Friday, October 12, 2012

How a Commercial Photography Studio Successfully Applied Lean Principles to Tackle Waste: Part 2 of 2

In the Part 1 of this series, I introduced you to the basic lean principles and the three (3) major categories of waste and the seven (7) wastes. Today, we will look at how one organization successfully was able to implement lean and identify some of these categories of waste. Set production in the photo studio has multiple sub processes, but for the purposes of this blog post, I will illustrate the painting process. A photography studio for a large retailer is a very fast paced environment with many moving parts and lots of people and equipment involved. Multiple activities are occurring in parallel and it is almost is like a fine tuned orchestra.

The roles that you will find most commonly across many studios are:

·         photographers

·         art directors

·         photo assistants & lead assistant

·         lighting technicians

·         digital technicians

·         studio managers

·         models

·         hair & makeup artists

·         project managers.

There is a lot of workflow, many pieces of equipment and numerous processes. Everyone seems to understand what their role is, and how they work together to produce the end result. It is just amazing for an outsider looking inside.

The areas of improvement that the photography studio management wanted to focus on were:

i) efficiency in resource (people & equipment) utilization

ii) increase production capacity and

iii) avoid costly rework. In a photography studio, rework usually means a re-shoot or re-do of a photo shoot, which has a huge domino effect on multiple processes and a huge one is always cost.

iv)lack of consistency in process understanding

 Once the above areas were identified, the process areas responsible began their lean journey to address them. The following were some of the lean tools and how they were utilized in this scenario:

1) Value Stream Mapping: As a first step, the process owners for each of the processes were identified and documented. A value stream mapping workshop was facilitated under the guidance of a Black Belt for the process owners to understand how each of their processes pushed and pulled from one another. The value stream mapping also helped to eliminate any non-value added steps.

2) 5S: The next step was to use 5S to organize the work areas. The results from this tool were almost immediate.

 3)Identify & Eliminate Muda: Once this exercise was complete, the process owners were able to go back to their areas and identify the waste. As a result of this exercise the painting process owner was able to identify the following areas of waste in the photo studio:

a)Rework: a set that has been painted in the wrong color, lighting is incorrect due to lack of a diagram, lack of instructions to the photographer on the look for photo shoot, a product shot on the wrong background, and differing perceptions on final look by art directors.

b)Over processing: retouching an look or image more than required, gold plating, and over planning a photo shoot

c)Overproduction: doing multiple photo shoots with multiple looks that might not always be needed or required, done for insurance in case it may be needed, maximizing on the availability of a high-end model that might not be available to come back for a re-shoot, etc.

d)Waiting: lots of time lost waiting for a process to complete, people waiting for other people or people waiting on equipment

e) Motion: Photographers having to move (walk) to various photo "bays" for shoots that are not necessarily close by or props that are not readily available on the current photo set. Equipment that has to be moved from one bay to the next for subsequent photo shoots.

f)Inventory: Backgrounds for photo sets, paint, props, accessories, and other camera equipment that might be used just for one photo shoot.

4) Muri: People that were not required to be present at meetings, unnecessary overtime, lack of creativity

The next step for this group is to address the above areas by applying some of the tools available and track their progress. Currently the leadership team has adopted a daily morning team Gemba walk that helps them check on the progress and study areas for further improvement. 

I shall continue to remain in touch with the process owners at this organization to learn about their progress on their lean journey. If you have any comments or questions on this article, please leave them in the comments section below or feel free to email me.
read more “How a Commercial Photography Studio Successfully Applied Lean Principles to Tackle Waste: Part 2 of 2”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How a Commercial Photography Studio Successfully Applied Lean Principles to Tackle Waste: Part 1 of 2

Lean is a systematic and disciplined approach to identify and eliminate waste through continuous improvement in pursuit of total quality and perfection. It is a concept that has its roots in the Japanese automotive manufacturing industry, however its applications can be wide and useful in various industries. In this two part series I am setting the stage to discuss one such industry, a local commercial photography studio. Due to the constraint on length of the article, I will not go into great depth on all the lean principles. I will however introduce the basics to help my readers without a lean background understand the subject I am trying to convey.

Orignal Image
Recently, I had an opportunity to interview a process owner from a leading retail commercial photo studio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the first part of this series, I will share with you the basic principles of Lean, 3 major contributors to waste, and the 7 categories or types of waste. In the second part of the series, I will share how the process owner successfully identified the 3 contributors to waste and implemented a plan to tackle elimination of at least 5 types of waste. So, lets get started with the basics of Lean.

The word "Lean" was coined by Jim Womak & Dan Jones in 1990. The principles of lean are documented in their book "The Machine that Changed the World" after their trip to Japan, touring automotive manufacturing plants.

The five (5) basic principles of Lean are based on the following:

1) Specify the value from the customer point of view (Identify Value)

2) Identify all the steps in the value stream for each product family, eliminating whenever possible those steps that do not create value. (Eliminate Waste)

3)Make the product flow continuously in a sequence through the remaining value-added steps toward the customer. (Value Stream Mapping)

4)As the flow begins, encourage your customers to pull value from the next upstream activity. (Flow & Pull Systems)

5)As the value is identified, value streams mapped, waste eliminated, flow and pull introduced, manage toward perfection so that perfect value is created with no waste. (Continuous Improvement)

Once value has been identified from the customer point of view in the process, one can identify possible areas of waste reduction to eliminate non-value added steps. A key concept of the the Toyota Production System (TPS) is the identification of three (3) types of waste commonly found in organizations:

1) Muda (Waste): is a Japanese term for waste or futility, anything that does not add value. It is also any process or step that consumes valuable resources without creating any value to the process or the customer.

There are seven (7) categories of Muda namely:
  • i) Overproduction
  • ii) Conveyance
  • iii) Waiting
  • iv)Motion
  • v)Rework
  • vi)Over processing
  • vii)Inventory
2) Mura (Unevenness/Variation): is a Japanese term for unevenness or lack of uniformity/inequality.It is a type of waste and it refers to variation & unevenness in a process, work methods, or output capacity of a machine. Mura is often viewed as a key contributor to Muda.

3)Muri (Unreasonable/Irrational Overburden): is a Japanese term for irrationality or unreasonable demand. When load exceeds capability, people, personnel and equipment are overburdened as a result.

Most organizations tend to focus just on Muda and in the process tend to forget about Mura & Muri which are key contributors to Muda. To tackle Muda, an organization must look at the programme as a whole taking into account Mura and Muri and how they can be addressed as well.

This gives you a foundational understanding on the basic lean principles and in Part 2 of this post I will share with you a practical case study on the commercial photo studio that successfully identified Muda, Mura & Muri and how one process owner plans to tackle Muda.

If you have examples that you can share about how you applied Lean principles to improve a process or tackle Muda, Mura or Muri, please share your experience in the comments section below or email me.
read more “How a Commercial Photography Studio Successfully Applied Lean Principles to Tackle Waste: Part 1 of 2”

Friday, October 5, 2012

3 Tips for Embracing a Client-centric Approach to Project Management

Earlier this year, published the Top 10 trends for Project Management in 2012 authored by LeRoy Ward. The one that got my interest was #9. "Client centric project management can outperform the "triple constraint". The three fundamental constraints in project management, often referred to as the iron triangle or triple constraint are: cost, time, and scope. The success of our projects and our roles as project managers is measured on how effectively these three metrics are managed. Are we capable to deliver the project successfully on budget, on schedule and within scope.

While we are so focused on the triple constraint, we sometimes tend to forget on the value proposition and customer perspective of the project. This can be detrimental to the health and success of a project when our client has a different perspective on the definition of project success. Hence, as we bring 2012 to a close and move forward into 2013, as project and program managers, we must actively listen to how our clients define as a successful project. We must learn how to engage stakeholders in discussions about project value and success, without having to wait until the end of the project to do so.

These three fundamental tips on client-centric approach to project management are a great starting point that will help you achieve consistent success on all your future projects.

client-centric graphic
Original Image Courtesy of
Tip 1: Conduct a stakeholder analysis workshop: During the stakeholder analysis phase identify the names of your project stakeholders and their level of influence on your project. Assign either with a influence scale of 1-5 or color coded grid. Make it interactive by asking key questions relating to your project. Example: What does a successful project look like? What does the final outcome look like?

Tip 2: Maintain an updated Stakeholder Register/Journal: Once you have conducted a stakeholder analysis, don't just stop there. Make sure that you keep your stakeholder register updated. Even if you are just engaged in projects longer than six months, the chances are that you might have stakeholders join and leave. It is important that you keep the stakeholder register updated regularly. I maintain an electronic stakeholder register that can be easily viewed by all my project team members easily.

