Like a professional football team’s playbook, an organization that is committed to continuous improvement (CI) needs a visual game plan that gets and keeps everyone pulling in the same direction. At The C.A. Lawton Co., that playbook is the transformation calendar. It’s a key tool the company uses to manage its commitment to continuous improvement and strategy deployment.
The first step is to understand the current state of some key aspects of the business and set some worthy goals for it. That is accomplished via current and future state value stream mapping as well as other assessment and planning efforts. Then we determine what initiatives are required to “transform” us from current state to the desired future state. Finally, one of three approaches is chosen to drive the change:
- Kaizens are improvement events that require a medium to large size team to implement and are from 2 to 5 days long.
- Projects are larger undertakings that take longer to implement by a temporary team that meets once or twice a week.
- Just do its (JDIs) are assigned to an individual or small team which has the permission and access to funding to quickly make small improvements within their work areas.
The origins of the transformation calendar
The transformation calendar is used by one of Lawton’s larger customers to help its factory floor employees visualize their scheduled initiatives and their status. “We’ve been working very closely with this customer, embedding employees in each other’s operations and events to learn how to implement LEAN or operational excellence more effectively,” explains Tricia Berg, Manufacturing Process Engineer. “They suggested that we adopt the transformation calendar to make our continuous improvement (CI) progress more visible.”
This wall-sized paper calendar contains columns for each month of the year. The cards attached to it describe each of the company’s initiatives and approaches (mostly kaizens) scheduled for 2018 and their progress. All employees have been trained to understand how to read the calendar and interpret the project data contained on the cards. They are encouraged to use it to identify projects and teams they’d like to volunteer to work on.
Berg and her coworker and Foundry Coach Randy Thyrion update the cards based on the outcomes of each team’s weekly meetings. When initiatives are completed, their cards are not removed from the board, but remain there as a way to acknowledge progress.
“We also keep them on the calendar to review for 30 to 60 days after completion to ensure that the improvements we’ve implemented continue to stick,” Berg emphasizes. “It also gives us time to finish documenting our processes and to audit that the changes we made have indeed been successful.”
Early progress is promising
Even though Lawton’s transformation calendar has only been operational for a few months, Berg is already seeing significant improvement in its CI efforts.
“It enables us to track our progress in a much more visible way, and ensures that the right data gets in the hands of the right people. Employees like it because it keeps the company focused on a defined set of goals, which means they get better support for their needs within those initiatives.”
Already, Berg and her team are making plans to improve Lawton’s new wall-sized visual CI tool. “The transformation calendar itself is subject to change and improvement just like any other part of our operations,” Berg points out.
“We recently laminated the cards, each of which has an underlying A3 or specific work plan, to make them more durable. We’re also in the process of documenting our standard work processes and procedures, which are key parts of the system. The growing list of improvements we want to make to the calendar, includes transforming it into an electronic format that displays a three-month window of events. Plus, we need to add the rest of our Lawton front office improvement initiatives to it,” she adds.
Berg is confident the transformation calendar, even in its current rudimentary form, is making a difference in the business, especially in the foundry. “It does a great job of keeping everyone focused and moving in the same direction. The cards also make it easy for workers to quickly find help and answers when they need assistance. That helps everyone be more productive.”