Waste is certainly a catchphrase that is overused to the point where the word itself has become diminished as a way to define useless activities (catching up to "out of the box" and "at the end of the day"). James P. Womack has spent a great deal of energy simplifying how an organization can think about waste (As Lean practitioners know simplification is the true sign of a genius). Simply stated, the core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing non-value added activity. Waste can be defined as activities which the customer would not be willing to pay for. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.
A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste. The same goes for a Lean professional.
To accomplish this, lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets, and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets, and departments to customers. Remember, this works horizontally not vertically. Most organizations operating today are still structured in silos(vertical) which in themselves hemorrhage waste but in aggregate tremendously decrease customer value . Lean initiatives that work up the vertical have their value but are much less effective than horizontal programs.
Lean works not because it's a framework of best practices but because it it is a deep behavioral and cultural transformation that encourages everyone in the organization to think differently about the role of quality in the creation and delivery of value to the customer. This thinking changes organizations fundamentally when they must think across the value stream (vertical). Consider your organization. If you're in marketing and you are responsible for the value of your product all the way through its cycle then you start to think more about change when its impact is measured from concept to cash. When it fails (which it often does) it's because the cultural implications and focus were underestimated.
I'm not interested in spending more time discussing Lean from a macro perspective because there are many smarter and better written books and blogs which accomplish that. My point in this discussion is to bring about the idea that waste reduction can start with you.
Look at every activity you perform in your job. Think of an activity as a series of steps that take an input and turn it in to an output that is consumed by the next activity. Ask yourself why you do it and is there a better way to do it? Does it need to be done at all? Once you find those activities which you feel can be improved and/or eliminated then do it. Fix it now, don't wait. Once you fix it start measuring its impact. After all if it's not helping it will be viewed as hurting and you will be forced to digress back to status quo.
I'm often asked when suggesting this path. Where do you start and how do you do it? Over the next week I will be posting recommendations for how to start your own personal Lean initiative. How you can socialize its value and how you can make it contagious in your organization. Nothing here is new and nothing was invented by me. It's already in hundreds of books and research papers but I've facilitated this process enough that I can share best practices which have personally worked for me in implementing a success Lean/Culture transformation.
The steps I will walk your through are....
1. Current State Mind Mapping
2. Problem State Mind Mapping
3. Value Stream Mapping and Theory of Constraint Identification
4. Future State Mapping and Waste Elimination
5. Implement and Improve
Let the fun begin. Please contact me if you have thoughts or ideas which you would like templates of my personal thoughts on.