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Showing posts from July, 2013

Writing Standard Operating Procedures

Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, are a staple in the manufacturing world. It’s not just factories either; pretty much everywhere you go there are formal instructions available. SOPs are a way to communicate the best way to perform a task. Having a single optimum instruction can improve the quality of products and services as well as reduce cost and time. You may therefore think that SOPs are embraced by most businesses. From my experience however it appears that they are left to languish. This does not need to be the case, and by using teams of two to write and maintain SOPs you can realise greater benefits from your instructions.
Firstly, you need to consider who your team of two will be. Please make it someone who is going to use the instructions. Many businesses use one team to write the instructions and a different team to execute the instructions. In some cases this may because of the technical knowledge required to define the optimum sequence of the steps. Having someone …

Rotating Your Business Improvement Priorities

Some businesses that I have worked with have had so many opportunities to improve that they become paralysed. What improvement should we work on first?
It's a good question and usually a brief consideration of the benefits and ease of implementation of each improvement will allow you to prioritise the projects.
The problem then comes when you know your priorities but you go to work on something else. The item on the top of your list isn't as tempting (or technically satisfying) as one further down the list.
Have you experienced this situation?
It can be really frustrating can't it?
A simple way of making sure you're making progress, along the lines of the 'do less better' time management principle, is to be formal with your priorities.
If you chose your top priority on a weekly basis and then committed to not changing for the next week (unless you complete the project) you could find that you get a lot more work completed. Next week you can change your priorit…

I Don't Know What The Plan Is!

When developing our improvement plans we are sometimes stuck to work out where we can get to, what our goals can be.
We lack vision, or imagination, and feel dried up. We don't know where our business could get to, and obviously what the plan is to get there!
If you feel this way then it may be worth looking at the 'proactive sprints' blog from the other day. The ability to take a couple of steps in the right direction and then see where you are can really help when you don't know where to go to.
When you undertake a couple more actions you get feedback. This new view of the world could be the information you need to see further than you do currently. Continuous improvement is about constantly pushing forward. Sometimes it is hard to see where you could take your business' performance to (and  how to do it).
Like walking up a hill, when you get the top you can see a whole new vista. Whilst you are walking up the hill you may only be able to see the next couple of …

What are Your Essential Routines?

I was watching a pre-flight safety demonstration the other week before enjoying a short flight. As I watched I wondered how many times they had performed this routine previously. The information is vital should the worst happen and therefore it gets performed before each flight without fail. They may have performed it thousands of times each.
We have similar routines in the business that need to be executed without fail. Many businesses fail, however, to define their routines and get a rhythm going. Unlike the plane, failure in business might mean fire fighting and upset customers... in the short term. Leave this situation for too long and you may have catastrophe, customers leaving and profits sinking.
Instead of learning where your nearest exit is, why not find out what are the essential routines for your business?
What needs to be completed each day in order to complete a 'perfect' day?
Defining and executing effective routines can make a big difference in terms of results…

Try a Proactive Sprint When You're Stuck

Do you have those times in your business when you just don't seem to be making progress with your improvement projects?
I know that I have clients that feel this way from time to time, they just feel a little lost as to what to do next.
When I see them in the doldrums I suggest they have a sprint. Pick any tangible piece of improvement work they can see and go for it. Whether this sprint lasts an hour or an afternoon it needs to be an activity that could leave the business in a different place.
It doesn't matter how minor the change is either. The sprint could leave you with a new form, a tweak to your scheduling system or an altered meeting agenda. The objective of the sprint is to close out an improvement goal you have set. Small goals work really well for obvious reasons.
At the end of the sprint the close out task is to then go back to your improvement plan and revise it. What have your learned from your sprint? How do you see your business now? How do you feel now that y…

What Do You Design Your Improvements For?

Design For Manufacturing is a well used term in industry, the practice of designing products for ease of manufacturing.
This approach uses manufacturing-ability as the focus for improvement of the design. There can however be different perspectives that we could use, and this can be applied to areas other than product design.
What if we designed our:
customer services for immediate response?order intake for on time delivery?SOPs for simplicity?meetings for decision making? I'm sure that you can think of all kinds of different approaches to different processes. Some processes benefit from having more than one focus to balance out the objectives for that process.
Aligning your 'design for....' approach with your business objectives is a good way to direct your continuous improvement activities.
Enjoy your re-designing activities!



Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.

What is your project’s objective?

When a project is being developed there is usually a purpose to it.
The purpose can lead you to define an outcome for the project, its objective.
What if the objective isn’t a suitable end point for you to reach?
For example, and something I was told a long time ago, consider a trapeze artist. If their focus is on the reaching the opposite swing, then they usually fall off. If their focus on the other hand is to successfully travel on the other swing (i.e. they catch it and then use it) then they usually have a far better chance of achieving their objective.
In your business improvement projects it can be the same kind of situation. You choose an objective but then realise that this is not the end of the story. You implement the new process, but forget the SOPs, training, auditing etc…You install the new software solution, but forget the housekeeping activities, backups etc…You test a different morning meeting approach, but don’t write down the agenda, share the results etc…

Asking yo…

Waste Reduction Workshop Kit

Drive Down Costs, Improve Performance and Engage Your Teams
Price - $37.00 USD
If you are looking for a way to get your staff more involved with the Lean manufacturing projects you have planned for your business then this waste walking reduction workshop kit is ideal. Combining a practical approach with a suite of quick to use templates, the waste reduction workshop is easy to use and available for immediate download.

