To effectively and efficiently manage a process, one needs “end to end visibility”.  Too many times, we “compartmentalize” ourselves, do our own little piece, and toss it over the wall to the next person, without seeing the full process or understanding the objective.

I once lead restructuring in one of Celanese’s largest manufacturing facilities. It involved five individuals, three from the same department that had no idea what the other was doing.  Each week, one individual collected quarters from the restrooms (about $10 worth) put them in a bag and handed the bag to the next individual, who wrapped the coins.  The wrapped quarters were then handed to the next individual who drove the wrapped quarters 6 miles (one way) to the bank to exchange them for “paper money.”  The paper money was then handed to the person in petty cash.

Collectively these five people spent over 200 hours a year (about 30 days per year) collecting quarters. None of which knew what the other was doing.  Our solution was to allow the external janitorial service keep the quarters (about $500 per year) and credit our monthly invoice.  This effort enabled the team to focus on more value-added processes.

This simple story should beg the questions we all must ask ourselves when we want to get more value and more productivity:  1) Why are we doing this?   2) What happens if we stop?  3) Can the process be automated, done less frequently, or eliminated entirely?