no waste

returnUneven Efforts

waste8In Toyota-speak this waste is known mura - literally stripes (in Japanese). This is about a lack of uniformity or irregularity in the way we work. Toyota sees this a waste that hampers steady workflow.

In strict lean systems, this waste problem is often managed by workload levelling or through a just-in-time system.

For our purposes, we can also see it as variation in the same work done by different teams. Most of us have encountered situations where we received varying levels of helpfulness from the same call-centre. Similarly, the service we and our colleagues provide may also be variable between different individuals and teams.

Is this a serious problem?

This depends on whether you are likely to have dealings with the same end-user or customer again or whether your interaction has significant consequence. For a mass manufacturer, major service provider or a few bricks slightly skewed in a long wall, it may seem to no serious matter if it is an isolated incident. However, any variation in the process outputs can mean a loss of consistency and from there, a varying customer experience.

Uneven service may result in rework which will cost more as well as creating an extra burden on the environment through the nonproductive use of resources to deliver a out-of-specification product or service.

So it is serious.

Does that mean we go the way of companies like McDonalds with detailed step by step procedures on what to do, how to do it and how long to do it for? Wait, construction already has them - called Method Statements. All reputable construction processes are supposed to following specific Method Statements. So why is there still such a lot of snagging in construction then?

It could be because our methods and procedures are not easy to follow or not simple to understand. It could also be that our communications are necessarily as good as we thought.

If the methods are too complex, people are more likely to make mistakes. Or people may improvise if it is too complicated. Either way, breaking a complex job into smaller, simpler, easier and more logical packages will pay ready dividend.

As for communications, do we always check that people have a clear understanding of what we are asking for? Sometimes, we don't always say literally what we are asking for and in a multi-ethinic workplace, this may become a handicap.