Seeing the invisible – lifting the veil on waste

Mature lean organizations know what is in their lean tool box, and their people are familiar with tool application. Teams understand the need of improving service to their customers and have seen how lean tools can help in this aim. Change has become a little easier as it has become part of the culture, but an unfortunate outcome with lean tool familiarity, can be the subtle adoption of these tools as representing the backbone of lean. We need to make sure our teams remember the fundamentals and are aligned to organizational defined success. A shift from a tool-focus culture to an objective-focus culture becomes important. Tools will still play a role but they are not the predefined solution.

Remembering the basics

The patterns of our work become routine and life surrounding that work becomes normalized. The work itself becomes a blend of value added activities and non-value added activities. In this blend, we can lose focus on the distinction of the two. This is due to the simple fact that, as the way things operate now, both are required to get the work done. With the use of lean fundamentals and shifting to an objective based organization, we can lift the veil on non-value added activities.

An objective-focus mindset keeps us targeting the end goal and does not dictate a specific path to that goal. Furthermore, it can help us acknowledge that there are many ways to achieve that objective and forces us to evaluate all potential routes. Life is complex, and, most commonly, no single action will help us hit our targets. Our goals will be achieved through a series of choices and behavior adjustments. Stepping back from our work and reviewing our higher objectives encourages us to see the larger context of our work and can position us to review our processes and all their inputs.

When the processes are seen clearly, we can identify and then challenge our work. We can categorize and quantify non-value-added activities and then choose improvement targets based upon our objectives.

Without seeing clearly, we cannot expect to impact our work in its entirety. By helping our people see their work, we can also help them impact how their work is done. Revisiting lean’s 8 forms of waste is a great way for us to help our people see, evaluate and meaningfully adjust their work.

Join me on Tuesday, Sept. 26 when I will be conducting a Lean Overview/8 forms of waste workshop from 8 a.m.- 3 p.m. at Bay Valley Foods in Green Bay. Click here for more information.

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