A quick way to prioritise improvement ideas and suggestions

If you’re swamped with improvement ideas and suggestions, here’s a quick team-based approach to prioritising them – Ease and Effect:

  • Write each idea on a sticky note
  • In turn, read out / explain to the team each improvement idea
  • For each idea, first ask the team “How Easy do we think it would be to implement this idea?” Get the team to reach consensus on this – “Easy”, “Medium” or “Difficult”
  • Secondly, ask the team “If we did it, how much impact or Effect would this idea have?” Get the team to reach consensus on this – “High”, “Medium” or “Low”
  • Use a flipchart sheet or large piece of paper and draw out a 3 x 3 Ease and Effect Grid. Use the vertical for “Ease” and split this into the three categories  “Easy”, Medium” and Difficult. Use the horizontal for “Effect” and split this into the three categories “High”, “Medium” and “Low”.
  • After each idea has been reviewed and ranked, place the sticky note in one of the nine boxes, based on its “Ease” and “Effect” rating.
  • Prioritise the ideas based on the following ranking:
  1. Easy to do, with High Effect
  2. Easy to do, with Medium Effect
  3. Medium to do, with High Effect

Keep track of progress using a simple traffic light (RAG) system – ideas that you haven’t yet started are coloured Red, ideas that you’re currently working on are coloured Amber and ideas that have been completed are colured Green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can download a copy of the Ease and Effect Grid (and lots of other useful stuff) here: http://www.nicholsonconsultancy.com/free-downloads/

And if you’d like some help in running your own Ease and Effect sessions, contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com

Getting Things Done – Managing Tasks and Projects

“Too much to do, too little time!” is a cry that we hear more and more often recently.  When you’re trying to tackle a dozen projects, a hundred initiatives and a thousand “to do” tasks, it can feel so overwhelming that it’s hard to even make a start.

So here’s a “quick and dirty” way to make sense of it all.

  1. Make a list – a full list. The first step is to face up to the challenge and list out all of the projects, tasks, initiatives and “to do’s”. It might look like a long list but don’t be put off – this is the first step towards regaining control.
  2. Split the list into two – “Tasks” and “Projects”. Tasks are things you know how to tackle, don’t take up a lot of resource and can be achieved in a few days. Projects are things that take longer, maybe need some research or data collection, and involve more people.
  3. Take the “Tasks” and prioritise them using an “Ease and Effect” grid. Start with the tasks that are Easy to implement and have the highest Effect or Impact. Then tackle the tasks that are Easy to implement and have a medium Effect. Put these tasks into an Action Plan and track progress using “traffic lights” (also known as RAG – Red, Amber, Green) – Red items haven’t yet been tackled, Amber items are those currently being tackled and Green items have been successfully completed.
  4. Translate the Projects onto a simple timeline or “Gantt Chart”. Split the timeline into three – (a) items to be tackled in the next 12 weeks, (b) items to be tackled in the following 12 months, (c) items to be tackled in the following year. Agree who will be accountable for each of the projects and set realistic start and finish dates.

That’s it! Yes it’s rough and ready but it’s the quickest, most effective way to regain control of “too much stuff” – try it!

And if you need some help to manage and deliver some of those projects, contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com.

The Number Eleven Motivator – “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress”

This one really gets to the core of workplace motivation, since it covers some of our basic human needs –

  • the need to have objectives and goals – something to aim for
  • the need to feel that we’re making progress towards achieivng our goals
  • the need for regular feedback, to help us keep on track

Without these – aither at work or in our personal lives – it’s easy to drift and to lose motivation. Remember – “You are happy to the extent that you are in pursuit of worthy goals”.

Effective Leaders get to know their people and make the effort – however busy they are – for regular one-to-one discussions with each of them. Formally, this might be done every six months through an appraisal and review system, but more frequent one-to-one sessions (at least monthly) are perhaps even nore important.

Regular, honest, constructive feedback is vital to individual performance and motivation. In fact, most of us would rather have negative feedback than no feedback at all.

As well as reviewing performance against objectives, it’s also an opportunity to talk about career progression and to ensure that the employee’s idea of their future trajectory is realistic and generally fits with the needs of the organisation. In simple terms, we might benefit from some fast track superstars but most organisations also need a fair number of “steady Eddy’s” – committed, reliable people who always turn up on time and just get the job done.

