LDMS Part 4 | The 20 Keys

What if every workgroup within your enterprise could develop and manage its own improvement plan?

Description: In LDMS post Part 4, we’ll move on to take a look at the 20 Keys (LDMS framework inset20 Keys right). Applying the 20 Keys helps individual workgroups evaluate and understand their own performance, then develop a structured long-term improvement plan for their specific situation (20 Keys cycle inset below). While leadership or third-party resources often help with an initial assessment, many believe that the fact that 20 Keys becomes a self-assessment — that is, the keys are evaluated and acted upon by a workgroup who rates and pushes themselves — is likely to be the most important aspect in its success through compelling buy-in and ownership. Moreover, the plain language quality of the keys means that the key’s level-descriptions really can’t be gamed; something simply doesn’t smell right when reality and numbers don’t track.

About the Process: Utilizing 20 Keys is intuitive. It depicts op20 Keys Assessment Cycleerational or functional work areas (ex.: manufacturing or materials management) in 20 “key” elements (ex.: error-proofing or problem-solving) whose descriptions reflect steps toward world-class performance benchmarks. For each key, five performance ranks are described in plain language beginning with a Level 1 – Traditional through Level 5 – Currently Invincible (table inset below).

20 Keys LevelsCompleted 20 Keys data packs consist of: a chart mapping goal attainment; a corresponding set of point or level descriptors for individual keys; and, a workgroup devised and maintained action plan detailing who does what by when in order to achieve workgroup improvement aims. Overall, a starting point is no less than 20 points (1 point earned for “traditional” in each key) and 100 points is the maximum achievable. Improving 10 points per year in early years is doable. Workgroups having achieved 60 points tend to look and feel fantastic and are quite high-functioning. Although it can happen, we don’t encounter many workgroups over the low 80s.

The graphic (inset below) depicts a 20 Keys chart for a manufacturing cell where the current score (squares) is 30 out of 100. Triangles represent the workgroup’s improvement goals for the individual keys they’ve selected to improve at this time for a 40-point total targeted within six months. A key-by-key improvement plan (not shown) is prepared listing the specific tasks required by workgroup members to attain the point goals.

20 Keys Lean Manufacturing chartIn order to level-set, monitor and review continuous improvement progress, there’s no better approach than Kaufman Global’s 20 Keys®, a proprietary method focusing intact workgroups on the vital dimensions of how it operates versus world-class benchmarks. Transcending both language and culture, organizations worldwide have implemented 20 Keys with sustained success. Kaufman Global has developed over 25 different sets of keys applicable to operational and functional settings, including Customer Service, Supply Chain Management, Engineering and Project Management. Regardless of which sets are used, 20 Keys relays a standard approach to evaluate and improve performance effectiveness throughout your enterprise.

Next Time

Thanks for your attention to this 20 Keys summary! In Part 5, we’ll cover Short Interval Coaching. In the meantime, if you’d like to start your LDMS workgroups off right – or, if you’ve already started and you aren’t getting the expected results, we can help course correct. Kaufman Global offers you: deep, real-world experience, world-class coaching and training at all levels, a rich array of intellectual property, learning materials, and Train-the-Trainer Certification programs all focused on solving actual performance problems so you get a business result while creating organization capability. For immediate attention, don’t hesitate to reach out.

5 Critical Success Factors for Evaluating Operational Performance

“Ready, fire, aim.”
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
“Shoot from the hip.”

These are not sayings you want to hear when you’re trying to set direction and plan for operational performance improvements. Yet, this is often how situations are described in hindsight when the vital first steps are done poorly. Not to mention those situations where months and months (and MONTHS) of deep dive analysis result in a pretty presentation but isn’t rooted in any kind of operational reality and shortly thereafter, falls flat on its face. (Sound familiar anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)

Bueller, Bueller, Bueller

Baseline First

To develop an improvement plan and portfolio you must first get an accurate baseline of the current situation and describe the gaps. Doing this part well ensures better results because you’ll have practical, and more importantly, credible, information starting out.

In this post, we outline 5 critical factors that we use to ensure a high quality, yet efficient performance evaluation process. One that leverages internal experts and external viewpoints, is focused on both the operational realities of the front line and leadership priorities / objectives, and that gives everyone the same baseline measurement system from which to make an objective assessment of “what good looks like.” This process can take as little as a couple of days. Check out Kaufman Global’s Rapid Performance Evaluation.

