An EPIC (Engine Plant In Cleveland) story

Working at Ford in the early 1990’s, I had the privilege of learning about lean manufacturing from some of the best lean thinkers at the time.  Looking to develop and implement a production system, Gifford Brown, our plant manager, sought the assistance of key ex-Toyota Georgetown powertrain leaders.

Russ Scaffide, John Allen, Dwight Clark and Bill Costantino joined the Cleveland Engine Plant 2 (CEP2) team as consultants and helped author and implement what was then called the Cleveland Production System.

The Cleveland Production System (CPS) became the forerunner to the modern Ford Production System (FPS), and its implementation at CEP 2 led to the plant being recognized with the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing in 1996.

My role (as a cost analyst at the time) in the development of the CPS, in addition to taking the handwritten model and creating the slide above, was to proof-read the documents that were created.  I was new to manufacturing, however, my prior background at what was then Ernst & Whinney‘s National Marketing headquarters in Cleveland, included conducting secondary market research on potential client companies, their industries, officers, directors and our competitors.  We used this data to support the writing of major audit and management consulting proposals, which we were also responsible for proof-reading – a valuable skill that I’ve used to learn as much as I can throughout my career.

Proof-reading the early documentation of the CPS gave me the opportunity to learn about this new way of thinking in manufacturing and because I had less to un-learn, I was able to pick up on the concepts quickly and contribute to the discussion.

The model – and its implementation – with Ford and UAW leaders responsible for jointly championing and teaching the individual elements, served as a visual reminder of our responsibilities.  Our role was to take all of these lean tools, systems and principles and create value for the customer through continuous process improvement and the identification and elimination of waste.

Attending the initial training, then eventually becoming a trainer for the system, there was one thing that always bothered me about the model.  The model placed itself at the center, rather than the customer.  Our model seemed to put all of its weight on top of the customer and never seemed quite right.

I sought to reconfigure the model as a “Focus within a Framework”.  I placed the customer at the center of the model, and then built the framework with the “pillars” of the system – People, Added Value, Just-in-Time, and Performance Measurements.  Once the focus was placed within the framework, I then used the elements of the production system to create the web.  As our plant was a supplier to Ford assembly plants around the world, I used the (new at the time) catch phrase “Worldwide Web” to attract the attention of attendees at a joint Ford / UAW quality conference in Dearborn in 1996.

My Magnum Opus

My use of a spider’s web as an analogy for a production system came from several places.  First, my favorite bedtime story to read to my kids was E.B. White‘s Charlotte’s Web.  In the story, Charlotte, a spider, weaves words into her web to describe Wilbur, a runt pig who is in constant fear of being slaughtered as he fattens up.  Charlotte seeks to save Wilbur by pointing out his better qualities in such “web posts” as “Some Pig“, “Terrific”, “Radiant” and finally “Humble”.  I started to view a production system much like a spider’s web. (I’ll discuss the irony of the word “Humble” being the word that finally saved Wilbur in an up-coming post.)

The other influence on my spider thinking came from a student who I was supervising in my first job out of college at a major retail store.  She was working in the evening and when asked about getting stock out of the storeroom and onto the shelves, commented  “if it wasn’t for the customers, I would be able to get my work done.”  This view of the customer as a nuisance fit nicely with the transformation in thinking required to move from mass (where the customer is sometimes viewed as a nuisance) to lean, (where the customer is nourishment).

In my web analogy, the contrast between the way that humans view flying insects as a nuisance and the way that spider’s view flying insects as nourishment emerged.  In fact, a spider’s existence is dependent upon its ability to capture and hold onto insects that move in and out of its “Window of Opportunity”.  Much like customers’ disposable income should be viewed as the lifeblood of any organization.

If the spider’s web doesn’t cover the entire opening, potential nourishment can fly through without being captured.  If the web breaks, the ability of the spider to quickly react and fix the problem directly impacts the spider’s future viability.

An organization’s leaders are responsible for identifying the organization’s Window of Opportunity, providing a focus on the customer, and creating the systems that enable employees to create value to capture and hold onto customers.  Quick reactions to breakdowns and weaknesses in the systems when identified, are necessary to maintain organizational stability and provide continued growth.

