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How Lean is Ruining My Life

by Danielle McGuiness
November 12, 2013

How Lean is Ruining My Life

by Danielle McGuiness
November 12, 2013 | Comments (36)

The other day I came home from a long day at work and saw that the dishwasher was running. My roommate must have started it. I looked in my cabinets and saw plenty of dishes and plates. Hmmm… Why was it running then? When I opened the dishwasher, it had just a few items inside—items that could have easily been washed by hand if my roommate needed them for dinner. No big deal, right? 

My roommate, who is just “not that into” Lean, simply didn’t notice that the machine was running below capacity. It didn’t occur to her. Meanwhile, I’m thinking this is ridiculous and am feeling hyper-aware of wasting water, dishwashing soap, time, and energy.

As if I was a borderline myocardial infarction (heart attack) case, I reminded myself, “Ok, take a breath! This is nothing to stress about!” and then it occurred to me... Lean may just be ruining my life.

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but I see the lean light now! I see it all the time, everywhere, and it isn’t subtle. It’s pretty much like a disco strobe light washing over my life daily.

Where do I see this lean light?

  • Waiting in line. Pretty much any line ever. The Department of Motor Vehicles especially, any government agency… oh, and a Saturday morning grocery store line! This drives me bananas! The “10 items or less” line is a good way to segregate demand, but have you noticed it’s inadequately staffed? Customer demand ruins it.

  • Airports. Boarding planes makes no sense. For most airlines, the logic of who gets on the plane first is backwards. And don’t even get me started on security check. There is SO much opportunity for improvement when it comes to visual management, communication, process flow, management, on and on. TSA workers deserve better leadership, don’t you think?

  • Elevators. Have you ever noticed that they are a batch system? There’s got to be a better way to do it. I spend a lot of time waiting for elevators.

  • Rush-hour traffic. A few highways now have “rush-hour lanes” to increase capacity during high volume driving hours, but not all highways are able to do this.

  • Pre-set furniture. At 5’10, I do a lot of kneeling down to get into cabinets in my kitchen. My countertop is also too low, so I find myself bending over when I cook. I think a lot about the ergonomics of bending and reaching and how my roommate and I use different spaces.

Ok, I sound like a giant complainer. In truth, I enjoy the challenges presented by the fact that I see waste (wasted time, energy, materials, resources) everywhere! It just means opportunity for improvement is plentiful in the world and there are SO many reasons for us lean thinkers to keep doing what we’re doing and share the learning with others.

How is Lean ruining your life? 

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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36 Comments | Post a Comment
Paul B November 12, 2013
4 People AGREE with this comment
I have the same affliction Danielle. You've described it very well. My favourite is waiting on for a reply from a Helpdesk... with automated humans responding the same way but clearly without understanding, and launching you on an infinite loop of handoffs, asking you to key information in that they then ask you to say when you get through etc etc. 

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Mark Graban November 12, 2013

I don't know if smaller dishwasher loads are always bad.

Most dishwashers (and soap) are designed to remove food residue and the dishwasher is more energy efficient than doing a lot of rinsing in the sink before loading. They say to scrape off large chunks of food, of course, but not to rinse (rinsing wastes water).

If it takes many days to accumulate a full load, the food might be too stuck on to really get clean... so the members of the household might be tempted, then, to rinse their plates so the dishwasher can get them clean.


As with batches in different settings, the choice over an optimal load size isn't always straightforward or easy. Running a full batch (fully loading the machine) might not necessarily be the best approach.


That said, Lean has made me VERY intolerant of bad processes and inefficiency in stores and restaurants I frequent. I've learned, though, to not blame the individuals who are working in that bad system.



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Danielle McGuiness November 12, 2013
Mark- Smaller loads aren't always bad...I agree!  Anyway, is there any bad process in particular that has particularly troubled you? 

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Danielle McGuiness November 12, 2013
Paul- the helpdesk is a great example...anything with a phone tree really. I was doing some IRS investigation the other day. Not only did I go through 12 voice commands, but I was then on hold for 20 minutes while waiting for the wrong dept. Ridiculous!

