Friday, October 23, 2009

Problems with off-the-shelf Lean Learning Tools

Creating Lean learning tools for a mass public almost goes against the principles of learning through development. It is very difficult to find the simplest starting point for a learning tool that is applicable to the widest audience. The best learning tools break the concept down to the simplest form in the context that it will be applied - and using local terminology. No two organizations are alike so the conditions are always going to be different. For this reason, the learning experience will not reach its full potential with off-the-shelf learning tools.


Production Pacing Indicator Example

Even a simple display, like the one above, of a target vs. actual production count with red/yellow/green color indicators raises numerous questions:

  • should pausing the elapsed time be allowed (like for during breaks and lunch)
  • if paused, should it recalculate target based on total running time only
  • should stopping automatically clear the display or retain it until restarted?
  • should the counts restart every hour or be cumulative?
  • what should be used as a target: pcs/hour, pcs/shift, pcs/day
  • should the target rate be fixed, or allow adjustment throughout the shift?
  • how often should the display update?
  • should the color change be based on mathematical rounding of the target/actual calculation?
  • Should it round up or down?
  • Should it display the actual percentage to target or just the colors?

As the participants surface these questions relative to the decisions that were made in creating the off-the-shelf tool, it will do two things:

  1. the participant’s learning or application of the learning may be inhibited by their experience with the tool and its “limitations”.
  2. participants may question the validity of the tool because they see more “problems” with it, than benefits.

Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • “It doesn’t do this…”
  • “It doesn’t do that…”
  • “It won’t work here, because…”
  • “How does it handle this situation?”
  • “Can you do that with it?”

Statements like those above distract the participants from the learning experience.

The best tools for learning are the ones that are created and customized specifically at the point of use, in collaboration with and for the participants engaged in the experience.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Group Agreement vs. Executive Order in Moving Initiatives Forward

photo courtesy user creationc Executives have the job of setting the strategies and objectives for an organization to meet/exceed their corporate goals. The managers and front line people further down the organizational hierarchy are responsible for making it actually happen.

  • Can an organization move forward with only an executive directive? Sure, some can.
  • Will it be as effective without group agreement? Not likely.

The less group agreement you have, the more likely the initiative will be point optimized in each of the organization’s vertical silos. The maximum effectiveness is achieved when the optimization takes place horizontally across departmental or functional boundaries. Group agreement is fundamental to that process.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Might Have the Wrong Plan If…


You might have the wrong plan or approach to solving a problem if:

  • The leader or project owner comes into the problem solving meeting with a list of action items already formulated and starts delegating them to the “participants” in the meeting.
  • People are talking negatively about the plan in their cubicles or around the water cooler and no one is stepping out as a spokesperson for why it is the right plan/approach.
  • Groups of people are openly showing resistance to change.
  • The attendance at the status meetings declines every time the group meets.

You are on the right track to a good plan if:

  • People eagerly start listing activities that need to be accomplished and volunteer to take care of them (following through).
  • People in the participant group are heading off resistance from others without escalation to the project owner or leadership.
  • People have a sense of pride and ownership of the process they have a hand in crafting.

This is most applicable when the problem at hand crosses departmental and/or geographic boundaries and would be best solved using true employee involvement from a cross-disciplinary team.

* I’m obviously not an artist so please cut me some slack on the cartoon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Using Data to Refine Perception

If you find yourself saying the following:

I don’t need to spend time putting a measurement system in place to tell me what I already know. I’m living the issues every day. I know where the problems are and what to do to fix them.

Shark photo credit to Stock Exchange user: lumix2004You might be in a situation where perhaps you should reconsider your position. Sometimes it is necessary to collect data for other reasons - like convincing others.

Three indicators that investing time collecting data might be worth the investment:

  1. People say they agree with you about what the problems are and what needs to be done to fix them, but their actions are to the contrary. [persuasion via demonstration]
  2. When the same problems keep recurring despite having a process or countermeasures in place to prevent them. [verification]
  3. Other problems keep getting all the attention and resources from the leaders and your peers, despite your recommendations or insistence otherwise. [proportional prioritization – magnitude/scale]

Perception is reality. Data is an effective tool to influence perception in order to provide an opportunity to improve the reality.

* Note: Statistics can be [mis]used or misunderstood to support almost any theory like the relationship between shark bites and ice cream sales. I don’t mean for you to use data in a deceptive way just to influence others to support your position. Make sure the data and your understanding of the situation match - checks and balances.