Principles – the focus and the framework of any organization –  linked through systems and tools enable employees to create and provide increasing value to customers.  Thus, our “Window of Opportunity” defines  how well our Principles connect to our customers and our ability to create value through the continuous improvement in our systems and tools and the identification and elimination of waste.

Continual assessment of the effectiveness of our systems and adjustments when and where necessary will determine the amount of nourishment we receive.

Unfortunately, the model, which I found attractive and intuitive, never caught on as the CPS morphed into the FPS.  However, the learning I obtained from creating it and thinking through all of the various messages it conveys have helped me as a frame of reference when assessing other lean organizations.  It was especially helpful the following year when I moved to Cleveland Engine Plant 1 to implement the new Ford Production System in a plant that was in a slightly different emotional state.  I’ll share that story in my next post.

Are you capturing your customer’s disposable income that is moving in and out of  your Window of Opportunity?  Are your systems complete and connected?  Do you react quickly to signals your customers are sending,  indicating their presence in your window?  When your systems are weak or broken, do you respond immediately to minimize the loss of potential customers?  Do you view your customers as a nuisance or nourishment?

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The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and other high-performance teams.

USAF Thunderbirds

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As I sat working in my office, my attention was diverted by the sights and sounds of the Air Force Thunderbirds practicing for this weekend’s National Air Show in Cleveland.

From the Press Release announcing their performance,  

“The six select Thunderbird pilots will put their distinct red, white and blue F-16 Falcon jet fighters through a choreographed hour-long performance each day at speeds up to 500 mph and as close as three feet from each other. The Thunderbirds are the U.S. Air Force “Ambassadors in Blue” and represent the United States at approximately 35 sites both home and abroad each year.

The Cleveland National Air Show is a Labor Day Weekend family tradition and one of the largest annual events on the North Coast.

Watching these planes maneuver around the buildings of downtown Cleveland and out over Lake Erie inspires awe at the union of pilots, planes and teamwork.  To hear their sound and feel their power as windows and ground shake demands your attention and respect.

I had the good fortune of being a member of the Shingo Prize Site visit team in 1999 that visited the Lockheed-Martin manufacturing facility in Fort Worth, TX where the F-16 Falcon jets come to life.  It was a treat to observe the interaction of design engineers, process engineers and assembly line workers transform a bunch of metal, wires and other assorted parts into a finished jet fighter as it traveled down a one-mile long assembly line. 

Not only was the facility a great place to see, but the team of examiners gathered to assess the organization was one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of working with.  The team’s co-leaders were George Koenigsaeker, a 2010 inductee into Industry Week’s Manufacturing Hall of Fame and Ross Robson, former Executive Director of the Shingo Prize and Shingo Prize Academy member.  Also on the team was Larry Anderson, Lean Gold Certified, past Chairman and co-member with me on the AME/ASQ/Shingo Prize/SME Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals committee.  It was truly a high performance team and quite a learning experience for me.

Describing teamwork is a lot like defining quality.  The statement “I know it when I see it” applies.  However, it doesn’t go deep enough to fully understand the work and dedication required behind the scenes to make the visible product satisfying to both customer and team member.

Achieving, then maintaining high performance is hard work and comes with few shortcuts.   Members of high-performance teams receive their reward from the purpose of their work, the satisfaction from their interactions with each other,  and ultimately the outcome of their dedication.

What high-performance teams have you been a part of?  What are some other examples of high-performance teams that are well-known?  What characteristics would you use to describe a high-performance team?

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

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In Pursuit of Parlor Perfection

Shingo PrizeDid you ever have one of those chance encounters with an individual that makes you sit down and really think about what just happened?  It happened to me recently.

Our Neurological Institute has a “go to gemba” process where each of our administrators spend at least a week each quarter, making daily rounds in our in-patient unit to talk with patients and determine if we are meeting their expectations for care.  I have found the interaction with our patients  some of the most gratifying work that I’ve done while working at the Clinic.

Last week, while connecting with our patients, I had a chance encounter with a very interesting man.  He took the time to let me know where we had fallen short in our care of a loved one.  He was not upset or angry, he felt the need to share his experience and I seemed open to listening, so we talked.

As we continued our conversation, a familiar language started to emerge and I found myself actively engaged in a discussion of root cause, errors, defects, visual management, standard work, etc.  We were talking lean.

“I work with dairy farmers,” he said.  “I focus on preventing the diseases that you detect and fix.”  We continued for a little while until he had to leave.  I told him I would be back in the morning. He handed me his business card and I saw his Guiding Principle – “In Pursuit of Parlor Perfection for healthy, comfortable, well fed, pregnant cows.”

A Frisian Holstein cow in the Netherlands: Int...

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Being a student of lean, I recognized the principle of “Pursuit of Perfection” and wanted to learn more about how this principle has been applied in the dairy business.  Over the next two days, we spent a total of nearly three hours discussing the opportunities he saw for us to improve our patient care processes and he shared with me the details of his consulting business where he helps dairy farmers focus on quality at the source and increase milk production through the reduction of disease.

Without a college degree or a lean certification or any formal lean training, he has mastered the application of lean principles, systems and tools as described in the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.

His simple philosophy – listen to the cows.

He told me about how milking parlors are built for the efficiency of the farmer; however, their design results in decreased milk production from the cows (workers).  Automation and technology take the farmer away from the cows and is creating a whole host of quality problems – from diseases,  passed on through their milk and beef to humans, to increased costs due to inefficient milk collection techniques that cause cows to produce less milk.

This 80-stand rotary dairy in Northern Tablela...

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We talked about the backwards way our current health care system places its emphasis on treating diseases, rather than preventing them.  He told me about his application of lean principles such as lead with humility, respect for every “cow”, flow, scientific thinking, constancy of purpose, systems thinking, and value for the customer.

My head was spinning.  I was drawing parallels with the tools of lean such as visual management, standard work, quick changeover, error-proofing, preventive maintenance, etc.   Could the humble cow be the start of the Healthcare value stream?

I’ve made the transition from manufacturing to healthcare and have seen how the principles of lean apply across multiple, diverse industries, including lean dentists and lean government.  This was the first time I was really exposed to the potential of lean – at the source – in the supply chain of the food and farming industries – before the production or processing stages – and recognized the connection to the healthcare industry – a strange customer of the current food processing business.

We traded contact information and vowed to continue our discussion.  We’ve asked him to serve on our Patient Advisory Council and he’s asked me to help spread his message on disease prevention.  It sounds like a good deal so far.

As my father once told me, “The more you know, the more you find out you don’t know”.  I learned a lot last week and recognize that I have a lot more to learn.

Dairy cows at Comboyne, NSW

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Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Stephen R. Covey‘s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, first published over 20 years ago continues to influence many people and help us all become more effective.  In 2010, Covey formed a partnership with the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence  strengthening the awareness of successful principles-based organizations

I have great respect and interest in what The Shingo Prize has been doing and in the transformational work underway at the Huntsman School of Business,” Covey said. “Companies that have implemented principles taught by The Shingo Prize have made dramatic and measurable progress in achieving operational excellence.”

Of the 7 habits mentioned in the book, perhaps the one that resonates most with me is number 5 – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”    To a lean thinker, this habit forms the basis for following the principles of “Lead with Humility” and “Respect for every Individual”.  This is not a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge.

To “Lead with Humility” means we must admit that we don’t know it all.  My father told me long ago, “the more you learn, the more you’ll find out you don’t know.” 

Did you ever go from feeling like a genius one moment,  to feeling like you just don’t get it in the next moment?  When talking with a group of like-minded thinkers, the discussion just seems to flow and everyone is nodding their heads in agreement – sometimes jumping in to finish each other’s thoughts. 

Leaving this familiar place and go into areas where our subject matter knowledge isn’t as developed can sometimes feel over-whelming.  Change always comes with an anxious dilemma.  How do I share what I know without coming across as a know-it-all, yet still influence the direction of a group when they are struggling to find their way?  Welcome to the world of continuous improvement. 

As lean practitioners know, the hardest part of our job is to balance our desire to just do it, versus our desire to teach others how to do it.  We are sought out for our expertise, yet it is the lean leaders job to leverage the expertise of the people currently doing the job.   To be able to lead people to where they need to be by asking questions, rather than providing answers is one of the most satisfying aspects of the change management process.

