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  • Writer's pictureLorenzo Colombani

What’s Lean Anyway? Part 2 (in 3 min or less)

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Lean in practice


Last week, we saw Lean in theory. This week, let's look at practical examples.


The benefits of lean are undeniable. Yet, short of real-life examples, it's hard to picture. Worst, lean-adopters such as myself generally don’t quantify the benefits it has brought us because, well, we see it works and convincing others is not very lean (takes time, yields little benefits). So it’s a hard sell.


First, history. Toyota has been branded as one of the early designers of lean thinking, but Ford’s assembly lines or Gutenberg‘s movable-type printing press fit could be credited just as much. They had a common desire of scaling up production by making less effort. Toyota scaled up production time, cut down industrial mistakes, and sold more goods. Gutenberg's press scaled up knowledge diffusion.


Hence, today’s tip are simple. If you want to try Lean, start by experimenting small. See how you like it. Repeat. Here are a few ideas, from home to business:


  • Designate a place where you put down and store everything you need when you go out (keys, safety masks, sunglasses, credit cards and whatnot). Always make sure to put those things in the same place (follow the mantra: a place for everything, and everything in its place). Lots of people do that. Few do it consistently. Did you go online, got your credit card out of your wallet to buy something? If yes, once you're done with your purchase, put the card back in the wallet immediately. See how it changes your daily routine.

  • Get rid of everything in your bathroom you don’t use every single day such as first aid kits, old lotion bottles, etc. Put it away for the duration of the exercize. Then bring back only that you do use every single day (toothbrush, soap, towel, etc.). Find a place for them. After use, always put back the items in their designated area*. See if and how it changes your daily routine.

  • The container is the limit**. Following up on the "Get rid of everything" exercize, slowly bring back your remaining stuff in the bathroom (first aid kit, etc.). Prioritize items by frequency of use (except for the first aid kit, which should of course be easily accessible). For instance, you really don't need these old cough drops next to your hairbrush. So keep them out for now. Once you have filled the room up to a 60% capacity (rule of thumb), stop. Everything that yo haven't managed to fit in should stay out. Do not try to stuff everything in. Dana K. White provides a useful tip: if you were a tenant renting that space, then imagine following that simple decision-making rule: "how much space does that stuff occupy; how much am I paying to rent this space each month; so I'm paying 50€ / $50 per month just to keep that old lotion here?". That's right. One month on the shelves for your old lotion bottles costs more than several new bottles of lotions. Excess stuff should go to a hidden storage space, or the trash (e.g. for those very old lotion bottles), or basically anywhere they don't take up useful space. See how it speeds up your daily routine and gives you a sense of ownership of your space.

  • Redundancy: this one is counterintuitive, because you actually need more stuff. But it works. If you know you might need scissors in the kitchen, at your desk for home office and in the bathroom, get three pairs of scissors. Put one in each room (and designate a place for it, where you always put it back after use). I guarantee you’ll never spend another second wondering where the he*k are these scissors when I need them. Still apply the container limit rule (see previous point), though. I've also done that at work. Since my computer needs a pretty heavy power adapter, and since I need to take my computer home everyday (in case of surprise remote working!), I bought another, cheap adapter that I leave at work. Now, I never have to think about packing it when I leave home in the morning. Again, test and see how it changes things for you. See if you like it.


Feel free to experiment with whatever else comes to mind. If you‘re not convinced Lean is worth implementing by then, hopefully you had fun experimenting. If are you convinced, well, enjoy and keep doing it. And if you need more advanced advice, I am here to guide you further in business or life. And you’ll get more time to spend on fun, less on work.





 

* I bought two easy-install hooks online, put them up on my wall, right next to the mirror and sink where I brush my teeth and go about my daily routine. I hanged the satchel where I keep my cleaning products on one hook, and my hairdryer on the other. How did that change my life? I’ve observed that many people tend to keep their hairdryer in a drawer, take it out every morning, plug it in, use it, unplug it and put it back in the drawer. "What a waste of time", I think for myself. Mine is constantly plugged, doesn’t take up room at all since it’s literally hanging on the wall, and I spend exactly 0 time setting it up and putting it away whenever I use it. I just have to hang it back when I’m finished. It’s always there, ready for use. As for the satchel? It contains all the items I need for my morning routine (toothbrush and paste, cologne, etc.), but only those items (no painkillers or meds in there). Hence, I also spend 0 time everyday sorting out what I need from what I don’t for my routine (such as over-the-counter painkillers, which have nothing to do with me getting ready for work except perhaps on those days I know are going to be very long days).


** That's a rule I extracted from Dana K. White's Decluttering at the Speed of Life.







 

* * I bought two easy-installing hooks online, put them up on my wall, right next to the mirror and sink where I brush my teeth and go about my daily routine. I hanged the satchel where I keep my cleaning products on one hook, and my hairdryer on the other. How did that change my life? I’ve observed that many people tend to keep their hairdryer in a drawer, take it out every morning, plug it, use it, unplug it and put it back. Sometimes I hear myself screaming “What a waste of time” from the inside. Mine is constantly plugged, doesn’t take up room at all since it’s literally on the wall, and I spend exactly 0 time setting it up and putting it away whenever I use it. I just have to hang it back when I’m finished. It’s always there, ready for use. As for the satchel? It contains all the items I need for my morning routine (toothbrush and paste, cologne, etc.), but only those items. Hence, I also spend 0 time everyday sorting what I need from what I don’t for my routine (such as over-the-counter painkillers, which have nothing to do with me getting ready for work except perhaps on those days I know are going to be very long days).



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