Are your Lean projects going the way you had hoped? Waste reduction and engaging your teams is at the heart of the Lean approach to business improvement. This kit is a collection of tools, a presentation, instructions and a workbook that you can download via this site immediately after payment. The kit is based on a successful workshop series delivered by Giles Johnston, the creator of this product, to manufacturing companies of different shapes and sizes.
Giles is a Chartered Engineer who has a background in Production Management. These ideas have been used in factorie…

OTIF Improvement Kit

Are Your Customers Urging You to Improve Your On Time Delivery Performance?Price - $49.00 USD
Your customers expect you to deliver on time.
Sometimes this is hard to do and sometimes it can seem impossible.
If you have a complex range of products, or a large volume of changing products, then this can become a tricky proposition.
Do you get lots of phone calls from your customers asking you where their orders are? Have your customers threatened to take their order elsewhere unless you start meeting the delivery schedules? Do your team waste lots of time trying to push orders around the business against an ever changing schedule? Do you want to stop being ‘out of control’?
If you answered yes to any of the above and want a simpler and easier way to deliver on time then this kit is for you.
Do you want a practical solution? My ‘On Time Delivery Kit’ has been created using the expertise I have acquired from years of delivering projects to help manufacturing businesses improve their on ti…

Getting Results Can Be Messy!

Many of my clients when I have first started working with them seem concerned with messy looking improvement projects. That's a natural reaction on two counts.
Firstly, we don't want messy projects on the whole. We want to have neat delineated projects with clear steps, milestones and outcomes. This doesn't often happen.
Secondly, projects don't often unveil their full range of tasks until we start taking action. We may be able to plan / predict the steps required for a project but unless we have done the same project before we end up having to guess the steps. Please plan your projects properly, don't miss this step out. But be prepared for the common reality that your later steps will be replaced as you go, once new knowledge is available to you.
When you look from the outside in (whether a business, project or something else) it usually looks organised, tidy and planned. When you look from the inside out it can look chaotic, confused and difficult. The grass us…

The Client Wanted a Different Solution

I was in a meeting with a prospective client a few months ago. The meeting didn't go well from a sales perspective.
The company that had called me in had decided that they wanted to deliver a different project, one that wouldn't require outside assistance. That's fine, these things happen.
I had to bite my tongue however, the result they were now heading for is not the one they wanted. They now had two projects on the table in front of them.
Project one (involving me) was aiming to reduce the amount of time a process took to complete, to standardise the delivery of the process and improve quality and speed together.
Project two was focussed on understanding the current process cycle times and changing the information held in their capacity planning system.
The client wants what the clients wants, but you have to ask yourself a question. "What result did they want in the first place?"
Do you ever get lost with your improvement projects? Do you start projects beca…

When Does a Project Become a Process?

You've come to the end of your project. You've found out what is going on in your business, you've developed some new processes and now you need to finish the project.
What do you do next?
Many projects, especially change projects, need to conclude by inserting their key outputs into the routines and habits of the business. The processes that are developed need to be triggered and executed as they were designed.
Attaching these project steps to your daily meetings, your timetables, or whatever else you use to regulate your daily activities is essential. Letting a project's brilliance lapse due to a lack of discipline is not a route I recommend.
A project needs to move past maintenance instructions and Standard Operating Procedures if you want it to become a habit that the business adopts.
If your improvement projects aren't creating new ways of working then make sure your projects turn into routines.

Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering'…

Get Your Routines Down on Paper

Time management is an ongoing and popular topic on the Internet. There are many approaches and some really deliver benefits to the people who use them.
I am a big fan of routines. Every process has trigger points and key activities that need to happen like clockwork. Ensuring that you identify these key activities and then schedule them is a priority for anyone managing themselves or a team.
Putting the routine in writing makes it easier to communicate, it also makes it easier to manage.
I recommend that my clients who decide to create one of these loose timetables also uses a copy as a checklist. Ticking off completed actions can help to form the right habits. An alternative approach is to use a Kamishibai board of course. I'm sure that you can think of more alternative methods to drive the same kind of repetition.
As a rule of thumb I advise my clients to only put 50% of their time (or less) against a time table like this. This allows you to maintain flexibility in your day and …

Cutting Straight to the Immediate Improvement Issues

A client of mine was failing to map out their processes fully and go through the 'concern-cause-countermeasure' sequence. We were running out of time and so I decided that we should cut to the chase. There were clearly issues that needed to be addressed, but so far no progress made to correct the situation.
Jumping past the mapping stage we went straight to 'concern'. All of the issues and concerns that this person had with a process was captured.
After this was done we undertook some digging. It wasn't true root cause analysis, but the rule in place was that my client couldn't accept the first answer as the final answer. After some probing of the issues some simple and straightforward improvements were identified.
The ideas were put into an improvement log, to manage their implementation, and we reviewed what we had done together. Through bypassing the formality of the business improvement method my client gained confidence. They are now ready to go through t…

Kamishibai Boards Book - Free Download

For those of you who don't have a copy of our 'Kamishibai Boards' book, you can download it for free over the next two weeks via Smashwords. Use the link below to visit Smashwords, where it is available on multiple formats.
Kamishibai Boards eBook


Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer