The Small Picture

Canning plant where peas are principal project...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

The Third Shift Supervisor (Fred) hurries onto the production floor of a food manufacturing plant.  It’s Sunday night and he’s in charge of the plant’s weekly start-up.  Fred is pleased with the way his team has improved start-ups and everything seems to be going well again this week.  That is until he realizes that one of his most important lines is starting up late.

Fred goes straight to the Line Mechanic and asks, “What’s going on John.  I thought you were ahead of schedule.”

John replies, “I was until we started running and the weights were way off.  Someone put the scale together all wrong.  Some pouches are too heavy and others are too light – I can’t run like this.  It’s going to take some time to take it appart and to put it back together again.  Looks like we won’t hit our start-up goals this week.”  Grrrr.

Fred and John are still talking about this mess later in the week.  John says, “I can’t believe it.  No one ever screws up my scale that bad.  How about launching a Kaizen team to make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

Fred jumps on the idea because the Start-up Kaizen just disbanded after successfully achieving it’s charter and he was looking for the next project.  Fred organizes the team and even includes a Lead Mechanic from another shift for another perspective.  They meet for several weeks and develop a scale assembly check list.  The Kaizen Team rolls out the new SOP and they are congratulated for achieving their goal.

Mission accomplished…or is it?  What if there were bigger issues that this team should have been going after?  This was just the first time that they had the scale issue and a Kaizen Team really was over-kill for this type of problem.  The mechanic or supervisor could have written the SOP and gained consensus without organizing a Kaizen team.  Testing and implementing the new procedures could have been done quite well even on the side.

That Third Shift Supervisor was me about 20 years ago.  Launching a Scale Kaizen wasn’t all bad.  We made it a better plant.  A Kaizen was just more horse-power than we really needed.  More importantly, it kept the larger team from working on something bigger.  Using the Pareto Principle would have helped me to Get the Big Picture and to do a better job of project selection.  This experience is one that helped me to think in terms of getting the most bang for the buck when choosing a Continuous Improvement project.  Use the right tool for the issue at hand.

What about you?  Do you have examples of good projects that got in the way of great ones?  Have you seen positive examples of turning away small picture projects to focus on the really critical ones?


Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via e-mail (right side bar), retweet, digg, or stumble this article. Your feedback is appreciated.

Please check out my Facebook page and continue the discussion there too.


About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
This entry was posted in Lean Manufacturing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Small Picture

  1. Hi Chris,

    You writes like Eliyahu M. Goldratt , the author of “The Goal” book.
    Similar with your writing style, he use story line to cover the theory of constraint.

    Back to you question, I’ve work on a project where we needed to improve service provided by national telco at its call center. Not knowing where to start and being new in quality role.

    I decided run an awareness program about activating the correct service for mobile users.
    My rational to embank on the project was just based on preventing unhappy customer calling back. Thinking back, That was amazing experience trying to solve problem using logic.

    If similar situation arise again- I would use VOC, Pareto, benefit analysis, MSA, process to be, Cause & Effect and many more….:-) glad to see myself maturing in quality role and has the heart to constantly learn.

    • Ganesh,

      That’s very kind of you. The Goal is a great book for the Theory of Constraints and Lean. That sounds like a great experience and it also learns like you grew in the process. You clearly have a thirst for learning with the time you spend reading different lean blogs. Thanks for you kind feedback and for all the comments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s