All work is a process, all work can be improved.
This is one Four Revolutions of management - (more on the others in upcoming blogs).
The statement seems obvious, sitting there on the screen or page. But that’s not how I was taught in engineering and business school.
In fact, I was taught that the workplace was fixed. Process cycle and changeover times, scrap rates, optimal batch sizes, lead times and the like were ‘given’.
Business case studies, for example, invariably began with a ‘given’ set of facts describing the current condition.
None of our professors said, “By the way, these can all be greatly improved. And it’s your job to involve everybody in your team in improvement work.” [Reflections of a Business Nomad].
The barriers to improvement are daunting, as we all know. In one memorable engagement, the president of the local union effectively forbade improvement.
It was heavy industry and the ergonomics was dreadful. Back, neck and shoulder injuries were all but inevitable.
Our team’s focus was fixing the lousy jobs and making it easy and pleasant for team members to produce quality.
“You can only change jobs up to 90 days after contract ratification,” he told us.
“But people are going to get hurt,” we replied.
“These are our jobs, and we like them just as they are,” he said.
Don’t want to be misunderstood. Many unions have accepted and support continuous improvement. Often management is the obstacle.
But all work is a process, and all work can be improved.
Nothing is given.