by Craig Corsi, Lean/Continuous Improvement Expert and Lean Together Facilitator

Before I became a practitioner of lean and continuous improvement methodologies, I was taught concepts during training classes, public seminars, and from participating in team-led kaizen events. At the beginning of these educational opportunities I was introduced to the basics, usually by starting with the definition of what lean means. From there, we needed to understand the difference between value-added and non-value-added activities (waste) and how they relate to processes, people and materials. After distinguishing between these two types of activities, we learned about the different classifications of these non-value-added activities that are commonly known as the 8 Wastes: 1) Defects, 2) Overproduction, 3) Waiting, 4) Not Utilizing Human Talent, 5) Transportation, 6) Inventory, 7) Motion, and 8) Excess Processing. The natural progression at that point was to define each one and discuss examples to become more familiar with what they are and how to easily identify them. The objective was to ’learn how to see‘ waste. To improve anything, you must first identify the activity as a waste. Second, you classify it as one of the eight types. Third, you generate ideas to eliminate, simplify or reduce the waste. Finally, you implement the idea(s) to realize the improvement.  During these sessions or events, the training materials and presentation of them, were very prescribed and the learning environment quite formal. Depending on the audiences and level of interest, I’d guess that less than 50% of the room would really grasp and understand the concepts and actually use them.

I share this because, in my article last month about the Paul Akers’ book, 2 Second Lean, I referenced his motto regarding his approach to lean as “keep it simple and have fun”. He introduces a refreshing, informal way to identify and eliminate waste in which everyone can grasp and understand. He says, “Lean is about fixing what bugs you”. He teaches his new Fast Cap employees lean by starting with that very simple concept. People can understand and identify with all the things in their lives that bug them, both at home and at work. When lean concepts can be reduced to simple ideas, everybody wins. As facilitator of NWIRC’s Lean Together Program, incorporating this concept during the very start of the program is important. During the last 4 years of leading the Lean Together programs, companies have been surprised at how much more engaged their employees are and how much more they are willing to share ideas when asking the very simple question, “What bugs you?. Participants typically start off with simple improvements resulting from answers to this question. Just a few actual examples have included: creating a long-handle window blind-pull so an employee doesn’t stand on a desk when needing to shade from the sun, developing a shadow board with sign-out sheet for IT accessories to track equipment, and organizing and labeling hundreds of die into a ‘library’ by size and shape to easily identify and eliminate searching. Starting with small improvements helps to get the creativity flowing, and having all employees make small incremental improvements everyday leads to a big impact for the overall organization.

As we now glide into 2021, consider asking employees, “What bugs you?” They may even have their own ideas of how to improve, but if not, it’s a great opportunity to engage your team to create solutions together.

Side Note: More information about Lean Together™ at