War on Waste

Several years ago the Air Force put out a memo called “War on Waste”. This was an attempt to connect Lean Six Sigma efforts to military combat; it never really caught on and eventually faded away…except in my mind!

Military officer are taught about war and strategy during their formal training. I’d like to point out one lesson in particular; it’s called the “principles of war”. These principles have been proven correct time and time again…obey them and military success is yours, disregard them to your demise. Originally outlined by Major General Karl Von Clausewitz, a German general who originally listed 10 principles (two more have been added). What is amazing is how these same principles apply to organizations implementing Lean Six Sigma (or any form of change). The waste that exists in work processes, physical & electronic environments and even in the minds of people is our enemy. Like a military commander we must follow the principles of war to be successful in our efforts.

So let’s begin with the first principle: Objective

Principle of Objective: Direct all efforts toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective.

Unfortunately the normal bombs and bullets of military combat are useless against our arch-nemesis…WASTE, we need different weapons for this enemy. We call them “Lean Six Sigma tools”; I prefer calling them weapons. Some tools are used for spotting waste while others are used for killing. During a war on waste we are in a never ending cycle of seeing waste, then destroying it. I know this may sound a bit brutal; but it’s not! It’s down right fun! Once you get the hang of it you’ll want more…trust me.

Great words in the definition of objective: “Defined” “Decisive” “Attainable”…Green Belts will quickly recognize how we use PICK charts, SWOT analysis, SMART action planning and problem statements to develop objective. The objective is so important that if we get it wrong all efforts from that point forward are not value-added. The is step #1 in all strategic planning and problem solving efforts; it’s importance cannot be overstated. It is the first principle of war; I will elaborate on the others in future newsletters.

I encourage you to consider leading a war on waste and to get “basic training” on the weapons and tactics needed to accomplish your objectives. Did I mention the Green Belt course I’m teaching in August. 🙂

See you in class, Erik