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Short Stories and Quick Kaizens

by Danielle McGuiness
April 23, 2014

Short Stories and Quick Kaizens

by Danielle McGuiness
April 23, 2014 | Comments (0)

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Ever seen the movie “Up in the Air” with George Clooney? Clooney walks us through easy steps to make life as a traveler more time and process friendly. As Clooney’s character gives Anna Kendrick's character a hard time on her heavy checked bag, he says, “35 five minutes per flight! I travel 270 days per year. That makes one 157 hours... That's seven days (points to her luggage). You ready to throw away a whole week on that?”  

The other night I went to a Paint Nite with some friends, mostly because we were going to be painting mermaids and that sounded like fun. I couldn’t help but notice (and be annoyed) when the directions for how many pumps of paint were needed were far from the bottles. The bottles were also strewn all over the table. You can imagine that I found some tape and put the instructions where you could see them, and rearranged the bottles so they were in the order the instructions told us they needed to be in. It’s amazing how a quick kaizen can make the life so much easier! Don’t even get me started on where the other materials were (plates, water, cups, etc.).

Furthermore, I heard a story last week from a guy at beer fest who was sick of waiting in line. Like a champ, he found the manager of the beer stand, asked him for permission to run an experiment and reallocate their resources. Sure enough, he moved the four staff members into two categories: online and offline. Online resources would ask the customer what they’d like to order and then process the order, while the offline staff would then pour the beer and distribute. A pretty simple model, right? And sure enough, there was never a line at that stand. Win-win for all!

Ok, back to work. I spent some time in Maine last week with a lean leader of an energy company. We discussed how Lean has taken over our lives. She says she's already 5s’d her knitting cabinets and kitchen. Her spices are now color-coded based on flavor (sweet, spicy, etc.) with high runners in the front. She’s also allocated a particular amount of space in the pantry for sweets in order to show her family a healthy food balance. Perhaps more importantly, her husband now knows exactly where to go to find cookies and no longer has to hunt for them.

Take the stories above and Clooney’s travel tips with a grain of salt, but there is something of value to these seemingly small daily life improvements. In this case, Clooney buys Kendrick a carry on suitcase and throws out her pillow, but you know, it was all with the mindset of improving her experience. When you think about all the little adjustments you can make to improve the processes you spend most of your time involved with, you suddenly find yourself with a lot more time on your hands. In Clooney’s case, a week.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  kaizen
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