Archive | June 2016

PDCA: is it REALLY important?

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycles are one of the most important parts of lean, because improvement is a cycle (learn more here).

I am often asked if all steps are really important or if the sequence truly matters. The short answer is YES. The long answer is YES, because:

  • No “Plan” –> you are working without a goal. This creates useless tasks, repetitive and redundant testing and, even worse, nobody will really know if things are going ok or not. If you don’t have a goal, there is no standard definition of “good” or “success”. In other words, you don’t have a hypothesis. It is also difficult to have a motivated investigation team if they don’t have a clue of the goal of their work.
  • No “Do” –> you might have great plans and a very clear goal, but you will not learn until you do experiments and prove/refute your hypothesis (learn more here). This problem usually happens with very complex issues, inexperienced people or high-risk situations (“I’m scared to try”). The effect is often called “paralysis by analysis”.
  • No “Check” –> testing results are incompletely or not analyzed at all. Learning will not happen and/or conclusions will be wrong.
  • No “Act” –> working standards are not updated. Knowledge is not incorporated to regular work and the company is condemned to repeat the same errors again and again.

As a summary:

PDCA

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Lean Principle #7: Lead by Example

Lead by example

I liked very much this article by Justin Bariso at http://www.inc.com because it highlights the most important Lean leadership principle: Lead by example. The “Do what I say, not what I do” motto has never been valid, and it will be a total killer when applying Lean or any other continuous improvement methodology.

Lead by example is easy to say and difficult to do. I’ve seen this error happen over and over, but there are certain situations when it is extremely common:

  • Starting a Lean transformation: Some think Lean can happen even if the leader is not present. This is wrong. No Leader, no Lean.
  • Creating a learning culture: When problems arise and Lean looks like a bad decision, it is easy to look for someone to blame. Leaders must be the first who keep calm, promote real problem solving and avoid witch-hunts.
  • Involving others: If, as a leader, you take all important decisions, how will you teach your people to trust and cooperate with others? Delegate, create an environment where testing is welcome and focus more in “how can I help?” and less in “how can I control?”
  • Outsourcing Lean work: Lean might be considered as something an external consultant can do for you with your team. Wrong. Consultants share knowledge, leaders make change happen.

A final thought:

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing.

Albert Schweizer