Friday, May 04, 2007

Batch vs Single Piece Flow...in the mind

BATCH vs. SINGLE PIECE FLOW....IN THE MIND
 
It was an annoying task.  Seemingly simple, but I've avoided it all week.  As such, it sat there, as unprocessed "inventory" that could be done and helpful to others.  But I just kept avoiding it.
 
I finally sat down and got it done this morning.  And realized in it was a principle I know about but haven't applied to this corner of effectiveness. 
 
In the Lean Community, we rail against the "batch and queue" model of production, promoting instead the virtues of "single piece flow."  It is correct to do so.  Yet how deeply do we apply this passion??
 
I viewed this task as a "batch," which in fact it was.  The single task actually involved multiple steps to get done.  Look up this amount.  Speak with that person.  Get this form signed off.  Update a database.  Confirm entry.  Check the accuracy.  Inform the requestor the task was complete. 
 
Yet, I listed the task (and, more importantly, though of it) as a single event.  And this "batching" of the task blocked the flow of task. 
 
David Allen in his most excellent book "Getting Things Done" describes the solution to this blockage this way:
 
"Now write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward.  If you had nothing else to do in your life but get closure on this, where would you go right now, and what visible action would you take?"
 
Note the Lean principles here.  Write it down.  Make it actionable.  Do it now.  Be visible. 
 
I did this.  It got done in 8 minutes.  A batch that stuck on my back all week took a mere 8 minutes to complete.  Once I started thinking about it. 
 
The Batch turns into flow.  And gets done, adding value. 
 
Keep Learning.
 
 
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3 comments:

Dan Markovitz said...

You've hit on something that I've been talking about for awhile: that value stream mapping and creating a lean business process is important. . . but not the whole story. People also have to have lean work habits.

Creating a lean process without creating lean work habits is like coaching a 4x100m relay team only for the handoffs, but not training them as sprinters: no matter how good their handoffs become, if they're slow runners, they're going to lose.

Similarly, no matter how much improvement you make in a value stream, if the people within it don't keep the value flowing through them (the value, in this case, is the information they process), there will be waste.

Karen Wilhelm said...

When I used to sew, and had trouble sitting down and working on a project, I would make myself tackle one step. Pin the seams together one day, sew on the collar another. It moved the project along, and I usually went ahead and completed a couple of the next steps once I got started. Similarly, I wanted to wash the walls in the bathroom recently and broke the task down -- I took the time to wash one wall a day. I've heard of people who routinely paint one outside wall of their house every year.

Les Sutherland said...

Breaking into steps and doing the next one first is a good plan. The next thing to remember is if you have to "Kiss a Frog" it is best to do it right away, rather than worry all day about having to "Kiss a Frog"