Some of my highest impact learnings as a graduate student have been around productivity. One of my professors in the first couple of weeks described getting your MBA as a two-year course in decision making and trade-offs. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve written about what my process has looked like. And today, I thought I’d attempt to pull out three productivity principles that have become apparent to me in the past year.
In the past week, we’ve been deconstructing the idea of “Lean operations” in our Operations Management classes. Lean, for the uninitiated, is a way of operations pioneered by Toyota’s legendary founder Taiichi Ono. It was simply called the “Toyota Production System” until academics from the west re-branded it as “lean.”
Lean embraces the idea of “kaizen,” or continuous improvement. The process behind lean improvement is illustrated in the image above.
The concept illustrated here is that having large amounts of inventory can hide the issues in the system. The best way to understand and fix problems is to gradually lower the inventory level. As soon as we do that, we start bringing problems to light and can begin the process of continuous improvement. It is critical that we don’t bring the water down all at once, as it is impossible to fix everything together. In fact, yesterday’s solution is, very often, today’s problem. So, it has to be one at a time and it has to be continuous.