To become efficient as a team, numerous non-value added activities, materials, information, equipment and tools have to be removed from your work area. A team will continuously struggle to perform when their gemba is cluttered with incorrect information, incomplete works orders, too much work-in-progress, and "stuff" laying around. Having "too many" is usually a symptom of a non-Lean environment and this often leads to multiple problems impacting on the process of creating a product or service.
Satisfying the customer (and getting more of them to knock on the door) involves the removal of the unnecessary from your daily work, whether it is in a hospital, a general practice, a production line or a library. Everything that is not needed should be removed from the work area. From a service perspective this includes unnecessary data, files, documentation, and meetings.
However, you can only remove waste once you have identified it. You cannot improve your work if you are unable to see the inefficiencies. Many people within organisations are unable to see that some of their activities and actions do not add value to a product or a service. To improve you need to start with removing the identified waste from your processes. There are numerous KAIZEN™ techniques to assist in identifying inefficiencies, regardless of the industry or sector.
One of the more contentious questions is whether an organisation should remove people in order to become more efficient. It is important to understand that KAIZEN™ is fundamentally about respect for people. Lean is not a methodolgy to reduce head count so the P&L can look more favourable. It is not a mean methodology to identify, blame and shame incompetent employees. Toyota has taught us to highly value the people in our workplaces.
Howbeit, it is sometimes necessary to give people the opportunity to "move on" if they are not supportive of the KAIZEN™ transformation process over a time period. Every day, everywhere, everybody must be improving the way we work by focusing on achieving specific outcomes. If people do not want to align with these overarching goals of the team, it might be better for them and the team, if they "remove" themselves by finding a job that better suits their personal objectives. In this situation the team is more important than the individual. There are numerous examples of sport teams that failed because of a broken team spirit; when one or two individuals became "bigger than the team". But it must be stressed that respect should always underpin this process. The target condition is for the team and the person leaving to be better off and this can be achieved if values of kindness, respect and care is the point of departure.
By applying KAIZEN™ in your work environment you make work easier, customers happier, staff more engaged and improve the quality and delivery of your products and services and thus reducing cost.
When we "remove to improve" it should always be to fulfil the organisational vision and objectives based on respect for people, whether they are customers, suppliers or staff.