Why You Should Sweat The Small Stuff
You hear the advice from a huge number of people, hit the big things 1st, focus on the biggest bang for the buck, don't sweat the small stuff. Yet the thing that people forget, it's all small stuff, until it's not! Big stuff starts out as small stuff, then it grows, it feeds waste or lack of accountability or poor company culture and it grows then then guess what it's big stuff. What if you stopped it becoming big stuff?
Surely Small Stuff Isn't That Important?
Really!? Let me put it another way, think of any big company scandal or failure, Bearings Bank for instance, brought down by a single rogue trader, a big bang event. Except it wasn't. There were several small events that allowed it to occur, small cultural and behavioural missteps were taken, things ignored all of which allowed the issues to grow. The bets that were made to cover the losses started out small (in relative terms to the bank) but grew and grew until critical mass happened and it all fell over. So, what if the small stuff had been dealt with, what if they culture of the company was maintained and looked after so that the small stuff wouldn't be allowed to exist?
Let's think about a manufacturing example. You lose that big customer because the major quality or delivery failure was the last straw. You typically don't lose these things on one instance, if you did then the small stuff was in the contractual side and the cultural fit not being looked at! Lets for a moment suppose that it was the straw that broke the camel's back (see more small stuff!).What things had to happen to get to that point?
What created the late delivery? Well maybe the manufacturing took a bit longer, quality is always a problem in the plant, but you know that if you launch 110 units 100 will go out and then you can fix the 10 for a later job. This time however, the quality was worse (again) and only 80 good ones got through. The quality issues aren't big, a radius here not quite right, the surface finish is a bit rougher there because the tool isn't quite sharp enough anymore, but normally you squeeze through. Bob is normally good, but his absence rate has been sneaking up over the last few months. You get the idea; all those small niggles suddenly line up and hit you, "murphy is hear".
Maybe your quality was good enough, but you just weren't quick enough through the plant? Those loading times vary for no apparent reason and you know that but there were other bigger priorities. The 2nd machine in the line has been slowing down recently since you pushed out the maintenance, but it'll be ok, until it's not.
Waste is Waste & Costs you Money
Pick any of the LEAN Wastes and I bet they are there in spades within your operation, stealing time, output, quality and of course money from you. They are there just dripping away, reducing your productivity and slowly but surely leading to some BIG STUFF.
By identifying these (LEAN) wastes or company cultural or behavioural issues early (or at all!) it gives you the ability to stop the leaking tap, to stop the waste and avoid the big stuff. By avoiding the big stuff, avoiding the constant fire fighting you free yourself up to focus more on value adding work and improving your productivity and hence profitability.
It's a remarkable virtuous circle of events, removing the waste as early as possible avoids the big stuff it's a direct relationship and guess what, you have more time to improve the small stuff because you are not pulled pillar to post fighting fires.
Yes it takes discipline, it takes a focus on understanding, identifying and then removing waste from your operation. It takes accountability and a focus on the culture you want in your organisation. Having these things ingrained in everything you do, in everyone you hire and decision you take as an organisation is what makes the difference.
So again, let me suggest, sweat the small stuff, deal with it once, fixed it properly and moved on. Let me leave you with a question: How much time, effort, stress and money would you save with this approach?
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