A Lean Coaching Conundrum – squaring the unsquarable circle (#39)

First blog of 2018 and I’m sure the suspense has been killing you. This post is about forcing deeper learning in a coaching exchange.

Terry works for a client of mine. He’s a good person to coach in that he’s curious, open to learning & willing to get his hands dirty. This represents something of a holy trinity of pre-requisites for me. Terry’s Achilles heel though is not entirely his own fault & not unusual, in that he is smart and processes information quickly. This ability to join dots is a real problem in developing lean capability as it lures people into thinking they understand something without going through the hard cycles of learning on the shopfloor.

So it was with Terry and understanding how better to Build-in Quality for his products. Essentially, how to better execute the clear intent of the product drawing into mass production? Terry understood the structure & practices involved in this process quickly without really troubling to think hard. So I set him a question (to square an unsquarable circle) for deeper learning. It went something like this:

“Terry, reconcile two things for me…”

1) “Clearly we’re striving for zero defects, with a belief in Built-in Quality and the fact that we can get there. Of course, practically we know that you inch closer month by month so that your RFT% goes from 95% to 96% to (eventually) 99% to 99.1% etc”

“You agree that a strong quality outcome (in manufacturing at least) is the result of people converting material using machines to a standardised method. Lets simplify this to say that

Quality depends on Human Assurance (People following Standardised Work as a narrow example) and Physical Assurance (Machine based error-proofing jigs & fixtures). We don’t want to error-proof everything as it’s too expensive, creates complexity (more things to go wrong and breakdown) & the technology just isn’t there to reliably error-proof all potential failure modes"

All of which brings us to 2)

2) “Defects flow from errors, Human beings will always make errors (because, well, we’re human), so the best we can do is keep extending the interval between errors. The error will occur though, at some point as surely as rain follows sunshine”

“So, Terry, how can you simultaneously believe that 1) Zero defects is possible and that 2) Humans will always make errors that lead to defects”

In this case, with this person, in this company (lean being situational) this question unlocked deeper learning. Two of our critical skills as clear thinking lean people are (i) diagnosing the next problem to solve towards a clear image and (ii) creating a learning opportunity for the right learner in the business to get there.


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