) everybody shares: “what I did yesterday”, “what I will do today”, “what’s in my way” (a.k.a. “what help I need to keep progressing)
  • Anything else to keep in mind? It is a good idea to standardize the way you use your boards. Keep the agenda and the meeting rules visible and make sure everybody understands and follows them. This will avoid many problems and it makes possible to have a different leader everyday, which is also a good thing to consider.

More information in this video by Rocket Matter:

  • Any advice on the rules to follow? Of course, these are generally good ideas:
    • Daily meetings are standing meetings: They will go faster and more to the point.
    • Have a clear agenda agreed with the team members.
    • Everybody is invited to talk.
    • Keep an appropriate level of detail.
    • Avoid side conversations. Avoid mobiles and computers.
    • Start on time, finish on time.
    • Be visual (panels, sticky notes and magnets are better than computers)
    • Keep it short (15 minutes should be ok)

More information in this video by Agile Videos: