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Going Lean: the First Step

Where do you start your Lean program? Most Lean practitioners would agree that you need to start by engaging people. How to engage people, however, may depend on the situation, and the driver for change. One thing that is clear, however, is that you can’t streamline processes and reduce waste if you don’t know what your processes are. If you think that process mapping may not seem too exciting in terms of engaging people, think again. While I would not suggest going down the path of complete Value Stream Mapping as an initial action, a simpler identification of processes and tasks can yield some quick (and big) wins.

Creating a flow chart or a structured list of tasks is a great way to involve people. They don’t feel pressured or defensive because you are simply asking them to tell you what they do. Your key question is: What tasks do you do? Often they find it rewarding, because they suddenly see how much they do, as well as gaining an appreciation of the skills they have. If you ask that question of every person (or a sampling of each role if you have several people fulfilling the same role), you not only involve everyone, but you also capture everything that expends effort. Using the results you can map out processes and tasks. Suddenly you can see how the organisation works.

Waste frequently occurs because people cannot see the big picture of how the business functions. They may be doing redundant tasks, or redundant steps in a task, simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Most likely things have changed, the organisation has evolved and no one has stood back and looked at whether “the way we do things” is still appropriate. This attitude is particularly prevalent in organisations with longstanding loyal employees, but it can also occur because habits have been passed on to new employees, who haven’t enough experience to question them.

Once you have the big picture, you can start work on seeing where the value lies, where the bottlenecks are, and, best of all, how you can improve the way the organisation works, as well as improving individual processes.

Call me for help in mapping out your processes. Rosemary O’Donoghue +61 (0) 412 302 055 or email me: rosemary.odonoghue@gmail.com