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Could you clarify the difference between cause and root cause?
By: Ballé, Michael | May 29, 2014
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: Could you clarify the difference between cause and root cause? More »
Dentist Drills Down to the Root Causes of Office Waste
By: Chet Marchwinski | May 7, 2007
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Applying lean concepts to dentistry isn't as difficult as, well, pulling teeth. Dr. Sami Bahri, driven by a gut feeling that the traditional method of managing a dental office could be improved dramatically, educated himself and his staff in the concepts, validated the approach in pilot projects, then transformed his office. His journey just might transform the way you look at a dentist's office. (The Seven Wastes entry in the short Glossary at the end of the story has examples from Bahri's staff.  ) More »
How to Breakdown a Complex Challenge for A3 Problem-solving
By: David Verble | March 3, 2021
At some point, every lean practitioner struggles with a problem that seems too complex to put the problem statement, analysis, and corrective actions on the single 11-by-17 inch sheet of paper that is the hallmark of the A3 problem-solving process. The solution is to tackle the social side of problem-solving before the technical side. Here's what you need to know from David Verble, who has 30 years' experience using A3 reports and teaching others how to use them since he created the first A3 training program for Toyota North America. More »
Our Burning Platform and Using the 5 Whys to Think More Deeply about Corrective Action
By: Christopher D. Chapman | July 23, 2020
A call to action: As lean thinkers, we should join with our diversity, equity, and inclusion experts to help transform our business cultures. We must muster up the courage on our burning platform to face the centuries-old problem of systematic racism in our law enforcement, government, healthcare, education, housing, and employment. More »
WLEI: On the Job with Tom Root, Managing Partner of Zingerman's Mail Order
By: Lean Enterprise Institute | March 2, 2020
Spoiler alert! The food you just ate is not fresh. It was "sourced" longer ago than you'd imagine. And since that time, it's been handled in batch after batch. The same can be said for many lean transformations - one batch of improvement activity after another. Zingerman's Mail Order has been reducing batch sizes for 15 years, acting as a sort of "model line" for the entire food industry. Tom Root and Josh Howell discuss ZMO's lean transformation and their many lessons learned, searching for useful takeaways for you the listener.    More »
On The Job with Tom Root, Managing Partner of Zingerman's Mail Order (Transcript)
March 2, 2020
Zingerman’s Mail Order (ZMO), one of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, began its lean transformation 15 years ago after deciding that its 3rd relocation in 6 years due to 25-35% year-over-year growth was its last! There had to be a better way to solve its biennial capacity problem. And of course there was with lean thinking.   Tom Root, ZMO’s Managing Director, sat down with Josh Howell for a wide-ranging conversation about several phases of ZMO’s lean transformation, including the challenge of establishing a culture of continuous improvement with full participation, and how lean thinking could impact the food industry that’s More »
Change Your “Pet” Problem Solving Method
By: Art Smalley | May 20, 2019
Got problems with your problem-solving method? This interview by LEI's Chet Marchwinski with Four Types of Problems author Art Smalley shares advice on how you can "change your 'pet' problem-solving method.  " More »
What Problems Do You See?
By: Joshua Rapoza | November 20, 2018
Take a minute or two think about the problems you see everyday at your work. It can be quite daunting when you think about everything that needs attention. But knowing what type of problem you are dealing with makes countermeasures much easier to figure out. What problems do you see most? More »
We're working hard on problem solving so why don't I see any improvement in our problem-solving capability?
By: Michael Ballé | September 10, 2018
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: We're working hard on problem solving, asking "why" repeatedly, and looking for root causes, but I'm afraid I fail to see any improvement in our problem-solving capability or why looking for hidden causes should help. More »
Five Whys Animation
July 19, 2018
Videos and Webinars
The practice of asking why repeatedly whenever a problem is encountered in order to get beyond the obvious symptoms to discover the root cause. Watch this animation to learn more.    More »
Andon Cues Service Center to Respond to Customer Queue
By: Chet Marchwinski | March 13, 2018
An Ohio Mutual service center has no andon cord to stop a production line but the principal is the same as in a factory -- an abnormality has occurred, take corrective action. More »
A3 Coaching: What Feedback Would You Give?
By: Lean Leaper | May 30, 2017
You be our coach: what feedback/coaching would you offer on our example A3? We'd like to hear from you! More »
How We A3 at Goodyear
By: Tedd Cowling, Norbert Majerus, Rob Schott and Damien Schreurs | October 18, 2016
Just as lean is situational, A3s are situational too - companies like Goodyear have a variety of types of A3s that they use based on the specific challenge that is being faced. Four Goodyear insiders share more. More »
To A3 or Not to A3
By: Norbert Majerus | February 9, 2016
"Not every tool is a hammer, and not every problem is a nail," writes Norbert Majerus of The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. "Not every situation warrants the use of an A3.  " Read more to learn Norbert's preferred approach to gauging whether or not an A3 will help in a given situation. More »
Small Chart, Big Impact: How a Simple Spaghetti Chart Led to Huge Wins at Thrustmaster of Texas
By: Lean Leaper | February 4, 2016
Sometimes the simplest lean concepts can make all the difference in ensuring a successful transformation. Marine-propulsion manufacturer Thrustmaster of Texas found this out after creating a spaghetti diagram to reveal possible waste in an assembly plant. Their findings were staggering - read more. More »
The Value of Key Performance Indicators in a Lean Transformation
By: Ernie Richardson and Tracey Richardson | February 3, 2016
We all know to watch out for key performance indicators (KPIs) in the workplace - but are you tracking the RIGHT KPIs? Ernie and Tracey Richardson share their thoughts on the two categories of KPIs, how they can help you, and how to identify them. More »
People Don't Fail, Processes Do
By: Terry Smith | September 29, 2015
Terry Smith, a lean web developer, shares two examples of real-life companies who used the "5 Whys" to drill down to the root of a thorny problem. More »
How a Problem-Solving Culture Takes Root
By: Jim Luckman and David Verble | March 4, 2014
Changing one's own leadership behaviors is no easy task, but it can be done. Leaders can shift away from giving top-down commands and solutions to a more engaging and collaborative way of addressing problems that both gets results and develops people. More »
Learn from the Error, Every Time
By: Joshua Rapoza | February 4, 2014
It's an awful feeling when you think everything is going just fine and then discover you've made an error. But errors are inevitable. It's what you do next that counts. More »
How Can Lean Take Root in a Crappy Culture?
By: Ballé, Michael | August 31, 2011
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: I've done a lot of working with lean, and recently started my first coaching/consulting gig. And while I'd love to help by introducing people to flow, takt time, pull, and all the nifty lean tools and ideas, the most striking thing I've learned is how much hostility and mistrust exists among people. How can I help lean take root when the biggest problem turns out to be a crappy culture? More »
How Much Control Do I Need (and Need to Give Up) to Lead?
By: Ballé, Michael | August 26, 2009
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: I am interested in setting up a team for implementing lean. So far I have been trying to make changes on my own, but find that without support from others I have little time to implement new practices or conduct root-cause problem-solving. Doing so keeps me from running the daily operations of the fabrication and large machining departments. To be an effective lean leader, do I need to let go of the control of the daily operations and concentrate on being the lean manager? More »
Is Your Technical Person a Technical Problem or a People Problem ...?
By: Shook, John | May 28, 2009
Columns; eLetters
John Shook discusses the need for both technical and social skills More »
Leadership Q&A: Dr. Jack Billi, associate dean and associate vice president for medical affairs
By: Marchwinski, Chet; | January 12, 2009
From the LEI senior executive series on lean leadership:Jack Billi, M.  D.  , associate dean for clinical affairs, University of Michigan Medical School, professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Education, and associate vice president for medical affairs,University of Michigan, is leading a lean transformation of the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), which encompasses 18,000 employees, an 817-bed hospital, 100 clinics, and a medical school with 700 students, 1,000 residents, and 1,600 faculty physicians. (Read the Success Story about the lean transformation of UMHS, "Fighting Cancer with Linear Accelerators and Accelerated Processes.  ") More »
Using Lean Thinking to Reinvent City Government
By: David Drickhamer | April 1, 2008
Case Studies; Images
In many cities, stagnant tax revenues from a slowing economy coupled with rising healthcare and energy costs are causing budget shortfalls. To cope with the budget squeeze, Grand Rapids, MI, has turned to lean principles. City employees have learned firsthand how consolidating operations, eliminating wasted time and effort, and streamlining processes can help them improve productivity while providing the quality of service that city residents want, in less time and with less effort and More »
Doing More With Less: Lean Thinking and Patient Safety in Health Care
By: Joint Commission Resources | June 12, 2006
Beginning with an overview of how lean thinking developed and spread in manufacturing, this book quickly and—most importantly for healthcare readers who are not familiar with lean principles—clearly explains the key concepts of  lean thinking and how they apply to healthcare.  Even better, Doing More with Less: Lean Thinking and Patient Safety in Healthcare offers specific examples throughout of how to translate the principles of lean thinking into the healthcare environment, and how leading hospitals are using the concepts to improve safety by eliminating the root causes of problems. More »
Build Your “House” of Production on a Stable Foundation
By: Chet Marchwinski | February 14, 2006
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Faced with downtime on key pieces of sophisticated equipment in a machine-intensive environment, Delphi's Plant 1 launched a successful improvement effort by focusing on rigorous problem solving to create basic stability. This Lean Enterprise Institute case study shows you what plant management, staff and employees did. More »
The Roots of Lean: Training Within Industry and the Origin of Japanese Management and Kaizen
By: Huntzinger, Jim | June 14, 2005
Articles; Images
LEI CEO John Shook, the first American employee to work at Toyota’s headquarters in Japan, tells a story about struggling to adapt Toyota training materials for use by Americans who would soon be working at the start-up New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) joint venture with GM. A Japanese colleague, seeing him wrestling with some of the concepts, disappeared into a file room at Toyota’s corporate library. He returned with a dog-eared, coffee-stained copy of the English-language manual for Training Within Industry (TWI), a program developed by U.  S. industrial leaders to support the World War II production effort. After the More »
Training to See Kit: A Value-Stream Mapping Workshop
By: Mike Rother and John Shook | October 14, 2002
Books; Training Packages; Workshops
The Training to See kit enables you to take people through the exercise of value-stream mapping, from selecting a product family, to mapping its current state to identify root causes of waste, mapping a leaner future state, and developing a plan to implement the future state to achieve results. The kit presents the proven approach and lessons of Learning to See, LEI’s best-selling workbook on value-stream mapping (VSM). More »
From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932
By: David Hounshell | March 13, 1984
David Hounshell has crafted a very interesting story about the development of key production technologies and also the big new problem that they caused. As the new technologies solved the age-old problem of how to make enough stuff to satisfy demand, manufacturers suddenly had to solve a new problem: How do we sell all this stuff? More »
Problem Solving to Align Purpose, Process and People
This is an expanded version of our 1-day Lean Problem Solving workshop which is offered exclusively in our office in Cambridge, MA. More »