Insights from Massachusetts

Wow! Got to spend a week in Massachusetts and attend one of the best operational excellence conferences I have ever been to. The NE Shingo Prize Conference in Worcester was really good. Jim Womack was the opening keynote speaker. And the time spent over those two days just got better.

Mr. Womack started off talking about the very same things that I’ve been disussing with my boss, Fred Schmidt, and writing about in this blog. What you measure is so critically important. Get it right and things go well. Get it wrong and prepare to struggle.

Womack touched on another point that addresses a really big question I had ever since I read the book Learning to See by Mike Rother and John Shook. How do you make the concept of a value stream manager really work since you so often cut across vertical silos in an organization? Mr. Womack minced no words on this subject. I interpreted what he said as this:

The idea of a value stream manager is wrong. Doesn’t work. How many companies have you seen use this idea and actually make it work? The answer: not many, if any at all. What we need are value stream leaders. We need people to stand up and say “I know I’m not accountable for the entire value stream since it includes these other parts of the company. BUT, I will make sure it works. I will be the responsible one to ensure success.”

So how is that different? Simple, it requires someone with some authority to lead the value stream . Where many companies have tried to use a respected employee to monitor the process and tell those in authority when there is a problem, this idea of a value stream leader changes that entire mindset. You have to have someone with the “pull” to take responsibility and lead those employees working in the value stream to success.  What a great take-away.  This ought to start a few discussions.

Now its back to the salt mines at M.E. Burdette Co.  We’re struggling right now trying to get our key metrics to stick in some parts of the company. I think I need to visit with Chris or Max on this before too long.

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About narvelltmann

Currently working first job out of college as a cost analyst for M.E. Burdette Co.
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