“Most people are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions.” – Anonymous

I had a lot of fun facilitating a 5S event last week and two things made a big impression on me.

The first “ah-ha” moment came when the manager of the 5S target area was describing what he saw. His comment was that when he looked at the area it seemed “normal”, meaning that this is just the way it is. It was interesting to me as I applied this concept to our own work areas at 5S Supply – just because something is “normal’ doesn’t mean its “right”. We have places at 5S Supply that could use a little help. I might pass them everyday and think that it is “normal” but I know it isn’t “right”. I know we should take the time to make them a little better. So remember, just because something seems familiar that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. Try to see past the way you have it today and think ‘that even if I make a little change for the better I have improved things.’

The second thing that struck a chord with me is when a QC tech on the team said that “in order to have improvement, something has to change.” This is similar to something I have a habit of saying during kaizen events when the team gets stuck – “In order for something to change, something has to change.” I’m not trying to be a cheeky; I’m just trying to urge the team on to do something. Half the battle can be just getting people to see things a different way. There’s an old saying for 5S “5S is easy; getting people to change is hard.” The basic concepts of 5S make sense but getting people to understand and apply them correctly is our challenge. So don’t be afraid to change something. I had to remind the team members that all the changes we were making were low cost and low risk. If the change doesn’t make it better than we can always change it back. Kaizen is about making many of these small changes for the better.

So remember that “normal doesn’t always mean right” and that “in order to have improvement there has to be change.”

Let me know your thoughts. Thanks – Tony

I had a great time at the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Conference last week in Baltimore. I would consider this one of the best lean conventions in the world. It would be hard to deny it when you have over 2,000 attendees and such spectacular key note speakers including Dr. John Toussaint, George Keonigsaecker, and Malcolm Gladwell. Here’s my quick review and highlights.

Hoshin Kanri Workshop

On Monday morning I taught a workshop on Hoshin Kanri (a.k.a. Policy Deployment). I appreciated the different backgrounds of the participants and the various levels of knowledge. I hope each was able to take away something that they would be able to implement when they got back to their organizations. If you would like a Hoshin overview check out my article in ASQ’s Six Sigma Forum magazine “Hoshin Promotion” or check out these items on Hoshin Kanri/Policy Deployment at 5S Supply.

5S Supply’s Partners

One of my favorite things about attending these conferences is running into old friends and making new ones. I had to chance to stop by different partners of 5S Supply to chat, talk lean and have a little fun. Check out the photos below.

Lean Enterprise Institute

(L-R Tony Manos, 5S Supply, Jane Bulnes-Fowles, Lean Learning Materials Manager, John Shook, Chairman & CEO, Rachel Regan, Director of Lean Events and Community Support, and Jon Carpenter, Finance & Administration)

I would like to thank the Lean Enterprise Institute for being my cohorts in using twitter during the conference and retweeting information to our followers. Also, I would like to announce that LEI is now offering one of the top books “The Gold Mine” in audio book (CD) form. Dr. John Toussaint (key note speaker and author) was signing his book “On the Mend” during the conference. If you are trying to apply Lean in healthcare, this is the book for you and available at 5S Supply.

Visual Workplace, Inc.

(L-R Jerry VanderLann, Tony Manos, and Rhonda Kovera)

Visual Workplace, Inc. provides 5S Supply with one of our most popular product lines – FloorMark. We carry FloorMark tape, arrows, feet, corners and more. Keep an eye out as we add more items to our website!


(L-R: Pat Wardell, COO, Tony Manos, and Bruce Hamilton, President)

You might know GBMP from the famous “Toast Kaizen” video, but they have so much more! It was great to see Chris Martin, VP Sales & Administration along with Pat Wardell, and Bruce Hamilton. Pat and Bruce just came out with a new book “e2 Continuous Improvement System” that emphasizes “everyone, everyday”. 5S Supply will be getting this book up on our website soon; it’s sure to be a great resource. By the way, I have to give a special award or mention to GBMP for their booth as being the most creative at the show. They came right out and said it – “Waste Sucks!” but evidently it can kill to (they had a mannequin stuffed under a pile of boxes representing waste).

