Use Lean Everywhere, Not Just in the Office

by JoeWhite 4. May 2010 08:56
Like most of you, I thoroughly enjoyed a long weekend celebrating Easter recently.  The extra day off gave me some time to work around the house and while I did, I got to thinking about Lean and how it applies almost everywhere.    In fact, the Lean Tools almost form a foundation that has allowed us to progress and create ever more complex technologies. 

OK, I know this may be a little bit of a stretch and I’m not saying that without Lean techniques, we would still be using square wheels, BUT the core beliefs of Lean certainly align with those that have enabled us to advance.  For instance, the Lean concept of Standard Work forms a foundation for improvement much like any other standard practice.  Once a new idea has proven effective, it must be shared.  At first, others adopt the practice and learn to apply it.  Then they improve on it and the sharing of the new idea starts all over.    When work is standardized, the same principle applies.  Others can be trained to perform the task in the standard way, and then improvements can be made.  If there is no standard method, it is impossible to tell if a change has a positive impact or a negative one.

Another foundational principal of Lean is the implementation of small improvements to our daily work. This concept is often called Kaizen: continuous change for the better.  Most of us are continually seeking to improve our daily lives by reducing the amount of time different tasks take.   In fact, we spend a great deal of money seeking to make tasks such as cleaning and yard work easier and faster.  If we use the Lean principles such as 5S (Workplace Organization) and Waste Reduction, we can eliminate waste in our daily work both professionally and personally.

Standard Work, waste elimination, Kaizen and many other powerful tools of Lean can be applied to our everyday lives to reduce frustration, improve efficiency and increase effectiveness.  Maybe in later posts, we will discuss some others.  I am pondering a video post on applying Setup Reduction to our daily lives, but let’s see what you think of this concept first.  Please let me know.  Chime in with examples of small improvements to your daily life that fall into this thought process or ideas for future posts on this topic.


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Categories: Continuous Improvement | General | Lean | Lean Office

The Top 10 Wastes in the Office

by JoeWhite 28. April 2010 15:32
Hello Friends,

I wanted to let you know about an interactive webinar that I thought you may be interested in called ‘The Top 10 Wastes in the Office’ on Monday, May 3rd at 2:00pm Eastern.   

Waste is any item, practice, task, process, etc. that adds no value to customers or shareholders.  It is all around us but we rarely see it as waste.  Join us for this free web event on what we consider 'The Top 10 Forms of Waste in the Office'. We will review definitions of value and waste followed by counting down some of the largest forms of wasted found in the office, including waste due to data and information, workflows and employees.

THIS IS NOT A TRADITIONAL WEBINAR.  Don’t expect to simply listen and type in questions at the end. This webinar will include interactive exercises and discussion.  Along with slides, you will see the instructor at all times via a LIVE streaming video.

Our goal is for you to start identifying waste in your own workplace immediately after this session.

For more information, please browse the webinar page.

Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think may be interested.


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Categories: Continuous Improvement | Lean | Lean Office | Office Waste | Value

Ignoring Corporate Culture Can Kill a Transformation

by JoeWhite 26. March 2010 03:59

If I could only pick one thing to represent the largest mistake a change agent can make when implementing Lean or any other significant organizational change, it would probably be failing to manage the cultural change.

All too often, we fail to consider the impact that a change that will have on the culture of an organization prior to launch.  Culture is essentially the sum of all core beliefs, convictions, principles, habits, history and social norms that drive organizational behavior; and every organization has a unique one.  If we carefully consider the culture and how a change will be received within the context of it, we can implement countermeasures to address any foreseen issues and tailor our launch plan based on our assessment and observations.

For instance, if an organizational and cultural assessment identifies a strong resistance to ideas that come from outside the organization or from non tenured employees, we may need to include employees with more seniority in each improvement activity and may even need to limit the number of employees with less experience in the initial events/projects.  Additionally, if our plan called for the use of outside consultants, we may need to lengthen our implementation timeline to allow internal champions and leaders be indentified and more extensively trained.  This approach would allow us to reduce our dependence on outside consultants and resulting pushback.

Alternately, if the assessment reveals a culture that thrives on highly energetic leadership, these same employees may be the wrong individuals to include in our initial events because they may be less likely to try new things. 

For another scenario, consider a cultural assessment that reveals a failed change within the past 5 years (such as a false start at a lean implementation).  Employees of this organization will likely have a difficult time accepting that the proposed change will be reinforced by management (flavor of the month syndrome).  After all, if the last change was allowed to die, what reason do we have to believe that this effort will be any different?  In this case, the pre launch communication plan will need to address the history directly and honestly and small wins early on will be needed to gain employee support.  Significant effort should be devoted to sustaining early changes as well to prove commitment.  Advertising these small wins will also be helpful.

Whatever the history and cultural of an organization holds, the change agent must be careful to study it and develop a culture plan that helps employees understand and embrace the change. 


Learning to See Office Waste

by JoeWhite 25. March 2010 04:46

Lean is the constant pursuit of identifying and eliminating waste and there are many different tools that Lean practitioners use to accomplish this goal, but they all align with the one guiding principle of identifying and eliminating waste. We will discuss many types of waste in upcoming posts, but we should lay some ground rules and agree on some basic principles before going too deep.

First, let’s agree on how to define waste. I will give you the accepted definition, but your input would make this a much richer exploration, so please respond by adding to my definition or challenging it as you see fit. Primarily, waste is the opposite of value. Of course, this leads to the question of what is value. Since value may be a little simpler to get our minds around, let’s first define it as anything the customer is willing to pay for. Think of value as something that changes the form, fit, or function of a tangible product that the customer buys, or any service that someone is willing to pay for. Ultimately, this means that waste is any activity that doesn’t change the form, fit, function or value of the good or service. 

