Simple. Visual. Continuous.

Simple. Visual. Continuous.

by Patrick Adams | Apr 5, 2022

 

 

Today on the podcast, I’m sharing a conference presentation I gave to the Lean Six Sigma World Conference about the importance of keeping it simple and visual when it comes to Lean. 

 

In this episode, I talk about the importance of good leadership and how you can do small things to create the right culture within your organization. 

 

What You’ll Learn This Episode:

 

  • Why you need to keep things simple instead of complex
  • The 3 points to keeping it simple 
  • The importance of keeping a clear vision of where you are heading
  • Why you need to keep it visual 
  • The 3 main points to keeping it visual

 

About the Guest:

 

Patrick Adams is the author of the best selling book “Avoiding the Continuous Appearance Trap.” He is an international speaker, coach, and consultant. Patrick has been delivering bottom-line results through specialized process improvement solutions for over 20 years. He’s worked with all types of businesses from private, non-profits, government, and manufacturing ranging from small business to billion dollar corporations. Patrick is a proven leader and highly experienced consultant with specific niche focus on organizational strategy and leadership development which brings a unique human approach to sound team-building practices; creating consensus and enabling empowerment. He motivates, inspires, and drives the right results at all points in business processes.

 

Important Links: 

https://www.leanandsixsigma.org/Keep-It-Simple

https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrickadamsii/

https://www.findleansolutions.com/book/

 

Full Episode Transcript: 

 

 

Speaker  

For over 20 years, Patrick has been delivering bottom line improvements in all types of organizations ranging from small businesses to billion dollar corporations. He’s a Six Sigma Black Belt and a lean coach who has trained 1000s and hundreds of organizations. And interestingly, he’s a former Marine for eight years before he was injured and medically retired. So I want to personally thank you for your service. And please join me in welcoming Patrick, as he talks about, keep it simple, keep it visual, and continue to improve.

Patrick Adams  

All right, thank you, Marco. Appreciate that very much. Hello, everybody. And welcome. I appreciate everybody joining this session, I’m super excited to speak with all of you today about this very important topic. Three points that are very important to me and should be important to you. And hopefully, by the end of today, you’ll have the same feeling that I do about these three points: keep it simple, keep it visual and continue to improve. If you’ve watched any of my LinkedIn videos, I guess I kind of view this as my tagline. Like, I just love to end every video with these three simple points because I think they are their key to any organization’s direction approach. I think if you keep these three simple points in mind, I think that you can go pretty far with just these three areas, keep it simple, keep it visual, and continue to improve. So I’m excited to speak with all of you today on this topic. I don’t have a ton of time today. But I am going to be covering a lot of information in a very short amount of time. With that said, I want to tell you just a quick story about a real life situation that I was in when I was a young Production Supervisor at a production plant here in West Michigan. I believe I was on the second shift at the time. I was a new supervisor at this facility, I didn’t know a whole lot about the rules that the culture, I was still learning everything here. And as I was walking around, you know, doing my daily walk with this, you know, for my, my this organization, I had a lady who was kind of signaling me to come over. And she had a question for me. So of course, I went over and introduced myself to her and met her for the first time and she said, Mr. Patrick, I would like to move this table. And I said, Okay, let’s move the table, then what’s the reasoning behind wanting to move the table? And she said, Well, I really think that if we move this table, you know, 180 degrees the other way, I think that we’ll have a little bit more room, and we’ll be able to increase our output, you know, on this particular assembly process. And so I saw, she said, Can I move the table? ” And of course, me being the young naive supervisor that I was thinking about everything. She told me, I was like, Well, of course, we can move the table, let’s move the table, right? And she said, Well, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute. We can’t just move tables. And I was like, What do you mean, we can’t just move tables? And she said, Well, there’s a process that we have to follow if we want to move this table. And I was like, Well, what do you mean by that? And she said, there’s this very specific process for a change request that has to be put in. And if you want to make any kind of change here, you have to follow the process and put in a change request. And I said, Okay, well, let’s see the process, where’s the process that I’ll put in a change request? So she went and pulled out a booklet and pulled out a sheet. And she handed me something that looked very similar to this.

