Pull Planning

One of my favorite and a podcast that ended up influencing me quite a bit was with Gregory Howell. At the time, Greg was the managing director of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI), a non-profit organization devoted to production management research in design and construction. The Last Planner® (sometimes referred to as the Last Planner® System) is a production planning system designed to produce predictable work flow and rapid learning in programming, design, construction and commissioning of projects.

Joe:  How does the name “Last Planner” relate to the planning system?

Greg: There’s always somebody who is the person who makes an assignment. Lots of companies say, “Why don’t you call that Foreman Planning?” The reason we chose a different and outside term was we wanted to talk about the function. That is the last person who makes an assignment, as opposed to the necessary position within a company. Because sometimes it’s the foreman, sometimes it’s the general foreman, sometimes it’s an office.

Calling it “Foreman Planning” would in a way blind people to the real function of this person, so “Last Planner” seemed like a good idea at the time. That’s why we chose it. We wanted to distinguish it from traditional positions in construction.

Joe:  You talk about Pull Planning. Can you help someone get their arms around what Pull Planning is?

Greg: Sure. There are two ways to advance stuff on a project or probably anywhere. One is by push where you advance stuff based on some schedule. Whether or not the project is ready for order or not, the schedule says this should be delivered to the site, and so we deliver it.

Pull is when you advance stuff when the site is ready to use it or the next station is ready to use it, and in that case, you signal from the work site, and I’ll use that because that’s where I live. You signal back to the logistics chain saying send me the beams, and that’s a request. A pull signal can be understood as a request, and something that really informs our approach to Lean management is something called the language action perspective, and I won’t go very far in this.

There are some actions that we take in language. I make a request. You asked me if I would do this podcast. I made a promise. We set a time. We set conditions that it would be done in about 30 minutes, and so you made a request, I made a promise. It will reach a point, I’ll say I am done, and all of that speaking is the action. I request is the action.

When we begin to think about pull as a request, then we understood that we were designing a system that fundamentally was promise centered. You can say we’re designing the production system. You can also say it another way, we’re designing a project as a network of commitments, a series of request promise cycles that are designed to deliver the big promise that somebody made to a client.

So that’s where that language comes from, and there is a significant body of knowledge about that. We think it’s a more important approach to – I’ll call it human resources than the kind of traditional motivational approach. We think people do their darndest to do what they promise and if we can learn to speak more clearly and listen more sharply for requests and promises, we can do a much better job.

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Respect in Lean

I asked Michael Balle in a past interview (Related Podcast and Transcription: Pushing Kaizen Beyond the Walls) what the term “respect” means in Lean. Michael Ballé is the co-author of, The Gold Mine, and The Lean Manager. His most recent book is Lead with Respect.

Joe:  You touched upon a point there. In “Lean”, can you define what respect means?

Michael Balle:  We try. We try. I think that the tools are very easy to define because they’re quite specific. I can give you my own take on respect, and I’ll be very cautious on this, as this is the result of my current work. The way I see it, respect has two very pragmatic things. The most immediate thing I see: respect is about making sure people understand their opinion counts. This is as pragmatic as it gets, is that you acknowledge people’s opinions all the time. It doesn’t mean you agree with them. Understanding doesn’t mean agreement, but we use the production analysis board with the comments all the time.

We use specific ways of just saying to people, “We hear your opinion on this. And we’re interested in your opinion. And please give us your opinion.” I think it’s very important for people who work in a company that they understand that the senior people actually take their opinion into account.

The second part I would say about respect, which the deeper part is; I believe that people in a company have a right to succeed. It’s not a duty to succeed. It’s a right to succeed.

They have a right to succeed in their day. They have a right to come home saying, “Darling,” to their partners, “Darling, I’ve had a really good day, I’ve succeeded.” And they have a right to succeed in their career.

This is part of what management should do. How do we create situations where people can succeed? I believe that this trust that comes from this is very powerful. This mutual trust is built on mutual wins.

It’s short wins, and this goes with the Kaizen, is that if people work together and have wins together, in short, ways, they will build this trust. This is so powerful for companies.

So, respect has many, many different dimensions. One is the teamwork that we were talking about. You develop individuals by teaching them how to solve problems with others. The other is this notion that it has to be a win-win. It has to be some element of shared success that leads to developing these mutual trusts.

Marketing with PDCA (More Info)

Targeting what your Customer Values at each stage of the cycle will increase your ability to deliver quicker, more accurately and with better value than your competitor. It is a moving target and the principles of Lean and PDCA facilitates the journey to Customer Value.

Software and Product Development Leads into HR?

