Directly Observing in a Transactional or Service Environment
One of the lean principles I use is directly observe work as activities, connections and flows. This sounds like a principle that would be easier to change. In an environment where the deliverable is physical and moves between physical work spaces this principle is easier to live. An example would be a manufacturing environment, where a widget is moving from machine to machine. Is is easier to take the principle literally and go out and directly observe the widget. A person can see the widget and the changes made to it.
Lean is not just applicable in these type of environments. Lean is applicable in a transactional office or service environment as well. This does not mean directly observing work is not possible. It just means it is harder.
In a transactional/service environment you can sit with the person doing the work and ask questions as they do the work. You will be able to learn a lot on an individual basis.
What if a group needs to learn and wants to observe?
It is really hard to cram multiple people into a cube or office…believe me, I have tried. A different way to directly observe the work as activities, connections and flows is by creating a visual map of the process on a wall. There are many types of maps and ways to map. That isn’t as important as getting everyone to have a common understanding of what is actually happening.
The deeper purpose of directly observing work is to gain a thorough understanding of what is actually happening. Not just one person. Every person that is necessary must have a common understanding. Reports can’t do that. Neither can sitting behind a desk.
There may be other ways to directly observe the work. What is it you need to know? What don’t you know/understand about the problem or process? Once you understand what you need to know then you can determine how the way to gain that common understanding is for your situation.
How have you gained a common understanding around a process or issue?