Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lean Outside the Factory -- Reverse Magic!

By Pascal Denis

Last Fall, I had the pleasure of taking my teenage daughters, Katie & Eleanor, to Las Vegas.

We'd hoped to see the great magician, David Copperfield, who I'd seen make tigers, elephants and the like disappear. On TV I saw David make the Statue of Liberty disappear.
Sadly, he was out of town & we had to settle for Cher...

Anyhow, somehow I made the following connection. (Must have been the desert air...)
Lean's next frontier is the office -- sales, marketing, engineering, design, planning & scheduling, finance and so on.
Deploying the "profound system of knowledge" here requires us to perform reverse magic.
David Copperfield makes visible things, invisible.

We have to do the opposite & make the invisible, visible.

Office work, is what Peter Drucker called "knowledge" work - most of it is hidden in the box knows as a computer.

Our job is to take it out that box and put it up on the wall, where everyone can see it.

Otherwise, waste multiplies exponentially, and our office processes become our constraint.
Here's a challenge for you:
a) review total lead time for your top three value streams,

b) where is most of the delay -- in operations (factory, hospital ward, laboratory etc) or outside operations?
If you're like many organizations, most of the delay in outside operations.
Yet where do we spend most of our improvement work?
So...let's work our magic and make the invisible, visible. Then our Lean activities can really take flight.
That's what The Remedy -- Taking Lean Out of the Factory to Transform Your Organization, is all about.


  1. Problems are treasures. Those who work in invisible processes (services, medical care, design) are able to see their problems and make dramatic improvements when they are able to make the invisible, visible.

    Post your process on a wall or a shared dashboard. Make your WIP (work in process) visible as it moves through each step in your process. See the waste and reduce your lead-times, with amazing benefits.

  2. It's incredible how many people will argue against this saying "but it's in the computer". The computer - knows all and sees all. Problem is most people either can't find the data or can't figure out how to extract it quickly from the computer rendering it virtually useless.
    A great Mental Model from the Brain Boosters is the Visual Management Triangle - See Together, Know Together, Act Together.
    It starts with making things visible so we can all see and understand them together.

  3. I think a lot of mature Lean companies have become comfortable with mapping/understanding material flow but including the information network/major processes on the map is still weak. So I understand why Service Companies and Support Functions are struggling to understand information network/major processes, let alone the detail inside the information flow processes. The computer is a tool like a stamping press that transforms value through its process. Like a Material Flow – who owns the process?, what are the customer wants?, what are the outputs to provide this?, what are the inputs to provide this?, what is needed from supplier/customer for these inputs?, what are the requirements from/to the shareholders for this process?, and now we get into the process itself – are activities 100% value-add?, is the workload and output consistent?, are there no delays for approvals?, and so on and so on for shorter lead times, least waste way, reduced variation and reduced overburden to support customer and shareholder wants. So much is invisible and sometimes just unknown to see/know/act together.