Vertical slip of management efforts

Vertical slip of Management efforts

Lean Basic Controls 5 – Vertical Slip of Management Efforts

Steering feels like pudding. You have to monitor continuously each intervention. You have to rescue it from the mud of lower managerial layers.


The Management Control Challenge

The image is illustrating the situation of the Management Team. Business is faster and faster. The customers require fast response; not in promise, but in results. But how does the management control feel from the drivers seat?

First Management Team intention is transferred  to the operational managers (with the steering wheel). Next the operational manager will act upon existing processes in order to achieve the new output as a target for operations.

And then operations will act upon the new setting, changing the process. It may take some time before the actual work is aligned with the new settings.

But how fast will that impact the output towards the customer?

The image tries to visualize this vertical drill down of the steering mechanism, thus illustrating the feel of pudding for the management. The pudding can be anywhere in the steering axle; management may just repeat the order in louder voice? In an effort to bypass the pudding parts of the steering system? In doing so, a single control will be enforced, at the expense of other parameters or other projects?

Top down control slipping - Lean


Example 1: Managerial drill down, projects

The customer of a project expresses an extra wish during the project execution. When signing the contract, he was promised that changes were possible for reasonable desires. The project leader receives this wish, communicated not directly to him, but via the tender department. He is reluctant to accept, because the change is not accompanied by extra margin, manhours and schedule. It takes three weeks to agree on changes of targets and incentives in the project documentation.

Now the project leader is communicating to the lead engineers, that they have to make the change. Although formalities are met, the discipline managers do resist the change because they are forced to swap capacities, thus causing changeover time which is not accounted for. It takes two week arranging the changes.

Even more, the engineers themselves would exclaim ”we are not plug in capacities, but human beings”. It takes another two weeks before the changes are implemented in the running project. And some other project leaders are suffering from the sudden changes in capacity.

The internal delay of 7 weeks costs more than expected, because some vendors started work within these seven weeks. The customer pays for the change itself, but the additional costs are not accepted since they seem to be caused by slowness in the project communication.


Example 2: Managerial drill down production

A chemical plant is running at 80% of theoretical capacity. Marketing can increase sales to 90%. The bottleneck is a batch reactor with a process cycle of 8.30 hours. In test runs, a reduction to 7.30 hours is proven.LSS Intervention

One supervisor warned during the tests, that the shifts would have problems with the new frequency, but this signal was ignored and the MT committed the increase towards marketing.

After four weeks the capacity seems to linger at 80% still. The explanation is, that during shift change the new batch cannot be started due to lack of personnel.

Five lead operators come to a rescue for the management and offer to work overhours when the batch coincides with the shift change. Once or twice a week one lead operator works an extended shift to enable the start of the batch.

How to avoid the “push harder” response from the MT? Just make sure your vertical drill down is fast enough.

Leo Monhemius
    Vitalizing struggling Lean Six Sigma programmes is what I do. Or starting from scratch! My challenge is simplifying methods to the minimum, thus only keeping the essential. Many projects require a simple tweak to bring success. Apart from academic knowledge and balanced approach, many programs just need raw energy as well. The new training facility in Zuilichem provides an inspiring accommodation for training or reflection sessions.Specialties: The handouts and course material is all full written text (not powerpoint!) and Dutch text. A specialty are the many hands on training tricks, of which the "paper factory" is the most extended one. This factory enables the training of the organisational development of a group, using sequential simulation runs of table top process industry.

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