TPS Report Cover SheetRecently, while teaching a workshop one of the participants mentioned how at his (I’ll call him Les – to protect the innocent or guilty?) company they had many useless reports. Les even gave an example of writing in his report “Is anyone reading this?” and of course no one responded. Les asked his bosses if they could discontinue creating this useless report. The response was unquestionably “no”. One time, while performing an AIB audit Les had to go through an access in the ceiling to do an inspection. As he put it “someone took a picture of my big fat as*” going through the hatch. So this time he put that picture in the report to see if anyone would notice. Not a single response.

Maybe you can help me answer these questions:

  1. Why does management require so many useless reports?
  2. Do they know how much time is wasted creating these reports? Do they know how much time is wasted reading these reports? Do they know how much misinformation, inaccurate or incomplete information is in the reports? And worse, what poor decisions are made because of these reports?
  3. What do they do with the information when they get it?
  4. Do they use this as any sort of “Check” in Plan-Do-Check-Act?
  5. Is this just a CYA (cover your as*) move?
  6. If management really wants to know what’s going on, why don’t they just go to gemba (the place where the action occurs)?

I guess my questions are rhetorical; I think we already know the answers.

Now, having said all that, there may actually be some good and helpful reports; like good A3s.

For fun, if you have some other examples of useless reports, feel free to share them with us. – Tony

Great Customer Service

November 19, 2012

Here’s a story about how a company with a reputation for great customer service ‘tripped in their shoes’ but recovered magnanimously. While planning for the recent FABTECH conference in Las Vegas I thought it would be a great opportunity to visit Zappos — the online retailer with a great reputation for customer service (www.zappos.com). They have a simple system on their website to sign up for a tour. You’ll receive confirmation of your preferred day and time. They also send a fun video of employees telling you that they look forward to your visit. On top of all that, they offer a free shuttle service to their office. As customer service goes, that is top notch.

Here’s the hiccup – the shuttle didn’t show up! Ten minutes before the arranged pick-up time we joked about how funny it would be if the shuttle was late. Not funny. So we jumped in a cab and hurried to their offices. We were a little late and I wasn’t in the best mood at this point. We got checked in with our name badges and escorted into a room where they showed a video of the history of Zappos. From there our energetic host Dani led us around the facility to see some of the different departments.

Tape lines on the floor in an office

Tape lines on the floor in an office.

Being a student of Lean, the first thing that struck me was how there didn’t seem to be a trace of 5S; except for lines on the floor (I never thought I would ever see that in an office – it’s to make sure that employees keep their chairs from blocking the aisles). Creativity abounds and people are encouraged to decorate their work spaces with their own appeal. I didn’t get a chance to ask if people were able to find what they need in a timely fashion, but obviously this seems to work for them. I’m not sure I would personally feel comfortable in an environment like this, but they seem to be thriving with it.

Other interesting things included:

  • Monkey Row - Tony Hsieh

    Monkey Row

    Tony Hsieh’s (the president) cubicle is right in the middle of everyone else’s, no corner office; more in the middle of gemba. That area is also lovingly known as “monkey row” (see photo on right)

  • There is a minimal use of walls; most of the work areas are open. When employees (a.k.a. Zapponians) need some quiet for a place to meet they have breakout rooms. These rooms have different themes and seem to be very fun.
  • There are monitors along the walls that keep you updated with company business and other important information like the joke-of-the day and pictures of Zapponian’s pets.
  • To help keep the Zapponians happy there are free food and drinks. Although the Red Bull has a nominal charge that is donated to charity.
  • Fun is highly encouraged and practiced.
  • Every employee (a.k.a. Zappoians) was gracious even when we were in their way and they needed to get around us.

Zappos’ shuttle

So now the recovery, they gave Jennifer a really nice Zappos backpack and offered us a free ride in their shuttle to the airport which we gladly accepted. Thank you Zappos and Brittany our driver!

“We asked ourselves what we wanted this company to stand for. We didn’t want to just sell shoes. I wasn’t even into shoes – but I was passionate about customer service.” – Tony Hsieh

From http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/tony_hsieh.html#g9x90pmBxqkKeEbC.99

In the Sunday, April 1st edition of the Chicago Tribune Business section there was an opinion piece by David Grossman talking about Greg Smith, retired executive director at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Smith wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times talking about how his ex-employer cares more about making money than the interests of their clients.

