Keep Calm PDCA-1 (1)I have been working with two multinational companies recently and the need for  “just-do-it” daily improvements came up. The companies are very different but the team members in both companies got excited about just-do-it and took action on some similar things. They saw the importance of simple daily imprgovements. One company is a pharmaceutical plant in Europe. The second an industrial equipment manufacturer in Indiana.

All companies and every process have 1,000’s of small problems. It is only the people doing the daily work that can identify these problems and solve them. When you add these little improvements together over time, you get massive improvement of quality, delivery, and cost.

Just-Do-It is More Than Improvement

I have become increasingly enthusiastic about these small just-do-it improvements. If you can harness your entire work force to make small improvements every week or every day, you have achieved two major lean imperatives. The first is that you will get a lot of improvement that is done by the local experts; the people doing the job. The second and equally important gain is that you will have a highly engaged workforce that really “gets it” with lean and are committed to long term change.


So many companies try to do lean by organizing a bunch of project plans and implementing lean changes in their organization. These top-down projects can give you some good results; but it is NOT lean. Traditional management has been doing this for years. They see a problem. They get experts to come up with a solution. The solution is implemented. You are NOT doing lean if your changes are made through large projects completed by black belts that parachute in now and again and change things!!  Contrary to the principles of lean thinking, they are not empowering their people or “respecting” the skills and knowledge the people have learned at the gemba.

Two Different Companies; Similar Improvements

C:UsersBrian MaskellGoogle DriveAA-DataBlogsMaking JustDoI

The BMA Inc. standard visual management training shows a lot of photographs of visual management in action. One photo shows an example from an Italian company that had cut windows into the doors on the side of their machines so the operators to check and correct the fluid levels at the beginning of each shift.

This is a common TPM (total productive maintenance) step, but it is unusual to see the windows in the side of the machine.

People from both companies latched onto this idea. The pharma company has a final packing cell that is a hyper clean room. Everybody must wear full clean-room outfits. The printer that provides the packing labels is in an adjacent but separate room. A problem the operators have had for years is that they can not see if the printer has enough labels. If not, they have to refill the printer. If they find this out during the task, it takes a long time to resolve because of the clean room and the kit they have to wear. So their first JUST-DO-IT is to cut a hole in the side of the printer and show an indicator for the minimum label count on the roll.

C:UsersBrian MaskellGoogle DriveAA-DataBlogsMaking JustDoIThe industrial equipment company had a curing oven that needs to be switched on throughout the shifts. The operator must monitor the gas flow during warm-up to ensure the oven lights correctly. But …. you’ve guessed it ….. the gage is inside a door on the side of the oven. For years this has been an annoyance to the operators, and some times the product is ready for curing and the oven has not been pre-heated correctly. The answer? Cut a window in the door so the operator can easily keep an eye on the gas flow gage throughout the pre-heat. This just-do-it was completed the next day and became a JUST-DONE-IT before I left on Thursday.

Are thesed world-shattering changes? Of course not. But if you can engage your work-force to make many small changes week-in and week-out. These small changes turn into massive lean improvement.

Keys for Success With Just-Do-Its

The Just-Do-It process is highly structured and organized. The purpose is to engage the local people with real improvement that is lean and appropriate for their work area. Some of the keys to JDI are:

  • Having a large number of improvements on-the-go.
  • The people do the improvements themselves. These are not suggestions. They are actions.
  • The improvement ideas are authorized (or otherwise) in 24 hours to maintain momentum
  • Unauthorized improvements are discussed with the people and modified to achieve the issue another way. Often the improvements are broken into several smaller just-do-its.
  • Some JDI’s are large enough that they transfer into kaizen events.
  • Small incentives can add some sizzle to the program. People are not paid for improvement ideas. But lunch with the President (or without the President!!), donations to their favorite charity, ball game tickets for their family, front door parking space for a month, etc. can make the process more fun.
  • When reviewing and authorizing a JDI, try hard to say “yes”. The improvement does not have to the best improvement. The people will build on it later. You may have a better idea. Often it is better to have the people introduce their initial idea and then improve it later.

Here is a short video showing how this JDI process works.