Tag Archives: Baird

Better Way to Think About Leadership

In “Colin’s Kaizen Corner”–a 26-part learning series, I explain the principles of kaizen, lean manufacturing and respect for people — each a cornerstone for transforming a culture, improving productivity and implementing a continuous improvement program.

In addition, each week I’ll digest a principle of kaizen to achieve these outcomes, explain what we’re doing today, what happens when we get it wrong, what happens when we do it better and why it matters today more than ever, to stay on a continuous journey of improvement.

The value of a new corporate improvement or strategic acquisition is easily estimated for most investors. Calculating future anticipated cash flows, measured over a specific period in today’s dollars, yields the improvement’s net present value.

But leadership isn’t so easily measured, nor is the future value that an effective or ineffective leader begets.

Sure, tools like return on investment (ROI) and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) help us measure whether executives are investing money wisely to maximize dollars that may sustain the future of the company. But the tools are based solely on what we know, not what we don’t. Of course, there’s no way to value something you don’t know exists; that is, until someone discovers it does.

Valuing human productivity and the intrinsic satisfaction employees receive from being able to do their jobs well doesn’t show up anywhere on even the most complex of income statements. Neither does the value created or destroyed from a lifetime of leaders who either nurtured man’s most important attributes, or ruined them altogether.

The problem is that ROI, EBIT and similar tools do nothing to help place a value on, and encourage, man’s discovery of the unknown. To identify and fix that which isn’t broken. To look outside the box.

It is this intrinsic curiosity-our yearning for learning-that makes us unique within the mammalian class. We aren’t just members of a “clade of endothermic amniotes distinguished from reptiles and birds by the possession of hair, three middle ear bones, mammary glands and a neocortex” (as Wikipedia defines mammals). Nor do we just survive on instinct as other mammals do.

We’re provided with daily opportunities to detect and correct errors in our thinking. Our intrinsic yearning for learning constantly encourages us to explore that which we think we understand.

Man has the choice to continuously improve upon his own knowledge base, or demand that others accept pre-determined answers-a radical difference in leadership style between those who lead by kaizen and those who lead by control.

Like scientific discovery, effective leadership creates for the curious a culturally acceptable and true belief in the ignorance of experts.

But man’s creativity and curiosity still don’t show up as direct value or loss through the eyes of a customer. And they’re certainly not measurable; that is, without the proper tools.

And that’s why ROI and EBIT — the preferred tools for modern investing and modern valuation — are precisely the wrong tools for measuring human productivity, the value of an acquisition and the value of a business itself.

For if human capacity is assumed to be x, and man’s true capacity is actually y, without regular corporate and personal discovery neither man nor machine gets its best chance at material improvement.

Using ROI and EBIT, we’ve created a culture of mind-numbed business robots. Really smart children, teenagers and adults, being robbed of their intrinsic motivation because of diminishing human valuations. It’s as if they were rusting old farm equipment, with just a few years of straight line depreciation left on an otherwise highly appreciable asset.

Nothing could be further from the truth. People have exponential value.

Years of poor parenting, leadership, primary education systems and business school professors have finally brought our chickens home to roost. In fact, as Dr. W. Edwards Deming said nearly 50 years ago, if the U.S. wanted to destroy a country, then all it had to do was export its business management and leadership practices.

Today, we know the enemy even better, and it is still us.

An enemy where large lots of wasteful activities exist, yet few executives are visible to help employees improve; an enemy where waste prevents employees from doing their jobs with purpose, joy, accuracy and speed.

Sadly, more executives today than ever before are searching for value within a spreadsheet or income statement. We fail one another when we refuse to look for loss at the precise location where value is created and where crimes of waste are most frequently reported.

To create a better opportunity for human development and true personal productivity, let’s turn to respect. Because respect leads productivity by a long shot as the single most important aspect of man’s institutional existence.

Let’s provide an institutional daily dose of improvement that is eloquently simple: Continuously help me change, and always help me make it for the better. Because good change nurtures and replenishes my mind, heart, body and soul‘s constant need for continuous improvement.

By appreciating systems thinking and human psychology-only two parts of a four-part system, but integral components nonetheless-we can easily find opportunities for mankind to improve.

An entirely new system, which identifies what value means to customers rather than stakeholders, can easily bring about a different culture. A culture that even our most seasoned leaders currently don’t believe in, currently can’t measure and clearly don’t currently understand. A culture that should be helping everyone improve that which we cannot see or measure.

