A WorkOut is a simple methodology for helping teams identify opportunities to improve the way work gets done. It provides a tool that organizations can use to maintain a cycle of self-reflection about continuous improvement. The WorkOut methodology enables a team to identify opportunities to improve, while sharing responsibility for achieving organizational objectives, giving everyone a voice in how things are run, and providing time for managers and employees to discuss issues.
A WorkOut consists of four easy steps and five simple questions, and which can typically be completed within a few hours. Those are as follows:
The WorkOut is typically a facilitated tool, similar to a Kaizen event, wherein a neutral facilitator walks the team through each step and guides discussion on each of the five questions. The facilitator's job is to engage team members in a discussion about what they experience every day in their job. They help the team define the opportunities to make things better, and capture the feedback, ideas and discussion on a flip chart or other medium.
As the final step in the process, the team should present the results, sharing the suggestions for improvement with leadership. From there, efforts can get started to pursue the improvements identified during the WorkOut, deploying other continuous improvement tools as appropriate.
The A3 is a one-page problem solving and project charter tool. It gets its name from the size of that one-page, usually formatted for A3 paper measuring 11 inches by 17 inches. The A3 provides a simple way to present data and information in a visual way. Most A3s include this type of information:
Depending on the situation, every A3 can be a little different. But whether you're using an A3 to define and understand a problem or to outline a CI project, the key across all types is brevity. The logic goes that if you cannot fit all your key information on one piece of paper, you are not being concise enough. Just like a WorkOut, the A3 can serve as a great starting tool, inspiring subsequent actions and the use of additional tools to pursue improvement.
Root cause analysis is a method used to effectively solve problems. It helps ensure that the true root causes of problems, not the symptoms of those causes, are identified and addressed. There are a number of different tools you can use to complete a root cause analysis but here are two common ones:
This is a simple, quick method for an individual or team to get from symptoms to root cause of a problem by repeatedly asking Why? It is best used for simple, clear problems, but it can be used in conjunction with more complex cause and effect tools as well. You can use the 5 Whys on a personal, individual level or with a facilitated team.
Also known as a fishbone diagram, this is a visual tool for displaying possible root causes of a problem. The diagram is developed by brainstorming potential root causes across different cause categories. These cause categories can be predefined or identified freely as you begin building the diagram. Common categories include people, equipment, process, environment, materials, and tools. The fishbone name comes from the structure of the diagram, which looks similar to a fish skeleton. Completing a fishbone diagram in a team setting with a neutral facilitator is recommended.
Standard Work refers to the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to perform a task or process. Using standard work reduces variation, increases consistency, and focuses on helping employees be successful. Often, improvements made through Kaizen events or other methods cannot be sustained without it. Implementing standard work starts by defining the critical elements of any task or process for all workers. Here's the complete process:
A SIPOC is a process snapshot that captures information critical to a project. SIPOC is an acronym for:
The SIPOC tool can be applied to help a team understand a process and its problems. For example, are their issues with the process or are there problems upstream or downstream with inputs or outputs? A team completes a SIPOC by walking through each of the letters in the name, starting not at the beginning, but at the letter P. The steps are as follows:
5S is a simple method for creating a clean, safe, orderly, and high performance work environment. The 5S names refers to the steps in the method, each starting with the letter S. In a number of organizations additional steps are sometimes included, such as a sixth S for Safety or Security.
As a starting point, the 5S method can be applied at a personal level, used with individual desks and offices. It can also be applied more broadly, used across an entire office or deployed to tackle shared spaces such as mail rooms, conference rooms, warehouses, and storage spaces.
While 5S speaks primarily to physical work spaces, it can also be used with electronic and digital work spaces. 5S can be similarly applied to create and maintain high performance file and folder structures, email inboxes, shared drives and more.
The 5S method is visualized at right, and each step of the process is defined below:
During the first step, distinguish between necessary and unnecessary items and information. Consider the usefulness of items, as well as how they're used and how often. It's important to also consider the appropriate quantity of needed items. For example, how many pens, business cards, or old files are needed in your immediate working area? You can use red tags or stickers to identify items that are no longer needed. Sometimes items may not be needed in one area, but could be moved to another area where they'll be more useful.
As you begin the 5S process and consider these things, don't compromise. A tagline often associated with this initial step is "When in doubt, move it out."
This step is also sometimes called Straighten. During this step, arrange, organize, and label. The guiding tagline for this step is "A place for everything and everything in its place." Start by organizing and establishing specific places for everything. From there, visual management is an important component of this step. Use labels and color coding to communicate where things belong. And pair those visual cues with procedures for finding, returning and replenishing items.
Once you're done, you should be able to immediately recognize when items are out of place, or when there is an excessive or insufficient amount of something. Doing this will eliminate time wasted locating things and improve performance.
A helpful measure for achieving success in this second step is the length it takes to find something. According to best practices, you should be able to find anything in your own office within 30 seconds. Beyond that, anyone should be able to find anything in your office within 60 seconds.
During this step, you can start by cleaning the area from top to bottom.
But cleaning once isn't enough on its own. From there, you should establish recurring maintenance -- daily, weekly, monthly, and beyond. The tagline for the Shine step in 5S is "The best cleaning is to not need cleaning." This speaks to the power of taking preventive measures for ongoing cleanliness. Do a small bit of cleaning each day, and prevent the need for extensive cleaning that occurs when things deteriorate.
This step can improve health and safety, boost morale, develop a strong sense of ownership in your office, and help identify and eliminate root causes of recurring cleanliness problems.
This step is all about making the prior steps -- Sort, Set In Order, and Shine -- habitual and incorporating 5S into regular work routines. This requires commitment from those who share the work space, in the form of training or the establishment of roles and responsibilities. The tagline for Standardize is "See and recognize what needs to be done."
This step creates consistency and preserves the improvements made -- helping prevent deterioration that could have you revisiting the first three steps in the 5S process sooner than you'd like. A good example of this step in action is the instructions you might find in a conference room, telling users how to leave the room when finished so tables and chairs are always found the same way.
This is often the most difficult step in the process. Once you've put 5S to work in a your working environment, it's important to continue supporting it. The tagline for this final step is "Effective, ongoing application of 5S."
To foster that effective, ongoing support, an action plan and a schedule for ongoing inspection of the area is recommended. For shared spaces, assign those inspection responsibilities to different work units on a rotating basis so no single person is responsible for maintaining the same area for a length of time. Hold people accountable, but keep it fun using before-and-after photos, friendly competition, or positive reinforcement through award and recognition programs.
Note: Archived Lean 101 materials can be found under the "Other Training Resources" section below.
Spread the word about continuous improvement (CI) around your workplace using the flyers below. For each of our training courses, we've developed a basic flyer and a flyer template that can be easily adapted for specific training sessions and audiences.
Our office is excited to introduce online training courses, providing a new way for Minnesota government employees to equip themselves with continuous improvement (CI) knowledge and skills.
Our current library of online courses is listed below.
This short, interactive course serves as a recommended prerequisite for all Office of CI training. It covers introductory CI definitions, principles, and tools.
Training Length: 6 minutes
Note: You can also register for and launch the training through the State of Minnesota's Enterprise Learning Management (ELM) system, accessible within the Employee Self Service Portal. This will track your completion of the course on your learning record. For information on accessing ELM and registering for this course, see our Registration page.
This short, online course covers introductory swim lane mapping for process improvement.
Training Length: 9 minutes