Where productivity comes from? Relation between Quality, Lean, Efficiency

From my last post about over months ago, we have grasped the idea and underlying concept of Lean. That the divine purpose of Lean is to give value to customer. Lean means providing value to customer.

5 principles of Lean

In previous post also, we know that there are fundamentally 5 Principles of Lean which are:

  1. Specify value for the customer
  2. Integrate Value Stream
  3. Create Flow
  4. Pull from the customer
  5. Aim for perfection

Looking deeply between the initial definition and the 5 principles of Lean. It seems logically correct that providing value to customer is indeed will be achieved through all the 5 principles of Lean. However, this indeed is also a deception for many.

Not that I say those principles are useless, on the other hand, people has to know those principles by heart. Despite of that, in my opinion, 5 Principles of Lean are not comprehensive enough in serving higher purpose of providing value to customer because it somehow lacks of comprehensiveness. If we look at those all 5 principles and pondering on those points, we can have assumptions that Lean is all about efficient of operations to provide value by means of faster, responsive and flexible operation by implementing integrated value stream, flow, pull and then aim for perfection.

Java Printing

These points have failed to serve the true comprehensive definition of lean which is providing value to customer because it simply do not pay attention to “quality” matter. In fact, none of the 5 principles seems to talk about quality (poka yoke, inspection, culture of quality).  This had led many to miss-understanding that lean is just efficiency (value stream, flow, pull). Lean comprise efficiency indeed, but not only that. It is also quality and all that is required to bring value to customers.

Because as we come back to the true definition of lean that is providing value to customer, we realize that Lean defintion is larger than 5 principles of lean itself.


That ambiguous translation from basic definition of Lean into the principles of Lean, make a miss-conception about achieving Lean in relation with improvement culture. Improvement has twofold and people have always been mistaken when talk about improvement. Lean improvement as perceived by most people as working toward a more efficient operations is preferable in most case because it gives a sense of boost to ongoing operations and increasing productivity. On the other hand,   quality improvement sometimes not as popular because for many it just don’t seems boost their production quota. So, they tend to prefer efficient improvement compare to quality improvement.

People has mistakenly grasped the concept of improvement that they tend to associate improvement to efficiency because by and far, it will boost productivity quickly. This is bad in a long term because quality is stronger and has a bigger impact in a sense that on the long term, focus on quality improving productivity and increasing quality. Both quality and efficiency however have similarity in the need to specify customer value and strive for perfection.


Sometimes we deeply understand about the need for efficiency improvement because it directly impact our output in short term. But those who forget to deal with improving quality is in the long term will be definite loser because while you neglect quality, others not. They improve productivity through both quality (inspection, poka yoke devices) and efficiency (integrate value stream, flow, pull)  improvements of operations which give them a twofold advantage to their productivity increase compare to those who only care about increasing efficiency.

So, I want to again stress that the 5 principles of Lean is in fact very important to remember. But one shall never forget the in-comprehensiveness of the principles and that the fundamental definition of lean is always comes first.

Lean is providing value to the customers.


Small Changes, Big Achievement!

I just read a blog by Beyond Lean that is so insightful. In his post, with the title Small Change vs. Large Change, he highlighted about how Paul Akers at FastCap often talks about 2 seconds kaizen.

I have read Paul Akers’ Book about 2 Second Kaizen which describes his personal journey on creating kaizen culture in his small to medium size business (at that time). Following my current reading on Workplace Management by Taiichi Ohno, this post really spark a light for me to set out this post about small changes.

Company has been the center of all attention for decades. But scaling further to a level of personal kaizen, big achievement by means of doing small changes can definitely be a roadmap to improvement. I would imagine if we are not only focus on doing productive works but in addition to that, we apply 2 seconds kaizen on how we went throughout our day.


It has been acknowledged that doing the right things before doing things right will elevate productivity in our lives by preventing doing the wrong things. But truly I said that bigger achievement is attainable by performing small changes in doing things right. Now I invite you, my fellow travellers, let us set for ourselves to do everyday at least 2 achievements (productivity) but as complementary also do 2 seconds of kaizen ( improvement in method of doing things).

Reblog : Forget about Resolutions, Focus on the Process

Post of Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey Blog caught my attention as I was thinking about my New Year Resolution. Tim is a Lean practitioner and the owner of a very inspiring blog that I have followed even before I started to write a blog. I read his article where he wrote about an interesting  topic which is so closely related with personal kaizen about self improvement.

In his article which has published on Tuesday, January 1 2013, he pointed out about common natural tendencies that we do as part of our new year. In new year, people hope for a better year. People as usual, starts to set their own resolutions as a target for the new year. This resolutions that people has created in new year will not bring anything significant. This is because setting resolutions is not more important as focusing on the process of reaching resolutions itself as Tim’s argued.

