Lean principle #1: Stick to the process
“Trust the process” is one of the most important Lean mantras. The process is the king of the Lean castle and just like real kings, each process is different. A process is good if:
- it is standard (repeatable: the same situations drive to the same actions)
- it is documented (teachable: everybody knows how things work)
- it is fair (balanced: there is enough people/time/equipment to do things and solve problems)
- it is visible (measurable: problems are easy to find)
- it has a clear owner (actionable: problems are solved)
These rules are easy to list and difficult to fulfill. But even if a process does not follow all of them, it is important to keep them in mind to know what is missing and what must be done next.
“Sticking to the process” is extremely important for several reasons. If the process is not well defined or if it is executed differently each time:
- It is not repeatable: There is no reference to know if the process is working fine or not. This means that there is no clear definition of “good” and this makes very difficult to know if the process is in trouble. Problems are hidden, which is one of the worst things that can happen.
- It is not teachable: teaching is extremely difficult because nobody knows what to expect. The same situation will drive to very different responses. This creates a very confusing environment where teaching and learning are hard things to do.
- It is not balanced: if you don’t know how the process will look like, how can you put the needed people/time/equipment in place? How can you predict capacity or lead time?
- It is not measurable: how can you measure something that can not be seen? Yes, you can take some numbers here and there, but data will not be consistent and comparable, so trends and systematic problems are almost invisible.
- It is difficult to improve: there will be little or no time to think calmly, analyze problems and put robust solutions in place. Even worse, all ideas and improvement actions identified by the workers will be lost, because everybody will do things their own way.
So please, slow down, calm down, don’t worry, don’t hurry and stick to the process!