Creating Pitch in the Office
Published on February 8, 2017
Pitch is an important component of a future state value stream implementation in an office environment – but it can also prove challenging. The key is to understand the purpose of pitch and then design pitch that works within a specific office.
A function of takt time, pitch is a visual management timeframe that allows anyone and everyone to see if the office is on time to the value stream design. Among the nine guidelines for designing flow in business processes, pitch is near the end of the steps at number eight. That’s because pitch comes into play once the value stream is up and running since it allows operations to see the health of the flow and determine if it is operating as designed.
For pitch to be effective, it must be all of the following:
- Visual. Rather than relying on spreadsheets or other data sources to determine if the value stream is on time to demand – which necessitates resources and interruptions – pitch should be very visual. Anyone should be able to walk past a value stream in the office and see if it’s on time.
- Physical. Pitch is best when it’s physical and requires people to interact with it, meaning it should be something employees have to move or do. For example, if someone in the quoting department is supposed to complete four quotes in an hour, there might be a green flag on his or her desk that gets raised if all the quotes are completed in the hour.
- Binary. With pitch, an operation is either on time or it’s not. There’s no “we’re almost hitting pitch.” The physical aspect of pitch helps to create a visual pitch check. Using the previous example, if the green flag is up, the employee is on time; there’s no halfway up.
- Anticipated. Every pitch will have some timing to it, such as four quotes in an hour. The team needs to know the timing so they can look at their work and self-time to the pitch. That way, a half an hour in, they can look at their watches and know they’re doing well. Or they may realize they’re behind and need to work more quickly.
When it comes to designing pitch, it’s important to be creative and involve the team so that they’ll actually use the visual signal. The options for pitch are virtually limitless. One company uses foam darts in its quoting department, with employees shooting a dart at a Velcro board every time he or she finishes a quote. Another company uses the game Connect 4 in its accounting department. There, the accounts receivable team is supposed to complete a certain number of invoices in an hour and, after each one is done, an employee drops a chip in a column of the game. What’s important is to make it simple (it should take less than 10 seconds) and something that employees don’t mind doing so they’ll understand it’s for them, and not for management.
The Purpose of Pitch
Pitch is critical because it’s a live indicator of how the value stream is performing. It’s not a trailing metric that tracks how an operation performed last week or last month; it’s about how the value stream is performing right now. And the benefit of that is, if an office misses pitch, the results won’t be disastrous. For instance, if pitch is missed because the team slowed down, experienced a problem, or was short-handed, it can immediately address the delay with standard work for abnormal flow, such as having another employee help out or other ways to get the work back on time quickly. On the other hand, if an operation doesn’t know until the end of the week that it’s behind, a much more significant reaction would be required.
While pitch will be missed occasionally, it’s important the team doesn’t view such an occurrence negatively. Otherwise, employees may not want to trigger the reaction for fear of the consequences. Instead, the team should understand that there are a lot of reasons that pitch is missed, like a big order, inherent variation in the department or an unplanned meeting, and what’s most is to raise the red signal (and, to avoid any negative connotations, it may help to use a color other than red) immediately so every can react and get back on time through standard work.
Pitch can mean the difference between a good value stream flow implementation and a great one. So it’s important to take the time to design it right.
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