Category Archives: Blog

An Interview With Think Perform Course Participant Kevin Maun

What course did you do?

Certificate 3 in CSP and Certificate 4 in Process Manufacturing

What was the best thing that you learned?

5 Why’s. I now always ask ‘why’ until we get to the root cause. We used to just work around a problem but now we take the time to investigate the problem so we can understand the cause and put in place actions to stop it happening again.

How did you apply the Think Perform teachings to your work?

We were planning to change the factory layout but we held off until we started the training. I am glad we did as after learning the 8 wastes and in particular motion waste, I realised how much waste was still in the proposed layout.

What were the highlights of the program?

Steve (our trainer) recommended that we set the teams based on end to end processes. This worked really well as the operators learned from the end user the impact of poor quality on the next stages. We had great discussions on expectations and standards. The quality has picked up as a result.

What were the results and what did you achieve?

There has been an improvement in quality, reduced rework and improved workflow. We are now tracking product defects and in our toolbox process defects are down 70%.

Did you receive any feedback from your co-workers/manager about the changes?  

I haven’t heard any direct feedback at this stage which means they haven’t found any issues with what we are doing. You can see new behaviours in a number of operators.

Who would you recommend Think Perform to?

I believe the training is applicable to all businesses who want to improve their performance through engaging their workers.


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An Interview With Think Perform Facilitator Steve Farrugia

Hi Steve. Can you please give us an overview of your experience?

I am a CPA with over 20 years’ experience working in operational improvement. I work with businesses to deliver sustainable performance improvement through the engagement of its people. Working with my clients, I provide training, facilitation, coaching and team development. The last 4 years I have worked at Think Perform delivering training to blue collar and white collar employees across a number of businesses and industries, including:  advanced aerospace component manufacturing, pallet repair, large scale printing, roof tiling, window and door systems and fabrication and transport supplies.

What would be the one thing that you hope participants take away from their Think Perform course?

Our key objective is to leave our clients with sustainable continuous improvement programs. To achieve that, we hope that our participants, after completing the training, are not only confident in the Lean tools but they also have the mindset to want to contribute to the improvement of the business.

What are common problems that participants face when learning or applying Lean concepts and techniques? Do you have any advice to overcome this?

The tools can be foreign so that is why we spend time applying the tools in the workplace, working on business processes. The challenge can be that when they go to apply the tools at their workplace they may forget exactly how to apply the tools. We work to overcome this through providing on-the-floor coaching. We also provide display boards, for the key lean techniques that provide a summary of the tool and its key steps. It is important that these are displayed in their work areas and at the communication boards, so they can be referred to when needed.

What is your favourite Lean/Continuous Improvement tool/technique/concept?

My favourite is our waste module where we introduce to the teams the concepts of value-added, non value-added activities and introduce the 8 wastes.

This is generally the first time that they have thought about their job as a part of a process and they learn the impact of their work on the people further up the line. We usually find that they have never sat as a team and asked ‘how can we do this better’?

The learning for the group is enormous. They start to challenge what has just been accepted as normal practice. We look for quick wins that we can start on immediately to build momentum for the program. It is important at this point for management to get behind this and demonstrate their commitment to the program.

What is the best/most unique/most interesting way that you’ve seen clients apply Lean tools and techniques?

A client of ours has done an excellent job implementing 5S at their site. They operate over 3 shifts and each shift complained that the previous shift was leaving the work area in a mess. This was causing delays in start-up, as operators had to replenish stock, empty bins and wasting time looking for missing items. For the 5S training, we allocated each shift a specific work area and they were given the task of developing 5S standards and identifying and implementing ideas to improve workflow and reduce waste.

The teams really involved themselves in the project and worked together to develop a number of great initiatives:  purpose-built trolleys, cleaning stands, quality display boards, line marking, visual standards and start of shift checklists. The change in the place has been enormous. There has been a reduction in cleaning times, improved equipment up-time, improved productivity and an overall improvement in the look of the factory.

Any last tips/advice for readers of this email?

Most people have heard of the continuous improvement model PDCA, which stands for Plan, Do, Check and Act. We cover this in our training but we have been receiving requests for more information on the ‘Check’ stage of the model.

For the ‘Check’ stage, I apply what is referred to as an After Action Review (AAR). The AAR comes from the US army and is used by companies around the world as a way to assist learning and continuous improvement. I have developed a one page template that teams complete after completing the ‘Do’ stage of a CI project.

The process involves the Project Team Leader gathering their team together to address a series of questions about the project results.Typical questions are:

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What did go well and why?
  • What did not go well and why?
  • What are the lessons learned?

Weaving a disciplined process for learning, through experience, into the project review promotes individual and team learning and produces action plans that are owned by the participants.

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Continuous Improvement and Digital

Continuous Improvement (C.I) requires thoughtful planning, implementation, follow-up study (checking), planned revisions and more follow-up study before implementation (acting) occurs.  C.I is a widely accepted and expected scientific approach to learning and applying value-adding knowledge in business processes.

However, as with many other best practices, these accepted processes are now being challenged and re-evaluated thanks to the existence of 2 key factors: the digital and the technological.

In an era when not being aware of digital progress can mean the difference between basic survival and growth for many organisations, not paying attention when planning and acting towards Continuous Improvement is short-sighted.

In light of the fact more people both internal and external to your business will be garnering information on your practices and future developments from the digital space, having updated processes for breaking down barriers to quality, productivity, safety and human performance need to be as agile as possible.

The idea of Continuous Improvement in the digital age doesn’t mean the core goal is different. Everybody still wants to get better all the time, but the path we take to get there needs to match the new goal posts we have to encounter along the way. What does it take to be good at digital from a Continuous Improvement perspective? There are a few key elements for all organisations to keep in mind, regardless of their industry, manufacturing background or assumed future trajectory.

  • Keep changes at a manageable rate to understand shifts and improvements:

The trap with the push towards everything becoming more digital is that it can seem that everything needs to be upheaved at once to achieve maximum improvement. However, just as changes to traditional processes need to be done systematically to uncover the root of the lag in performance, so too should it be with digital processes and changes. For example, if your website is in need of an upgrade, think about the job as many elements as opposed to one large whole. Changing the copy, imagery or basic user experience may all add up to a more improved platform, but the real cause of the existing problem can’t be understood if all of these are changed dramatically at once. The more discrete and isolated a change, the easier it is to measure against the rest of your systems and practices.

  • Embrace analytics and testing:

Digital advances are, by their nature unpredictable. A truly controlled environment is almost impossible to encounter as there are too many factors interacting at once. However, the more information you have and the more experience under different conditions you have encountered will help you to better predict the outcome. By embracing the analytical recording of performance of certain content, actions or changes alongside solid A/B testing, you will already have a clearer understanding of what parts of your strategy are working and what others can be phased out over time.

  • Apply a wide angle problem-solving lens to both opportunities and threats:

Digital performance is normally driven by two different systems and analytics: acquisition of traffic and content performance. These measures are continually focused on the movement of audiences, both existing and potential in direct response to your actions. As such, these two systems are inherently linked. Once you introduce other elements such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to the mix, the equation becomes an even more complex one to comprehend.

Organisations that work continuously to understand their audience, the nature of the traffic and the reasons behind the performance of it are one step ahead of the rest. By applying ‘outside of the box’ thinking to audience capture and retention, organisations can begin to better understand how to work towards improving their performance systematically, intelligently and not only reactively to the trends of the day, week or year.

Just as traditional Continuous Improvement needs to be consistent and informed, so too does any digital focus for improvement within your organisation. Take the Workplace Waste Analyser test to see where your organisation could enhance efficiency, competitiveness and profitability.