Thursday, 24 March 2011

Is your work interrupted?

Even with our best intentions we may find that we are unable to complete a task in one go. If this is the case then the way that we leave the task can determine how much time is wasted getting up to speed when we are ready to complete the  task.

If you get many interruptions in your day to day working then coming up with a way to close down / pause activities can save you a lot of time, especially if you need to delegate the task later.

The simplest analogy is that of a book mark. If you spent your time trying to find where you are up to in your book each time you started you would waste time that could be spent reading. If you had a specific intention for reading the book then you could make a note of that on the bookmark, for example, so that you could get straight back into why you reading the book. The same is true in the workplace.

Two ideas come to mind. First, make some protected time in your day and only start tasks that you know you will be able to finish. Second, agree with your team on how a job will be left should it be interrupted. This should be designed so that the task can be picked up right away without any confusion or time wasted with guesswork.

Being stopped in the middle of something is not uncommon, but the ability to create a way of pausing a task so that time isn't wasted when getting back into it is uncommon. Be uncommon!

Smartspeed Consulting Limited
Deliver on Time with Smartspeed

Friday, 18 March 2011

Keeping the work flowing

Have you ever noticed those small tasks that you just don’t get round to? Have you ever noticed what a big problem these small tasks cause if they haven’t been dealt with for some time? Improving the way that work flows through your department or  team can help with the overall efficiency of the business.

Recognising the small tasks and coming up with a routine to make sure that they get done on a regular basis can mean that when you have to focus your energies onto some burning issue you can feel better that the tidal wave of problems that can come from not doing the little things won’t happen.

If you find the habit of keeping the small things moving a struggle then why not consider using a ‘complete by date’. If the job hasn’t been done by a certain date then it becomes the number one priority regardless of whatever else is on the ‘urgent list’. Completing the action before the complete by date is the aim of the game.

Small tasks are often over-estimated in terms of their work content. Big tasks are often under-estimated in terms of their work content. If this observation holds true in your business it means that you should crack on with the myriad of small tasks, because they won’t take as long as you think. Also, have another look at your bigger tasks!

So, get a list of all the small tasks, put them into a timetable (or a daily routine ideally) and then watch as the number of emergencies decrease.

Smartspeed Consulting Limited
Deliver on Time with Smartspeed

Friday, 11 March 2011

What's the last step?

When we are nearing the end of a project we sometimes finish prematurely. By this I mean that the last step on a project often isn't the last step needed in order to be as effective as possible. 

If you were installing some new pieces of equipment the final step might be implementation of a maintenance program. Usually the commissioning of a piece of equipment is seen as the last step, but the ongoing usefulness of the equipment needs to be considered.

Leaving people with usable instructions should also be considered. Installing new software programs and then leaving the users to muddle through is not always the best plan. Clear concise instructions might be the final step.

Once a change has been made hand holding people through a period of infancy might need to be considered. The handover, exchange of responsibility and ramping up of volumes handled through this recently changed aspect may need to be looked at again.

If you're near the end of a project why not ask yourself this question? "Does the last step of this project maximise the effectiveness of its implementation?"

Smartspeed Consulting Limited
Deliver on Time with Smartspeed

Friday, 4 March 2011

Kamishibai Boards

Available to purchase here.
Some tools are incredibly simple to use, and also deliver some amazing results. Kamishibai boards are a great example and are superb when you want some visual control over routine tasks. By the way Kamishibai is pronounced "come-e-she-bye" in case you were wondering!

As simple as you could want it, a Kamishibai board is a T-card system that has red cards glued to green
cards (so that each T-card has a red side and a green side). The red cards are for the incomplete tasks, where as the green cards symbolise that the work has been done. See the photo below of a board in use.

On the red side of the card you write the name of the task that needs to be completed, and if appropriate you can include details of how the task is to be completed. This is not expected to replace standard operating procedures, but can be a good opportunity for an aide memoire.

The boards can be organised for daily, weekly and even monthly cycles. They are great as part of a 5S implementation (the Sustain phase), help to establish habits that support ISO9001 quality management systems and really help bolster any lean initiatives taking place. The key is to finding a routine that works well for you, a simply laid out board and a good position in the office or factory where people will walk past it.

Kamishibai Board
A Kamishibai board in use, saving material
and downtime costs.
So a Kamishibai board is a simple tool that can be used to great effect to create habits and drive behaviour. 

They are low cost and quick to implement. If you are looking for more ideas around this concept you can view our Trade Cutting Formes case study, or our Slimming Solutions case study.


P.S. If you want to learn how to quickly implement a Kamishibai Board into your business then check out my Kindle book - available here.

About the author
Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes.
Giles is also the author of Business Process Re-Engineering and creator of the 'Making It Happen' continuous improvement strategies course.

Avoid mistakes with your SOPs!