Sherlock Holmes: Lean Detective

Sherlock Holmes with his pipe and long coat would have looked a bit out of place at a manufacturing facility but he would have made a fantastic Lean manager. Like Taiichi Ohno, Shigeo Shingo and W. Edwards Deming, Sherlock made a name for himself by observing.

“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”  -A Scandal in Bohemia

The key to reducing waste is observation, but it is not enough to simply look. You must learn how to see waste. When you, or a coworker is conducting a task, actually examine the operation. How much do they move while doing the task? Could something be done ahead of time to speed up the process? Once you begin questioning these basics, you can become a detective of waste!

“There is nothing like first-hand evidence.”  -A Study in Scarlet

Sherlock understood that as a manager, you cannot rely on reports and second-hand impressions, you must get the information straight from the source. For a manager, this means going to the Gemba, the place where the work occurs. Take daily Gemba walks, interact with your workers and observe first hand if standards are being carried out. By seeing with your own eyes, you build a body of information by which you can assess your progress.

“I cannot live without brain-work. What else is there to live for?”  -The Sign of Four

Sherlock believed that the most powerful tool available to each and every person was the creative and analytical capabilities of their mind. It is never enough to just contribute your time and labor, you must apply your creative intellect to whatever task is set before you. This is at the heart of the true implementation of Lean.

While our favorite fictional detective might not be able to solve the mysteries of your facilities, you can take a page out of his book and become a Lean detective!

March 3, 2015

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