Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting started with Lean

Here is some good information from the Lean Enterprise Institute on getting started with Lean in your organization.

Lean Action Plan
While every individual or company embarking on a lean journey will have different challenges based on their particular set of circumstances, there are several crucial steps that can help reduce resistance, spread the right learning, and engender the type of commitment necessary for lean enterprise.

Getting Started:
  • Find a change agent, a leader who will take personal responsibility for the lean transformation.
  • Get the lean knowledge, via a sensei or consultant, who can teach lean techniques and how to implement them as part of a system, not as isolated programs.
  • Find a lever by seizing a crisis or by creating one to begin the transformation.
  • Forget grand strategy for the moment.
  • Map the value streams, beginning with the current state of how material and information flow now, then drawing a leaner future state of how they should flow and creating an implementation plan with timetable.
  • Begin as soon as possible with an important and visible activity.
  • Demand immediate results.
  • As soon as you’ve got momentum, expand your scope to link improvements in the value streams and move beyond the shop floor to office processes.
Creating an Organization to Channel Your Value Stream.
  • Reorganize your firm by product family and value stream.
  • Create a lean promotion function.
  • Deal with excess people at the outset, and then promise that no one will lose their job in the future due to the introduction of lean techniques.
  • Devise a growth strategy.
  • Remove the anchor-draggers.
  • Once you’ve fixed something, fix it again.
  • “Two steps forward and one step backward is O.K.; no steps forward is not O.K.”
Install Business Systems to Encourage Lean Thinking
  • Utilize policy deployment.
  • Create a lean accounting system.
  • Pay your people in relation to the performance of your firm.
  • Make performance measures transparent.
  • Teach lean thinking and skills to everyone.
  • Right-size your tools, such as production equipment and information systems.
Completing the Transformation
  • Convince your suppliers and customers to take the steps just described.
  • Develop a lean global strategy.
  • Convert from top-down leadership to leadership based on questioning, coaching, and teaching and rooted in the scientific method of plan-do-check-act

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lean I.T.

There are many ways that I.T. can use the principles of Lean to improve its processes.  One of the most critical areas is documentation.

Too often I.T. departments have all their eggs in one basket.  Over time, knowledge that is critical to the functioning of business critical applications and infrastructure finds itself residing in the mind(s) of one or two individuals.  When an employee leaves (or is laid off or gets hit by a bus!), the knowledge they have accumulated walks out the door with them.  The only way to keep this knowledge in house is to develop a procedure for documenting all of your I.T. processes.  Here are some ideas for getting started:
  • Develop "playbooks" for each position in I.T.  This book would contain a standard work document that details the responsibilities of the job, process maps for each function, tips and tricks for performing each task, a list of all contacts and what each contact can help with, a list of requisite skills / training needed to be successful in the position, the location of any tools / software / manuals etc, a list of the metrics used to measure the performance of the person in the position
  • Implement robust help desk software.  This will help you document fixes and develop a knowledgebase that can be searched not only by the I.T. personnel but also by end-users.
  • Develop best practice sharing. Sharepoint is an excellent tool for doing this. 
  • Document your infrastructure.  Don't just keep the information in a Visio document on the file server. Place critical information about equipment with the equipment.  For example, you can keep a card with each server that contains; server name, asset number, IP address and other network settings, model / sn, bios info, drive info, backup info and most important, contact info for the person who can fix it!
Those are just some ideas to get you started on documenting your I.T. processes.  Don't wait until the only person who knows how to fix that annoying error on the CRM software leaves the company!  Get started today and save yourself some headaches in the future.  I will discuss more about this topic in the future.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Get your knowledge on!

We all know the job market is tough right now, and all indications point to it remaining difficult for some time to come.  More than ever, it is imperative that you stand out from the rest of those trying to get their foot in the door, and if you do not have a degree, that door may never open.

For many adults, the idea of going to school is a frightening one.  Much of this anxiety is centered on the thought of being around younger students and not being able to keep up with the work.  It is also difficult for adults to find the time that is needed to be successful in a degree program.  So how can adults, who have to compete for scarce jobs with people in their own age group and also with younger and more educated job seekers, get the education they need and still meet their other obligations?  Enter the online degree program!

Online universities have been growing rapidly over the past decade.  According to the Sloan Consortium, more than 20 percent of all college students were taking at least one online class in the fall of 2007.  That is a 12 percent increase over the previous year. (MassHighTech).  But, are these online degrees as "valuable" as their traditional "brick and mortar" counterparts?

There is a belief among people that a degree from a 100 percent online university is not the same quality as a degree from a traditional school.  Some of this stigma is starting to disappear, but there can still be some misgivings about where your degree is from, especially in sectors such as engineering or finance.  It is critical for the school you pick to be accredited by one of the following regional accrediting agencies:
Not only will accreditation help insure the quality of the education you receive, it will also help if you want to transfer any of your credits to another school.  There are also many employers who will not accept a degree from an institution that is not accredited by one of these agencies.

You do not have to limit yourself to one of these non-traditional schools if you want to earn your degree online.  Another option you have is to find an online program that is offered by a brick and mortar institution.  This will give you the flexibility you need, and it will remove the stigma of your degree coming from an online only university. 

Hundreds of colleges and universities are offering partial or complete degree programs online.  It is possible to earn an associate, bachelor, master, and in some cases a doctorate (most doctorates require some residency).  The list below is just a few of the schools that offer online programs.  The links will take you directly to the online programs' webpage.  All of the schools listed are accredited by a regional accrediting agency as of the date of this posting. (3/07/2010)

"Traditional" schools:
"Non-Traditional" schools:
I will post links to more schools and information about some of those schools in future posts.  Good luck!