Book Discussion – Fast Forward Leadership

Most Lean Practitioners have a full library books, periodicals and professional publications. After a while they all melt together in the same old themes simply regurgitated with keywords of the moment. I decided to look over my bookshelf and discuss some of the books that broke the mode or at least were memorable and I believe worthy of discussion. Below is one I actually forgot about.

Fast Forward Leadership

This is a management leadership book written by Louellen Essex. The books premise “How to exchange outmoded leadership practices for forward looking leadership today.” Published in 2004 it was quite relevant and on point. The book was straightforward and quite practical without all the typical guru jargon written to impress the boardroom. Thumbing though it today in 2015 it still appears relevant and thought provoking. Much of what is written is what the rank and file continuously tries to communicate to management to no avail.

Below are a few points that really resonated with me.

Start Thinking of Yourself as Sales Person
Every communication you send must do more than inform it must persuade, interpret and educate (Lindstrom 1998).

This is great advice especially for seasoned workers more accustomed to just giving the right answer or analysis (and believing that’s enough) but not selling it.

Stop Hiring to Status Quo
Stop giving high marks to those that give all the conventional answers those that appear to have been schooled in the interviewing process.

I believe Human Resource Departments can stifle diversity and creativity by always trying to fit candidates in too narrow of a mold.

Stop Growing Silos
Silos are produced when leaders design organizations comprised of fixed linear units with specialized roles. These are typically marketing, finance, production and customer service.

These barriers must be eliminated all too often silos have competing goals. Purchasing tasked to lower price per part while production tasked to request lower lot sizes that typically increase price of purchase parts. This type madness must end.

Stop fabricating rewards systems that fuel competition
By neglecting to align rewards to team and organizational goal attainment, leaders sabotage their own efforts at building collaboration.

Rewards should be based on the group first and the individual second however that’s not typically the case.

Stop Stagnating the Careers of Baby Boomers
Nothing will defer boomer motivation as much as a deadlocked career.

Management books rarely touch upon this subject. Many boomers are workaholics with many years of experience and dedication. Too often they’re left out of decision making or growth. Organizations should appreciate experience as much as formal education or lose the synergy from years of experience.

As you can clearly tell I’m not a professional reviewer. But as a lean practitioner I enjoy sharing information believe to be useful. This book offers much more practical advice and is very affordable on Amazon.


Check it out you won’t be disappointed. Keep reading, keep learning!

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Deming’s Principles of Training and Leadership

Edwards Deming

Edwards Deming


Today let’s have a short discussion on training and leadership as it pertains to the W. Edwards Deming training and leadership model. The aim of leadership is simply to improve the performance of man and machine. If done correctly the results will be improved quality, increased production and instill pride of ownership.


I’m particularly fond of the Deming model because leaders recognize that the system not the worker is responsible for most defects. Thus a leader’s main responsibility is to improve the process.

Improving the process means creating stability (through repeatable robust procedures) and control not perfection. Without even knowing you, your product or your company I can guess the following. Your goal is zero defects, 100 percent on time delivery and inventory levels that are defined by one word “less”. Who doesn’t want this holy grail of performance?

The problem is most companies’ processes are in a state of reactive chaos thus they never really know where they stand in regard to performance. A manufacturer’s production strategy is much different at beginning of a fiscal period than at the end. Every employee knows when its end of month, end of quarter or year end. Why is there so much variation?

Deming would call this chaos caused by dependence on short term goals. If the process is out of control than how can leaders maintain proper linkage and flow required to manage and control production. Training in these environments is typically extensive.The problem is that the training assumes there are robust and repeatable processes in place.

Deming used statistics to control, maintain and improve processes. It’s next to impossible to find your upper and lower control limits when processes are out of control. Could you imagine running 110 hurdles with the distance between each hurdle changing each race? One could make the case the distance and number of hurdles are the same therefore the runner should just adjust. In the hurdle example it’s obvious the process is causing failure but what about on the shop floor.

Uneven workloads are similar to moving hurdles. No work at beginning of week then overtime and rush at the end. The workers are made to adjust similar to the runner in the hurdling example. Leaders today must focus on stabilizing the process and reduce the dependence on short term monetary goals.

Simply mandating numerical goals won’t improve your processes it just exacerbates Deming’s second deadly disease the emphasis on short term profits.

What has your experience been in regard to training and leadership? Do you have any thoughts or best practices to share?

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5 Real World Tips to Reduce MRP Nervousness

Do these terms sound familiar, expedite, and defer, damper and cancel? If so you’re most likely a Material Planner or Master Scheduler. If that is the case you’re well aware of the nervousness of MRP systems.

Most of the time it’s blamed on moving customers schedules however that really not the case. I’ve found the greatest numbers of issues are caused by sloppy system management.

For example there is a MRP message to order Widget 123 so you create the purchase order. The next day MRP generates a cancel message for Widget 123. What happened? Looking closer we found Marketing needed a show and tell part and Storeroom Clerk used a unplanned transaction to remove from stock which generated an order message. You guessed it marketing returned the part the next day and once returned to stock MRP no longer required purchase order and generated cancel message. This is just one of many internal issues that can cause havoc in your planning system. Below are my top five internal reasons for MRP nervousness.

1. Properly Manage Safety Stock

Don’t add safety stock into the ERP system (part master planning field) before its available. If you need 25 widgets and want to keep safety stock of 10 the initial order should be 35pcs to lead-time. Putting in a safety stock number in ERP prior to having it generates needless overdue message throughout the bill of material. Once the needed parts plus safety value arrive is the proper time to add value to ERP planning field. Be careful not to have safety stock at multiple levels of the bill of material this can generate unnecessary inventory.

2. Properly Control Unplanned Withdrawal

Unplanned transactions can create havoc throughout the MRP system. Storeroom Clerks should be well trained not only in product distribution but MRP in general. All unplanned transactions including cycle count adjustments should be reviewed by Material Planners ideally before the next MRP regeneration.

3. Make Timely Stock Transactions

It’s not uncommon for Storeroom Clerk to get busy and hold and batch receipts and issues transactions. This can be especially troublesome when working with reorder points and just in time replenishment parts. If not done immediately transactions should be performed before next MRP regeneration. Also disposition of non-conforming product should be completed promptly. A system full of aging and partially delivered work orders is a recipe for disaster. Until you code otherwise MRP assume product is conforming and useable but we all know better

4. Spare Part Demand

Spare part demand should be forecasted an entered to lead time sounds obvious but we all know this gets overlooked regularly.

5. Schedule Changes

Typically in manufacturing environments reviewing and changing schedules daily to match customer demand is futile and non-value added. Flowing down your customer’s nervous MRP is lazy and unprofessional. The plan that changes daily can no longer be considered a plan it’s simply a flow down of chaos. Work to level load your forecast and smooth the production. Negotiate schedule freeze periods with your customer. During that period the schedule is locked and cannot be changed without mutual agreement. Unless a major change has occurred don’t update master schedule more than twice a month (I recommend once a month). Most importantly remember MRP in all its complexity is only providing you information calculated from information inputted from users. Garbage in garbage out.

Do you have any tips or stories to share?  Please leave a comment.

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Lean Manufacturing And The Milgram Experiment

During your Lean journey is becomes easy to become discourage and frustrated. The more you become familiar with the tools and philosophies more you become aware of all the conflicting practices within organizations.

Those practices produce many conflicting goal which oftentimes creates conflicts between organizational silos. One silo is tasked to reduce shipping cost while another is to increase shipping frequency with smaller lots. Another unit is tasked to reduce inventory at any cost in direct conflict with yet another group tasked to add inventory in support of on time delivery and level material flow.

Sometime all you can do is laugh. This brings us to an unknown quality tool “HUMOR”! Global competition has bought some massive challenges to the workforce. It’s not unusual for a Lean Practitioner to feel as if they are characters in a Dilbert comic.

This brings me a chuckle I had recently. I was reading about the Milgram Experiment. For those that have never heard of this.

Milgram Experiment
It was an experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. They measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience. Basically participants (Teachers) were told individuals (Learners) in the next room were wired to receive an electrical shock. Teachers role was to ask a question and if Learner’s answers were incorrect they were to receive a electrical shock administered by the Teacher.

