Our monthly focus for October is eliminating shortcuts. I thought about this topic and wondered- what would a shortcut look like in each of your various roles? We want to provide superior service to our customers by creating streamlined processes and procedures, but we also need to beware of any unsafe shortcuts. “But Kim”, you say, “I’m trying to create efficiencies, isn’t that what we are supposed to do as a Lean organization?” Yes! Well, sort of.

We are a Lean organization, so doing things better, faster, and more efficient is in our nature. We applaud you for making efficiencies that eliminate waste and add value to our customers. Just be aware of those tricky instances when something appears to be an “efficiency”, but is actually considered an “unsafe shortcut”. Here are some questions to ask yourself to ensure your process is both Lean and SAFE

Does it add value? Lean is the methodology of creating more value for customers by maximizing resources and eliminating wastes. YOU are our greatest resource, so how do we add value to our customers without you (and your eyes, hands, limbs)? If your efficiency reduces waste but increases your risk of harm, then it is not a safe/Lean improvement.

Would you add it to your process documentation?  Think about documenting your process to train a new associate. Would you show them your time-saving technique? If you are unwilling to teach someone else your “trick”, then it’s likely you are aware of its risk. If you wouldn’t include it in your documented process as a best practice then it is likely an unsafe shortcut.

Does it meet all of the 6S’s? Lean uses a tool called 6-S to eliminate waste and produce faster, better results. The six “s’s” of 6-S are: safety, sort, set in order, scrub, standardize, sustain. What was that first step? SAFETY. If you think you have made a lean improvement, but it has causes your process or area to be unsafe in any way – then it is a short cut. Our lean processes always address any safety concerns first and foremost. Bottom line- if it’s not safe, it’s not lean.

Do your “efficiencies” fall into the “Safe/Lean” or “Unsafe/Shortcut” category? Let’s take a fresh look at those this month and make some real, safe improvements.