Sunday, March 19, 2017

LEAN Concept: How Do I Spend 20 Minutes?

There's nothing more stupefying than thinking about how the very best "continuous improvement" organizations in the world do continuous improvement. Toyota employees are responsible for doing and improving their jobs. Every shift. 1200-1500 improvements per day?  One can only imagine how ingrained "getting better" is into company culture after 60+ years.

I don't think it's likely to build this type of continuous improvement culture by doing periodic week long, all day kaizen activities and calling that lean. Or, deploying a lean department or certifying some black belts.

From my own experience, especially when my business faced a few challenges (does Wall Street 2008 ring a bell?).  In nearly 100% of the cases, there is no "magic bullet" to significant improvement/lead time reduction. Usually, a whole bunch of little things need to improve, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands. The only people that know these opportunities are the people who actually do the work.

So how do I engage everyone? Start by asking them the magic question, "if you owned the company, what is the one change you would make to your job right now? Then, give people 20 minutes per day to work on that (using A3), and you spend 20 minutes helping them (leader standard work). If every single person spent just 20 minutes per day on improvements with discipline, a 100 person company would spend 480000 minutes per year working ON vs. IN the business. That's 8000 hours. I think of this as applying heijunka (load levelling) to my lean strategy. While making improvements, I can teach the 8 wastes and the lean tools that may apply.

As managers, can you pull this off? Can you afford not to? Lean can't be something that is assigned or something to do when we have time. Realists know there is NEVER time. We need to make it. Remember that if people don't see you spending the 20 minutes, they will quickly conclude it isn't important! "Busy" is the number one enemy of a lean strategy!

How many hours do you spend as a business now?


  1. Bill, it always amazes me that over the years we have invested in so much technology to "save" time, yet we never seem to have any of it. Go figure.

  2. Me again............. After reading this over a couple times I have concluded that this is something that has to be CAUGHT, not taught. Quite simply, you either get it or you don't. Always worth my time to read these blogs