by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.
Continuing the discussion on PDCA Methodology (Plan/Do/Check/Act)…
At this point in our metaphorical "diet/exercise" program (see last month's article) the "before" picture has been taken. Operations should have a snapshot of the process as it looks today – nothing's been done, nothing's been changed. The procedure has been documented, data collected, a problem specifically stated and a goal S.M.A.R.T.-ly created (say that out loud…it rhymes….this was not accidental).
Now that all this data has been gathered, it's time to DO something with it…
This is the phase in the diet/exercise regimen, where the heavy lifting occurs – action is taken. Most of the PDCA process is spent in DO. To be honest, some of it is nebulous magic. Some of it is diligent problem solving. Some of it is pure blind luck. Basically what is about to happen is the team is going to, metaphorically, throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks (determining what sticks is another phase – CHECK please!). Hopefully this will be an educated throwing of a bunch of stuff at the wall because the team has spent quality time gathering the information in PLAN. But there is some trial and error about to take place. Hats should be collectively hung on to…
Some free advice: before even attempting to analyze any data or figure out a solution, please take a moment to do two things:
Stop the bleeding. First rule in first aid, first rule in PDCA. If there is a major issue that has caused this, do whatever it takes to mitigate the damage. Whatever. It. Takes. If there have been a series of mis-ships and you have a very unhappy customer on the phone, telling them that you've formed a blue ribbon PDCA team and are just entering the DO phase may not cut the proverbial mustard. Before you DO, make sure you put a Band-Aid on the problem. Yes, that may mean approving extra overtime or adding an extra set of eyes (or four) to the process and, yes, this is operation's expense, but the meantime fix will give you the breathing room to really address the problem. And speaking of breathing room…
Hansei. Take a moment to Hansei. This is a Japanese term and is (as nefariously appropriated by the author) a moment of reflection. "Yes, a mistake was made and we pledge to fix it and do better." This doesn't mean that operations are a failure or that anyone is a bad [insert job title here]. It just means mistakes were made. Oftentimes, not any of the readers of this column, of course, but oftentimes the first step in dealing with a problem is searching through e-mail to find that one message that proves "See it's not my fault" and there is plenty of time for post mortems after the problem is solved. Take a moment. "Yes, we goofed. We're going to fix it."
Obviously these two steps are only applicable in the event of an actual service failure. Having said that, feel free to Hansei at any time. Ponder ways to improve even on projects that were total successes – but don't forget to also reflect on your awesomeness!
After first aid and reflection occur, there are only three steps to the DO phase.
Three simple steps.
Three simple, but not easy steps.
These three steps are the majority of the journey.
FIND Root Cause
See last month's article for more on the critical importance of pushing to find the actual root cause, not just "a" cause. Your time and your resources (your money) will thank you.
BRAINSTORM a Potential Solution
This is the "fun" part. The part where, for the first and probably only time, you will be encouraged to sit in a room and talk about stuff. Hopefully you've genchi genbutsu'ed enough in the PLAN phase while gathering data. You can afford to sit and talk a bit now. You have root cause. You have the old process. How are they not connecting? What could be done differently. Take the conversation down as many roads as you can. Really put the idea on trial and once a general consensus is met and no more holes can be poked in the suggestion…
IMPLEMENT the New Process
That's it. Give it the ol' college try. Start small – one operator or one shift or one order. Put the new process in place – and don't worry about making it formal at this point. You don't know if the new process is going to work, so you should roll it out with as little hoopla as possible. This is not the time to update SOP's or retrain anyone. Just find a few operators and quickly show them what to do and then, let them DO it.
Next month (CHECK please!) we will discuss how to evaluate whether or not the new procedure works.
Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.
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