It’s Time to Toss ‘Rank and Yank’

When executives don’t perform well, sometimes they’re fired. But when the company’s merit rating system doesn’t improve employees, do you fire it, too?

If you’re Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme, you do. That’s right, he fired ‘rank and yank.’

There will be no more annual performance reviews at Accenture — a decision that employees wholeheartedly support, according to their responses on Facebook, and the Washington Post, whicho broke the story.

This wasn’t the first time in recent memory that rank and yank was given the boot.

Earlier this year, GE and Deloitte largely eliminated their annual review processes, too. They followed Adobe, which blazed the way in March 2012.

If the unintended consequences of annual performance reviews haven’t yet hurt your business, consider yourself fortunate. But if your organization is one of the millions of businesses that have not fundamentally improved people — effectively making employees worse off today than they were when they first came to work for you — you owe it to yourself and your employees to rethink how you reward and improve people.

The Unintended Consequences

Dr. W. Edwards Deming first suggested eliminating the annual performance review 50 years ago. Deming called it “a disease that annihilated long-term planning, demolished teamwork, left people crushed, bruised and despondent and unable to comprehend why they were inferior.”

Today, with fewer than 40% of employees feeling as though they matter at work, is there much data from which to disagree?

Probably not.

While Deming’s comments certainly weren’t popular with mainstream American leadership, they have resonated loudly with millions of employees.

One thing Deming frequently talked about is systems thinking and how it relates to rank and yank and improving people and their productivity.

Output Equals Input

A Formula One race car running at peak performance maximizes the engine and transmission to generate both horsepower and torque as it speeds along the track. But other components of the system also contribute greatly to the race car’s success or demise.

For example, the conditions of the track can vary based on the weather. Heat, cold, humidity, wind and other climatic conditions all affect racing, creating the need for differing types of tire compounds and race car setup. The speed at which a team can change tires also goes into the mix.

So which element is most likely to propel the car to victory?

All of them. None of them stands alone. This is precisely the point behind systems thinking. The sum of the parts is far more important than individual components.

A System of Profound Knowledge (SOPK)

In Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge, he promoted the idea that a system of production had four key elements that were necessary to improve and transform an organization.

  1. Appreciation of a system
  2. Knowledge of variation
  3. Theory of knowledge
  4. Psychology

All four elements needed to be thoroughly understood by leadership to materially improve production rates, create greater operating efficiencies and, most importantly, improve people on a continuum.

The Element Of Psychology: Destroying the Entire Herd

The original thinking behind the merit rating system was that ranking employees — one against another — would bring the cream to the top, and separate the butterfat from the buttermilk. But the system as we know it has not only spoiled the milk but destroyed the herd used to produce it.

In addition, the merit rating system does little to improve a system’s performance. While a handful of employees might “feel” able to produce more goods and services for a few days following favorable performance reviews, the fact is, over the long haul, this isn’t true.

The Element of Variation and a Bunch of Red Beads

In his famed red bead experiment, Deming destroyed the fallacy that different people, doing the same thing over and over again in a standardized production process, would yield markedly different results. And the variation in output was predictable to near certainty.

During Deming’s experiments, he first established a standardized process. Employees would use the exact same machinery, methods and materials to perform his experiment. The only difference was the person performing the process. Deming, in fact, often used company executives to be production workers for a day.

The goal was to make white beads, of the highest quality and at the fastest rate.

So, pay for performance, maximize output, separate the wheat from the chafe and men from the boys, right?

Wrong!

Mixed within the white beads would be problems, represented by red beads. Executives would reach down inside a container to pull out white beads, and red beads would be mixed in.

Deming compared the white-bead production of each executive, and they were astonished when they couldn’t outproduce one another on a meaningful basis, no matter how competitive they were or how much encouragement or punitive action they received from Deming or other team members.They were all impaired by the wasteful red beads that kept popping up.

Deming’s simple example of controlled variation showed thousands of executives that merit ratings were ineffective tools at improving human productivity, and improving humans themselves.

To increase production, what was needed was a different way of doing things. A systemically better way. One that used an entire team’s talents and knowledge to find the root causes behind production problems. Knowledge and talents that could be used to improve the system while getting to the bottom of the causes of the red beads.

Deming promoted a system of win-win. One that helped any man or woman working within a system get dramatically better psychologically, not intrinsically worse emotionally. A system that avoided using one man’s talents to destroy another man’s ego — or perhaps even “annihilate it,” as Deming suggested was happening throughout American culture more than 30 years ago.

The Importance of Knowledge

Harvard sociologist Chris Argyris defined learning as “the detection and correction of errors.” Deming suggested that man’s long-term need to learn — an intrinsic motivator — far outweighed the extrinsic rewards and short-term benefits from his financial success.

It was within this context that Deming talked at length about knowledge, psychology, variation and systems thinking and their respective impact on people, productivity and engagement. All aimed directly at improving the conditions in which employees work.

Individuals Vs. Team-Based Merit

Many employees will be happy to see you yank old rank and yank. Especially those who — according to your merit rating system — are indispensable performers one year but dispensable slugs the next.

It’s time to revisit the ideas behind systems thinking and how it can improve man on a continuum.

I rarely use the word “terminate.” But if firing, or simply “laying off” the merit rating system for a while will bring about the good change we need to improve people and profits simultaneously, let’s bring about its pink slip.

New Way to Spot Loss in Workers’ Comp

You’ve heard it before, “It’s not the tip of the iceberg that cost you so much; it’s what you can’t see. It’s what’s below the water level that costs you real money.” We hear that the total loss to a company from a workers’ comp loss is six to 10 times the value of that work comp loss. But risk managers have neither the right tools to understand and measure the loss, nor the right tools to improve productivity to capture the cash flow that comes from preventing that loss.

During my initial journey into lean sigma consulting, a seasoned Japanese colleague shared an important concept. While this principle was developed to improve the quality and efficiency of output in manufacturing, it has many other applications, including in improving safety and reducing workers’ comp costs. Understanding and applying the rule has improved the profitability of many companies.

Dr. Genichi Taguchi, a Japanese engineer, theorized (and ultimately proved mathematically) that loss within any process or system develops exponentially–not linearly–as we move away from the ideal customer specification or target value.

An example of Taguchi’s Loss Curve is shown below:

graph

Another way to look at it is this: Anything delivered just outside the target, (labeled as LTL and UTL in the diagram above) creates opportunity for exponential financial improvement as we move toward the center of the U-shaped curve. And the farther away from the target we are, the greater the opportunity.

I explain Taguchi’s principle using an example from a kaizen event that dramatically improved machine setup times within a CNC shop.

For years, our client assumed it took 46 minutes to set up and change over machinery. After all, for 10 years, it did take 46 minutes. But our kaizen team was hired to challenge this thinking.

If the CEO and his team were right, setup times couldn’t be completed any faster. But if setup times could be better, loss had been occurring beneath the water line, which meant the iceberg was growing, but no one knew.

Machine setup time is loss because no value is produced during the setup process. And setup times can represent 35% of the total labor burden, so there’s a lot at stake. While employers can compute labor and overhead costs easily, when their assumptions are incorrect about setup times, they’re losing big money. But rarely do they know it or how much.

Here’s our client’s story:

Our client used people and machinery to produce aircraft parts. Machines were not dedicated to product families or cycle times. In other words, the client could build a Mack Truck or Toyota Corolla on the same machinery. And because setup times were slow, the client built large batches of products. When defects struck, they struck in large quantities, and, financially, it was too late to find causes. The costs were already sunk.

Our client borrowed capital to purchase nine machines, leased the appropriate space to house them and purchased electricity, water, and cutting fluids, as well. Each machine had affiliated tool and dies, and mechanics to service them. In other words, when you own nine machines, you need the gear, people and money required to operate and maintain nine machines. And all of this cost was based on 46-minute setups.

Think about that for a moment.

If the client didn’t need nine machines, it wouldn’t have had to spend all of that money and for all of those years! And a wrong assumption in setup times could be leading to loss that never appeared on any income statement. What would show would be the known labor, materials, machinery and overhead costs. But what wouldn’t show would be what wasn’t needed if the team could complete a setup in less than 46 minutes.

After videotaping, collaborating and measuring cycle times on the existing operations and processes, it was evident: The team had ideas that would challenge the 46-minute setups.

After some 5S housekeeping, the team produced a 23-minute setup. One more day of tweaking, and the team got it down to 16. By the last day, the team was consistently producing 10-minute results.

Now let’s talk about the impact.

Under the better state, the client could indeed produce parts faster. It also needed far less capital, insurance, labor, gear, electricity, fluids, tooling, floor space, etc. And because our client’s customer would now get parts faster, the company would get paid faster.

While banks may not like these facts, clients and employees do. Employees can do their jobs more efficiently, and the company makes more money while borrowing less.

