Working Lean – Lessons to be Learned from the World of Manufacturing

Posted on September 20, 2012

View Resources

Newsletter 360

"*" indicates required fields

Jim GrohmanEveryone knows the story of the tortoise and the hare, in which the slow and diligent triumphs over the quick and impulsive. It’s a tale that begs consideration in a marketplace where speed has become paramount (sometimes for it’s own sake) and the negative impact of poor decision-making is exponential on operations.

But the truth is we don’t live in a world that accommodates the slow moving. We live in a world where we must act fast, be agile and—for the most part—make good decisions the first time around. Waste—including wasting time—is a burden we cannot afford to bear.

This is a concept that hasn’t been lost on the manufacturing world. For years, management and product engineers have been streamlining practices at all levels of their operations. The result has been the concept and practice of working “lean,” which means simply that any part of a process that doesn’t add value is wasteful and should be eliminated. This idea has had a clear impact in the production realm, where competitive advantage in the global marketplace is a near-daily live or die proposition, and the impact of waste can present itself quickly and bluntly in the form of millions in unnecessary expenditures and poor products.

Unfortunately, “lean” has been slower to take root in the service arena—and that includes non-profits and event-fundraising organizations. Perhaps that’s because we don’t have metrics that are based on “widget” manufacturing, resulting in a “softness” that some in our community have learned to live with over the years because they deal with services rather than ostensible nuts an bolts. But here’s an ironic and challenging fact: research shows that in the typical manufacturing process there’s 20 percent waste (both qualitative and quantitative), while in the service industry there’s normally around 50 percent of work being done that adds zero value to the client.

I mentioned last month that I had recently attended a seminar where Jim Bandrowski spoke about turning strategies into action. The impact of waste was a significant theme that surfaced during the event. Bandrowski and others like him have been turning up the volume on the need to apply successful waste-elimination processes from the manufacturing world to service firms and non-profits. Indeed, waste-reduction business management strategies like Six Sigma (interestingly a term comes from metrics used to create defect-free products) are increasingly being implemented in our community.

At Event 360 we do our best to look at all the process we’re involved in and continually ask ourselves what adds value to our clients and what does not. We believe this is critical for a service organization because, ultimately, waste is passed through to the client in the form of poor deliverables and high costs—something that our mission prohibits. Waste is simply a concept you can’t afford if you want to accomplish your objectives and stay vital in whatever arena you’re playing in.

For me, the process of waste reduction begins with awareness and ends with implementation. Take some time to research the new discussions that are going on regarding this topic and you’ll find suggestions on how to take steps to reduce complexity, choose valuable projects, and integrate tried and true waste-reduction techniques into your organization. In the end, I think you’ll find that you can move more quickly and efficiently—and that best practices are not always implemented in the slow lane.

“Jim’s Tools of the Trade” blog posts are featured monthly. Vice President, Operations Jim Grohman provides our project teams and managers, as well as our IT group and customer service specialists, leadership and guidance to ensure flawless delivery. A former Major with the United States Marine Corps, Jim is a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is certified as a PMI Project Management Professional.

Don’t know where to start?

We can help with that. From conceptualization to planning, production, and fundraising, we're here to make your peer-to-peer fundraising event a success.