A young engineer stands at the shop floor. Tasked with finding one example of each of the 8 forms of waste he first stands for nearly an hour. When his supervisor returns and asks, "what did you discover?" He responds "just the normal activities." The supervisor nods his head and returns to his office where he can see the engineer on the floor and the area he is watching. About one hour later the supervisor returns and presents the same question. A bit baffled the engineer replies, "Well I saw that gentleman walking to get a tool he needed, someone from planning came out here to grab a paper they printed out and that gentleman right there finished all ten assemblies on time and placed them in the move area." Again the supervisor nodded his head and returned to his office.
Later that day while that engineer and his supervisor were conducting a hansei (reflection of the event) the two spoke about some various types of waste. As the hansei approached an end the supervisor posed the question "what can you do next time you are out at the Gemba to identify waste a little better?" The young engineer sat for almost 3 minutes appearing to have no response. Determined to let the spirit work its magic the supervisor was silent, never moving his eyes from the engineers face. A short while later the engineer responded, "I need to ASK." With years of experience in supervision the engineers supervisor dug a little deeper, "what do you mean you need to ASK?"
That was when the Supervisor/Sensei found his future leader.
"Well" the engineer started, "You told us in training that we should think in terms of processes. In this case I thought about it and ASKing seems like the best process for me to try." He went on to share his thoughts...
Acknowledge - The engineer shared that he knew what the 8 forms of Muda were and that he knew about there origins. However, he was not yet willing to acknowledge that the waste was right in front of him. After standing at the Gemba the entire day his thoughts moved from not seeing to asking, why am I not seeing? When he did this he realized that he was looking for types of waste but not yet identifying what was value and what was not value. At this point he asked why does that planner have to walk to pick up that paper, he prints those papers all day long? He then began to realize that walking to get paper that you print all day was waste. Next he admitted he thought outside the box and came up with a solution. What he ultimately realized was that often times we acknowledge the lower fruit on the tree but we don't really see the many other types of waste that we do everyday. He closed by sharing "I need to Acknowledge that waste is everywhere and those are opportunities to improve."
Study it out - Over the course of the hansei the engineer shared that acknowledging the waste was not enough. He learned that first we must acknowledge the waste and then study it out with ourselves and with the individuals working in the Gemba. Some methods of studying it out are asking why 5 times or conducting other forms of a root cause analysis.
Kaizen - As the engineer began to finish his story and his initial development of his ASK methodology he shared what the "K" in ask meant. To him the "K" was the most important. Kaizen, probably more appropriately described as the spirit of kaizen. As honest as our friends thoughts were he stated "maybe I don't really know what kaizen is." Of course the supervisor came to his aide and responded, "Kaizen is a journey, It is a spirit that individuals accept as a core belief and a philosophy from within themselves, however that is only part of Kaizen. A lot of the rest of that spirit comes in the doing. He then handed a book titled The Spirit of Kaizen to the engineer. I would like you to read this and summarize the 5 points that Dr. Maurer writes about in the book." Soon after our young friend received the book he said "This is part of Kaizen isn't it?"
In this story we read about a young engineer who in the beginning couldn't quite notice a fundamental aspect of Lean, identifying waste. But by the end of our engineers story he had developed a methodology of his own. While finding items that are non-value, mapping, assessing, analyzing and re-analyzing are contributing factors in a successful journey coaching and reflection land right up at the top with principles and tools. While many of us have years of experience, degrees and millions of belts on our wall, sometimes our greatest development comes to life if we just ask.