… if you’d like to know more about objective-setting, effective feedback that works, appraisal, performance management or any other apsects of practical workplace leadership, contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.con

The Number Nine Motivator – “My fellow employees are committed to doing quality work”

When we’re surrounded by people who strive to do well, we’re often encouraged to up our own game. And the opposite is also true – if those around us don’t care about how good of a job they do, and set themselves low standards, then the rest of the team will often sink to the same low standards.

People give of their best when they’re challenged and supported. And no one was ever inspired by the prospect of being average, or “just see what you can do”.

That’s why it’s so important for Leaders at all levels in an organisation to have high expectations of their teams, and to tackle any examples of poor performance.

So maybe it’s time for you to set some stretch targets – agree one or two BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), expect excellence, give team members the support they need to achieve, and tackle poor performance immediately – it’s often contagious!

… and if you need some help with achieving a “One Best Way” culture or you want to know how easy it can be to manage employee’s performance, contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com

Housekeeping or 5S – which one is it?

Maybe it’s just me but I’m regularly disappointed when people who should know better confuse the two. So here’s my little rant:

Unless you work in a very well-run hotel, please don’t pretend that “Housekeeping” is anything like 5S – it isn’t!

And if you’re doing 5S properly please don’t undermine it by calling it Housekeeping!

At worst, Housekeeping is a one-off tidy-up. At best it’s a standardised regular tidy-up that gets checked. Don’t get me wrong – it can be very effective and in some environments it might be all that’s needed.

5S on the other hand (sometimes also called 5C or CANDO) is a disciplined, systematic approach to workplace organisation. It uses simple visual management to

  • increase efficiency
  • minimise wasted time and effort
  • encourage team-work
  • establish “One Best Way”
  • instil discipline
  • continuously improve

So here’s a little challenge for you – have a close look at your business and each workplace within it, and then

  • if you’re at an early stage, decide if basic Housekeeping is all that you need (being tidy and looking good), or if you need to invest time and effort to reap the full benefits of 5S
  • if you think you’re already doing 5S, take an honest look at the list above and check how many of those benefits you’re currently achieving. If there are any gaps, maybe it’s time to reinvigorate your approach to 5S and raise your game

And if you’d like some advice, training and hands-on help to implement and sustain 5S, please contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com or call (UK) 01325 328855.

The Number Eight Motivator – “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important”

It’s easy to become sceptical about Vision, Mission Statements and the like adorning the walls in Reception, but working for an organisation that does worthwhile work that you believe in or identify with, is increasingly important.

We need to feel that what we do has some purpose and meaning, and we’ve probably heard the truism that “We are happy to the extent that we are in pursuit of worthy goals”

Hoshin Planning (Policy Deployment) is a very structured way of addressing this. Put simply, the idea is to cascade an organisation’s goals – by discussion and agreement – through every level of its hierarchy. Although it appears simple it often takes years to introduce the approach effectively. Done well though, everyone can see how the projects that they are working on fit into the “big picture”.

More easily, a good employee appraisal system should help translate the organisation’s goals into objectives, targets and measures for key staff.

Even more simply, regular one-to-one sessions where employees agree objectives and receive regular feedback, can be a great way of ensuring that employees understand how and why what they’re doing fits into the “big picture” and why it’s important.

Whatever technique we use though, we need to help employees understand that their work is important and valuable and that it contributes to a worthwhile goal. From a Leadership perspective we need employees to understand not just “what” they need to do and “how”, but also – and most importantly – “why”. Speaker and author Simon Sinek explains this in his “Start with Why” Ted Talk on YouTube.

… and if you’d like some help to find the “Why” in your own manufacturing business, contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com

The Number Seven Motivator – “At work my opinions seem to count”

In the age of smartphones, 24/7 email and social media it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by communications. Employees can feel it’s difficult to make themselves heard, and managers can struggle to hear people above the continuous “white noise” of messages. As a result, frustration increases, motivation drops and stress levels rise.

That’s when a simple technique – “Ease and Effect” – cuts through the noise, engages employees, makes managers’ jobs easier and quickly gets the best ideas turned into actions.

“Ease and Effect” sessions are one of the simplest, most effective ways to give employees a voice, to translate good ideas into action, and to sustain your Continuous Improvement activities.

It’s often best to start with a small workgroup – perhaps five to ten people – and be specific about the areas that you’d like to tackle. Give the team a week or two to identify problems and wastes (think of “The Seven Visible Wastes”), then bring them back together for a short brainstorming session.

