Tuesday, January 26, 2010

drive & inspiration

There was an interesting interview on NPR this month with an author talking about inspiration in the workplace.


Name five things you do to inspire and reward your employees?


Old school taught us to reward effort by passing out car washes, sending flowers to the wife of the overworked husband, and providing gift certificates to local restaurants. Don't get me wrong, these take-aways are very much appreciated.

But, do they really inspire creativity?

Do they inspire long term loyalty?

Do they improve the bottom line of your business?

NPR notes, "Daniel Pink argues that people will do more if they are given the opportunity to work on their own time, to be creative, and to do good." Hear the interview here.

Implementing a lean program is a lot more successful when the whole team is on board and when all are involved in the process of leaning your organization. Who knows best? Often those who are closest to your product and service. With a little guidance, everyone can do amazing things. With a little space and autonomy, everyone will simply bloom.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Build it wrong

Have you ever launched a production line only to start making bad parts instantly?

Have you ever launched a production line with a horrible PPM ranking after weeks of meticulous planning?

Product development is complex and demands a process of it’s own to ensure critical elements are considered and implemented. I could –and others have written, volumes on this topic, but today I want to focus and share a tried and true method of bullet-proofing your manufacturing line.

There is actually a trick.


• You think you know how to assemble that part.
• You think you’re a good communicator and trainer to teach others how to put it together.
• You think you’ve balanced the line such that every person is done with their assigned tasks in 12 seconds.

You think.

Before you’re finished with designing fixtures and equipment for the production line and certainly well before you even consider a run at rate evaluation, host a ‘build it wrong’ day.

That’s right. Dare your team* to build the part wrong.

*Collect a diverse group consisting of engineers, managers, team leaders, operators, and maybe even your staff assistant and assign them a ‘station’. At each 'station', provide them all the parts they'd need at that defined ‘station’ along with a few tools both necessary and completely useless, then tell them to put it together.

ie: say: "put this together", and walk away.

That’s right, provide no other instruction, no other words.

In addition, create a special ‘station’ where you have all the parts for the assembly and have someone try to assemble the whole thing by themselves (again without any instruction what so ever).

• Poke Yokes you’ll need to create; both design and process

• Operator instruction noteables

• Product design changes necessary to eliminate possible mis-builds

• Process steps needed

• Special tools required

• Ergonomic changes to the station including fixtures and tools necessary


You’ll discover what you don’t yet know.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Are you boring?

One of my earliest experiences with a project team was in the development of a hinge that would be unlike any hinge we’d ever created. This particular design element was critical to the rest of the product and had to be tackled early as it would drive the aesthetic and thereby likely the function of our product solution.

I decided I didn’t have to figure this out all by myself and challenged my team with a whacky benchmarking assignment they’d have to complete on their own time outside of work. Initially there wasn’t much movement around the table nor hearty acceptance of the proposal but as the idea swam inside of the heads of each colleague you could see creativity take root.

Two days later, we met again. Every one had done their homework. Every one had bought their hinge of choice for a show and tell, ideas spouting from each inspired to a better solution as we went around the room.

One thing was clear: they were hungry for inspiration, expectation, and a challenge.

How are you challenging your team every day?

How are you challenging yourself?

update: I was catching up on my NPR listening and found this snipit on motivation in the workplace. Give it a listen (short & sweet):

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I give up

I discovered a blog about Detroit recently that opinionates issues the city is experiencing.

Having served customers in the Detroit area for the last twenty years and visiting frequently, I was always aware of the decay of the city in addition to the phenomenal work there by several innovative persons.

The blog paints a much different picture though and offers perspectives from those who live out of state. Murder rates, foreclosure statistics, and business failures have been found more interesting to possibly pessimistic onlookers. Perhaps it was just my unabashed optimism, but I didn’t think Detroit (in spite of the failure of the automotive industry and incredibly poor city management) was that bad.

Like many of you, I have driven quickly via shortcuts, detours, and with wayward mapquest directions past abandoned houses, decrypted apartment buildings, and decomposing once grand public buildings. I had never seen this before however and it brought mixed feelings of sadness and curious inspiration; sadness for both the soul of the houses and the loss of the families who once roamed their halls and laughed around their dining tables. Curiosity in how a film company could utilize the houses as a movie set, an adventure through the jungle of the house, and in how the houses were now as tree-houses; images of kid’s imaginative stories and play acting bringing joy to my mind’s eye.

It would be easy to just give up.

It would be easy to simply ignore and further abandon the neighborhoods of Detroit and the neighborhoods in our own cities that have fallen into decay experiencing the biggest financial losses and community breakdown.

Ignoring would be easy.

2010 will be a year of creativity and finding different ways of doing business. 2010 will be more about entrepreneurship. Partnerships, giving of services, reaching out to others, including others for both profit and simple goodwill is what we’ll be all about.