Operational Analysis Basics

But, before we dive into the 5 factors, a short history of business consulting analysis…

For many years, the traditional way of getting started with clients involved a request for lots of data, a long list of questions and a team of four or five consultants onsite for 4-6 weeks to conduct a formal analysis. This would result in an implementation road map and ROI calculation that validated the path forward project. There are certainly situations today where the business case needs to be defined and this type of analysis is the right approach – especially when trying to evaluate extended, cross-functional value streams. We have found that many clients no longer have the appetite or time for this and want to move almost directly to implementation.

On the complete other end of the spectrum was the famous “kick the tires” visit of the 90’s. This was basically a site walk-through to look around and get a feel for the location and how good or bad it seemed, but very little data was used to make the assessment and the structure of the visit varied greatly depending on the consultant and their personal preferences.

These approaches both have their pros and cons. As the consulting model continued to evolve, we observed that getting a client a great answer quickly required a fundamental rethink of the approach with emphasis on the following issues:

  • Speed – busy operations can give you a day or two to get some good information, but more than that feels burdensome
  • Standardized rating systems that can be used for comparison were largely missing from systems we’ve seen. Or if there is a rating system, its relevance was questioned. We’ve heard, “Those ratings aren’t completely applicable to our situation.”
  • Many organizations skip the people side of the equation during the analysis altogether – leaving it to be dealt with during the project. This is a serious flaw that will impede progress when you try to get the organization on board AFTER the fact.
  • Most traditional attempts to evaluate the operation have not adequately incorporate an assessment of the organizations ability to change and engage themselves. Evaluations are typically all soft stuff (people skills, organizational dynamics, engagement, etc.) or all technical stuff (productivity, quality, cost, supply chain, etc.). These two dynamics are so connected that both must be considered in any meaningful evaluation.

Rapid Performance Evaluation

To address these issues and meet the demand of clients who really needed a solid baseline assessment but didn’t want a full-blown analysis, we developed the Rapid Performance Evaluation (RPE) process. A holistic, effective and efficient approach to the initial gap analysis that could be done in a day and provides team-validated, benchmark scoring with an identified improvement portfolio of ranked opportunities for both the people and technical sides of the equation.

How did we do it? We looked at the gaps in traditional approaches and developed a set of 5 counter measures aimed at making the evaluation fast, relevant, user friendly and credible. Design considerations include:

  1. Use a good template
  2. Limit the evaluation of operational metrics on the first pass
  3. Apply change management techniques from the start
  4. Use a credible rating system
  5. Prioritize opportunities and describe an implementation approach

Use a good template – To achieve speed, consistency and quality, use a great template. People are busy and have not planned for the interruption. Our templates are based on the idea, “This is what good looks like, let’s see how this operation compares.”

The template must be standard, yet flexible. Too rigid and the response will be “That doesn’t apply to us.” So, be prepared to modify to make it more usable for the situation at hand. We’ve found that the people and organizational parts change little between locations, industries, sectors, etc., but the technical pieces like flow, supply chain, quality, etc. usually benefit from some adjustment.

Limit the evaluation of operational metrics on the first pass – For any given operation there are about 10 metrics that tell the story. Things like inventory, quality, productivity, turnover (people), etc. We like to ask how difficult is it to get this information too. This tells us a lot about the operation and location’s leadership style. Vast amount of data does not always (read: rarely) translate into usable information. By usable, we mean available in a standardized format and used for running the business.

Identify and ask about the best few metrics for the operation and then use them as a guide for where to look more closely during the evaluation. Later on, more information and more analysis may be required, but for your initial look, keep it simple.

Apply change management from the start – When you ask people what they are doing and why they are doing it, its personal. But this engagement is essential because they know more about what they are doing than any outside observer. A non-threatening environment, supported by a skilled facilitator, will yield the best information. Don’t wait for “the real project” to start respectfully engaging the knowledge of the organization.

To make this work, the key is to quickly develop internal evaluation experts. For us, that means having a joint KG + Client team conduct the RPE. This is where standardized templates and processes prove their value as it enables us to easily on-board and train the client participants in how to do the evaluation. With a 60-minute orientation, the joint team is aligned and up to speed on what to look for during the tour and how we will do the individual and team scoring later. This facilitated, open and honest team discussion helps ease the dialog that occurs later when the team must come to consensus on certain performance measures.

Use a credible rating system – A rating system gives the organization a way to measure their improvement. The score is the baseline performance of the operation and clarifies the real gaps. As improvements proceed, better ratings show tangible evidence of the gaps closing. We use a series of three assessment tools that provide different ratings:

  • Opinion – What do people think and how do they feel about what’s going on
  • Systems Factors – The big picture. It looks at things like quality, governance structures and how the organization deals with complexity
  • 20 Keys® – A drill-down into the details. They provide guidance on specific improvement activities and exactly what must be done to get to the next level of performance.

Prioritize opportunities and describe an implementation approach – Once the evaluation is complete and the gaps described, the question becomes, “What next?” This question must be answered at least at a high-level. A one-day RPE won’t yield a detailed implementation plan and business case. But, it will answer things like: top operational priorities, engagement problems, leadership mis-alignment and recommended next steps.

Internal and External View

When evaluating performance, it’s difficult to achieve adequate results without incorporating an external objective view. That’s why we’ve found the RPE process to be so powerful. We have found a formula to bridge the gap between providing an unfiltered outside view, while incorporating the expertise and knowledge of insiders to accurately assess the current situation. It’s natural for those who are directly involved as part of the team to defend the work they do, so a balance must be struck. In one memorable situation the supply chain was so bad that simple commodity replacement parts were taking 8 weeks to obtain – crippling the operation. Yet in talks, the manager being hurt by the problem rated the supply chain a 5 out of 5: Perfect. These difficult discussions are almost impossible to have without a baseline measurement of “what good looks like” to test against and some objective external facilitation.

When done well, an evaluation of operational performance is a fantastic starting point for real change and improvement. When done poorly, it becomes simply another exercise in futility and another data point for “Why this stuff never works.” If our RPE process seems like it’s the right fit for you, give us a call or drop us a line.


Learn more about how we think about the topic of Analysis as it relates to our service offerings, click here.

Or, see our post on analyzing extended value streams: Making the Case for Analysis.

Lean Manufacturing White Paper: Part 3 of 3

The third and final excerpt in a 3-part series from Kaufman Global’s updated white paper, Implementing Lean Manufacturing: A Holistic Approach.

In Part 1 and Part 2 we covered the genesis of Lean manufacturing, why “pull” is such a fundamental concept and how Lean is an integrated system that goes well beyond technique. Here, in Part 3, we close the series with prescriptive approaches for attacking each of the 9 forms of waste. In this installment we discuss:

  • SLIM-IT ®: A proven structure for successful implementation
  • The Lean Daily Management System ® and the 20 Keys ®
  • A graphic example of what happens when you move from push to pull

Waste Wheel for Lean manufacturing




For each of the forms of waste there are certain attack methods. We start with People Energy Waste because it is the most challenging for most organizations.




Attacking People Energy Wastes

Attacking people energy waste

SLIM-IT, noted on the Master Jargon Chart section above (see the full chart in Part #2), is a pronunciation of the acronym for Structure, Lean (Daily Management System), Mentoring, Metrics, Teamwork, Tools, Training and Technology (SLMMTTTT). Kaufman Global’s SLIM-IT model is the primary engine of any Lean (or other) implementation because it aggressively attacks the people energy wastes that derail so many initiatives. Most organizations have ample technology, tools, training and teamwork “potential” to solve almost any problem or achieve any goal. The difficulty lies in compelling the right combination of the “Ts” to come together at the right time. This is what SLIM-IT does. Figure 6 presents the SLIM-IT model.

SLIM-IT Implementaion Model by Kaufman Global

Figure 6 – The SLIM-IT® Model

The Structure element of SLIM-IT employs several processes / mechanisms, including:

  1. Executive Steering Committee (ESC) that directs and coaches the initiative, ensures alignment and measures engagement.
  2. Work Stream Teams that are responsible for an ESC-approved element of work such as implementing shift start-up meetings or transferring a new product into a facility.
  3. Experts that provide process coaching, an executive sounding board, content expertise and overall initiative management for the organization.
  4. Charters for each Work Stream Team that are developed with and approved by the ESC. Charters include objectives, critical success factors, activities, deliverables, responsibility matrices, schedules and so on.

