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.