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kevin kobett November 12, 2013

"You invent because something bothers you" Joseph Rabinow 231 US patents


This post is a good example of how lean successes start, collecting irritaions.


The dishwasher irritation reminds me of the changes to big engine vehicles. You need a big truck to haul your boat. You are irritated by the amount of gas needed when you are not going to the lake, which is unfortunately the vast majority of the time. One solution was to shut down cylinders when the power is not needed. Another is to shut the engine off when at a stoplight.


An irritation is an unsatisfied need. 



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Danielle McGuiness November 12, 2013

Kevin- is this a personal example? My dad has a F250 truck for snow plowing and personal use. Your comments hit home when it doesn't snow for at least 6 months in Massachusetts and ridiculous amounts of money are spent on gas filling the giant truck. Moreover, though I do not know Joseph Rabinow, I think he is dead on.



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Brett Lowie November 12, 2013
6 People AGREE with this comment
Not only is it ruining my life - my poor wife and children are suffering as well. It all started when I ask why we through away so much food. Then I applied lean thinking to our refrigirator. Now every time I break out the white board they run.

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Danielle McGuiness November 12, 2013
hilarious!

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Eric Lussier November 12, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment
At least you don't mention grouping the silverware in "kits" in the various baskets...designated by visual management....to eliminate the wasted time of sorting on the back end.  That might just be too extreme. 

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John Roberts November 13, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this reply
I tend to take it to an even a higher level.  Yes that is possible.  I have actually spent time thinking about how to apply  the Theory of Constraints to the dishwasher.  After all, it is the bottleneck.  Just because it isn't running at capacity doesn't mean it wasn't the correct decision.  I have developed a plan to run it every night before bed (family of 4), so that whenever a dish is dirtied during the day it can go right in the machine and not pile up in the sink.  A drying mat for a buffer?  Come on!  I'm fanatical about how the stupid thing is loaded to maximize it's capacity.
Traffic - I drive down the road contemplating buffers and single piece flow.  The pantry. The laundry.  Grocery shopping.  For me it goes on and on and on.  My poor family! Sigh!
I work within the construction industry, so you can only imagine what that does to my mental condition.  I have found that when I notice these things in every day life, it's a great way to explain a concept to the those at work.  A pull system can be talked about in terms of Cheerios being stocked on the shelves of the grocery.  Everyone can relate to traffic and grocery stores.  Well I don't want to "waste" any more words here, so ...


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Sherri Lampman November 13, 2013

John - my husband works in the construction industry as well.  I'm in the early stages of lean education with our health authority, and am constantly talking about it at home.  His ears perked up last night when I said 'why don't you look at it for your business?'  We starting looking for some 'Lean Construction' books.  There are a few but hard to know which ones were worth reading.  Do you have any recommendations?  Thank you :)



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John Roberts November 13, 2013

Sherri - there are several books that I would recommend.  Mostly, with construction you end up figuring out how to apply the manufacturing concepts to a construction environment.  Toyota Way and The Goal would be two of my top choices.  You can contact me directly if you want.  I'm not sure if I got my email correct on this post but it's jgroberts11@icloud.com.  I'd be glad to help. 



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Sherri Lampman November 14, 2013
Thank you John!

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Danielle McGuiness November 14, 2013
John- I also think every day situations are a great way to better explain the work we do. I'm sure your family has a new appreciate for how you run the dishwasher :)

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Tamara Christensen November 13, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment
I understand......my children have 5S'd their play room and now I'm trying to Kanban my kitchen pantry - we need help.....

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Danielle McGuiness November 14, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this reply

Tamara- it's pretty cool that even your kids appreciate 5s. i also use kanbans for grocery shopping by just ripping the label of what needs to be replished and taking it with me to the store. Is that the same idea for your pantry?



