029: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

029: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

“The Waiting is the hardest part”

Tom Petty was really on to something here when he wrote those words almost 30 years ago. Side note, wow, that makes me feel old. Other side note, Tom Petty was one of the first concerts I ever attended.

Anyway, back In episode 13, we introduced the concept of the 8 Wastes.

It’s used widely in the Lean Manufacturing arena but is something every business leader should become versed in. The idea is that one of our goals is the elimination of waste in our organization and that those wastes exist in various forms.

Today we’re going to be focusing on the waste of waiting.

When looking at the different types of waste, some are definitely more visible than others. While others lurk more quietly in the shadows.

Waiting is a shadow lurker.

In most businesses, waiting creeps quietly in the dark, while slowly sucking out all the efficiency and productivity.

The first problem with the waste of waiting is, honestly, being able to identify it and label it as waste.

It takes so many forms and is often just accepted as the norm.

Maybe it’s waiting for someone to respond to an email (that should have been a call or an in person conversation or a Slack message).

Maybe it’s waiting to get an answer to a question that could have been answered but the authority to make that call hadn’t been granted to the person doing the waiting.

Maybe it’s waiting on one team member to complete a 2 minute task so that the next team member can complete their 30 second task, when the tasks could have been split up more evenly.

Maybe it’s waiting to read through 500 word essay of an email that could have been summed up in a few lines or not sent out to as many people.

Maybe it’s waiting to hear back from a customer because communication and expectations weren’t nailed down clearly in the beginning or there could have been an easier way to stay in touch with the customer.

There is so much more to dig into with waiting, and I’m sure we will on later episodes.

But how can you start to look deeper at the waste of waiting in your organization today?

The first step is to be able to write down all the steps in a particular process, along with a ballpark for how long they take. Don’t skip a step. Catch everything… including the waiting.

Waiting doesn’t like to be named. It likes to stay anonymous.

The more you can identify waiting in your day-to-day, the more you can begin to question if there is a better way.

So start there today. Pick one workflow or process and map it out… including the time estimates.

When you see waiting time, circle it in red. Pin it down. And begin to reduce or eliminate it, one step at a time.

And then channel your inner Tom Petty, look waiting straight in the eye, and tell it “Don’t do me like that!”

Thanks for listening to today’s episode. You can shoot me an email at shawn@shawnwashburn.com.   Can’t wait to be back with you tomorrow.   I’d love to connect: website / LinkedIn / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

028: What Can Excel Do For You?

028: What Can Excel Do For You?

Everyone can remember those famous words, uttered across the grids and lines of our countryside: “Ask not what you can do for Excel… ask what Excel can do for you!”

OK, so maybe today was the first day those words were uttered, but there is truth there nonetheless.

You, my friend, need to do more asking of Excel.

Now, maybe you aren’t an Excel user. Maybe you use Google Sheets, or Numbers or you sketch everything out on graph paper.

Even with those applications (not sure about the graph paper) there are still ways that your software can help you that you might not be familiar with.

But today is about Excel.


Because Excel rocks. And I know there is a ton that it can do that you maybe never imagined.

You’ve just got to ask.

“Can Excel do calculations?”  Yep

“Can Excel give me dashboards to look at my data?” You bet

“Can Excel go out into your folders, find a specific file you’re searching for, open it up, pull in some data, manipulate that data, close the file, move the file somewhere else and then order you a venti caramel macchiato from Starbucks while simultaneously shooting a text to your mom telling her that you’ll be there on Sunday?”

OK, short answer is most of that but Excel already texted your mom about the get together.

Bottom line is this, actually.

Your time is limited.

I know I’m like this. Sometimes I have time (and the desire) to actually learn a short cut or the extents of what an app can do for me. Other times, I just want to be able to ask someone who knows and then maybe just have them do it.

We do this all the time. You might be willing to watch a youtube video on how to cook a new meal, but when it comes to that clunking sound in your car?… well, you might just leave that to the automotive experts.

When it comes to Excel, I’d love to help you either side of the fence you fall on?

If you want to learn new skills, I’ve got 30 great free videos that can build a good foundation. You can find those at www.shawnwashburn.com/excel

But if you just have some frustrations in your processes or questions about what Excel is capable of, I’d love to help answer those for you as well. Shoot me an email at shawn@shawnwashburn.com or head to the Contact page of my site.

Almost everyone that I’ve taught or created tools for has had the same reaction: I didn’t know it could do that.

So, don’t think any question is bad here. Just ask away.

But if you want a Starbucks… you might want to just stick with the app there 🙂

Thanks for listening to today’s episode. You can shoot me an email at shawn@shawnwashburn.com.   Can’t wait to be back with you tomorrow.   I’d love to connect: website / LinkedIn / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

027: Poka Yoke – The Key To Mistake Proofing

027: Poka Yoke – The Key To Mistake Proofing

Last week we talked about how asking more questions and getting outsider perspectives can help you find communication issues in your processes or workflows.

Today, we’re going to talk about another tip that is equally helpful.

Mistake proofing.

Whereas last week was about communication gaps or opportunities for instructions to be misinterpreted, today is about putting features in place to make it impossible (or seemingly impossible… people ARE creative after all) to do a step wrong.

In the Lean Manufacturing world there is a term for this: Poka Yoke.

Like with a lot of Lean Manufacturing terms (kanban, kaizen, gemba), it is a Japanese term born out of manufacturing techniques they developed years ago.

Even so, I like it because it’s fun to say. In fact, I’m going to say it again. Poka Yoke.

OK, so what does it mean exactly.

To Poka Yoke or mistake proof something is to basically look at any way that it could be done wrong.

Per our conversation last week, sometimes that can happen because the instructions aren’t defined clearly enough.

But if there is a physical step that must take place, Poka Yoke can look like adding something in to make sure that an item is oriented correctly.

