Process Improvement Blog


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Assessing for Continuous Improvement... or Not

April 18, 2014

You may have heard something about the ‘Nine Box’ employee assessment approach. I really don’t know who thought it up, but the academics love it and GE seems to have taken it to an art form. Like most of what academia and GE view as a grand. Critical concept, it is a very, very good idea that misses the critical point entirely. The problem is that it is built on the notion that their tried and...

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You don't need Eastern mysticism to be world class

March 19, 2014

I don’t know much about Canadian politics – I have a few very, very good Canadian clients but nights in Canadian hotel rooms are more apt to be spent catching up on my reading or watching reruns of Duck Dynasty than taking in the news. The exception, of course, is any time the mayor of Toronto is in the public eye. The boys from Duck Dynasty can’t hold a candle to him for sheer hoot value.


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America Makes ... little sense somethimes

March 18, 2014

Autonomation, for those unfamiliar with the term, is ‘automation with a human touch'. A very good definition can be found at

Technological innovation that enables machines to work harmoniously with their operators by giving them the 'human touch.' Called jidoka in Japanese, it employs automatic and semi-automatic processes to reduce physical and mental load on the...

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Barkin' at the moon in Saskatoon

March 06, 2014

In the movie Hoosiers there is a great quote from one of the local team supporters who says to the new coach, “Look, mister, there's... two kinds of dumb, uh... guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and, uh, guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don't matter, the second one you're kinda forced to deal with.”

It is because of the undeniable logic in...

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Catching up on the news

February 20, 2014

Having a good excuse for failure …

In case you missed it, Toyota is closing its operations in Australia, following the lead of Ford and GM (that’s who they mean when they say Holden). Some 2,500 employees are out of a job – close to twenty times that figure when suppliers are added in. “This is devastating news for all of our employees who have dedicated their lives to the company during the...

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Lean Accounting - Just another vehicle for managing by the numbers?

February 04, 2014

A good and wise friend recently asked me, “Isn’t lean accounting an attempt to change the numbers, but still just a destructive vehicle enabling managing by the numbers?

The quick answer is, “Yes”, that is exactly what it is; albeit a less destructive way of managing because it provides better numbers.

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Living inside a Box of their own making

January 29, 2014

If you are reading this you might be very wise. If this is all you read, then not so much. But if it is one of a few different manufacturing or business oriented sites you it then kudos to you!

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Hyperbole and Value Stream Mapping

January 20, 2014

The last thing anyone should need is for me to explain or defend Bob Emiliani. He forgot more about lean just this morning than most of us will ever know. Yet here I go … to deal with the fallout from his recent post, Lean Heresy, in which he opened with the suggestion, “Let’s get rid of value stream maps.” In case anyone missed the point, he closed with, “So get rid of value stream maps and do...

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That is the question

January 15, 2014

You’re either moving ahead and you’re improving and you’re making it more valuable and more useful to the customer, or you’re not” - Alan Mulally

That pretty well lays it out there, doesn’t it?

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Process Excellence Week 2014 - Look out for the Bear Traps!

January 10, 2014

Lately I have been somewhat bombarded with information about an event called PEX – Process Excellence Week going on the week after next in Florida. Seems like a high potential, but also high danger event to me. By way of full disclosure one of the reasons for my being subject to such bombardment is that the host of the blog – iDatix – is participating. That said, I have no involvement in it and...

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Branding, Company Values and Bovine Scatology

January 07, 2014

A guy named Steve McKee wrote about branding and brand management over at BusinessWeek lamenting the fact that a lot of companies don’t back their slogans and catch phrases up with action. That’s a bad thing, he points out. His advice: stop doing that. Good advice, I’d have to say, although not too terribly helpful. He is a marketing and ad guy, however, so I suppose our expectations should not...

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Engendering Better Financial Leadership

January 06, 2014

CFO dot com is always good for a hoot, and an article called “How to Engender a Performance Culture” from a few days ago doesn’t disappoint. The guys who wrote it acknowledge that (1) culture is important and (2) most companies’ cultures are pretty pathetic, then go on to get hopelessly tangled up in their shorts trying to figure out what accountants should do about it.

Nothing too shocking in...

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Do the Right Thing Shingo

December 24, 2013

For years the people running the Shingo Prize have engaged in blatant discrimination, denying the leanest organization in the world the right to an on-site assessment and, therefore, consideration for the award on the basis of the fine print in the award criteria that states “The Shingo Prize accepts applications from around the world, provided we are capable of sending an assessment team to the...

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The Shared Purpose

December 20, 2013

There is a lot out there about culture. Much of it like this recent piece from Michael Mankins from Bain is good, but like most it is very incomplete. He describes cultures that might make work more interesting, or fun, or unusual but those are hardly the things that drive people to dig deep and collaborate to take things to new heights … and sustain them. People need more than that if they are...

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Doin’ the Gemba Strut

December 18, 2013


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The best comeback since Scrooge

December 18, 2013

Everyone loves a good redemption story around the holidays, and this one comes as near to Ebenezer Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning, realizing he has been on the wrong path and resolving to change his evil ways as the lean world gets.

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I'm Glad You Asked

December 03, 2013

Lots of good question sent into the Manufacturing Leadership Center recently ... let me catch up on a few of the answers :

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He got the map upside down

December 03, 2013

If you are following a complicated list of directions to get somewhere, and you make a wrong turn late in the journey you can easily ask directions and get to your destination. However, if the first turn you make is wrong – you go the wrong way right out of your driveway, you are doomed. When you make the last turn you are so far from your destination no one can help you. That is the sad case...

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What do monkeys, Tim Geithner and cat urine have in common?

November 18, 2013

Answer: They all made for interesting news recently ...

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Fundamentals of Performance Metrics

November 17, 2013

Received a question the other day:

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Respect Versus Scorn for Humanity

November 12, 2013

Marissa Mayer, the honcho at Yahoo, should get down on her knees and thank the Lord every night that she was born when she was and not 147 years sooner. Had she come into the world then it would seem very likely she would have made the trek to California with her neighbor to the south Mr. James Reed, instead of on her own as was possible by the time she moved from Wisconsin to Palo Alto. She and...

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The Think System

November 11, 2013

For the few who haven’t seen it, The Music Man is a classic musical comedy from back in the 60’s. “Masquerading as a traveling band instructor, Professor Hill plans to con the citizens of River City into paying him to create a boys' marching band, including instruments, uniforms, and music instruction. Once he has collected the money and the instruments and uniforms have arrived, he will hop...

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Cost Accounting Trumps Strategy and Leadership

November 08, 2013

Jeff Immelt is most likely an honest guy. He is probably sincerely stating his beliefs, his vision for GE and his perception of basic economics when he said just 8 months ago, “supply chain and materials” are the important cost elements driving a plan to bring GE manufacturing back to the United States. He is correct when he says that a 1% higher yield in materials offsets and labor differences...

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Using 50 KPI's to Measure Waste

November 04, 2013

For starters, if you are thinking about paying a PR outfit to promote your book or whatever else you might be peddling to the business community, think again. I get bombarded – I mean a couple dozen a day – with email from PR folks with a suggestion for blog content; always another former CEO or a consultant with some cockamamie new buzz word or “The 10 Secrets to Outrageous Profits”. They are...

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Theory Versus Experience

October 30, 2013

"People are experience-rich and theory-poor. Lots and lots of experiences but don't have the time to try to make sense of them" I came across this quote attributed to a writer for The New Yorker by the name of Malcolm Gladwell, and it strikes me pretty insightful when it comes to lean. Of course the opposite is true when it comes to quite a few academics and some of my consulting brethren – they...

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