There are more than just eight wastes!
Taiichi Ohno, founder of Toyota Production System

Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System, offered up 10 precepts for continuous improvement that are like the 10 Commandments of lean manufacturing.

If you’re practicing lean in your organization, it is almost a certainty that you have heard of the eight deadly wastes. If you really got it together you talk about them every day with your team and how to reduce or eliminate them. We hear those wise words created by Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo all those years ago, but men like that didn’t stop there. Did you know Taiichi Ohno also had 10 precepts? Kind of like the 10 Commandments of lean. Strangely, they’re not nearly as popular as the eight deadly wastes, but in my humble opinion, they are just as valuable. 

1. First reduce waste. You are a cost. 
So many of us are programmed to reduce cost everywhere in our business that we forget we are a cost. Therefore, we stand a possibility to eliminate ourself. When there is far more to be gained by engaging the people in reducing waste.

2. First say, “I can do it.” And try before everything.
It almost sounds cliché, however, Ohno is not alone on this train of thought. There is much on the power of positive thinking. And even Henry Ford one said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.” I don’t think two of history’s greats saying the exact same thing should be overlooked.

3. The workplace is a teacher. You can find answers only in the workplace.
Just as with so many other Japanese phrases, there are  many layers, and just as many interpretations. However, my take on this one is that you must be out on the shop floor for the answers. So many of us, sitting in board rooms, making decisions amongst our leadership teams, far away from the Gemba, where the work is actually happening. When in reality, that is the only place where we will find the answers we seek. 

4. Do anything immediately. Starting something right now is the only way to win.
We’ve all experienced analysis paralysis at some level. It’s so easy to put off that improvement because you want to make it pretty and nice, and if you just had a few more days, it would be perfect. Or maybe you think implementing the simple version of the improvement isn’t worth it when you can wait a few months and save up to invest in the better version. But how many times when we put something off does it actually come to fruition. Ohno said, “What can you do right now, for free and in your control? Then just do it.”

5. Once you start something, persevere with it. Do not give up until you finish it.
I don’t know anyone who’s not really good at starting things, it must be a human condition. We have all undertaken that renovation that seems to blast off in the beginning, but takes us three years to finally put the baseboards in. And in manufacturing, the reality is the full benefit of an improvement is not realized until it is implemented. A simple Kanban workflow board is a good tool to help ensure you’re not starting too many things, and more importantly, that you’re finishing everything you start.

6. Explain difficult things in an easy-to-understand manner. Repeat things that are easy to understand.
A lot of times the person explaining the workflow, process, or task, is the person who created it. We’ve spent days, weeks or months developing it. We tested it and got it working. Now it comes time to teach it to someone else. It’s really easy to forget that person did not spend the same amount of time you did, They are probably coming into it cold. Make sure you put yourself in their shoes, slow down and remember it took you a while to get it right. Then break it down and explain it in a way that they can understand.

6a. Repeat things that are easy to understand.
We run courses on lean manufacturing, and one person in particular showed up at every training session with his whole team. And I asked him why do you keep coming back for the same training? His answer was simple, and wise, “repeat, repeat, repeat.” If you think you can explain something once, and your audience grabs every last bit of wisdom from that explanation, you were dead wrong. so don’t be afraid to revisit and repeat.

7. