Too busy to improve?!

Buisness_Man_AQIf you are interested in improvement, and you love stuff being explained using Lego (I do!) then Hakan Forss is your man!

Hakan is a Lean/Agile coach in Sweden and runs a blog using Lego to get his thinking across.

Now there are many of his posts worthy of sharing but, for starters, here’s a short but great one about improvement called ‘are you too busy to improve’.

…now that you’ve read that, and had a good chuckle at his Lego examples (the first picture needs to be a poster on all organisations’ walls!), I summarise what I see as the key points:

  • we shouldn’t be planning for 100% utilisation of our people (or anything near to this). The two primary reasons for this are:
    • demand is variable and the closer to 100% utilisation we are at then the worse our ability to cope with this variety (i.e. the longer our queues will be, the more frustrated our customers will be, the more our potential customers will go elsewhere)
    • we want our people to have time to see the defects, consider their causes, experiment with improvement and improve the current method (and associated standard)…which will free up capacity!
  • improvement should be part of the daily work, not seen as a separate parallel activity that people get ‘assigned to’. The process owner (with his/her process performers) should be constantly gardening the process, not waiting for some saviour project to come along and ‘solve’ all our known problems in one big “transformational” batch.

A caveat:

If you read this and think “we need to set some objectives regarding being too busy, agree on some metrics, set some targets and then measure people’s performance against these”…then you will be creating a great deal of waste (requiring more capacity*), likely distort your knowledge of what is happening (i.e. what is being reported will not be reality) and generally head in the wrong direction.

* capacity will be used in time spent on objective setting, performance appraisals, rating/ ranking…and (perhaps) the four-fold time spent preparing for and then ‘debating’ each of these with our managers and then informally yet emotively ‘discussing’ (polite word used) with our peers…and then carefully crafting management communications to ‘explain’ their judgements upon people.

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