Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"aggregation of marginal gains" or continous improvement to you and I

If you are not a cycling nut and British born you probably did not notice that the GB cycling team had an absolutely awesome world championship.  They won 6 medals, 2 bronze, 2 silver and 2 gold including the men's road race.  In fact they lead the medal table the first time they have ever done so on the road, track cycling they have been up there for a decade.
If you look carefully you will notice a couple of differences between him and the other (slower) riders.  He is not wearing a standard cycling top but a skin suit and his helmet is different. The helmet has a perspex cover to improve aerodynamics.
In fact the whole team wore skin suits.  For a team to wear skin suits for a road race is very rare.  David Millar's Garmin team did it one year for the Champs Elysee stage of the Tour de France.  That stage was ironically won by Cavendish and Millar was the GB captain for the Worlds.  Out of picture the management team also had set up around the course communicate information to the team.  Race radios which are common for races like the Tour de France are banned at the Worlds and Olympics.
These are 3 little changes which individually would probably not make a difference.  However add them together along with all the other aggregated marginal gains that GB cycling chases and you start to make significant gains.  For GB cycling significant gains were 6 amazing medals.  And for Cavendish something else too:

Why am I writing this, to reinforce that we don't have to go chasing the big gains.  There are very few break through changes which give 10% more capacity without spending a large amount of money.  There are however many, many marginal 0.2% and 0.4% gains that are typically low cost, which aggregated together deliver the big prize.  Be it 10% more capacity or a gold medal.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Good advice,

The language maybe colourful but the message is true.  If someone is not working out for your company you need to get rid of that person or as O'Leary says whack'em.  Firing someone is not a casual decision, for many people the job they have is important to them.  It is what pays the bills for them and their family.  These are the people you want to keep, the hard working individuals who work hard for your company.  The ones who don't meet that description and a minority are often like a cancer to a company.

In too many Alberta companies, I meet owners, managers and supervisors who put up with underperforming workers.  They put up with workers who are negative about everything, don’t do their jobs correctly, hassle other employees and take advantage of their employer.  These are the workers that should have been whacked a long time ago.  And the longer they are there the more difficult and costly it becomes.

O’Leary’s cold, hard method of firing staff

So how is firing/dismissing/laying-off/de-employing/whacking/insert euphemism/  a lean concept?  First something has gone wrong, that person should not be with you.  This however is Alberta and staff can be impossible to find so chances have to be given.  The two Toyota tenets of lean are “Respect for the individual” and “Continual improvement”.  If you have one worker slacking but still getting paid and 5 others doing a full job and the slacker is not being rebuked or fired how respected are the other 5 workers?  This is the part of the employment equation that gets too often overlooked.  Too much effort is put into trying to correct the bad apples that no one notices the good ones give up or move on.  And as the good ones leave the bad apple often becomes more valuable in the eyes of their immediate supervisor and the circle becomes vicious. In this situation “Continual improvement” can barely happen if at all.

So what to do about it?  Take the advice:
So when do you whack someone? The moment you think, “Hey, this one’s not really working out.” The minute the notion enters my mind that I have to fire someone, I don’t hesitate. I don’t give the person three, four, five months to improve or change. Because I’ll tell you something else that’s unpopular to admit: problematic employees never change.

Yes it feels crap doing it.  Yes it can be mine field if you are not set up with good HR policy to follow.  Two things to remember.  One you will feel fine the next morning and the only question you will have is why you did not do it earlier.  Second you have a greater responsibility than that individual but to all the employees to ensure the good and the continuation of company.

Post script, if you need a good HR consultant to get the whacking done email me and I can forward some names I trust.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If you have a machine shop are you watching

This is the future, I may be wrong on that but i don't think so.
These may not look like much but they are very, very significant, especially if you own a machine shop.
These 2 parts are many ways the same, they are designed to do the same job.  Part 1 at the back is the traditionally machined part.  Part 2 at the front is the lighter, stronger laser sintered part, effectively it was laser printed.  And best of all its titanium.
Just think about that.  Here is a part designed for use in an aircraft that has been printed.  Just what are the implications?
  • Just in time, print these off one at a time.  Set up is pretty much minimal, no batches are needed.
  • It's a printer, I don't know what the training required to operate is, my guess is it is an awful lot less than operating CNC mill.
  • Have one everywhere.  Imagine the inventory cost savings of not having to hold stock just one machine, bag of titanium powder and an internet connection to download the printing details.
These are just 3 changes, there must be dozens more we just have not thought about.

Disruptive technologies happen.  The internet is the one we think of most.  Lean was one too.  Who would have foreseen  Toyota, Honda and co expanding in the way they did.  Their disruptive technology being JIT, 5S, SPC and a few other simple ideas.  This I see as being a disruptive technology.  One that potentially will bring a lot more jobs back to North America.  Will those jobs belong to Canadian, American or foreign companies I don't know.  That will depend on who best understands the disruption.

Full article https://www.technologyreview.com/energy/38352/?mod=MagOur

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ray Anderson, America’s greenest businessman, died on August 8th, aged 77

Fantastic leader, now recognised as a Lean and Green pioneer.
The $400m he was saving each year by making no scrap and no off-quality tiles more than paid for the R&D and the process changes.
His company InterfaceFLOR - www.interfaceflor.com