Theory of Constraints

Theory of Constraints

Summary
  This is a summary of the story and key lessons from the 1984 classic The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eli Goldratt that introduced the world to the Theory of Constraints. Goldratt has published multiple editions of the original book, and also adapted the TOC concept to project management theory with his book Critical Chain, published in 1997.   The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is an operations management method that views any system as being limited in achieving its goals by a small number of constraints. Every system has at least one constraint – TOC uses a focusing process to identify and eliminate the constraint, therefore raising the output of the entire system. “No Chain is Stronger Than Its Weakest Link”     The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement…
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Personal Kaizen: Habits

Personal Kaizen: Habits

Lesson
The Lean East team uses proven principles and tools of continuous improvement to support organizational change. The Toyota Motor Corporation developed many of these Lean continuous improvement principles, and one of the core principles of their Toyota Production System (TPS) is “Kaizen.”   Kaizen Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates to "change for the good.” Kaizen results from making many tiny improvements to a system or process. The accumulated improvements eventually lead to significant results. Kaizen applies to individuals in the same way it applies to organizations. Many small, repeated gains add up to a significant change; this is the “compound effect” at work. Most of us are too busy to take four weeks off from work to learn a language but we could easily make time for one 5-minute…
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The Business Case for Lean

The Business Case for Lean

Lesson
Five Lean East case studies that show the benefits of Lean Thinking The Lean East team is focused on teaching and applying proven Lean Six Sigma principles and tools to develop high performing organizations. We focus specifically on organizations that provide customers with a service (i.e. healthcare, government, financial, insurance, education, construction, repairs, etc.) rather than a product. Lean Six Sigma has a long track record of success in manufacturing, but only recently became embraced by service-based industries. Some of our clients use Lean thinking as a strategic differentiator – far surpassing their previous results (and their competition). Some of our clients select us because of our expertise in Lean Six Sigma methodology. Other clients have “no idea what this Lean stuff is about.” Our goal in this post is…
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The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto

Summary
  This post summarizes a wonderful book that is celebrating its ten-year anniversary. Atul Gawande wrote the best-seller The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right in 2009. It was the third book by the author and has become influential in healthcare and beyond. Gawande is a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. In June of 2018 he was named CEO of the recently formed healthcare venture Haven, owned by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase.   I’ll let Gawande summarize the core idea from his book: “Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields –…
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8 Lean Wastes: Transportation vs Motion

8 Lean Wastes: Transportation vs Motion

Lesson
  We enjoy teaching the 8 Wastes of Lean Thinking to our clients and the participants in our training workshops. As instructors, we share examples of wastes from our professional experience in both manufacturing and service-related organizations. Together, we brainstorm ways in which the wastes reveal themselves in our attendees' organizations. One question that gives us pause in every Introduction to Lean Thinking workshop is the request to explain the nuance of two 'movement' wastes - motion and transportation.     Motion The motion waste focuses on the movement of people or equipment that is unnecessary. It is any movement beyond the minimum required for completing the process step.  The motion waste is typically found within a workspace or process step rather than between steps. Walking to a community printer or searching for information or a tool are…
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7 Lessons from Good to Great

7 Lessons from Good to Great

Lesson
  Influential management professor Jim Collins released the popular Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don’t in 2001. The book is really a research project led by Collins as a follow-up to his book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. He researched hundreds of companies to identify sets of “good” companies where one became “great” while a close competitor failed. Collins and his team tried to discover what the “great” companies did differently from the comparison companies and the general market. The book is a bestseller that has become a management strategy classic on how to grow a successful company and our team has given the book as a gift to numerous organizational leaders. Key points can be summarized by the image below – this…
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When: Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

When: Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Lesson
  This post is a summary of the key learnings from the 2018 book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink. The book was an instant bestseller from the well-known author, and draws upon recent research from psychology, biology, neuroscience and economics. It is easy to read with many great examples and stories to demonstrate that Timing is really a science. This post synthesizes the main takeaways from each chapter of the book to save our readers some time!   Figure Out Your Daily When Are you a morning lark, night owl, or third bird? To find out, identify the midpoint of your typical night’s sleep- halfway between going to sleep and waking up. If the midpoint is before 3 AM you are probably a lark.…
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Developing High-Performing Organizations

Developing High-Performing Organizations

Summary
Lean East was founded in 2010 with a mission to bring out the best in organizations by bringing out the best in people. We focus on introducing proven Lean Six Sigma improvement methods to service organizations in Maine and New England – in industries including healthcare, government, insurance, construction, and finance. Many of the clients we have partnered with have had a common goal – to improve their culture and performance and provide better customer service. Some client organizations want to improve their processes and provide more customer value with less waste. Others focus more on changing work culture, training their leaders and staff, and improving teamwork. One client wanted to improve in multiple dimensions and move the company from good to great. A common theme with all our clients is…
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Selecting a Lean Project

Selecting a Lean Project

Summary
  The Lean East team has had several meetings in the past month with organizations new to Lean thinking. The leaders of these organizations want to improve processes and have learned that Lean principles work. But with all the problems and improvement needs in a typical organization, where do you begin?   When leaders ask us for input and support for selecting a Lean project, we share our simple project selection matrix. Here are the eight items we review and rate – each either passes or fails. We recommend prioritizing the projects that pass all, or nearly all, of the following criteria:   Important to the team and organization: Ensure the project you are considering is related to a critical organizational need. A successful project result needs to matter to…
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The Power of A3 Process Improvement

The Power of A3 Process Improvement

Summary
The Lean East team helps organizations learn how to use Lean thinking and tools to remove waste from their processes. We prefer to employ a “learn by doing” approach where we train and coach these methods while engaged in organizational improvement projects. If organizations already have an established improvement process we will work within that process and seek to improve it. But if the organization does not have a robust process in place (and most do not) then we recommend using the Lean East A3 Process Improvement tool.   Lean thinking Let’s define a few terms first. Lean refers to a philosophy and management strategy focused on customer value and respect for people. Lean is not about layoffs or running the organization on a shoestring. Lean is continually improving the…
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