Sunday, August 17, 2014

Candid Camera: Would your Customer Pay for the Work You Do?

No doubt, most of us get started sharpening lean tools and shaping our strategy out on the plant floor. It is so easy to see waste there. It is as visible as the nose on your face. You can see it, measure it, then improve it. Combine that with people (the early adopters) on the plant floor who are willing to make improvements to their work, and the lean journey gets a good start. People start to display a good strong sense of ownership in their work lives, morale improves, inventory usually gets cut, corresponding lead times get chopped due to less WIP, pop the corks, we are lean!!! Yea!!!!!!!!!

Then the natural progression is to apply this thinking on "the other side of the wall". The office. It won't be long before a few people on the plant floor start to ask, "what are THEY doing?". "You want US to change, what about THEM?"

 I believe that lean thinking is nothing more than time management. Simply take all 10,000 "processes" in your business, and convince the people who do them to cut the time it takes to do them in half. There is no question that people who make, package or ship the products your customer pay for have a defined takt time. There is demand and there is some amount of time to produce it. They work with a built in sense of urgency. Their success is easily measured. 

The challenge is to adopt the same sense of urgency everywhere else. How long does it take for your customer to be connected to the person they need to talk to? How long does it take for them to have a complaint remedied? How easy is it for them to place an order? Return something? Get technical advice? See their salesperson when they need them? How much non value-added activity stands in the way of delighting (not satisfying) the people who have chosen to send YOU their money? 

I have an exercise for you to try. Pretend there is a closed circuit camera in your office or cubicle. Pretend the camera is on from the time you come to work until the time you leave. It captures everything you do Then, (this is a bit scary) pretend that your customer is on the other end of the camera. Whenever you do value added work, he or she will gladly pay. Sorting, filing, forwarding, searching,, copying, stapling, doing sign-offs, cc-ing and bcc-ing, sitting in mindless meetings are probably on your dime. 

Personally, this little exercise got my butt off my long established routines. i found myself coaching more, and working with others to help them solve problems. If it was not value-added and not required by the government, I stopped doing it. In late 2008, when the economy started to tank, people were very concerned about their jobs. I told them the bad news was that they were stuck with us, the good news was we were going to work hard to cut all 10,000 process times in half again, one A3 at a time. And then we worked hard to do it.

I'm pretty sure my customer was smiling on the other end of the camera.

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