Tip 3: Facilitate a monthly or fortnightly "Listening Session": A listening session is where you invite your stakeholders to listen to their feedback and opinions on the project. If you have a large group of stakeholders, you may consider inviting your key influencers from the stakeholder analysis performed earlier. Listening sessions are a means of gaining valuable insight on the voice of your customer or client regarding your project.  This is not the time to get defensive or come up with answers on the spot, but it is an opportunity for you to listen and become better connected with your stakeholders. This is not a status update meeting.

Being client-centric is a journey and this transformation occurs over a period of time.  As we begin to embrace the client-centric approach on our projects, we shall start to see our customers's satisfaction increase steadily over a period of time.  The triple constraint now has a sibling - voice of the customer or client, and is taking a leap forward as the new quadruple constraint aka the four-legged stool.

I hope you find these 3 Pro Tips for Embracing a Client-centric Approach to Project Management helpful in managing your future projects. Do you currently embrace a client-centric model in your organization for project management?  If so, please share your experience in the comments section below.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Do you have what it takes to be a Lean Sensei?

To understand the term "Lean Sensei", lets start with the context of this blog post, defining what lean is, and what Sensei means. In the context of this blog post I am speaking on the topic of lean six sigma in manufacturing. Lean Six Sigma is a powerful and rigorous business transformation methodology that combines the principles of Lean & Six Sigma. The primary principle behind Lean is to reduce or eliminate waste from a process and make it efficient. The primary principle behind Six Sigma is to reduce process variation by identifying the root cause of the problem and eliminating defects.

Lean Six Sigma helps an organization to streamline its processes by utilizing a combination of lean & six sigma principles. A Sensei is a teacher or coach in the Japanese language.  A Lean Sensei essentially is a teacher or coach that is well versed in the principles of Six Sigma & Lean and is able to facilitate, lead, and is passionate about teaching others these concepts selflessly. A Lean Sensei can be a role within a manufacturing organization, or it can be that of an outside consultant.

Are you a Sensei? Budding Monk Image
Original Image Courtesy of
An experienced Sensei has the ability to recognize and baseline a current situation by asking "what is getting in your way of doing this right" or "where is the process failing or differing from an ideal state". Most lean practitioners are trained to look for "waste" in processes. That seems like the most obvious thing to do. But, to be truly successful in practicing and teaching lean, we must look deeper at the root cause and what is causing the process to deviate from the ideal state. A Lean Sensei is a relentless, passionate and dedicated leader that can help lead organizations as they transform and adopt a lean culture holistically.

So, do you think you have what it takes to be a Lean Sensei? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

I am a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt and have led several process improvement initiatives over the past few years. I also co-teach a Six Sigma Green Belt Online Certification Program online through the American Foundrymen's Society (AFS). So, when I get asked the question, "Are you a Lean Sensei?", I almost always respond NOT YET! That is an honor I reserve for my client or my employer to bestow upon me some day.

If you would like to learn more about the principles of Lean Six Sigma and other process improvement methodologies, please contact me. You can also read How a Commercial Photography Studio Successfully Applied Lean Principles to Tackle Waste

read more “Do you have what it takes to be a Lean Sensei?”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Data Visualization: Free WiFi Hotspot Locations in New York City

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to play with some fun data visualization tools. I must say of the ones I tried, I enjoyed working with Tableau Public the most! I created a simple visualization for the wireless hotspots in various New York city zipcodes. The dataset is among the several available on the New York City Open Data. It took me less than one hour to build a fun and simple visualization of the city's zipcodes with free (and fee-based) Wi-Fi hotspot locations. It is an interactive visualization. Please click on the graphic map below to be taken to the site. Give it a try and leave your  comments below.

I am currently using data visualization tools to create dashboards for my clients that helps them visualize their massive data in a simple, interactive, and cost effective way. Recently on the Forrester blogs, there was an article, "The Changing Landscape of Data Visualization Requires a Radical Approach" by John Brand, where he outlines the five triggers that might be contributing to this change. They are listed as:
1) Increasing volumes of data
2) Complex data relationships
3) Need for interactivity with data
4)Gamification (fun, playful and engaging simulations of boring data)
5)Cognitive computing (expression of data in compelling new ways)

Your can read the complete article on Forrester Blogs, a link is included above.

