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As a parent I find myself saying things to my 11 year old daughter that I certainly heard my parents say to me, things that made my eyes roll and managed to draw deep huffing breaths from me as these were stated for the umpteenth time, and I'm certain I'm not alone with this. Things like, tidy up your room, where is your other shoe (there is always 1 shoe to be found !), if you put things where they below you'd find them easier and one of mum's personal favourites less haste and more speed.
What I also find is that, perhaps not always in the same words but certainly with the same meaning, I find myself saying pretty much these exact same things to clients I work with to implement lean thinking in their organisation.
There is a strange belief today that if you are not actively doing something then you are not helping, you are not contributing. People forget that the act of thinking is actually doing something. Which is another of my mum's favourite phrases… Think before you jump!
Organisations today talk about moving swiftly, about getting things done quickly, faster about moving at speed. These are words of action; they are there to convey to everyone that when you want something done then yours is the company that will get it done quickly. That invariably cascades down to the employees who get the very clear message that everything is in a hurry, it must be done now, there is no time to waste. Yet that is exactly what happens waste!
Do not forget the other little ditty that your mum or grandparent would say: act in haste, repent at leisure. By getting people to work hastily invariably mistakes happen, rework happens, scrap happens, waste happens.
When the pressure comes on either self inflicted pressure from the organisation itself or from a competitor the natural reaction is to just get things done, move faster. You stop taking the time to properly think things through, training of people becomes less of a priority because you just need to get it done. Delegating work becomes an issue because it'll be 'faster if you just do it' and so you create a bottleneck and things start to brake done.
Acting in haste, without planning, without having methods in place, without training people and making sure you have the right tools in place has only one single effect on your organisation, it slows it down. Thanks to all the things that you took short cuts on you now have to spend much more time in reworking things to get it finished, the result? More cost, more delays and more frustration, plus your competition has probably beaten you to market and all those people you told that you would be moving swiftly and getting things done very fast are now thinking that you just can't keep your promises, best they order from someone who can.
I am not suggesting for a moment that organisation need to move slowly, they cannot, but they can't shortcut things and hope everything will be all right. They key to getting more speed in your organisation is make it smoothly, it's no wonder that people from the US Marines to F1 racers adopt the mantra Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.
Without the constant start and stop of defects, lumpy supply the variation of 3 different ways of doing things in your organisation of people not being aligned to the goal because there wasn't time to properly communicate you have an organisation that is anything but smooth. It is lumpy, it's up and down and operating on the edge, in haste, which results in some pretty impressive messes when it all comes to a halt. Rework and inventory piles up, cash drives up and stress builds, most of all the custom is not happy.
The lean approach to obtaining speed is to great that smooth flow in the operation, to look for anything that inhibits the flow of value or product in your organisation. To create a smooth flow we talk about removing waste, anything that doesn't add value is waste, you don't want it, it creates a barrier or a bottleneck to your flow and it needs to be dealt with if you want to speed up.
The 8 wastes we talk about are (1) Defects, (2) Overproduction, (3) Waiting, (4) Non-Utilised Talent (5) Transport, (6) Inventory, (7) Motion and (8) Extra processing. All these wastes have at least 2 things in common, they steal time & money. Time that you could be making good product to sell or delivering your service and money that you need to spend doing something or fixing something you should not have to do.
The catch 22 however is that you need to spend time focusing on removing these 8 wastes from your flow for it to become smooth, for it to speed up. Time taken to really understand the real cause of a defect and eliminate it completely may seem like a luxury you do not have but think about it for a second. If you are going to take 5hours to really fix something, which may seem like a long time, what's the result of that, how much rework or scrap (and so additional purchasing costs, transport costs etc) will you ultimately save? How must more could you produce.
By changing your thinking from we must move fast and get this all done right away to we have to focus on being smooth and removing waste what happens? Well your approach to things will change, you will take the time to look for the real root cause on things, you will make sure you properly train people to do a job so that when they step into the role they are moving at the right pace. The stress on everyone drops, the ability to focus on doing the right thing and to take the right decisions for the longer term become a priority and that ultimately results in an organisation that will move at such a pace, your competition really will struggle to see you in the distance.
The next time you hear yourself or someone else talking about more speed and moving faster and getting it done, remind them of my mum, remind them it is all about Less Haste first, then more Speed.
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