Tuesday morning. My daughter comes into the kitchen while I’m having breakfast.
She’s not the biggest ray of sunshine in the morning, so I usually settle for a simple “good morning” to her. Now she was drinking sea water and eating a sandwich. She ran out of oat milk and folded the carton to recycle it. Well done…but, there was improvement in the folding itself.
She unfolded the tabs and flattened the box. The box was one with a small white plastic lid. Because she didn’t open the cork to let the air out of the box, it didn’t flatten as much as it might otherwise.
I wondered if I should say something. We’ve talked about this before; that we should open the cork a little before folding, so that the carton is flat. But don’t open too much, as there’s a clear risk of spilling milk, file or whatever is in the carton.
But I hesitated, given the morning mood thing. But then I thought of LEAN and the fifth management principle, which says “stop the processes to solve problems, so that quality is right from the start.”
So I decided to speak up. Because it’s just as good now as not telling, I thought, because next time it might be morning again, and then it’s the same show again.
Guess what happened!
Mmmm, you guessed right; it didn’t go down well. There was a bit of a bad atmosphere, I guess I could describe it as.
Having now reflected on what happened, I can conclude that what was missing was a culture to implement what LEAN described. I had forgotten that the fifth management principle begins “Create a culture…”.
We were not on the same page, so to speak. The fact that the time was as it was, i.e. early in the morning, did not make things any better.
It can be that way in your business too
You can have processes with rules and guidelines, but if you don’t have the right culture, you won’t be able to live up to what you’ve said you’re going to do.
It’s easy to get a bit down when you bring up things that need improvement. Sometimes more or less, depending on when you raise the issue.
But as you know, it’s better to deal with sensitive issues straight away, rather than waiting until later. Telling the dog, the children, the better half, the colleague or someone else, long after something has happened, spoils the whole thing a bit. By then they have forgotten what happened and it is easy for memories to become blurred and very different.
This is precisely why it is important to address things directly. In our businesses, we need to stop the process to discuss, develop solutions and fix the errors we see.
Of course, there are special occasions in operations where you cannot do so, such as when putting out a real fire, performing emergency surgery on a patient, conducting a police operation or the like. Then you have to wait until you are finished and then make an evaluation.
But for most of us, it is actually possible to pull the so-called “Andon cord” described in LEAN. The sensory image is a red line out in production, which you pull when you see an error and then the whole process stops.
We can then take the measures mentioned to ensure that this error does not occur again. The idea is that if we do that, in the long run it will be more efficient and flow better. Sure, it’ll be jerky at first, but so much easier after a while.
The alternative is that we have to live with the errors we see all the time and then also have to spend resources on correcting and managing them further down the flow. And we know that costs exponentially more than getting it right the first time.
What is it like in your business?
- Do you take the time to stop when you see an error, so that you can correct it before continuing?
- Do you feel that you have a culture where this is possible, or is it like at home in our kitchen; a bit of a bad atmosphere?
You can imagine how the mood then further changed in our kitchen, when I kindly pointed out that it snowed a lot during the night and that I am grateful if she on her way out before she goes to school; sweeps off the bridge and shovels the walkway in front of, and outside, the mailbox before she leaves… Aouch…that you. 🙂
I’m going to work a bit on the culture and weave in a teenager’s view of it all too. Wish me luck.
I wish you a great week ahead.