The building block of Lean is the intact workgroup. These are the hands-on associates who work near each other on similar processes every day.  Each workgroup of ten or fewer people operates its own LDMS that nurtures improvement and sustains realized gains. LDMS compels, coaches, mandates, and supports workgroup engagement in applying the correct tools to minimize waste in their work area.

LDMS consists of six core elements:

  1. Primary Visual Display (PVD) – The PVD is a large visual display that presents the current status of the workgroup on key metrics, goals, objectives and action plans.
  2. Shift Start-Up (SSU) Meeting – This is a tightly facilitated, structured, daily, stand-up meeting of the intact workgroup held in front of the PVD and lasting no more than ten minutes.
  3. 20 Keys ® Action Plan – The 20 Keys approach focuses each workgroup on a long-term improvement plan. Every set of 20 Keys (customized for different functional areas or processes) consists of a chart for mapping goal attainment and a corresponding set of point or level descriptors for individual keys. Each workgroup assesses itself and develops its own 20 Keys Action Plan for improvement. Figure 7 displays a 20 Keys chart for a manufacturing cell that has a current score (denoted with squares) of 30 out of 100 with a goal of 40 within 6 months.
The 20 Keys of Lean Manufacturing by Kaufman Global

Figure 7 – Example: a 20 Keys ® Action Plan for a Workgroup

The triangles represent the group’s improvement goals for individual keys for the next year. The improvement plan lists the specific actions required by the group’s members to attain the point goals. The chart and the accompanying improvement plan are posted on the group’s PVD.

  1. Kaizen Action Sheet (KAS) Improvement System – This technique allows the workgroup to capture small “inspirations” and improvement ideas. These are often “too small” to be considered by the formal suggestion system but are the basis for “kaizen” in Lean. The most important aspect of the KAS system is that it ensures the improvements are relevant for the workgroup.
  2. Metrics – This important element integrates detailed micro-process metrics tracking and short-interval coaching to focus individuals and workgroups on the critical few results drivers for a given process. Metrics are selected by the workers with input from management or supervisors / leads. Workgroup metrics are dynamic – if they are not effective in improving outcomes for the workgroup and overall process, they should be revised. Results are reviewed at the start of each work day by the team as part of its daily workgroup meeting.
  3. Short-interval coaching (SIC) is a technique where supervisors and managers visit the work area frequently (more than once a day) and provide coaching and feedback related to both results and activities. Short interval coaching is the manifestation of a shift in values for the organization. In the new, more Lean way of thinking and acting, there is greater emphasis on engagement (Is the LDMS fully functioning and improvement?), workgroup metrics (Is the information on the PVD up to date?), and improvement (Tell me about some of your Kaizen Action Sheets?). Short Interval Coaching is a vital change management method that must be taught as it isn’t a skill that is naturally occurring in most managers. Everyone in a leadership position can and should participate to reinforce new behaviors.

These five elements, if implemented and maintained, provide a rock-solid foundation for any world-class Lean program. They provide the mechanism for each workgroup to take ownership of their work processes.

Lean Daily Management System establishes the involvement and commitment that are the soul of world-class achievement in every human group endeavor.

All other Lean tools and techniques will realize only a fraction of their potential if any of these elements are not implemented and rigorously practiced.

Mentoring is the next element of SLIM-IT. This is the day-to-day coaching of managers and supervisors in real time, on-the-job, as the tools and techniques of Lean are implemented. The coaching must be done by those who understand the why, what and how of applied Lean. Mentoring is the mechanism that assures that management behaviors at all levels will be changed sufficiently and over a long-enough period of time to infuse them into the organization’s culture.

Metrics get a lot of attention in traditional organizations but they are often misguided. The most common problem is an overabundance of them. Second, the metrics that are most interesting to the top of the organization are often difficult to connect with the day-to-day work. The Metrics in the SLIM-IT model can be described in three ways:

  • Top-Level Strategic metrics that are the traditional measures of overall performance: Cost, Asset Utilization, Quality, etc. Here, less is more.
  • Micro-process: The metrics that workgroups focus on to steadily improve their performance. Here, diversity is key – one size does not fit all.
  • Activity-based metrics: These are the metrics that must be in place to make sure that the organization is engaged and aligned. They measure the occurrence, participation and frequency of the ESC and LDMS along with components contained within – like the effective use of team-based problem solving workshops, Value Stream Mapping as something more than a one-time occurrence and the 20 Keys. Personal performance measures and coaching also play a role here.

The linkage between these three types of metrics deserves careful consideration. Usually the top-level metrics get all the attention with little thought to how they are affected by micro-process improvements or measures that ensures broad participation.

Tools, teamwork, training and technology approaches are used by every organization in attempts to improve. Many of these approaches work if properly implemented. The key to their success is combining their usage within the other elements of SLIM-IT. Without a foundation of structure and coaching, tools, teamwork, training and technology will fail to deliver what they promise.

Attacking People Work WastesAttacking People Work Waste

Workplace Management methods are used to minimize people work wastes. They include standard work, workplace organization and Kaizen.

  1. Standard Work techniques are related to traditional Industrial Engineering (IE) analysis. With IE, engineers measure working time to establish concepts like “earned hours.” Standard work involves much more. Using a variety of worksheets (see Figure 5 – Master Jargon Chart), workgroups assess their own work and establish the best way to eliminate all types of waste. Standard work analysis leads to the development of Standard Work Instructions. Notice the sequence of this: The intact workgroup (team) determines the best standard way to do the work, then the Standard Work Instruction is developed. Many organizations get this completely backward and attempt to describe the work from outside the process. This always fails and always requires re-work.

The worksheets and templates used to develop standard work are extremely important for two reasons. One, they permit workers in an area to identify and measure micro-process waste that might otherwise be overlooked as insignificant. Two, in the process of attacking waste, workers develop the feelings of ownership that are so critical to the success of the people energy waste techniques. Figure 8 displays the “before” improvement portions of two types of worksheets for an actual cell.

The numbers on the Standard Work Instructions (SWI), shown in the left portion of Figure 8, represent worker actions. These actions are measured and classified as manual (hands-on) work, waiting, machine or walking on the Standard Work Combination Sheet (SWCS) shown in the right side of Figure 8. The cell is in trouble because it cannot meet its takt time of 65 seconds.

Standard work instruction and standard work combination sheet in push system

Figure 8 – Portions of a Standard Work Instruction (Left) and Standard Work Combination Sheet (Right) Showing the “Before” Situation in a production cell.

  1. Workplace organization, which is intimately involved with standard work, optimizes a workgroup’s environment through labeling, workplace / tool / part arrangement and visual displays. 5S, a Lean technique for cleaning and organizing is usually the starting point for workplace organization. Many organizations start out here because it’s easy for people to understand and natural for them to do. However cleaning and organizing is often the end point for many Lean endeavors. Visual systems – color coding, labeling, floor markings, andon lights, etc., are powerful techniques for making Lean part of the fabric of the enterprise, but they are only part of the system and are not a one-time event. They must be done with the same discipline and follow-up as any of the other methods described here.
  2. Kaizen, which appears as a separate approach in Figure 5, is actually the interplay of SLIM-IT with all of the other methods and techniques. It’s both the spirit and structure of worker participation in a focused manner. Kaizen Events are structured, team-based problem solving workshops of variable duration. These are only effective when supported and sustained by a functioning Lean Daily Management System.
Standard woek instruction and standard work combination sheet for pull system

Figure 9 – Portions of a Standard Work Instruction (left) and Standard Work Combination Sheet (right) showing the “After” situation for the production cell shown in Figure 8

The “after” situation in Figure 9 shows significant improvement toward the elimination of three types of People Work Waste within the cell: walking, waiting and processing. This optimization develops over time. The workgroup is aware of their performance based on their metrics that are a visible part of their PVD board. Sometimes the improvements are incremental and part of the Kaizen Action Sheet System. Sometimes, the improvements are more abrupt and come from Value Stream Mapping or a Rapid Improvement Event. The point is that the standard work of continuous improvement that is embodied by LDMS is a major influence on workgroup, and therefore overall, performance.

