Mr. Miyagi in unknown territory – Solving the correct issue

Read the part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this lean story by following the links.
After the enlightening session a day back, everyone was ready to identify their problems correct. Allan and his team waited in the meeting room even before Mr. Miyagi turned up, sharp at 9.30 am. Mr. Miyagi was very happy to see everyone in the room and greeted them with a nice smile. There was little bit of ice breaking went on for few minutes and then real brain storming took place. Everyone in the room contributed and not so surprisingly they came up with different set of issues and different list for priorities. Below are the first three priorities they came up with;

  1. 1.       No continuous customer feedback system
  2. 2.       Internal team collaboration issues
  3. 3.       Lack of customer support in the process

List was very long, and they ended up collecting 32 issues, providing a great starting point for the process. Mr. Miyagi, Allan and his team were very pleased with what they have achieved within the day. They were very much motivated and enthusiastic by the end of the day.

Mr. Miyagi started shifting the focus of the group for the next move, which is identifying the root causes to the problem. They decided to attack each problem by their importance. So the first task was to identify root causes the Customer feedback related issues. In the next meeting complete focus was on why “Continuous feedbacks from the customers are not taken?”. Mr. Miyagi used two lean tools, namely the Ishikawa Diagram (Or the Fishbone diagram), and the 5 Why technique. Mr. Miyagi explained how to use these tools to the participants and they were asked for their input for the root cause analysis. Mr. Miyagi started saying “Well, I know all of you understand the purpose of this exercise. In lean, if you do not attack the correct root causes to the problem, instead of adding efficiencies, we will add inefficiencies and we will do worse than we did before. So it is very important to understand the correct root causes to each of the problems we have identified” Mr. Miyagi paused for a moment and then added, “well, let me begin by asking you why do you think you do not have a continuous feedback system”. Team wasted no time, ideas started flowing. The team member assigned to take down the ideas took down all the ideas came out. There were large number of ideas and hence it needed some post processing to find out root causes. So some ideas were clubbed to make a root cause. For an example, shorter lead times for project, no times for meetings with customer, being too busy with day to day work to meet deadlines, were clubbed to under the category of “Lack Of Time For Feedback”. And some of the root causes were categorized in to parent and child depending on their relationship.

For each of the main root cause this process was repeated asking the magic question “WHY?” This lead to identification of the exact roots needed to be attacked. This process was completed successfully, finding eight root causes which need to be eliminated from the system. But Mr. Miyagi knew the process was not over until the customer had their say. Mr. Miyagi said “Allan, we need the input from the customer too. You will have to make this happen. We will need to talk to customers and make them agree for this process”. OK I will try; said Allan, but what are we going to do with them? We are going to do the same thing, replied Mr. Miyagi. OK then, replied Allan.

Allan managed to convince two of their current customers and one of their old customers for the process. Same process took place. They found some similarities between root causes, but found some remarkably different leads from their customers.

By the end of the process, Mr. Miyagi, Allan and his team had a fairly simple set of root causes to be solved, instead of seemingly complex issues. They applied various techniques in the lean arsenal to eliminate the root causes. It was by no means a walk in the park. But it was an interesting one, which Mr. Miyagi in particular enjoyed a lot.

After about six months, Allan’s team members got the grab of the lean process. Allan himself became a very knowledgeable in the lean process. Mr. Miyagi and the team had solved ten problems by this time. Allan and his team saw a significant improvement and it made them to work even harder. Mr. Miyagi planned the hand over and executed the plan. People were trained and allocated roles to push lean initiatives forward. Mr. Miyagi planned to exit by the end of the ninth month. Despite, Allan’s request to stay for long Mr. Miyagi was confident that process is now fit to run by itself and told him he can assist as and when required.

Mr. Miyagi was happy for the improvement he made. As much as Mr. Miyagi taught Allan and his team, Mr. Miyagi learned from them. Mr. Miyagi left the organization confidently. Allan’s team did better and better. Mr. Miyagi visited them on request and gave him expertise.

Did you learn something from this story? If so please leave your comments. Also do not forget to click the “LIKE” button if you like the story.

Mr. Miyagi in unknown territory – Identifying the problem

If you haven’t done so, please read the first and second parts of this story
With the last chat Mr. Miyagi had with Allan, he was trying to figure out the possible courses to the problem. Time passed and the Tuesday came. By 9.30, Mr. Miyagi was in front of Allan’s desk. To his surprise this time Allan was in this desk. Allan greeted Mr. Miyagi warmly. After all settled, Mr. Miyagi started presenting his plan.
Allan, I think I have to understand your process more. So I will sit with you in almost all the meetings you attend. Is that OK? Asked Mr. Miyagi. Well that is no issue. But what kind of meetings you want to sit in. internal or external meetings? Asked Allan. Both, replied Mr. Miyagi with a slight smile in his face. You are going to sit for a long time said Allan laughing loud. So I will sit in the meetings you have with your potential customers, ongoing project meetings and even in the meetings with the old customers. I want to understand what your customers need, added Mr. Miyagi. Well that’s fine. I will introduce you as a consultant to our company said Allan and Mr. Miyagi nodded in agreement.

