Geko Operative

Perfection is not about always succeeding; it is about being aware of your failures and successes, weaknesses and strengths and about you neutralising the former and growing the latter

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Standardised Work

Following on from my previous post on discipline, where I observed that the adherence to standardised work is the manifestation of discipline, I have researched what some thought leaders have to say on the subject of standardised work.

John Shook, now CEO of Lean Enterprise Institute, wrote a series of articles in October 2009 titled "Five Missing Pieces in your Standardized Work" for the LEI. Check out the articles here: 1 2 3

He makes some insightful points including...

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Discipline

The Oxford Dictionary defines discipline as

  • [noun] The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience
  • [verb, as in discipline oneself to do something] train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way

For the purpose of operational excellence the second definition rings true to my ear. To espouse discipline is to be habitual in what you do and hence it can take many forms whether that is brushing your teeth each evening or replying to query emails no later than 24 hours after receipt. In effect, when discipline is applied to everyday life, we are talking about following a standard method though nothing may have been explicitly written down.

Now why would we not write these (good?!) habits down and make a standard work method? I can think of the following reasons:

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Operational Excellence

Since my university days I've been enamored with the ideal of operational excellence, what it is, how to attain it and how it evolves over time. After years of trial and error I believe I have painstakingly edged myself towards this ideal though not as quick or as clearly as I would have otherwise liked.

Looking back over my previous posts on the subject of operational excellence I have picked up that these posts focused on point improvements without much binding them together. I've since decided to change tact and to first focus on the foundations of operational excellence. I hope that I will therefore draw an operational excellence road map that I can use for practical use at work, independent to product model or even industry.

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Korea

Ode to the Sea

In mid September I had the chance to go to Korea for business. As usual I can't mention the scope of business but I can share what I did in my free time there!

I visited a town that lays by the coast to the south of the Korean Peninsula and there we took a brief respite from our travels. Having a walk by the sea brought back many memories from back home in Cyprus.

There is something very calming about hearing the waves crash and caress the coast line and about the smell of the salt and seaweed. I must have stood there (actually I was in a Chinese Crouch in my best suit) for a few minutes just staring into the sea. Of all the things that I thought about probably the best was the dream of after retirement I would take to the coastal waters with nothing but a boat, bottled water, fishing line and bait and a few crab snares.

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Bangkok

As mentioned earlier I have been sent over to Thailand for a business trip. Though I can't disclose the matter of business I can speak freely of other things.

The second day we had lunch at a really beautiful setting, in the middle of a small lake by the sea (I think a converted paddy field) hovering over the water on a deck under the shade of a great canopy of woven palm leaves. The feel of the breeze on your face mixed with the scent of the lake and the food (!) made for a pleasant meal and what a feast it was too!

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Munster, Germany

As QQ is doing her thesis on the Westphalia treaty in a bygone age we used the trip to London as an opportunity to visit the treaty's home: Munster and Osnabruck.

Hopping on a short flight to Munster via Munich (the last leg was on a propeller plane!) we hit the ground running - the mission was to visit two historical sites in two different towns only some 30km away from eachother, all in 36 hours.

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"Getting the right things done" by P. Dennis (LEI)

I ordered this book off the LEI website with the view in mind to learn more about strategy deployment.

In a simple narrative the author goes through the motions of defining the 'True North' targets and deploying down the organisation. Many useful A3 templates to draw from (I already started to adopt the 'dashboard') as well as different yet complementary structures to problem solving (I think that the 'problem investigation form' can be plugged and played in the quality department).

The idea that a 'True North' should first be defined before the targets are deployed down the ranks seems to be a slight variation (if not identical if not for the semantics) of Drucker's MbO which makes it all the more powerful. Imagine that your front line managers are defining their own goals, there will not be much alignment as well as much sidetracking. This scenario is what MbO is designed to combat.

Overall a good read with many ideas you can plug and play in your operations.

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"Leading Change" by P. Kotter (HBR)

A few weeks ago I went to a hole-in-the-wall bookstore and I spied me a keeper. It was Leading Change by John P. Kotter.

Written in 1996 for Harvard Business School Press it is a revisit of Kotter's earlier success of the Leading Change article in March-April '95 for HBR (Harvard Business Review?). The A5 190 page paper back book outlines Kotter's 8 steps to leading (made distinct to managing) change in medium to large organisations from executive/top management levels.

Briefly these steps are outlined as follows...

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"Blink" by M. Gladwell (Back Bay Books)

Finished reading "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell today.

A book on the powers of the unconscious and an examined look into how this unconcious can help or stop us from making good decisions. Gladwell at times can get a bit too technical for his readers (on a half of a page he went through several muscles of the face - in their latin forms which was promptly skipped over) but he makes up for it with more than a few very good examples that help explain his ideas.

Better than to give a summary of his findings it would be more to the point if I reiterated a sample of his examples:

Before purchasing a rare statue a museum in USA debated with themselves for a few years, collecting background information, licences and scientific experiments. After buying the statue they showed it to an expert who after 2 seconds said that it was fake. The expert was right.

An orchestra maestro auditioned candidates for trambone without seeing the candidate - only listening. After years of hiring only male trambonists (because of their "better performance" - so he says) suddenly he discovers that he is hiring women!

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"The Lean Manager" by F. & M. Balle (LEI)

I learnt about lean in my third year of university. I really enoyed it as it seemed so simple to comprehend and so beautiful in its central concepts - provide customer better quality at better value and continue to do so until perfection is reached. Lean came across as something of a nirvana that one pertains to though almost impossible to achieve. I like that in a challenge for some reason.

There are a 1,001 lean blogs out there, some good, some bad, some interesting and some unnoticeable. When I have time I check out J.Shook's column on the lean.org (a very good source of lean resources) or just peruse the articles that they send with the newsletter. One such news clip was of a book's release. The book, The Lean Manager (why some people abbreviate it to LTM I have no idea - its a book!) by Balle F & M. There is the foreword and the first two chapters available to download (go to the download tab) which I strongly recommend. It's a book about lean but in a novel format which turns out to work very well as the narrative draws you in.

I'm no lean expert (the furthest I've got so far was to set up a just in time system for ironing my shirts - every morning 15 minutes before I'm out the door) but I did pick up on this contradiction in the text.

On one hand,
"...managing production sites through stable teams of multiskilled workers." pp107

Yet on the other,
Andy: "Next you're going to tell me that the operators should always be at the same station, working on the same parts to gain as much familiarity as they can on the parts."
Amy: "And how is that surprising?" pp92

How can you have a multiskilled workforce if they are at the same machine the whole day doing the same part? Multiskilled suggests the ability to use many machines with competence. How can it be spun any other way? Does lean support multiskilled workers or workers that expertly do the same thing day-in day-out. Of course you would want both but then you can't look at your cake and eat it at the same time either. This has thrown me.