Taylor and Francis (CRC Press)

5S Supply & Taylor and Francis(L-R Michael Sinocchi, Senior Editor, Tony Manos, and Chris Manion, Special Sales Account Representative)

I’m almost sure everyone reading this probably has a book published by Taylor & Francis or CRC Press (formerly Productivity Press). Michael was kind enough to show me some of their newest books on Lean HR and Lean IT. Don’t worry; we’ll get them up on our website as soon as we can. T&F is a great source of books, DVDs and learning materials, that are available at 5S Supply.

The Lean Nation Radio Show with Capt. Karl

I had the pleasure to be a guest on The Lean Nation radio show back in June talking with Capt Karl about Value Stream Mapping and other things. Karl Wadensten also gave a presentation about his company’s Lean journey. He talked about the path that Vibco has taken over the years as they continually strive for continuous improvement. If you haven’t heard Capt Karl’s show, I highly recommend that you download a free podcast and listen in.

American Society for Quality (ASQ)

(L-R: Robert Damelio, Brian LeHouillier, Managing Director-ASQ, Adil Dalal)

Robert and Adil are my cohorts on the Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals (COA) Committee representing ASQ. Brian was attending meetings with the heads of AME, SME and the Shingo Prize as the four representatives of the premier Lean Certification in the world!

Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)

(L-R: Kelly Lacroix, Tony Manos, Tara Douglass, Professional Development)

Kelly is our “handler” for the COA. She works hard to make sure that all four groups representing the Lean Certification (AME, SME, Shingo Prize and ASQ) are forging ahead with the certification. Tara works in professional development. Not pictured was Jerome Cook who I am working with to create a new Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) DVD due out early next year.

Change Management Associates

Drew Locher has written what I would consider two of the best books on Value Stream Mapping – “The Complete Lean Enterprise” and “Value Stream Mapping for Lean Development”. Drew was the one that taught me VSM back in 2000. Drew is the principle of Change Management Associates. Since 1990, CMA has developed and delivered programs to enhance the skills and knowledge of organizations in the general subject of Operational Excellence.

I would like to thank all our supporters and I look forward to seeing everyone again at the AME Conference 2011 in Dallas, TX! 

Also, since it is the week of Thanksgiving I would like to say to all those pursing Lean “Thank You” for your efforts and differences you make in peoples’ lives everyday. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving! – Tony

“What gets measured gets done.” – Tom Peters

I had fun working with a client last week helping them determine meaningful measures & metrics to monitor systems that were currently being developed and deployed. We talked about usual things like: 

  • think about if they are short-term, medium term or long term,
  • that it might be good to have a mix of Lean metrics like quality, cost or delivery,
  • we could use a Balanced Scorecard approach (ref: Kaplan & Norton) with financial, customer, internal processed and learning & growth,
  • Are the things we want to monitor drivers, means, or outcomes (ref: Hoshin Promotion)
  • consider the audience – who are these for? value-adders, supervisors, managers or executive management,
  • and trying to have a combination of leading, lagging and real-time measures & metrics

It’s this last bullet that the team really got me thinking. I use a baseball analogy to describe leading, lagging and real-time measures & metrics. For example, a leading indicator may be that I suspect my starting picture has at least 80 throws in his arm today (also known as ‘pitch count’). Currently he is up to 69. Based on this leading indicator, I should consider getting a relief picture ready. Another way to think of a leading indicator may be the amount of budget used so far as compared to what’s left in the project or how close we are compared to our goal (think thermometer graph for fund raising). A real-time indicator may be the ball or strike called by the umpire when the ball passes the plate or the speed of the picture’s fastball as determined by the radar gun. Lagging indicators are usually easy to see like who won the game or the box score information including runs, hits & errors. These are after the fact; they already happened.