Mr. Miyagi sat with the team from Allan’s company in every possible instance in their meetings, except for few confidential meetings. He was especially interested in understanding what makes customers unhappy. After about a month Mr. Miyagi started to understand some gaps in the process. For his trained eyes some of the processes seemed much disorganized. While attending the meetings and observing what people do, Mr. Miyagi discussed with employees of every level to better understand what they think. He took notes carefully and shared knowledge with Allan and the management and even with the other employees. By the time first part of his study ended, Mr. Miyagi decided normal lean practices has to be implemented carefully, under the radar, to avoid the resistance from the workers, who are very much happy with the existing way of work. He devised a plan with Allan. Allan with his experience in the trade and as the owner of the organization, and his vision where to be in the future, gave his valuable input to the plan.

Mr. Miyagi decided to use 5 Why technique straight from lean manufacturing books to get to the root cause of the main problems. But defining the problems was a hard task. Mr. Miyagi suggested a brain storming session. Allan agreed. So the first brain storming session was scheduled with selected people representing each area of work. Ground rules were set and the session began. Mr. Miyagi specifically let attendees know they will not be judged on their opinions and they do not have to try thinking whether their ideas are good or bad. If you have an idea, just put it out, said Mr. Miyagi. Ideas are what matters, he added.

It took about five minutes to get the first idea from the group, and phase picked up with the time went by. Mr. Miyagi soon ran out of space in the large white board where he jotted down all the ideas. And he had to get the help of computer attached to a projector to get down some of the ideas. At the end of the event the group came out with about 30 possible problems they see in the process. It all seemed very familiar to Mr. Miyagi, he recalled an instance where it took more than half an hour to get the first idea out and ending with around 20 ideas in only few minutes.

Now having a set of problems, it is the time to put them in order of importance. First task was to identify the three most important issues to tackle first. Mr. Miyagi gave all in the room, including Allan, half an hour to discuss the issues and come up with an order. He returned to the room after an half an hour and checked what the team came out with.

Allan and his team had some success in putting the problems in order of their importance to the system. Their list looked like below.

  •        Not getting signoffs from the relevant parties at the end of each phase of the project
  •        Testing time for the software is not enough
  •        Employees lacking motivation to complete the projects on time
  •        Delays in support services from other vendors
  •        No enough documentation of the process and so on…

Mr. Miyagi was looking at the raking given to the problems, and had a smile. With his unique accent, said to the audience, “you have done a very good job. I must say you have put your heads together to come up with these rankings”. All in the room clapped in joy. There was a great sense of relief in their faces. Mr. Miyagi was waiting till the room goes silent. Mr. Miyagi started speaking again.

“Let me tell you a story. I was working as a consultant for a paint manufacturer some years back. They were doing everything right, except their sales. They couldn’t simply sell what they manufactured. They sold some, of course, but not enough to get a positive bottom-line result. Do not misunderstand. They produced one of the most impressive paints including beautiful shades and vast variety of specialty products. Still they had the problem of selling them. They called me for help. After studying the system for weeks it was clear to me they haven’t answered one important question, and that makes all the difference. They failed to ask themselves “what our customer needs from us?” Do they value, what we think they value? In fact they found their customers do not value the product as they value their products. Customers looked at completely separate set of characteristics in evaluating their product. With series of activities they changed some core principles of their business to better align to the customer requirements. They are one of the leading companies in the trade today.”Mr. Miyagi paused and continues. “Let me ask you again. Do you think the order you put out is correct? You are trying to define value as you see it is. For an example, you will think testing product rigorously will make the customer happy. But is it the case? Or is it something else. Just think what your end customer would need from you. And we will re do this exercise tomorrow, once more with one critical change. That is with you in the shoes of your customers”

Everyone was listening to Mr. Miyagi and there was absolute silence in the room for few minutes. Mr. Miyagi introduced a key lean concept of “Value from the customer’s eye” to the group. Entire group was seemed enlightened on the subject. Everyone left the room except Allan. Allan came to Mr. Miyagi and said “that was one hell of a lesson. You put it through beautifully. I am seeing a complete new set of problems now than I saw few minutes back. Thank you Mr. Miyagi” Mr. Miyagi replied him with a rise smile and a humble look in his face. We will meet tomorrow, right at nine thirty, said Mr. Miyagi. With a great satisfaction of what he achieved today, he did some preparations for the next session.

Mr. Miyagi used two of lean manufacturing’s most important tools today. I am sure you were able to identify them when you read the story. What are those tools? What do you think about the teaching technique used by Mr. Miyagi? Do you agree to what he had to say? Or do you have a different idea? Please leave your comment below. Do not forget to click the “LIKE” button below.