Are you chasing the rabbit?

Mike Wroblewski, Batesville Casket Company; lean sensei, Batesville Casket Company
Tags: lean manufacturing

One of the keynote presentations at the 2008 Association for Manufacturing Excellence conference was Steve Spear, author of the new book “Chasing the Rabbit”. Steve’s presentation was a brief highlight of the book, which I have just finished reading. The main topic was stepping up to the challenge of complexity and examining the rabbits within our industry – which is a reference to high-velocity, market-leading organizations – to learn how they always seem to lead the pack.

Several interesting points were mentioned, such as identifying the four capabilities of high-velocity organizations.

Capability 1: Specifying design to capture existing knowledge and building in tests to reveal problems.
Capability 2: Swarming and solving problems to build new knowledge.
Capability 3: Sharing new knowledge throughout the organization.
Capability 4: Leading by developing capabilities 1, 2 and 3.

Another key insight is step-by-step training. Instead of dumping tons of information and tasks in unison on a person to learn, it is suggested that teaching in smaller bits is a better approach. For instance, if you have an assembly-line job with a takt time of 57 seconds, let the associate learn only the first element and the teacher performs the others tasks each cycle. Once the employee has mastered this task element, then and only then do you add the second task element while the teacher performs the remaining tasks. After the employee masters the second task, you add the next task. This step-by-step approach is repeated until all the tasks are mastered.

In my opinion, the best part of the book discusses problem solving. The key learning for me is using the problem-solving process to learn to become better problem-solvers, not just to fix things. The act of problem solving gives us the practice in observing, analyzing and piloting change. So, problem solving becomes a means to an end; improve the process to improve the people. Wow!

In “Chasing the Rabbit”, Steve details some great examples to illustrate from his viewpoint what makes companies a high-velocity organization. This is a great book that I highly recommend.

About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently the lean sensei at Batesville Casket Company in Batesville, Ind. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Check it out at