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Showing posts from April, 2013

Projects That Never Finish

I was recently involved with an organisation that never finished its projects.
There were some really bright people in the business, doing things that I had to stand back to and say ‘wow’.
The only problem was that the specification of the system they were developing was never set in stone. Continuous Improvement only works if you can develop something that is currently working.
Agreeing what a good standard was for the specification and agreeing on how the disparate systems should speak was my job and it was a fun project to be involved with.
The lesson from this that I want to share however is that if you have projects that creep forward and never get finished off then define the standard (or specification) that makes sense to you right now and plan to make it a reality.
You can refine and improve it later, but for today – let’s get the new process / system working.


Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

When do you get the time to implement continuous improvements?

One of the questions I get asked, particularly at networking events or at workshops, is ‘how does someone find time to make improvements to their business?’
It’s a good question and in this update I wanted to share a simple approach that you can use in your own business to help with scheduling the implementation of the improvements you want to make. This tool is simple to create, and if you are good with spreadsheets, it is even easier!
There are three steps to create the tool, and it will help you gain visibility over the workload of your team and schedule the best time for implementing your improvement projects. The diagram below should help put the three steps into perspective:


Step 1 – Determine the available capacity for project work. For every member of your team you need to evaluate how many hours they have in their diary that aren’t already planned for their normal ‘day to day work’. If a person’s core work takes up 30 out of 35 hours then they have 5 hours available per week…

Designing KPIs to Drive Process Improvement

After feedback from readers and clients I have updated my Key Performance Indicators book. Rather than go for a 'second edition' it has been revamped with a stronger focus on process improvement (compared to solely business performance management).
You can get your copy (or download the first 10% free) by visiting this link:
Designing KPIs to Drive Process Improvement

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Lean Management - more than just a technique for the shop floor

It is becoming more and more common that I hear the phrase 'lean management'. This is not as a replacement for the phrase 'lean manufacturing' but I feel it is a realisation for many people that the tools and principles that have been applied to many business' factory facilities over the years can be readily applied to other areas of a business.
As you know, lean is all about the balance of value adding activities within a business against the non-value adding (or waste generating) activities that are also present. Lean strives to engage people to drive out the waste present in their processes and develop more efficient and effective ways for them to serve their customers.
The supporting departments that serve the production aspect of the business (whether it is in manufacturing, services, projects or something else) need to be as efficient and as effective as possible, and you can see the shift in the approach of many businesses who are embracing this way of look…

The Unused System and the New Wheel

Many businesses have a legacy of systems and processes that aren't used. When I ask about the history of these systems I am often left with stories about how the systems weren't used and therefore a new system was introduced.
You can guess what the pattern is can’t you?
The next system doesn't get embedded into the way the business operates and that too falls over. Instead of addressing the issue (we don’t persist at improving and embedding a system) we try to reinvent the wheel.
It’s a well known phrase, but does your business re-invent the wheel rather than addressing the problem?


Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Do you feel the pain of not improving yet?

Have you heard that joke about the dog lying on the porch?
The one where the dog is whining?
The one where the dog’s owner tells his visiting friend that the dog is lying on a nail sticking out of a floorboard?
The one where the friend find’s out that the dog would move if he was in serious pain?
Have you heard that one?

It’s funny how improvement projects often take some form of near catastrophic accident in order for them to stimulate certain types of businesses.
Some businesses make it part of who they are, to keep on searching for new and better ways of doing whatever it is that they do.
What kind of business are you?
Are you hungry, or do you need the pain?



Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

When is a good time to improve?

One of the questions I get asked is ‘when is it a good time to improve?’
This question is usually asked by people who need to make changes to their business but cannot find the time to make changes of any sort. Fire fighting and running around are order of the day and you can see why this question would be asked.
I don’t think there is ever a good time to improve, it’s just one of those things we need to embrace and get on with. There are ways to make life easier of course when implementing change. Breaking projects up into tiny steps is a good one and so is sharing the workload.
Perhaps, and this is the point of this post, my answer to the question is ‘at the start of the day’. When we perform our small contribution to the improvement project at the start of the day it is given the best chance of success for actually happening. Also, if you subscribe to Parkinson’s Law, then you will catch up with the other tasks of the day and have made some improvement.
Could it really be that sim…

Apply Intelligence when planning your business

Reports, system data, and business information.

It’s great stuff, shame so many businesses don’t use it properly.

If we used the information to make better decisions wouldn't it be great?


What do you do with your business information?

Do you apply intelligence to it in order to make your business work more productively?

Or does it just pass you by?



Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

What have you done today to make you feel proud? [guest post]

What have you done today to make you feel proud?  Whether or not you are a fan of Heather Small, these words make you think! 
Times are tough at the moment on a lot of levels for a lot of people; the economy is still unreliable, customers are more demanding than ever, utilities and everyday costs continue to rise and Spring is ever elusive! Some of you will be thinking life is difficult enough without taking on any more challenges, but are you forgetting to notice the things that make you feel proud?
Alternatives to proud include satisfied, pleased or fulfilled - all key components of contentment and wellbeing.  So feeling proud is essential to how you feel generally, how you perform in your role, and crucially, your levels of resilience. 
However, we don't often associate these words with our job or work role. Think for a minute; when was the last time you noticed feeling  satisfied, pleased or fulfilled by something you did at work? 
Whatever makes you satisfied, pleased or ful…

It's those little ideas that can make a big difference

If you've read my book On Time Delivery you will have come across the 'Big Brain' award I gave to one of my team members for his application of continuous improvement. He didn't use fancy techniques or methods he just used some common sense and stopped accepting the way things were.

No longer did he tolerate the capacity problems in his departments.
No longer did he accept the number of breakdowns that were occurring.
No longer did he live with the long tool changeover times.

Sometimes it is the smaller things that we can change that can have the greatest impact, and sometimes getting people to get involved is one of the hardest tasks.
A really simple way to get people involved, and great if you are starting any kind of lean manufacturing orientated project, is waste walking. Go for a walk through your business and spot the opportunities.
Waste walking is something I get emailed about quite often and so our waste walking kit is now available for download. The kit prov…

'On Time Delivery' - New book now available

It seems like books are similar to buses, nothing for a while and then two come together!
The bank holiday here in England has been put to good effect and the other book I have been working on for quite some time is now available.
Titled 'On Time Delivery' it is an account of a real lean manufacturing story from a time when I was a Production Manager. It charts some of the highs and lows of trying to sort out the on time delivery problems we were having and my journey to achieve the performance goals I had set for the business.
It is available directly from Amazon for the Kindle reading app / device or from most other online e-book retailers (you may have to wait a few weeks from the date of this blog post for iBooks, Kobo, Nook and Sony stores). You can also get the right format via Smashwords.
Anyway, if you choose to buy it I hope you enjoy the journey. Learning points are plentiful within the book, so you should be able to find some insights and ideas that can help you on …

New book available now - Optimised Future State

My new book on a systematic approach to developing future state maps is now available on the Amazon Kindle platform and all other major ebook retailers.

The book was written due to several clients having trouble trying to agree on what a good future state map for their business processes would be.

This book shares with you a step by step approach to generating and evaluating future state options so that you can build the optimal solution for your business.

The book is called 'Optimised Future State' and can be viewed on Amazon.com by clicking on the link below, or on image of the front cover.

View Optimised Future State on Amazon.
If you are stuck with your future state mapping and want a more rational and systematic approach then check out the book today and put the simple and straightforward method into action.


Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

P.S. If you buy a copy and leave a review let me know and I'll send you a free copy of one of my other busin…