Seeing the Big Picture

Be aware of how much of the “Big Picture” you and your direct reports see. A common mistake in organizations trying to improve is the assumption that everyone gets it.  The diagram below shows how our scope of vision (how much of the “big Picture” we see) can be affected by our place in the organization.  

Top Down View

This phenomenon leads to sub-optimization and silo’ing. For example, one department applies 5-S strategy by moving their stuff into someone else’s area, or throws something important away.  Another group optimizes a value stream at the expense of other value streams, or the business in general. Buy-in is weak at best. 

Employee Engagement

Engagement is about respect.  I can tell you from experience that someone from outside a business can come in and see internal engagement problems in less than a day. It is all about respect, which is easy to observe.

A University of Berkley study, which focused on the survivability of marriages, found that the common denominator of failed relationships was the existence of a condescending attitude. Our relationships at work are the same. When there is a lack of respect between individuals or groups, there will also be silo’ing and sub optimizing.


My great grandfather had a team of mules he used for farming. He was the envy of the other farmers in the area because, as I learned, it is difficult to get mules work together as a team. Just because you have two mules, you don’t automatically have a team. As a freshman in college he would tell me stories about his mules and how he managed them to become a team. He would also show me letters from all over the mid-west offering to buy his mule team. They were something rare and valuable.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

The Lean Shop does not exist because of cutting costs.  It exists as a result of proven best practices. Sometime you have to spend money to save money.  This Lean bulletin is about determining both the most effective and the most efficient way to perform a task.

The axiom behind “You don’t know what you don’t know” is the same as for “If you are not measuring it, you’re are not managing it”.  There is value in knowing that a vehicle is in pre-loss condition and safe for the vehicle owner to drive.  But how do you know that these criteria are met?  Just guessing will cost you both time and money

Collision Shop Gemba Walks

Shop Walk Throughs

The Lean term for this strategy is “gemba walks”.  It basically means being out in the shop seeing firsthand what is happening.  More specifically, it is about making potential problems more visible.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Make positive interactions with employees.
  • Ask why things are being done, even if you think you already know. Listen carefully.  You may find that the employee’s view of “why” may be different than yours.  If their answer is “because I was told to”, you have an opportunity to teach. If their answers is that they are adjusting for a defect they inherited, you also have an opportunity to target and correct a problem.

Lean Shop Defect Elimination

If you are serious about making process improvements in your shop, the best place to start is defect elimination.  For this discussion, a defect is anything that is not done right the first time.  Things like failed inspections, wrong parts, comebacks , etc. In this brief write up, let’s focus on comebacks.  The points we make here can be applied to any activity in your shop.

There is a method to the madness of defect elimination. Here are a few steps to take:

  • Define what a defect is. This should be from the perspective of the customer, bottom line business metrics, safety, or cost.

Collision Repair Shop Cycle Time Bandits

Cycle Time Bandits

Where are the cycle time bandits in your business?  This key question becomes the starting point for streamlining your business and increasing profits.

Before you can accurately locate these profit stealing activities in your shop, you must first understand what you are measuring.  Here is a key point.  There are two timelines that we concern ourselves with.  One is the time we spend working on the vehicle, which is labor time, not cycle time. The other timeline is how long a vehicle resides in your care before being returned to the customer.  This is the timeline that is important, because it is the cycle time of the repair.  It is the time the vehicle spends doing something, or waiting on something, that is important.

Heatcraft Tifton Georgia

Thanks to the folks at Heatcraft in Tifton, Georgia, for spending some time with me. They have a design/build to customer specification manufacturing process that operates at a very good cycle time. This takes a “can do” attitude, and they have it.

They will tell you that focusing on the customer makes all the difference and they are right. That’s how you keep/save jobs.

Science verses Religion

I love this topic. Stick a quarter in me and I can go on for hours.
Science and faith do not have to be at odds. Science and faith are both absolute and come from absolute sources. God can do what He wants, how He wants, when He wants. That is how I reconcile things science to things faith.
Science, though, will always be in conflict with religion, because religion is not absolute. It comes from man and is really a means for a few to control the many (just like politics).  Just look at wars and crimes against humanity in todays world that have religion as their source…Not God.
Religious folks make me nervous with their effort to separate people based upon their belief systems. For example, believing God created the universe and looking to science to understand it is not only okay, but healthy. In fact, I believe that God created the natural laws to provide a foundation for the rest of his creation, and He loves us for trying to understand these natural laws.  Unfortunately, religious folks, both theists and scientists, who vilify others with a different world view, control the dialog.  This is dangerous.
Consider the dark ages. The Catholic Church squelched all scientific endeavors. Some of science’s great minds were put to death for saying the world was round and earth was not the center of the universe.  This lasted 700-800 years from the collapse of the Roman Empire. It took humanity another 500 years after that to catch up to where we were in scientific understanding at the time of Christ. In other words we lost nearly 1300 years of scientific and cultural advancement. All due to religion, not faith.
The scary part is not the debate between science and religion. The scary thing is how many people reject someone saying “let’s look at the facts”, but accepts someone saying “forget the facts, believe what I tell you”. This is the basis of the conflict between science and religion. It is also the basis of conflict between cultural advancement and cultural stagnation. The argument has nothing to do with faith. Faith is a personal thing, not a corporate thing.

Note to My Son

A few things I know:

It is obvious that you are being called to make a difference, just like I am.

You are making a difference, you just don’t think about it that way.

You need to get back into a group leader situation. Your group was always involved in helping people. I believe that you miss and need that.

When frustrated, do something. Remember that you can’t eat the elephant in one bite. You can’t solve the world problems all at once either. Start in your back yard and move out from there.