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