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From the Lean Lexicon 5th Edition:

Work:   Human actions (motions) involved in producing products. These actions can be divided into three categories:Value-Creating: Movements directly necessary for making products, such as welding, drilling, and painting.  Incidental Work: that operators must perform to make products but that do not create value from the standpoint of the customer, such as reaching for a tool or clamping a fixture.  Waste: Motions that create no value and can be eliminated, such as walking to get parts or tools that could be positioned within reach. More »
Work Element:   The distinct steps required to complete one cycle at a workstation; the smallest increment of work that can be moved to another operator.  Breaking work into its elements helps to identify and eliminate waste that is hidden within an operator’s cycle. The elements can be distributed in relation to takt time to create continuous flow. For instance, in the Operator Balance Chart illustration the small vertical boxes represent work elements. More »
Work-in-Process:   Items of work between processing steps. In lean systems, standardized work-in-process is the minimum number of parts (including units in machines) needed to keep a cell or process flowing smoothly. More »
Kaizen Workshop:   A group kaizen activity, commonly lasting five days, in which a team identifies and implements a significant improvement in a process.  A common example is creating a continuous flow cell within a week. To do this a kaizen team—including staff experts and consultants as well as operators and line managers—analyzes, implements, tests, and standardizes a new cell. Participants first learn continuous flow principles and then go to the gemba to assess actual conditions and plan the cell. Machines then are moved and the new cell is tested. After improvements, the process is standardized and the kaizen team reports out to More »
Leader Standard Work:   Sometimes called “kaizen for management,” leader standard work, when combined with the appropriate lean leadership behaviors, changes the role of managers from being the primary problem solvers to building the problem-solving capability of employees.  Because traditional management activity does not support a culture of daily problem solving, the shift in management’s role is needed to build the new culture and support the lean operational changes made during a transformation.  Along with planning activities that are carried out on at less frequent intervals, day-to-day leader standard work consists of five major tools: gemba walks, reflection meetings, response to andons, creating accountability, and More »
Out-of-Cycle Work:   Tasks of operators in multioperator processes which require the operator to break the pace of work or leave the area.  Examples include retrieving parts from storage locations and moving finished items to downstream processes. These tasks should be removed from the operator’s standardized work and given to support staff such as material handlers and team leaders, who work outside of takt-time-based continuous flow. More »
Standardized Work:   Establishing precise procedures for each operator’s work in a production process, based on three elements:Takt time, which is the rate at which products must be made in a process to meet customer demand.  The precise work sequence in which an operator performs tasks within takt time.  The standard inventory, including units in machines, required to keep the process operating smoothly.  Standardized work, once established and displayed at workstations, is the object of continuous improvement through kaizen. The benefits of standardized work include documentation of the current process for all shifts, reductions in variability, easier training of new operators, reductions in More »
By: John Shook | June 11, 2015
Columns; eLetters
We need to think about redefining work. Until we – anyone who wishes to bring about organizational change – redefine the actual value-creating work of the business, we haven’t made any changes that are meaningful. You may be able to create wealth through a variety of business models or ways of thinking. But if you want to create real value, and jobs that value people, you must think hard about how your people are working every day. More »
Working Hard...For One Minute
By: Orest (Orry) Fiume | January 24, 2020
Anyone who doubts the ability of their people to work hard in enacting change--or who blames problems on their "people" should look hard in the mirror, says lean veteran Orry Fiume. More »
Work of Management, The (eBook)
By: Jim Lancaster | July 6, 2017
Lancaster tells an inspiring and practical business story in his new book, The Work of Management (2017, Lean Enterprise Institute). It’s a close-up, candid look at Lancaster’s personal transformation as a leader. It’s also a practical, in-depth, business case study of Lantech’s lean transformation, relapse, and comeback that American manufacturing – and other industries -- can use to profitably transform themselves. More »
Why Creating Better Jobs and Improving Work Matters
By: Lean Leaper | July 16, 2021
How improving your work environment is vital to improved business outcomes. More »
WLEI: Creating Better Jobs and Better Work: A Podcast with Josh Howell and Sarah Kalloch