Patrick Adams  

And I have to imagine that some of you are probably laughing in your seats, because for two reasons, maybe one, you’re thinking how ridiculous this is right that to move a table 180 degrees, that I have to follow a process that looks as complex as this does, and to put in a change request, right. And then the second group is saying, Yeah, we have that exact same process for our change request at our facility. Right. So there’s two reasons why you’re probably chuckling in your seat. But this was a true story. I don’t know that the process looked as complex as this. But I just remember as a young supervisor thinking to myself, why does it have to be so complex? We just want to move a table 180 degrees, why does it have to be so complex? And of course, when you have that level of complexity, how many simple improvements do you think were implemented at this facility? Not very many, right? Because when you have to follow a process like this to turn a table 180 degrees, who’s going to do it? No one, right. And so what kind of culture are you creating? So I tell you this because it’s really my introduction to keep it simple, right? One of the biggest reasons that People fail to maintain a robust system is this desire for complexity. You know, most organizations, they begin simple enough. But then, you know, over time, we just keep adding more and more complexity until eventually, we have a system that just takes far too long to maintain, right? And when we’re working with human beings, we really have to keep things as simple as possible, or it’s really going to fall apart. So let’s dive into this. As I mentioned, already, we have three points to keep it simple. I want you to remember three points. And we’re going to hit on each one of these three points before we move on to keeping it visual. This is a picture of the North Country trail along the Manistee River Trail. It’s one of my most favorite backpacking places in northern Michigan, the entire loop is about 20 miles long. And it’s located again, like I said, right along the Manistee River, which is just a beautiful location in the northern Michigan area. But there was a time when I took my daughter with me on this hiking trip for the very first time. And I had hiked this trail many, many times. So I didn’t really need a map or anything like that to travel along the trail. But this was my daughter’s first time there. And you know, she had never been on the trail before. And I wanted to make sure that my daughter knew exactly where we were going. So I pulled out this map of the Manistee River and the North Country trail along the Manistee river. And I laid it in front of her and I said, Okay, Taylor, that’s my daughter’s name. Taylor, where would you like to go from here? We’re currently at the red bridge, which is on the southern part of this particular map. And I said, where do we want to go? She looked at the map, she looked at me, she’s like, that I really don’t care where we go. Like, I don’t care. And so at this point, I had to take a moment. And I had to explain to my daughter the importance of charting a course prior to setting out, right, because if we don’t chart the course, then we’re really walking with no end in mind, right? And if we have a team that we’re walking with, right, if we’re having a team that we’re hiking with or traveling with, and we don’t communicate where we’re heading, then no one else in our group is going to know where we’re going. Right? And, again, how will we ever know, when we’ve arrived? If we don’t know where we’re going, then, you know, how do we know when we’re going to actually get there? And what about all the things that we’ll miss along the way? Right, if we if we have a particular course that we’ve charted, and we know, there’s particular points along the way that we need to hit, you know, we, we need to have that that vision of where we’re heading in order for us to, to chart that course and set out. For many of us, we know this as our true north, right, we need to get closer to our true north. So when you’re reading a compass, anytime you’re out backpacking, or hiking, you know many of us use a compass. And many of you may be familiar with the term true north. But you can always determine which way is north on a compass. And by knowing that you can determine, you know, whether you’re on the right path, or you’re off path, right. So, you know, we may not know exactly what’s along the trail on the course along the path. But at least we have direction, at least we know where we’re heading when we have our true north or our long term vision. Right. So now maybe I didn’t get that detailed with my daughter, right. But I did explain to her the importance of charting the course. And I said, So where would you like to go on the map?” And so she pointed at the suspension bridge, which is on the northernmost point of the Manistee River Trail. And if we hadn’t established that true north, that direction for ourselves, we would have missed on many different things along the trail. And also, we wouldn’t have been able to have this moment together at the suspension bridge when we actually arrived at the suspension bridge. Now many of you know that as we head towards the true north, we may not reach our true north right. Toyota had true north of 100% on time deliveries, zero defects, zero safety incidents, we may never actually arrive there. But at least we have direction, right? At least we have a place to head to. And that’s what’s important. So the first point under keeping it simple is to communicate a simple vision and be very clear about where we’re heading, what is the direction, it’s got to be simple, it cannot be complex. So the first point to keep it simple is to communicate a simple vision.