The founder of OdBox, Matt Barcomb, partners with organizations to help leadership teams develop and deploy strategy, optimize product management and development, and evolve traditional HR functions into modern talent development practices. Matt can be found on LinkedIn or on Twitter.

Related podcast and transcription: Matt Barcomb’s Journey into Lean Software

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe:   One of the things that I associate you with, of course, is software and product development, but it seems that umbrella has started to incorporate more parts in the company, and it’s affecting and becoming an integral part of other parts of the company. How is that affecting your work because you talk about a lot more type of organizational work, a lot more type of work with HR – is software the push into it or is it just your growth in trying to make people work together?

Matt: That’s a good question. I would probably say it’s a nice little cocktail of both. One of the reasons I got into human resources, talent development is again through client work. I would go into a place, and they were having problems hiring people that could fit for the skills and we started talking to them and then they’re kind of following a very traditional or recruiting through Monster or whatever, and they ask for help, like how do you find talent, and so we can talk about that. We wound up kind of rejiggering how they do recruiting, we kind of talked a little bit about how should they do promoting, what are their current performance plans and structure, what do those things look like, do they make sense. It’s just sort of pluck a little thing here, and you try a lot of things; a lot of companies are willing to try some things. Not every company has been willing to try all my crazy ideas, but some of them are just things that make sense. I mean I can’t remember ever being at a company ever who thought that how they did ratings, and rankings, and performance, and tying it to compensation was a wonderful, fair and equitable system that everybody enjoyed. So given that that’s never happened, one of my first principles is like well what happens if we get rid of it? Instead of trying to figure out a way to make it better or improve it or add something to the system, what if we try to simplify it first? Not that that will solve the problem, it will very likely cost other problems. But let’s take the thing away first, so when we do try to inject something, we’re injecting something into a simpler ecosystem.

Like HR is one area where we try to grow it more towards talent development, where to find people, how to promote people, how to make that a collaborative thing and I’m kind of a proponent of setting up structures such that transparent salaries could be possible. I want to be clear that I don’t necessarily advocate for going all the way towards actually making salaries transparent; it just really depends on the context. Working with sales organizations was sort of the same way. I started working more with product management as part of product development, this idea that you’ve got a group or an organization that’s sort of incented or they’re going like this to help create a product or sweeter products that has a strategic fit for a market and that they’re sort of always butting heads with this other department in the organization who’s incented to hit quarterly revenue targets at almost whatever sales price, that incented to drive some crazy behavior. I’ve seen product development departments get thrown under the bus because they couldn’t make the features fast enough, and they could have made their numbers if product had just delivered faster. I’ve seen sales departments reel because the BP of product are really hard-lined pricing strategy, and that was not allowing them to make their numbers. So trying to encourage them instead of trying to just throw sales under the bus and say, “Oh sales guys are coin-operated, evil, moron people. They should just go all be car salesman…” Let’s figure out what we’re really trying to achieve through sales.

I mean that’s a pretty obvious problem, we need the company to make money. So how we change sales and how do we change software and how do we change the product to all work together? I mean again this just taking a page out of the systems thinking kind of playbook of how are we not aligned? We have these different functions, we need a strategic fit to a market, we need to make sales, we need a revenue, we need to develop product – how do we get these three things to swim together instead of feeling like they’re often tearing the company apart?

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Putting the Kata into Action

This particular video, Putting the Kata into Action is the last video of a 7-part series with Brandon Brown where we discussed the the Toyota Kata. Toyota Kata is documented in Mike Rother’s book Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results.

The series consist of these 7 videos:

  1. What is Toyota Kata
  2. Using Kata for Alignment
  3. Establishing Target Conditions
  4. Picking the Obstacle to Overcome
  5. Overcoming the Unmovable Obstacle
  6. The Coaching Kata
  7. Putting the Kata to Action

Brandon Brown delivers tangible and sustainable continuous improvement results as a Toyota Kata Coach and Lean Instructor/Facilitator as an Associate for the W3 Group. Since 2006, Brandon has been a Professor of Operations Management at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville teaching courses in the Industrial Engineering department such as Lean Production and Leadership Principles and Practices for the Master of Science in Operations Management degree program. Brandon is a Southeast Region Board Member for the of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence. He is also a Certified John Maxwell Coach, Teacher, and Speaker.

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When Not To Use Standard Work

TheOneDayExpert is built around the simple idea that in today’s highly competitive environment, industry, which has already harvest low-hanging fruits, cannot rely anymore on single-minded or one-size-fits-all tools. Experts with holistic view and deep insight are needed. Yet solutions must be made simple enough for everyone to master and own them. Alain Patchong is the founder of the TheOneDayExpert and author of a series of books on Standard Work. Alain also is the guest on next week’s Business901 podcast.