Do you currently use any data visualization tools in your organization? Which one do you use and what is the primary purpose? I would love to hear about it! Leave your responses in the comments section below.
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Friday, September 28, 2012

5 Aspects of a Holistic Service Design in IT Service Management

This is probably not the first time you have heard the word 'holistic'.  Have you pondered over the thought of what is the actual meaning of the word holistic and why it is used so much in the IT world these days? Well, this blog post will help shed some light on this topic. Miriam's Webster Dictionary defines holistic as : relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.

Holistic Service Design Plant in hand image - Bluefrog Technologies LLC

Holistic medicine concerns with approaching treatment to the whole body rather than just treating the symptoms of an existing condition. Similarly, when approaching service design, we must take a complete, big picture perspective of the overall service that is being designed. It should not be done in isolation, the impact on the entire service, its management, tools, systems and architectures, other supporting processes and metrics should also be considered. 

A holistic approach to Service Design takes into consideration the 5 key aspects within all its process activities. It ensures that consistency and integration within all IT activities and processes are achieved both in function and quality.

The 5 key aspects to a holistic approach in service design are:

1) Gathering Service requirements for new and/or changed services: Requirements for new or changed services can be elicited through requirements analysis or extracted from an organization's service portfolio. Each requirement needs to be carefully evaluated, documented and agreed upon, so that the design document can be constructed.  This design document can then be compared to the strategy and constraints of the IT's service strategy to ensure that it is conforming to existing policies. Also, it must ensure that the new or changed service is easily integrated with the existing services and other underpinning services that support it.

2) Leveraging Information management tools like service portfolio and service catalog: The existing management tools must be closely evaluated to ensure that they are capable of supporting the new or changed service. Some of the key management systems in a service oriented organization are its service portfolio and catalog. These reside within the Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) and contain details on the design of the service, technology architectures and measurement methods & metrics.

3)Integration with Enterprise technology architectures and management architectures: Any new or changed service needs to be aligned with the organization's existing technology and management architecture to remain consistent and to ensure that the service is operable within the constraints of the existing architecture. If not, then either the architectures would need to be updated or the service's design would require modification to be successful.

4)Discovery of the processes required: As with any new or changed service, there is impact to roles, responsibilities and skills of individuals involved. Existing processes need to be reviewed to ensure that the new or changed process is not creating a major impact on how they function. If it is, steps need to be taken to educate personnel in their changing roles and processes need to be updated to accomodate for the new or updated service. This includes all service management processes, not just the one process in question.

5) Measurement metrics and methods: This is an often overlooked aspect when new or changed services are introduced. Existing measurements methods and metrics need to be reviewed and updated so that the new or changed service can be accurately measured and tracked. This might not be required if the change to an existing service is minor or does not impact the measurement metrics.

Considering the above 5 key aspects during the service design phase ensures that the new or changed service is integrated into the existing environment consistently and with minimal impact to the user.  ITIL's foundational principle is about IT as a service organization focusing on the business processes it supports and the value that the business receives or realizes as a result of its service. Hence, as a result of this model, the impact of technology on the business and how a business change may impact IT can both be predicted and measured. Adoption of a holistic approach to service design ensures that all aspects of the organization are considered and included within all new or changed services. 

Do you currently practice a holistic approach to service design in your organization or have an example of an approach that has worked for you in your organization? I would love to hear it! Please share your experiences in the comments section below.
read more “5 Aspects of a Holistic Service Design in IT Service Management”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Career Management: 5 Helpful Tips to Successfully Negotiate in a Tough Job Market

Back in December 2011, I was invited by to contribute as a guest blogger to their Career Connection Series, Ask the Expert. I developed an article that offered tips on how to successfully negotiate in a tough job market. This was almost a year ago. The current employment market as we know it is changing. There are new models being created and born almost every day. Below is a link to the original article as it appreared on Did you find the article helpful? Please leave your comments below.

Career Connection Series: 5 Helpful Tips to Successfully Negotiate in a Tough Job Market
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Tool Resource: Continual Service Improvement ITIL (CSI) Tracker

One of more frequent questions I get asked from my clients who are an ITIL shop is if there are recommendations for a good CSI Register tool. After having done some research on the internet and checking in with a few offerings, and I have concluded that though there are some flavors of home grown CSI Tracker tools in some organizations, there is not a tool in the market yet that supports this process. Some of my clients use a basic Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track their CSIs, some others use their intranet, and some maintain a paper based form.