After each wrong question the voltage was to be increased. How far could the authority figures push the Teachers? When would their conscience’s override there blind trust in authority and stop pushing the button? Research yourself to find out results very interesting.

Origin of my humor was the thought that Material Managers might but subjects of a similar experiment. Will Managers flow down increasingly impossible to accomplish goals believing lean practices will somehow solve them or will they stop the experiment and address real constraining structural issues?

Since Managers are not volunteers like those in the Milgram experiment I suspect they will keep cranking up the voltage. I laugh my butt off when at think how great a Dilbert script that would be!

What are your thoughts or experiences!

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Additive Manufacturing: A Game Changer

amThroughout the decades I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the evolution manufacturing. I’m sure most of you old time I mean seasoned professionals remember the cam controlled chucking lathes. Cutting those cams to make the tool cut a certain path took skill and patience’s.

When manufacturing evolved into CNC digital machining then robotics I was simply elated and amazed at the progress. The simplicity of setup along with the repeatability and precision made these machines state of the art for many years. I can remember making my first .005 offset on a CNC machine then checking the part. It was an incredible feeling of power when the part checked exactly .005 smaller (big deal back in the day). In the past this offset took a touch of a surgeon using the positive stop method.

But we’re here to discuss the latest emerging technology in machining called Additive Manufacturing. This is the newest innovation in manufacturing and it will simply change the game.

Additive Manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer. Compare this to our typical machining model of removing metal from a blank or a bar. True geeks can check out ASTM F2792-10 for the complete technical definition.

To get your mind focus let’s consider the lighter side 3D printing. Imagine creating a chess set were all the pieces were replicas of members of your family. You could be the King your wife the Queen, Uncle Ed the Bishops and so on. All that is required is to scan each of you then create a simple 3D model. Load the model into your 3D printer and voila Smith Family Replica Chess set!

Now take that technology and put it in the hands of a company like General Electric!

Below is snippet from their site

“GE is using laser-powered 3-D printers, 3-D “inking” and “painting” machines, and other advanced manufacturing tools to make parts and products that were thought impossible to produce and which sometimes verge on art. We see advanced manufacturing as the next chapter in the industrial revolution.”

In my view it’s like cloning parts rather than machining them. With little waste and no significant dimensional variability within the batch! You now have the ability to fax 3D models or easily reverse engineer obsolete parts and then affordably manufacture them! This process isn’t labor intensive therefore off shoring labor won’t be as profitable, keeping jobs at home.

Value Stream Managers and Lean Practitioners had better embrace this technology early because Additive Manufacturing is a game changer and here to stay.
What are your thoughts?


Do you have an article to submit, always looking for guest authors!

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Develop, Manage and Motivate Beyond the Measurements

heartHearing the phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ always gives me a reason for pause. Too often it’s the beginning of MBC (Management By Charts) which many employees are accustomed. Lean practitioners everywhere will tell you charts are valuable but rarely convey the true picture. For instance how do you measure loyalty, job satisfaction, ethics and values?

I know there are qualitative research models that can extract quantitative values that can be charted showing a trend. However this is lagging data and typically requires further study and interpretation. I prefer the stand by water cooler method; it’s real-time, cheap and not censored. Talking to real people can be frightening but also enlightening.

Toyota has it right with the expression “We build people not cars”. Managers become teachers developing exceptional people. Let me repeat this developing exceptional people!
Too often organizations primary efforts go into mining for exceptional talent from the outside. Searching for talent in College and Universities is customary and should continue however ignoring talent in your own organization is ludicrous. Where is the chart that reflects a stagnating workforce unable to reach potential due to organizational constraints? Leadership is not a plug and play proposition every employee top down requires development.

Oftentimes an employee doesn’t even recognize their own potential. Once they obtain the perceived organizational ceiling most cease to develop both personally and professionally. Think of this in sports terms do coaches allow players to ever believe they have peaked in their performance, of course not. Even we Cub fans believe the coaches will find a way to win it all! On that note congratulations to the Jack Robinson West little league the new United States Champion!

