Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Document Reality

Why is this phrase, "document reality" such an important part of a Lean System? Why should we bother to "write down what is happening"? It continues to challenge me. Why? I illustrate and then try to explain.

  • We had a group of Purdue Industrial Engineering students do a project with us on shortening the change-over time in our truss manufacturing facility. The documented the number of paths and steps taken by each of our team while changing from one type of truss to the next.
  • We counted how many phone calls our inside sales folks made in a day on which they actually spoke with the person they were calling.
  • We count how many times we implement local improvements in a work group.
  • We wrote down how many times lumber is handled from the time we purchase it until it arrives here.
  • My wife wrote down what we spent on insurance premiums.
Why is it important to "document reality"?

Because it makes action clearer. It grounds the assessments that we make, such as:

  • We can do faster changeovers.
  • We are dialing but not talking to the right person.
  • We are really making improvements.
  • Our lumber passes through too many middlemen.
  • We pay way too much for insurance
Each of these assessments, without documentation, are merely "opinions" and, as such, can be dismissed along with those of some radio talk show host just filling air time. Without a description of the current reality, the assessments are ungrounded.

When we do document reality, we can then ground the assessments. A well-grounded assessment is much easier to take action on. When our guys saw the extra steps they were taking during changeover, ways to improve became much more obvious. When we wrote down how many hands were touching our lumber, ways to save money became clear.

By documenting reality, by writing down what we see and observe, right now, we give ourselves a much clearer path to improvement. Try it today...document one process or method, make a grounded assessment of it and then see if action doesn't become more obvious.

I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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