Which Way to Turn on the Lean Road?

road map
map from wikipedia

You hop in your car and get moving. You’ve got to get from Boston to New York, but your car is on fire.

You haven’t had a drink of water in two days, and your fuel gauge is low.  Oh, and where is your roadmap?  Sounds like a fun trip, doesn’t it?

So, which problem do you take care of first?  Do you put out the fire, or pull over for a bottle of drinking water?

Can the gas wait a few more miles while you put more miles on the road?  Can you keep driving while you reach to the backseat and search for your map?

Sorry for the metaphor, but I’m trying to make some references to your company’s lean system.  Do you pull off the road, right then and there, and “put out the fire” that is your company’s disorganization  (aka, implement 5S)?  If you don’t have driving directions (aka, value stream mapping), it’s hard to know how to get to the destination.

Along the way, you need to have your supplies: water, gas, etc. (ie., kanban), and it is good to ask for directions if you get off-track (i.e, kaizen events, 5S audits, and other lean evaluation tools).

I’m not trying to be too pedantic, but the idea is to know where you’re going in Lean; the avenues or tools to help you get there are just that – ways to help.  It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have one concrete definite route there, but you have to have a destination and some semblance of a path.