Everyday Funny, I mean Lean


Following up our series and contest on “Everyday Lean“, I received a very funny email from my old friend, grad school classmate, fellow lean guy, and frequent blog commenter, “JP.”

With his permission, here are his entries somewhat mocking our Everyday Lean discussion, a topic “best left for us lean geeks to discuss over scotch.” Maybe JP was into the scotch already when he typed this up. It make me chortle in the airport when I first read it.

Lean cutting
A nice lean tool to have is the “pair” of scissors with the rivet that fixes the two scissor blades together. You can now cut paper with one hand instead of having to use each blade independently!

Lean writing
How about those lean ink pens? No more having to take the pen, dip it into the ink well, and then write. The ink well is self-contained so you can go straight to writing!

Lean lighting
I recently moved into a new home that uses lean concepts to improve lighting. The lights actually have switches where you enter the room! No more climbing a stepladder to unscrew the bulb for me!

Obviously, we could go on and on with lean garbage bags, lean indoor plumbing, lean car ignition (no more hand cranks, Mr. Burns!) and so forth.

So the question is, what constitutes “lean” vs. some sort of capital improvement or process improvement that costs a little more (energy or $$) up front and offers a return (energy or $$) on that investment over time? Are they the same thing or does lean go beyond single point improvement? I would hypothesize that lean is a synthesis of improvements like these, supported by the pillars of TPS, that emphasizes flowing value to the customer over “maximizing” internal efficiencies.

Surely there is better wording or a more complete idea out there already, but that's the basic idea. A single invention or device improvement is not “lean”; it's the building block of mankind's progress in both lean and unlean environments.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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