Lean & 5S' in Construction #22 May 2006

***************** Office Efficiency and Waste in Knowledge Workers Work
Daniel Markovitz, a Lean consultant, reports helping reduce the waste in knowledge workers' behavior. In one project the workers gained nearly 10 hours per week for value added work. What would an additional 10 hours do for you office admin, estimators and engineers?
Dan feels that “Lean work habits are critical for knowledge workers, because the multiple value streams flowing through them create a constant tension. Without lean habits to guide their work, the critical flow of information in the value stream clogs up. Think of the information bottlenecks in the form of backlogs on their desks, or the hundreds of unanswered email in their inboxes. Think of the enforced waiting throughout a department when decision-makers read but don't act upon a request. Think of the unnecessary motion of managers searching for documents amidst the masses of paper piled on their desks. Each of these wastes undermines the gains made by any improvements in the design of a company's business processes.”
Dan has developed the following principles to help knowledge workers become lean and improve the flow of the value stream:

“Principle #1: Screening Muda
Office and engineering/design workers are flooded with information each day. Most studies show that 50% of this information has little or no value to the worker.
By contrast, production line employees don't have to deal with this problem. They have limited and clearly defined materials that come down the assembly line to their workstation. They know what to process and how to do it.” Office workers should screen information that enters the work system in order to identify and reduce waste. Dan suggests the following:
Removed your name from unnecessary mailing lists.
Proactively communicate to co-workers what types of information you need to see and what types are irrelevant.
Learn to discard low- or no-value information immediately, don’t let it clutter your inbox.
Create rules in your email software to direct mail to appropriate folders so that it doesn't sit in your inbox.

Dan claims that employing these lean work habits will reduce the amount of time spent handling email by 22%.

Principle #2: Managing The Flow
“Keep value flowing through the business process by applying the "4 Ds" to your work. When a task enters the system -- an email, a phone call, a memo, a project, etc. -- you must take one of four courses of action:
Deal with it, if it can be completed in less than two minutes;
Delegate it to someone better suited to handle it;
Designate time for it in your calendar, if it's a more complicated task;
Dump it, if it's irrelevant or insignificant.“

Dan feels that “when workers rigorously apply the 4 Ds, nothing returns to the inbox; value always moves forward. And indeed, employees who practice the 4 Ds consistently have reduced the amount of time spent working on backlog -- which is nothing more than a form of waste in a lean system - by 45%.”

Principles #3: Moving Value Forward
“Avoid interruptions; they kill the focus needed for efficient, high-quality work. Mary Czerwinski of Microsoft Research Labs points out that once someone is interrupted, it takes 25 minutes to cycle back to the original task. And 40% of the time, workers wander off in a new direction when an interruption ends. In a five-year study, IBT-USA found that executives lose 4.5 hours per week to interruptions. They estimated the loss to be even higher, at nearly 11 hours per week.” Could you use an additional 11 hours this week?

A way to reduce the number of interruptions and increase efficiency is by grouping similar tasks together. Turn off your email alerts and only handle email and phone calls at specific times. More importantly, designate undisturbed time to concentrate on complex tasks like word processing, spreadsheet analysis, or handling customer service issues.

While in construction the largest cost factor is the construction crew, the support functions also add cost to the job. The first priority is to keep the crews productive and installing. By eliminating waste in the office and admin it actually can aid the crews in the field especially field supervision and project managers. Try these simple principles and see how they can help your support functions.

Source: The New Frontier Of Lean, IndustryWeek, April 5, 2006

***************** Training is needed
As every construction manager knows, there is a growing shortage for skilled labor and project managers in the industry. Companies are looking for ways to replace the retiring workforce. This problem is not unique to construction; all industries are facing the same problem. Some are turning to a 60-year old program called Training Within Industry (TWI) as a solution.

TWI is a training program that gives supervisors key skills in becoming effective supervisors and to help them rapidly and consistently train their workers. TWI was developed during WWII to train replacements of an industrial workforce that was fighting a war. TWI provided supervision with leaderships skills and the ability to analyze a job and recommend process improvements. TWI is recognized as part of what helped the U.S. win the WWII. We out-produced the enemy. During the prosperity of post-war America, the TWI program was dropped and it became a faded memory.

TWI was introduced in Japan during post-war rebuilding. The basic framework of TWI exists in Toyota and many other companies to this day. It is seen as foundational to Toyota's success in continuous improvement, and more importantly, in its ability to sustain those improvements. Today companies are looking to the TWI program as part of their lean initiative to develop the key people and supervisory skills. I feel there is much leading edge contractors can learn from TWI however my efforts to create interest in the established construction training institutes have so far fallen on deaf ears. Like many new or forgotten ideas it will take forward thinking customers (the contractors) to change the established paradigms.

***************** Last Planner System®
Even though our tools and information systems are ever more sophisticated and there is more project management training available, our project results do not show a great increase in effectiveness or efficiency. Hal Macomber suggests a new idea, that “projects are conducted in an unfolding network of commitments — challenges the very nature of what people do today in the project setting.” The Project Management Institute (PMI) is still teaching people the old ideas of project management They basically teach, "Just get good at doing what we've been telling you to do all along and your projects will come out just fine." Hal feels that “following that teaching with certification is producing a world-wide paradigm that is having the affect of blinding practitioners to alternative ideas (theories). 1 ”Many contractors are ignoring the value of lean construction because they feel they can just keep using the same old project management techniques, but will get better results.

Hal feels that “Individuals are rarely to blame for project failures.” He states: “While I've written extensively on the Last Planner System® (LPS) and its basis in the language action perspective (LAP), the crux of the new idea is that projects are distinctly human endeavors taking place in unknowable futures. Planning and plan execution are tied directly to both the people who are performing the project and the future that unfolds while they do that. Consequently, the new idea recognizes that plans have a shelf life…often a very short one. President Dwight D. Eisenhower aptly said,

‘Plans are nothing, planning is everything.’

“The language action perspective is both attractive and challenging in the project setting. The idea that we can't determine our future is anathema in our engineering-oriented highly successful society. When something doesn't go as planned we are quick to assign blame to a person or firm. Yet, in my experience, individuals are rarely to blame for project failures. We can thank Lauri Koskela, Ph.D. and Gregory Howell, P.E. for helping us understand how that obsolete theory has contributed to the results we get on projects. 2

Let planning continue to the last moment when task assignments are promised by project performers.”

Hal says that by teaching his clients to run projects using the LAP and the Last Planner System, they routinely produce far superior results than do projects using the common practices of project management taught today.

Hal offers these three questions to consider while dealing with the challenges of managing a project:

“In our always uncertain world, why exclude what we learn while we go about carrying out our projects?
Why exclude what other project performers learn while they toil with (or for) us on our projects?
How does the reliability of others' commitments affect the reliability of our commitments and the project results?

Let planning continue — it does anyway — in a formal way through the time when task assignments are promised by project performers. The underlying (generally unarticulated) theory is not working. This theory is a forced commitment on the field supervision usually by the general contractor. This new theory to allow the Last Planner to make the commitments of what they ‘will do.’ This approach is based on the proved research that human beings achieve more of what they commit to than what they are forced to do. The new theory is producing far superior results.

The Last Planner System combines “planning with execution in recurring commitment conversations — negotiating, promising, declaring complete, and re-promising — builds the network of commitments that brings structure to our projects. It is that structure that also prepares the planner-doers for noticing variation to the plan as they go about fulfilling their promises. The result is a team with the capacity to adjust what they are doing to accomplish the overall promises of the project.”

“The pain of this new idea of project management is real. There aren't enough project resources to conduct the project the traditional way and adopt the new practices. Frankly, on many AEC projects there aren't even enough people to do the project the way they want to do it. So a choice must be made. It's the choice to do what we've been taught to do and hope for the best or to stop doing many of those things to make room for more effective practices. The companies that made the decision to change faced real pain. And, in just a few months they have also come to enjoy the success that results. It's time to choose.”

1. The PMI is succeeding. Membership has swelled from under 100,000 in 2002 to over 300,000 going into 2007. Attendance at conferences is at an all time high. And a cottage industry including top universities has grown to prepare project managers for the certification, CPM®.

2. The Underlying Theory of Project Management Is Obsolete, presented at PMI's 2002 Research Conference.

Source: Reforming Project Management Hal Macomber, Jan 2, 2007

**************** Learning Opportunities you don’t want to miss
You may be interested in attending one of these training seminars taught by Dennis Sowards.

May 31, 2007 – Lean Job Planning the Really Works - Phoenix, AZ – Sponsor: PIPE & 469 JAC, contact Cathy at pipetrust@qwest.net
June 20, 2007 - Lean Works in Construction – Kansas City, MO –Sponsor: SMACNA- KC – Contact Sang 816-421-3360 ext. 112 and at information@smacnakc.com
Sept. 27, 2007 – Lean is not a Fad Diet – it works in construction too! – Phoenix, AZ – Sponsor: PIPE & 469 JAC, contact Cathy at pipetrust@qwest.net

Other Lean Learning opportunities:
June 5- 6, 2007 – Training Within Industry (TWI) Summit, Orlando FL. http://www.twisummit.com
June 12-13, 2007 – Lean Construction sponsored Design Forum, Chicago, IL, http://www.eventbrite.com/event/51634440
Jul 18-20, 2007 - Annual International Group for Lean Construction Meeting, East Lansing, Michigan, USA Refer to http://www.iglc.net/conferences/2007/

***************** A Quick Thought
People learn something every day, and a lot of times it's that what they learned the day before was wrong. - Bill Vaughan