I positively agree with his arguments and appreciate his unique perception to Resolution and in addition, he also provide the reader by giving reader a way to use philosophical framework of PDCA to come to personal improvement.

In my opinion, a resolution is a mere shadow or number without actions because a  resolution in itself do not make someone become better. In other words, as Deming has before addressed using a simulation called Red Bean Experiments, resolutions/goals/aims will not mean anything without a complete and exact methods to achieve it.

Thus, it is then a good step to begin a new year by setting goals without forgetting to determining the methods to achieve these goals. And only after that, we could be sure that we will improve our life quality as a human.


One fun and Inspiring Night with Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Community

I currently lived in Brussels for sometime and it now feels like going to work and back home again has already become pretty much ordinary for me. First of all, because I get to know well the transportation network, traffic situation and could adapt well to a very significant different climate than my home country. In addition to that, I can now better managed the work load in a company that I am in now. Not that it is less work there, but even also with some new problems it just feels I could managed it better due to having done many tasks and did learn things quite regularly and thus becoming common with procedures and culture.


This stability situation makes me uncomfortable. In Lean philosophy, we believe that achieving stability is a priority. However, there is another superior aim that is larger than that. Challenging stability with improvement. Lean philosophy believe that to increase the standards/stability that we have now in our lives, an improvement has to be made. This philosophy has a divine logical reason behind that a stability/standards situation, if it has already been achieved and not being challenge in order to improve it, it will without a doubt decrease and deteriorate or in simple words, making your life actually little by little below your actual standards/stable condition.


With this concept at hand, I am searching for new things to improve myself. One night, after work, I came across a website called Meetup. It is the world’s largest network of local groups. it makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 9,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities. So, I registered as a member and look for recent events.


As I stumble in this new website, I encounter an interesting even about NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming. Remarkably, this is a very affordable NLP event and it just happen to be around me. I love to learn psychology by reading some books because I love to learn and understand about people around me. So, then I went to this event and put myself out there to see how NLP workshop is.

I went there and I was exceptionally amazed on what I saw and experienced. Both from the participant, the ambience, the event and the coachers (I use coach as they weren’t really speakers but actively engaging us with activities). I met a various kind of person there and what inspired me is that all these people has different background than me both either in their working life and their family life and they all gather to improve themselves. There was a musician, a painter, a consultant, an IT security guy, a factory management employee (me!), and a bunch other interesting people that I will never meet outside of this event simple because our world is too far apart from being able to meet each other.

My experience in attending this event was wonderful. Mainly because the positive ambience that build up by everyone of us that have spirit of making ourselves better that projected toward helping others be better.  there is also a time where we make a circle and shout a loud with fun. The coach taught us some NLP method and at the end,each and everyone of us has to perform a short practical presentation that basically utilizing all the tools we learned that day.

For you who do not really know what NLP could bring you, below is the video of how significant NLP could change a mind of a person by injecting ideas to subconscious mind.

I definitely will attend the next NLP workshop again and may also some useful and practical techniques to enhance our performance in daily life or business.


Lean Thinking : The Problem of Introducing “Doing Better” for Different People with Different Background


Having read the A lean journey blog that gave a quote of the week about “Can We do Better?” “YES”, I get so inspired yet give rise to unresolved questions  that coming up to my mind after I read the article.

Maybe, it is better that the unanswered question be described using a small true story that I experienced.

I have a maid, whose job is to come everyday to my house leaving her husband and two kids to clean my house. She will clean every room in my house from living room, bed room, kitchen, until toilet. I have just getting mad at her because she supposed to also clean my bedroom but it appeared that she just passed my bedroom and not doing the mopping, sweeping, and tidying that she is responsible for.

I thought maybe she just have a rough day to get over so I just neglect it. But the next day, the same thing happened again and I confront and ask her for a confirmation. unexpectedly, she is the one who is getting irritated with me because she felt that I accused her for not doing her job while she actually did clean my room. While calming myself from her reaction, I followed up with a probing questions and found out that she in fact thought that the cleaning job that she had done was fabulous according to her.


That night, I went into reflection and thinking deeply about how that could happened. I learn and passionately searching about Lean that basically doing things better or Kaizen about continuous improvement, but in my own backyard, in my house, I got a person working in my house who is my maid that basically have a different standards compare to me about the definition of  “a clean room”. For her, since she lives in a village, she define “a clean room”.is that room that I call dirty because I live in a city. Thus, we have a different standards about “a clean room”.


