I can’t tell you how many times I hear people decide that the best way to implement continuous process improvement is to meticulously document all of their processes — from end to end, in order, starting with the incoming lead and ending with the final punch list and payment.
On the surface, it’s a logical approach that seems to make sense. And yet that approach is almost assuredly doomed.
LEAN is a cultural shift. It’s about looking at the same systems and processes you’ve always used from a different perspective. It’s about using creativity, not more capital, to change the order, or the flow, or to eliminate an unnecessary step — all to make the process easier, better, faster and cheaper. And a successful LEAN initiative is almost always driven by some early, measurable wins that generates momentum, enthusiasm, and frees up time to improve other processes.
When I get the chance to work with a company on process improvement, I like to start where the low-lying fruit. That means recognizing the processes most in need of improvement, starting with those and getting some early successes.
Find the Bottlenecks
Picture your GPS showing where traffic is slow or stopped. Some routes are green, others are orange, and still others are red. If your job was to improve the overall flow of traffic, which roads would you want to fix first? I would want to find those with the greatest congestion that would most benefit from a road improvement, detour, or removing an obstacle. How about you?
So where is the traffic jam in your remodeling process? Is it design? Maybe it’s the sales-to-production handoff. Could it be finishing a job? Wherever the traffic is, that’s where you want to start the process.
With a better flow, you’ll see substantial improvement, generate enthusiasm and momentum. And if it’s years before you get to improving our very best systems, so what?