Monday, December 29, 2014

Lean sailors win

A note arrived from The High Velocity Edge's, Steve Spear:

Here's the predicament: you show up at a sailing regatta, and when the other teams complain that they’ve never raced together, your team reflects that most have never even sailed.  At all.  And, oh yeah, your team is all MIT graduate students. 

But, HVE student Adam Traina leads with standard work and visual management to see problems, mid race and after race pauses to solve problems, and then discipline in sustaining solutions until the next problem. The team moves from dead last in the first round, to fifth, second, and finally an unassailable first in the final races.

From the story:

“We started with a huge range of sailing experience and applied fundamental principles from sailing and management to learn to operate in a new environment,” Traina said. “Our team’s positive attitude, ability to learn quickly and active listening to each other were the key elements in our success.”

The students used an array of LGO ("Leaders for Global Operations") tools to work well together as crewmates. “We implemented standard work by training each member of the team for one specialized job, and we used a visual management system to cue each teammate on when to execute their tasks,” Traina said in an email, adding that their “robust verbal communication protocol” kept team members informed. Also, between each race and at the end of each day, the team held kaizen sessions to improve their processes. “The kaizens led to rebalancing workloads and new discoveries about the operational features of the vessels,” he said.

The most challenging LGO lesson to apply, he said, was the Toyota production system practice of stopping a production line to solve problems. “In the middle of a race, stopping the boat while in first place goes against every instinct—yet stop the boat we did, making a safe environment long enough to fix rigging that was fouled on the bow so we could continue to race,” Traina said. “Stopping the boat cost us our lead, but we were able to regain control and ultimately win the race as a result of fixing our issues instead of sailing on with them.”

And here's the best part:

The winning team brought home a trophy and a Rolex watch, but coming out on top wasn’t their goal. The MIT Sloan team decided at the beginning that their mission was simple: "to come home with more friends than we left with," Traina said.

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