Skip to main content

So here is the problem: suppose you have a client who has asked you to help them improve throughput of orders in their procurement process. It is a large organisation with many branches spread across the region. They deliver a range of services to their customers, from a high volume of fairly standardised services to some services that are quite complex.

The nature of demand on the procurement also varies from complex service contracts to high volume, standard items like stationary. The process is manual, paper-based and requires several procurement criteria to be applied in selecting a supplier before a purchase order is issued. Files are passed from office to office and delivery of supplies to the branches has fallen behind quite badly. Piles of files are stacked all over the offices and the traditional management culture has responded with fire-fighting. However management have enthusiastically taken to the initial training and the senior manager has started doing weekly Gemba walks.

At the outset, the team assigned by the client to address the problem of long procurement times participated in an Introduction to Lean workshop and then proceeded to draw up a current state value-stream map. It showed that the total work processing time was about 5 hours and the average completion time to delivery was about 104 days. Having found that daily output from the offices in the process can fluctuate wildly between nothing for several days followed by a huge batch as stacks of files are moved to the next office it was decided that the first priority must be to stabilise the flow of work.

Initial efforts to introduce a daily management system (DMS) consisting of visual performance measurement, daily team meetings, standard operating procedures (SOPs), 5S housekeeping and A3 improvement projects quickly ran into the sand despite regular support from a lean coach about twice a week.

The hard-core Toyota guys would say it is time to walk away from the client, but we have decided to conduct a bold experiment: to simplify the Toyota Coaching Kata even more to make it easier for people to do.

Given our experience that the administrators find it difficult to maintain the key performance measurements and do their daily team meetings we decided to radically simplify the DMS to attempt to effect the behaviour change that is necessary to maintain the DMS routines.

We decided to reduce the DMS to one graph and three questions:

  • Every time an administrator takes completed files out of the office they must record the number of files on a bar graph located at the exit door of the office to build up a trend graph of the number of files completed per day.
  • Every day the office supervisor or manager meets with the team in front of the graph and ask the following questions:
    ▪ How many files did you complete yesterday?
    ▪ What is the one obstacle you are working on to improve your output today?
    ▪ If you can’t address this obstacle yourself, what can I do to help you?

traffic light filingIn addition a 5S system of visualising the status of files is to be introduced:

Green: New files that will be worked on immediately after the file currently being worked on has been completed;
Yellow: Files awaiting outstanding information that can be worked on by the administrator once the information arrives;
Red: Files that require the attention of a supervisor or manager.

So here is the question: Do you think it will work? We’d love to hear from you – leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Kind regards,

Anton Grutter

P.S. There is an amazing opportunity to find out more about the Toyota Kata from the man who literally wrote the book on it. Mike Rother, who developed the Toyota Kata method of improvement coaching and wrote the book by the same name, will be the keynote speaker at our Lean Summit Africa 2016 in Cape Town from 19 to 21 October 2016.

Take this unique opportunity to learn with us how to improve your improvement practice – register your interest here.

P.P.S. If you would like to know more about the Toyota Improvement and Coaching Kata our next Toyota Kata workshop will be on the 9th and 10th of May 2016 in Cape Town and 17th and 18th of May 2016 in Johannesburg. Register here!