Friday, January 17, 2003

It's About Delivering Value, Stupid...

With apologies for paraphrasing a famous presidential campaign slogan, I look at the big picture of a Lean System. It is too easy, in the midst of talking about the tools of Lean such as start up metings and visual displays, to lose sight of the reason we use the tools.

VALUE And, even more importantly, value as defined by the end user.

I share two current illustrations of people who seem to "get it" about value.

In the January 20, 2003 issue of US News, there is a remarkable story about Joy Hakim, author of elementary and High School History texts. Ms. Hakim had the "radical" idea that school history texts should be interesting, not boring. She saw the end user as the student and then set out to write accurate history that would engage that student mind and curiosity. Among other things, she:

  • Used tight, sparse language
  • Didn't feel bound to "political corectness"
  • Tested her work by having students read the text first and "grade it" as to whether or not it was clear.
She had a hard time finding a publisher at first; some school system still balk at her clarity of style. But her "customers" love it; she actually gets fan mail from students. The article is inspiring...I am grateful to my wife for flagging it for me.

Then, check out what this child care center in Ohio is doing to create value for parents. Things like adding:

  • A professional chef to prepare good meals for the kids
  • Carry out meals for busy parents
  • Dry cleaning drop off
  • Haircuts for the little tykes.
(My thanks to Thomas Leonard of Coachville for highlighting this story for me.)

Look at what is going on here. In mundane, ordinary enterprises (school books, child care), folks are stepping back and asking "What does the end user really need? Can I provide it?" They both got very creative and tried some things. Outside the "normal" expectations for either. And, having defined value for the end user, both were far more able to see what activities did NOT add value...and these are opportunities to stop doing something and remove waste.

Think broadly about value. This stretches my mind on the subject. I hope this is helpful to you as well.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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