Unused Skills – Lean’s 8th Waste

The seven wastes of Lean, when translated from the original Japanese of Taiichi Ohno, are Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Overprocessing and Defects [1].  The 8th waste, which was added later [2], is “under used skills” and is the least mechanical and most human of all the wastes. Often it is the most overlooked and, in my experience, the most important waste.

 

Under used skills deliver no value

A few years ago, I performed an analysis for a lean project at the Localisation division of a major international software vendor.  At the time, the standard process used was to receive the English version of the software, translate the strings into 26 languages, test and then release.  The process to translate took over six weeks to complete and required translators, testers and linguists.  As I examined the workflow, I discovered that the product had zero active users in one of the languages. On further investigation, it turned out that the company had stopped all sales and distribution in that regional market several years previously, but sales had failed to inform Localisation.  It was a difficult day when I had to explain to the translators and linguists that not only was their work no longer needed, they had not added any value to the product for almost half a decade. Thankfully, these employees were reassigned to other contracts within the company where they were able to use their skills and experience to add real value.

 

Awesome automation

On another occasion, I discovered that a team of 10 people were performing eight hours of post-release testing on a piece of software that they had previously tested pre-release. These tests existed because at one point a failure in the release process had caused a corruption on a client site. The failure had been fixed but because no-one could be sure a separate failure might not appear, these tests remained and were dreaded by the testers because the work was boring and almost always pointless.

 

In this case, our solution was to develop new automated tests to provide the same function as the manual testing. The automated tests could be triggered immediately after the release process instead of the next working day. It also had a run time of less than 80 minutes, which was much less than the 80 hours need to manually run the tests. The new process made the team happier as they could focus on more interesting work and, as part of handover, two of the testers were trained in how to maintain and further improve the tool.   

 

Independence and objectiveness

At Ammeon we offer an initial assessment of your workflows for free.  We believe that it is really important to have a regular independent objective review of processes to identify waste.

 

Most of the time our analysis will show that your problems can be solved with improved tools, improved processes and adapting your culture to drive toward continuous innovation.  Often this will lead to a recommendation of further training or a supported change through a Bootcamp! If this article has inspired you to address inefficient work practices in your IT organisation, request your free assessment by clicking here.

 

References

  1. T. Ohno. Toyota Production System, Productivity Press, 1988
  2. J. Liker. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer, New York, McGraw-Hill, 2004

Tags: , , ,