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How Much Time Should We Spend on Our Lean-Management Processes?

We have implemented lean-management and it has worked well for us. It is strongly supported and maintained. We are a print company of 40 people. How much time per week should we spend keeping tabs on our lean-management processes? —Staying Lean, publishing/communications, Onalaska, Wisconsin
May 15, 2013
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Dear Staying Lean:

Lean focuses on eliminating effort that does not add value and streamlining value-added activities. If you've been successful so far with lean management, it's possible you've been overlooking your administrative processes, which could be a fertile area for improvements.

Some experts estimate the amount of waste in administrative areas at 80 percent or higher. Administrative processes are often seen as a "necessary evil," or simply the "cost of doing business." But applying lean principles to your office environment can have significant benefits in improving work flow processes. In fact, don't look only at how to get administrative work done better or faster; also look at which administrative tasks really need to be done. You may find some that should be eliminated altogether.

Major forms of waste found in manufacturing—including overproduction, waiting, transport, inappropriate processing, unnecessary inventory, unnecessary motion, defects and excess stock—can all be seen in the office environment.

You might see overproduction in which too much paperwork is produced or too many approvals are required. Poor layout of office space results in transport waste. Evidence of inventory waste in the office can be seen in stockpiles of supplies that don't get used for months, instead of having a "just-in-time" supplies purchasing policy. And processing waste can be seen where materials are sent by expedited shipping simply because they were delayed being shipped because they were left in someone's outbox too long.

Remember, within a lean approach, value is from the perspective of the customer, and value is defined as actions or processes the customer is willing to pay for. Ask yourself the tough question: Do we add value to customers through our administrative processes?

To get a handle on the value of your administrative processes, take a step back and do some value stream mapping. Value stream mapping allows for the processes to be seen in their entirety, from the moment the customer makes the request to the time that the work product is delivered. The first step in value stream mapping is to choose a specific form of administrative action, and then, have a small team walk the entire value stream to get an accurate picture of it. Gather information about when and where backlogs occur.

Once this is completed, you can begin working on the future state map, applying lean principles to eliminate wasteful processes, such as unnecessary approvals and paperwork.

Involve Staff in the Effort
Your lean efforts will be most successful if your staff is involved in the process. Here are some ways to get people involved:

  • Appoint a change agent who will be your lean coordinator.
  • Establish a team with representatives from each area of the office, and challenge them with formulating and conducting the lean program.
  • Use surveys to get feedback from customers of the administrative processes.
  • Keep track of your results and report on them.
  • Communicate management's commitment to a lean office.

Keep in mind that lean is a form of continuous improvement, and therefore, it's an ongoing journey.

SOURCE: Patsy Svare, managing director, The Chatfield Group, www.chatfieldgroup.com, Northbrook, Illinois

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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