I asked Mike Osterling, “Does it really happening where people are spending 50 percent of their time on defining a problem?” Mike has worked full time for over 15 years applying the Lean concepts in manufacturing and office environments. He can be found at Osterling Consulting.
Related Podcast and Transcription: Lean and A3 Thinking
An excerpt from the podcast:
Mike Osterling: I think people in organizations need to be convinced that it’s a good investment of time. Let me tell you a recent experience. We weren’t formally using the A3 form, but we were walking through these guys, these groups through A3 thinking. There was a team that we were taking through a development program was looking…They had a project that they voted to be on, this project team, and they opted in on it. The project team was looking at what this company called Asset Recovery.
So, when an employee leaves the organization, the problem that was perceived upfront was that they weren’t always getting laptops back or employee ID badges or cell phones or pagers or whatever these different assets might be. One of the senior managers was saying we need to improve that process, we’re losing stuff. As part of the program we were taking them through this thinking process of, let’s define the problem first.
When the team went in and started talking to the different parties engaged in mapping the process and collecting data, a very interesting thing that happened was everybody who was engaged in the process, and all of the data that was out there showed that they were at a 99 percent or better rate of asset recovery. It was a very, very rare occurrence when something wasn’t recovered, and the exposure was not significant from an information or nondisclosure…proprietary information, disclosure loss or something like that. And the dollar loss was very insignificant.
Historically?in fact, where this team was going initially, they were going to come up with a completely new process. After they did the current process math, they were ready to come up with a new process definition and have different checkpoints and things like that. Once they started getting the data and really talking to the people, they found out that there’s no problem! This was a really, really good experience, because before we would not have challenged anybody on what the problem was and they would have gone right to the solution.
So as part of the project report out 15 weeks after we started or 13 weeks after we started, these guys said, well, we learned a really good thing. There is no problem. On one level, it seems like it was a waste of time. But, these guys said the value of going out there and talking to the people that do the job and walking the process numerous times, numerous times, this isn’t go to Gemba and walk it once, this is go to Gemba and walk it 15 or 20 times, really understand what’s going on-was invaluable.
They said, “Whenever we’re going after a problem again, we’ve got to talk to the people. We’ve got to walk the process numerous times.” So those guys get it. They get that problem definition, root cause analysis, and measure the current state. They get that.
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