Next, we should discuss waste elimination as a philosophy. I contend that total waste elimination is a lofty goal that can never fully be achieved and is somewhat nebulous and idealistic. It may even be irrelevant. However, we should never accept waste that we see and we should be in a constant battle to eliminate it. 

Finally, the relationship between work and waste should be highlighted. Virtually all waste is work, but the opposite is certainly not true. Just because we classify an activity as something that the customer is unwilling to pay for doesn’t mean that it isn’t work. In fact, the very reason we strive to eliminate it is because work is required to perform the activity, but isn’t rewarded by the customer. We must always be mindful of this and be careful how we present our findings as we search for waste. People often take offense when an activity that they exert great amounts of energy to complete, is classified as wasteful. An employee who takes pride in his work will often feel stressed, angry or hurt at such an assessment. Handling these situations with empathy and coaching can make the difference in whether or not someone is willing to help us eliminate wasteful activities or not. After all, they are more than likely tired at the end of their work day, even if the customer is unwilling to pay for their activities. Being sensitive to this and helping employees understand how to eliminate waste without disrespecting their effort will help get everyone on board with our waste elimination efforts and maintain a healthy sense of respect.

This post will be followed by 30 or so more over the next few months which will deep-dive into different forms of waste in the office as well as suggestions on how to remove them.  Each post is meant to teach you how to see that particular form of waste.  We would love to hear examples for each from your environment one as well as what you did about it.



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Categories: Lean | Lean Office | Office Waste | Value

No, you are not special!

by JoeWhite 22. March 2010 15:30
No, your business isn’t different!  Yes, Lean does work in your industry!

There seems to be a consistent theme that resonates with most organizations when they are first exposed to Lean philosophies and tools. Most people seem to think that their organization is different, unique or special in some way that will prevent the Lean concepts from working or limit their impact. 

A study of the various change models and philosophies, has led me to accept the fact that Lean practitioners (and change agents of all types) bear a significant burden of convincing others that change is needed and that it will be worth the effort. Deep down, it frustrates me a little, but I accept it as part of the change agent role and realize that without the need for paradigm shifts, my chosen profession would be equally unneeded. 

I suppose that the burden of proof is what frustrates me. After all of the literature, conferences, articles and success stories that should have long ago removed any doubt that the Lean tools reduce waste, streamline processes and improve the competitive edge, shouldn’t it be up to the individual in doubt to disprove them? Countless capital requests have been rejected because the decision makers lack the vision and understanding to relate the impact of improved flow, velocity and responsiveness to the bottom line. Shouldn’t we require the submission of a capital request to continue functioning with the current level of waste instead of seeking approval to eliminate it? Shouldn’t doubters be required to prove Lean won’t work rather than change agents being required to prove that it will?

I can’t think of a single industry that the Lean tools cannot transform (if you can, please post a rebuttal in the comments and we will have some good - and friendly - debate over the question). Continuous process improvement leading to less waste and frustration is a core belief of the Lean practitioner. How can one argue with this basic principle? Didn’t it lead to the invention of the wheel? I suppose it is not so much the Lean principles that are hard for people to accept, but the application of these principles that doesn’t always seem obvious.

Don’t get me wrong, every Lean implementation is indeed different and special, but what must be tailored is the technique of applying the principles, not the principles or tools themselves. With that said, I will wake up Monday morning, get on a plane and go back to the constant process of introducing “new” concepts, convincing, convincing, sales, convincing and implementing change. This is the joy of being a Lean practitioner, and even though it can be frustrating at times, I am passionate about the journey and can’t imagine doing anything else.   

So, if someone in your organization comes to you and suggests an improvement idea or that the organization is in the process of launching a Lean transformation process, please research before you respond with a list of reasons why it won’t work. Remember that there are probably already a dozen or so examples of how it works in your industry and if there aren’t, you may just create a competitive advantage for your organization. If you approach it with an open mind, everyone will learn something along the way. You may even prove that your company is special and different…In the creative ways you find to implement Lean.


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Categories: Continuous Improvement | Deployment | Lean | Lean Office

We are Live!

by Darian 22. March 2010 15:23

Ok, so slightly late but we finally caught up to the power of blogging.  We never thought about using this medium before because we weren’t about to employ it as yet another marketing tool.  However, after understanding the potential to use it to educate, express our views, test new and innovative ideas with you all and just have conversations with great people, we said, “Now why didn’t we ever do this before?” 

With that said, we’re incredibly pleased to announce our blog.  It is our avenue to share new research, old ideas that need to be said over and over, and maybe some general frustrations with continuous improvement that hopefully we all share. We will cover traditional topics on Lean and Lean Six Sigma and will focus on new and unique topics like Lean Office, Lean Software Development, Lean IT and general applicability of Lean and Lean Six Sigma thinking in every department from Sales to Finance to HR.

In the end, we, the principles and associates of VRDS, Inc., will share our thoughts, experiences and insights on how to transform organizations to be more agile, respond to market and environmental changes quicker and deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction. 

Our bloggers have decades of industry experience and have seen, heard and battled much in our professional lives.  Thorugh our experiences, we hope you will  learn, grow and interact with us.   Feel free to post examples and pictures on topics that resonate with you or challenge us respectfully on those issues you don’t agree with so we can dialog about them.  Either way, we’d like to hear from you.

The next few posts will be on a 30+-part series on Office Wastes, a multi-part series on Office (dis)Organization, visual management in the Office and much more.  And please, feel free to suggest topics you want to learn about or explore further. 

You can follow VRDSinc on Twitter for tweets about new blogs, subscribe to the RSS feed or simply check back with us every 1 – 2 days for new posts.   Any way you choose to follow, all we ask is that you don’t be a stranger.

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Categories: General | Lean | Lean Office | Lean Six Sigma




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