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Innovative Companies Continue to Learn from Each Other: Fall 2016 LPPD Learning Group Event

by Matt Zayko
December 9, 2016

Innovative Companies Continue to Learn from Each Other: Fall 2016 LPPD Learning Group Event

by Matt Zayko
December 9, 2016 | Comments (0)

What do a sub-sea oil and gas firm, a household-name appliance maker, a premium sound company, and an iconic industrial and contemporary furniture design organization have in common? With a combined 386 years of existence, FMC Technologies, GE Appliances, Bose, and Herman Miller all have a mutual desire to learn and improve for long-term survival and success. And one shared area of interest for these leading companies is improving the value that they provide each customer starting with new product and process development.

LEI’s Lean Product & Process Development (LPPD) initiative was formed to bring together forward thinking organizations like FMC Technologies, GE Appliances, Bose, and Herman Miller to accelerate the spread of lean thinking and practice in product and process development across very diverse industries. These organizations engage in the LPPD Learning Group partnership with the purpose of transforming their product development systems by changing the way new value is created. And a valuable aspect of the Learning Group is the ability for each of the organizations to come together and meet two times per year with one of the companies acting as host.

Recently, the Learning Group convened their Fall 2016 experience at FMC Technologies in Davis, CA for one and half days in mid-November. Twenty-four people from the four companies actively participated in the session.

Andy Houk, Vice President of New Product Development for FMC’s Schilling Robotics Division, welcomed the learning group to Davis, the headquarters for the division. The Schilling Robotics team designs and manufactures world-class remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and manipulators for some of the most isolated locations on Earth, serving the critical energy sector for deep-water productivity.

After introductions, LEI LPPD Senior Advisor Jim Morgan stated that this was the fourth LPPD Learning Group event. The group is diverse but has common challenges, and learns from sharing and discussing the failures and successes in an open and safe environment. The theme for this learning event was “people.” As Jim stated, “processes don’t develop great products, people do.”


Jim introduced the agenda with the following conceptual and experiential activities that were planned for this learning group meeting:

  • LEI’s Lean Transformation Framework (LTF) in LPPD with John Shook
  • The Leader’s Role as a Coach and the Chief Engineer with John Shook
  • Gemba visits to FMC’s Rapid Prototyping Area, Valve Subassembly, and Testing Area for Gemini
  • The Concept Paper and its role in LPPD with Jose Ferro
  • Concept Paper examples from FMC Rio and FMC Schilling
  • Obeya Concept for LPPD with Jim Morgan
  • Gemba visit to FMC Daily Product Huddle Obeya Area
  • Obeya learning discussions from Bose, Herman Miller, and GE Appliances
  • Obeya examples for New Product Issues Management and Strategic Planning
  • A3 Thinking and Management with Eric Ethington
  • Gemba visits to Multiple Product Development Obeya Areas at FMC Schilling
  • The Importance of Leadership Mindset & Basic Thinking with John Shook

Below are highlights from select portions of the learning session.

Learning Topic: LTF & Leader’s Role for People Development from John Shook

John Shook, LEI’s CEO, led the discussion of the LEI Lean Transformation Framework (LTF) in LPPD and the leader’s role as a coach. The Lean Transformation Framework was developed based on his 35 years of direct experience working in this area.


The leader’s role in the LTF is to develop people. And the best way to develop a person is while actually doing the work. John stated that the Toyota Chief Engineer system was leading without power, but by skills of true leadership.

Go & See: FMC Gemba Areas, Round 1

In the rapid prototype area (RPA), teams were able to see three levels of prototypes that FMC Schilling Robotics used for fast learning on Manipulator Arm design.


Learning Topic: Concept Paper Sharing by FMC Brazil & FMC Davis

Jose Ferro of LEI Brazil and Fernando Rodrigues of FMC Rio led this discussion of an important LPPD tool used by the Chief Engineer—the Concept Paper (CP).


Jim Morgan reminded the team that “lots of conflict goes in to making a great product,” and the CP can help to focus the challenges and discussions for development teams. Fernando Rodrigues shared his learning with writing a Concept Paper and using it as a “game-changer” for the new Connector Program at FMC Rio. John Drogosz (LEI LPPD Coach) facilitated a concept paper reflection.

Learning Topic: Obeya Concept with Jim Morgan & Organizational Sharing

Jim stressed that obeya was about driving better collaboration and communication by bringing people together with use of this tool to support visual management. The entire learning group took a gemba visit to the Gemini testing obeya site to experience the daily performance-to-plan review in that area.


Learning Topic: A3 Thinking and Management

On day two, the group started with a business case and exercise related to A3 Thinking and Management from Eric Ethington, LEI LPPD Program Manager. Each participant had been asked to bring his or her own A3 to the session. In pairs, the participants practiced both sharing and coaching A3’s. This reinforced key learnings of the A3 as a process to develop people, on the job, while effectively engaging others to solve problems.


Go & See: FMC Gemba Areas, Round 3

The participants had a great opportunity for three more obeya visits for Gemini product development in these FMC areas: Gemini Obeya, “Spinal Cord” Hardware/Software test bed, and the Software Simulator. 

Learning Topic: Leadership Thinking & Mindset with John Shook

John focused on basic thinking of leaders. The power of the Toyota Production System is that it forces people to see problems quickly and solve them immediately. This basic, underlying thinking that is clearly understood and is critical for consistent values and actions throughout an organization.

In closing, Jim Morgan encouraged the group to continue to reach out to each other individually across companies to share more specific learning.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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