That is the passion needed in the workforce, not written in a handbook but felt and shared throughout the organization!

For example one becomes an expert at welding possibly suggest they could learn more about metallurgy. A Senior Engineer could take a finance class; Customer Service Representative could study a second language! Motivate individuals to learn the science or business surrounding their job not for professional reward but personal development!

I believe organizational culture is truly derived from the ability to lead, teach and guide organically. If you’re always searching for supermen but cannot develop them internally you’re in trouble.

Let me pose this thought provoking question; How far could Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (neither finished college) been able to progress in your organization? Be honest do your exceptional employees get frustrated and quit, are identified and developed or give up and coast.

Tell us your thoughts solutions or stories. Remember in Lean it’s the journey not the destination that makes us grow!

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Save Your Sanity with PFEP

PFEP simply stands for Plan For Every Part. A simple material control concept from the past resurrected and touted as a new transformative process. PFEP simply stands for Plan For Every Part .

Material Control professionals first thought after introduction to PFEP is always “What do they think we do now, plan for half the parts?”



Planning every part is what these folks  do every day! In your initial roll out be cognizant of this fact so not to offend. PFEP in this instance means team rather than individual planning. Not because individual schedulers are not doing their job but to get more individuals vested in the plan. No longer is a schedule just thrown over a fence with only one person accountable for its success. If you been in business long enough you know everyone has plenty of input after the fact!

A simple value stream map provides best method to flush out every part along with its interdependency within the process. The plan that comes out of these sessions is usually based on best case assumptions and scenarios. Do we ever really plan for the reality of the environment?

Typically the problem isn’t the plan it’s the measuring and execution of the plan! On paper the plan can look flawless. But let’s throw in a little standard chaos you know scrap, rework, inspection, design change, transportation costs, EOQ, machine capacity and labor constraints. Couple this with your inventory goals that are oftentimes arbitrary. Many companies inventory goals are simply one word ”less”.

How does today’s PFEP differ from all the previous iterations of lean implementations. With PFEP you actually have measurable plan that is put together by a team and scrutinized as a group! Purchasing agents and Material Control personnel will no longer be constantly seconded guessed. A plan is established for every part with the goal of maintaining linkage and flow with minimal inventory.

Expected Inventory levels can be calculated and dollarized from the onset. No longer are you just shooting for arbitrary goal of less-inventory and ultimately starving the process and disrupting flow.

Once PFEP is in place you simply manage the plan not the parts! The key for success at this point is to use your lean tools to methodically flush out the problems with the plan. Problems that have been painfully obvious for years will now have management’s attention to either resolved or buffer.

Think of PFEP as the S&OP of the shop floor give it try and share the chaos and save your sanity!

What has been your experience with PFEP?

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WOSWaiting on Superman is a fascinating documentary critiquing America’s educational system which has become so large and complex that it no longer meets the needs of the end customer, the student. The primary goal of educating our children is lost in a labyrinth of special interests and political maneuvering.

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes” while following several students journey to a charter school. The film dispels much of the conventional (stereotypical) logic that children from low-income neighborhoods don’t want to learn. Another myth is that low performing or just plain bad educators are removed from the system. The reference to “Superman” describes educators Geoffrey Canada realization that there isn’t just one person powerful enough to save the system. Superman was fictional so you will wait forever if that was your plan.

As a Lean Practitioner I’m constantly mixing life, science and art. This documentary reminded me so much of lean programs past, present and possibly future. The parallels of systems and bureaucracies becoming so large and complex they lose focus and no longer function effectively. Lean in many organizations has become the “product” rather than the “tool”. Participation in value streams, kaizen events and other similar type programs have become mandatory in many companies. Rather than true problem solving of relevant issues practitioners look for “projects” to become lean certified or re-certified. Hence the tool is becoming the product rather than the tool enhancing the product.

This is where I had an epiphany … are serial quality programs organizations attempt to search for Superman! That fictional character or system that will save them from themselves!

Perfect quality, seamless linkage and flow along with world-class customer service and products are not results of complex and conflicting bureaucracies. According to Deming “A bad system, will defeat a good person, every time.”

