Continuous Improvement, Reducing Waste

When projects fall behind and time to market appears to slow down, what does your organization say the cause is? Does it result in the need for more resources? Does more process get introduced?

In lean thinking, continuous improvement is one of the main points of focus. Understanding the concepts of waste in an organization and working toward reducing them at all times is critical to making an organization be more lean and agile. In many cases, needing more people is not the issue. The root causes lie in the waste that continues to grow with the organization.

Here are non-value-adding actions as shown in the book, Scaling Lean and Agile Development, by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde:

  1. Overproduction of features, or of elements ahead of the next step; duplication
  2. Waiting, delay
  3. Hand-off, conveyance, moving
  4. Extra processing (includes extra processes), relearning, reinvention
  5. Partially done work, work in progress (WIP)
  6. Task switching, motion between tasks; interrupt-based multitasking
  7. Defects, testing and correction after creation of the product
  8. Under-realizing people’s potential an varied skill, insight, ideas, suggestions
  9. Knowledge and information scatter or loss
  10. Wishful thinking (for example, that plans, estimates, and specifications are correct)

If you are in any position, try taking some time to inspect and reflect on the above before you make an assumption on the root causes affecting your project’s delivery.

Some things to try exposing and improving the above include:

  • Implementing Kanban for your flow of work to capture waiting, hand-offs, WIP, etc.
  • Implement a framework that is light and similar to Scrum to show problems and continuously improve through retrospectives
  • Get a centralized wiki for your organization and teams such as Confluence to keep documentation needed in one place
  • Sit with your customers and understand what they truly need and want (Pareto Principle) to avoid features that are not needed

Overall, vast amounts of money are spent on waste by organizations.  Imagine how much an organization could save and improve by implementing a continuous improvement mindset by focusing on reducing waste in all areas.

What are the biggest areas of waste in your organization? What have you tried to reduce waste in your organization?

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