Are you good at multitasking? Think again!

Multitasking“Raise your hand if you believe that you are pretty good at multitasking”.

When I present this challenge to a group, typically about half of the people in the room respond by lifting their arms in the air.  Then we have a discussion about what multitasking is and why NO ONE has this “skill.”  We also use a simple exercise that demonstrates what is really happening with our brains when we attempt to take on two cognitive tasks at the same time (more about this exercise later).

Dave Crenshaw has blogged and written extensively about multitasking.  His premise is that this phenomenon simply does not exist.  In fact, he calls it a myth.

If you are one of those persons who raised your hand, perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve been juggling many things for a long time and I think I’ve been pretty successful in doing so.  What do you mean there is no such thing as multitasking?”

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Think Quick! Can you work faster AND safer?

 “You can observe a lot just by watching”

Yogi Berra

faster and saferOne of the foundational Lean tools is QCO (quick changeover), which is also sometimes referred to as SMED (single minute exchange of die).  SMED includes a set of techniques that make it possible to perform equipment set-up and changeover operations in less than 10 minutes.  Not every changeover can be completed in this amount of time.  However, any operation would benefit from using this Lean tool if there is a requirement for:

  • a change in “lot” types
  • a process or set-up change

For this discussion, I will use the term QCO as being interchangeable with SMED. Most of the time, the opportunity for implementing QCO in a process is driven by the need for greater flexibility, quicker delivery, better quality, or higher productivity.  These are indeed significant benefits that are realized –  because this approach identifies and removes some of the eight sources of waste.  But there is an equally significant benefit to assessing a process and implementing QCO: the resulting process changes often make setups simpler & easier – and therefore faster and safer. The following case studies demonstrate how using QCO principles can lead to work which is not only completed in less time, but is also safer. Continue Reading

Why is personal change so hard? Consider the Endowment Effect

Humans are complicated.  While some of our base emotions and behaviors are easy to understand, there are times when we appear to make irrational decisions when faced with personal change.  For example, behavioral economists have identified a specific instance when we apparently place a very different value on something depending upon whether we own it or not.  Consider the following scenario.

Spersonal change, workplace, designuppose that a team performed an analysis on the layout of a work area.  The team concluded that a significant amount of waste of motion and waste of transportation would be removed if the work stations in the cell are re-arranged.  With a proposed new floor layout, each of the operators would walk shorter distances as they moved among the stations.  It would make it easier for them to accomplish their work each day. The location of the new work stations would be comparable in every way to the existing work stations – tools, space, lighting, climate, proximity to the work. This sounds like a positive outcome for everyone!

However, when the proposed plan is shared with the crew, it is met with surprising resistance by some of the operators.  This would seem to be an illogical decision.  These operators would rather walk further (and therefore work harder) than accept these minor personal changes to their work flow!  How can this be?

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Who are “opinion leaders” and why do you need them?

Sustainable culture change is difficult.

A common view is that the work required to shift the mindset of any large organization is largely the responsibility of leadership.  To be sure, the senior leaders of the organization are accountable for setting the vision and supporting it by what they say and do.  Unfortunately, many leaders approach this challenge by delivering a message via well-written power point slides to the masses.  The assumption is that all they need to do is explain what the company is about and how everyone should be aligned to be successful.  And perhaps for a short while this strategy results in an uptick in the “hoped-for” behaviors.

But it does not last. Soon enough, most of the employees slip back into their comfort zone.  They see no reason to change anything.  “After all,” they think, “This too shall pass. If I wait long enough, someone else will come along with a different flavor-of-the month.  Maybe that one will taste better.”

There are many reasons for failing to get an entire organization aligned and to accept a new way of thinking and acting.  I will focus on a single consideration.

We accept change at different rates

Everett Rogers published his theory on the Diffusion of Innovations in 1962. It is a theory that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures.  The book (now in its fifth edition) says that diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. The innovation or idea must be widely adopted in order to self-sustain. Within the rate of adoption, there is a point at which an innovation or idea reaches critical mass. The people in any opinion leadersocial system who are exposed to the new idea can be placed in segments, depending upon their willingness to adopt the new idea or accept change.  Rogers named five categories of “adopters” : Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards.  These categories are depicted in this graphic.

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Are we working safely? Or are we just lucky?

Imagine that your group or organization had just reached a milestone of achievement that was noteworthy.  Perhaps it was a new productivity target or quality performance or safety record.  The management team has decided that they should recognize everyone for their efforts and a celebration is planned.  What could possibly be the down side of that?



Unfortunately, some celebrations ring hollow – even to those who are the recipients of the accolades or recognition.  Why?  Perhaps you have heard some people gossiping in muted tones as they await the lunch that is being served to them to acknowledge their achievement.  For these employees, there is no connection between anything that they did and the outcome.

“Sure, it’s great to get a free lunch/pizza/whatever.  But I don’t really have a clue about what we did differently to get to this performance level.”

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