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There are more than just the 8 wastes!

If youre practising lean in your organization, it is almost a certainty that you have heard of the eight deadly wastes. And in all likelihood, you even have them memorized. If you really got it together you talk about them every day with your team and how to reduce or eliminate them. We hear those wise words created by Taichi Ono and Shigeo Shingo all those years ago, but men like that, didnt stop there. Did you know Taichi Ohno also had 10 precepts? Kind of sort of the 10 Commandments of lean if you will. Strangely, for some reason theyre not nearly as popular as the eight deadly wastes, but in my humble opinion, they are just as valuable. Lets discuss them shall we?

1.  First reduce waste.  You are a cost.

So many of us are programmed to reduce cost everywhere in our business that we forget we are a cost, therefore, we stand a possibility to eliminate ourself. When there is far more to be gained by engaging the people in reducing waste.

2.  First say, I can do it.” And try before everything.

It almost sounds cliché, however, Ohno is not alone on this train of thought. There is much in the public domain on the power of positive thinking. And even Henry Ford once said, “ whether you think you can, or you think you cant… Youre probably right”.   I dont think two of history’s greats saying the exact same thing should be overlooked.

3.  The workplace is a teacher. You can find answers only in the workplace.

Just like so many Japanese phrases. There are many layers, and just as many interpretations. However, my take on this one is that you must be out on the shop floor for the answers. So many of us sitting boardrooms making decisions amongst our leadership teams, far away from the Gemba, where the work is actually happening. When in reality, that is the only place where we will find, the answers were seeking.  Get out on the shop floor!

4.  Do anything immediately. Starting something right now is the only way to win.

Im confident in saying weve all experienced analysis paralysis at some level. Its so easy to put off that improvement because you want to make it pretty and nice and if you just had a few more days it would be perfect. Or maybe you think implementing the simple version of the improvement isnt worth it when you can wait a few months and save up to invest in the better version. But how many times when we put something off does it actually come to fruitio?  Ohno is well documented at saying “What can you do right now, for free and in your control”.  Then just do it.

5.  Once you start something, persevere with it. Do not give up until you finish it.

I dont know anyone whos not really good at starting things, it must be a human condition. We have all undertaken that renovation that seems to blast off in the beginning, but takes us three years to finally put the baseboards in. And in manufacturing, the reality is the full benefit of an improvement is not realized until it is implemented. A simple Kanban workflow board is a good tool to help ensure youre not starting too many things, and more importantly youre finishing everything you start.

6.  Explain difficult things in an easy-to-understand manner.  Repeat things that are easy to understand.

A lot of times the person explaining the workflow, process or task, is the person who created it. Weve spent days, weeks or months developing it from the ground up. We tested it and got it working. Now it comes time to teach it to someone else. Its really easy to forget that person did not spend the same amount of time developing the understanding you did, their probably coming into it cold. Make sure you put yourself in their shoes, slow down and remember it took you a while to get it right, break it down and explain it in a way that your audience can understand.

7.  Repeat things that are easy to understand.

We run training courses on lean manufacturing, and one person in particular [Laverne, customer/friend from Woodland Horizons] showed up at every training session with his whole team. And I asked him why do you keep coming back for the same training? His answer was simple, and wise, “repeat, repeat repeat”. If you think you can explain something once, and your audience grabs every last bit of wisdom from that explanation, you were dead wrong. so dont be afraid to revisit and repeat.

8.  Waste is hidden. Do not hide it. Make problems visible

This one perhaps is the most difficult in our North American culture. From the time we are born till the time we die, we are punished for mistakes, so it comes as no surprise when something goes wrong at work. We are very quick to find someone else to blame, to sweep it under the rug or just put it in the dumpster and hope no one notices. Mistakes will happen no matter how hard we try. The key is how we handle them, and avoid them again in the future. My favourite story comes from a friend of mine Glenn Bostock at Snap Cab manufacturing. They build elevator interiors, and one particular job went so bad they had to redo the whole thing, the catch was, the job got shipped to Hawaii. So you can imagine the expense to the company to rectify the situation. Glenn being one of the most amazing people Ive ever met pulls the guy who made the mistake aside and gave him airplane tickets and accommodation for him and his whole family to spend two weeks in Hawaii, he only asked that while they were there perhaps he fixes up the elevator job. WOW.  Now Im not saying write everybody a check every time theres a mistake, but create a culture where theres no fear of telling the boss when something goes wrong so that you can collectively fix the problem, so it doesnt happen again.

9.  Valueless motions are equal to shortening ones life.

This one could be my favourite. It sounds simple at first and then when you let it sink in it is probably one of the most profound things I have ever heard. Heres my take on it. If the average person lives 70 years and 95% of everything we do is waste. This means we only actually spend 3 1/2 years doing the things we love. If that doesnt blow your hair back, nothing will.  I could probably write a book on this precept alone, but I would rather leave this to you to ponder.  How does this apply to your work and your life?  Knowing this should light a fire under your waste reduction efforts so you can get back to what you really enjoy.

Re-improve what was improved for further improvement.

One of my favourite analogies when it comes to improvements is to imagine you’re iiin a dark room with a flash light, you can only see 10’ in front of you.  But as soon as you take one step, you can see a bit further, another step, a bit further again.  Improvements are the same, the more you can revisit something you have improved, the better it will get.  Improvements are not a one and done activity

10.  Wisdom is given equally to everybody. The point is whether one can exercise it.

I’m not sure what the secret sauce is to help everyone tap into this one.  I think its part and parcel with being motivated and having discipline.  The reality is no one is coming to save us, no one is going to show up and drop knowledge or bags of money on your door step.  Anything worth having is like climbing a hill.  And never in the history of man has there been a scenario where someone accidentally fell up hill.  Wisdom is out there for the taking, but it’s up to us to seek it and more importantly use it.

Lets go improve!

Brad Cairns

Quantum Lean