Attacking Quantity or Material Wastes

Attacking quantity waste

Just-In-Time (JIT) methods address the quantity wastes of making too much WIP, inventory and movement. Some people refer to all of Figure 5 as JIT or Kaizen. While technically incorrect, the JIT association is frequently made because you cannot employ JIT techniques to remove quantity waste unless you also address the other wastes concurrently. The kaizen substitution derives from much the same logic, although the popularity of kaizen blitzes has made kaizen an all-purpose descriptor for Lean for many people.

There are four primary JIT methods: kanbans, leveling, Quick Set-Up (also known as SMED: Single Minute Exchange of Die), and preventive maintenance (PM). We have already addressed kanbans and work leveling to some extent earlier in the paper.

  • Quick Set-Up is a collection of “best practices” that apply standard work and some machine modifications to changeover activities. A typical SMED study involves creating worksheets on a changeover and attacking the root causes of waiting and processing wastes. Reductions of 90 percent or more in changeovers and set-up times are not uncommon with SMED. Machines must be integrated into the level work of a JIT approach. If machine set-ups and changeovers take too long, there will be waiting waste (if downstream parts are not available) or inventory waste (if large lots accumulate to provide work during changeovers).
  • Preventive maintenance is the final JIT method. In a finely tuned Lean system, unplanned downtime is a bigger problem than in a traditional push system that is glutted with inventory. When a machine breaks down in a Lean system, there is little built-up inventory and delivery to the customer is at risk. A well-structured Lean system has well managed safety stocks to protect the customer during such repairs. Lean systems train operators to do routine preventive maintenance tasks such as lubricating and checking so that maintenance technicians can attend to overhauls, teaching operators and making design changes to improve machine efficiency.

Attacking Quality WasteAttacking quality waste

Error Proofing often referred to by its Japanese name, poka-yoke (pronounced “polka,” as in the dance, “yolk,” as in the egg, and “a,” as in bay), uses a variety of detection, warning, prediction and prevention mechanisms to catch or prevent errors at their sources. As you can imagine, the implementation of workplace management would automatically generate a number of error proofing actions (and vice-versa). Error proofing is a primary technique for quality improvement in Lean because it is so basic and easy for people to apply. One of the primary sources for error proofing ideas is via the Kaizen Action Sheet method contained within the Lean Daily Management System.

Six Sigma is a comprehensive set of practices that takes careful aim at variation reduction to improve product and service quality. It contains within it specific methods for statistical analysis, project management and problem solving and emphasizes the DMAIC model: Design, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

The Danger of “Tool-itis”

As you can see from the above discussions, the fundamentals of Lean are not complex. Yet, few organizations pursue it as a key strategic goal. Many failures with Lean are derived from a “tool shopping” mentality. Rather than designing a step-by-step implementation of Lean, they attempt (either by accident or through management-led efforts) to cherry-pick bits and pieces of elements found in the “focus points” column of Figure 5. These organizations believe that if they install a few of the pieces, Lean will eventually happen on its own. This never occurs – especially since the isolated tools are typically accorded little management support and don’t mandate engagement. Examples:

  • Kanbans and lot size reductions will always reduce inventory, but they often generate more waiting waste unless standard work is pursued.
  • Error proofing efforts will eliminate only a small portion of those wastes that could be tackled with kaizen and workplace management methods.
  • SMED procedures will dramatically reduce machine downtime in any traditional plant, but the economic benefits pale next to those that also installed kanbans and work leveling.
  • Kaizen blitzes, or rapid improvement events, will deliver big results quickly but without a significant, planned effort to engage the broader organization, the benefits won’t sustain.

It is essential to realize that Lean involves both a philosophy and its accompanying approaches and tools. They are mutually supportive and interwoven. If an adequate number of the tools and approaches are aggressively implemented – and enthusiastically coached at the micro-process (hands-on worker or “gemba”) level – the philosophy of Lean springs to life.

Simply stated, the full impacts of Lean can only be achieved by implementing a total systems approach.