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Darrell Damron November 14, 2013
3 People AGREE with this comment
Great post Danielle. My whole life is impacted by my Lean infection! Here's this week's evidence. I drive my car to work, and I have 3 people who ride with me - an official carpool. Day before yesterday, one of the carpool members suggested we back up our whole schedule by 5 minutes because he doesn't always get to work on time. The moment he suggested changing the schedule, I said, "Why would we jump right to changing the schedule when we haven't  determined the root cause of the delay?" I already knew that one of the contributing factors to his arriving late was that he almost never walks out of his house to get in the car right when I pull up. So I WAIT in his driveway. In fact, I wait a couple of minutes in each of their driveways. 1-3 minutes of wait-time in each driveway means 3-9 minutes of the waste of waiting in this carpool process. So we spent yesterday's 40 minute commute home talking about timing of stops and root causes of delays, and we ultimately agreed that I would give them a signal (a text msg) when I arrive in their driveway. Each of them agreed to be ready at the time we calculated for each stop and come out right when I pull up. This morning, I left my house at the same time I always do; each of the carpool members walked out right when I pulled up, and we arrived almost 10 minutes eariler than we usually do. Not even my carpool can escape from Lean thinking! :)

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Elspeth Painter November 17, 2013
Awesome - and all you need to say is the data shows why we are late; you can't get mad at data!

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Aaron Highley November 14, 2013

I know a guy who races at a local dirt track.  Last time I went to watch him, I sat in bleachers making a control chart of his lap times.  I don’t think he was quite convinced that understating variation was a secret sauce.

Also, dirt track races come to a complete stop after a yellow flag, and it can take quite a while to get all the drivers back in order for a restart.  It’s not unusual for this to happen several times during a 12 lap race.  Perfect scenario for batch reduction right?  Fewer cars on the track at one time means fewer accidents and less time to recover from accidents when they do occur.       



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Graeme Smith November 15, 2013

My local supermarket strangly placed its baskets next to where most people were exiting the store rather than entering, meaning you'd have to tangle with a lot of people going to opposite way in order to get a basket. I lost track of the amount of times I was tempted to go up to the information desk and suggest they move the baskets to the other side of the doors. I don't think most people wouldn't even give it a second thought.


On my last visit I noticed they had moved the baskets, but that was probably only to make way for the Xmas tree that's now up. I expect they'll move them back in the New Year!



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Danielle McGuiness November 15, 2013
nothing like a quick kaizen to move the baskets based on a hypothesis :)

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Rameshkumar Nagarethinam November 16, 2013

This is an environmental issue. People knowingly over comsuming the resources is detrimental to PLANET EARTH!


Like on Cigarette boxes "warning the user of Cancer and early death " Appliances mfgr must  Display Optimum use of appliances leads to conserving mother natures resources for future generations.



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Nikhil Birajdar November 18, 2013

I really think there are some limitations for Lean if we visualise it in our every aspect of lives. It drove me crazy since I was soaked up in Lean in my initial days. (I used to think and apply every aspect of my life, from brushing teeth to sleeping on the bed which is only used at the night) 


Waste categorisations are universally applicable in any case of our society, and Danielle your article really nicely throw on the same issues. But do you think the bigger picture as a Social system as a whole is evolving since many centuries, may be not all the solutions seems perfect to scale in lean. I am not articulating much in detail about the social system, but issues raised by you are valid and many more others.

What astounded me that I missed the "what is the value?", as a every individual person has different value system for every aspect ofour social systems. If everyone is on board with the common Value propositions, there can be tremendous acceleration in waste reduction from our social systems. Until then their are and will be pockets of waste production.



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kevin kobett November 18, 2013

Work was routine and boring. When given the opportunity to innovate at work, I leapt at the chance. Soon I realized the hardest part of lean was to find a problem to solve. I learned to look for irritated people, coworkers, customers, managers, etc. An irritation meant something needed fixing. This process became a subconscious routine.


Off the job, while playing with my favorite teammates, bird dogs, I was irritated with my shooting. I was letting my teammates down with my performance. This irritation made me realize the innovation skills learned on the job could be used to improve products off the job. My company's first product can be viewed at:

http://jfshooting.com/category/shooting/

When my dogs hear a shotgun blast, they now know there is a bird to retrieve. Lean hasn't ruined my life. It has set me free. My passion for lean is making my hobby an occupation.

My path can be replicated. All you have to do is what this post did, share irritations. 

 



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Daniel Fisher November 19, 2013
1 Person AGREES with this comment
Devil's Advocate here - If we were truly Lean Thinking, wouldnt we want to load the dishwasher as soon as there is a dish to be cleaned? Waiting for the dishwasher to be fully loaded would be synonymous to a batch and qeue philosophy. If we wanted to create a one piece flow, we would automate the dishwasher to clean one dish as soon as there was a dish to be cleaned, while using the exact amount of water and soap to clean it.


I'm not sure if its a gift or a curse, but i was getting my hair cut yesterday and I couldnt help but notice the disarray with all the hair care products and cutting tools. The whole time i was sitting there i wanted to 5s the person's work station. My mind always runs to "lean".


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Danielle McGuiness November 19, 2013
i'm thinking that the dishwasher is too big!

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Daniel Fisher November 19, 2013
Haha, that too!

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Claudio Perrone January 02, 2014
Mmm exactly my thoughts here. Since when is "full machine utilization" a Lean concern? It's resource efficiency rather than flow efficiency. It actually reminds me of a more traditional western thinking/accounting. Smaller dishwasher is a great answer. Actually, in our kictchen we don't use a dishwasher and simply limited the number of plates available. In other words, if you want to eat next time, you'll better wash your own plate :-)

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Marilyn McConnell November 19, 2013

Hi Danielle,

My name is Marilyn McConnell I work as a lean facilitator at Reschcor. I loved your article so much that I would like permission to print the entire article in Reschcor's newsletter on the november's edition. We  print out 80 copies for employees only.

Thank you for considering my request and I look forward to your reply,


Marilyn McConnell



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Danielle McGuiness November 19, 2013
Hi Marilyn! Yes,, we'd love for you to print the article in Reschor's newsletter. We are advocates of spreading lean thinking. Would you mind sending me your email so we can further connect? thanks! dblais@lean.org

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Zach S November 20, 2013
My solution to the elevator batch problem is to take the stairs as often as possible. If there's a queue of people on the stairs, you know something's REALLY wrong. :D

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Tracey Richardson November 21, 2013
I understand this all too well Danielle, as I say in class at times - Im like the kid on the Sixth Sense (movie). He saw dead people. I see "waste" in everything. Its a blessing and a curse :) Nice post!

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Irene Johansen November 27, 2013
Very entertaining, and very painfully accurate at the same time.  As for me, I was looking for the most efficient route, path, task order, item order, long before I knew anything about Lean thinking, so at least I know why I take to it so (well?). I always thought it was a bit obsessive, especially when I hit the point that I was taking more time to devise the most efficient way to do something than it took to do the thing itself.  Yes, I'm seeing with lean eyes, all over the place - markets, restaurants, my own home, and yes, my family's eyes are starting to glaze over. Balance in everything. Thanks for the laughs! (and the tips!)

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rumples December 01, 2013
You are correct in your remoarks as to waste i.e. time etc, however it is not lean killing you, it is the LACK as waste is exactly what lean is all about. We as customers have way too long stood patiently in queues and to be honest when you think about airlines, it gets you thinking, if they cannot get check-in in order, how do they ever get their aircraft from flying (with such poor management). I completely agree this as well as other areas must be looked at, traffic is not going to reduce, but do we see any real solutions? Well thats open to debate and time will tell which system wins.

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Danielle McGuiness December 01, 2013
All- these are hilarious comments. Thank YOU for the laughs.  

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Jay Johnson December 05, 2013
It's worth remembering that Lean is a means to an end, and not the end in itself.

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