Every kaizen has a lesson--Handoffs
We recently learned a big lesson by by paying attention to the handoffs.
Frank Patrick wrote well about managing handoffs in August, which got me thinking. In a project setting, many problems happen not in the work itself, but rather in moving the work from performer to performer.
We did a 3-day kaizen event several weeks ago on a complex process where we did just that. We told our team that we were operating on the assumption that their actual work content was just fine...don't change a thing. Rather, we looked exclusively at the hand-offs of both material and information between multiple performers in the process.
When we took times of material and information just sitting, unacted upon, when we looked at assumptions of both sender and receiver, when we offered simple improvements and implemented them during the kaizen, the results were astounding.
Why is this so? I wonder if it isn't because our attention is usually so much on the work itself that we pay little attention to the movement of work and information to trigger further work. And, thus, the inattention means that there is great opportunity.
Think of what happens when you walk into an urgent care facility. The receptionist may be efficient at taking your name and insurance background and the physician may be efficient at diagnosing your hacking cough. However, the facility might not pay attention to how the receptionist communicates to the physician that she has a patient, right now, in exam room 12. And, as a result, your total time increases. Even though the performers are efficient, the collective performance is very inefficient with your time, due to inattention to handoffs.
You find handoffs in the space between processes. Particularly processes you are proud of. The handoff gets lost in the shadows. Go poke in those shadows.
You can have gains, easy gains, by merely paying attention to handoffs. Look at them anew. I sure am.
I hope this is helpful.