It made me think “What would employees say about their particular company?” If an employee left and had the chance to tell you how they really feel about the company, what would they say? First of all, most employees that leave are leaving for a reason like a new job, just fed up, laid-off, moving or a myriad of other reasons, so they might not always have a glowing homage of their tenure there.

I remember when I left a company for greener pastures I declined to do the “exit interview”. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk about it; I just knew that whatever I told them would have absolutely no effect on how the company continued to operate. How did I know this? Because other people that left told me what they said during their exit interviews and I know that nothing changed because of their comments.

What would your employees say about your company? Would they say “management cares about the employees and customers?” Would they say that “management clearly communicates the vision and direction of the organization?” Or would they have other comments?

As any part of good hansei (honest reflection) think about what others would say about your company and then use these comments for continuous improvement.

The following post is from our comprehensive benchmarking survey and free eBook “The Very Best of 5S”.

Happy 5S Team

Happy 5S Team

The respondents were very generous with their suggestions on how to gain managements support. Here is an unabridged sampling of the ideas:

  1. Get them to do audits
  2. TRY to get them to come to lean presentation and/or opening closing sessions for Kaizen events
  3. They have been told to participate as part of their work goals
  4. Demonstrate the non-value time reduced by searching for items. The positive gains for staff and the patients [customers].
  5. Show results and find savings
  6. Steering Committee Meetings, strategic project directly tied to profit
  7. Presentation of the program, benefits and savings, customer appeal and smoother operation of company and reduction of concerns.
  8. It all needs to come down to money saved or made.
  9. Showing results of other areas.
  10. Encourage them to be actively engaged in the process & process audits; along with quick hit results via before and after conditions
  11. Adding it to their performance and tying it to their bonus.
  12. Conduct a 6S event so they can observe the results
  13. Find out what works and then have to share and promote those improvements
  14. Continuous improvement leads to better results and positive results always draw attention
  15. Quick Kaizen style power points demonstrating the power of simple fixes and how it impacts KPI’s and employee morale.
  16. I promote Go and See and before and after photos.  Once they see what we have accomplished they have a better understanding.  I have led some very successful kaizen teams in the year I have been here which is has built their trust in the program.
  17. 5S Report outs at Monthly Management Meeting updates.  Report outs to the Board of Directors. Sharing results.
  18. Pictured results are worth a thousand words…
  19. Via teaching
  20. Communicate our success with other internal locations.  Leadership can use this as bragging rights and motivation for other sites to step-up.
  21. Linking the 5S initiatives to the productivity of the area and showing financial benefits.
  22. Communication and tie in to vision—and tell a real story/experience
  23. Cost benefit/savings/bonus.
  24. Sell the positive gains.
  25. Keep suggesting ideas and find someone in the upper levels who can carry your messages forward.
  26. Data, we are a data driven company; audit results from our external auditor are reviewed by the entire plant.
  27. In our organization it actually took restructuring of lower level managers to increase the support for 5S.  However that shows the executive level cared and wanted a change to take place.  Now we have full support and mandates that help us when we deal directly with the shop floor.
  28. Take executive management on tour of the facility, have the staff tell them about what they have accomplished.
  29. Quantify improvements.  We measured cycle time to complete a process in the area before and after 6S.  This helped gain their approval for the efforts required to 6S the shop as well as their support in the program itself.
  30. The best way to obtain management’s support is to show them the benefit of a good 5S program and how it will affect the bottom line of the company – Money. Proper 5S will eliminate searching, choosing, walking, sitting, turning, laying down, and climbing. Also when customers come to visit they will be more impressed with a company utilizing proper 5S instead of items sitting all around.

To overcome or reduce initial resistance from management, we suggest working closely with the front-line supervisors. Determine what problems 5S would solve for them and help them get the results or solutions they are looking for related to 5S.


The following post is from our comprehensive benchmarking survey and free eBook “The Very Best of 5S”.

