Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lean Kaizan Pet Peeve: To DO Lists



John Stonesifer, a friend of mine and fellow lean practitioner from DYMAX Corporation in Torrington, CT, recently gave me a great idea for a rant.  “The Disadvantages of creating lists in a Lean environment”.  

John wrote, "Seems to me one of the biggest disadvantages to manufacturing in a Lean environment is the desire to create lists.  We have lists to keep track of lists, it’s a disease.  Most organizations have more active lists than active improvement activities.  I would much rather see ONE active improvement activity than 100 items on a list."

Now, let me make sure you understand that John and I have very similar philosophies-we both more closely adhere to the Taichii Ohno/TPS thinking-create a culture of fearless people who actually do the work making continuous, incremental improvements (A3). There is another school of thought where there are these things called "kaizan events" that last a few days, involve conference rooms and sticky notes, and result in to-do lists, sometimes called "kaizan newspapers. 

When I teach A3, I like to make sure people understand that there are zero to-dos. I have seen first hand lists generated by a kaizan that NEVER get done. The kaizan event is over, remember? In A3, the closest thing to follow up is a small box called "Hansei" or "reflection". This step may include a future scheduled "get together" of the A3 team to ensure that the process that was improved has not back slid to the pre-improved condition-that is, the changes have stuck.

To achieve market disruptive results, level load (think tortoise, not hare) your improvement philosophy (apply the principle of one piece flow). Whatever you do, don't build an INVENTORY of to-dos!!

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