Thursday, May 27, 2004

Flow vs. Batch

Mowing the Grass--Learning about Lean:  Part III


Continuing the story of my long grass and what I've learned.   The perceptive reader asks, during the last discussion of innovation "But wasn't your grass an inch too high after you became 'innovative,' raised the deck and ridded yourself of frustration and mental anguish?"  Well, maybe you asked that....but in case you didn't here's the answer anyway.   And the third thing I learned.


Flow vs. Batch


My grass was so long that my attempt to cut it at the normal height was simply more than my mower (or my patience) could handle.  So, with about 2/3 of the lawn still to cut, I raised the mower from 2.5" to 3.5" and cut it.  The first time.  Then, I lowered the mower deck back to the desired 2.5" and cut the last 2/3 of the lawn AGAIN.  Yes, I covered the same ground twice.  I didn't measure the timesavings, but at a minimum, I suspect it took me no longer to go over it twice without needing to stop every 90 seconds than it may have taken had I not changed strategies.  I may have actually saved time.  I do know I won points with the family regarding aesthetics, as I made the second cut at a different diagonal pattern than normal...pretty spiffy.  And I also know I sure enjoyed the experience a lot more. 


Do we need more examples in Lean of why we should avoid batch processing?  Do we need to beat it into our brains any further that it is wrong-headed to maximize machine efficiency rather than to maximize system efficiency?  Where is value here...doing the lawn in a single pass (machine efficiency) or getting the lawn cut well and moving on to something more enjoyable on a Saturday afternoon in May (system efficiency)? 


Why do we try to "batch" improvement by consistently going for the home run, the colossal big machine, the huge improvement (requiring major financial commitment)?  Why do we not try lots of small things that we can do now, learn from now, and replicate now and improve tomorrow, not a year from now?  Why not flow these improvements? 


Yes, we do need to be reminded of batch vs. flow.  I sure do.  And 6" long grass was a helpful way to learn about it.


I hope these discussions of grass cutting have been helpful. It has helped me to write them up. 



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so cool! I found your blog because I was running a search on cutting long grass. You think your grass is long in May in Indiana? Try June in NC :(

And I learned something from the first entry I saw (about facilitating rather than solving my children's problems), and the second thing I read (about batch vs flow), and finally got around to reading about cutting long grass :D

I like the way you write about more recent info than I have (mostly from reading Cheaper by the Dozen ;) which awakened my interest in efficiency) along with really great examples of how things work in real life. Sometimes books, even when they include examples, still seem made up.

I've bookmarked your blog and I'll be back!