By: Lean Enterprise Institute | June 28, 2021
As we slowly emerge from the long pandemic, LEI and colleagues like the Good Jobs Institute are deeply committed to helping produce decent jobs. In this conversation, LEI President Josh Howell spoke with Executive Director Sarah Kalloch of the Good Jobs Institute about ways they are both working to help foster good work. WLEI Host Tom Ehrenfeld moderated this conversation.  Download a transcript of the conversation here.     More »
Creating Better Jobs and Better Work: A WLEI Podcast with Josh Howell and Sarah Kalloch
June 1, 2021
As we slowly emerge from the long pandemic, LEI and colleagues like the Good Jobs Institute are deeply committed to helping produce decent jobs. In this conversation LEI LEI President Josh Howell spoke with Executive Director Sarah Kalloch of the Good Jobs Institute about ways they are both working to help foster good work. WLEI Host Tom Ehrenfeld moderated this conversation. More »
Let's Celebrate Work
By: John Shook | January 14, 2021
Is your work meaningful or menial? LEI Senior Advisor John Shook challenges us to aim to make all work meaningful by building our businesses based on the work itself and prioritizing the means over the ends. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 8: Processing
By: Art Smalley | December 11, 2020
Understand the two aspects of the waste that requires a careful understanding of customer requirements. Watch the final part of an eight-part series focusing on the seven classic forms of waste from the Toyota Production System by Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 7: Defects
By: Art Smalley | December 4, 2020
Though he's calling the waste of defects the sixth waste in this series, Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated, says you should consider it the first--or worst--form of waste in some situations. Learn when and why. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 6: Waiting
By: Art Smalley | November 13, 2020
Learn how to spot what Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated, thinks is the most annoying form of waste. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 5: Motion
By: Art Smalley | November 6, 2020
Watch this quick tutorial about how to see the waste of motion in your work, from Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 4: Excess Conveyance
By: Art Smalley | October 30, 2020
Learn the finer points of how to eliminate the waste of excess conveyance from your work process from Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 2: Overproduction
By: Lean Leaper | October 16, 2020
Take a closer look at and gain an in-depth understanding of the waste overproduction with Art of Lean, Incorporated President Art Smalley. More »
WLEI: Practicing Steady Work for Lean Value with Karen Gaudet
By: Lean Enterprise Institute | April 27, 2020
"What is the role of a lean leader, and what is the humbling daily work that goes into this task? How can one humbly assume the very ambitious role of leading others in earnest lean practice? And how does one prepare for heroic actions by creating a steady cadence of productive daily habits? These are the types of questions explored by Karen Gaudet in her new LEI book titled Steady Work. Tune in to her podcast with Tom Ehrenfeld here.  "  More »
How A Virtual Obeya Can Enable Effective Teamwork
By: Katrina Appell | April 9, 2020
With the pandemic forcing organizations to adapt to new, socially distant working arrangements, we need to create systems that help people collaborate to solve problems, says Katrina Appell. Here she details effective ways to use a virtual obeyas. More »
New Book Explains How to Create “Steady Work” in Unsteady Times with Standardized Work Cadences
By: Karen Gaudet and Chet Marchwinski | April 6, 2020
In Steady Work, the new book from the Lean Enterprise Institute, author and former Starbucks’ Regional Manager Karen Gaudet offers astute business guidance for turbulent times and a heartfelt personal story about how the continuous improvement operating system revitalized the retailer during the global financial crisis and helped employees in Newtown, CT, get through the worst week of their lives. More »
WLEI: 32. Coachable: A Model Story, Coaching Work Improvement
By: Lean Enterprise Institute | January 27, 2020
As this series continues to explore the implications and dynamic of “coaching” in a business environment, Bryant Sanders models the mindset and techniques for coaching work improvement to develop people. Bryant draws on 26 years Toyota experience to facilitate his coaching techniques with a team in the field leading to a dramatic improvement in the work. He walks us through the story from deciding where to focus, to earning the team’s trust, facilitating reflection solidifying the what and the why and then leveraging one another’s strengths to upskill the team and eliminate difficulty and waste in the work. An excellent More »
Boeing Ex-Executive Alan Mulally Discusses a "Working Together Management System"
By: Josh Howell | January 15, 2020
In this rare and revealing interview, Alan Mulally discusses lean management principles, including: the role of a CEO during a turnaround, how to take a “people-first” approach to leadership, and how to encourage people to share real information – good or bad. More »
Does A Lack Of Physical Inventory Make Office Work “Different”?
