Saturday, January 1, 2011

Make processes visible so you can see the waste

By Al Norval,

Many organizations mistakenly try to increase the capacity of their processes by speeding up the process. They make the value creation part go faster and ignore all the waste that forms the majority of the lead time through the process.

Lean organizations realize that sometimes we have to “Go slow to go fast”.

This entails clearing the fog by making the process visible so we can see the waste. Teams of people from the process can then implement counter measures to eliminate the waste. This frees up capacity allowing more throughput giving organizations the improvement they need.
In many cases we can actually slow the process down, eliminate the waste and get more out the end.

Contradiction? Only to traditional thinkers not to Lean thinkers.


  1. You should not target and eliminate waste without understanding the underlining interactions with customers that drive work effort, the desired customer outcomes, and the overall optimum customer experience.

    Sometimes a lean inspection where you 'learn to see' from the customer perspective requires you to ADD activities.

  2. Value is inherently defined by the customer. Understanding the underlying interactions with customers to deliver optimum customer experience is right on.

    Sometimes we do need to add activities, that is true. When this happens I have found it is usually because I don't truly understand yet root cause of my inability to deliver that optimum experience. It's necessary until I can further my insight into the experience and find the least waste way to deliver it.

  3. Makes sense - if we add additional steps that enhance the customer experience, we're adding value added steps.
    Sometimes we even have to add non-value added steps to stabilize the process to enable us to give customes what they want.
    In either case, we want our people to maximize the value added activities and work to reduce or eliminate waste from the non-value adding steps in the process, once the customer needs are met.