Walking around with a stopwatch and measuring cycle times is not the most pleasant task, especially in companies that have only recently been introduced to lean. First of all, people are afraid that they are being measured, not the process. They often speed up, not to be perceived as lazy. Others think that if they work fast, their quotas will be raised.
Changing attitude is difficult
Before starting measurements, it’s very important to communicate. I experienced this with the women on a certain production line, who not only called me “time-stopper”, but they also did not agree on a common strategy to deal with my stopwatch and some accelerated so much that sparks flew, while others relaxed as if there were listening to Bob Marley. And I didn’t notice any energy drinks or sedatives in the company store. My suspicions about faking my measurements were confirmed by the ceiling-mounted camera pointed at those women, who – when I wasn’t around – appeared to work at an entirely different pace.
Build the trust
I could have relied on the measurements from the CCTV feed, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted the women to stop fearing me and start telling me about the problems. I was frequently near them, with my stopwatch and notebook (which they started calling “jotter” [Polish: “kapownik”], for the fact that I was jotting things down in it). I started drawing – in said jotter – their production line, showing what I was measuring and what for. I explained that the goal was to balance the line, so they could have less stress and a bigger bonus. Suspiciously at first, but they began to cooperate and allow me to do my measurements. Next step was implementing the changes. We chatted about how to make the most backlogged positions more efficient and I got excited as a child seeing a lollypop when a woman from position number 2 declared that she could take some tasks from the woman at position 3 because she clearly had less to do.
Change process to help people, dont change people to help the process
The next day after implementing the changes on the entire line, the women hit their production target. The day after, I went to ask how their work was going, with the changes and all. “Miss Asia, I’ve never left work more relaxed.”
A cherry on the cake was an encounter with another woman at the end of the multi-month project. I was walking through the production hall with my trusty jotter and stopwatch, and all of the sudden I hear: “Miss Asiaaaaa! Miss Asia, please measure me because I’m feeling quite unbalanced.” That was something!