Just Stand and Observe !!!

A common methodology being touted within the Lean Communities is to conduct regular “waste walks” to help folks identify waste and ultimately improve process. My training has enforced the simple but not so simple art of “Standing to Observe”.



It is well known that as a human we become immune to our surroundings after 21 days. So I am not surprised that when we visit other companies we are able to point out opportunities for improvement quickly. There a couple of reasons this happens … 1) we are being welcomed into the organization as “outside eyes” … where everything is new to us so we have the ability to ask silly questions about process and flow … and … 2) as westerners we are programmed to walk diligently and with determination to a source of challenge and then invoke our leadership to resolve the situation … hence not taking the time to observe.


So it is not a surprise but also a challenge as we tell folks to pick a spot within the operation and just observe …


•Observe people walking

•Observe people’s motions

•Observe people’s emotions and engagement

•Observe the process

•Observe material conveyance

•Observe the environment and working conditions

•Observe the complexity of Process, Operations, Tasks and sub tasks.


As you are doing your observations define and document how many items you see against the common Lean Deadly wastes … DOWNTIMEU


•Defects

•Overproduction

•Waiting

•Not fully utilizing people

•Travel

•Inventory

•Motion

•Excessive Processing

•Unactionable information systems


Standing to Observe is not a new concept … actually Tiachi Ono would force his engineers

to stand in a circle that he had outlined on the floor in chalk and interrogate them about

their observations helping them hone their skills of observation.


Like the saying … “take time to smell the roses” as practitioners

When is the last time you took the time “Standing to Observe?”


So now you have identified opportunities to improve process and

Hopefully the work conditions of your employees … but implementing

sustainable change is your next challenge.

Lean Methodologies and opportunities without being tied to metrics

are a wish …


Depending on the level within the organization the metrics need to be different … for the CFO the measurement of EBITDA is like critical but meaningless to the receiver on the dock. Hence the metric should be easily understood by the individual doing the process, aggressive but not unrealistic and of course controllable.


I can ask the receiver to help improve our EBITDA by 10% and he will smile politely in agreement but will likely have no clue what we are talking about. However, if I ask him to monitor how long it takes hime to unload a truck over a period of days and together we review the data we could likely establish a target to reduce the unloading time by 10 minutes per truck. I will have a 100% better chance of meeting the unloading goal than him meeting our EBITDA goal … but at least now I have the metrics linked. My receiver is happier because now he has a goal and being human will always work towards meeting or exceeding the goal while seeking acknowledgement and appreciation from me in doing so.


The other challenge in making sustainable change is an inherent problem that resides in al of us … Muscle Memory. Muscle memory is a condition where we have programmed our body to perform certain tasks in a prescribed manner. That prescribed manner may not be the best … but that is how we have trained our body or someone has programmed us to perform a process.


Muscle Memory exists in all of us … from how we perform our daily activities to how tasks are performed … like me until I have had my first coffee in the morning please do not include me as a part of the human race.


So it is understandable that when we ask an employee to perform a task in a different manner they will likely revert back to the old methodology if not being observed or measured against a controllable metric … because whenever we get involved in a repetitive task we enter a hypnotic state of repetitiveness and often immune to our surroundings.


Changing muscle memory is a challenge and takes time … studies have indicated that in order to create a new behaviour can take 21 days. In some cases even longer … for me for instance Mariela changed the locations of items in our kitchen and some days I find myself going to the old location and being surprised the items are missing until I realize the location had been changed.


So …


•Take time to Stand to Observe

•Link an Opportunity to an employee controllable metric

•Monitor Performance … remember muscle memory.

•After 21 days … return to Stand to Observe to insure your suggestions have sustained


Such as when running a set-up reduction Kaizen where you video tape the process if you are unable to Stand to Observe … have a video camera do the task for you.


As you start to Stand to Observe your folks may feel very uncomfortable, probably because they are used to see you running around … you could see changes in process performance either increased productivity or an increase in mistakes because thay are fearful of you observing. When you make Stand to Observe a regular activity folks will continue with their normal cadence and you will really be able to observe the Process, Operations, Task ad sub-tasks.

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