Sunday, June 2, 2013

Who Can Find the Time to Get Better?

Business has never been more hectic. Customers are more and more demanding, competition is fierce, and sometimes it seems it takes every ounce of energy to make sure those customers are delighted (not just happy). So how many hours per week can everyone possibly spend focused on continuous improvement?

We know we are good at working IN our business, how good can we get at working ON it? Most smart business people understand the value of a "doing lean". It makes sense. Eliminate non-value added activity from all of our processes. These activities are defined as the things you do that you can't invoice-that is, you're paying for them yourself. From the profits. These activities are chock full of the 8 wastes-defects, over-production, waiting, non-essential processing, transport, inventory, motion, and unused employee brainpower. The trouble is, the 8 wastes (once you get past the really low hanging fruit) is invisible! That's where the lean tools come in. They help us to SEE the waste so we can go after it.

Simple enough? Except for the fact nobody seems to have time to stay with it. Some companies do occasional kaizan events, which often generate a list of to-dos that we never find the time to do.

I suggest we build one more process into our business. If there are 1000, let's make it 1001. This new process is called Rapid Kaizan, and uses A3 as the vehicle. The target condition is a culture where everyone spends 15-20 minutes per day making improvements as leaders or members of self-directed work teams. In the software development world, this is called Agile or Scrum. I call it A3 thinking. Pick a project, put a team of 3-5 people together to leverage diversity, gain consensus on the current condition, do root cause analysis, implement countermeasures and teach others what you did. Repeat 100-200 times per year. Again this is done 15 minutes at a time. 

Some of my current customers have already done this >75 times THIS year. Several have set goals to do this >175 times before the end of the year. And they will hit those goals. Because they have taken the time to build that one brand new process, and a culture of continuous improvement is the end result.

Can you afford the time to improve? You can't afford not to!

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