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I have a question when I work with teams about how long it would take them to save at least $20,000 in their organisation, normally this results in answers of killing meetings or big bang events. When people think of lean improvements it tends conjure thoughts about big bang events that transform the organisation over a short period of time which is a shame, since this isn't what it's about.
I'm not suggesting that you don't need some large-scale transformational events, I'm sure you will, you may need to redesign your floor layout for example to be able to develop flow within the organisation or perhaps a full restructure of the build process.
These types of events, called Kaikaku Events, rather than kaizen are concerned with making fundamental and radical changes to a system, they need to be carefully planned, scoped and have a budget, a typically larger one, in place before you start.
Kaizen events are smaller events, typically focused on smaller incremental changes that which they seem small and possibly insignificant add up to a whole lot of change, waste reduction and lean activity. More importantly, you will dramatically improve the chances of a real lean culture taking place. By giving your team the ability to make these small changes to things that impact them and stop the flow of their work area the involvement quickly builds.
The answer to my question about saving $20,000 isn't a trick, it's just a different way of thinking and one that any lean organisation needs to adopt.
What if you could find a 5-second saving that you could make every hour? that doesn't sound hard now doesn't? Ok, now find another, and another and, well you get the idea. It actually doesn't take long to mount up to saving a whole minute.
So now you have your saved minute that everyone in the organisation is saving, lest say we are now saving a whole minute every hour, that turns into 2080 minutes per year or 34.6hrs. Let's assume that your organisation has say, 20 people, well that's now 693 hours you are saving per year, all build on one 5 second saving. I work on the basis that a typical total hourly cost for an employee when you average across the organisation is around $40 so what does that do financially for the organisation? It mounts up as you can see in the chart to $27,733.33, all for a lowly 5-second saving.
What do we give as an answer for a 5-second saving? It's a list of every Microsoft shortcut, learning these, or rather learning 12 of this will save you at least 5 seconds per shortcut (that's their point after all). You can download them here to start your savings.
Lean is about removing waste in all it's forms, it's about increasing flow and delivering value to the customer. It's easy to get caught up looking for a big bang event that will magically solve or dramatically your problem but it's not realistic and it's not what lean is about and certainly not the practice at Toyota. Lean is about a collection of savings, of behaviours all mounting up to provide the total holistic solution.
If you want to build a culture of continuous improvement, of continuous learning, then looking for the small, inclusive steps is the starting point, where you take it is up to you.
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