By: Brent Rogers – Executive, Lean Deployment
I was facilitating a workshop this past week for a client who needed to align internally on its strategy for future supply chain distribution network. Specifically, the group needed to reach a consensus for what was best for its end to end supply chain rather than at functional levels. They needed a tool to help them reach a consensus so we utilized an XY matrix. By combining their systems thinking approach with the right tool; the group was able to quickly reach a consensus on what was best for the organization and then move on to the next item on the agenda.
The workshop served as a reminder for me as often times when I’m teaching lean, I find myself having to explain that lean is not just a set of tools. Rather, lean, is more of a methodology, or better stated, a way of thinking as it pertains to value and waste.
Specifically, lean thinking primarily focuses on finding problems, understanding why the problems are occurring at the root level, and then deploying solutions to remove the problems to increase value…with this process repeating itself on a frequent basis to drive continuous improvement throughout an organization.
The tools that so many of us are familiar with…things like 5s, value stream mapping, 5-Why, lot size reduction, increased frequency of processes, pull systems, and leveling the flow of activities are the “tools” often used to either find the problems (waste) or solutions that are deployed to increase value.
The “so what?” of all this is to state that lean can be better understood as a combination of “why” and “how”. Lean Thinking is the “why” with the lean tools being understood as the “how”. Without understanding the “why are we using this tool” behind the tool, you could be wasting time and effort which is not lean.
So the next time you go to use a 5-Why to solve a problem, take 5 minutes to first explain to others why you are using the tool. You may be surprised that the resulting 5-Why exercise results in a much deeper understanding of the problem.