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Gwendolyn Galsworth

Lean

The Start of the Journey Is the Destination

Here we begin a three-part series that deals with three important outcomes

Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - 12:01

More often than not, an effective implementation of operator-led visuality produces a 15- to 30-percent increase in productivity on the cell or departmental level, beginning with the implementation of the “visual where” (or, as our trainers like to call it, 5S on steroids). But that effectiveness and those impressive results require that management not take shortcuts.

One of the most fundamental errors managers make when “turning over” the visual reins to value-add associates is to commandeer for themselves the simple task of implementing the visual where (i.e., borders, addresses, ID labels). Such managers mean no harm; they reason that because the task is so simple and obvious, they can do it themselves, get it over with, and save operators for more interesting improvement tasks. The result? The first step of what should be a rich and productive journey with terrific bottom-line benefits quickly goes off the rails.

Look again, managers. The very simplicity of installing the visual where presents a compelling and nearly unique developmental opportunity to achieve three things:
1. Crack the code on time; provide time for improvement
2. Empower the workforce on the value-adding level, breaking the inertia of the command-and-control tradition
3. Carve out a new role for supervisors. You still get the productivity gains—but now they last.

Outcome No. 1: Cracking the time code

It is an open secret that many companies loudly proclaiming the importance of continuous, systematic improvement rarely provide actual time for improvement. Instead, the workforce is expected to eke out snippets of time and make magic happen. And if they don’t, organizers complain about inertia, the inherent laziness of people, and the difficulties of change management. In all of that, they are wrong.

The problem these companies have is with the unavailability of improvement time. It is a false paradigm. Too many companies assume that time must be used only for production. To do otherwise would betray a first principle of business: Time is money. Until a company learns it can liberate time for improvement (distinguished from time for production), it will remain a prisoner of the myth that there is not sufficient time during a given work week for both production and improvement. If managers hold to that belief, unfounded though it is, so will the workforce. The result is that improvement only happens if pushed by management, or limited to structured, event-based change like kaizen blitzes.

Implementing the visual where provides the savvy company with a way to reverse this misconception. You can do this by formulating an official improvement-time policy that states the organization’s commitment to provide a set and exclusive amount of time for improvement to each associate in the initiative. The amount can range from 15 minutes to two hours weekly; the choice is the company’s. Once the policy is published, managers, supervisors, and associates alike dig in and figure out how to operationalize that policy; they search for where the time is hiding; then they find it and use it. It is a revealing focus.

Once the time code is cracked, improvement can become a daily practice that is also often deeply inventive. This shift happens as associates on the value-adding level pick the low-hanging improvement fruit of installing the visual where.

Want to learn more? Contact us for a copy of our Improvement Time Policy Template.

First published on the Visual Thinking website.

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About The Author

Gwendolyn Galsworth’s picture

Gwendolyn Galsworth

Gwendolyn Galsworth, Ph.D., has been implementing visuality for more than 30 years. She’s focused on codifying the visual workplace concepts, principles, and technologies into a single, coherent sustainable framework of knowledge. Galsworth founded Visual Thinking Inc. in 1991, and in 2005 she launched The Visual-Lean Institute where in-house trainers and external consultants are trained and certified in the Institute’s nine core visual workplace methods. Two of the seven books Galsworth has written received the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award.