Lean Home ?Right. I’ve identified my customers (children, wife, cat), established value from the customer’s point-of-view using a customer survey (an impressive 66% postal feedback), drawn some value stream maps, identified waste, bottlenecks and opportunities for value creation, then 5S’d the clothes, SMED’d the ironing and PDCA’d the children. What next ? Well, there’s a SMED on the nappy changing, develop a milk-round approach to tidying up on three floors of the house, the toaster needs TPMing and probably a bit of six-sigma and DoE, established a process for new product & service development and have a steering commitee meeting planned. Oh, and write the workbook (Staying Home: Enjoying, Not Just Ironing) and apply for next year’s Shingo Award. Damn. I forgot feed the children, do the washing and put the bins out. And, I’ve run out of money.
Reality CheckThis is, of course, a hypothetical situation (!) but are there any lessons for larger organisations or businesses ? – Tools aren’t everything. Unless you start by sitting back and looking at the system and systemic behaviour you’re dealing with, you’re perspective may be biased by the tools you have to hand… “give a man a hammer, he goes looking for nails”. – BUT believe it or not, doing “Lean at Home” (hypothetically at least) can give you insight into many of the issues that pervade larger organisations and businesses – a thought experiment or test-bed for tools, techniques and philosophies, if you will. It’s also a good source for analogies with certain audiences. [“At Home” needn’t be literally be at your home, but an area within your sphere of influence at work or play] – Critically, despite your good intentions as a practitioner of Lean, Systems Thinking and all things Business Improvement you cannot lose sight of the business or organisational imperatives – the things that make the business tick and keep the money coming in and keep people alive (and you out of prison!). Indeed understanding these should really be your first step, as it helps to place the aims of your work in context with the “accepted” business view. – Collective use of tools and techniques do not a sustainable, mature household or organisation make. Appropriate alignment of attitude, behaviour and culture define the way business is done and sustains itself .One should allow for the expression of a mix and diversity of people and perspectives, or you are in danger of creating an evolutionary dead-end, that cannot deal with the shocks thrown at it. A difficult balance ! – Try to keep a balance of practical skills, cooking tips, improved processes and tight accounting, to keep the “customers” happy, and the household going. Could be termed “Home Economics” maybe. Perhaps something larger economies should learn from? Starting to sound like the beginnings of a discourse on not just households and organisations, but one of economies. Systems of different scale and complexity may seem different, but are similar in many other respects. This is something I started exploring in 2010, subsequently taking some specific avenues for investigation – See Visual Techniques As a close, Here are some extracts from last years exploration illustrating some inputs, outputs and bounds within the systems in which we live and work: