Often I hear people say “Lean is great, it is common sense practically applied.” I usually ignore this, because you could not say a lot about Lean which is more wrong than this statement.
As a rule of thumb, you could remember the following:
Why is that so? Let’s have a look at my last weekend. I was preparing a Jack-o’-Lantern for the garden together with my son.
Of course, that pumpkin carving exercise is just a very plain example, but here is what I discovered.
- We wanted to dry the seeds. So what I started to do was to remove the seeds from the pulp. Common sense, isn’t it. I wanted to get the seeds so this is what I should do? Wrong! In the middle of that sticky mess I discovered that I need to remove the pulp from the seeds. It’s not very intuitive, but my speed approximately doubled and I could join my son in the fun part of all, the carving.
- When are you finished with a work of art (if I may call a carved pumpkin “art”)? Commons sense is not as strict on that one, but usually you would expect an answer like “When you need not add anything more.” It’s clear, for a carving that won’t work. You are finished when you need not remove anything more. I think this is also a good definition of art in total. A perfect work of art is always one where you cannot remove anything.
- A Jack-o’-Lantern often was intended to keep bad spirits away. You could say that was common sense in parts of the world once. Nowadays it is just a nice decoration. Common sense can become outdated.
Transfer that to the world of Lean and you find more examples where common sense (or common practice) turns out not to be lean.
- Keeping large inventory is common sense. Not Lean.
- Long to-do lists may not be common sense but common practice. Not Lean.
- Pushing finished work to the next work station is common sense. Not Lean.
And so on. Often it is just the best way to do the opposite of common sense to make it Lean.
Tell me, where did common sense fail you the last time?