Lean Family?

Thanks to Kibo Group, CI Solutions. and the Regional Food Bank I have had the opportunity to receive a couple weeks of Lean training recently. I even got a cool certificate!

This training was focused on using Lean Methodology (a systematic method for waste minimization within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity – wikipedia) in a fairly traditional way. The tools, ideas and methods of Lean are pretty fascinating to me, I learned a lot, and I hope I can apply what I learned there within Kibo Group and other organizations I am part of.

But this blog is not about businesses and non-profits. It is about families, and specifically my family. We started writing again because we wanted to try to apply some of the tools we have seen in business, non-profit, strategic planning, Lean, etc. to living intentionally and effectively as a family. So…a few takeaways:

How does our family create value?

Lean is about eliminating waste so that you can effectively create value. In a business, this is pretty easy to measure (money, customer satisfaction). In non-profits, it can be a little bit harder (We changed the world! But did you?). But how does our family create value? Lean is pretty focused on value creation (one of its core tools is called Value Stream Mapping which is used to understand how value is added to a product or service from beginning to end). This pays off for businesses because it forces them to make improvements to areas that truly add value first, which ultimately means that customers get more value.

Value Stream Map

If we want to live our lives intentionally we need to figure out how we create value so we can focus on the things that let us do that more.

Continuous improvement seems perfect for families

Lean is a continuous improvement method. You don’t strive for big dramatic changes, just incremental changes that make small improvements that add up to big changes over time. I think there are times when dramatic and immediate change is needed. However, families seem like a place where it does not take very many small changes to see big results, so continuous improvement is a great way to make changes.

True Lean is pretty out of proportion to a family’s needs.

Lean was derived from the Toyota Production System. Building a car is pretty complicated. The resulting Lean Methodology is an entire system of thinking that is pretty big, complex, and different at every company that uses it. I have no idea how you would actually do all of it as a family. It does not really make sense. That said the core principles and some of the tools are very adaptable, and seem to have pretty easy application. Looking for ways that our family waste time, energy, money, and ideas will certainly help us be more intentional about what we do. Fundamental ideas like PDCA and The Eight Step Problem Solving Process have to be done on purpose but seem like they can be really valuable. Specific tools, like priority matrix, 5S and visual management, are pretty easy to apply in modified forms (Ben and Beth use Lean tools…sounds like some blog post ideas). Some of it seems pretty non-applicable without modifying it beyond recognition, for example, standard work.

Which leads to….

This stuff needs a translator

I have read blogs and books about people who have done fairly direct applications of Lean, Agile, and other similar methodologies into their families. Generally, these are people who practice those processes at work so they know them really well. They get the nuances and so they know how to adapt it to their family situation. This is great, but I think for a lot of us it does not work very well. The trick is to understand the principles and then create new ways of explaining and applying them that make sense to a broad set of people lots of types of families (we have popular psychology, why not popular lean?). I really do believe that there is value for families in the methods of Lean (among other project management/CI/strategic planning frameworks), I hope that over time they are simplified and made accessible to more people.

I am curious, what are some “from the business world” techniques that you are applying to your personal life?

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