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Distilling Lean Ideas Down to Their Essence

by Andrew Quibell
September 3, 2014

Distilling Lean Ideas Down to Their Essence

by Andrew Quibell
September 3, 2014 | Comments (2)

I'm a career automotive guy, an engineer turned manager who started out in quality and did the circuit in manufacturing. My hair turned to grey faster than I planned and I found myself moving full circle back into quality and continuous improvement in my present role as a VP in a global enterprise.

My hobby and passion today is Lean. I've been actively pushing down the lean route since 2006 when I transitioned from plant quality manager into manufacturing as KAUTEX Textron’s TPM regional leader and then CI leader. Working in these positions I learned more and more about the Toyota Production System, not just tools and techniques, but what made it different in terms of culture, mindset, and behaviors. The more I've learned, the more I've come to like teaching people about lean thinking, and I get pretty animated talking about it. This animated quality seems to help drive my point home in conversations with team members.

So after a while I began thinking, how can I effectively communicate lean ideas having to do with culture so that behaviors, techniques, and tools stick? What makes for a powerful conversation with my team? For too long corporate culture had been “death by PowerPoint.” 60 slides into a presentation, I’d think, “Get me out of here!” Who cared what the message was! What a waste of time.

I wondered, How can I communicate my message to organizations that don’t think or act anything like Toyota? When I’m sharing information, what is the bare essence of my message? Let’s get right to the substance! I thought, Try drawing just a simple sketch… make people think so they have to respond with their own interpretation of what I’m drawing.

I continued to develop this approach to communication (images and graphic text) in my work with BAMA (Bluegrass Automotive Manufacturers Association, suppliers of Toyota North America). In their workshops, they also emphasized the importance of visual images, showing how powerful they can be if the message is packaged right. From here my approach to communicating visually was coupled permanently with enthusiasm for lean thinking.

This image below is one I’ve used with frontline workers in an automotive plant:

Going to the gemba and playing detective is critical to eliminating waste and fostering lean thinking in yourself and others. Look at the image above and follow the story, interpret the images. What do you see? Take the image to your shopfloor. Can you see the holes, gaps, waste, burden, struggles, inconsistency I’ve seen so many places?

Or, draw your own images of what you see at the gemba and from that, think about what’s most important for you to communicate with your team. How will you communicate it?

Identify problems, draw them, and then start to fix them, one step at a time.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  learning,  musings
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2 Comments | Post a Comment
Rick Eitel September 15, 2014
1 Person AGREES with this comment
Andrew, I think this is really a great way to show why we go to the Gemba.  One question - What is SPCA?  It is near the bottom. 
Rick Eitel

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Andrew Quibell September 21, 2014
2 People AGREE with this reply
S - System inputs and outputs you measure
P - Pathway who is responsible
C - Connection how you signal
A - Activity how exactly you do the work, is it pre specified with a imbedded test?

These terms are used extensively by BAMA in the exec workshops they run and this all relates back to how Toyota operate and link everything together defining this 4 things which is instilled in there DNA and corporate culture.
Look for the work of Dr, Steven Spear who coined these terms when extensively studied Toyota and published his research through the Havard Business school.
i also have a story board on thiis SPCA, maybe the Lean Post might publish it at some point.

Best regards,

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