Normal, Everyday Lean: What Does It Mean?

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Normal, Everyday Lean: What Does It Mean?

When most people hear continuous improvement, lowering the water level, lean, quality at the source, or PDCA, their minds turn to the business world and workplace improvement. However, because of the nature of our work, LeanCor employees are not “most people” and when I leave the office my mind is still churning with thoughts of efficiency and problems to be solved. So much so, that on the drive home one day after work a question hit me that I really had to stop and wrestle with:

What would my life outside of work look like if I started implementing lean in everyday situations? What would lean look like in my hobbies and relationships? And most importantly, would it be practical or beneficial?

Keep in mind that lean in the broadest sense is the practice of waste elimination. For me, lean also means forming and implementing only those processes that add value and lasting meaning to the customer. (I suppose that the ‘customer’ in everyday lean would be you, your friends, and your family - or whoever you interact with most in life.)

I don’t know exactly what this overarching application of lean would look like for you, but here are a few of the things that started coming to mind for me:

Physical and Mental Health – Quality at the Source

  • Physically, most of us desire a high level of energy and performance throughout the day. In general, we desire to be physically fit and healthy. Lean thinking tells me that my output is a product of quality at the source. Quality in this area looks like making healthy food choices that keep my mind and body running optimally. Without the proper fuel and nutrients, I shouldn’t expect to have adequate energy or a healthy body later on.
  • Mentally, we all strive to continually improve and expand our minds. Quality at the source in this area looks like choosing wisely what I ‘feed’ my mind on a daily basis. Do I spend the majority of my free time doing mindless tasks (i.e. entertainment, leisure, or sleep) or do I supplement myself mentally with challenging reading and thought provoking discussions?

Lean Problem Solving for Everyday Problems

  • The next time my wife and I have a conflict, I can use a Five Why Analysis to identify the root cause and implement both short term and long term fixes to the problem.
  • I can lower the water level of business in my life and focus my time and resources on the issues and situations that are most important to me. This means that I shouldn’t take on too many new tasks or ventures without giving my best effort to the current ones.

Visual Management Techniques Around the House

  • I can 5S the kitchen drawers and cabinets to make sure the utensils, plate wear, and cook wear are never misplaced and easily accessible.
  • I can 5S the pantry to organize items into food groups and make planning healthy meals easier as well as have more visibility over my personal inventory.
  • I can use sticky notes and bulletin boards in key places around the house to serve as poka-yoke reminders. They can be used to display things like health goals or daily chore reminders.
  • I can use Gantt charts to catalog cleaning efforts and repairs that need to be done around the house and simultaneously create visibility to the problems and accountability to fixing them.

This list could continue on, but I think you get the idea of what everyday lean looks like to me. Now my question is this:

Do any of the things above seem ridiculous to you? Do they seem practical or far-fetched?

Realistically, I am not going to fill out a Problem Solving Document the next time my wife and I have a fight and then present her with the root cause and possible solutions. The most practical solution for my marriage is to ‘take it to gemba’ (which in the case of any relationship should be an environment of open, honest conversation) and figure out how to move forward in a loving and sacrificial way.

More than a list of things to do, I think ‘lean’ is a mindset of improvement, a self empowering way of thinking. When I’m practicing lean in everyday life, I’m realizing that I have a meaningful influence of the world around me. I’m making a choice to logically and strategically make improvements in myself and others. I’m building value into the normality of every day so it won’t be so normal in weeks and years to come. Everyday lean for me is a challenge to not accept things for what they are, but to inspire myself to shape them into what they should be.

You’ve now heard it from me… what does lean mean to you?

Written by Colin Willis, Lean Logistics Specialist at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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