What Would Happen If...?

Peter Hines, S A Partners
Published April 15, 2015

Think for a minute:

  •       What would happen if you went to the supermarket but forgot to pick up the kids from school?
  • What would happen if you bought a round of drinks in a bar for all but one of your party?
  •       What would happen if you booked your vacation hotel but did not book the flight to get there?

Clearly, in each case you might be embarrassed, frustrated and or an inconvenience to others. You would probably also incur a lot of waste and excess cost. Indeed, your less than ideal behaviour would be a big problem.

Now let’s think about the work situation:

  •       What would happen if you went on a gemba walk but forgot to talk to local team members at their workstation or visual management board?  
  • What would happen if you communicated with the day shift but not the night shift about an important change in your business?
  •       What would happen if you received a flat order profile from your customers but passed on a highly variable order pattern to your suppliers?

Although we may not realise it when we do these things, the outcome is likely to be pretty much the same as the first three home-based examples. These less than ideal work behaviours are caused partly through carelessness, but are probably more likely because we have not been thinking systemically. Indeed, they almost certainly point to failures to define, design, implement and sustain effective systems in the organisation, such as leader standard work, communications and supply chain integration.

So what should we do? Well to start with, we should work to define the key systems within our organisation and its wider supply chain. Second, we should review how these work from a technical point of view, but more importantly from a behavioural point of view. Third, we should prioritise improvement activity by systems based on the importance of the system and how far your current practices differ from the ideal. Fourth, we should ensure we develop a discipline to maintain and further improve these systems.

Sounds easy, but these are some of the hard yards on your enterprise excellence journey. Oh, and if you succeed, you may even learn how to avoid the first three home-based problems!


Peter Hines, Chairman, S A Partners

Professor Peter Hines is chairman of S A Partners and co-founder of the Lean Enterprise Research Centre at Cardiff University, the largest academic lean research centre globally. He is a multiple winner of the Shingo Research Award for Staying Lean (2009) and Creating a Lean & Green Business System (2014). He is also a visiting professor at Waterford Institute of Technology.

Find out more about how to think systemically with Peter in S A Partners’ next Shingo Master Class: http://www.sapartners.com/events/shingo-master-class/.