Lean principles not only can be employed by whole companies or whole teams, but can even be adopted at the individual level, to make your life easier and your work more productive.
Value is everything your customer is paying for. Try to arrange your work in a way that has the most positive impact on the end customer, whether it is working more efficiently to speed time, working less wastefully to reduce cost, or working at higher quality to improve results.
Lean is focused on identifying and eliminating waste. Waste can be any process or activity that takes unnecessary time or materials and eliminating waste in your own tasks can make you more productive and often shorten your work weeks. Your goal should be to do as much work as is assigned to you, to a high standard of quality, without exceeding what has been asked or assigned.
Kanban was developed for workflow visualization to improve efficiency. On a personal level, Kanban can make your work easier and more efficient in several ways:
Visualization: You can visualize all of your tasks and map every step of the process you are following on a Kanban board. This way you can never forget about something that’s waiting on you. This visual management board will make your life much easier.
Establishing Flow: With a Kanban board, you can see where work is piling up. Organizing yourself to keep work moving through the system in an orderly fashion improves your work and makes you a more valuable teammate
Limiting WIP: A Kanban system only allows you to take on a limited amount of work at a time. Limiting the work in progress reduces multi-tasking and distractions, keeping you focused on one thing at a time and improving your overall productivity.
The 5S method was developed to reduce waste and increase efficiency within an organization, but a clean and organized workspace also improves your personal productivity. It is comprised of 5 distinct steps:
Sort: Sort what is needed in the area from what is not needed
Straighten: Arrange items so that they are ready for use. Keep things in the same place so they are easily located
Shine: Clean the workspace and equipment
Standardize: Learn about best practices from teammates and adapt them to your own workspace
Sustain: Maintain this standard and improve everyday
Kaizen is the principle of continuous improvement. Taking time to reflect on your work and productivity with the intention of continually getting better over time maximizes your own efficiency and productivity, and helps you revise your own processes to get better. One way to achieve Kaizen is with PDCA problem-solving:
Plan: Identify the area that needs improvement and state a measurable goal for improvement. While goals will vary greatly between individuals, some areas to evaluate might be reducing the amount of time spent on tasks, reducing errors or re-working, or streamlining to limit repetition and redundancy. Plan for how you will achieve those goals.
Do: Implement your plan.
Check: Review your results against your benchmarks and determine whether your plan was effective.
Act: If your plan was ineffective, revise your plan and repeat the process. If your plan was effective, act to make it your standard behavior.
Repeat this process, striving for ongoing improvement.
The following lean concepts can save you time, improve the quality of your work, and increase your value, no matter where you work or what your job description. They can be practiced by anyone, anywhere.
Applying the tools and principles of lean to your own work and your own processes, treating your employer as a customer, and adding value for them, is difficult, when looked at from a certain perspective. But adopting processes that create clarity, improve the quality of the work, take less time, and build stronger relationships ultimately not only shorten the work week, but make it easier.