Then it dawned on me as the team was working on their measures & metrics and asking questions if something is a leading, lagging or real-time indicator that many things depend on what you are using it for. We discussed the finer points of their measures and try to put these into context. For example, who won or lost the baseball game would normally be considered a lagging indicator (it’s over; there’s nothing we can do about it now). For the most part, I would probably agree until we started to explore other possibilities. What if that win or loss is closer to the end of the season and as a manager I have to start to make decisions about the play-offs like whether to promote someone from the farm system or consider a trade to bolster my team (or reduce salaries)? Doesn’t that lagging indicator now become a leading indicator? Think about another lagging indicator like who finished the season with the most home runs or won a golden glove? Would these possibly be leading indicators of how well they may do next season? Here’s another example, what about the ball or strike called by the umpire? When it is called, that would be a real-time indicator, but shortly thereafter wouldn’t it be considered a lagging indicator? So what time frame are we looking at?

In a lean sense, would takt time be considered a leading indicator? What about the cycle time, is that considered real-time? Would on-time delivery be considered lagging?

I think this would all be based on things like: what are you going to do with the information, what time-frame are you considering, who is your intended audience, etc.

What are you thoughts? Let me know. Thanks – Tony

P.S. If you’re at the AME Conference in Baltimore this week, look for me and let’s talk Lean.

“Don’t bother people for help without first trying to solve the problem yourself.” – Colin Powell


I thought I would use this quote from General Colin Powell as we get closer to Veteran’s Day. I like this quote because it reminds me that we need to “see” the problem so that we can start to find an appropriate solution. I don’t think Gen. Powell was trying to say that if you if have no expertise in that area that you should try to solve the problem. I think he is trying to say that instead of just going to your boss and telling him or her that there is a problem and off-loading it on them, you should try to take ownership of the issue.


This would happen to me all the time when I was a supervisor. My technicians would come up to me and say “We have a problem” and then the ‘20 questions’ game would begin. I would ask them questions that I know my boss would want answers to. So I realized that I needed to train my techs on how to present the problem to me. It didn’t take long before they realized that when they brought a problem to me they would anticipated the questions I would ask them and they would be ready with answers. This allowed them to start to take ownership of the problem. Many times they already had the answer and just wanted to run it by me, ask my opinion or present viable options. I hope in a small way I was able to help the technicians have a little more control and ownership over their work.

 “Know-how” alone isn’t enough! You need to “know-why.” – Shigeo Shingo

Tony Manos from 5S Supply and Robert Miller from Shingo PrizeI had the honor and privilege to introduce the final key note speaker, Robert Miller, at the First Annual Visual Workplace Summit in Salt Lake City last Thursday. Mr. Miller is the Executive Director of the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence. Bob used this quote during his inspiring address to remind us that it is timeless principles that lead us to operational excellence and not just the tools.

The Shingo Prize started in 1988 to educate, assess and recognize organizations that were able to sustain operational excellence. The new version of the criteria has been revamped to help companies focus on guiding principles (or ‘concepts’ as Dr. Shigeo Shingo would call them) as a way to instill values, systems, tools, results that create a culture of success.

A couple of key points that I took away were that to achieve operational excellence we should look at principles first, systems second and then to the tools, but many times we start [Lean implementations] with the tools to help create a system that has no or little effect (or worse, a deleterious effect) on our values.

Another key point is the structure or amount of time different levels of an organization should spend focusing on principles, systems and tools. Top management should focus much of the energy on the organizational principles. Middle management would probably spend most of their effort on creating effective and efficient systems. The associates [value-adders] would then spend most of their strength with the tools. BY allow each level to focus on these areas will help build a strong culture of achievement.

I would like to personally thank Bob for taking time from his busy schedule to speak to the Summit attendees and I appreciate all the effort that went into creating this model of operational excellence. I encourage everyone to learn more about it, please go to http://www.shingoprize.org/.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even apply for the award one day.