Every Day Lean: Value vs. Waste and Value Stream Thinking

wasteBy: Susie Sterling, Director of Online Training Solutions at LeanCor

1. Have you asked your customer today?

Recently I had to go to the local hospital to get a test done – simple procedure, expected time 20-30 minutes. Upon my arrival to the hospital, I was welcomed with valet parking associates, who were acting very professional. I felt like I arrived to a hotel, not a healthcare institution. They parked my car and showed me the way to the lab. I was surprised about this free valet service, it was certainly more than what I needed – I could have easily parked my car myself.

Once I walked into the lab, I waited, then waited some more, and after about 1 hr of total lead time, I was done with my exam.

I was getting ready to leave and had to do some more waiting on the valet to get my car.

This got me thinking: I am the patient – the customer in this case. What do I care about? I care that me lab exam done properly, and in a timely manner. That is the only thing I value, it is the value added service of the lab that I’m willing to pay for, but valet parking– not at all. The hospital was clearly creating the waste of over processing, when they offered the valet parking option for all patients of the lab (naturally, in certain cases it is necessary, as an example when a patient is not able to walk far but they drive themselves to the hospital, but it is not the typical case).

In a lean business environment, it is most important to understand what customer’s value and how we can provide that specific product or service to them. No more, no less. Providing less will lead to customer dissatisfaction. Providing more will lead to over-processing in our business – and likely some things the customer isn’t willing to pay for. In order to truly understand what customer value is, it’s important to go directly to the source – organizations do this often via voice of customer surveys, feedback forms and most importantly face to face meetings with customers when possible.

2. Value Stream Thinking


Last week, I took my car to the repair shop. Mary, the friendly associate told me that it will take about 4 days for the parts to arrive and I would receive a call as soon as the car is ready for me to pickup. After the 5th day passed and no call came, I called the repair shop and asked for Mary. “How is my car coming along?” I asked. “Oh, it was ready yesterday, you can come pick it up now” – she said. “Great. But why didn’t I get a call as promised?” – I asked curiously. Mary said,

“Well.. you know, Dave from the parts department was supposed to submit the papers to the office and he didn’t , which is why you didn’t get the call. I followed my process; it was another department’s fault”

I instantly remembered the famous lean quote: “Customers feel the Aggregate of all of your processes combined”

I am the customer – I now have a bad opinion about this repair shop, and will probably choose another repair shop next time. It didn’t matter to me that Mary did the best she could, I didn’t care that Dave dropped the ball, I have no idea how many other people did their process right or wrong while my car was being repaired. I only felt the final result of the total system – the delayed service.

So we all need to stop silo thinking, break down the barriers between departments within our organizations and start taking responsibility for system wide results. Even if it’s not your department or not your fault – let’s create processes that talk to each other and understand their effect on the entire value Stream.

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