Monthly Archives: December 2010

Systematic Waste Elimination

My three posts this week will be the final three posts about some of the deeper understanding I got from attending the Lean Experience class facilitated by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino from the Lean Learning Center.

One of the five principles of lean they talk about is Systematic Waste Elimination.  A common definition of lean out there is a eliminate waste from the process.  Jamie and Andy talk about the key word in the principle….Systematic.  I remember learning this three years ago, when I took the course the first time, but over time I have lost sight of it.  Not eliminating waste, but systematically eliminating waste.

By systematic, Jamie and Andy mean have a structure to do it in.  Don’t just go around talking about eliminating waste and expect people to just do it.  Have a mechanism for someone to identify and surface the waste.  Have a way for that person to go about eliminating (or reducing) the waste.  Give it structure and a repeatable process.

Being systematic about eliminating waste, will give the organization a better chance at sustaining the momentum when someone engages and eliminates waste in their work.  Having structure will allow successes to build upon one another.

I have seen structure put around waste elimination in manufacturing environments and even office environments such as order processing.  I thought about how we could put structure around identifying and eliminating waste in our central lean change agent group that I am a part of.  If we can’t do it in our own work, how can we expect others to do it?

Eliminating any waste, no matter how much, will add up and make things more productive.

Other blog posts about my learnings from the Lean Experience Class:

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Kaizen Events Are Work Arounds

This post is another in a series of reflections I have had after attending the Lean Experience class by Jamie Flinchbaugh and Andy Carlino from the Lean Learning Center.

For several years, I have have seen kaizen events as a tool.  It is a tool to help get people together to drive improvement or to help re-energize the employee engagement.  Some may mislead you and say that it is lean to do kaizen events.  It isn’t lean, but just another tool of lean.  Like any tool, you need to know when is the appropriate time to use it.  This was reinforced during the week.

The ‘a-ha’ moment I had is when Jamie described kaizen events as a work around for an organization that does not normally work cross functionally naturally.

In a company that is displaying lean behaviors, people in the organization would work together cross functionally naturally, without being “forced” through a kaizen event.  Another way to put it is the internal customer and supplier relationship has a strong bond so both are naturally considered and involved in the improvement process.

If this is the case, then in an organization that working across functional boundaries well, are kaizen events even needed?  Are companies that brag on the number of kaizen events, just really good at work arounds?  Is the ideal state to have no kaizen events (because of good cross functional work, not just stop doing them)?

If you look at it in this way, then it really pushes how we view the way work should be done.

Other blog posts about my learnings from the Lean Experience Class:

Standardized Work Instructions – Not a Replacement for Skill & Knowledge

I am continuing to reflect on some of the thoughts and principles from the Lean Experience presented by the Lean Learning Center.  This one centers around standardized work instructions (SWI).  Most people are aware of the benefits of having standardized work instructions:

  • Provides a baseline to improve upon
  • Reduces variability in the process
  • Increased predictability in the output of the process
  • Reduces ambiguity in what is expected
  • Enables troubleshooting when there is a deviation from the standard
  • Etc..

I can’t say that any of this was a new epiphany to me, but the quote from Jamie Flinchbaugh that really sunk in was “Standardized work instructions are not a replacement for skill and knowledge.”

I have always taught that SWI is not meant to turn people into robots.  It is there to free up the person’s mind from thinking about the routine, repetitive tasks and let them think about how to improve the process.  No matter how I explained it, I always had a hard time getting people to buy in that have great skill and knowledge in the area.

A great example Jamie used was an airplane pre-flight checklist.  I might be able to go through the checklist (which is a form of SWI) and complete, but there is no way you would want me to fly the plan.  I do not have the skill or the knowledge to do so.

To me just saying the words, “SWI does not replace your skill and knowledge,” would seem like it would engage the employees more.  It can reassure them that we aren’t trying to replace them by creating standardized work instructions.  It is there to help apply that skill and knowledge in a consistent and effective way.

This was a point that really resonated with me.

Other blog posts about my learnings from the Lean Experience Class: