Monday, April 2, 2012

Stick a Fork In It – Eliminating the Non-Value-Added Activities

I was recently working with a large corporation that was doing fairly well in safety, but not good enough to be where they wanted to be; a zero-incident safety culture. Over the last couple of years, they had become seriously engaged in addressing troubling safety and environmental issues that had existed for years. An upper-level manager lamented that every time they turned over a rock, there was another pile of bad news. That led them to a number of immediate concern clean-up initiatives, which in turn maxed out their resource capabilities to tackle longer term strategic initiatives.

The conversation took a slight shift when the annual safety and environmental report they had been producing, for who knows how long, was brought up. This report took a significant amount of resources, so much so that it typically was launched somewhere in the June time frame. The discussion led to a realization that only one comment had been received on the report in years, and that no one really gave this old news much, if any, attention. However, they had always done it this way, and were concerned about dropping the tradition that had been in place for so long.

This brought to mind my turn-around experiences in which there was always too much to do with too little time and too few people. In the continuous improvement cultures of excellence, a common scenario has the leadership team reviewing all the activities that need to be done. The frequently used tool for this analysis is a spaghetti diagram, where all the processes are mapped on a chart that quickly becomes very ugly! The ensuing remediation process has various teams streamlining all the processes and eliminating all the non-value-added steps and processes. And so this resource- intensive, non-value-added report quickly got a fork stuck in it. I saw lights go on in the audience as they began to consider what other traditional activities could be added to the "stick a fork in it" list. These critters are comfortable friends that are hard to eliminate. In an intense, resource constrained, immediate information organization, the NVA must go.

In our fast-paced generation, we need to have both to-do lists and stop-doing lists. What are your comfort-zone, resource-robbing friends that need to stop draining your capabilities?

The Doc

1 comment:

  1. Doc,

    This is exactly what I do and have trained 1,000’s of employees in Lean and Six Sigma.
    I find waste in Value Streams and eliminate it.
    People think that I am trying to get them to work harder until I ask them “how is getting rid of the things you don’t need to do, since the customer is not willing to pay for, making you work harder”?
    Companies are always looking for, what I call, the Least Waste Way, but rarely are willing to put forth effort to make it happen.
    Getting rid of waste and developing a safe and efficient process is everyone’s stated goal. Then why, I ask, is this the exception rather than the norm?
    Good blog.


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