Category Archives: Flip The Thinking

Why are Lean People Seen as Lean People?

For close to 15 years now, I have been doing lean work.  My learning has mirrored that of most of the U.S.  I started out studying Shingo and implementing tools.  Then I learned about the people side.  As I worked with Toyota, as a supplier, I started to see it all come together as a system.  Now I see the thinking that is the basis of everything we as Lean people talk about.

That is the thing that bothers………lean people or lean thinkers.  Why are we just seen as lean people?  Why aren’t we seen as good business people?  People that can help a business sustain, grow, and become stronger.  That is what we do.  We just do it in a way that is seen as different from the standards that have been laid out generations before us.

Call it lean.  Call it whatever you want.  To me it is good business practice.  Unfortunately…….or fortunately for my career, a vast majority of people can’t see it the way we “lean people” can.

My goal isn’t to be known as a lean expert, but a business expert.  Someone strong in leading, transforming, and growing a business.  How about you?

The 8th Waste…is a Waste

Waste is a common term used in lean.  Taiichi Ohno categorized waste he saw in manufacturing into seven categories.

  1. Transportation – The movement of goods
  2. Inventory – The storage of goods
  3. Motion – Any motion that is not adding value to the product, such as walking, reaching, etc…
  4. Waiting – Machine or person or product not having value added to it while other products are having value added to it
  5. Overproduction – Making the product in quantities more than the customer wanted or before the customer wanted it
  6. Overprocessing – Adding more to a product than a customer values or extra steps that are not necessary to create the value
  7. Defects – Anything not done right the first time

These types of waste have been proven to be in the office, healthcare, distribution, or any environment.

I’m not a history major so I don’t who or when, but an 8th waste was added.

The waste of human Intellect.

I have worked at companies that use 7 and companies that use 8 types of waste.  My opinion, the 8th waste is a waste!

Here’s why I think that way.  If you study lean you will see that respect for people is a very big tenant.  If you are showing respect for people then you are engaging the work force.  The purpose of this engagement is tapping into the employees intellect in order to use it to benefit the company through improvement.

In order to engage the employees most companies train them on the types of waste.  That way they can use their intellect to see the waste in their work environment.  So how do you teach seeing wasted intellect?  You can go out and see the other seven types of waste during a waste walk.  Do you walk up to someone and say, “You aren’t giving ideas.  Wasted Intellect!  I found it!”? You don’t see intellect like you see the other seven types of waste.

Wasted intellect is implied in the other wastes.  If you are using employees to find and eliminate waste then you are not wasting their intellect.  If you are not using them to find and eliminate waste then you are wasting their intellect.

I have heard the opinion that by explicitly stating waste of intellect it brings into the forefront employee engagement.  Good opinion.  I just don’t buy it though.  Those same people are stressing employee engagement at the same time, so why not just do it there.

I am in agreement that employees need to be engaged and the company should be using their knowledge and intellect to help improve the business.  I just don’t think it needs to be called an 8th waste.

Flip the Thinking – Can Lowering Taxes Help a City

Over the holidays, my wife and I visited family.  We have family outside of St. Louis, MO.  On our drive through St. Louis we talked about how the quality of living and the safety of the city has dropped.  St. Louis is now #1 on the most dangerous place to live in the U.S. list.  Houses are dilapidated, streets are run down, and manufacturing jobs are leaving at a rapid rate.  Nine years ago we wanted to move to St. Louis to be near family.  Now we don’t.  The city doesn’t present many opportunities or at least not as many as it used to.  Throw in the crime rate and it isn’t appealing.

What amazes me is the cost of living for St. Louis and the surrounding areas.  It is expensive compared to where we live (Kansas City, KS) and used to live (Indiana and Texas).  The cities we have lived in have been very nice.  They have their run down parts but there aren’t as many as in St. Louis.  We discussed how downtown St. Louis (as other cities I’m sure) raise taxes in order to get the lower income to move out and create revitalization.  Raising taxes to force out low income means those with low income get hit harder and are forced to stretch their means further.  Moving isn’t cheap either, so how can low income families (bordering on poverty) even afford to move out.  This could lead to more crime as people take drastic action to help feed and provide shelter for their families.  I know the city gets more revenue or at least they perceive they do. If people can’t pay it, then the city really doesn’t get the money.

In lean, we want people to flip some of their thinking.  “Don’t think in silos, think flow,” or “Don’t look at the price per piece, look at the total cost.”

What if a city flipped their thinking about raising taxes to revitalize the city.  Instead of raising taxes, the city lowers taxes.  People would get to keep more of their pay check which means possibly spending more in the local shops or being up-to-date on bills and not feeling stressed about what to do this month or keep their house in good shape.  The city would actually get the money and be able to reinvest in the city’s infrastructure.  This reinvestment could then attract more people and business because it is nicer plus the cost of living isn’t as high as surrounding areas.

I am no political or economic expert and I will never claim to be.  These are ares of little interest to me.  I know none of what I proposed has been proven.  It may or may not work, but isn’t it worth a shot after many years of a city eroding?  Isn’t it worth trying something new?  It isn’t a short-term strategy, which people love to see results now, but a long-term strategy that takes time.

What if a city flipped it’s thinking?