Aug 26 2014

I couldn’t count the number of organisations I have worked in/with where they have been a bit upset when I have said that they have to establish a baseline (a standard) before they can improve. In one I was working as a shift manager & when I started each shift had different manning levels & a different way of distributing their manpower which in simplest terms means we all did it differently. The senior Mgt wanted to reduce numbers, but to what level & how to organise? We had to establish a standard that all shifts could achieve (there were some skills gaps & what not that required some shifts to run with more people). It didn’t take long & we raised the skill levels sufficiently to rebalance the people to a standard way of manning up the shift. From there we could identify opportunities to improve.

In another, after looking at the figures for utilisation, it became obvious that the figures were poor (at best). As they say, garbage in, garbage out. The data we tried to work with was so poor that I felt uncomfortable making any recommendations other than collecting real, accurate data to establish the real picture. In essence, again we were establishing the baseline, the standard from which we could then make improvements.

Taichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System & hence Lean, always said “where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen” (improvement). I often use the analogy of shooting at a target (guns, arrows, darts, etc…) If you’re hitting it all over the place, you have no idea what to do to get closer to the centre. If you’ve got a nice tight group (a standard). It’s pretty straight forward making the necessary adjustments to hit the bullseye.

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