We visited another company recently to help them get started on a lean path. There was lots of gemba time and the output of the two day visit was a current state map and an ideal state map of one product family (and of course all the improved cross-functional communication that comes with those conversations – another topic!) In gemba walks, time and again there was no answer to our question: “What is the standard here?” – whether it concerned process, inventory, sequence, work in progress, location, staffing… whatever.
Some of their management team made a reciprocal visit, so we got to see our world through their eyes. It was fascinating to see their focus on the HOW (tools, tools, tools – lots of photos), while time and again we explained WHY: this tool calls out to us (management, leader, front line worker – depending on the situation) “SOMETHING IS NOT NORMAL HERE. We have a problem.”
I’ve heard semi-academic disputes about the meaning of the saying that “without standards there can be no kaizen”. For me that is a step away from a more fundamental statement arising from this basic definition: a problem is a deviation from standard.
Thus, we can say, “With no standard, there is no definition of a problem.”
So we ask, “How much?” “When?” “Where?” “What method?” etc., etc. and we say, “Please, make it visual!” so that everyone can know what should be happening (the standard, the expectation, the target condition) and anyone can see a problem.
Our tasks are to create conditions that make problems apparent (standardization, visual workplace) and to develop people and systems capable of responding.
Andrew L. Bishop
Green Leaf Plants™
2369 Old Philadelphia Pike
Lancaster, PA 17602