A nice Ice breaker to start a lean training session

Guess who?

This works well in bigger groups, and also groups that know each other relatively well.

Ask people to write on a single ’post-it’ note, 3 things about themselves that they think nobody else would know.

A twist on this is ask for 2 true and 2 false statement. tell the group to keep the statements secret and do all they can to hide their identity, perhaps disguise their writing.

Give a few minutes then you collect the ‘post-it notes’, mix them up and stick to a wall.

Pick a few and read them out, the group have to collectively decide on who they think it is. If correct the post gets moved to one side, if incorrect remains on the wall. Of course the person who’s ‘post-it’ note is being read out must not give the game away.

The key is – just pick a few at random. You can also save a few for later in the day.

You will find that people will just go and look at the wall during the breaks. Then when you wish to focus the group and the start of the next session simple read a few more out.  Keep returning to the ‘Post-its’ that have not been guessed in order, slowly eliminating them as the group guess the identity of the person who wrote the note. Some times a small prize like a chocolate bar adds an incredible amount of competition !

Some of the answers can be really revealing. I once had a person who did dry stone brick walling as a hobby and even one person who was in the Circus for a short time.



Value Thinking

An important aspect of “Lean Thinking” is the idea of Value.Think about your own workplace for a moment which you toil in everyday.

I’d like to suggest to you that there are only three types of activities that are going on.

1.Value Adding Activities 

These are activities that, as the name suggests, “add value” to our customers. A “value  adding” activity is anything we do to transform materials or information into something that our clients require.

Example of value add
 : A caseworker making a decision based on the information presented to them 

2.Necessary Non Value Adding Activities

A bit of a mouthful this one. Basically a “non value adding” activity is something that consumes resources, does not create any value for the client but is still currently necessary to supply the service.

Example of necessary non value add : A caseworker sending out a letter to a client. If everyone had secure e-mail this could be done electronically (but they don’t at present). 


Waste is any activity that consumes resources, but does not create any value for the client. 

Example of waste : Walking to the other end of the office to get a file 

Now that we have defined the three types of activities that happen in the workplace, I would like you to try this EXPERIMENT.

1. During the day think about all of the activities that take place in your office.
2. Categorise these activities into three list; value add, necessary non value add, and waste.
3. Think about ideas to eliminate the wasteful and necessary non vale adding activities.
4. Implement your ideas.

Hope this helps

Lean Learning’s #2 ‘Cost Of Quality’

The term ‘Cost of Quality’ is very widely used and widely misunderstood in within many companies.

The ‘Cost of Quality’ is not the price of creating a Quality product or service. The true ‘Cost of Quality’ is the cost of NOT creating a Quality  product or service.

A lot of companies do not fully understand the effect that a poor Quality process has on the business. Poor Quality not only affects customers, it also has a dramatic effect on lead times, delivery, and most importantly profitability.

Consider that every time rework is undertaken, the cost of Quality increases. Obvious examples include:

•  The correction of a bank statement

•  The reprinting of a lost document

•  The reworking of a manufactured item

•  The retesting of an assembly

•  The replacement of a over cooked meal in a restaurant

These costs would not have been incurred if Quality were perfect. In order to fully understand this concept, consider the costs that would be eliminated if Quality within the process was perfect.  Consider costs such as: incoming raw material inspection; corrective engineering change orders, scrap, in-process control systems, downtime, material and labour rework charges, Quality personnel labour costs, field service repair personnel, returned goods processing, customer warranty claims and many others.

These are all costly processes and consume resources and time. They are normally considered necessary non value added steps. In other words, they cannot be eliminated because of significant risk to the customer.

Calculating the Total Cost of Quality.

In order to calculate the Total Cost of Quality the cost of the following operations need to be considered:

•   Prevention

•   Inspection

•   Internal Failure

•   External Failure

The overall Cost of Quality (COQ) is calculated using the following equation:

COQ = Prevention  Costs + Inspection Costs + Failure Costs

Prevention Costs

Prevention Costs are defined as all activities which have been designed into the process to specifically prevent poor Quality in products or services. Examples of these costs include:

•             New product development reviews

•             Supplier development work including capability surveys

•             Internal process capability development and  evaluations

•             Quality planning activities

•             Quality improvement team meetings

•             Quality education and training

Inspection Costs

Costs are defined as all activities associated with measuring, evaluating or auditing products or services to assure conformance to Quality standards and performance requirements.

Examples of these costs include:

•             Incoming and source inspection and testing of purchased material

•             In-process inspection processes

•             Final inspection and test

•             Internal audits

•             Maintaining of records

•             Calibration of measuring and test equipment

•             Purchase of associated equipment, supplies and materials

Failure Costs

Failure costs fall into two clear categories, Internal and External failure.

 Internal Failure Costs

Internal failure costs are the costs that occur prior to delivery of a product or service to the customer. Examples of these costs include:

•             Rework

•             Re-inspection

•             Retesting

•             Scrap costs

External Failure Costs

External Failure costs occur after delivery of the product or service to the customer. Examples of these costs include:

•             Processing Customer returns

•             Rework under Warranty claims

•             Processing customer complaints

•             Replacing the product

•             Product recalls

By far the most expensive of all these categories is failure. Both internal and external failures. The cost of the original product, the cost of the replacement, the cost of processing, can cost up to three times the cost of the original product or service.

This is an extract from Practical Quality by Graham Ross and Barry Jeffrey. If you would like to know more why not follow the link







Ice Breaker – T-Shirt folding, the lean way

This is a great exercise to break the ice at a training session, although you will require a few old T-shirts.

Kids love this one as well !



or if you would like to see it in English try this link



Lean Learning’s #1 Yokoten

Having spent years working in a Toyota plant, I know how it ticks. But one  of the skill’s that the team had there that I have yet to experience with
such commitment anywhere else is to perform a technique called  Yokoten

The direct translation of Yokoten is “Across everywhere” or “Best practice sharing”

When a problem, be it safety, quality, breakdown or supply chain, occurs, firstly the problem is addressed, and the countermeasure is confirmed as good.

Then a very simple question is asked “Could the problem exits of occur somewhere else?” The Toyota production system then requires the team to religiously perform checks to find out the answer, as a matter of priority.

If the answer is yes, then the fix from the original problem is put in place in all locations that a similar potential problem, thus preventing a future issue occurring.

This is done, even if there is a cost or time implication, because the cost of a further breakdown or quality issue would be far greater in the long run.

The question is asked every time by managers at problem reviews. Importantly, no blame is apportioned; the philosophy is ‘to find a problem once, is good, it’s an opportunity to improve. But to find it a second time means the system has failed.’ The focus is on prevention of re occurrence.

When an A3 report is used, the final two question boxes as ‘does this issue exits elsewhere’ and has ‘Yokoten’ been completed. Only when these two questions answered, is the problem considered closed.

Yokoten is also strengthened through the regular  departmental and Production Working Group meetings, which is made up of representatives of all plants and reports directly to top management, with careful attention paid to “Best Practice” at all the facilities.

This level of the use of Yokoten helps to ensure that all plants “level up” to the best performance in the group.

A very powerful tool to quickly improve a processes reliability, but it requires great commitment and discipline.


Standing in a Circle

Here’s a simple way of getting you team leaders to see the waste in their area, based on a technique used by Taiichi Ohno.

Give them a sheet with the titles of the seven wastes on it.

Draw a circle on the floor with a piece of chalk (or simply make a spot it that’s not practical)

Ask them to turn off mobile phones and radios

Then ask them to ‘stand in the circle’ for 10 minutes and observe the operation, looking for examples of each of the wastes. get them to write down what they see.

Then ask them to come and explain what they have seen. Once they have done this, ask them to fix just one!

Keep repeating this over a few weeks, this will start to condition individuals to look at their areas in a different way. It’s amazing how much they will see.

Simple but effective

Process Mapping software

One of the questions we are asked when running process mapping courses is if we know of a good piece of software for inputting process maps.

The one we would recommend is from a company called Bizagi.

This is an excellent, easy to use, piece of software that is very intuitive and best of all it’s free.

The Bizagi site is full of tutorials and helpful videos etc

With very little practice your will be able to input and edit diagrams, add notes and output into a number of different formats. With a little more skill you can even auto generate reports and other goodies.

