Frequently Asked Questions

Become One of the 'Elite'

What I Can Help You With

How do I find the slides and spreadsheets that accompany the books?

All the slides and spreadsheets can be found on the Bonus Content page.

Can I see the full Table of Contents for the books?

The full Table of Contents can be found on the Bonus Content page.

Where can I see the Lean Game video?

The Lean Game video is on the Bonus Content page.

Is that a real example showing the financial benefits of improving productivity?

It is. The example I use in Step 1, is based on a real company in Europe and, while the figures are simplified for clarity, they exactly match that company’s experience. The logic is perfectly sound.

Why kick off with the Lean Game? Is it really necessary?

I think so. For me, the Game works well for the following reasons –

– It’s an enjoyable and practical way of learning the basic ‘Elite’ principles,
– It’s an excellent team building exercise for the core team and senior management, and
– It provides good examples of improvements that you can refer to later in the program

Running this Game (or similar) with your combined core team and senior management group, gives a huge impact to your ‘Elite’ kick-off. As a minimum, run the Lean Game Video with your group.

How important is top management support for a successful ‘Elite’ project?

Very important. It’s the single biggest factor in ensuring a long-term successful ‘Elite’ program. Most people are “boss-watchers” and take their cues on attitudes and behaviours from their top management.

Thus, it’s critically important that your top management provides open and enthusiastic support, and quickly resolves any cross functional problems that arise.

Can I run an ‘Elite’ project alongside other improvement projects?

You’re better not to. ‘Elite’ is such a holistic and wide-ranging improvement program that you should ensure no other improvement initiatives can conflict or interfere with it.

If you already have other improvement initiatives on-going that may conflict, then stop or abort them to allow the ‘Elite’ program to progress unhindered, or delay the ‘Elite’ program until any conflict is clear.

Does the Core Project Team have to be available full time?

Yes, if possible. Your ‘Elite’ programwill deliver the quickest and best results if your core team members are available full time. However, in some smaller companies, it can be difficult to find suitable backfill.

Then, as a minimum, you should have the project team leader available full time, and the other members of the core team available at least 50% of their time. But the project will then take much longer to complete.

Is your way of Value Stream Mapping too simplistic?

Not at all. My ‘Elite’ approach is simple and effective. You only need to map your as-is value stream sufficient to challenge out your new ‘Elite’ ways of working, as I show in Step 2.

You therefore only need to spend about a couple of hours on it. I’ve seen too many examples of people spending days or even weeks developing as-is maps that are wholly unnecessary.

Why do a Blue Sky Vision and then a Practical Vision?

I use the Blue Sky Vision to change the perception of the in-house project team on what’s possible compared with the as-is process. Once they’ve changed their mindset, it becomes much easier for them to develop an ‘Elite’ Practical Vision that will deliver radical improvements within a year.

Having said that, I give two non-manufacturing examples in Step 2, the HR Process and the Invoicing Process, where the ‘Elite’ teams developed and then implemented their Blue Sky Vision.

Can I apply ‘Elite’ to all my Support Functions in the same way?

Yes, you can. I use QA/QC in Step 8, to illustrate how to use the approach in a Support Function, but you can apply the same approach in any Support Function in a similar manner. Contact me via the website if you have a problem.

Do I need to implement a Process Oriented Organisation (POO)?

To me, it makes sense to consolidate your ‘Elite’ benefits by changing the organisation along process lines, and POO is the most effective way of doing this. When implemented properly, ir provides a huge improvement in personal performance and behaviours across the company, and a welcome change in culture.

Few people that have experienced a POO environment would ever go back to the more traditional way of operating. But it’s not easy, and you should not embark on it until your ‘Elite’ pilot project is almost complete, and your people are comfortable with the ‘Elite’ culture.

Can I use OEE rather than your OAE?

It depends how you define OEE. I always use OAE as the harshest possible measure of operational effectiveness, so that I deliver the highest possible performance.

I show the difference between OAE and the more usual measure of OEE in Step 5. However, if you define your OEE in exactly the same way as I use OAE, then that’s fine.

What should be the Number One Focus in Non-Manufacturing ‘Elite’ programs?

Getting things right first time. By doing this, you will automatically give yourself the best chance of achieving very short lead times and high productivity. See Step 6.

When should I use Bulk Demand and when Rhythm Wheels?

Most batch manufacturing operations make a bulk product first and then pass it through finishing or packaging or assembly operations to produce finished products. Use the bulk demand approach to provide a consistent, predictable load pattern at the front end, and use the rhythm wheel approach to match supply to demand at the back end.

Is the rhythm wheel category with the highest volume always Category A

No, it’s not. As the number of categories reduces, the highest volume might be a Category B (runs every two weeks) or a Category C (runs every four weeks). You arrange the categories to suit your particular application.(See Step 2 and Step 9).

POO – “Only two levels of hierarchy within a PU?”

That’s right. In Step 2 and Step 12,I state that ideally, there should be no more than two levels of hierarchy within a PU. The whole point about POO is to free up the inherent skills and attributes in the workforce that are usually stifled at work by too many layers of unnecessary management.

You absolutely don’t need them. In a properly run POO, people at all levels develop a huge pride and motivation to succeed that in turn, drives your business success.

How many Milestones should I have in my Project Plan?

Keep the number of Milestones in your plan to single figures – preferably six or seven maximum. That way you can sensibly manage the project. Combine as many of the proposed Milestones as you can into obvious groups where they fit well together.(See Step 3).

Your ‘Golden Rules of Presentation’ do not mention graphics.Why?

I know lots of people include complex graphics in their slides, showing figures of little people moving around the screen, or shapes expanding or contracting, or other dynamic visuals. Frankly, I find such visuals distracting. They rarely add anything to the presentation other than showing a clever use of PowerPoint. I always think the message is more important than the medium.

What do we do if we have more than 10% active negatives?

In Step 4, I describe how every group facing change can be divided into four sub-groups ranging from ‘active positives’ at the top, through ‘passive positives’ and ‘passive negatives’ to ‘active negatives’ at the bottom.The proportions of each of these sub-groups are typically 10 – 40 – 40 – 10 per cent. The ‘active negatives’ are those that, for whatever reason, perceive that they could lose out from the ‘Elite’ initiative, and will set out to sabotage it, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly.

However, if you have a much higher proportion of active negatives, then you first have to shock them out of their complacency, by highlighting evidence of serious competitive pressures, and then apply the solutions described in Step 4. If that doesn’t work, and you can’t fire them, then take your talents elsewhere.

Can you clarify ‘value adding’ in a Support Function?

Within your business, the main value adding processes are those that deliver an end product to an EXTERNAL customer. In a manufacturing business, these would be the steps involved in converting the base raw material to the finished product and delivering it to the customer. In a non-manufacturing business, such as in the service sector, these would be the steps involved in converting the base raw information to the finished information that is delivered to the customer.

In both types of business you’ll have several Support Functions whose aim is – or should be – to support the main value adding processes as defined above.Typically, these Support Functions would include Quality, Planning, Engineering, Finance, HR, IT, and so on. Within each Support Function there will be one or more equivalent ‘value adding’ processes, which are those steps involved in taking the base information arriving at the Function and converting it to the final information supplied to the INTERNAL customer. Some examples of these are given in Step 8.

I love the concept of ‘Unofficial Influencers’.It’s just so useful

Thank you. I’ve successfully used this technique for years to lubricate the implementation of my ‘Elite’ programs. Follow the guidelines in Step 4.

Do operators really need above average IQ to use judgement?

Yes, they do. However, some people challenge this on two grounds. First, whether the statement is true, and second, whether it is discriminatory to apply it.
Let’s deal with the first point. You have a responsibility to your team, to your employer, to the shareholders, and to the community at large, to ensure that all of the processes for which you are responsible operate effectively, efficiently and safely.

That means, among other things, that the operator of a process must be capable of applying judgement as required to assess and adjust performance. Now, judgement requires the intellectual ability to assess actions and outcomes against an agreed specification. Not all operators are equal in this regard, and you should therefore apply an appropriate minimum standard when selecting them. In my experience, over many years, the most convenient way of establishing intellectual ability is to measure IQ, and I apply a minimum standard, where judgement will be required, of higher than average, which is 100 in the UK.

In my experience, commercially available IQ tests, if used correctly, give a reasonably accurate assessment of relative IQ, or intellectual ability.

Turning now to the second point, whether applying an IQ test up front to establish intellectual ability is discriminatory. If you accept the argument above, then clearly IQ tests are not discriminatory. Check out my answer to the team in Australia on this subject in Step 6.

“B-C=D” – “Love it.Greatest thing since sliced bread”

In Step 6, I describe how to use the Input Control technique for root cause analyses. Within this, I highlight how to prioritise a series of actions by using the formula B-C=D, ie Benefit – Complexity = Desirability.This is a really simple technique that ranks your potential actions in descending order of best value for minimum time and cost. It’s easy to use and quick to apply. One client actually used the phrase “Greatest thing since sliced bread” about it.

Do we really need to use tracking software to identify stoppages?

Yes, you do. In Step 7, I highlight the use of tracking software to identify and measure unplanned stoppages in manufacturing operations. A number of people ask why they shouldn’t just use the operators to gather this information. It’s because you never get accurate stoppage information from operators. Not because they’re being wilful or neglectful. They just don’t do it consistently. The benefits from getting consistent and reliable data on stoppages,far outweighs its nominal cost.

Do we really need a frozen period in our production schedule?

Yes, you do. Ideally, you need a frozen period of at least a week in your production schedule. This allows everyone involved in production operations to plan ahead and make sure that everything is available in terms of resources, equipment and materials. It also helps to ensure a 100% on time delivery performance.

If you have difficulty in achieving this, because of constant demand, material or resource changes, then there is something seriously wrong with your end-to-end planning process, and you need to address this as soon as possible by identifying the reasons for the volatility. You’ll find that most of the reasons that prevent you achieving a frozen period are generated in house, and frankly there is no good reason for tolerating them.(See Step 9).

How do I use a kanban in a non-manufacturing process?

In Step 10, I discuss how to apply kanbans within a manufacturing process to help control the flow of material through the process and achieve our ‘Elite’ objectives. In a non-manufacturing process, kanbans are applied in exactly the same way, to control the flow of information through the process and achieve your objectives.

Can I do POO but keep my existing management structure?

No, you can’t. In Step 12, I discuss in detail how to achieve a Process Oriented Organisation that can consolidate the benefits of ‘Elite’, dramatically improve your culture for the better and deliver significant improvements in workforce cooperation, enthusiasm and contribution. It creates a new dynamic organisation that helps you become the best in your business. As part of your ‘Elite’ program, you should aspire to implement POO as described in the Book.

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