Patrick Adams  

Marco mentioned that I served in the Marine Corps while serving in the Marine Corps, I was taught a very valuable lesson about communicating strategy at all levels of the organization. And this lesson has come to be known as Napoleon’s Corporal. Maybe some of you have heard it, but Napoleon was recognized as you know, having he was recognized for this particular point. Having an enlisted member in the planning room when they were having a planning session or a strategy session, and while creating their battle plans, and there’s these war strategies, and Napoleon made sure that a corporal was in the room. Okay, so then once he would complete once all of the executive officers completed their planning process, he would turn to the corporal, and he would say, do you understand the plan? And if the corporal said, No, sir, I don’t understand the plan, then they would spend more time breaking it down and making sure that the plan was simple enough that everyone can understand it. Right? So they would look back at the corporate and say, do you understand the plan, eventually, the corporate would say yes. And then the general would carry out the plan, knowing that it could be cascaded all the way down to the troops on the ground, and that they would understand it well enough to execute it. So the other concept that I want to mention, too, which is a military concept along with Napoleon’s Corporal is kiss the acronym kiss. And that stands for keep it simple, stupid. Another term that you would learn in the military, when communicating expectations to teams, keeping is really the meaning behind that is again, just keeping it as simple as possible. So the second point that I want you to remember under simplicity is simple communication. Simple, clear communication needs to go together, right? We want to keep our communication simple. And be sure that we are actually communicating that we’re not just creating plans and hoping that the message makes it through down to the troops on the floor, or wherever it might be. I’m actually working with a client right now who is really struggling in this area. Over the years, they built some very complex systems. And without clear communication, the result for this organization is just mass chaos. You know, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. And without a good communication system the message just it’s not consistent, and it’s very difficult for the organization to be able to pass anything down through the organization. I worked at Parker Hannifin for a number of years, maybe some of you are familiar with Parker Hannifin. Parker had a VP of lean a group, they had group lean managers, they had divisionally managers, they had plant lean managers, and again, and between all of them, when the strategy was laid out, the long term vision was laid out by the VP of lean, it was cascaded very easily through simple communication methods all the way through and down to the plant, lean managers and then out to the production floors.

Patrick Adams  

And when new leadership was introduced, we didn’t change the communication method, we didn’t change the system, the right leadership was new leadership would adapt to the system, they would adapt the communication methods. And so things did there wasn’t this, you know, change of guards. The same thing with the military, when a new military officer is brought in there, they’re falling into a system that they follow that they support. And so it removes that chaos and creates that level of stability that’s needed in a true culture of continuous improvement. So again, keep your communication Simple. Simple does not mean easy, though. Thomas Edison gave this quote, opportunity is missed by most people, because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like hard work. Right? Many of us know Paul Akers, he wrote the book two second lean to second lean seems pretty simple, right? But if you know anything about Paul Akers, you know how hard he works, how passionate he is about driving the message of simple lean, right? It’s not easy. It’s hard work. But lean can be simple. So Paul goes out to his production floor every morning, he goes to the floor and talks to people, as the CEO of the company. He’s videotaping simple improvements, he’s putting them out to the company. But again, that takes work. That’s not easy for the CEO of a very large company to do. So simple. Simple does not necessarily mean easy. And that’s the third point to keep it simple. So the three points communicate a simple vision, simple communication, and simple does not necessarily mean easy. Those are the three points that keep it simple. The next thing I want to talk about is keeping it visual, keeping it visual. So again, we have three points for keeping it visual. I want to ask all of you as you’re watching the screen right now, I’m going to put up a couple words here and I want you to maybe there’s some of you that will understand these but I want you to tell me what does this mean? When you just think about it, what does this one mean? Some of you don’t know. Some of you have no idea. Maybe some of you read Chinese, maybe not sure. About Russian. In Japanese, these are the same words. Who knows what it means? Here’s English, it means no smoking. Okay? If you’re reading English. Now, depending on where we’re from, what our background is, who we are, we may or may not be able to read each one of these phrases, right? But what about this? Anybody can read a picture, right? I mean, we all it’s a universal understanding that a red circle with a line through it means no means nothing do not right. It’s an understood language that we do not smoke here, right when you see this picture. So visuals are need to be understood by all we have to be very careful about this, I actually implemented a kanban system at one time, and found out at a later time after we were, the cards were not getting ran, like they should the signals were not getting ran, we found out that one of the individuals along the process was actually colorblind, he couldn’t see the difference between red and green, and didn’t know where the trigger point was on the Kanban board. Again, even visuals you have to make sure that everyone that’s working in the area in the process understands the visuals. So make sure that your visuals are understood by all and this definitely is a deeper thought process than just going out there and putting something up that you think everyone understands. So really, really ask yourself, does the team understand what visuals that we’re putting out there?