Transitioning from manufacturing to healthcare has been a great learning experience for me.   There has been a lot of observing, listening, asking questions and where appropriate some talking.  I’ve had the opportunity to lead some great teams that have yielded very good results.  I’ve also been disappointed when I’ve transitioned off of projects and the team’s old behaviors resurface and the initial gains slowly start to evaporate.  This is usually because not enough work took place upfront to understand the culture of the team.  The work required to change the culture of a group by leading them out of their comfort zone to one of continuous improvement is always harder than changing a work process itself.

As I continue to seek to understand the field of healthcare and lend my expertise to making things better, there is a constant balancing act.   A thought shared by fellow bloggers,  Matt Wyre and Tim McMahon .  At times it is exhilarating, others times, totally frustrating.  In times of frustration, I often turn to this poem that I first came across in one of my MBA text books on organizational development. 

   In Broken Images
by Robert Graves

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and clear in my broken images.

He, in a new confusion of his understanding;
I, in a new understanding of my confusion.

Follow me on Twitter: @valuesstreamldr


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Collaborating with the Critic

I paid my wife one of the highest compliments I can think of today – I told her that she was a great critic!  

I think she understood what I meant, but her raised eyebrow leads me to believe I have some  ‘splainin ” to do.

The short-lived tagline of this blog used to say, “Where values are not aligned, it is there you will find waste.”   My intent was to use a clever take-off from the Value Stream mapping process that allows you to see waste in processes by observing where the flow of products or services and information stop flowing.  Many lean practitioners will tell you that Value Stream mapping is a valuable tool in their continuous improvement toolbox.  It looks at work from the point of view of the customer and asks if the customer is willing to pay for the activity.  If not, then the work is viewed as “Non-value added”  and you should strive to reduce or eliminate the activity.  A focus on process improvement, through the elimination of waste will result in a higher Value-add / Non-value add ratio of work, shorten the overall lead time from order to delivery, and improve the quality and productivity of a process.  This ultimately leads to lower costs and higher value to the customer. 

Experienced lean practitioners will also tell you that having the right culture in place makes a huge difference in how quickly and easily process changes can occur.  Creating the proper culture is a key responsibility of leaders.  As I discussed in a previous post, The Excellence Experience, leaders should first exude, then expect, then recognize and reward desired behaviors in order to build the foundation for an organization seeking to attain Operational Excellence.

So this morning, my wife told me that she didn’t like my tagline.  “It focuses on the negative.  You should never, ever, ever, link your work to a negative.” she said.  After a brief pause, I acknowledged that she was right.   She then didn’t tell me what it should be, rather, she gave me the first part of the tagline, “When values align…” and challenged me to fill in the blank with a positive statement.  After some thought, and picturing the blog’s logo, I realized that culture has a multiplying effect on an organization’s improvement efforts, thus my new and improved tagline, “When values align…value multiplies!”  I like this much better.  What do you think?

If process improvement leads to added value,  I submit that organizational alignment leads to multiplied value.

Critics can provide the best opportunities for improvement.  Moving forward requires friction. Embrace  critics and thank them for challenging your viewpoint and creating a learning opportunity for both of you.  Just be sure to take some time to ‘splain yourself.   Thanks, Lisa!

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America’s got Talent

There’s a reality show on NBC that showcases a variety of performers who compete for viewers’ votes to keep moving forward.  Weekly winners advance towards the grand prize of landing a headline show in Las Vegas.  I have to admit that mixed in with some really goofy acts, there are some real diamonds in the rough who are really talented and discovered through their appearance on the show.  This post isn’t about them.

Last week, I wrote about the preparations for the Medina County Fair and what a big part 4-H and the fair played in the education of our children.

This past weekend, my wife, Lisa and I did something we haven’t done since we’ve been married; we spent six hours together – just us, no kids, at the fair, enjoying the sights, sounds and food.  It was a fun day, and we re-discovered the real talent developing in our future leaders.

