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Waste Management


Ōno Taiichi (大野耐), the Codifier of the Toyota Production System said:

“No one has more trouble than the person who claims to have no trouble. Having no problem is the biggest problem of all”.

This document describes the 3 Lean wastes, defines Kaizen and how to use it to eliminate waste.

The Problem

According to the Chaos Report by the Standish Group in 2020 and 2022, 75% of what we deliver is WASTE!

That is a number that is totally unacceptable in any industry, but IT continues to be plagued by poor waste management.

The Chaos report specifically mentions:

  • 45% of teams deliver backlog items the customer will never or rarely use.

  • 30% of teams deliver zero value items.

Inability to prioritize proliferates useless projects/products.

However, cumbersome processes and unnecessary bureaucracy are a source of considerable waste.

Waste is generated from non-value-added activities.

The 3 Lean Wastes

Muda 無駄 - wastefulness, uselessness, and futility

Muda comes from 2 sources:

Non-value-added activities that are necessary for the end customer, for example, inspection and safety testing.

Non-value-added activities that are unnecessary for the customer. Following is a list:

  • Transport - excess movement of product

  • Inventory - stocks of goods and raw materials

  • Motion - excess movement of machine or people

  • Waiting

  • Overproduction

  • Over-processing

  • Defects

Mura 無駄 - unevenness, non-uniformity, and irregularity

Mura drives and leads to Muda. Example: products need to pass through several workstations during assembly.

When the capacity of one station is greater than the other stations, you will see an accumulation of waste as overproduction, waiting, etc.

Muri 無理 - overburden, unreasonable, uneven

Muri can result from Mura.

Muri also exists when machines or operators are utilized for more than 100% capability to complete a task or in an unsustainable way.

Muri over a period can result in employee absenteeism, illness, and machine breakdowns.

Illustrations of the 3 Lean wastes

We will use some truck and cargo pictures to illustrate the waste.

You can also think of each truck being a team member.

Muri 無理 – overburden

Mura 無駄 - unevenness, non-uniformity, and irregularity

Muda 無駄 – wastefulness

No Muri, Muda, Mura

Lean Wastes and Software Product/Service Development

The following table shows Muda 無駄, Mura 無駄, and Muri 無理in software development:

Avoid Local Optimization

A person or department believes they are making the best decision, but because “best” is a local optimization, in fact it sub-optimizes overall system throughput.

A great example, and quite funny, is the 1952 Episode of I love Lucy titled the Chocolate Factory. You can watch it onYoutube.

Kaizen 改善

Kaizen (改善) is Japanese for good change, often translated as improvement.

Kaizen is a daily process to cut waste, and Everyone MUST have a Kaizen mindset!

Another great quote from Ōno Taiichi (大野耐):

“If you are going to do kaizen continuously you’ve got to assume that things are a mess. Too many people just assume that things are all right the way they are”.

Kaizen (改善) requires experimentation. Only by experimenting you will improve the process.

You experiment to:

  • Test a Theory

  • Learn

  • Minimize Risk

  • Gather feedback

Setting Up the Experiment

To set up an experiment, consider the table below:

The experiment must prove whether the hypothesis was valid.

People often feel frustrated when an experiment fails. That is understandable, but not all experiments will succeed and that is why we must keep the scope small and the duration short.

We learn from both successes and failures and often far more from the failures.

Just always remember that results must be measurable and verifiable.

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