Ask the team to rate each idea as to how Easy it would be to implement (Easy, Medium or Difficult) and how effective it would be (High, Medium or Low effect). Start with the “Easy, High” ideas to get some quick wins, then move onto the “Easy, Medium” and finally the “Medium, High”. Keep track of progress and see how quickly motivation rises and performance improves!

… and if you’d like some practical help to implement “Ease and Effect” in your manufacturing business, contact Andrew.Nicholson@ImproveMyFactory.com

The Number Two Motivator – “I have the tools and equipment I need to do my job right”

People want to do the job right and they expect to be provided with the right equipment so that they can do just that.

Sadly this is still a real wake-up call for some manufacturing owners and managers. Here’s my advice:

Tools that aren’t easy to handle and clothing or PPE that’s uncomfortable become a real problem after a 8- , 10- or 12-hour shift. If you’re serious about quality and serious about treating employees well, invest in good quality gear – go for good value not just the cheapest. Would you want to wear those cheap nasty safety shoes day after day, week after week?

BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools). Get with it folks – this is the 21st Century not the 19th! Do you really expect your people to buy and bring their own tools to work? How do you control the quality? What if a tool fails and injures someone? What about sharing tools? What about 5S shadow boards? What about theft and “borrowing”? In my view, employers need to supply all of the right kit to do the right job to the right standard. Period.

Brexit – immediate actions for UK Manufacturing Leadership

Manufacturing clients that we’ve been working with at a strategic level already have well-rehearsed plans in place for Brexit. For those who are still reeling with shock here are some of the short-term actions that Manufacturing Leaders might consider – the “Six R’s”:

Reassure: the first essential role of Leadership in turbulent times. Ramp up the communication, make yourself available, get out and about in the workplace. Let people know that despite recent rhetoric no-one’s job will be lost this month or next. In particular, reassure migrant workers that they are valued and wanted and will continue to be so.

Resilience – time to update your business risk assessments and make sure that you have robust plans in place and contingencies for the things that won’t go to plan! In particular, consider broader supply chain risks (see below).

Rates 1 – Exchange Rates: the pound will be weaker for a while so ramp up the exports and continue to use Lean to in-source materials and components. De-risk the Supply Chain and take manufacture and control in-house.

Rates 2 – Interest Rates: we simply don’t know if interest rates will go higher or lower so shorten your payback periods slightly but keep on investing. Short-term turbulence often leads to cheaper asset prices so look out for bargains – don’t put off that acquistion but instead go flat out and bargain for a lower price.

Routine: now is the time to reinforce Standard Work, One Best Way and all of the “boring but important” daily disciplines that make for successful long-term business.

Remember: turbulence doesn’t change the world but it makes for bigger opportunities and bigger threats – update your SWOT review, spot the opportunities and act decisively.

Courage mon brave!

The Three Stages of Lean Transformation

As our knowledge and practice of Lean has developed, many of us have come to the conclusion that there is no standardised “one size fits all” roadmap or sequence that details every step of “how to implement Lean” for every organisation. But there are three vital stages that it makes sense to follow. Here they are:

1. Grasp the Current Situation. A full understanding – by all team members – of the current situation, is the essential starting point for any improvement activity. Questions to ask might include: Exactly where are we now? What are we trying to do here? What is our purpose, our mission? How do we add value for our customers? Honestly, how are we performing now? Are our measurement systems capable of telling us? Are we collecting (only) the right information to help us to make decisions and to take action?

2. Achieve Stability. What are the most important processes in your business? How do you develop new products or services? How do you deliver them? How do you plan, execute and measure the vital few? How do you manage your people, from cradle to grave? Are these processes capable, under control and stable? How do you sustain “One Best Way”: do you provide clear instruction, effective training, regular monitoring, wide-spread mistake-proofing?

3. Implement Lean. Only now can you begin to change the way you work, with a real prospect of success and sustained improvement. Once you have stable, repeatable processes you can analyse them and find ways to do them better. With the right tools and support the team can simplify and streamline the processes so that you become more efficient and more productive, and achieve better outcomes.

The detail of how to do it – and the exact tools to use – are gained only through years of experience. If you don’t yet have that experience you’ll need to hire it in, but make sure that you coach your people so that they “learn by doing”. By following this approach, and by rigorously following the PDCA Improvement Cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act), you can genuinely transform your organisation and make Continuous Improvement a way of life.