James McKenzie and Eric Davis of Swinerton generously hosted the presentation in their well-equipped conference room with stunning views!
And here are a summary and the supplemental notes I promised:
Attendees: Dave Bleiman, Annalise Chikhale, Doug Childs, Eric Davis, Mario Guttman, Will Henderson, Damon Hernandez, Bruce Madsen, Nancy McClure, Karen Thomas, Dan Tsui, Marla Ushijima, Andrew Wolfram
Step 1 - Identify value
Doug started his presentation with demonstrating the first step of Lean processes, by asking the goals of his customers (each person present), and identifying the value they hoped to derive from attending the meeting.
He then explained the premise of What Lean Is and Isn't. Lean originated in Japan by Toyota as an approach to manufacturing excellence, but can be advantageously applied to any kind of process. It is commonly equated with miscellaneous tools such as Last Planner, A3, Six Sigma, Value Stream Mapping and the construction industry specific of IPD. None of these define Lean, but rather can be used to facilitate Lean processes.
Lean is a way of thinking and management targeted at maximizing value to a customer through continually improving processes.
2. Map the Value Stream
After identifying the value as defined by the customer (whosever needs are being addressed by a process, whether a client, building department, boss, etc,), the second step is to map the value stream, which is that set of all actions required to bring a product or process from concept to finished product. The purpose is to analyze the value of each step in the process, and to eliminate all steps which don't add value as defined by the customer. In Lean terminology, this step addresses the concept of the Japanese word muda, or superfluousness, a waste of time and effort.
3. Create Flow
In order to demonstrate the concept of flow, Doug had us do an exercise using the example of inventorying a bag of miscellaneous items.
4. Establish Pull
5. Seek Perfection
Doug then addressed some of the objections that are expressed in regard to Lean: that it's just a fad, it's not necessary, there's no time for it, effort should be directed at producing results rather than improving the process, and there's no return on the effort—in large part a lack of understanding and fear of the unknown. Doug addressed those concerns by identifying some of the key differences of Traditional vs. Lean Production and Management—a focus on results vs. customer value, an individual vs. team approach, free-form vs. defined methods, and carrot and stick vs. managed expectations, building consensus and trust—and the resulting benefits:
- for the customer: greater value—faster, lower cost, better quality
- for the designer: happier clients, fewer fire drills and happier staff, and greater profit
- for staff: less stress, greater job satisfaction, happier work environment
Doug next reviewed one of the trademark tools of Lean processes, the A3. It's so-called because it uses a single page of paper of Japanese size A3, roughly equivalent to 11x17. It's used to track an issue and the Lean process approach to it. It's composed of a statement and explanation of the issue, analysis—ask why 5 times!—and decision on how to resolve the issue, the specific steps necessary to achieve that resolution, and an evaluation of whether the issue is resolved and how well.
To complete Doug's presentation and demonstration of Lean principals, he solicited plus/delta feedback from everyone in the room on his presentation. Everyone's goals seem to have been met, and we all agreed that Doug did a very nice job of presenting the material. We also agreed that more discussion—which was curtailed during the presentation due to time constraints—would have been helpful.
Those of us who could afford the time stayed on to continue the conversation. Nancy pondered the question of how to implement Lean. Marla pointed out that Lean prescribes a way of thinking that's not dependent upon specific tools or even language, and that a leader could overcome potential resistance to the "Lean" brand by avoiding the catch phrases.
Nancy and Dave think that stress breaks down the Lean process, which Marla points out is ironic as the process is intended to relieve stress. Firmly-ingrained dysfunctional behaviors burden implementation of any kind; the iterative cycle of continuous improvement should eventually overcome that burden.
Dave stated that a critical aspect of Lean is learning how to make proper requests and realistic promises. We all agreed that communication is the most important thing, not the formal tools and terminology of Lean. As Karen noted, it's the job of a project manager to set the tone and create a Lean environment starting at the project kick-off meeting. Dave thinks that it's the project managers who are most resistant to process change. Upper management hears all the benefits and gets on-board with the program but don't directly implement it; and junior staff have no established processes to conflict with the change. Dan thinks one difficulty is the difference between cash flow and profit vs. value creation. It's necessary to figure out how to spread risk across the entire firm rather than burdening a particular project. Damon states there's often interest initially, but when the rubber hits the road, it's pushed off to down the road, on to the next project.
There was a little discussion at the end on some other topics. Eric says that gaming will change our industry, because they're solving the problem of processing huge amounts of data. Our industry just doesn't have an income stream sufficient to tackle it. Dan says game designers reduce polygons to a bare minimum, which is not feasible for AEC. When he can't load an entire model, Damon loads just what's necessary. Dan notes that elements to be loaded can be selected based on location within the building or distance from the viewer.
Damon championed Twitter; he's discovered that using it to post complaints is an extremely effective method for getting a response from a company—they really don't want problems out there, searchable, in cyberspace.
Dave has sworn off multi-tasking, he thinks it just doesn't work. He likes using his iPad because then he can do only one thing at a time.