In my realm in manufacturing, we see this all the time. If there is a part being put into a die (which is basically blocks of metal that will cut or form the part), if the part is symmetrical or there is otherwise a chance for it to be misoriented, we will try to add something to the die, the part or both to make sure that it can’t be put in wrong.

Another benefit of Poka Yoke, honestly, is efficiency.

Poka Yoke can allow you to take some mental work out of the equation and streamline your processes.

Imagine picking up a block and placing into a slot. It might be simple, but what if the block has to be oriented a certain way each time?

If, every time you pick up a new one and place it in, you have to look at it closely and orient it, you might be adding a ton of time over the course of a shift.

But what if you could add a feature to the block or the slot that would make it both impossible to put in wrong and also easier to identify when you picked it up. Then, you could grab it, know which way it goes without even looking and place it through.

As you look at your own business, I’m sure you already have a ton of Poka Yoke items in place, but you’ve maybe just never thought of them in this way.

But as you find errors happening or mistakes popping up, that’s a great first place to invest some time and see if you can add some mistake proofing into the mix.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode. I’d love to know what you find out about your mistake proofing. You can shoot me an email at shawn@shawnwashburn.com.   Can’t wait to be back with you tomorrow.   I’d love to connect: website / LinkedIn / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

025: I Want It That Way (Tell Me Why)

025: I Want It That Way (Tell Me Why)

How Can You Help Your Team Members Succeed?

When you look at each of the people in your organization, they were brought in to make an impact, to solve problems, to make the best product or deliver the best service to your customers.

There was a reason why you brought them on board.

Hopefully a lot of reasons. Skill set. Experience. Personality. Approachability. Integrity. Curiosity. Dependability.

But sometimes it can feel like they’re just not getting it.

You may have found yourself getting frustrated because you’re just not on the same page. There’s a team member who isn’t giving you the results that you’re looking for.

But I want to suggest that maybe there is something else going on.

Take a step back and think about what you really need from them.

Not how you want them to do it. But what is the end goal?

You see, I’ve seen this happen all the time.

Usually, the person assigned the task is more than capable and more than willing to do it and deliver the end result in flying colors.

But the problem often comes in the how.

Granted, there are plenty of guidelines or procedures or standards that need to be met and kept in order to maintain consistency and quality.

But I think where the issue comes sometimes is when we put unnecessary constraints on the process that limit the creativity of our team members and their ability to get to the end result in a way that fits them best.

Let’s go back to the peanut butter and jelly example from Episode 15.

I could tell you that I want you to make me a PB&J and I could even tell you what type of bread, how much peanut butter and how much jelly.

And you could get to the finish line with a sandwich that met my expectations.

But what if I watched over your shoulder or if I had created such a detailed set of instructions that it just made it super inefficient and frustrating for you.

For example…

Take one piece of bread with your left hand and place it on the left side of the cutting board.

Reach into the silverware drawer with your right hand and grab out a knife.

Place the knife on the cutting board 1″ away from the piece of bread and parallel to the side of the…

OK, you might have just gone ahead and quit by this point. And you might already be asking “can I just do it my way?”

And if I responded “no, unless you place the knife 1″ from the side of the —” I probably would have ended up with a face full of jelly.

So, today, as you think about work that you’ve asked others to do, whether inside or outside of your organization, allow yourself to take a step back and look at what you’re really asking.

Maybe you can give more freedom and creativity in the in between, the process, and allow your people to do what they do best.

You just might surprised at the result.

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, I’d love it if you’d leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts at shawnwashburn.com/apple   Thanks for listening to today’s episode.

024: 1 Simple Tip To Improve Your Processes

024: 1 Simple Tip To Improve Your Processes

What Is a Tip For Improving Your Processes?

As we mentioned back in episode 3, just about everything we do is a process. You could take any aspect of your day and break it down into steps that you might create a work flow for… you know, if you really wanted to do something like that.

At your organization, no doubt… hopefully… you have different standard operating procedures or instructions for different items that happen to make your company work.

But how do you know if they are robust enough? How can you tell if they need some improving or tightening up.

There are plenty of things you could do, but I want to suggest one for simplicity.

Ask questions. Act like an outsider, someone new. Or better yet, take someone new or from a totally different department and have them try to walk through one of your organization’s procedures and ask their own questions.

I’ve found that, often, we maybe aren’t communicating as much as we thought (leaving communication gaps) because we are too close to a process.

Our brains may be filling in those gaps for us, answering questions that we didn’t even ask verbally, and allowing us to get to the right destination.

But when someone new is dropped in there (or we’re able to try to look from a new perspective), we can unearth some potentials for miscommunication, defective parts, letting customers down, and more.

So, here is your challenge for today.

Find a written (or maybe even a verbal) process.

Then, for each step, ask as many questions as you can come up with. EVEN IF YOU ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWERS.

Ask away.

For example:

Step 1. Open the HPE file, fill out lines 1-3 and submit it to the sales department
– What is HPE?
– Where can I find this HPE file?
– Does everyone have access to it or could there be a problem for some?
– Is the file editable?
– Should I save a copy or change the actual file?
– Who should I contact if I have questions?
– How should I submit it to sales? Email, paper, fax, carrier pigeon (I hear those are making a comeback)
– Who specifically in sales should get it?

You get the picture. I’ve found this exercise to be really eye-opening when I’ve done it with procedures on manufacturing lines where I’ve worked. And it has always opened up the potential for a communication gap and given us an opportunity to close that gap before it leads to something bad.

So, good luck with your quest. If you find that you’re not coming up with many questions, grab someone new and have them go through it. I think you’ll find their input invaluable.

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, I’d love it if you’d leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts at shawnwashburn.com/apple   Thanks for listening to today’s episode.