We started our day with a trip to the 4-H booth building that I wrote about last week.  The theme for this year’s fair was “Pride”.  Some clubs exhibited pride in the projects they worked on and included quotes from club members on what they were most proud of.  Other clubs interpreted the Pride theme by referring to their clubs as a Pride of lions.


There were so many references to key #lean leadership principles evident throughout the booths.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Next, we went over to the livestock show barn where the annual auction of animals takes place.  Kids who have spent the last year caring for cattle, pigs, sheep, turkeys, and other varieties of livestock, learn one of the toughest lessons in life  and leadership – letting go.  The reward for their hard work is a nice payoff for their investment of time and effort.  My son’s girlfriend and her family have been raising cattle and turkeys for years and this year, her younger sister’s cows won Champion County Born and Raised and Reserve Grand Champion carcass.  Listening to the auctioneer is pure entertainment as he works the crowd to gain that extra nickel per pound for the 4-H’er.  This represents college tuition to many of the kids. They work hard for it and earn a nice reward.

Next up, the open class still exhibits where my daughter, Sara, (who only started knitting a little over a year ago), proudly displayed articles of clothing she has knit for her children.  Sara’s projects earned her a First place and several other  second and third place ribbons.  She can now proudly call herself  an award-winning knitter.  Actually, one of her projects won a ribbon at last year’s fair, so she was already an award winner.  You can see some of her work here and make a purchase if you’re interested.

While we were looking at the still exhibits, the Dock Dog competition started.  You may have seen these competitions on television, where dogs leap 20 feet through the air off of a dock and into a pool of water chasing after their favorite toy.  These dogs are fun to watch.

By this time we had worked up an appetite and there is no better food than fair food.  My doctors at the Cleveland Clinic might think otherwise and I know that I will have some explaining to do at my Weight Watchers meeting this week, but the “Porktato” that we shared was a real treat.  It starts with a large baked potato, topped with butter, sour cream and finally smothered with smoked pulled pork and barbecue sauce. 

A lemonade to wash it down was welcomed on a hot, muggy day in Northeast Ohio.

After getting re-fueled, we visited the memorial site for the victims of the steam engine explosion I wrote about last week.  It was touching to see how nicely the community has pitched in to keep the memory of these neighbors and friends alive.

Next up, the animals.  Every year, there are two mother pigs with their litters of about 10 baby piglets nursing and playing in their pens.  Stayed tuned for a future post on how my favorite bedtime story to read to my kids as they were growing up – Charlotte’s Web, played a big part in my understanding of lean.  Sheep, goats, pigs, horses, dairy cattle, rabbits and poultry were all on display for everyone to see up close and personal.

The agriculture building is where we saw one of our favorite displays, the Medina County Beekeepers booth.  A plexiglass display case houses a demonstration beehive, enabling fair-goers the opportunity to watch the bees work and challenges them to “find the queen”.  Many years ago, I got started in beekeeping while helping my son’s with their 4-H beekeeping project. 

Medina, our hometown, is the birthplace of the modern beekeeping industry. 

 A.I. Root developed many of the hive technologies that are currently used by beekeepers.  While learning about bees, I discovered the secret to their success in keeping their hives vibrant and productive.  They have clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each bee in the hive (standard work) and their communication systems are outstanding. While working at Ford, a swarm of bees found their way to the back of our building.  I assisted a co-worker who was also a beekeeper in capturing the swarm and then wrote an article for our monthly newsletter about the teamwork displayed by bees.  I’ll post that here soon.

Finally, after getting some kettle corn and a milkshake (strawberry) from the 4-H milkshake stand, we settled in to watch and listen to a fiddling competition.  Contestants competed in four categories – Youth, Junior, Senior and Open classes.  Kids and seniors all played well, but it was the open class where some very good fiddle players showed off their talent.  It was a real treat to sit and listen to them under the shelter of a pavilion when the skies opened up with a deluge of rain.  The highlight came at the end of the competition when all of the players got together onstage for a jam session.  

Yes, there are troubles in the world where competing values struggle to find alignment.  This past weekend, however, we experienced a place where values aligned, talent was showcased and we confirmed that America does have talent!

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4-H booth set-up day

The Medina County Fair opens on Monday, Aug. 1st.  Yesterday, Saturday, was the day that hundreds of young 4-H members and their advisers swarmed the fairgrounds on booth set-up day.  In addition to the animals being brought to the fairgrounds to be housed all week for fair goers to see and 4-H members to show in highly competitive judging, 4-H clubs set up booths in the 4-H barn to showcase members projects that were worked on all year.  The highlight of booth set-up day is the first opportunity to purchase a milkshake from the 4-H milkshake booth.  Hand-dipped ice cream with many flavors to choose from is mixed with milk by 4-H volunteers who run the milkshake booth as a business.  They organize early in the year, elect officers, delegate responsibilities and start recruiting volunteers to work the booth during the week-long fair.  It is easily the busiest booth at the fair.

For those of you who may not be aware of 4-H, the organization was founded in Ohio by A.B. Graham as a supplement to the public education system.  The motto of 4-H is,  “To Make the Best, Better”  . Sounds like a lean principle to me.

Over the years, as my children were growing up, my wife and I became 4-H advisors.  My wife, Lisa, started a club for home-schoolers and she was recognized at the State level for recruitment.

Our daughters, Sara and Nina both were recognized as Outstanding Court members – two years each!

This was due to their hard work and efforts with their annual projects in sewing, cooking, small animals, cake decorating and others.  My wife’s attention to helping teach my kids and other club members truly helped make the best, better.

My favorite time of the year was booth set-up.  I became the un-official champion of this annual project.  Each year, the fair committee chooses an overall theme for the fair, then 4-H clubs design booths around that theme to display members projects.  The club advisors work with the club members to choose a theme for the booth that reflects the overall theme for the fair.  The kids then share ideas on how best to design the booth and the planning for booth set-up day begins in earnest.  With a plan in mind, the kids work with adults to acquire the materials needed for the booth construction (Thanks to A-Kobak Container for donating the cardboard) and on Saturday morning, Mr. Pettry and several of the senior club members would gather to construct the frame of the booth.  Once the frame was up, Mrs. Pettry and the other advisors would work with the kids to decorate the booth.  Each booth would then be judged by a committee of 4-H officials looking for specific criteria and would award Outstanding Booth status to those booths who met the criteria for the booth presentation.  

Here are a few of my favorite Homespun Heroes’ outstanding Booth award winners from the turn of the century. 

The Y4H booth was centered around the Y2K theme and the Scrabble booth was created to highlight the fundamentals of 4-H.  (You’ll hear more about my use of Scrabble in future posts.)

So the purpose of this post?  Values obviously go beyond the workplace and greatly influence our lives.  When the values of the organizations we belong to align with our personal values, great satisfaction occurs.  4-H is a terrific organization for our children to learn leadership lessons and other life skills.  

Perhaps the greatest display of aligned values occurred in 2001 in the wake of a tragic accident at the start of the fair, on booth set-up day.  A steam engine explosion killed five people and injured at least 35 others.  It was a devastating event for the families of the victims and sent a shock wave throughout the community.  What happened later on during the week at the livestock auctions still brings a tear to my eye.  The kids came up with a plan to donate half of their earnings from the auction of their livestock to a fund that was set up for the families of the victims.  It was amazing to watch as each kid brought their animal into the auction area and announced that they would donate half of their earnings to the fund.  The beautiful part of the story is that the community responded with record prices for the animals, thus ensuring that the kids were able to earn as much as they had in the past, however, the families of the victims also received over $20,000 from the 4-H kidsThis is what aligned values looks and feels like.

Our family has greatly benefitted from 4-H and the Medina County fair.  Working on the projects throughout the year, culminating with the display of projects during fair week for all fair goers to admire. 

In a future post, I’ll write about the lessons in visual management that my father taught me when he was running his church’s food booth at the fair.

If you haven’t already visited your local county fair, please do yourself a favor and go – not for the rides and gaming attractions – but for the joy of watching kids show their animals, display their projects, or make a milkshake.

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Are values enough?

The linked article caught my eye recently and I thought I would share some thoughts on The Business of Communicating Values.

The discussion of Values – the way that they flow through an organization and are aligned vertically, horizontally and even diagonally across the organization and drive behaviors is the purpose of this blog.

