Can a Process Really drive Innovation?

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Can a process really drive innovation? If we call Lean 3P a standard process, how would that accelerate, let’s say, a learning cycle? These are the questions that I asked Dan McDonnell discussed the co-authorof  the book, Unleashing the Power of 3P: The Key to Breakthrough Improvement. He answered the question below and many other sin the related podcast and transcription:  Lean 3P More than Just Design.

Dan McDonnell:    I believe it can. I think 3P starts with consistent coaching and positioning all the way through it, but particularly at the beginning. In two main areas, one is–I think it’s the most important piece of 3P, and it sounds a little innocuous–the one thing that a great 3P Sensei will do out of the gate is to really condition people to think like a 12 year old through the whole program.

We can all go back and think about the days when we were 12 years old, and think about creativity, and innovation. In those days, anything was possible. I mean, we could fly; we could set up ramps to jump bikes like Evel Knievel. There wasn’t anything that couldn’t be done. Unfortunately, as we get older, and mature, and age we start getting a little jaded and we start to accumulate, subconsciously, paradigms, and reasons why things can’t actually happen. If you can get people to go back to their 12-year-old days, and think like that as they go through the 3P process, it really helps innovation.

The second thing is bringing in a bunch of do’s and don’ts, and making sure people really understand, these are the things that we’re going to try and do as we develop this process, and these are the things that we’re going to work really hard to avoid doing. If you can get people to really focus on those, we actually encourage people to post the do’s and don’ts, right up in big scale in the Obeya rooms that stay with them.

So, thinking like a 12 year old, arming people with dos and don’ts, and then coupled with this 7 Ways Process, which is a key part of 3P thinking and action. Like most things in Lean, and the Toyota production system, it’s a simple process, not very complicated, but it’s highly effective. It causes people to break through their paradigms. It really forces a lot of out of the box thinking.

So, 7 Ways really takes a team through a small challenge in developing a process. It could be as simple as, how do you get this 50 pound piece from the floor up onto the bench, by spending very little money to do it, very safely, and easily, without cranes, and things like that? What it does, it takes a group of people, I’ll say five or six people that go into a room for two, three, four hours. They sit there, and they hand sketch with pencils ideas on how they might actually accomplish that, different from what they traditionally might go do. They continue to do over, and over, and over again more sketches.

We want to come up with at least seven distinct different ways, completely different ways. They might come up with 30 or 40 different ways. Then there’s a process to go through to distill them down into, perhaps, the most effective way, simulating stuff. I think 7 Ways activities causes a tremendous amount of innovation to come out in process thinking.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.

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