11.05.2008

How to Eliminate People Waste

(This is the second of several guest postings by Carlos Venegas, author of Flow in the Office: Implementing and Sustaining Lean Improvements. He is a principal in Straus Forest and can be reached at Carlos@StrausForest.com.)


Recently my colleague and I facilitated a Value-stream Mapping (VSM) workshop with a new client. This one was like most I've done before, with the same kinds of challenges: clarity over goals and scope; mid-workshop angst over progress; and end-of-workshop elation over the results--or at least the potential results as illustrated by the future-state map.


Here's the deal with VSM—it’s a powerful tool because it shows the whole system--the process from supplier to customer. It helps us see visually what's working and what's not and where to go.

But something is missing. Granted, the VSM is high-level, so you don’t expect to see everything. (If you want to see everything, go to the gemba!) Anyway, when we document and analyze a process, we're leaving out an important and obvious dimension—the human dimension. People.


Some of us have a sense that this human dimension is important in process analysis. But the trick is--what do you do with the human dimension once you've identified it, or even how do you identify it in the first place?


My colleague, Ann Dorgan, and I put developed a way to put that dimension—people—on the map.

Here's an overview of how we did it in the context of a real case study. The facts were these:

Our client is a retail organization with 17 stores, 1300 employees, and annual sales of over US$40 million. They had conducted kaizens in most of the 17 facilities successfully. By successfully, I mean that they met their targets (mostly), they sustained their changes (mostly), and the participants were enthusiastic and sincere.


Ann and I think they’ve been successful thus far in part because the executive team is a model of support. The CEO understands what process improvement is about, and he, along with his executive team, attend the kaizen workshop report-outs. Plus, the director of process improvement is talented and enthusiastic (as many Lean professionals are).


When we met the process improvement director, he was ready to take the next step: learn how to use the value-stream mapping process to coordinate their Lean implementation.


We contracted with the client to VSM their purchasing and accounts payable processes. Since this was their first Lean office event, they didn't have much process data. That made setting specific, measurable goals difficult. We ended up setting real simple goals: create a current- and future-state map, and an implementation plan. Lack of specific, measurable goals in this case was OK. It's not unusual for a client not to have data—or at least the right kind of data—the first time they do a process.


We took the P.I. director and a cross-functional team through the VSM workshop. We used a process inspired by the classic VSM process (see Learning to See by Rother and Shook), with modifications to accommodate the realities of office vs. factory.


The big difference was that we added that “new” dimension: people waste. We asked the team to (1) document people waste on the current state map; (2) replace people waste with productive behaviors on the future state map; and (3) create plans to achieve the future-state behaviors for the implementation plan.


Here's an example of people waste that surfaced at the workshop: unproductive conflict. In their current state, they identified angry emails that had been exchanged between store managers and accounts payable.


When the team created its future-state map and implementation plan, they replaced angry emails—a waste of people’s energy and time—with a process solution that included communications and email etiquette training. Obviously part of the solution in this case was to fix a broken process. Another important part of the solution—and this is where the human element comes in—was to provide the communications training.


My colleague, Ann Dorgan, and I were pleasantly surprised by both the response and the results of “putting people on the map.” The team expressed appreciation for addressing the human factors--people waste. Plus, the training that they will be receiving will be targeted and based on a process need. More training should be like that.


So, specifically, how do you get at the people waste? And once you find it, what do you do with it? I’ll answers those questions on the next blog post.

2 comments:

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