There was one particular skill that really helped me in college. I had a goal to practice this skill during each class. You see, I truly valued…
…the process of asking questions. I would challenge myself to think of one question to ask during each class.
It helped me develop a relationship with my professors.
One of my favorite professors taught me Constitutional Law and International Law as an undergraduate even though the classes consisted mostly of graduate students planning to attend law school.
She would challenge us with some of the most perceptive discovery questions I had ever experienced. I learned a lot from how she asked questions and listened, and that knowledge impacted how I led our business.
When my company had our annual AQLTM (Ask Questions and Listen) QIC-Day, we divided our agenda into three parts…
- Ask Questions
- Becoming a Lean Enterprise
And that day, we talked through how we could “Become a Lean Enterprise” by asking questions.
Every leader can have a Lean Enterprise by asking four questions.
What is lean?
Lean is the continual pursuit of increasing customer delight and operating profit through the elimination of waste in everything you do.
It is all about the customer! And it is how you deliver value to your customer.
It is based on the ideas of continuous incremental improvement and respect for people.
It is striving for theoretical perfection…
- Maximum delight of customer desires and demands
- Fastest delivery – Speed wins
- Lowest possible cost
- Error free
- Complexity reduced
- Least amount of resources tied-up
- Clear and objective standards (best way/best practices)
A positive example is a NASCAR pit crew changing tires and refueling in 12 seconds. WOW!
Examples where opportunities exist to improve are…
- Public road construction
- Doctor’s offices
- Moving companies (which is my industry)
- “You name it” – just about everywhere!
Why is it important?
Customers are expecting more value, product life cycles are getting shorter, and the marketplace is moving and changing faster than ever.
Fact: Many of your competitors are already using Lean methodologies.
Lean can help you survive and even thrive so that you can continue to serve your customers!
“Waste is often disguised as useful work.” – Hiroyuki Hirano
In your organization, do you see “waste” in…
- Bottlenecks in processes causing “piles”?
- Poor quality resulting in upset customers?
- Having to check someone’s work to catch errors?
- Poor suppliers not executing by established standards?
- Poor housekeeping causing extra time to find things or causing safety hazards?
- Downtime of systems or machines?
- Poor communications causing misunderstandings and extra time to rework or “mend fences”?
“If it doesn’t add value, it’s waste.” – Henry Ford
Motion does not mean work is occurring.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11 ESV
Motion is either…
- Waste – Totally not needed for doing the work
- Searching (use the 30-second rule to know when to abandon)
- Non-Value-Added – Work currently needed but not of value
- Value-Added – Work that truly adds value and is needed
- Service with quality built into the process
Who should provide lean leadership?
You, as the leader, must be the champion, the cheerleader, and the person to take the lead with a continuous improvement mindset by:
- Continuing to challenge the status quo.
- Knowing that there is always room for improvement and that this is a long-term commitment.
- Understanding that customers change – what delights them today will not necessarily tomorrow – today’s delights can become the expectations of tomorrow.
The best way to understand changing customer preferences is to ask questions and listen (AQLTM).
If we don’t change, we will not survive. But if we do change with continuous improvement, it gives us a huge competitive edge, and it raises the barrier to entry.
How do you become a Lean Enterprise?
You can determine what your customers value or what is value-added when you ask questions like…
- Is this activity something that the customer is willing to pay for? (The customer is only interested in the deliverables.)
Insight: This is about what the customer wants… not what you want.
- Does this activity change the fit, form or function of the product or service?
- Is there a faster and safer way to provide the requested service?
When we had our AQL (Ask Questions and Listen) QIC-Day, we challenged our employees to ask never-ending questions…
- How can I eliminate waste in this process?
- What is not necessary?
- Why am I doing this?
- Is the customer willing to pay for this? If not, it’s waste!
It was essential for our people to learn to see waste through AQL, and for all team members to become “waste detectors” or “waste-ologists”.
During our AQL QIC-Day, we use a group exercise to brainstorm ideas and thoughts so employees could begin the experiential process of becoming “waste detectors”.
Over the years, I have learned when you sincerely seek your people’s input, your people have a better understanding, commitment, and pride in the achievement of resultant changes.
I asked each table group to use their flip chart to record their ideas and answers to the following question:
In your daily routine, have you seen any of the following activities that are wasteful and do not add value from the customer’s perspective?
- Excess motion, energy
- Unneeded complexity
- Cargo damage (we were in the moving industry)
- Waiting, delays
- Idle capacity
- Error correction
- Needless transactions
Afterward, one by one, each table was asked to share their best idea with the entire group.
Then we played the game Lean QIC-ARDY with the “Becoming a Lean Enterprise” topic that was focused on “waste”.
You can click <here> for a FREE download of the instructions for the Lean QIC-ARDY game.
Warning: Be prepared for a new paradigm, big changes, new thinking, and new habits. And you, as the leader, will be expected to navigate your organization through this new period of change.
Does your organization maximize customer delight? How well have you eliminated waste in your organization? Could your people claim to be “waste detectors” or “waste-ologists”? Please share your comments <here> and share this blog post with a friend or co-worker.