Taking data: the incredible power of the data sheet
If you work with Lean, taking data is something you will do sooner or later. There are several tools and templates available, but typically a sheet of paper and a pencil will work. Measuring services is not an exception, but the way of taking the information can be a little different. Normally you can start with a VSM for services and then you will probably need more detail from some specific activities. This is where the data sheet can help you. I’m attaching a picture of a data sheet example we’ve just used to help a person (who belongs to a service department) measure his work. This is the result and some tips.
Tips: data sheet
- Make sure you write the date: week/day/hour
- Include the “measuring rules” in the data sheet, so that nobody forgets them. These are some things you might want to consider if you are measuring services:
- Use the 10% rule: Every task that represents more that 10% of the total, should be considered separately (e.g. if you are measuring a week of work (40 hours), anything that lasts more that 4 hours should be considered as a separate activity)
- However, don’t measure small tasks that don’t happen very often (e.g anything less than 10 minutes)
- Separate “predictable” work from “unexpected” work. Predictable work can be easily prepared and allocated, unexpected work can ruin your day. They have to be handled differently. Agree upfront the meaning of “unexpected”.
- Don’t aggregate tasks that are separated in the reality. (e.g. if you have had 3 one-hour-meetings to define customer requirements, write “1+1+1 hours”, instead of “3 hours”). It is not the same having big chunks of time than having small portions of time spread during your day.
- Don’t measure things that are not work. Non-working activities belong to the personal life and have to be respected.
- Group things that are similar. Separate things that are different.
- Make totals by day and by activity. Pareto? Why not.
- Write your data at least daily. Preferably take the data sheet with you and write down things as they happen. Don’t wait until the end of the week to write it all.
Tips: how to do it.
- Teach people! Data sheets are easy to use, but some training can be priceless (and avoid useless data, reworks and frustration)
- Never measure anybody’s work if you have not asked for permission and explained why you want the data and what you pretend to do with it. Do you want to kill your lean program? Fill your working area with people nobody knows, taking notes and asking strange questions.
- Ask each person to measure their own work. Let them own the data. Sometimes this can be difficult or dangerous. If this is the case, do it yourself, but show your notes and numbers to the person being measured right after you are finished.
- Review the datasheet frequently with the worker. It’s easy to make mistakes at the beginning. Don’t let them take wrong data for weeks.
These tips typically work and can help you take useful data with little effort. But don’t take them as universal laws that govern the world. Use you common sense, think and put in place a data sheet that makes sense for you.
What to do next? More information coming soon!