Get LEAN: Start by Finding Your Traffic Backups

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.

Start Small

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?

Ep.47: An Introduction to LEAN with Doug Howard

Today we’re talking about LEAN in Production. Doug Howard has been helping remodeling companies see how they can make their processes better, cut wasted effort, and streamline their systems for better profits.

In this episode, Doug talks to Tim and Steve about what it can do for your company — especially in Production.

Doug Howard, RA’s director of consulting services, is an entrepreneur, government official and small business consultant with more than 25 years of experience in leading organizations and assisting his client companies.

LEAN is the idea of having principles and practices to fuel continuous improvement.

One of the best things about LEAN is how clear and simple the concepts are to understand — it works as well for small- to medium-sized companies as it does for huge global enterprises. Doug talks about getting from your current state to your future state with fewer steps in your processes, and where to start, including:

  • The Eight Wastes, and how to eliminate them
  • How to apply the Five Whys to Production to find the root cause
  • Addressing the workplace with the Five Ss
  • How LEAN works with the Zero Punch List concept
  • How it improves the customer experience
  • Why LEAN is like a GPS
  • Involving your subs in the process
  • Conditioning your thought process for the long haul
  • And more …

Including Tim’s interpretation of what LEAN stands for. You’ll learn how to build a system that fits your business.

Want to Get LEAN? Online LEAN Course Enrolling Now

Improve Your Profits & Grow Your Business by Mastering Continuous Improvement Through LEAN – This class is designed for you to get the knowledge, tools, hands-on experience and planning processes to leave ready to begin a LEAN effort at your company and the support to get rolling in the first 90 days.
Click Here for More Information >>

What’s on Your Mind?

If you have an idea for a guest or topic for the show, let Tim know at

Listen to Episode 47 >>

[LEAN Blog Post] Start Small, Get LEAN

We are excited to launch a blog dedicated specifically to the world of LEAN Process Improvement for remodeling companies. Doug Howard, Director of Consulting for Remodelers Advantage, will continue to bring you timely and critical information about this segment of our industry. Today’s PowerTip is a re-post from Doug’s most recent blog post.


One of the reasons I like LEAN for continuous process improvement is that it can be an effort that starts small, has early success, builds momentum and begins a much larger and longer cultural shift that impacts the entire organization. It can begin in one area, one department and even with one champion. To be successful in the long-term and for the entire organization, there must be the commitment of leadership, training across departments and integration of process improvement in to all parts of the company. But, we can start small.

So, where do we begin?

First, find a process that needs improvement. It should be one that is visible to others and measurable. It is beneficial if it involves more than one person. It does not need to one of the core or most complicated aspects of the work we do.

Let’s say we are interested in looking at our process for pre-qualifying a lead. This is certainly an important process and one that may involve several people. These are the steps we want to follow:

  1. Choose the process you are seeking to improve, in this case – Pre-Qualifying a Lead
  2. Define the beginning and the end of that particular process. For example, it begins when the phone rings or it begins when a lead is generated from the website
  3. Map the existing process (step-by-step) from end to end. For example, step 1: Person A answers the phone, step 2 Person A enters info into CRM, ongoing through the last step (lead is either disqualified or forward to salesperson)
  4. Next, determine the approximate time for each step and then total the number of steps and length of time for the “current state”
  5. Work with those involved in the process to discuss where in the process there are wastes: waiting, errors made that must be corrected, or others.
  6. Brainstorm a list of what could be changed, reordered or eliminated from the process to lessen waste, lessen time between steps, lessen the number of steps and the overall time it will take to complete the process.
  7. Implement those ideas for improvement that will have the biggest impact for the least cost, effort or risk
  8. Measure the new process to be sure it is an improvement
  9. Map the new process, it is now the new “current state” or the way we do things
  10. Choose the next process to improve

This is a basic example of a simple start to LEAN. There is much more to it, it is a long-term cultural shift and it takes a commitment of time and resource to do it successfully. But, we can start small, get some success and go from there.

To learn more about LEAN for Remodeling, visit our website:

To learn more about the LEAN For Remodelers Online Course starting on February 6, 2019, Click Here.