Hence, I decided to develop a very simple, crisp, straightforward Continual Service Improvement ITIL CSI Tracker tool that any individual or organization can utilize easily right out of the box. I am pleased to announce CSI Tracker Tool from Bluefrog Technologies LLC. It is one of the first official commercial product offerings and is currently in beta 1.0.

If you are a CSI Manager, or an organization that currently following the ITIL guidelines for Service Management, I invite you to give CSI Tracker tool a test drive. I would love to hear your feedback and see how the product can be further improved. Please leave your comments below.

To access CSI Tracker Tool, please follow the link below.

CSI Tracker Tool Logo
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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Test your ITIL Knowledge with a fun Crossword Puzzle

I created this fun crossword puzzle on ProProf Brain Games! You can create a free account and play or create your own games.  I created a crossword puzzle game to test your ITIL knowledge! I found it quite fun and easy  to create. I invite you to give it a try and leave me note below if you enjoyed it.

I used Articulate to publish it to my website. It is not track-able, as it is a flat html file. Have fun!

Play the ITIL Crossword Puzzle

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Video: Do you find yourself using any of these overused phrases sometimes?

As a Project Manager, do find yourself using some of these phrases ? For me, it had to be... "Hi, who's on the call?" , "I think we might have some scope creep here" , "Has the SOW been signed yet?", & "Lets take this offline". What are some of yours? Share below.
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

ITIL v3 Foundations Certification Study Group Forming

Beginning next week, I will be starting a 4 day online instructor led ITIL v3 Foundations course through Pink Elephant. At the end of this class, I plan on completing my ITIL v3 Foundations exam. Then, in August, I will be completing the ITIL Intermediate Service Design certification course in Scottsdale, AZ.  I know there is a growing need for ITIL professionals and for individuals with PMP & ITIL credentials.
So, if you are a PMP looking to get your ITIL certification, consider joining my study group that is starting in August. I will be facilitating this group and help you acheive your ITIL v3 Foundations certification.  The goal is to get your ITIL v3 Foundations certificate by August 30th 2012. If this is something you want to venture into this summer, please leave a comment below or send me an email.

We will meet online twice a week to review study material and discuss your questions. This is completely FREE and maximum study group size is 10.  More details will be provided to the participants as we get closer to the start date.

Questions? Contact me or leave me a comment below.
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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tool Resource: New PERT Estimation Tool Posted!

I have posted a new feature on my website, Tools & Resources, that hopefully would be helpful to Project Managers that are new to project estimating. I found this helpful to collect information from project team leads while estimating task durations on a project.

I would love to hear comments on if you found this tool useful.

I also found this article from Managing Small Projects a good reading resource on estimating project costs.
read more “Tool Resource: New PERT Estimation Tool Posted!”

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Video: Influence of Social Media on India's Digital Consumer

As a business entrepreneur you need to be well informed on the local trends, economy, consumer behaviors and your industry. For those of us that are looking to penetrate emerging markets, it is even more so important to stay in touch with trends in those countries. I found this video by Nieslen India to be insightful to learn about the influence social media has on India's digital consumer. It is amazing to note that India will be the second largest country after United States by 2012. LinkedIn already has 9 million users in India!
read more “Video: Influence of Social Media on India's Digital Consumer”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Video: Creative Marketing Strategy with Social Media & Flash Mob

On a recent flight to India, the world's oldest European airline at age 85, Finnair, chose to do something unique for its on-board passengers. It implemented a Creative Marketing Strategy with Social Media & Flash Mob style around its "Designed for You" campaign. Finnair Flight AY201 was bound to India's capital city, New Delhi from Helsinki. January 26th was India's 63rd Republic Day. To commemorate this event, the Finnish airlines crew performed a Bollywood style dance aboard the flight as surprised passengers watched. The video has already gone viral on YouTube and many are remarking on what a great creative marketing strategy with social media it had been by the airline. The blog post on Finnair has received over 150 comments and the YouTube video over 2.8M views already! You can watch the clip below.

Here is the original song: Om Shanti Om, Song Deewangi
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