Quantification… Are We Working on the Right Things?

When engaged in an improvement initiative, two key questions must be answered:
(1) Are we working on the right things?
(2) Are we going about it the right way?

The second question is usually the easier of the two. Are we … involving the right people, gathering all the facts and data about the current situation, looking deep for root causes, and thinking broadly about possible solutions, etc.?

But the first question is critical and potentially more challenging… Are we working on the right things? Certainly going about improvements the right way — methodically, data-driven, with the right people, etc. — is important to your success. But far more important — and often more difficult — is identifying the right things to work on.

Quantifying the waste is an essential tool for separating the vital few from the trivial many opportunities. To make the best possible use of this tool, you might ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I creating real gains or merely shifting the shape of the waste?
  • Am I missing the rest of the iceberg?
  • Where does the problem fit into the overall process?
  • Am I correctly valuing the cost of lost time?
  • Am I so focused on the snags in the day to day work that I miss the game-changing opportunities in front of me?

For additional examples and ideas on how to best quantify waste, click here

Productivity Gains – How they Really Impact the Bottom Line

Increasing productivity or reducing the amount of “people time” associated with various processes usually sounds like a good idea. In a few instances, the impact of increasing process productivity on the bottom line is clear and simple. It may reduce the expenditures on overtime or contract workers.

However, beyond those few cases, productivity improvements for employees do not directly reduce expenditures, but instead increase capacity; and the extent to which these improvements benefit the bottom line depends on how that capacity is put to use.

The impacts can be extremely profitable or can amount to nothing — or worse!

Click here to read more…

Are We Learning?

The history of commerce is littered with organizations that have erred in big and varied ways. There were Wang’s strategic errors, GM’s stifling bureaucracy and short-sightedness, Digital’s burdensome overhead, Enron’s dishonesty, AIG’s recklessness, and… more recently, there are Toyota’s troubles, which many believe are troubling in an entirely new way ( see related article).

But there has been more than enough said and written about all of these situations and miscues – so, the question is, what lessons have we learned? We look forward to your thoughts!

Challenges and best practices associated with continuous improvement