Here’s an explanation of the 5S tool the team used to make their setup times faster. This tool–when used properly––not only improves operating efficiency but removes or reduces safety hazards like: tripping, standing, walking, reaching, handling, lifting and searching for lost items.

In addition, the kaizen event itself creates an opportunity for employees to improve their own job conditions and use their curiosity and creativity to solve production-related problems. The event also creates a more engaged employee, one less likely to file future work comp and employment-related claims.

The 5S Process consists of five steps.

  1. Sort the work area out.
  2. Straighten the work area out, putting everything in the right place.
  3. Clean the entire area, scrub floors, create aisle ways with yellow tape, wash walls, paint, etc.
  4. Create standardized, written work processes.
  5. Sustain the process

Using the tools like 5S, I continue to improve my thinking relating to identifying, and managing work comp risks. But during each kaizen event, I also gain perspective about why stakeholders rarely change their ways. What I’ve learned is this: Clients typically need to have one of two conditions met for good change to occur.

  1. They need to have something to motivate them––which often means facing a crisis.
  2. They need to physically see and experience things to believe them.

If you’re like me, you probably need proof, too. Here it is: A reduction in setup times from over two and a half hours to just over ten minutes.

What the Lean Assessment Does

The lean assessment helps find improvement opportunities. That’s because assessments study and measure cycle times, customer demand, value-adding and non-value-adding activities. The assessment helps everyone—including the executive team— see how people physically are required to do their work and understand why they are required to do it the way they are.

In the week-long assessment process, we’re no longer studying the costs of just safety; we’re studying all of the potential causes that drive productivity and loss away from the nominal value. Safety is not necessarily why we are measuring outcomes. Safety is the benefactor from learning how and why the company adds value, and precisely where it creates loss.

That is the power of good change. And good change comes from the power of lean.

The best approach is to dig out and eliminate problems where they are assumed not to exist.” – Shigeo Shingo

How Milton Friedman Got It Wrong

Add Nobel Prize winner, economist Milton Friedman to the list of smartest guys in the room who said, did and taught the dumbest things.

Just what did Friedman say in 1970 that American leaders in 2015 have become so infatuated with?

Here it is. Word for word.

“When I hear businessmen speak eloquently about the ‘social responsibilities of business in a free-enterprise system,’ I am reminded of the wonderful line about the Frenchman who discovered at the age of 70 that he had been speaking prose all his life. The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned ‘merely’ with profit but also with promoting desirable ‘social’ ends; that business has a ‘social conscience’ and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers. In fact they are — or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously — preaching pure and unadulterated socialism. Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.”

Friedman actually said this stuff about businesses having no social responsibility. And American leaders believed it, and then acted on it.

The result?

It took 45 years, but American leadership finally created for today’s knowledge workers– but not themselves, of course — what University of Massachusetts Professor William Lazonick refers to as “profits without prosperity.” The problem isn’t just the fox guarding the hen house. This is the fox in the hen house, waiting for the chickens to come home to roost.

Sadly, both for American employees and for Friedman, the well educated economist’s theory has for years replaced the golden egg (continuously improving people and process, which should have come first) with the smell of rotten eggs (the remnants of command and control). The evidence: America’s all-time-low employee engagement, our virtually stagnant economy and wage deflation.

American leadership’s hen house now appears, instead, to be more of a dog house.

Let’s face it, we can’t compete globally because modern leaders have failed to capture and engage man’s curiosity and creativity. Because if they had, we would have exchanged our arrogance for our humility, and listened to learn rather than tell. We’d be continuously improving people, because learning comes from people, and improvement comes from learning. Which, in turn, comes about from the detection and correction of errors in our thinking. And we’d be using that employee knowledge to show leaders where wasteful activities exist,  destroying the American people, their personal productivity and their well-being.

I suppose it was easier for Friedman to assign blame to the “intellectual forces…undermining the basis of a free society these past decades,” rather than teach executives the true human value of respect and continuous improvement. Especially when today’s executives earn 300 times more than those they serve.

Who could successfully argue that paying executives so much money doesn’t make their companies better?

Maybe Japanese executives like CEO Akio Toyoda of Toyota, who in 2013 earned just $2.9 million on $18 billion of profit. Respecting people; improving people; and improving process and wasteful activities that affect people. And, of course, selling cars to — of all the crazy things — more and more people.

Seems like people do matter, Mr. Friedman. They’re called customers and employees, fathers and mothers, friends and family.

The Japanese circle of Kai and Zen — the art of making change through continuous improvement — is something we need more of in America and throughout the world.

