As leaders we often refer to waste as what is happening or not happening out there “The Floor”.  The key focus then becomes what processes, individual(s), or areas are in need of improvements. Although that may be true, we fail to acknowledge that we ourselves are key contributors to the creation of waste and lack of improvements.  This mind set often clouds the true understanding of what the lean principals and methodology are meant to construct.

Jon Miller, in his January post “Top 7 behaviors to change in 2010” makes a defining statement to one of the biggest obstacles to success which all of us face ourselves. As Jon puts it “The human mind is an incredibly powerful thing, the means to control which is in our hands, yet we use it to delude, divert and distract ourselves in various ways.”  Our behaviors are a clear reflection of what’s really happening or not happening on the floor.  Here are a few key personal behaviors to consider changing or improving on in the form of DOWNTIME.

Defect(s) / Error(s): Tolerating them to continue: I’m not saying that we are all ok with defects or errors, but we often see the same defects/errors over and over again.  I myself have been in the same boat. I can recall a time of being in my own department and being aware of an error for months and not acting on it in a timely manner.  In my lack of daily management and Plan Do Check Act (PDCA), I made every excuse that I had bigger fish to fry and diverted my time and energy elsewhere. It’s essential for us as leaders to lead and develop our staff and teams as problem solvers to find the root cause to these errors.  Start with one, and together with your team beat on it with no mercy.

Over ProductionThis one hides very well.  It appears as if it is contributing to the overall business process and adding value for the patient and staff, when it’s really robbing time and adding potential cost from our daily work.  We as leaders must value stream our work to better understand the deeper purpose of the work we do on a daily basis. Ensuring that every valuable minute is allocated to the patients’ needs.

Waitingwaiting for the right moment to act on improvements.  It’s never too late or too early to start with process improvements. We are often fearful to act due to the potential exposure of issues and setbacks that might surface or in some cases the mammoth that is front of us.   Waiting is often at the top of patients’ dissatisfaction list. Be the first to lead the change you want to see in your organization. This beast must be handled one lean event at a time, big or small.  

Not ClearI believe this is the mother of them all.  Unclear communication about where the ship is going and the purpose of the journey falls on us as the “Captain”.  Poor communication, lack of standardization, little to no visual controls, lack of team work in the department, and unclear and undefined direction as to the outcome of each process is a rust that will feast on your ships’ (organization) purpose to grow and keep you from sailing the high seas.

Transport: Walking by waste and doing nothing.  Ouch!! This one hit me hard. Within 5 minutes of the floor tour my sensei stopped me and asked me why I have failed to recognize and accepted waste as the norm. In my mind I was thinking “well this is not my area and my plate is full” but I knew better than to state such a cynical remark.  He then asked me if my counterparts did the same.  We often forget that we are all connected to the success and failure of the patient’s outcome experience.  I believe Team do should be the new theme.

InventoryToo much, too little, or none at all equals no control.  Identifying what staff members’ real needs are to perform their tasks with confidence and reliability each time is a measure of daily management working just in time.  Not supplying your team with the right tools, training and guidance will lead to chaos.

Motion: Convoluted process and wasteful motion.  As Jon puts it; “we may be working on the right things, however, we may be working on too many things”.  If you’re like me, sometimes I think I can work on multiple things at the same time and be very successful at them all every time.  Wrong!  Have you ever reflected on your day from the time you walked in the door till the time you made it home and asked “what did I really accomplish today?”  Well, you might think…   I took care of a lot of employee issues, made all of my meetings, responded to all my emails, took care of patients complaints, and was available to everyone if I was needed. It was a typical day at work.  So the question is, what real impact did we have on eliminating waste, building system thinking, what was the root cause of the complaints and how can we get employees to see the true value of ownership of their own processes and outcomes?  Well! This one will take time.  But here’s a small step. You must lead, act, and listen differently!  Boy, I still have some work to do.

Effective follow up of the process: Not following up on the follow up. I mention earlier that “Not Clear” was the mother of all waste; well this one is the grand daddy of them all. Leadership’s standard work includes verifying that the standards created with the team are being followed; members are not deviating from the standards, or determining if a new standard is needed.  A standard follow up also indicates that we as leaders are truly committed and have made the event and engagement a priority in our daily work.  The success of the department lies on how well we follow-up on the follow- up. Results from the Heart

Each time I write a post I will try to recommend a book that  might be helpful to you and your team in your lean journey. In “Results From The Heart” Kiyo Suzaki talks about building a “mini-company” within your company that can have a positive impact on employees to ultimately establish ownership of the processes and outcomes. It’s a fresh new way of thinking to find both the purpose and the meaning in the way we work and can contribute to the success of the people we lead.

Endnote: Jon Miller; from Gemba Research LLC in his January post “Top 7 behaviors to change in 2010”                                                                      


This week’s blog was written by Alex Maldonado, an associate with HPP. Alex’s professional experience includes process improvement, operational, and leadership positions in the medical delivery systems and appliance manufacturing industries with Baxter Healthcare and Whirlpool. Alex has had a successful track record in improving results-driven processes with an emphasis in personnel training, project leadership, and operating systems designed to improve customer service and sustainability. He has led the development and implementation of processes to support Lean initiatives that reduce critical path lead-time, reduce expediting costs, capital improvement projects, inventory reduction, and trained and educated staff/employees in Lean Methodology. Alex is well recognized in the following areas: Value Stream Mapping, Hoshin Strategic Planning, Office and Floor 5S, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Process Failure Modes and Effect Analysis (PFMEA), Quality Improvements and Mistake Proofing, Six Sigma, Cellular Design, Standardize Work, Pull Systems (kanb an), Equipment Design and Installation (DFLMA), and Safety Programs. He has a B.S. in Industrial Technology Engineering from Mississippi State University and has also completed the Six-Sigma black belt program.

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