Food for Thought "If you have the right people, with good, basic values and good work ethic, you can have a tremendous journey."

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Food for Thought 2 "The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen."

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July 31, 2013

What is 5S?

We probably have discussed this before, but 5S is the foundation for all Lean and Kaizen events. What is 5S? In layman’s terms it is Personal, Professional and Process organization. Personal organization includes things to help you stay on task and keep track of your projects like your Things to Do (TTD) list, your computer hard drive and folders, and your email folders. As my Dutch Grandmother Nellie used to say, “A place for everything and everything in its place”. If you think you have a 5S program in place, you should be able to answer the following two questions affirmatively:

1. Can find anything you use on a daily or weekly basis in 15 seconds?

2. Do you have weekly 5S audits and post results with action items?

If you said no to either, you do not have a 5S program. Here are a few ways to function like a 5S program:

SORT : 5S starts with getting rid of anything you do not use. Or at least placing these items in a location out of the way, in storage where it does not confuse and hide the stuff you use daily. In other words, sort out all the non-essentials

SET : Organize what you have left. In other words set in order what you use daily or weekly. If you did a good job of getting rid of all the non-essentials, you should not have much left to organize. This is where we need “a place for everything…” mentality. Make your system visual or at least labeled clearly.

SHINE : Clean up everything! Shine your machine, tools, desk, drawers, cabinets, etc.

STANDARDIZE : Establish rules or guidelines to maintain the first three steps (sort, set, shine) How and when to Sort? Are you setting aside a specifically scheduled time to follow your process. Ask yourself Who? What? Ie. Rules for Set might include Who is responsible for each part of the organizing and the steps in order; like how to replace lost tools. Who will do it and what are the steps to follow in order for the replacement to occur; or Who will clean? And what order would you like the cleaning to happen? These steps should be typed and posted in the area. They should be used for audits.

SUSTAIN : Also referred to as Audits. Implement a weekly walk around and compare procedure to the posted processes to insure all of the above are being done. Reference metrics and actions as you walk through. Use Gemba boards. Get the site manager involved so that everyone is familiar with the processes and how they are working.

Success in 5S sets the discipline for all future continuous improvement.

July 24, 2013

People Skills : It’s All in Your Head

When I was writing my book, Food For Thought, I kept editing and rewriting and re-editing. I realized that this was going take me a lifetime to get just right. So I decided to let go of the “perfect” part and publish my ideas in the hopes that some small part will help you in the continuous communications process. Obviously I needed some direction and input so I enlisted the help of a few people – special thanks Stef, Rob (my son), and Karen (my wife) for your contributions!

Why am I telling you all this? There might be a lot of people who should be writing this Food For Thought epistle about People Skills other than me. Since Communications and People Skills are so instrumental in improvement, we have a need for such a discussion. It doesn’t hurt for me to remind myself of this from time to time and share my experiences so that I can continue to improve. We all need a touch of humility, a smidgeon of self-confidence, a ton of listening skills, empathy, and a dash of compassion in our lives!

Last night Karen (my wife) and I were discussing People Skills. I asked, “What were my people skills like when I was twenty-five or thirty? Unfortunately, she didn’t remember (thank goodness). But we both remembered that I laughed a lot and liked people. I am sure I was a typical young engineer who had very little empathy, but as I grew older I had several bosses with excellent interpersonal skills. I tried to observe and copy their people skills.

Ray Hartenstine in Philadelphia was without question always perfectly honest and open with everyone, but very caring and tactful. Bob Ruffin at Bendix (Allied Signal) was a great listener and very empathetic. He could communicate with anyone at any level and seemed to really know everyone’s personal interests. There was Jim Fox at Bendix (Allied Signal) who was my hero at tough love. He coined the phrase TROOP (Total Respect Of Other People) and he lived it. He treated everyone fairly but set tough, high standards. He did not appear to have favorites but was compassionate. How did they do it? Maybe they were born with that inherent ability. However, I believe you can develop your People Skills if you have a true, sincere desire to improve and if you genuinely like people.

My colleague Stef and I discussed how to improve People Skills and the way of life at GE. He stated that often it is not what you read, seminars you attend, or observing your mentor. Most often it is a significant event in your life. I completely agree with him! The loss of a parent or friend, taking care of a grandparent with Alzheimer’s or a special needs child, losing your job or your business ­­– these are all significant events that will profoundly alter your perspective. It will likely influence a change in your Value System and thus your People Skills.

