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Yusen, We Have a Problem!: The ABC's of PDCA: Part 3 – CHECK, Please!!! – OR – We Can Learn a Lot from Hollywood

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, October 6, 2015

by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.

Continuing our PDCA Journey…

There's a moment in a lot of movies; a couple are at dinner – perhaps a first date – and something happens. One of them says something or does something and the other has a revelation, "WOW! This is going great! Let's take it to the next level." Or, "WOW! This is not working out. Let's cut our losses and run." Either epiphany, the exclamation is always the same – "CHECK, please!" – and it's comic gold. It's not (entirely) coincidental that the moment in PDCA where either the new process works or doesn't is called the "Check" phase.

Let's imagine that some savvy Hollywood producer decided to make KAIZEN RULES! The Movie. What would the cinematic version of these articles look like? Would it be a comedy, drama or thriller? Who would direct it? Would it be shot on film or in digital? Most importantly, who would play the author? Brad Pitt? Ryan Gosling? Don Rickles? Why can we spend time rating the super hunks instead of delving deep into Kaizen? Because the Check phase is the simplest of all the PDCA steps. You have already gathered data and stated the issue and goals in the Plan phase. The Do phase took the team through root cause analysis all the way through implantation of a new process. In the Check phase, there's really only one thing to do…

See if It Worked

Compare "apples to apples." If you did a time study of the process in Plan, conduct a time study in Check. Is it faster? If a KPI was gathered in Plan, collect that same data for Check. Is it better? If you analyzed cost per unit in Plan, analyze cost per unit in Check. Is it cheaper? If the answer is "Yes," congratulations, you have improved your rule! It's time to move onto the final chapter (and, sadly, the final article on Kaizen), the "Act" phase (coming next month) and make a new rule. Victory. In film terms, "Cut, print, check the gate…we're moving on."


If it is not better, faster, or cheaper, chances are root cause was not solved and it's time to go back to the Do phase – and this is where Hollywood comes into play again. There are three lessons that can be learned from the most successful studio executives regarding this critical moment – the "back to the drawing board" moment – the moment when it just isn't working.

The first lesson we can learn from Hollywood is:

Know When to Say When
Have you ever watched a new TV show that you love only to discover it's been canceled after one episode? "Why!?" you rail to the hills, "They didn't even give it a chance!" Studios have such clear cut metrics regarding how much a show costs to make and how much advertisers pay based upon a certain percentage of viewers (ratings – the ultimate KPI); executives know that if a certain viewership isn't achieved, their revenue projections won't be met and money will be lost; thus, they must act quickly on that data and pull the show, often replacing it with reruns of an already popular show. The takeaway from this is, as Kenny Rogers so eloquently sang, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run" (The Gambler was a TV show, so this ties in more brilliantly than one might initially think). Don't be shy, if you see your Check metrics aren't supporting the new process, you should cut your losses and try again. The faster ineffective solutions can be discarded, the faster something that works will be revealed.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Sometimes it is not easy to give up on a new process, especially when there were high expectations and many hours spent to create it. However, there are two other great lessons we can learn from the Hollywood boardrooms to help with this:

Let the Idea/Process Stand (or Fall) on Its Own
Don't become emotionally attached to an idea, even if it's your own. This is not easy, because now we are entering the realm of ego and ego is a stubborn collaborator. But, if Tinseltown, home of the biggest egos in the world, can drop a show by the hottest producer with the hottest stars, certainly we can let go of an obviously ineffective new way to unload a container.

Be Careful of Group Hysteria
Sometimes if an idea was created in a passionate heated "Aha!" moment, people that were there in the room tend to hold onto it as if it is infallible. The collective "Eureka!" moment is a dangerous thing to go beyond. People do not tend to let this go because, after all, if none of us is as smart as all of us and all of us came up with this, then if it doesn't work, what does that say about each of us? (See above, re: ego). In this moment, look at your Check data again and remember that there is a famous tale in Hollywood where a group of executives made a film version of Moby Dick where, in the end, Captain Ahab not only kills the great white whale, he survives and gets the girl. What girl??? Exactly.

Next month we conclude our "baker's dozen" series on Kaizen with the Act phase. Do not miss this final chapter or you'll have to sit back and patiently wait for the Hollywood reboot.

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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Tags:  Kaizen 

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