Expectations for All: People, Processes, Equipment and Environment

Expectations for All: People, Processes, Equipment and Environment

The conference table surrounded by aspiring operations experts fell quiet when the Sensei arrived. There were no PowerPoints, no hand-outs, no donuts. Just a flip chart and three markers: red, green and black. The Sensei asked, as he used the black marker to draw an x and y axis on the otherwise blank sheet of flip chart paper, “Why do we have standards?”

“So everyone will do things the same way,” announced the bravest among them.

“Because we know it is the best way to do things?” asked another.

“Because you tell us we have too,” attempted another behind a chuckle, prompting others to follow.

“Anyone else?”

After a long pause, he turned to the x and y axis on his flip chart. He grabbed the red marker and said, “To identify problems,” as he drew a horizon line halfway up the y axis – the full length of the graph. At the end the red line he wrote target.

“The secret,” he said, “to successful operations is to set expectations, monitor them closely and react when they are not met. That is why we create standards. To define our expectation and know when we have a problem.”

He pointed to the very simple graph on the flip chart. “If our target is here,” pointing the red line, “and we are here, that’s a problem. We did not meet our expectation. We did not meet the standard.”

He placed the red pen back on the easel, sat down at the conference table and said, “Today we are going to talk about how we create expectations for People, Processes, Equipment and Environments so we will know if we have problems.”

Expectations for People 

Every operation that provides a product or service has an element of work completed by people.  Even the EZ-Pass booths on a toll road have people to monitor their activity and maintain the systems. Successful organizations understand that the activities of people are best described in terms of the sequence of the tasks, the content of the work, the timing of the activity, and an expected outcome. We typically define the expectation of the sequence, content, timing, and outcome as standardized work.

A lot has been written about standardized work and forms created to document and display it visually. It is a living process and a vital part of continuous improvement. At the end of the day, however, the expectation for people-paced activities is designed to identify a problems. If the standard work cannot be followed as designed, there is a problem.

Expectations for Processes

Many operations require a physical process that changes the form or function of a product. Melting metal, baking pastries, molding plastic parts or sanding wood are all examples of processes. Great organizations set very clear expectations for the critical variables involved in the process. The most common are temperature, speed, and time. How hot is the oven? How fast is the drawing block pulling? How thick is the slurry?

There is an entire science around understanding and reacting to the critical variables related to the Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers for any operation. At the end of the day, however, the purpose of setting expectations for these critical variables is to identify and solve problems.

Expectations for Equipment 

Most operations providing a product or service include equipment. Managing equipment has become increasingly greater with new technology and automation. Simple machines also require management. A popular chain restaurant begins every week with one person flipping over every chair in the dining area and tightening the fasteners holding the legs to the chair.

Great organizations set very clear expectations for their equipment using Total Productive Management (TPM). The seven-step process starts with step 1: clean to inspect. This step requires a thorough cleaning of the equipment from top to bottom by a group of people who not only remove dirt and debris, but check for worn or broken parts. The result is a machine completely inspected, cleaned and restored to new with a very clear expectation of how it should look. The next step is standardizing the cleaning process. At the end of the day, however, the purpose of cleaning, inspecting, and restoring the equipment is to establish an expectation and have it immediately known if there is problem. Leaks show up quickly on a clean machine.

Expectations for the Work Environment

We need to define the work environment as the physical area where work is performed, including the floor, the tools, the lighting, etc. How do great organizations set the expectation? How do we create a standard for a work environment? At the end of the day, how do we know if we had a problem with our work environment?

Help your organization set expectations for all. And let the problems you see be the guide on where to start.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Brian Kurtyka

Brian Kurtyka

Brian Kurtyka

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