The rising questions is how she could do better at cleaning my room while according her standards she has already done a wonderful job. How to make her realize that what she did actually is below my standards and that she could do better willingly and improve her performance and quality.

This is somehow related with quality perceived by customers. In my country, quality is not the main concern because people is still buying products even not a high quality. They bought it because their standards is rather low, so that when the products that being produced in my country want to be exported, then the gap about standards become a barrier for my country’s products to sell. On the other side, people on my country has no pressure or willingness to do better in production because they still think that it sells well. The labor is not trying to improve the process because without improving it, it still sells even just for local market. Their standards become inertia for their self to reach the next level of doing better and to continuously improvement.


The question is “How?”. How to make them realize that the standards that they are living in is not fitted anymore and needed to be improve and in fact could be improve if they realize that they need a new standard.


Kaizen : Through the Lens of Sociological Perspective

Kaizen is all about making a continuous improvement. At a glance, it seems the definition could really easy to catch and understandable. Lean and Quality is apart of Kaizen and both can be sustain if the culture of Kaizen is inside the organization. In plain words, whether it is for a person, a group of people, an organization, or a global company, achieving high quality with low cost, increasing delivery capability ( response and speed ),  and gaining the right level of flexibility ( in terms of variety and volume ) together with an increase of productivity, Kaizen is the answer. It is the root that could make Lean and Quality living in the system.

In this post, I would like to point out that understanding Kaizen philosophy will help us to get started with Lean and/or Quality. However, as experts have warned us against all the too much simplification of Lean and/or Quality, the danger of viewing Lean and/or Quality by neglecting people’s interest and dynamic can lead to catastrophic result. We, both beginners or experts tend sometimes to focus on technical stuff. In Lean Management, this disease is called concentrating only to the methods and not the philosophy. In Quality, this is called the disease of dealing with quality as a product/engineered product quality only and not dealing with the whole quality as perceive by the customer.


This tells us that in Lean as well as in Quality, the involvement of Human side adds value to the success of it’s movement. Practitioners in Lean have clearly stressed out that culture of providing customers with value by means of eliminating waste has to be begin by a cultural change. On the other side in Quality movement, it is also have been said that Quality engineering is not a complete Quality, and the Culture of Quality First for customers come with the involvement of workers. Both have point out the importance of workers and not just methods or tools or engineering calculation. Thus, it is safe to say that Kaizen needs to take care both Social and Technical perspective for it to success. Both methods and human is technical and social that forms  a sociotechnical systems which refers to the interrelatedness of social and technical aspects of an organization. Thus, in my opinion it is important to think in terms of sociotechnical systems when we want to move forward with Lean and/or Quality.


Living in Lean Culture: Seeing is Believing

I have remembered how I have been amazed by a discovery in my own country Indonesia. I have gone so long to my reflective side of me after I have witnessed things that I couldn’t imagine to be exist in my country. Considering about the status of my country which categorized as a developing countries and the experience that I have on visiting several factories, I have been startled by a visitation to a factory in which the culture of Lean is very apparent.

In April 2011, I accompanied colleague students of my University to have a field trip to the automotive manufacturer plant which handle the assembly of medium and low trucks. I have had an experience for six months of internship in a quite famous automotive manufacturer overseas in Germany. Therefore, I presumed that the plant that we were going to visit was not possible to have a better management and/or technology than in Germany.

By the time we got there, I verify my assumption with the fact. It turns out at the first sight this plant which located in my country have nothing extra worth to be noted as better when compared to the technology with what the Germans have. It was a very conventional plant. At the site, we gathered together to a short briefing and quickly we were divided into several group and being arranged into route of travel around factory.

We make a start to the first process and go until the latest process in the plant. The tour guide which happens to be the supervisor and a foreman assisting us and generously share their experience about the working procedure, process, and experience. The workers in some areas are very kindly and proudly explaining the things that they are responsible of. I was astonished after we have come to an end. It was amazing to be there that  day and I felt very fortunate to be there.

I saw that  lean management in the factory that actually work. In that moment I totally changed my paradigm when I see with my own eyes that there is a factory runs smoothly by using no automation and high-tech and rely on the management of lean. They are many of lean concept use to manage the system. By concept I didn’t mean just methodology, but people actions and the the artifact of boards that daily updated, and the acknowledgement of suggestion of workers for all factory members. Besides of the Japanese auditor from Japan that always came to the factory to maintain the performance, many interesting facts have surprised me.

Previously I am very disappointed with labor from my country. It is because in my view, labor in my country is lazy and unproductive. However, what I saw that day at the factory could really make me realize the power of Lean. Lean could changed people behavior and culture to the desired one. I felt really happy to be there.