Patrick Adams  

The next thing is a quote, many of you know Taiichi Ohno but the quote is having no problems is the biggest problem of all, having no problems is the biggest problem of all right? This is a great quote. Because there’s so many people out there. And again, I’ve worked with many leaders at multiple organizations, many military leaders, as well that, you know, think that they don’t have problems. They think everything’s perfect, right. And that is a huge problem. When we don’t think we have problems. That is the biggest problem of all right? Many of you have seen this iceberg of ignorance, many of you are familiar with this. Organizations miss this golden opportunity, when they fail to ask employees about problems, right? Those people that are closest to the value add work, they’re the real experts in the process, they understand the ins and outs of the machine or the equipment or whatever it might be the process. So we are missing a huge benefit. When we don’t ask the team members that are closest to the value at work, right? We have one person in the organization, one really good problem solver. That goes after every problem, we were really missing the boat, right employees, they may know how to fix the problem, they may even offer a cheaper solution than what management can come up with or what engineers can come up with. So it’s really a win-win approach when we go out to the gamba to the place where the work is being done. And we actually ask team members for their input, right 13% of problems are known by upper management, when you start to engage the team members that are closest to the work, you’re starting to get into 100% of understood problems, right? I mean, why would we not want to access 100%. And again, it’s a win-win approach because employees feel valued. And the problem gets solved at the root if we follow the right process, right. So let’s not make decisions based on 13%. Let’s make decisions based on 100%. This is a really great exercise that we do. And it’s one of those things that helps make problems visible. Whenever we go into an organization, we start out with an assessment. And we’d like to ask each team member I’d like to sit down with 100% of the people in the organization. And I asked them all the same exact questions. The first question that I asked them is, what’s going really, really good in your area? In your process? In your work in your organization? What’s one thing that’s going really, really well? The second question that I asked them is what’s not going very well. It’s a problem that’s happening in your department, in your area, in your company. And we write these down and post notes. One problem, per post it note and, and we stick those up on the wall. The third question that I ask is, what’s one opportunity? What’s an opportunity that you think can make things better here? What’s one thing that can remove a headache for you that can eliminate a roadblock, a problem that you have on a continuous basis? What’s one idea and we throw that up there in the opportunity section? And then what we do after I meet with these people one on one is we, we cluster the post it notes, right? Because you can imagine a meeting with multiple people in an organization, and I’m asking them the same questions, I’m probably going to get some of the same answers. And as a data minded person who uses data to drive me towards solutions In problems, imagine the power that I have when I start to get these clusters of the same answer that I’m getting when I’m meeting with people at different times, you know, by themselves, but I get the same answer. So I end up with these big clusters. And that’s the area that I want to go after. Because I know that it’s probably true, right? Because it’s, I’ve seen it multiple times, let me show you some of those clusters. So this is a question that I asked: what’s one thing that’s really, really good in your organization for this particular company, it came out that trust within shifts was a really, really good thing. The team was very much aligned with the team’s purpose. And they also had a really, really great safety program, a really great safety program. They had true ownership decision making authority, there was voice in the groups around decisions. So these were a couple other larger clusters that came around, what do we do really, really good in the organization? So then, if you remember, I also asked them, what’s not going really well, right. And these were two of the areas that came out. So one of them was that they needed better communication between shifts, right. So communication within shifts was really good. But communication between the shifts was not very good. There was a huge breakdown there. They also had a really big red flag around leadership, right? Leadership breakdown, miscommunication, distrust, slow decision making favoritism. And this was a huge red flag. And when leadership sat down and saw the report on this, you know, they could have responded in two different ways. One, they could have got really upset, right, really upset mad, because this is, this is not the truth. You know, we don’t treat our people this way, right? Or they could have done what this organization did. And they could have accepted this as truth, because this is what their team is saying, right? These are multiple post it notes about the same thing. So that’s what this leadership team decided to do. They decided to present the findings to the entire company, and apologize, and also present a plan for change, they were going to change these things. And that’s exactly what they did. And that the result of that was amazing for this organization. The next thing that I want to show you is an empowerment chart. So this empowerment chart, you can see on the far left is where management is in full control. And the farther that you go to the right, is where there’s more shared control. And this is specific to decision making. So how do we feel from an empowerment perspective when it comes to making decisions?

