From the Director’s Chair: The Plus/Delta Feedback Session
One of the main activities of the New England Lean Consortium is the Lean Leaders Meeting. Six to ten times per year, the members of the Consortium meet at one of the member locations. The meeting is the basis for the sharing of best practices. The attendees get to hear and see how one of the member companies has implemented Lean in their Continuous Improvement Program. The benefit for the host company is the feedback from the attendees.
Often times we are all too busy trying to satisfy the ever changing customer needs, and fighting the myriad of problems that are common to most manufacturing companies. The problems are categorized on the Ishikawa fishbone diagram below, which is commonly used to find the root cause of a problem.
As a result, we often “can’t see the forest for the trees”. It takes a fresh pair of eyes, the other members of the Lean Consortium, to see the obvious and ask the “Why?” questions.
The agenda for the Lean Leaders Meeting has been standardized as shown below
Noon – 12:30 pm Lunch/Networking
12:30 - 12:45 pm Introductions
12:45 – 1:00 pm Consortium Update
1:00 – 1:30 pm Company Presentation on Lean Program
1:30 – 3:00 pm Plant Tour
3:00 – 3:30 pm Plus/Delta Feedback Session
3:30 - 4:00 pm Open discussion
While the Company Presentation on their Lean Program, and the Plant Tour, provide lots of valuable tips and ideas for the attendees of the meeting, the Plus/Delta Feedback Session is invaluable to the Host Company, and is their reward for hosting the meeting. The Pluses are all the good, positive things that the attendees heard in the presentation and saw on the Plant Tour. The Deltas are the improving ideas that the attendees offer to the host company.
It sounds simple, but there are some pitfalls that the facilitator, me, have to be aware of and lead the conversation to a different direction. The first pitfall is too much focus on the Pluses. It is easy for the attendees to be impressed with what the company has done and they spend a lot of time highlighting the Pluses. Of course, the Pluses are all the ideas that the attendees like, and should take one or more of them back to their own facility.
However, the Host Company really looks forward to hearing lots of Deltas, or improving ideas, to help them advance their own Lean Program. Generally, there is a steady flow of improving ideas put forward. However, the Host Company must not get defensive or negative on any one or more idea as this will cut off the flow of the Deltas or Improving ideas.
The attendees have the responsibility to ask a lot of “Why?” questions, and suggest a lot of Deltas or improving ideas. The Host Company must avoid being negative and/or defensive. If all this happens, the discussions are usually lively and very informative and beneficial to all of the people at the meeting.