In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.

Gratuitous Post about Lean

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This blog is not “supposed” to be a garden blog, nor a recipe blog, even though that seems to be what I post the most!  So this morning: a gratuitous post about “Lean”, specifically the Lean in Lean Six Sigma which inspired the name of this blog.

Lean is a production / manufacturing approach which focuses on eliminating all waste, e.g., anything (in terms of time or material resources) which does not contribute to the creation of the final product.   This actually translates well into personal productivity, in terms of removing all the “stuff” from your life or work which does not deliver any value.  (The hard part is defining what value actually means to you…but that is a whole separate post!)

The classic seven “wastes” to be on the look out for (as identified in the original Lean process, the Toyota Production System) are as follow:

1) Overproduction

2) Inventory

3) Waiting (idle time)

4) Unnecessary movement of material

5) Overprocessing or incorrect processing

6) Motion

7) Defects

The one which seems to drive me most is #3 – Idle Time.  This goes beyond “idle hands make the Devil’s work” – I can’t stand to stand around, doing nothing. I’m always looking for some little task to do to fill up moments when I am waiting for something else to happen.  This actually has a negative affect, in that this often leads (for me personally) to multitasking, which is its own form of waste.  (The fine balance between “idle time” and “set up time” is another post brewing in the back of my mind.)   In addition, I often start new projects before the old ones are finished, which means I end up with multiple works-in-progress (WIPs) in the system (aka my value added activities) which often leads to 5) incorrect processing because I lose track of what I’m doing and therefor 7) defects.  I’m starting to research kanban systems as a way to preemptively limit  WIPs.  But that brings me back to my original problem – sometimes in a process (baking, gardening, etc) you just have to wait.

And I hate waiting.

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