Are you good at multitasking? Think again!

Multitasking“Raise your hand if you believe that you are pretty good at multitasking”.

When I present this challenge to a group, typically about half of the people in the room respond by lifting their arms in the air.  Then we have a discussion about what multitasking is and why NO ONE has this “skill.”  We also use a simple exercise that demonstrates what is really happening with our brains when we attempt to take on two cognitive tasks at the same time (more about this exercise later).

Dave Crenshaw has blogged and written extensively about multitasking.  His premise is that this phenomenon simply does not exist.  In fact, he calls it a myth.

If you are one of those persons who raised your hand, perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve been juggling many things for a long time and I think I’ve been pretty successful in doing so.  What do you mean there is no such thing as multitasking?”

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Why fewer choices can provide higher profits

How many variations of products or services does your company offer?  A few?  A dozen?  A hundred? More?  Are all of these products really required to meet customer demand?  Does it make sense to provide all these choices to your customers?

choiceMany companies have embarked on a journey of product proliferation.  In an effort to capture more market share, we have seen an explosion of customization and niche marketing.  A trip to your local grocery or large retail store confirms this. For example, 352 distinct types of toothpaste were sold in 2010. There are entire aisles dedicated to cereal, dog food, and toilet paper. Have these companies enjoyed increased profits by offering all these new products?  Not necessarily…

In this post, we will briefly discuss the implications of having too many products (choices) on both (1) revenue and (2) costs.

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Think Quick! Can you work faster AND safer?

 “You can observe a lot just by watching”

Yogi Berra

faster and saferOne of the foundational Lean tools is QCO (quick changeover), which is also sometimes referred to as SMED (single minute exchange of die).  SMED includes a set of techniques that make it possible to perform equipment set-up and changeover operations in less than 10 minutes.  Not every changeover can be completed in this amount of time.  However, any operation would benefit from using this Lean tool if there is a requirement for:

  • a change in “lot” types
  • a process or set-up change

For this discussion, I will use the term QCO as being interchangeable with SMED. Most of the time, the opportunity for implementing QCO in a process is driven by the need for greater flexibility, quicker delivery, better quality, or higher productivity.  These are indeed significant benefits that are realized –  because this approach identifies and removes some of the eight sources of waste.  But there is an equally significant benefit to assessing a process and implementing QCO: the resulting process changes often make setups simpler & easier – and therefore faster and safer. The following case studies demonstrate how using QCO principles can lead to work which is not only completed in less time, but is also safer. Continue reading

Why can’t we get people to do simple things?

  • behaviorHave you ever wondered why some people don’t seem to be motivated to take action, even when what you are asking them to do is clearly the “right thing” ?
  • Have you noticed that some desirable habits are relatively easy to develop, while you struggle to make other habits a part of your routine?
  • Have you become frustrated when someone repeats a poor habit or behavior, in spite of a recent detailed coaching conversation?

Dr. BJ Fogg of Stanford University developed a behavior model that helps us to understand how to influence someone.  The Fogg Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger.  When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing or insufficient.  His model is depicted in the graphic below.

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Ask 3 questions to challenge the status quo

Regardless of the approach that is used for continuous improvement, at some point in the process the team will engage in a discussion to identify potential solutions.  The most common methods include silent brainstorming or a round-robin format, collecting the ideas from all team members for consideration by the team.  Often, this can be very productive.  A sufficient number of ideas is obtained and the team reaches consensus on which ones to implement.

However, one limitation of these conventional brainstorming techniques is that the ideas are generated within our existing paradigms.  In other words, every one thinks about potential solutions in the context of how we currently do things.  As a result, the improvements that are made tend to be incremental in nature.status quo

But what if we are seeking significantly higher levels of performance?  Will the ideas that the team implements be sufficient to get us there?  Or what if we have already made several improvements to the process, but the performance level is still not where we need it to be?

The team may need to leverage an alternative way of thinking to generate new and different solutions.  The Creative Challenge E/R/A approach is designed to question the current solutions.  It allows us to investigate the current way that work gets done – and surfaces alternative solutions that could be even better than the existing ones.

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How do you set expectations?

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”
―    Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to work with a group of four supervisors at a manufacturing site.  I spent a week with each supervisor, with the objective of getting to know each person better.  After a month rotating among the supervisors, it was clear that there were stark differences in how each of them related to their respective crews.  The contrast in styles was greatest when comparing Mitch with Harold.

Mitch considered himself to be “old-school” and was proud of it.  He had spent nearly twenty years in various line positions at the plant, eventually working his way into a senior operator role before being promoted to supervisor.  He was a no-nonsense guy who ruled with an iron fist and a commanding voice.  His philosophy was to set the rules and hold people accountable when they were violated.  Mitch believed his primary responsibilities were to “keep the line running” and to “make sure that no one does anything stupid.” During the shift, he could often be found in the supervisor’s office area, unless the line was down for some reason.  His crew tended to have the least senior people, mainly because there was a lot of bidding to move to another supervisor’s crew.

Harold also spent many years as an operator in the same facility before accepting a supervisor position.  He had a calm demeanor and spent most of his time on the floor, listening to his crew members.  He frequently answered any questions with a question of his own, “What do you think we should do?”  Harold challenged his crew to come up with solutions, not just to identify the problems.  I would overhear him privately praising each person, telling them that they were among the best operators he had ever been around.  When someone made a mistake, he would make it a point to ask the individual what lesson was learned and what we could do differently the next time.  Harold’s crew had the most senior people.  It was clear that they respected Harold and valued the opportunity to work on his crew.

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