Management Support for 5S There are some very interesting findings related to management support:

  • The higher the level of management, the higher level of initial support
  • Supervisors provide the most amount of initial resistance and have one of the largest positive changes in current support
  • Managers have the largest positive change from initial support to current support

Initial and Current Level of Cooperation based on Management Level Rating scale: 1 = low, 5 = high

Supervisor Level of Support of 5S

Manager Level of Support of 5S

Executive Manager Level of Support of 5S

Vice President Level of Support of 5S

President/CEO Level of Support of 5S

As you can see from theses bar charts that the “current” level of cooperation from management is has shifted and is higher after initial implementation — with the most support typically coming from the President/CEO.

Sample comments from respondents

[We] Didn’t kick into high gear until the owners of the company say “we’re going to do this” and actively audited the facility daily for a few weeks.

Unfortunately the plant manager doesn’t buy in on this. He leads the way, and by his example it shows “he doesn’t care” to the plant. Very disappointing.

CEO supports the 5S efforts.

Senior Managers and Middle Managers need to show more support and Supervisors need to get more involved and hold their subordinates accountable.

Every level of Management is involved at our facility. We all know we have to be lean in order to be successful in today’s business world.

CEO driven.

The Very Best of 5S Benchmarking ReportIn the upcoming posts I plan to give some concise information related to our newly published eBook “The Very Best of 5S” which is based off of our comprehensive 5S Benchmarking Survey conducted in 2011.

For a complimentary copy please click here>> “The Very Best of 5S” Benchmarking report

Let’s start off with the Executive Summary

This manuscript is an in-depth report on 5S Workplace Organization and Standardization. It sheds light on how organizations have successfully created a 5S system or the obstacles and solutions they used to overcome them. Of those surveyed, the overall rank of the effectiveness of their 5S system is a 3 on a scale of 1-5 (1=low, 5=high). This is a clear indication that there is much room for improvement. There are many suggestions and comments presented here to help coach and guide organizations as they improve their 5S systems. The level of cooperation for 5S initiatives is initially low but increases with time with the most resistance coming from the supervisor level. Contrary to this is that upper management is generally supportive of a 5S system, but the top reasons for obstacles for implementation are “lack of management support” and “not enough time.” Another finding is that the amount of training spent on 5S training is relatively low (typically two hours or less). It seems that organizations have a hard time quantifying benefits from 5S (other than 5S Audits). Companies that did calculate the financial benefits proved that the return on investment far exceeds the cost of training, supplies and manpower. The lack of reward & recognition and the ability to engrain 5S into the organization’s culture is another impediment that must be overcome. Over 50 “best practices” are shared and many suggestions on how to properly create a 5S system or improve your current one are included.

So check out the report, share it with your colleagues and friends, have discussions and give us feedback on what you see. – Tony

I had an “ah-ha” moment while working with a team on developing measures & metrics to monitor their processes in a transactional environment. We talked about the usual things like: balanced scorecard, leading, lagging and real-time measures, quality, cost, delivery, balancing measures, realistic measures and so on. What was interesting to me was that they kept trying to create the “perfect” measure; one that would have no flaws, the one that would automatically tell them the absolute source of the problem.

I watched them discuss with this concept for a little bit because I wanted to see what their thought process was. After careful thinking, I spoke up and mentioned that we may never get to the “perfect” measure for any specific process, but we can get an indication that it is not at standard. I used the analogy of a pilot in a cockpit. In a jet plane there can be hundreds of status indicators, but at any one time the pilot is only monitoring a few. It is when a warning goes off that the pilot focuses on that particular one. So to put it another way, there may not be a “perfect” measure that automatically tells me the root cause of an abnormal situation; instead, if I get a warning about a process and have to investigate.

Measures & metrics can be like that; we may not find the flawless one, but we can find one that will help us understand when something is amiss. This also helps us create better measures & metrics as we learn more about our process. If we can create the impeccable measure then we should do it, but don’t let the fear of not creating it stop you. And don’t get into analysis paralysis.

On a side note, I was coming back from a trip and in the seat next to me was a pilot. When we talked about different airports, we kidded about Lindbergh Field in San Diego, CA; it can have a steep flight approach as it comes over hills right before the runway. The pilot mentioned that when flying an L-1011 that all sorts of warnings go off because of the tight fit. She also mentioned that they can visually see the runway and have it under control. So here’s to a visual workplace that allows us to do our job correctly, safely, on-time (hopefully for airlines) and satisfy the customer!

If you find perfect measures, let me know. – Tony


P.S. Here’s something that may help when trying to understand transactional processes: Metrics-based Process Mapping