Joe White joined works for Simpler Consulting with and has over 15 years of leadership experience in the development and implementation of successful, TPS-based lean transformations across multiple industries, countries and companies.
Joe’s lean journey started quite by accident after joining a small company as an Industrial Engineer while attending graduate school. Having seen this unique facility on a class plant tour, Joe knew it was special, but didn’t realize that it would spawn a career-changing learning curve. It was there that he was mentored by the Toyota Supplier Support Center and learned concepts within the Toyota Production System (TPS) including Kanban, Heijunka systems, TPM processes, and SMED. From there, his journey involved Tier 1 automotive suppliers and a holding company that exposed him to many, diverse businesses and allowed him to develop Lean systems and lead transformations in varying industries, environments and cultures across the globe.
Joe has been involved with the development of four lean transformation business models including training and employee development programs. He holds certifications as a Change Management Trainer and Practitioner, Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Master Black Belt and Master Trainer and Project Management.
Interview with Joe White
By: Steve Willett
What would be your high-level bullet point plan for implementing lean in an organization?
It all starts with senior leadership. I know this seems to be overused, but it really is true. If the senior leadership team doesn’t have a strong sense of urgency to change their organization and its culture, failure is guaranteed. Once the leadership team is on board, they have to do several things effectively. :
1) Understand and craft the communication plan for the “burning platform”; everything that must go. Every employee will eventually need to understand the WHY (not just the what and how) of the changes that will be coming.
2) Develop the organizational goals that need to be achieved. At Simpler, we call this True North and recommend 4 categories of metrics/goals: Human Development, Quality, Timeliness, Cost and Growth.
3) Understand what value streams their organizations have and what needs to be accomplished (at a high- level) to achieve the True North performance goals and develop a high- level Transformation Plan to achieve those goals.
Once these steps are complete, the true transformational work can begin. Continuous improvement events are aimed at getting as many people involved as possible and are a great way to transform the key value streams while influencing the culture, but there are other steps that need to take place concurrently. Here are some examples:
Develop a team of resources: Generally this starts with outside support (often in the form of consultants). It is also important to identify internal resources that will develop the skills sets needed long term. Additionally, a long term process to continue this development is critical. Your lean resources will gain valuable knowledge of the business and at many levels. They will generally serve in these roles for 2-3 years and then go on to other leadership roles in the organization. Keeping the talent funnel full is critical.
Training: Many organizations choose to develop and deliver overview training to show what lean philosophies will be utilized and communicate the burning platform and a transformation overview. This can be really helpful, but it is also important to not overdue this. Many organizations spend a lot of time and effort training employees to use tools that they may not need. Keep training on the “pull system”.
Visual Management: Develop and implement visual management to communicate the performance to the organizational goals and foster discussions around problem solving.
Workplace Organization: Whether you choose to call it 5S (Sort, straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain) or 6S (addition of Safety), this is a great tool to start instilling the disciplines needed to transform the organization and sustain the improvements. This can be a broader exercise than the value stream transformations and is a great way to get more people involved.
Problem Solving: Engaging the entire organization in problem solving is critical. Getting some basic problem solving tools in place and tying applying the solutions to the value stream transformations unleashes the most valuable asset you have;: your people.
Finally, developing Developing a set Set of tools Tools that can be used to drive the transformations and teaching your teams to use them in the context of the Value Stream Transformation plans Plan is the long term process that develops internal resources capable of leading the ongoing lean transformation.
In your experiences, what do you feel are the main obstacles when a company starts a lean strategy?
1) Having the internal expertise. It is often necessary to partner with a Sensei (Master Expert) that has been through the transition before. If that expertise isn’t internally available, organizations can be hesitant to invest in that partnership, but if the proper Sensei partnership is developed, it can pay big dividends throughout the process.
2) Not taking the time to properly analyze the value streams and plan the transformation stages and steps. Obviously, this plan will be at a high- level early on and needs to be refined every quarter or so, but laying out the journey is an important early step.
3) Focusing solely on cost reduction. If you focus on streamlining operations, reducing lead times, developing your people, and improving flow, the cost savings will come.
What are some lessons you have learned to overcome these obstacles?
1) Change Management. Always keep in mind that a lean transformation is disruptive and difficult. Don’t lose sight of the impact this has on the organization. Spend 10-20% of your transformation resources on managing the change process (identifying and addressing resistance, crafting communication plans, keeping leadership engaged, etc.).
2) DO NOT SHORT CUT THE PROCESS. Too many times, leaders try to short cut the process and they rob their teams of learning. Ultimately, this is counterproductive and creates a culture that does not value standard work. One of the most frequent mistakes, like this, that I see is wanting to short cut Kaizen/Rapid Improvement Events. There are is decades of information showing that the week long event is most effective for solving the problems and changing the culture;. Shortening shortening this to 2 days is a bad idea, trust. Trust us trust us (and by that I mean the thousands of practitioners that have done this for years).
3) Deal with senior leadership support issues early on. This is a tough one, but if you truly want to transform your business, senior leadership support is nonnegotiable. You can afford to bring other leadership levels and individuals along as the process goes forward, but not at the senior level.
4) Partner with the Senior Finance Leadership early and often to show the results. This builds support, and helps mitigate resistance.
5) Don’t spread the tools, concepts and philosophies too fast. For instance, I often see leaders expand Visual Management into areas that don’t have active value stream transformational activities that tied to the strategic plan, and they do it without the needed resources to coach the leaders in the area. They end up with pretty boards all over the place that aren’t adding any value.
Do you have a success story that you want to share?
New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is a $7 billion integrated healthcare delivery system and is the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country.
Serving 1.4 million New Yorkers every year, HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse service through its 11 acute care hospitals, four skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers, and more than 70 community based clinics.
HHC leveraged Lean strategies to improve the revenue cycle process and collections. This work included:
· o Redesigning the automated revenue cycle management system
· o Improving charge capture workflow
· o Creating “standard” work for coding
As a result, HHC effectively streamlined its revenue cycle processes, resulting in:
· o $127 million in additional annual revenues
· o Increased collection rates
· o Reduced cycle time
· o Reduced staffing costs
For more information about Simplier Consulting go to www.simplier.com, and for more information on the HHC story, go to: