Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Waste of Waiting


Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers write about what he calls friction, what we would call in Lean Circles the waste of waiting, here.

Take a look at what Apple and Amazon have done to eliminate waiting. And what that does for throughput for them.

It should provoke some fresh thinking for you. It did for me.

Keep on learning.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Shallow Gemba, Deep Gemba


We talk a lot in Lean circles about going to gemba, the place where work actually happens. There we can see, with our own eyes, what is happening. Mark Graban got me thinking more deeply about this recently when he posted about a Presidential candidate visiting the workplace, to “understand how the worker felt.”

The political candidate, by definition, can’t go deep into the workplace. It’s a “drive-by” gemba. No matter how sincere, it is shallow. The politician simply can’t know enough to “see” what is going on to any depth at all. When I drive by a wooded area, I see trees. My friend who is an outdoorsman sees oaks and maples and ash and sycamores. I’m shallow, he is deeper.

After reading of the politician, I turned the question on myself, someone responsible for manufacturing. How many of my visits to gemba are, in fact, really shallow? If I take a quick walk through, greeting people, exchanging pleasant comments about kids and family, I advance some of the human issues needed to show respect for people. Yet, on the other hand, I’m not much different than the politician; indeed, I risk coming across as no better than a candidate pressing the flesh, looking for votes.

I must also spend time in the workplace doing deep gemba. This is almost always focused on a single item or small group of items. One process. One machine. One cell. One loading dock. One cart loop. It also must take time. I don’t know how you do this in less than 30-60 minutes, at a minimum. In some cases it will be several hours or a day or three days.

Further, deep gemba must have some end in mind. While we generically say we are “looking for waste,” I must scroll though the seven wastes with an mood of curiosity, asking “just what am I seeing?” And when I see something that doesn’t make sense, stop. And find out what it is. And this takes time.

Keep learning.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

So make it Standard Work anyway, dude


Had a small-ish project land on my desk about a week ago, one I really didn’t want to deal with. So I buried it under other activities for the week (don’t tell me you’ve never done this).

When I got to it Friday afternoon, unappealing though it was, I noted that in the period of inaction another similar project had landed on my desk and been similarly buried. What to do?

I chose to create Standard Work.

The task was administrative in nature and, as such, didn’t seem to lend itself to describing in a Standard Work form. I did it anyway and noted a few useful things.

First, the very act of making out a Standard Work form busted the inertia. I started breaking down the tasks and discovered it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined.

Second, I recalled a key principle of Lean. Start with the existing process and then practice kaizen, small changes for the better. This applied. By getting something down, no matter how imperfect or incomplete, I was advancing.

Third, in the doing of the (new) Standard Work, I saw how to make it better. Having a list to work off of was way better than just playing with it in my mind.

Try making something that seems non-standard Standard today. You might surprise yourself. Like I did.

Keep learning.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007




While doing the dishes tonight, I flipped on a CD I enjoy only to surprise myself by learning something about Lean.

In one of the songs, a phrase stopped me in my dishtoweled-tracks:

"Only the curious have something to find."
How key for the Lean leader to simply be curious! To have a mood of intrigue, of wonderment. To be curious about why things are the way they are. To be curious about why the waste exists. To be curious about why a process takes 3 hours and not 2. Why it takes six people and not five. Why a tool rests on a bench rather than is suspended close to the operator's hand.
And, without curiosity, we have nothing to find.
Be curious today. You just might find something.