Let’s stop turning to pontificating prognosticators: today’s Tarot card readers using computer-driven analytics. The kind now used to determine people’s job security and personal productivity, especially average people when the time comes for their annual review.

Let’s stop teaching children, employees and, sadly, future leaders, the wrong things about man’s intrinsic motivation.

Let’s stop sending the message to society that man’s intrinsic value is irrelevant. An unnecessary component in improving this strictly extrinsically valued society.

In a 1991 article written by Alan Robinson from University of Massachusetts and Dean Schroeder from Valparaiso University paid close attention to the effective use of employee suggestions. Turns out, man’s intrinsic value in other cultures and countries is extrinsically valuable to leaders and stockholders.

Japanese employees turned in 32.5 suggestions per person. American employees turned in 0.11. American leaders implemented just 37% of the employee’s recommendations, while Japanese leaders implemented 87%.

American employers were too busy to listen, and employees too disengaged to contribute.

Meanwhile, America was losing the luster on her once global competitiveness crown, and she didn’t understand why.

Perhaps emphasizing our need to nurture man’s intrinsic value over his lifetime, not just nurture his extrinsic net worth quarter by quarter, still makes sense. Especially if we’re going to improve one another, ourselves and our ability to compete in the global economy. And in that distinct order.

The results of America’s inability to compete today are simply the consequences from the consistent leadership message sent to the willing workers of today and yesteryear: We have little value for your mind, your heart or your soul. Your value to corporate America is, strictly speaking, only from the neck down. Don’t speak or think; we know what’s best for you.

A message better understood by reading Steven Denning’s, Forbes 2011 article, titled, “The Dumbest Idea In The World — Maximizing Shareholder Value.

Or, if you are really ambitious, and enjoy learning from history, read Out of The Crisis. The anti-gospel to today’s American rhetoric on economic and management theory.

The author, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, railed against American leaders, who, way back beginning in the 1940s, assigned regularly occurring production variances to employee failings. This while leaders continued to miss the true causes behind increasing production costs and poor quality. Deming assigned blame for this directly to American leaders, calling for a radical transformation to how America leadership conducts business.

Deming knocked on American leadership’s door but couldn’t come in. Friedman’s puppets had dead-bolted it shut; double locks; top and bottom.

The unlimited asset of human capital Deming talked about — once free for the asking — has now all but dried up.

Will the first country that really wants our human capital please come forward?

As Professor Lazonick points out in his Harvard Business Review article, “Profits Without Prosperity,” during the previous 45 consecutive years, real wage increases, (wages adjusted for inflation) have not increased more than 2% in any three consecutive years but once. And that was during the Internet bubble of 1997, 1998 and 1999.

To put this in lay terms, my 24-, 22-, 20- and 18-year-old children now earn substantially less per hour for the same job that I performed in 1984. And even when I don’t adjust for inflation.

Got milk?

At least recently?

Mine’s going sour; seems I can’t afford a new gallon.

So what can we do differently to improve America’s ability to compete domestically and abroad?

Let’s turn to history and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Taichi Ohno and the millions of other leaders and customers who collaboratively helped Japan become the second-most productive nation in the world, very shortly and efficiently, after World War II ended.

Rebuilding a nation ravaged by war, but then greatly improved upon by humans — and almost exclusively from the customer’s point of view — Japan used human capital and man’s intrinsic creativity and curiosity to compete on a global basis. Adding greater and greater value to the products American consumers frequently told the Japanese they wanted more of, by putting their money where American leadership’s mouth once was.

What did Gen. MacArthur demand American leaders (working in Japan to re-build the country and the culture) do with the Japanese’s people’s curiosity, creativity and craftsmanship after WWII ended?

He demanded leaders use the people’s intrinsic cultural talents to create sustainable, corporate and societal advantages. In fact, MacArthur required the culture of Japan — one of a highly curious, creative and respectful people — not be challenged, changed nor interrupted by American occupiers. He feared that creativity — Japan’s cultural backbone — could be lost forever.

Sorry, Mr. Friedman, you were wrong in 1970, and you’re even more wrong today.

People matter. All of them.

How to Apply ‘Lean’ to Insurance

If you’re like many employers, you say you run your business in this order: people first, process second and profit last. But for employees and customers alike, they feel as if it’s: profit first, process second, then people last. With 60% to 70% of your employees disengaged, it’s not time to change the way they think, but the way you think first.

If you do, you’ll make more money by putting things in the right order.