By: Ken Eakin | January 10, 2020
While "waste" is easy to see and address in a factory setting, people working in an office environment have just as much to gain from learning how to reduce excess inventory and other forms of waste, says Ken Eakin. More »
The Hard Work of Making Hard Work Easier
By: Mark Reich | December 11, 2019
We persevere by struggling to overcome the challenges of hard work, argues Mark Reich. And, he says it is also our responsibility to challenge individuals, to “invoke struggle” so people think about how to change how the company views frontline work. It is our job to ensure that the lead person struggles to change the culture. More »
Is my crazy new boss right that applying standardized work is the foundation of lean?
By: Michael Ballé | October 7, 2019
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: My new boss is a lean fanatic crazy about standards. He’s created a new team to audit standards and is telling us that applying standardized work is the foundation of lean. It’s creating a lot of resistance, and I don’t know what to make of it. More »
I don’t get kanban -- I don’t work in production so how would it apply to one-off work?
By: Michael Ballé | July 29, 2019
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: I feel that I still don’t get kanban. I don’t work in production, and I fail to see how stock replenishment would apply to one-off work. More »
The Art of Work
By: Jean Cunningham | November 16, 2018
A visit to the Grohmann Museum helped remind Jean Cunningham that when done correctly and consistently, lean starts to reconnect people to work and work to people. Using lean principles and tools helps recreate worker ownership of the work, connection to the customer need, and value creation. More »
Ask Art: Does Lean Really Work in A Non-manufacturing Company?
By: Art Byrne | October 16, 2018
All companies and organizations, whether manufacturing or not, are nothing more than a group of people and a bunch of processes trying to deliver value to a set of customers, says Art Byrne. And lean principles apply to each. To become lean, every company must focus on removing the waste in their current processes in order to deliver more value to the customers. More »
We're working hard on problem solving so why don't I see any improvement in our problem-solving capability?
By: Michael Ballé | September 10, 2018
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: We're working hard on problem solving, asking "why" repeatedly, and looking for root causes, but I'm afraid I fail to see any improvement in our problem-solving capability or why looking for hidden causes should help. More »
What personal qualities should I work on to improve my practice of lean?
By: Ballé, Michael | August 6, 2018
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: What personal qualities should I work on to improve how I practice lean? More »
Is kanban relevant to office work?
By: Michael Balle | March 19, 2018
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: I understand that kanban is an important part of lean, but I work in an office environment, and it’s hard to see how production orders on cardboard cards relate to improving project management – what am I missing? More »
The Lean Farm: Better Food, Productivity, and Profits -- with Less Work
By: Ben Hartman | February 6, 2018
Farming may be the next industry ripe for disruption. For example, Ben Hartman grew up on a 500-acre corn and soybean farm where success meant getting bigger every year – buy a bigger tractor, rent more land, build another grain bin. Today, applying lean principles, Hartman has a one-acre farm that is more productive and profitable than a five-acre spread. More »
What does “separation of human work and machine work” mean?
By: Balle, Michael | November 29, 2017
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: I’ve been trying to learn more about Jidoka and I keep coming across references to “separation of human work and machine work” but I’m not sure what this means – any pointers?  More »
Follow-up Webinar Q&A with Jim Lancaster, Lantech CEO and author of the Work of Management
By: Jim Lancaster | August 7, 2017
"The Real Work of Management" webinar drew an engaged audience that wanted to know more about the daily management system that CEO Jim Lancaster installed when lean continuous improvement efforts stopped delivering great results. We received hundreds of questions, many more than we could address during the hour-long live session. We selected questions that represented the major topics you wanted to know more about for a follow-up Q &A with Jim More »
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