People + Process = Performance

3 Tips on How to Get the Most Out of L.E.S.S. (Focus on continuous improvement)


(If you’re a regular reader of my newsletter or have had the opportunity to work with us, you are very familiar with our Do More With L.E.S.S. (Lean, Ergonomics, Six Sigma and Systems Thinking) strategy and approach to problem solving and increasing organizational performance.  Today I want to give you the top 3 ways of getting the most out of L.E.S.S.)

Many companies use their own “lingo” to describe lean processes, six sigma calculations and ergonomic tools but whatever you call it, L.E.S.S. should be about continuous improvement—of the humans and work system.  The exact tools may vary and companies will adjust the processes to fit their specific business and strategy.  Consider these 3 tips as the way to get the most out of L.E.S.S.

1.      L.E.S.S., Explained

Whenever I’m asked about L.E.S.S., I like to explain it like this:  “We’re going to put your processes on a lifestyle change (no diets here as they are all too often temporary and of limited success).  We’re going to help you do things better, quicker, faster, cheaper while at the same time improve your employee performance, health and morale.”

It’s about being able to help people do things smarter and more intuitively so they have more time on their hands to do the things they like with greater clarity and less frustration.

2.      Set Goals

Say you want to get started on L.E.S.S. or want to integrate your currently siloed Lean, Ergonomics, Six Sigma programs.  The first you need to do is to set a destination—where do you want to go?  A vision may be helpful but having a specific place (outcome) in mind is very important.  For example, say I want to go on a vacation “out West”.  Well, that sounds fine but it’s vague and no one can really tell me how to do that.  However, if I say I want to take a vacation to “Jasper, Alberta, Canada and hike the Ice Age Trail” you know exactly what I have in mind and can tell how to get there.  In the same way, organizations should know exactly what they want to accomplish.

The secret to success is having an end goal.  Otherwise you have at your disposal all kinds of tools, principles and methods to improve your operations but it’s like have a 1000 piece puzzle in a jumbled mess without a picture—you may end up with the right picture but it’ll take a really long time.  However, if I give you a picture you will able to put all the pieces together must faster, with better quality, less frustration and wasted energy.

L.E.S.S. is about achieving operational excellence in all three components—people, systems and equipment.  It’s not only about making things efficient or making things safe or making things without error.  Doing one or those is good but in and of itself won’t necessarily lead to organizational success and business growth.

3.      Give It a Try

This is an obvious step—what’s important hear is to keep an open mind.  Many companies have “done lean” and it failed or petered out.  Or some may think this L.E.S.S. thing will create more headaches and be a fad that gone in 6 months.  L.E.S.S. fundamentally is working with people within your organization to find the best solutions for your problems.  Initially it’s primarily reactive but over time it should become proactive, i.e. you look for potential problems.  L.E.S.S. is about focusing on the people—how can you optimize them, how can you make the job easier for everybody.  What extra, “wasteful” work is being done that causes headaches and stress but doesn’t lead to solutions or add to the bottom line. 

Getting rid of the “wasteful” work is hard work. Nobody likes to do more steps than necessary.  By using L.E.S.S., organizations are able to streamline processes and make them intuitive to the workers—both the body and brain.  If you are struggling to see the solution one tip would be to record the process (be sure to include meetings that occur as part of the process.  You’d be surprised at how much waste and frustration comes from meetings).  You’re not doing this to assess each worker’s performance; you’re assessing the way the job is designed.  You and they will see that they are doing the best they can with the broken processes they have been given.  The video is used to see the problems, the wasted steps and its effect on worker performance.  There’s nothing like a mirror to show you all of the spots and blemishes.

What Are You Waiting For?

Perhaps Doing More With L.E.S.S. sounds good but there isn’t a big push to get started or not everyone is willing to join the same sandbox.  As an organization, why would you wait until you’re losing money to start eliminating inefficiencies, errors, injuries and absenteeism?  As an individual working within an organization, why would you want to keep having the same headaches and frustration dealing with the same fires each and every day?  L.E.S.S. is an initiative that drives profits by focusing on people and processes.  It becomes a part of everything you do.