FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW
Anyone in the leadership business for a while has probably heard the term MUDA. This was the proverbial Japanese term for process waste. Recall the following:
Incredibly simple, any leader can follow this standard to identify opportunities for improvement. One would think, staying on top of these wastes would create the most efficient environment ever! The reality is quite different.
THE PERCEPTION OF WASTE CHANGES FROM THE VANTAGE POINT
Recall the last time you may have been involved in a product launch. Out of time, over budget, and likely producing scrap – the process was put on the floor without a proper runoff and verification. What happens next, is some sort of stabilization to meet customer orders. Usually with lots of overtime and more people than expected from the original cost portfolio.
The lean leaders in the plant do a pretty good job of coming in and cleaning up the low hanging fruit then it is off to the next project.
What is left is a big steaming pile of micro waste. More than likely, operators are taking to many steps, there is no automation in label making or scanning, quality checks were put in line with the process but not balanced with the machine takt time, and on and on.
When the team member brings this up to the supervisor it is ignored and eventually never gets brought back up again.
GREAT LEADERS KNOW WHERE TO LOOK FOR THE REAL WASTE
Short term thinking and strategic planning force us to go after the “big fish” projects and rightly so. However, ignoring the waste at the micro level will cost you more in the long run. Think about it. When you hired Bill – unemployment was 10%. He was more than happy to have job. Later, the economy improves and unemployment follows with it – say 3%. Now Bill has had to manually print his own labels, manually do his own quality checks, walk 4 miles a day versus 1 because of poor machine layout, and rarely gets anyone to listen him about the waste in his work cell. What is Bill going to do? Move on! While as leader, you may have gotten that fantastic bonus for identifying and executing that big fish project -you failed to sprinkle any resources to support your CULTURE and WORKFORCE development.
BUILD A CULTURE OF WASTE IDENTIFICATION AT ALL LEVELS
It is crucial as a leader to build waste identification and communications systems at all levels. While our resources are not infinite, you can still enact change. Train the workforce and empower them to resolve opportunities. Does it really take a college degree to enact a management of change document for a process change suggestion? Of course not. The effective workforce of tomorrow has no roadblocks and is empowered to “own” their process. We will examine how the folds into “servant” leadership in another post.