Tuesday, November 2, 2010

APPLYING LEAN CONCEPTS TO OFFICE MEETINGS

Taiichi Ohno, the father of Toyota Production System (TPS) identified seven categories of waste in respect of manufacturing practices. These are:
  • Overproduction:
Manufacture of products in advance or in excess of demand, leads to waste of  money, time and space.
  • Defects:
Defects during  production and defects reaching a customer lead to scrap, re-work and loss of reputation.
  • Waiting:
Time is often wasted when one process waits to begin while another finishes. Instead, the flow of operations needs to be smooth and continuous.
  • Unnecessary motion:
When workers have to bend or walk distances to do their jobs it leads to energy spent on unnecessary movements. Use of Ergonomics makes it less tiring for people to perform their jobs. Looking for tools, parts and instructions leads to waste of time for the operators.
  • Transportation:
Moving a product between manufacturing processes adds no value. It is expensive and also increases chances of damage.
  • Excess inventory: 
Leads to waste due to cost of money invested in the materials, excess space requirements and items becoming obsolete over a period of time.
  • Over-processing:
Over-processing of material may occur repeatedly due to poor design of product or tooling.
Lean concepts based on the above framework of the 7 types of waste have been successfully applied to service businesses. Low cost airlines like Ryanair are an excellent  example of how service industry can use the lean concepts profitably.

One of the biggest waste in organizations can be the time spent on meetings. Lets explore how lean  concepts can be applied to office meetings.  

Overproduction:
  • Too many topics on the agenda.
  • Too many PPT slides.
  • Involving too many people.
  • Repeating the same point again and again
  • More frequent meetings than needed.

Defects:
  • Answering emails and sms’ on cell phone leads to lack of attention by team members. Later you get requests like: “please repeat the last point”. This is a kind of re-work for the speaker.
  • Every member in the team must have a purpose to be included. Including a non-contributing member is another form of defect.
  • Wrong decision-making can occur when we try to take decisions based on insufficient data.
  • Record of the information and decisions has to be made accurately, else this can lead to defects and re-work. The person who writes down the minutes / notes must be very attentive and accurate in the reporting.

Waiting:
  • Meetings start late, so the ones who come on time have to keep on waiting while the others join.
  • Chairperson in a meeting takes a call on the cell phone, whereby everyone else in the group is waiting for him to finish.
  • Searching for data and facts during the discussion, may keep everyone on hold.
Motion:
  • Uncomfortable seating arrangement.
  • Searching for a file or PPT during the presentation
  • Unable to see what is written on the board or flip-chart.
Transportation:
While conveying ideas, people tend to wander from topic to topic. Moving from Topic – A to Topic – B to Topic – C, back to Topic – B and so on.

This happens when agenda for the meeting is not prepared or the agenda is not strictly followed.

Inventory:
  • More issues are raised and the group strays from the focus on existing projects. When more tasks are started (instead of completed) in a meeting, we can say that inventory has been generated.
  • Meetings can lead to more inventory if the team keeps generating new ideas instead of focusing on review of the existing projects and resolving the issues that are slowing down these projects.
Processing:
  • Should it be a face-to-face meeting or can we manage through a conference call?
  • Should we circulate a detailed write-up in advance so that the team members can come well prepared?
  • Does the discussion get stuck on one point of the agenda or are we ready to place certain issues on the back-burner?
By applying the lean concepts and avoiding above pitfalls, we can save on various types of waste and make our office meetings more productive.

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