ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS

As a leader, you grow to either welcome or loath two specific words – NOW and WHY. The boss wants it now and and ‘why’ is the question you ask your team when they cannot deliver. All to often delivery under a tight deadline entails the leader attempting to quickly and often inaccurately asses the ‘situation’. Generally the results are added cost and lower productivity. 

How many times has the easy answer revolved around scalability? Just add another shift, bring in more temps, turn up the air pressure, add more chemical, cut corners….

When the boss screams ‘NOW’ – Good leaders can become very poor leaders very quickly. Hence the crucial importance of Root Cause Analysis. Great leaders know that their core role is to focus the team. Root Cause Analysis and the data that supports it – drives clear focus. 

Shooting from the hip has a place in business but generally not repetitive operations. In fact, multiple guess and supposition can very quickly become quite costly. Additionally, more times than not – bringing in an expert is often slower that simply using a disciplined approach to query your teams. 

MORE THAN LINGO

It’s not magic. It’s a method. The most simple of which is just asking why 5 times. Try it sometime when the machine doesn’t produce the numbers it should. Make sure to ask the team, not the leaders. 

DELIVER REAL RESULTS

When you find out why – TRACK THE FREQUENCY. Simple tic sheets are a great way to visualize just how great the opportunity is. 

TEACH THEM TO FISH

Do not discuss solutions with the teams of the staff until they provide concrete data. Teach your teams to provide data illustrating the problem and teach them to use the same data to prove the problem is resolved. 

 

 

ASSESSMENT – Process Stabilization, Maximize Productivity

 Chaos breeds inefficiency and opportunity. Imagine the worst case scenario: late shipments, equipment broke down, no available skilled labor, specialized workforce (non-cross function, absorbsion off target, excess budget spend, inflated inventory, no raw material – The perfect storm from years of poor leadership and neglect.

 

ISOLATE THE CRISIS

 Leaders know they cannot attack all problems at the same time and create any “real” change. While “firefighting” must continue to run a business during transition, the strategic group must focus on top opportunities. To begin this process efficiently, it is best to isolate the chaos into manageable pieces that have be best chance of success aligned to priority (defined by customer or value stream) and fast execution – with the least capital and resources.

 

Grid the story

 A simple way to look at the organization is to put it in a scoring grid. Assume the scoring metrics as (10 being most important/higher cost etc.) : [Customer Priority 1-10] , [Capital 1-10], [Resources 1-10]

Now, let’s take a look at a mock setup:

 

 

ASSESSING THE GRID

 Utilizing this technique can provide an easy to follow initial direction when diving into a culture of chaos. The key is to ensure that resources do not walk away until the process is “fully stabilized”. After process stabilization, then begin process optimization.

 

(Process Stabilization, Maximize Productivity)

 

 

       LEARNING TO SEE REAL WASTE

FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW

Anyone in the leadership business for a while has probably heard the term MUDA. This was the proverbial Japanese term for process waste. Recall the following:

  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Over-Processing
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Transport
  • Defects

Incredibly simple, any leader can follow this standard to identify opportunities for improvement. One would think, staying on top of these wastes would create the most efficient environment ever! The reality is quite different.

THE PERCEPTION OF WASTE CHANGES FROM THE VANTAGE POINT

Recall the last time you may have been involved in a product launch. Out of time, over budget, and likely producing scrap – the process was put on the floor without a proper runoff and verification. What happens next, is some sort of stabilization to meet customer orders. Usually with lots of overtime and more people than expected from the original cost portfolio.

The lean leaders in the plant do a pretty good job of coming in and cleaning up the low hanging fruit then it is off to the next project.

What is left is a big steaming pile of micro waste. More than likely, operators are taking to many steps, there is no automation in label making or scanning, quality checks were put in line with the process but not balanced with the machine takt time, and on and on.

When the team member brings this up to the supervisor it is ignored and eventually never gets brought back up again.

Sound familiar?

GREAT LEADERS KNOW WHERE TO LOOK FOR THE REAL WASTE

Short term thinking and strategic planning force us to go after the “big fish” projects and rightly so. However, ignoring the waste at the micro level will cost you more in the long run. Think about it. When you hired Bill – unemployment was 10%. He was more than happy to have job. Later, the economy improves and unemployment follows with it – say 3%. Now Bill has had to manually print his own labels, manually do his own quality checks, walk 4 miles a day versus 1 because of poor machine layout, and rarely gets anyone to listen him about the waste in his work cell. What is Bill going to do? Move on! While as leader,  you may have gotten that fantastic bonus for identifying and executing that big fish project -you failed to sprinkle any resources to support your CULTURE and WORKFORCE development.

BUILD A CULTURE OF WASTE IDENTIFICATION AT ALL LEVELS

It is crucial as a leader to build waste identification and communications systems at all levels. While our resources are not infinite, you can still enact change. Train the workforce and empower them to resolve opportunities. Does it really take a college degree to enact a management of change document for a process change suggestion? Of course not. The effective workforce of tomorrow has no roadblocks and is empowered to “own” their process. We will examine how the folds into “servant” leadership in another post.