Arguably, the biggest waste is improving a process that shouldn’t exist.
Lean is deceptively simple. It’s simple, always in retrospect. And, it’s incredibly powerful in its simplicity. Let me explain.
What is The Purpose?
Most process improvement efforts often miss the first step: What is the Purpose of the Process?
Another way to ask this question is to ask whether the activity is aligned to the organizational goals?
When that question is asked first, it enables one to then ask an additional question: Should This Process Need to Exist?
If the first question is answered and articulated clearly and the second question yields a “YES”, then these questions logically follow:
- If the customer were to evaluate this process, what would the customer consider value-add?
- If the customer were to evaluate this process, what would the customer consider wastes?
Now, efforts are guided and direction becomes clearer.
A corollary in product development is:
- Creating a product nobody wants is waste.
Should We Improve This Process?
Asking the questions above helps a team to have vision and set its own direction in a way that is wise, prudent, and considerate of resources. A 2×2 grid might be helpful to consider as you consider the processes to improve in your Lean Transformation:
The 2×2 grid above produces four distinct conclusions:
- Improve a Process that Should Exist.
- Improve a Process that Should Not Exist.
- Don’t Improve a Process that Should Exist.
- Don’t Improve a Process that Should Not Exist.
Clearly, we want to improve processes that should exist and ignore those that shouldn’t exist.
If a process should exist, then we need to ask: Is there a better way to do this?
What’s Your Experience?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen efforts in both six sigma and lean where processes that could have been eliminated were improved instead.
Do you have a similar story to tell?