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe:   Would you recommend sometimes not using Standard Work? Are there times that it’s obviously besides let’s say repeatable, are there other times that you would shy away from it or is repeatable the key part of using Standard Work?

Alain:  Standardized Work has no interest when there is variation when there is volatility when there is low repeatability. This can be due to a lot of causes. It could be just like this process is designed on purpose not to be repeatable – then there is no Standardized Work. But there is some occasions, some situations where it is simply due to the machine, the machine which is very, very unreliable, the machine which is all the product which is causing huge problems and so in those situations, my advice is start fixing those problems first. Start fixing making your machine reliable, so we can use tools like TPM or whatever.

If you try to implement Standardized Work when you have this environment with a lot of disruptions, first of all, operators will be frustrated because they are already frustrated by those stoppages which are coming over and over. But they’ll say, okay why are you focusing on us? First of all fix the problem. Fix all those machine stops. So fix them first and then you’ll get this credibility to be able to go ahead and start working on Standardized Work

Joe:   I think it’s interesting when you say that because so many times workers, frontline people and nurses for a great example, they find workarounds to problems to be able to take care of things and make them work. When you try to implement Standard Work, they just look at you because there are so many other things going on, they’re like — and so that’s a great indication.

Alain:  Yes, yes. That is what I explained in the first book actually. Is that okay? Before doing anything, okay well, fix all the problems because if you come — and this is what I’ve noticed during my personal life at Goodyear when I was implementing this. People are willing to work, they are willing to work with you in improving and doing Standardized Work but first, you have to show them that you are taking seriously the daily problems, the daily frustrations, and this is where we have to start first.

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Taking Ownership of the IT Project

Founder of Rottie Consulting LLC, Gabriela (Gabi) Vandermark, discussies Lean Product Development with an emphasis on Product Owners.  Rottie provides consulting services to a variety of industries specializing in IT Project Management & Delivery, Technology Leadership, Organizational Change Management, Leadership Coaching, and International (South American) Relations.

This is the slide deck of the presentation we reference several times in the podcast.

 

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Reusable Knowledge – The Focus of Lean Product Development

Rottie Consulting LLC was founded in April 2013 with the intent to provide consulting services to a variety of industries specializing in IT Project Management & Delivery, Technology Leadership, Organizational Change Management, Leadership Coaching, and International (South American) Relations. My podcast guest tomorrow is the founder of Rottie, Gabriela (Gabi) Vandermark.

An excerpt from the podcast:

Joe:   I had the pleasure of previewing your slides before your presentation and you discuss something that popped out of me that was different. When you talk about waste in Lean Product Development, you mention Reusable Knowledge. Is that a major waste? Reusable, what does that really mean?

Gabi:    Reusable Knowledge is actually the focus that you should have in Product Development. Lean Manufacturing, the focus is on removing waste, but in Lean Manufacturing, you already have a product developed, and a product identified. You’re really just finding a way to produce that and deliver that to your customer in the fastest, cheapest, quickest and most quality manner. For Lean Product Development, you’re discovering. You go from an idea all the way to market launch and to do that, you need to reuse knowledge because it’s a set of experiments. It’s that iterative process where you need to learn as you go so that you can ultimately come up with a product that is ideal for the market. In Lean Product Development, the focus is really on Reusable Knowledge. How do you share the knowledge that you gain through your iterations of that product with your entire team so that everybody can benefit from that, and even more important is how can you share that knowledge that it can be validated and complimented by other people’s ideas.

Joe:   So reusable isn’t something that is stale; the existing knowledge over in a file cabinet that you’re reusing. It’s something that you’re creating.

Gabi:    Correct and the key here is collaboration. One of the important things in Lean Product Development and Agile, in general, is how do you collaborate with your team? If you’re all collocated, it becomes not easy but it becomes a little bit more natural. You can implement visual management systems where you expose your information on boards and stickies and make it very visible to the people that are there. In my case, when I work with international projects, it becomes a little bit more challenging because we’re not physically together, but collaboration and communication are the keys to that reusable knowledge, so it doesn’t become stale.

The way I do it typically, I find ways of translating the visual management that you would think of – whiteboards and stickies to an online version. Not to plug anything but Trello is one of the tools that I use. It’s very easy to use; anybody can jump in there and there’s a lot of flexibility to build the boards that you need. So for my projects, when I’m working with people in South America where communication and collaboration is key to making sure that that knowledge that is gained, one, is spread out to the team, and two, it doesn’t become stale as you mentioned.