Don’t Just Do Something

Don’t Just Do Something

The Ohno Circle is an exercise created by Japanese quality manufacturing pioneer, Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, which became Lean Manufacturing in the U.S. (See previous PrimeMover article.)

Ohno stationed his managers inside of a small diameter circle drawn on the shop floor. They had a simple assignment: watch.

Essentially, pay attention over a period of part of a day to what is happening in that part of the plant. The goal is to see the elements of the process that are wasteful – and determine how to eliminate them.

American managers have a bias for action: go get something done. So, the Ohno Circle is pretty alien to their training, instincts and tradition. Typically, they initially have a hard time standing still without having “something” to do. After a while, they realize that they have plenty to do: watch and think. And, that it isn’t easy. In fact, it is a challenging task.

They find they see – really see – things that they have looked at and overlooked many times in the past.

They think about the “why” behind the way things are done, frequently discovering there is no real logic for it – it’s just how it “is.”

Then, they have something that can be improved – and a mandate to improve it, eliminating waste, reducing costs and increasing productivity.

Sometimes, you have to just stand still to make any significant progress.

Another elegantly simple, but effective, quality exercise is called Five S.

A Five S activity is best described as good housekeeping! Central to its theme is the idea that a clean and orderly work environment is a more efficient, uplifting and safer environment! The Five S’s are:

  • Sort (get rid of clutter)
  • Simplify (reduce duplicates)
  • Standardize (make it consistent)
  • Shine (keep it clean)
  • Sustain (maintain the cleanliness)

Both of these exercises essentially free in that there are no tools to buy, no fancy equipment to use, no big investment in anything other than concentration and imagination.

So, get ready to change your world. Just by paying attention in different ways.

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