Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we had visitors in town and did some visiting ourselves. In the meantime, all of the routines we use to keep our lives humming along nicely went out the window. The daily dishwashing, laundry, tidying, etc., that kept our processes leaner and more effective were abandoned for the weekend.
What we are left with is exactly what lean techniques are supposed to eliminate: Large queues (dishes, laundry) waiting for processing, more defects (as washers get overloaded and things get overlooked), etc.
We were entitled some time off, but the result is a reminder that lean methods only work when they are done with creativity, diligence, and discipline. When the cornerstones of lean production are ignored even for a short time, waste creeps back in. Constant vigilance seems to be the only way to combat this weed-like tendency for processes to start accumulating waste.
Luckily, lean techniques provide a ready remedy for such post-break hangovers, and this week is a chance to re-apply them with even more care than before. This may even be an opportunity, a chance to re-imagine some of the processes I’ve worked out as I re-introduce them. Constant improvement is what lean production is all about.
I’ll begin by getting back to basics and eliminating the most obvious sources of waste in our everyday processes. It’s time those dirty dishes left the sink…