I had a good day earlier this week.  My morning started as a facilitator of the Cleveland Clinic Experience for a group of our incoming residents.  Over 40,000 Clinic caregivers have been through this 3 hour program that aligns all caregivers around the Clinic’s Mission, Vision, Values and expected service behaviors.  Two hundred attendees seated at tables of ten people, with a facilitator at each table to guide the discussion, discuss their roles in providing our patients with world-class care. 

 It has been great having the opportunity to talk with fellow caregivers and hear their stories.  Yesterday, I was struck by the diversity of the group I was facilitating.  Young doctors from Las Vegas, Utah, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Russia, China, India shared their experiences.  We talked about how we will all need to work as a team to provide each other with the best possible employee experience.  This positive employee experience reinforces and supports our ability to provide our patients with the best possible patient experience as we continue to provide the best possible clinical outcomes.  The discussion is centered around how we all need to adhere to our stated values of Integrity, Teamwork, Innovation, Service, Quality and Compassion. 

Where stated organizational values differ from individually practiced values, organizations suffer from waste.  Wasted time, poor communication, bad decisions, waiting due to confusion, and on and on.  Being able to identify where and why this misalignment occurs is where organizational development and lean systems and tools are used to align the organization towards its stated  mission and goals. 

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities along with clear communication channels and standards provide employees the freedom and confidence to make decisions.  It is the ultimate expression of  the lean principle of “Respect for the Individual”.

I’ve been fortunate to attend some of the best training on organizations that exists and have learned about organizational and individual behavior from the very knowledgable people I’ve worked with.  The Cleveland Clinic Experience is an ambitious, well-designed cultural alignment tool and has served its purpose to communicate the Mission, Values and expected service behaviors to all caregivers and anchor them to our Guiding Principle of  “Patients First”.   We will be assessing the results over time to measure the effectiveness of this alignment exercise.

So how are other organizations aligning and assessing their values?

Organizations which are using the Shingo Prize model benefit from a well-thought out assessment model that focuses on assessing behaviors – in addition to business results – to determine the extent to which the organizatoin has transformed into a Principle-based organization.  In addition to the assessment model, the Shingo Prize has crafted a great visual of what the organizational transformation should look like.

The training offered to Shingo Prize examiners is by far the best I’ve attended.  In it, the discussion about values goes deeper than any other discussion I’ve heard or read about.  

To briefly summarize a key point in the model – stated values are  important for organizations and the individuals working in them, however,  those values need to be anchored to the proper guiding principles.  Stated values and alignment are not enough.  It is the Guiding Principles that determine the direction the organization takes.

The example used in the training lists the values of “teamwork”, “innovation”, “precision”, and “loyalty”.  These values can be claimed and displayed by many organizations – including a gang of robbers who steal from others.  Without guiding principles to anchor to, such as Respect for the Individual, values are just descriptive words.  When anchored to guiding principles, values drive desired behaviors.

The guiding principles of  operational excellence as expressed in the Shingo Prize  Model provide organizations with a framework to work within and the transformational model presented helps organizations understand how Guiding Principles need to be supported by Systems that are aligned with the Principles.  These systems are then used to select the appropriate Tools to achieve the desired Results that affirm the organization’s stated Guiding Principles, which are apparent in the behavioral evidence observed in the culture of the organization.  Brilliant!

The HBR article reference at the top of this post is good, however, I would encourage you to take some time to read the Shingo Prize model and guidelines to get a glimpse of what Operational Excellence looks like.  This is the stuff that we need to be teaching in our Business and Medical schools.

(Disclaimer –  This post does not represent an endorsement of the Shingo Prize model by the Cleveland Clinic.  The opinions expressed are based on my personal experience as a Shingo Prize examiner and a member of the Healthcare Value Network’s assessment development team.)

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Excellence in Action

At approximately the same time I was working on Gifford Brown’s presentation on lean discussed in my previous post, I was also responsible for developing our plant’s new peer-to-peer, non-monetary employee recognition program, which came to be called “Excellence in Action”.  It’s focus was on recognizing and rewarding the behaviors that supported Cleveland Engine Plant 2’s Cleveland Production System.

