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The Common Sense Approach

For Thousands of years people have been making improvements to processes by utilizing more efficient methods and reducing waste.  The image below shows how over time civilizations were able to build bigger and  seemingly better pyramids.  We could also discuss the transition from the Ox Path to the Super Highway or any number of multi-century transformations.  The bottom line is if you are looking to cut through all of the clutter and confusion, rely on your organizations goals and the strengths of your people by applying some Common Sense first.

The Common Sense Approach relies on four steps that have been the basis for personal, cultural, industrial, and business improvements for thousands of years:


Ask the Question

  • The First Step in the Common Sense Approach is getting back to the basics of why your organization exists and asking some key questions to help you refocus:

                – Why do we exist/what do we do/what are our goals?

                – What do our customer’s expect from us?

                – Is everything that we do geared toward meeting our customer’s needs?

                – Are there things we can stop doing and still meet our goals?

                – Why are we doing things the way that we do them?

                – Can we do what we do better?

  • Once we have answered our questions we need to document the as the Organizational Mission and Organizational Goals

Identify Improvements

  • Once the Organizational Mission and Goals have been identified, walk the processes within your organization to ensure that they are aligned with the Organizational Mission and Goals –map the process
  • Conduct a gap analysis to identify where unnecessary activity is occurring and where outdated or inefficient policies, guidance, and regulations are being followed and can be removed or altered in order to create more efficient processes – eliminate those things which do not add value to reaching the Mission
  • Design and test new ways of doing business that better align with your Organizational Mission and Goals while minimizing the amount of unnecessary activity and maximizing efficiency – create  processes which allow only those elements  that are absolutely necessary to attain your mission

Implement Solutions

  • Implementing the new solutions identified in Step Two does not mean just doing something new.  It includes several activities to help facilitate transforming your organization’s culture and creating sustainable improvements:

               – Create and use an Organizational Governance Document

               – Create and use Standard Operating Procedures

               – Provide training to help encourage consistency of operations

               – Create Metrics that align with the Organizational Mission and Goals

               – Provide regular feedback and communication (both within the processes and for the program)

               – Provide easy access to all organizational documents and processes

               – Hold individuals accountable


  • Once your organization is free from clutter and confusion and activities are aligned with your Organizations Mission and  Goals.  Your staff should be incentivized to identify new and better ways of doing business.

                – Consider  restructuring your  personnel evaluations to reflect desired new behaviors

I know that  have left a lot of information out of this post.  We have gone through some of the tools that can be used in previous posts and we will introduce more tools as time goes on.  The whole point of the common sense approach though is to do what makes sense and don’t be affraid to ask questions or admit that you don’t know everything.


Until Next Time, Happy LEANing,

David Allway

Common Sensei

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Not Invented Here Syndrome and Challenging the Norm

As process based performance improvement professionals, we have come to terms with the fact that there is a long standing epidemic among organizations world-wide.  Almost all of the organizations that have attempted to reduce costs and improve quality, and failed are suffering from Not Invented Here Syndrome (NIHS), or even worse That Won’t Work Here Disease (aka, We’re Different/Special).   Identifying the symptoms is easy for an outsider however; the difficulty is accepting that you yourself may have been infected.

The beautiful thing about Performance Based Process Improvement is that everything we do in life is a process, from getting out of bed in the morning to launching the space shuttle.  There are steps that must be done in order to accomplish what ever goal it is that you are trying to achieve.   Once you have reached the state of enlightenment where you can admit that you need to do something to make your organization more cost efficient and/or reach a higher level of quality, you have overcome the first hurdle.  The difficult part is throwing organizational culture to the wind and starting to ask the really tough questions.

Over the last several postings we discussed going to your process, asking the right questions and preparing to map your process.   Now it is time to start asking the question “do we really need to be doing this (work/policy/regulation/etc.)?”  First with your process as a whole, and then with each step as you map your process.  With many processes or sub-processes you are probably going to find out that the only reason you are doing it is because it is what you have always done.  Even with the advent of technology, many organizations are following the same steps as they always have and aren’t taking advantage of all of the capabilities that reside within their organization.  So, for each process, sub-process and process step (or policy/regulation/etc.), conduct a 5 “Why” exercise.  Ask yourself why we are doing this five times, or more if necessary, to get to a concrete answer as to why you need to perform the activity.  If you arrive at an answer that doesn’t make sense or even “because this is how we’ve always done it”, you have probably found a great place to improve or remove a process, sub-process, or process step.  You may even find a policy or regulation which perhaps made sense at one time, but is no longer appropriate.

Assuming that you are following this Blog like a how-to manual, it is time to start mapping your process.  Be sure to first ask “do we need the process/policy or regulation at all” and then move on from there.  Take your time and do not accept answers to your 5 Whys which do not achieve your goal of reducing cost or increasing quality (rare exceptions like laws and direct orders excluded, although they may be able to be changed down the road).  Use all that you have garnered from your Gemba Walk and remember to listen.

Good luck and Happy Leaning,

David Allway

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