When nothing but 100% is acceptable: Trust
There are times in life when we have come to expect less
than perfect. It might be a grade in school in a very difficult course or a
child’s performance in an organized sport. While there are some people who
would flinch at accepting less than 100%, I believe that most of us will allow
for some room for improvement in others when it comes to scoring or achieving.
The only notable exception is Truth. In a team environment,
and especially on a submarine, truth and trust are the currency that all work and
effort is traded in. Without absolute faith in your fellow team member’s
performance and activity, waste by its nature becomes a bi-product.
In the lean world, waste is defined as Muda, Muri and Mura.
Muda is a traditional Japanese term for an activity
that is wasteful and doesn’t add value or is unproductive
Muri “unreasonable”) is aJapanese term for overburden, unreasonableness or absurdity
Mura is traditional general Japanese term for unevenness, inconsistency in physical matter or human spiritual condition
These wastes are best defined as anything that is not considered value added and eliminating them is the heart of most lean
initiatives. The wastes associated with Muda have eight generally accepted distinct characteristics. Those are:
- Transport (moving products that is not actually
required to perform the processing)
- Inventory (all components, work in process and
finished product not being processed)
- Motion (people or equipment moving or walking
more than is required to perform the processing)
- Waiting (waiting for the next production step)
- Overproduction (production ahead of demand)
- Over Processing (resulting from poor tool or
product design creating activity)
- Defects (the effort involved in inspecting for
and fixing defects
- Unused employee creativity
So in a Team environment, you can easily see that lack of trust could lead to a large number of wastes. In a submarine, that lack of trust
can quickly spiral out of control. Example: If you forget to latch the screen door on the back of your house, the worst that will probably happen is that nosy Mrs. Cranston could pop in unexpectedly while you are doing your Zumba practice in your favorite spandex outfit to an old Olivia Newton John album. The results on a submarine could be a bit more dramatic than just a few moments of embarrassment.
Before a submarine dives, there is a carefully orchestrated series of events that must occur. All valves and hull openings must be verified
in order not to let water come unexpectedly into the boat. Anything that could cause noise or vibration must be perfectly secured in order for the submarine to maintain its primary mission: absolute stealth. So every crew member has an individual role as well as a team role. Because our survival relies on that trust, you must absolutely be assured that each person will do everything to the 100% mark with no exceptions.
In a team environment, trust is the glue that holds all of the other elements in place. Trusting that a person will perform their tasks
with the highest level of efficiency is a key part of it, but knowing when to raise your hand and know it won’t be chopped off is another. We have to trust that the members of the team will be able to identify and solve problems quickly using the best of their skills, knowledge and abilities. As leaders, sometimes that can be really challenging. All of us have experienced disappointment with a member of a team from time to time. But we have to build systems that encourage effectiveness and build an atmosphere of trust at all times.
I have often used the old story in training sessions about “How
good is good?”. Is it 90%? In many schools for instance 90% is considered to be
quite good. Many people in today’s factories would be okay with 90-95%
considering the environment the current recession is in. But of course, you
know that in some cases, 90% would be totally unacceptable. Suppose only 90% of
airplanes that landed at O’Hare Airport did so successfully. Would you truly
want to be on the other 10%?
Trust is finite. It is only as good as the atmosphere of
accountability you have established. I have worked in many places where
political correctness trumps the truth. You can normally determine those
workplaces by the decreasing lines of profitability and the increasing lines of
quality errors. True problem solving is rare, people are almost never part of
the problem solving process and upper management surrounds itself with spread
sheets and flow charts to try and explain why they consistently fail to meet
their objectives. In one example of this phenomenon the senior manager actually
built spread sheets to show how he could save on cell phone usage by his
managers rather than find a way to consistently ensure that the main line had
enough parts in the right time frame to keep a consistent flow.
When trust is absent, waste creeps in. Teams must be able to
operate in an environment where absolute trust is present. Without that trust,
all eight of the key wastes are allowed to grow and strangle initiative and
In coming blogs, I will talk about each of them and ways to
identify them in your processes. Lean is no longer limited to manufacturing and
reaches across the entire working community.
In my old world, one loss of trust can set a pattern for a
long recovery. Failing to check a valve before a test dive could lead to
tragedy. Not doing a proper test on a system could cause it to fail exactly
when it is needed.
On 9 April 1963 the USS Thresher was underway on sea trials
after a repair period in the yards. A number of different stories are published
about the loss of the boat, but the most accepted theory is that some critical
work was not performed or tested to a point where the submarine could survive
From the records: “Accompanied by the submarine rescue ship
Skylark, she sailed to an area some 190 nmi (220 mi; 350 km) east of Cape Cod,
Massachusetts, and on the morning of 10 April started deep-diving tests. As
Thresher neared her test depth, Skylark received garbled communications over
underwater telephone indicating “… minor difficulties, have positive
up-angle, attempting to blow” When Skylark received no further
communication, surface observers gradually realized Thresher had sunk. Publicly
it took some days to announce that all 129 officers, crewmen, and military and
civilian technicians aboard were presumed dead.
After an extensive underwater search using the bathyscaphe Trieste, oceanographic ship Mizar and
other ships, Thresher’s remains were located on the sea floor, some 8,400 ft
(2,600 m) below the surface, in six major sections. The majority of the
debris had spread over an area of about 134,000 m2 (160,000 sq yd). The major
sections were the sail, sonar dome, bow section, engineering spaces section,
operations spaces section, and the stern planes.
Deep sea photography,recovered artifacts, and an evaluation of her design and operational history
permitted a Court of Inquiry to conclude Thresher had probably suffered the
failure of a joint in a salt water piping system, which relied heavily on
silver brazing instead of welding; earlier tests using ultrasound equipment
found potential problems with about 14% of the tested brazed joints, most of
which were determined not to pose a risk significant enough to require a
High-pressure water spraying from a broken pipe joint may
have shorted out one of the many electrical panels, which in turn caused a
shutdown (“scram”) of the reactor, with a subsequent loss of
propulsion. The inability to blow the ballast tanks was later attributed to
excessive moisture in the ship’s high-pressure air flasks, which froze and
plugged the flasks’ flowpaths while passing through the valves. This was later
simulated in dock-side tests on Thresher’s sister ship, Tinosa. During a test
to simulate blowing ballast at or near test depth, ice formed on strainers
installed in valves; the flow of air lasted only a few seconds. Air driers were
later retrofitted to the high pressure air compressors, beginning with Tinosa,
to permit the emergency blow system to operate properly.”
My shipmates and I later benefited from the learning that occurred
after the Thresher incident. I can’t begin to count the number of emergency
blow operations I completed on the five submarines I served on. I can only tell
you that the enormity of the evolution requires an absolute measure of trust.
In this ever complex work we have, our competitors are
finding ways to overcome their own problems. As more and more companies adopt
lean systems in their daily operations, being behind has more and more
consequences. The “enemy” that adopts these lean activities into its daily life
will do one of two things in the future: take all of your critical business
share rendering you to a slow and painful death spiral or just have enough
momentum to buy you out. My prediction is that you will be heavily involved
with lean if you are not already. The choice you have is whether you do it
under your own banner or someone else’s.