Many people overlook People Skills as an important tool in the workplace. Maybe you have employees that say they don’t want to waste time and energy improving their people skills. My response is that you will be far more successful, your projects far more timely, and your job a lot more fun and rewarding working with people rather than against them. It takes only minutes a day to improve our People Skills because the obstacle is all in our heads! What have you got to lose? If you try, your People Skills can’t get worse.

July 12, 2013

Personality Profiles : Who We Are Today and Who We Want to Be

On my recent trip to the UK I was reading about and listening to a television show about the personality profiles of managers. One of the discussions was about entrepreneurs and the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs and successful senior execs.

At one of the many job interviews I went on in the last thirty years I was trying to outsmart my interviewer on a series of those blasted Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessments. The only result I got was that I outsmarted myself. I answered questions based on what I thought my personality profile should be or what I wanted it to be. I also took a Mensa test about the same time and found out that I am not that smart. In fact, I think I am getting dumber as I get older!

Over the last thirty-five years I think that some of my personality profiles have changed because of new things I have learned or habits I have implemented. Hopefully I am becoming more tolerant and a better listener. It makes me think that we all need to decide what our “real” personality profile is. Sort of like the old adage of dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Think about how you can adapt like this in the workplace and how can it make you successful? Now sell it! Maybe you have already figured this out? In that case you are ahead of me.

I used to tell headhunters that I was a team player, a people-person, data-driven, results-oriented, used tough love, and so on. The article suggested that successful entrepreneurs are driven, never accept failure, obsessive, rule-breakers (can’t accept paradigms), and risk-takers who think out of the box and love change. I thought, “Wow, that is ALMOST me.” I want to be a people-person, a team leader, and not a micro manager. But I think I am an obsessive-compulsive data person, a huge risk-taker, who loves change almost to the point of loving change for the sake of change. I hate rules, policies, procedures, and the corporate mandates that slow change (almost to the point of cheating on corporate procedures or rewriting them, but not to the point of breaking any “major” laws), and I love to be around hard-working people; I can’t tolerate slackers. I am driven, almost anal about finding a way to win. I love contests and incentives almost to a passion.

The article also suggested that successful entrepreneurs have huge egos, are extremely self-confident, terrible team players and love seventy-hour weeks. None of which fit my profile (LOL). Only because I don’t like to work seventy-hour weeks anymore….I know my average is only about fifty-five to sixty (like I said, I am an obsessive-compulsive data person so I track this meticulously).

I sometimes think that headhunters want to hear that you are a mean SOB who gets results. Companies say they want people-people, team players, etc., but they really want results at almost any cost. So, feel out the role and the interviewer but make sure you know who you want to be in that interview for that particular job. Knowing who you are and who you want to be never hurts. If you have never taken a Personality Profile, don’t be afraid to give me a call and try one out.

July 8, 2013

Bundling Your Black Belt Projects

We require all our Black Belt participants to pick a project to work on that will save the company at least $250,000 per year and includes a Design of Experiment (DOE). Saving $250,000 is a tough challenge. But so is the DOE or finding a project that requires one. One of my Black Belt participants was very creative (which I love) and bundled nine smaller projects, that individually saved about $3000 – $85,000 per year, with a resulting savings of $3,934,000! It is really exciting when projects save at this level.

I would say that the secret to this team’s success was creating smaller teams to individually focus on each smaller project. The projects included 5S, Quick Change, Tooling Costs, Quality, Fixtures and Inspection. The DOE focused on Tooling Cost and Tooling Life.

So, as always, teams were formed, charters were written, and a histogram was started to track variable costs.  Each team Brainstormed, Reviewed History, did an Affinity Diagram, and narrowed the Ideas to a vital few. Variable costs were tracked at a detail level to look for opportunities for savings.

The 5S and Quick Change probably kicked off the Lean Process but quickly the Quality Issues pushed the project into high performance. The Tool Life DOE was the final success. What was so beautiful about the DOE was that the results were not what everyone expected. The Cutting Tools Speeds that were most successful as measured in Tool Life, Capacity and Quality were different that conventional wisdom suggested. When new Cutting Speeds were combined with a new coolant, the 5S and Quick Change, as well as new Tooling geometry, the project was a total success.

But in my opinion, the biggest success was that everyone that participated and learned from using the Tools. Saving money was a definite bonus!

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