The software can be found at www.bizagi.com . The freeware can be found under the products tab and then the download tab.

Develop a Deeper Understanding of Waste

If you are familiar with the principles of Lean then you will be aware of the fundamental principle that there is waste to some degree in every single activity we perform, whether it is at work or in our day to day business.

You will also be aware that in general waste is split in 7 types or categories. Defective products, Waste incurred during transportation,
overproduction, over processing, holding inventory, Waiting and excess motion.

But my question to you is. Did you realise that this is only part of the big picture in understanding ‘waste’ its effects and how to address it.

To  understand this we need to go back a step and really look at some of the core fundamentals of Lean. Let’s start at the very beginning and understand why the removal of wastes within processes is judged so important.

The single most important factor in developing a lean process is the ‘Voice of the customer’. Understanding what the customer needs, in what volume, and when it is needed.

Having understood this, the next step is to develop a system that will deliver to the customer needs on time, to the correct quality, in the right
volume. Sounds simple but this is where the problems start. If the process is not flexible enough to meet the changes in customer demand inefficiencies creep in and hence level of wastes within the process grow.

This is where most peoples understanding (including many lean practitioners) of waste starts to break down.

You may have heard the term ‘Muda’. Muda translated from Japanese is Waste. However this is only part of the story.

When Taiichi Ohno Sakichi Toyoda, and Kiichiro Toyoda, originally set out to develop the Toyota production system, they recognised that the root causes of waste in a process were much deeper than many consider today.

They defined 3 types of waste, MUDA, MURA and MURI

What has happen is that Muda has been given much greater attention since over time it has been well defined into the 7 categories I mentioned earlier.
Because of this, many Lean practitioners have learned to see just Muda they fail to see in the same prominence the wastes of Mura (unevenness) and Muri (overburden). Normally whilst they are focused on getting their process under control they do not give enough time or consider the impact of the other two types of waste.

So let’s take time to consider both Mura and Muri.

Mura or unevenness occurs at a number of levels within a process and needs to be considered when Just in time it being put in place. Consider this, what happens when we reduce or remove inventory (one of our 7 classic wastes). Well, now that the safety buffer has been removed, the process will be put under strain to deliver in a much more responsive way. The entire value chain will be asked to flex up and down in speed. The impact of this change can be devastating to the organisation. Manning levels have to be adjusted (If cost and efficiency are to be maintained), Suppliers will be asked to change deliver schedules at short notice. Maintenance schedules may need changing, in fact a whole plethora of issues arise and all takes time to manage. Also, because of the need to produce at peak volume at any time in theory, equipment, workers, inventory and all other elements required for production must always be prepared for peak production. This is adds both cost and waste.

Unless systems and processes are put in place to do this, waste starts to creep back into the process.

Toyota considered this in the development of the Toyota production system and took it into account with the concept of Heijunka or production smoothing. The concept of Heijunka may at first appear to contradict the Just in time and lean production philosophies, however it must be
remembered that done correctly well small amounts of well managed strategic stock will both aid efficiency and lower overall cost.

In the general concept of Heijunka is to try and smooth the production rate within acceptable limits. There are a number tools and tricks to this which are again linked to the original thoughts behind theToyota production system.

For example. Toyota’s final assembly line never assembles the same automobile model in a batch. Production is levelled by making first one model, then another model, then yet another. The pattern or order of the 3 models is the adjusted to smooth the daily rate based on customer demand (takt time). This flexibility is one of the key reasons for having a mixed model process. But in order to achieve this Standard work must be well defined and implemented otherwise the waste of ‘MURI’ will be the issue.

Muri or overburden, generally occurs when Standard work is not well defined or when addition tasks have been placed upon someone through a process change without consideration to their over workload or line balance.

Within most companies it is the case, but the importance of Standard Work cannot be underestimated. A smooth process with well trained people has a number of other benefits. When everyone knows the standard condition, and the standardised work sequences, heightened morale is seen along with improved quality improved productivity and reduced costs.

So when you are next observing a process for waste, look a little deeper. Look for the all three forms of waste, not just MUDA.

Think of the 3 M’s consider MURA and MURI as well as MUDA