Lean manufacturing is a people process, not a tool installation exercise. It is a journey, not an event. It’s an intensive and proactive effort that requires planning, resources and day-to-day management attention and coaching. It is not easy or painless and must be approached with the understanding that it will take time to change and even longer to create a new Lean culture. Those who endeavor to pursue it holistically will reap the significant performance gains that will allow them to win in increasingly competitive markets, provide significant shareholder value and by enabling an organization of engaged and empowered problem-solvers.


If you’d like a pdf copy of the entire white paper (Parts 1-3 in one place), click here to access it via our Resources page.


About Kaufman Global

Kaufman Global is a proven implementation partner that focuses on accelerating performance. Since 1995 we have worked with clients around the world to drive enterprise-wide change initiatives and cultural transformations. Leveraging Lean, Six Sigma and proprietary change management techniques, Kaufman Global delivers structured implementation and transformation projects that enable sustainable operational and financial results.

20 Keys®, Lean Daily Management System®, LDMS®, Lean Leadership®, SLIM-IT®, WIN-Lean®, and the Kaufman Global logo are registered trademarks of Kaufman Global.

World-Class Performance and the 20 Keys

The 20 Keys are a powerful method for first assessing current state performance in operations, and then developing an action plan for improvement.

What is World-class?


: among the best in the world
: being of the highest caliber in the world <a world–class athlete>

Source: dictionary

What does the phrase “world-class” really mean? This question has been asked since the term first became popular in the 1950s. Companies that are considered to be world-class consistently exceed customer expectations. This type of performance isn’t accidental. It requires systems that adapt to dynamic environments. Kaufman Global frequently uses the 20 Keys system in our work with clients that are pursuing world-class performance.

The 20 Keys Help Organizations Focus

Lean is an important element in the pursuit of world-class. The simplest definition of Lean is: “The relentless pursuit of waste elimination.” Regardless of business type or industry, many companies have great success with their Lean efforts. Unfortunately countless others don’t. Maybe this is because there are so many opportunities to eliminate waste that it’s easy to get distracted, lose focus and wander off course. This isn’t a new problem. Decades ago Iwao Kobayashi at Toyota evaluated manufacturing companies that were considered to be world-class and identified crucial areas that must be addressed in order to achieve such status. He categorized these areas and put them into a framework called the 20 Keys.

Kobayashi’s original Keys addressed an entire manufacturing facility. Kaufman Global expanded the concept by developing sets of 20 Keys for many functions such as Healthcare, Engineering, Supply Chain, and Finance, among others. We then integrated the technique into our Lean Daily Management System® (LDMS®) methodology so that measurement takes place at the work group level.

The Kaufman Global 20 Keys® methodology:

  1. Is a continuous improvement mechanism that combines intuitive world-class definitions with a means of measuring and scoring group performance
  2. Focuses intact teams on the issues that affect their work
  3. Can be implemented and linked across the organization to provide a comprehensive evaluation of effectiveness

Strategy and Tactics

At first glance, the 20 Keys may seem like another audit technique. But when this powerful system is deployed inside the Lean Daily Management System, it enables work groups to take increased ownership of their daily work. As an added benefit, these highly relevant, local improvement efforts can be rolled up into organization-wide results by providing a common measurement system amongst multiple locations. The graphic below shows how the 20 Keys works both strategically and tactically, linking the big picture goals of leadership to improvements in day-to-day work. The 20 Keys takes an organization’s vision of world-class and:

  • Connects the vision to actions by breaking it down into manageable pieces
  • Provides an easy to understand and manage measurement system for progress toward the vision
  • Enables relevant improvement plans close to the issues

how to achieve world class performance

Work group Application

Once the vision and strategic priorities of the organization are set, intact work groups complete a 20 Keys assessment and planning cycle to baseline their performance. Each key is evaluated at five levels of performance, ranging from 1 (Traditional) thru 5 (Best-in-Class). There are no ½ points and all statements or requirements must be met in order to achieve a given performance level.

With the baseline score established, the team selects their initial improvement keys and goals and creates a plan to achieve the gains. For example, if Safety was one of the keys identified for improvement and the current level of Performance was a 3, the team would be meeting the following definition:

  • Safety – Level 3: The concept of unsafe behavior is well understood and associates are familiar with the specific unsafe behaviors that create hazards and / or accidents in their area.

