Result or Process?

I saw a quote written on a whiteboard few days back let me talk about this subject again. The quote said something like (I cannot remember this 100%, but meaning is not altered), “If you focus on change, you will achieve results”. To be honest, I do not know who said this and why this was put on the board. But I was immediately turned to one of my older posts on the main site called “Results Vs Process”. I do not believe change will bring results, but if the results want change that’s fine. But for long term sustainability and the repeatability of the results, you need processes.
When you have a process, which is making you positive outcomes, you can fine tune them to achieve even better outcomes. But when you just focus on the results, you will just look at the end goal and will miss the big picture, and why you want to achieve these results in the first place. Specially, when you are presented with the same problem again, you will have to start all over again.
This is where the process comes to play.  In our day to day life, we get the repeated challenges. If you are a customer care representative, sitting in a call center, you will have same set of problems every day, in different words. This is same with the manufacturing, other services or even in offices.
I am in 100% agreement, we need results. But how we achieve those results determines the quality of the result. Solving problems needs proper mechanisms, not only to solve the problem, but to guide and capture the process of problem solving. This will create a system or a process which you can apply over and over again to solve the problems. When problems are solved systematically, you can use the learning in the future.

Results Or Processes, what do you think? Leave your comments.

Easiest way to become lean

If you ran your business for a long time or if you are working on your role for a long time you know how to operate it, right? But why do you want to become lean then? Probably because you know you can do better, or because you know other organizations are doing great with lean techniques. Whatever the reason may be, you have to start somewhere.

In the lean journey, I have no doubt you should start from understanding the principles and concepts of lean. This is the part most of you are comfortable with. But when it comes to implementation, what is the most important thing to do? Where you should begin? Is it 5S, or is it visual concepts? I would say, you are partially correct. 5S is a good starting point, but only if you are prepared to do one thing. This one thing will improve your results dramatically. What is this important thing you should have to multiply the results of your lean efforts?
You should be comfortable in challenging the existing processes. You should be able to question the existing processes and find out why these practices are there. And you should be fearless to challenge them.
Most of the times processes evolve with the problems and challenges they face. Most of the solutions found for those challenges are just to solve the problem in hand, generally not thinking about the effect of the solution on the entire process. By adding change after change to the startup process, the process becomes much more complex. People generally forget the end goal in this process.
Let me give you an example. Most the fabrics used to make garments today are woven. Weaving is a practice which was there for thousands of years. The basics of the process have not changed much. I have visited few fabric mills(modern ones), and found how much of a waste they have introduced to the system just by taking issues one by one and finding solutions to each, not taking the entire process into consideration. Below is one of my observations.

When the yarns are not strong enough, they break while moving through the metallic parts of the weaving machine. The solution was to put a some coating on top of the yarn so that, it will gain some strength and will be able to solve the problem in hand. But when it comes to the next step of fabric processing, which is dyeing, this same coating gives tons of problems. So they have to remove it with high-tech machinery and chemicals and clean the yarn to the original status to apply dye material evenly on the yarn.
If you think lean, instead of trying to coat something over the yarn, you will try reducing the tension created on the machine or you will try making the yarn stronger in making the yarn itself. This will not only save lots of money wasted in making, coating, removing this coat, it will also save time, energy and precious resources like water. It will be much more environmentally friendly in operation.
Just think about all the documentation you handle day to day. Do you think all those signatures and papers or emails necessary? I certainly think we should be able to cut down all these at least by 50%. Most of these processes and documents are there not to help the entire process nor there to help the end result but just to save someone from “possible future problems”. I can go on listing. Just have a look at your processes. Ask the question yourself. You will see a completely new world of opportunities unfolding in front of you. Tools like 5 Why, Process Mapping and Value Stream Mapping will come handy in this process.
Please leave your comments to this post. I really value your comments. 

Waiting is a waste. Keep your customers waiting??

In lean, waiting is classified as one of the main waste categories. Waiting is wasting of time, and money and effort. This form of waste is covered extensively in this blog. But how about keep your customer waiting? How big of a waste it can be?

I saw a post of this nature on the Mark’s leanblog.org. It clearly demonstrate how much of a waste it is to keep people waiting, specially a person with a blog and good reach. Bad experiences for a customer in general, will not only turn that customer away; it creates a negative feel and will eventually turn many more current and future customers away. Mark’s blog post is a good example of it.
Mark as a good lean consultant, looks at the cause of it. His observations and conclusions are very important. Organizations, which are trying to get the 100% utilization of the employees is losing one of the important points. Mark points out when employees are loaded to 100%, they are very less effective and there will be long queues. If the employee is in the direct customer care, this means long waiting time for customers and more frustrations and eventually loss of sales and profits. Even if the employee is not in the customer care, still this means lots of work in queue for the worker to complete. This is equally bad as well.
I always prefer Simple, optimized solutions, over complicated and high efficient solutions. Simple and optimized solutions generally provide better results as they are simple to understand and use and made to deliver the result in the bigger picture, not to keep people busy.
Lean management is different from scientific management and most of the other established management systems. It looks for the results by creating systems and eliminating wastes from the system, continuously not by pressing people, machines or any of the resources to its maximum.