Everyday Lean: 3:30 AM


I know we have a winner in our May contest (or, see below). I was up at 3:30 AM yesterday to go do some lean work at a hospital.

I borrowed a lean trick that my wife, a former road-warrior consultant, taught me. It's a trick I should have figured out on my own, applying the lean concept of external setup.

Traditionally, machine “setup” was done without much regard to time. You would shut the machine down and then start gathering tools, etc.

External setup is the idea that you take as much of that work as possible and make it “external”, doing it “outside” of the machine downtime. In my simple example here, you can do many things, such as gathering tools, while the machine is still running. That way, you minimize the amount of time that the machine is down. Anything that MUST be done during downtime is called “internal” setup. Core lean concept.

To maximize my sleep, I “set up” my hotel room and bathroom at 9:30 PM the night before, when I had more energy than I would have at 3:30 AM.

  • Prepped the in-room coffee maker with water and put the filer in the basket. Just had to hit “start”.
  • Prepped the bathroom: Shampoo and soap in shower, bath mat on floor, toothbrush, razor, etc. all set up on the counter, not in my bag.
  • Prepped clothes: Clothes out and ready to put on (still on the hangers though, one piece of setup that could have been made external

I might have saved five minutes, max. But still, my morning was easier and faster than it would have been otherwise. External setup. Faster morning. Everyday lean.

Here is an article on setup from our friend, Norm Bodek. You can visit his blog here.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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