Take heart Lean Soldier it isn’t all doom and gloom. Just as the documentary suggests there is hope in education and I’m sure lean manufacturing as well. But we might need to redirect the tools of quality to the process. Not the process of manufacturing but the process of managing the process if that makes sense. Maybe we should create “Charter” manufacturing cells detached from the beast or mother ship.

What are your thoughts?

One parting question “Is you’re a lean program more of a product or a tool of your organization? “  In other words do you use lean tools to solve problems or find problems to use lean tools.

Thanks and enjoy your Lean Journey it never ends!

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compassThroughout my lean journey I noticed that practically every organizations mission can be summed up with an age old timeless sentence or variant thereof.

“ABC organization will provide a product or service that meets the needs of our customers while providing profit to our investors and value to our employees. “

That’s clear concise and to the point to everyone in an out of the organization.

Organizational communication over time has evolved into complex labyrinth of legalese, jargon and branding. Mission and vision statements today are more like social manifestos’.
To translate these new manifestos to into actions many large organization rely on Hoshin Kanri a.k.a Policy Deployment.

The goal of policy deployment is to drive the company’s strategic goals throughout the organization. Popularized in Japan during the 1950’s Hoshin Kanri on its face appears pretty logical.

Following is excerpt from Wikipedia ……

“The discipline of hoshin kanri is intended to help an organization:

• Focus on a shared goal.
• Communicate that goal to all leaders.
• Involve all leaders in planning to achieve the goal.
• Hold participants accountable for achieving their part of the plan.

It assumes daily controls and performance measures are in place: “With hoshin kanri… the daily crush of events and quarterly bottom-line pressures do not take precedence over strategic plans; rather, these short-term activities are determined and managed by the plans themselves”

In the past organization simply expressed their yearly goals through memos, meetings then move forward. Now it takes 25 lean tools to express and execute multiple key performance targets. Everyone in these organizations must create an individual goal that must be specific, measurable, and achievable and time bound. The organization now needs to manage review and control literally thousands of individual plans yearly! This labyrinth of communication has become time consuming, conflicting and complex.
I don’t believe Hoshin Kanri developers meant this to occur.


As a lean practitioner I’m always reviewing practices and testing assumptions. If your organization is truly into continuous improvement aren’t many policy deployment activities redundant? So the question remains is HOSHIN KANRI REALLY NECESSARY?

Share your experience with policy deployment. Has your job changed significantly because of it? Are your goals shared, relevant an attainable? Or are the goals just mandated driven from the top and policy deployment the tool used to measure adherence to the targets. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence for both.



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Lean Kryptonite – Running To The Numbers

Edwards Deming

Edwards Deming

From my perspective the largest cause of failure for lean initiatives is continuing to run the company by the numbers. You know the month, quarter and year end projections. I recognize to remain in business companies must have goals, objective and targets. However you can’t just set an arbitrary number then believe your system can accommodate it.


Imagine telling Tony Steward your number 14 Chevrolet Impala must operate on half the fuel next race because that what is needed to make the monthly projection. While sounding crazy in this context this is exactly what happens in many manufacturing companies throughout the nation.

Whenever running a drag race or manufacturing widgets you must know one thing from the onset “How much resources (fuel, inventory) is required to operate a lean and robust process that results in operational linkage and flow”.

Oftentimes setting up lean Kanban lines results in higher inventory but the inventory is relevant and turning. Think of a NASCAR engine, as it improves you may require more tires per race. But advanced engine might also result in less pit stop for fuel and repairs.  Lets not leave out an additional victory or two.

Kanban lines optimize and stabilize inventory it does not always reduce. This stabilization is what allows you to make methodical and continual incremental improvements. If your lines are constantly starved of inventory you will only create an expedite loop and never get the benefits of lean.

Edwards Deming recognized that operating on visible numbers and observations alone could destroy organizations. This is one of his seven deadly diseases of management, number 5 “Operating on visible numbers alone”.  Dust the book ”Out of Crisis” off and review that section it will offer amazing insight to this issue.

Hope enjoyed this short discussion. I’m always looking for content and guest authors so if you have thought or a story please submit it.

Enjoy your lean Journey … remember it has no end!

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