This program provided employees at all levels of the organization an opportunity to recognize fellow workers in the categories of Leadership, Involvement, Innovation & Ingenuity, Effort, Quality and Safety. 

I designed the logo shown here.  It was a nice way of depicting the continuous improvement cycle.  Leaders need to experience a level of excellence before they can start to expect it.  Then, they need to exude the behaviors that they should expect their employees to exhibit.  If leaders experience excellence, exude it and expect it, then they need to recognize and reward it when they see it to reinforce the appropriate behaviors.  When this cycle is completed, a new level of excellence will have been achieved.

Recently, I had an opportunity to share this concept as part of a leadership retreat at another organization and made a slight adjustment to indicate the link to continuous improvement and moving forward.  The revised image is below.

What’s valued in any organization gets measured, recognized and rewarded.  As you align your organization, start with an expectation of excellence.  Define what excellence means to you and then model it, so that others can follow you.  Design and align your systems to support your principles and values and make process improvement tools available to all employees and encourage them to experiment and learn.

As you will see as I continue my posts, I like to model my thoughts and present them visually in order to demonstrate alignment.  If the pieces can’t fit together to tell a story, chances are the concepts won’t work.

I’ve been fortunate to have experienced excellence and it is a great feeling.

I’m interested in hearing other stories on how you’ve set expectations and experienced excellence.


The Excellence Experience.

My first understanding of lean can be traced back to a specific six hours early in my career spent helping my plant manager, Gifford Brown, prepare a presentation to a group of suppliers. 

I had recently transitioned into the training department and had been teaching many of the lean tools classes that we offered to all employees.  My supervisor and I were called to Gifford’s office and he started the conversation by indicating that he needed our help in capturing his thoughts to prepare  the presentation, but before he turned us loose, he  first wanted to educate us on the finer points of lean.  My supervisor and I looked at each other hesitantly (after all, we were already teaching this stuff, what more could we learn?).  For the next three hours, Gifford methodically explained lean to us. 

He started with the concept of leadership expecting excellence from employees by empowering them with systems and tools that supported their desire to improve their own work.  He explained the cultural aspects of lean that are necessary before the tools can be effective.   He linked all of the lean tools into a systems perspective describing how they all interacted with and were dependent upon each other.   This was pretty standard stuff that we had been teaching already as part of our overview of the Cleveland Production System, the forerunner to the modern Ford Production System.

What was different though was that Gifford went on to explain that there was no prioritization to the implementation of the tools.  The starting point for implementation was first trusting, then involving employees, who would start to pull the tools they needed as they sought ways to improve their work processes.  

The layout of the refurbished Cleveland Engine Plant 2 had been worked on for months to maximize the flow of materials and minimize waste.  Gifford started to explain how the departments were laid out to support principles such as respect for people, flow, just-in-time, and value to the customer.  Once the layout was maximized, a visual management system and a total productive maintenance philosophy was incorportated in equipment design to support  quick changeovers, level production schedules and minimum in-process inventory.  A zero defects mindset was established, where standard work was developed by the front-line workers and workplace organization was established through on-going 5s activities with all employees.  Visual management systems highlighted abnormalities, PDCA problem-solving techniques were utilized by teams to address abnormalities and error-proofing devices were developed to address root causes of problems and eliminate or correct the errors that were leading to defects. 

We had been teaching the tools all along.  Gifford was now presenting the overall system in a  fashion that didn’t stress one tool at the expense of another. Instead it was implement the tool that was most needed to continue the implementation of another tool at a higher level.  Start and go as far as you can until you realize that you need something else in order to continue to improve.  Your expectations and how you address abnormalities along the way will lead you to where you want to go.  So when setting expectations, leaders should Expect Excellence!

I took pages of notes and walked out of the discussion with my head spinning – it made so much sense.  I put together a presentation that tried to capture all that I had heard and then one week later, spent three more hours with Gifford editing and refining the presentation.

The slide on leadership expectations  had a diamond clipart picture with the words “Expect Excellence” on it.

It has served as a continual reminder to me when trying to teach the principles of lean leadership.

Next post – Excellence in Action!