The power of exceptional greens

Abel Martínez is a Global Operational Excellence Director at JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts). Abel has developed his career in companies like Procter&Gamble and Sara Lee. He is a passionate Continuous Improvement leader, with a solid track record in manufacturing, where he has led complex factories in three different countries prior to his Global responsibilities.

Below, Abel explains a simple but powerful case, changing the paradigm on how to approach Performance Management.

I thought that Daily Production Meeting finished, when my boss asked:

  • What are we going to do to repeat this? – and he put his finger on a green number on our yesterday’s results board.
  • What do you mean? - I did not understand him at first. We were used to the question “what are we going to do to avoid repeating this” on the forum, but certainly not to the opposite. We were trained to identify the gap vs the target in daily performance on a weekly and monthly basis, to identify the root-cause and to implement the right preventive countermeasure. We were trained to look at the “red numbers”. But now my boss was asking about an exceptionally good number. An exceptional “green number”.
  • Why was there an increased efficiency on this packing line? – he asked the Plant Manager.
  • I do not know. I assume we did less change-overs that normal – I replied, doubtfully.
  • I want you to be sure. Let’s ensure, let’s not assume. I want you to understand why and if there is something that we can learn from this exceptionally high performance that we must repeat every day. If necessary, you do a why-why analysis.

My team was slightly confused. We were not expected to analyze the green results, only the red ones. Let alone do a root-cause analysis to check why it was so good!

My shift leader has begun investigation into what happened the day before on this line. To our surprise, there were as many change-overs as in a normal day. Everything looked normal… except the high efficiency value.

I asked him to check all M’s: who operated the line (huMan), which kind of boxes we used (Material), the rigor applied in the change-over checklists (Method) and if there was any irregularity on the line (Machine).

Thirty minutes later the shift leader came back saying that he did not detect any difference. I asked to check with the operators if they did something different vs any other day and to check some retention samples of the day before.

To my surprise, we found out that boxes produced were lower in thickness and weight. They were just lighter vs the average carton that we were receiving.

This is how we discovered that a lighter material was simply performing better, by being more “flexible”, generating less jams in the critical transitions. And we identified an efficiency improvement project that at the same time was a material saving project.

That day I learnt the power of analyzing also the exceptional “green results”. A parameter not in the current center lining, an alternative way to act on the production line. Let’s also check the root-causes of our exceptionally good results.

Analyzing the exceptional “green results” allows to compliment and celebrate a good result, allows to investigate with more positivism something good vs analyzing something to avoid.

My boss taught me the “power of the exceptional greens”. And I will not forget it. I now coach the same approach in the plants that I ran and that I am supporting, with already some similar findings over time. I can only encourage everybody to do the same. For consistency, for fun, for learning.

Let’s leverage the power of the exceptional greens!

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