How you run your business indicates how you sell. With more agents “spreadsheet selling,” just based on numbers, learning how to identify and remove root causes of customer problems has gone by the wayside. One could argue that few producers even know how to sell anything other than spreadsheets. When there are other alternatives for customers, however, spreadsheets add no real value in customers’ eyes.

Toyota’s definition of adding value, along with that of other companies that have adopted the principles of lean manufacturing, is the one to study when trying to improve your business and help customers improve theirs, too. At Toyota, it really is people first, process second and profit last.

Before we get to how to apply Toyota’s thinking to insurance, let’s study how its version of lean manufacturing made its way from America to Japan.

Early on during World War II, America was in desperate need of quality and speedy production to build machinery to fight and win the war. Tanks, airplanes, guns and submarines were in short supply when Japan surprised America at Pearl Harbor.

The U.S. government turned to the Training Within Industries program to educate American manufacturers on how to improve quality and reduce costs while increasing the rate of production. With a crisis threatening to destroy everything we knew, we developed an enlightened sense of purpose. American executives listened and changed the way they looked at people and how they built things. The principles of lean were born.

After WWII ended, Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur was given full responsibility to rebuild the Japanese economy. When he arrived, he found devastation, burned-out cities with no functional capacity and people existing on just 800 calories per day. He also discovered he had no way to distribute propaganda necessary to convince Japanese citizens about what Americans wanted to achieve.

With quality Japanese radios in short supply, MacArthur turned to Bell Labs, which turned to employee Dr. Walter Shewhart for help improving radio communications. Shewhart, who was unavailable, recommended that 29-year-old engineer Homer Sarasohn be sent to Japan, to teach statistical quality control. Sarasohn then spent four years working closely with Japanese scientists and engineers, improving their knowledge about how to best manufacture and sell goods and services.

When Sarasohn left in 1950, the reins of teaching continuous improvement were turned over to Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Deming expanded on what Sarasohn began, and lean manufacturing took hold at hundreds of companies, including Toyota, one of the many Japanese companies Deming consulted for until he died in 1993.

Today, Toyota is known for its driving principle; respect for people is the core to the culture. All decisions for improvement are made with this principle in mind. Even when it comes to reducing labor costs, respect for people is at the forefront. For example: Toyota has never laid off a single employee. It has, instead, turned to employees to improve their processes by finding wasteful steps and activities that impede value customers demand.

And when it comes to profitability, Toyota’s profits in 2013, exceeded Ford, GM and Chrysler combined, even though Toyota built roughly half the number of cars.

So, how can you as an insurance agent/risk manager use the same concepts to grow and improve your business?

Quite simple:

  1. Improve capacity by first engaging employees in identifying wasteful activities. Then reduce or eliminate the activities. Activities such as:
    1. (T)ransporting something.
    2. (I)nventory–keeping too much or failing to meet customer demand.
    3. (M)otion–looking, reaching or stooping to get something that isn’t in its best place.
    4. (W)aiting for information. How often do you wait while someone else produces material? How much time is spent waiting for loss runs, proposals, and other data?
    5. (O)verproducing information. For example: sending out copies of emails to multiple parties unnecessarily–emails that take time to be read by each recipient.
    6. (O)veranalyzing information or taking too much time to make a decision.
    7. Creating (D)efective information that must be redone. Certificates, proposals and routinely changing human resource policies come to mind.
    8. Failing to maintain a (S)afe working culture.

These are, based on the initials, the TIMWOODS of waste, and identifying them is your starting point.

  1. As capacity improves, employees have more time on their hands. The first cost you’ll reduce is overtime. That’s because employees will meet production demands better. Remember, you’re looking for reducing, or eliminating altogether, processes and activities that add no customer value. A secondary benefit? Employees won’t feel that their valuable skills are wasted on activities they don’t enjoy anyways.
  2. As capacity improves, share what you learned about your improvement efforts with customers and their supply chain. You’ll be busy with ample prospective opportunities.
  3. Then offer to work with customers and their supply chain to teach them how to use what you’ve learned.
  4. Develop strategies using your new capacity to expand your business. Focus on creating opportunities that reduce risk and improve internal and external customer efficiencies. That’s value through the eyes of your customer.

Don’t believe lead times matter within the service industry? Look at what Western Union accomplished: Lead times were reduced from 22 days to just 19 minutes.

  1. Before improvements
  2. After improvements

Lean has benefits to offer the entire insurance and risk management community. We’ve prioritized profits over processes and people and missed out. It’s time to re-order our priorities.