Change will happen. Change will affect everyone – including you. Change is constant happening. The way to manage change is to manage the “dip” in performance that occurs every time a new change is introduced. Managing it means that you will have to try to make the dip in performance as small as possible! If it is not managed and the dip gets too profound – you might be certain that you will have a very hard time implementing your change and making it happen!
Kanban (看板) is pronounced /’kan’ban/ and means ”visual board” – where kan means “visual,” and ban means “card” or “board”. Kanban is a concept developed at and used by Toyota. It is related to lean and just-in-time (JIT) production.
On the surface, there isn’t much difference between an average task board and a kanban board. Each of these boards has various columns that represent the stages that a card needs to go through before it is considered done. The real difference in a kanban board, is not the board itself. The board is just a visual indicator, the same as any task board, and the intention is still to get the cards to the “DONE”-state – that is, delivered to the customer so that they can use the features from that card.
Kanban is not an inventory control system. Rather, it is a scheduling system that tells you what to produce, when to produce it, and how much to produce.
So, what is the purpose of Kanban? In short it tries to:
Visualize the workflow Split the work into pieces, write each item on a card and put on the wall.
Use named columns to illustrate where each item is in the workflow.
Limit WIP (Work In Progress) – assign explicit limits to how many items may be in progress at each workflow state.
Measure the lead time (average time to complete one item, sometimes referred to as “cycle time”), optimize the process to make lead time as small and predictable as possible.
Create flow focus on the throughput based upon the queuing theory.
Identify and eliminate bottlenecks - Bottlenecks become clearly visible in real-time. This leads people to collaborate to optimize the whole value chain rather than just their part.
Pull system features/tasks are pulled through the system instead of being pushed.
“Engineers at the Toyota Technical Center use hetakuso-sekke, which is the small booklet containing the failures experienced in the past.” Kunihiko Masaki, former President of Toyota Technical Center, Ann Arbor
Despite colossal investments of both human and capital resources, most companies have continued to struggle to make organizational learning a true competitive advantage. Once reason is because their focus has typically been on tools that manage explicit or procedural knowledge, which is, although expensive, relatively easy to do, and easy for competitors to replicate. It is in leveraging “tacit” knowledge, or know-how that is the greatest source of competitive advantage. The focus must be on tools that help the organization change the way things actually get done. This type of knowledge is embedded in people and culture; it is around tacit knowledge that the best learning tools and technologies are built and designed.
“In business, excess information must be suppressed. Toyota supresess it by letting the products being produced carry the information.” Taiichi Ohno
After all, product development is information flow among many specialists. Stop communication, stop information flow, and you stop product development. Now, instead of “throwing the design over the wall”, engineers are taught to communicate concurrently with a team of upstream and downstream specialists – across functions.
Given that everyone agrees that communication is crucial to good product development, what is left o say on this subject? Actually, quite a bit, including the fact that more communication is not necessarily better. And that sometimes face-to-face communication is not as good as written documents. And that large-scale collocation may not necessarily be all it’s cracked up to be.
A3 refers to standardized communication format, a disciplined process of expressing complex thoughts accurately on a single sheet of paper. A3 is a standardized technical writing methodology to create a report on one side of a standard size piece of paper to guide problem solving and achieve clear communication across functional specialties. There are four types of different A3 forms:
Hoshin management (a.k.a. policy deployment) is an effective tool for aligning an organization toward the achievement of broader goals or objectives and allowing that organization to react quickly to a changing environment. In a lean organization, hoshin kanri is generally an annual planning tool that aligns the organization’s long-term vision with its shorter-term activities while also aligning the efforts of people in the organization with the goals of the organization.
There are six primary components to hoshin. The first of these is company vision – the long-term vision of where the company wants to go, what it is, and what it wants to become. The annual hoshin complements company values. There are four phases to hoshin at Toyota:
Strategic planning. Strategic planning has different levels in a broad sense, it can mean developing a ten-year strategic plan identifying the specific target market for the entire company. Hoshin is not used for this except as a vehicle for considering a set of short-term steps to achieve the long-term vision. Like other strategic planning approaches, hoshin identifies problems and opportunities based on company performance and other environmental data (including shortcomings from previous hoshin). This, in turn, can be used to develops a near-term, future-state vision based on these factors.
Hoshin deployment. Deployment statements must be based on facts and data, be operationally viable, and be aligned with the six primary hoshin components. At each level of deployment, the participants go through a goal-negotiation process called catchball. This catchball process allows participants to develop a clear understanding of the hoshin and enables the hoshin recipient to “enroll” in the objectives.
Controlling through metrics. Both results and means are measured and reviewed on a regular basis in a PDCA methodology.
Check and act. During the year, managers measure actual progress against the goal and make necessary adjustments. In most cases, managers are required to develop a fallback plan that they can implement if the difference between the goal and reality is too great
A key to using hoshin effectively is to close the loop through rigorous reviews at each level. Each pair of levels must first agree on the critical few objectives for the year and how they will be measured. Although problems are addressed during this performance review, the meeting focuses on the hoshin – the specific objectives of the individual to meet the high-level strategic objectives.
The ringi system is a more formal decision-making process used for handling significant decisions. In the ringi process, a small team of people with the necessary expertise is assigned to analyze some specific issues or challenge and recommend a solution. At the conclusion of the analysis process, the team creates a decision document called a Ringi-sho, which outlines the challenges, the countermeasure, and the potential implications, both positive and negative, of adopting the proposal. The team then meets with all managers who will be affected by the proposal and requests their approval. Sign off on the proposal is traditionally done with a manager’s hanko, a personal stamp used only by managers at a certain level.
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” Bill Gates, president and CEO, Microsoft
Companies around the world are trying to find ways to accelerate product development, seeing this as a way to improve competitive advantage. In many cases, their efforts to speed up the PD process focus on advanced technology. Successful utilization of such tools and technology depends on the ability to customize them in a way that makes them exclusive and integrates them uniquely to the company using them. This successful implementation in Toyota is due to that it is important to recognize that this occurs only because Toyota has had the foresight and discipline to customize tools and technology to fit within a broader framework, one that includes people and processes.
Sasa Stamenkovic (LinkedIn Profile) works as an Agile Coach at Klarna. He has nine years of miscellaneous experience in the software industry within the areas of Management, Project Management, Change Management, Software Development, Sales and Test.