July 28, 2014

Lean for Life – Value, Overproduction Waste and the Triple Constraint Model at Work

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In my last post, I spent some time considering the ways in which the Lean Principle of ‘Value’ can be applied in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and enjoyment of our day-to-day lives.

Given that most of our day-to-day lives include some time in an office (perhaps most of our time!), and since Lean started in/is most often applied in the business world, it’s only natural to continue ‘Lean for Life’ at the office.

As we’ve discussed, Lean is applied in order to reduce the waste in/increase the value of business processes.  Since there is plenty written about the application of Lean for improving manufacturing and back-office operations, I wanted to focus my attention more from a professional development perspective…that is, how can we use Lean to improve our actual and perceived performance at work?

Value is the Guiding Principle (again)

Just as the most successful Lean organizations are singularly focused on the definition and delivery of value to their customers, the most successful employees are those who understand what their bosses/internal ‘customers’ value and relentlessly focus their effort and attention on delivering just that.

The Lean Waste of ‘Overproduction’

Let’s unpack the last part of that previous sentence…I’ll repeat it to emphasize the point…’focus their effort and attention on delivering just that.’  Delivering just that…no more and no less.

So often we read in management or personal development books that we should look to exceed expectations or to go ‘above and beyond’ for our bosses or customer.  But do our customers truly value all the ‘extra’ that you’ve provided if you’re no longer delivering exactly what they asked for?

Bob Champagne, at Performance Perspectives, recently wrote about this topic from a Customer Service perspective.  He asks, ‘To Meet or Exceed Expectations?’

As he also suggests in the title to his post, ‘the answer may surprise you’…Lean practitioners will, without hesitation, say ‘meet expectations.’  Exceeding customer requirements by going ‘above and beyond’ is waste, especially if it detracts from the delivery of the core requirements!

More specifically, it’s the waste of overproduction.  Lean identifies an additional six (+1) wastes, beyond overproduction, which I’ll be sure to discuss in an upcoming Lean for Life post.

Consultants, contractors, freelancers and project managers understand this concept all too well.  While it might feel good to over-deliver for your client, the truth is that they likely aren’t willing to pay for the ‘extras’…they’re willing to pay for the scope that they agreed to initially…so the best result, for all parties involved, is to deliver to expectations, on time and on budget.

The ‘Triple Constraint Model’

If you’re intent on ‘over-delivering,’ keep the below diagram in mind (the ‘Triple Constraint Model’).  A successful employee or project delivers on three components…scope, time and cost.

To be successful, any ‘over-delivery’ in one area must be balanced by the other areas…

  • If you exceed scope expectations…the baseline scope requirements must be flawlessly delivered and must be both on-budget and on-schedule.
  • If you deliver only the agreed upon scope, to be most effective (or to ‘over-deliver’), you must come in either under-budget or ahead of schedule (or both).
  • Lastly, coming in under-budget and ahead of schedule can’t come at the expense of delivering fully on the baseline scope requirements.

Keep these concepts in mind – the Lean waste of overproduction and the ‘Triple Constraints Model’ and you’ll be Lean for Life in the office!

An Aside on Non-Value-Added Tasks and Career Progression

To concede to a common comment on this topic…without a doubt, your bosses/internal ‘customers’ will value something which you find to be non-value-add…the task is manually intensive, menial or redundant, etc.  Since failing to deliver on a request from our boss is rarely the path to success at the office, our focus should then be to limit the pain of such non-value-add tasks for ourselves and, more importantly, to find/communicate new ways to complete the task (or new tasks) which are more valuable (e.g., are more analytical, etc.) for our bosses.

Secondly, upon a quick read through this piece, you might come away thinking that I’m advocating for a model where employees mindlessly toil away at the directives of their bosses, without considering their own professional development or career progression.

To be certain, such a ‘heads-down’ approach to your work won’t get you very far, but this is where the concept of defining your personal value/mission/vision (as discussed in the last post) comes into play.

With a clear idea of where you’d like to develop your career, you can work to understand how that aligns with what your boss values and communicate how you’d like to enhance/broaden/change your value proposition over time, such that you’re able to reach your goals and aren’t stuck doing the same thing (albeit perhaps increasingly well) for years on end.  To the extent that your goals and those of your boss are incongruous, this provides you with an understanding in advance that perhaps you should consider different opportunities.

To summarize, the first Lean Principle (Value) should be at the core of all that we do…both at home and in the office.  The personal and professional benefits are significant!

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