To improve their score and achieve the next level performance, the team would need to establish new work rules and processes that ensure all Level 4 criteria were consistently met:

  • Safety – Level 4: Unsafe behaviors are audited weekly and the results are posted. The team strives to eliminate root causes of unsafe situations and it is accepted practice for associates to coach each other on safe behaviors.

The 20 Keys of Lean Manufacturing

Regardless of whether the team sets an annual improvement goal of 10 points, or a quarterly goal of three points, it is important that they assess their performance against the plan at least every three months to ensure the action plan is being implemented and progress sustained. Posting the 20 Keys scorecard and implementation plan in the work area on the primary visual display enhances visibility to improvement progress and is a best practice.

Building the Foundation for World-class

World-class levels of performance are not achieved by accident, but through the execution of an incremental and strategic implementation plan. Kaufman Global has helped many organizations implement the 20 Keys and focus their improvement efforts. If you’ve already established a good foundation of continuous improvement, or even if you’re just starting the journey, the 20 Keys is a good way to enhance results and sustain momentum.


To learn more about how to apply the 20 Keys and achieve world-class levels of performance, click here to download our Evaluating Continuous Improvement Effectiveness with the 20 Keys white paper.

The 20 Keys are part of Kaufman Global’s Lean Daily Management System ®.

The 20 Keys are discussed in this article: The Missing Link of Lean Success.

Continuous Improvement And The 20 Keys®

On the Continuous Improvement Journey, It Pays to Look in the Rear view Mirror

Business leaders are often criticized for their tendency to keep looking “in the rear view mirror,” but is this always a bad thing? In life there are frequent occasions when one can learn from events of the past to augment future outcomes.  Where Continuous Improvement (CI) activities are concerned, monitoring and tracking quantifiable results over time maintains focus on increasing levels of performance.

Knowledge and expertise stem from both good and bad past experiences. As much as we admire the entrepreneurial spirit of those who seem to be charging ahead at the speed of light, the truth is that successful innovators occupy a significant amount of their time studying the “lessons learned” of their predecessors. Unfortunately, it’s far too common for organizations to follow a well-trodden path and then stop abruptly when other priorities arise. Experiences are often lost, and errors are later repeated. In the end, past efforts are often wasted as the creative ideas from former teams are constantly reinvented.

When it comes to continuous improvement, it’s imperative that time be dedicated to holding standard, prescriptive, and quantitative reviews that evaluate the effectiveness of CI efforts. A concentrated effort should be made to discuss and formally document successes and failures of any significant flow of tasks and activities. If one thinks about it, every workflow should be a continuous loop of tasks from which the concept of CI can grow and flourish. This is equally applicable to such innovative functions as new product development or to the more mundane activities associated with financial month-end closing. CI effectiveness reviews are a critical success factor for any initiative in order to continually build on prior efforts.

To quantify, monitor and review continuous improvement progress, there is no better tool than Kaufman Global’s 20 Keys ®, a proprietary method for focusing an intact workgroup on the 20 most important elements of how it is operating versus world-class (or better) standards. The 20 Keys automates the review process by regularly assessing current state, targeting future performance levels and implementing a month-to-month plan for improvement.

20 keys cycle for continuous improvementAs identified in the 20 Keys Cycle illustration above, the method drives a continuous cycle of improvement and builds on prior efforts. Typically repeated four times per year, location leadership or a designated representative works with the workgroup to assess their score for each of the 20 keys. This is an honest, direct exchange in which the they score each key against known criteria. Once the assessment is done, this same workgroup decides on which key(s) they should focus on improving. The objective is for them to increase their overall score by 10 points per year.

A universal process, organizations throughout the world have implemented 20 Keys successfully. To date, Kaufman Global has developed more than 25 different sets of keys that are applicable to both industry and functional applications, including Customer Service, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Engineering, and Project Management, among others. Regardless of which key sets are used, the 20 Keys process provides a standardized approach for measuring CI effectiveness across functions and locations.

It’s time to make a fully documented review procedure (that includes targeted metrics) part of your organization’s way of life — no matter what industry or business function you happen to be working in. Think about it. What did you learn from your recent improvement efforts, what was measured to evaluate results, and how can those results be improved?

To learn more about Kaufman Global’s 20 Keys download our White Paper: Continuous Improvement and The 20 Keys ®