Implementing Lean Ideas – Why Bother?

A local gas station recently improved their facility by installing some new items and upgrading some outdated equipment.  I assume their plan was to invest a significant amount of money to spruce the place up a bit…and hopefully recover those costs (and more) by drawing in new customers through the clever use of shiny plastics, brighter lights, and more customer-friendly features.

While I’m almost certain those involved upfront in pursuing such a worthwhile endeavor agreed that the improvements were needed to keep the business thriving, I’m not so sure they were all on the same page.

Excuse much for the Plus?

Apparently, the Extended Weather Canopy Dept. was not properly synchronized with the folks responsible for Visual Management.

Don’t worry everyone…it probably looks OK from the street, where drivers will be viewing our shiny new sign from, as they decide in 1.2 seconds or less whether to pull in…or not.


How long has that telephone pole been there?

Crap.  At least they’ll know we’re charging $3 something…

Isn’t that the way things end up when we focus on just getting things done…rather than focusing on the PROCESS?

Too often I hear stories from lean leaders about how management is simply interested in getting things done.  “Never mind worrying about the standard work…just get me the Value Stream Map!”  Huh?

As lean leaders, part of our responsibility is informing management that silly pursuits, such as the one just mentioned, do not lead to anything sustainable.

I can already hear the comments…”Excuse me Mr. ThinkShack, I’ve been there and done that.  My boss is only interested in results.”

He or she should be. That’s what implementing lean ideas is all about…isn’t it?

Some questions are in order.  Why bother?…

  • measuring takt time
  • work on reducing cycle time
  • documenting standard work
  • shaving 5 or 6 seconds off that setup time
  • posting that shiny new piece of visual management

If we don’t have a PROCESS and the proper METRICS in place to showcase results, good or bad, we lose our way and folks start focusing on just getting things done.  No vision, no plan, no teamwork…just get it done.

The bad news is, it seems to work for a while.  After all, everyone’s busy.  That’s good, isn’t it?  “Look at all the projects we’ve got lined up.”  “Isn’t Bob doing a great job on the weather canopy?!”  “Yeah, and I hear the new sign is ready to go up tomorrow!”

And we look across the street and watch all the people pumping gas.  Sad.

What process do you have in place that enables everyone you work with to consistently achieve great results?

How simple is the process?  How long does it take for newcomers to join the fun?

According to those you work with…Is it fun?


About Steve Martin - theThinkShack

Hey there...I'm Steve. I built theThinkShack...a virtual hideaway about Lean Thinking and how it Connects to Everyday Life.
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3 Responses to Implementing Lean Ideas – Why Bother?

  1. HD Tread says:

    lol. Brilliant observation. I guess they didn’t look at it from all angles.

  2. Mark Welch says:

    Ha! I love it! Great points, Steve, all the way through your post! Your pictures are great illustrations of why we study processes and not just bits & pieces.

    • I assume the new weather canopy was ‘standard order’…with no opportunity to custom fit for each location.

      Combine that with the money ‘saved’ by installing the new sign using the existing supports (rather than moving to a better visible position) and you get the pictured results.

      The station is located at a prime intersection, directly across the street from a competitor. The competitor’s sign is clearly visible from all angles.

      Like you implied, “study the whole process”.

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