Sometimes it happens

Sometimes it happens, you’re working on a project and you just run out of ideas; your creative juices just dry up. Well this happened to me this week; for this blog. Normally I wake up on Monday mornings and the idea for that week’s blog just comes to me. This week nothing came to me. Today is Tuesday and again nothing came to me; so I decided to do what I always do when this happens to me during a project.

I just do something; it doesn’t matter what it is really. I pick up a pen and start to draw or start to write, often totally unrelated to what I’m working on. But more often than not, my subconscious mind will have a light bulb moment during this “down time”. You see the mind is an interesting and complex system and understanding how the mind creates ideas is an interesting subject. There are a couple of important ingredients to having an idea:

–  The brain needs dopamine. Dopamine is released when we are doing things like exercise, listening to music, taking a warm shower.

– Relaxed state of mind. When your mind is relaxed, your thoughts will be more inward focussed. Today this is called “mindfulness”. It really works!

– Distraction. This is the kicker for me. By distracting our mind it gives our conscious a break and lets the real work begin in the background. Think of your mind as a factory. If the owner of the factory  refused to hire anyone else and tried to do all of the work themselves; selling, buying materials, planning production, running the equipment, packaging and distribution the business would crumble. This is because one person cannot do all of that work physically or mentally. It’s no different in your mind – your subconscious is your team around you. Let it get to work and stop micro-managing!

So back to today’s blog, I started with nothing to say but have already written half a page; that’s the power of the subconscious!

But seriously, do not underestimate the importance and the value of doing “nothing”. It’s only nothing if that’s what comes out of it; from my experience this very rarely happens, if ever. So, the next time you’re stuck on a project, put on some music, get into some exercise or any type of distraction and let your inner team get to work.

Speed of Change

Today, I thought I’d get back to the core of my lean passion and talk a little about implementation of a lean project. Yes, lean is about small continual improvements, but there are times when project based work is needed for larger roll-outs and tasks.

I am a firm believer in and practitioner of PDCA, Plan Do Check Act. For many of my projects the planning stage may be up to 80% of the entire project life cycle. Thorough planning of the project will always result in smoother implementation and transition. The stages of Do and Check are critical for any project, and even more so for very large projects with many stakeholders as this is where the real buy-in occurs. Although these first three stages are the longest, it’s important that they are still completed in a timely manner so the project doesn’t labour on too long. When a project takes too long during these stages, it can appear to have stalled and the business may lose interest.

When it comes time to implement the project, speed of implementation is important; however it is more important to not rush it. I like a fast implementation as I’ve found in my experience that you can get a lot more action and buy-in through the excitement and energy of a quick implementation; and let’s face it, if the change is the right change and will bring good outcomes, why wouldn’t you want to be excited? I’ve seen some slow implementations where the team is almost apologising to the business for being in the way or for making the change. These changes will not be sustainable; before the project is finished, the business is already sorry!

So, take your time to plan and test thoroughly before building excitement and energy for the implementation. Implement as fast as you can but be thorough in closing out any open issues. Don’t do a fast half-baked implementation with the intention of going back and finishing; intentions are great but don’t actually achieve anything – actions do!

Tech, it’s a tool not a process!

I spent a couple of days last week attending a Manufacturing Conference in Melbourne. Met some really knowledgeable manufacturing professionals who really know their stuff. Over the course of the two days the presentations and discussions were quite diverse, however there were a couple of trends that kept coming up; one of the was the use of and the integration of technology in business, and in particular manufacturing.

Now, I am a card carrying member of the geek squad. I love new technology, what-ever it is. One thing I took away from the conference was the unfortunate use of technology to either 1) Control our processes; or 2) Be our process. There was an overwhelming opinion within the room that as manufacturers, they have technology thrust upon them rather than supporting them. This technology then becomes another burden.

Quite simply, the introduction of any new technology should be no different to the introduction of new capital equipment; it needs to add something.
– A reduction in costs through improved efficiencies
– An improvement in safety
– Improved quality through tighter tolerances or increased repeatability

This list can be long, but the point is it makes no difference if it’s equipment or technology. It has to add value otherwise why make the investment of capital and time. Before you introduce your next technology, ask some simple questions:
– What value is this new technology providing me?
– Is there a current gap this is will close out?
– What are the risks / negatives to introducing this new technology?