Wednesday, April 1, 2009

4-Year Old Lean Practitioner Identifies Waste!

The beauty of lean enterprise is it’s simplistic.  Most waste is clearly visible if you will only take the time to see it. It has been said that the most dangerous waste that can exist in your business is one you can’t see. The good news is that some wastes are visible enough even a 4-year old can see it and counsel adults not to repeat the non-value added activity.


One of the lean wastes is transportation. This waste is defined as any movement that doesn’t add value to the product or service.  In lean manufacturing, this is characterized by unnecessary movement of finished goods or component inventory. In lean enterprise (a non-manufacturing environment), this waste can take the form of unnecessary movement of paper, information, or personnel.


Recently, my wife, grandson, and I were driving to a 5K Walk/Run and Easter egg hunt, when I inadvertently had to drive around searching for an open ramp to the highway.  During this drive and prior to discovering that my preferred ramp was closed, my wife and grandson saw a large building with a rounded dome on top. My wife explained to our 4-year old grandson that this structure was the Utah State Capitol. 


After driving a short distance further, I discovered that the ramp to the highway that I intended to take was closed due to construction. We had to circle back around and found ourselves driving back toward the Capitol from the opposite direction.  As we neared the highway ramp, our grandson pointed out the window and exclaimed, “Look, the Capitol!”  He then went on to lecture me on my excess transportation by blurting out, “Papa don’t drive in a circle!”


In this case, the transportation waste was so visible that even a 4-year old could see it and counsel me not to repeat the non-value added activity.


As a Lean Sigma Practitioner (LSP) dedicated to continuous improvement, you have to learn how to see waste.  Once you have seen the waste, you must be willing to raise and discuss the issue.  An organization will not achieve the next level of performance unless everyone communicates his or her thoughts.  In many respects, LSPs must take some of their behavioral cues from an inquisitive 4-year old.  LSPs should question everything and express any concerns over what they observe.


Most waste is visible and correctable, assuming we train ourselves to see it and not accept the non-value added activity as the norm. Just because the task has been accomplished by following a particular process for years doesn’t make it the right process for today’s environment.



Post Author: Royce Williard

Copyright 2009, The Williard Group

1 comment:

  1. What a fun post! It is amazing how we can become so blind to waste and not see it until it gets pointed out to us.