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.

read more “3 Tips for Embracing a Client-centric Approach to Project Management ”

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.
read more “Data Visualization: Free WiFi Hotspot Locations in New York City”



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