Patrick Adams  

I asked them three questions: Where were we five to seven years ago, you can see the results very much management in control of decisions telling, directing, management’s in control employees are told about decisions after they’re made. So this was five to seven years ago. The next question I ask is, where are we today, you can see that the dots have actually changed the data, the data is actually moving towards more shared control. So managers are actually going out and harnessing the ideas of team members. They’re actually asking team members for their input. And then the last question I ask is, where would you like us to be? You know, are we where we need to be? Or where would you like us to be? And you can see where the team says we want to move farther to the right, we

Patrick Adams  

want more shared controls, want more account shared accountability as an organization when it comes to decision making? Now I’ll just flip through those real quick, go back to the five to seven years ago today. And then where would you like us to be and you can see how the data points actually move towards having more shared control. This is a great visual for leadership to see whether their team is ready to be more involved in decision making. Now, here’s another really, really cool output of this particular assessment. What are the questions? With this assessment, we asked the third shift team as well. You can see they’re broken down in colors by different shifts. We asked the third shift team and we separated out the colors and just looked at the third shift. And this is really interesting, because the entire shift felt like management was in complete control of decisions. But the purple dot, which is the farthest to the right, is the supervisor of the third shift. And so when the supervisor saw this supervisor said, Oh, my goodness, like I thought that I was a sharing account, I thought that I was engaging the team in decisions, but in reality, the team showed the supervisor that that was not the case. Right. And so again, the supervisor, you know, had to make a decision, what am I going to do with this information? And luckily, the supervisor went back to the team and made some significant changes and engaged the team towards decisions. So this was a really great exercise. And the reason why I show you this exercise is because of point number two, make problems visible, whatever you can do, make it visible, right, if you can get that information out of the team members head and put it onto the board. Put it onto a screen decisions can be made so much quicker because the abnormalities are made visual, right. And so again, that’s a very important concept that needs to be shared here is that we want to make problems visible. Now, point number three, you didn’t think you were gonna come to a lien conference and not hear anything about five s, right? I mean, of course, we have to talk about five s. So five s is one of those fundamental tools that’s necessary to establish an efficient workplace. And, you know, the reason why this is so important, we talk about the importance of standard work, right? And how standard work creates stability for an organization. Well, what does five s do for us five s, it also creates stability, right? If we’re coming into complete chaos, in an organization, complete, unorganized chaos. If we’re coming in every single day, day in and day out, then how can we think that we’re going to be able to see problems and in complete disorganization and chaos and think about the level of stress that we have when we come into an unorganized area? I mean, most people spend more time at work than they do at their own homes. So I can’t imagine that someone would be walking into their home with dirt all over the floor, oil drips in the kitchen, pig mat around the sink in the living room, you know, in the kitchen area? No, of course not. So why would we expect our team members to work in an unorganized, chaotic environment like that, you know, at their work. So five s is so foundational, you can improve on chaos, you need standard stability, even in your organization in order to make improvements and see abnormalities. You know, with five s everything has a place and everything is in its place. And it helps us again, to see abnormal versus normal. So the last point to keep it visual is that organization is efficient. A clean workplace is an efficient workplace, and a safe workplace. And that is point number three, now, we’re moving into continuous continuous improvement, which is the last of the three areas. So what small things are you doing to build the right culture in your organization? I want you to ask yourself that. What are the small things that are happening in your organization to build the right culture? Are they only working on big projects, you know, six month Greenbelt projects? Or do you have small simple improvements that are creating a huge advantage for your organization, small improvements matter? Right? The unfortunate thing is that many organizations devalue them, because they’re so small, right? They’re like, two second improvements. That’s nothing, right. But here’s what I want to tell you. This is a really great quote. But it reminds me of my trip to the Grand Canyon a couple years ago, where the Colorado River snakes through the Grand Canyon, and you can’t, can’t stop but think about how the Grand Canyon started, right. And just the you think about erosion with water and the fact that just one drop of water over time consistently, that small little drop of water consistently over time, is going to break away rock it’s going to erode, it’s going to start to create a stream and then it’s going to turn into a Crikey. And then it’s going to turn into a river. And then who knows, it could turn into the Grand Canyon, right? Small drops of water, or what starts that, right. So small things can grow and build into large, enormous change within an organization. Right.

Patrick Adams  

So let’s talk about three points here. I want to run a quick video to show you an example at an organization how they’re using small improvements to change the culture. Hey, everybody, this is Patrick Adams, and I’m here at group vertical in Grand Rapids. And I wanted to share with you a best practice that this team is using to create a culture of continuous improvement. A few months ago, I shared a video about a suggestion pyramid that helps the team to visually track ideas and also create a manageable process for developing and following a suggestion system. So this team has that process in place right here. It’s an amazing process. It works really well for this team. And what I really want to show you is the celebration that they have here on a weekly and a monthly basis on all of the ideas that are being implemented here at group vertical. They’re tracking each of their ideas per month. They actually have a monthly goal of 25 Suggestions each month. They have a monthly participant award that goes out to one or two people per month. This last month in May they had 74 suggestions that were implemented. that month. Wow, that’s amazing. So amazing work by a group vertical in Grand Rapids. But I tell you that because I want you to understand the importance of learning to build culture using small improvements, right, small improvements. And that. And that brings us to the second point as well. You know, this is just a quick example. But out of 2000, opportunities for improvement, identified over 300 different employees, that’s an average of six ideas per person, right? That adds up to 91% of the improvements completed 93% of the completed opportunities resulted in a change of 755 ideas, improved quality, 216 ideas, improved safety, 893 ideas, improved satisfaction, but those 837 resulted in over $7 million in financial impact, right, that’s huge. It’s huge. It’s massive. And that’s why you have to find your big in the small, it’s important that you support those small simple improvements, that because they’ll lead to large financial, improved financial impact, but also they help build that culture. So the last thing that I want to hit on is the last point. And there’s three areas here that set the expectation. We talked about communicating your vision, in the beginning, but even talking about it with sustaining improvements. We want to make sure that we communicate the vision, communicate the why, set that expectation, inspect the expectation as leaders, you have to inspect what you expect. And then finally, you have to reinforce the expectation, make sure that you’re going out and either celebrating or asking why if things are not continuing the way that they should. So the last of the three and continue to improve is to sustain the improvements sustained the improvements

Speaker  

Well, I think we’re out of time, so super job. Appreciate it.

Patrick Adams  

Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet Patrick

Patrick is an internationally recognized leadership coach, consultant, and professional speaker, best known for his unique human approach to sound team-building practices; creating consensus and enabling empowerment. He founded his consulting practice in 2018 to work with leaders at all levels and organizations of all sizes to achieve higher levels of performance. He motivates, inspires, and drives the right results at all points in business processes.

Patrick has been delivering bottom-line results through specialized process improvement solutions for over 20 years. He’s worked with all types of businesses from private, non-profit, government, and manufacturing ranging from small business to billion-dollar corporations.

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