Lean Love Advice: Part 3 of 4

By Mike Lopez

I’ve written about the four rules of Lean before. I have been thinking about how they apply to marriage. To refresh those of you who have not read the Harvard Business Review article by Steve Spear and H. Kent Bowen, I will restate the rules here and share how I see them apply to relationships. This is the third in a four part series to apply each of the four rules.

Other posts in the Series:

  1. Lean Love Advice: Part 1
  2. Lean Love Advice: Part 2
  3. Lean Love Advice: Part 3 – This Post
  4. Lean Love Advice: Part 4

Welcome now to Lean Love Advice: Part 3

Rule 3: The pathway for every product and service must be simple and direct.

What is the product in a relationship? Of course, this is up to the customers of the relationship, but my initial sense is that one of the primary products must be love. I mean, if love is not flowing, that is probably a problem in the relationship. Rule 3 tells us to create simple and direct pathways for product to flow. How do we maximize the flow of love while shunning the wastes? Let’s review the wastes. I’ve learned eight in my training. How do these wastes manifest themselves in relationships and lead to the breakdown of love flow?

  1. Overproduction – Can you love too much? Yes. It is called being “needy” or “clingy?” Everyone needs a break. Even the biggest extrovert needs to be alone sometime. A relationship that produces too much love in the form of constant and unending attention or closeness is overproducing.
  2. Overprocessing – When I think of overprocessing, I think of a system with too many rules and regulations to get any work done. When you have to sign a paper eight times before a product can move out the door, that is overprocessing. In the love arena, overprocessing is making excuses to not express love. In more psychological terms, overprocessing is creating conditions to withhold love as a punishment. You didn’t do the laundry, so he won’t talk to you all night. You dropped a bowl of tomato soup on the rug? Move into the dog house, mister. Couple overprocess all the time. Removing overprocessing is another way to increase positive reinforcement. Rather than look for way to withhold love, a better approach is to find ways to express it.
  3. Motion – Before I married my wife, we lived in two different cities. Having to move back and forth between cities was a nuisance to the relationship. When two people are far apart, it impedes flow.
  4. Transportation – This is the waste of moving the product from supplier to customer. To maximize flow, the movement of love from person to person needs to be minimized. This waste manifests itself in bad communication. When people can directly communicate love, the movement is excruciatingly slow or non-existent from one person to another. It reminds me of the shy teenager that is unable to confess his undying devotion to the girl next door. All you have to do is make some type of unambiguous move and the communication is sent. Without it, no flow, dude.
  5. Injury – When feelings are hurt, that is an injury and it impedes the flow of love.
  6. Waiting – If I made my wife wait two days after our anniversary to give her a card or gift, that would be a big problem. Love needs to be delivered when it is expected by the customer. Note to customer: You must submit a purchase order in order to receive love (see Lean Love Advice: Rule 2).
  7. Defects – If you give your vegetarian husband a steak dinner to show about much you care, that is a defect. The love doesn’t flow. The thought may count, but the full effect of all that effort to show love is impeded.
  8. Inventory – Having an inventory of love is like having an inventory of money. It really doesn’t do you any good in the bank. Spending money is where you derive all benefit from having it. Some die hard savers, like myself, might say that they value the peace of mind. Still, the peace of mind is based on the knowledge that you have it when you need to SPEND it. Love is not like that. If we spend 10,000 units of love, we don’t have any less. There really is no reason to keep inventory. When you feel it, you should immediately spend it.

These eight wastes all impede flow. By removing them from your love behaviors, flow can be increased. Other Lean tools can also be used to increase love flow. For example, let’s look at level loading. By level loading the expression of love, we keep it moving at a regular pace. How do we level load love? Routines and standard work are a good start. This may not be a popular suggestion, but you can make a schedule to express love at defined intervals. We also want to change up the love we express. You need to vary the expressions between dates, flowers, gifts, phone calls, letters, talks, walks, and other activities. That is level loading. How about work cells? To me, this is establishing your routines in ways that maximize the expression of love. In order to do this, you need to obtain value from the customer’s perspective. Once obtained, you can then structure your dates, letters, and other expressions in ways that create maximum love value in the least effort. No sense in having to write 50 letters to get the output of one really good one. I would much rather write 50 really good ones. Try other tools. Lean is a diamond in rough of love.

Next: Rule 4 – Continuous Improvement

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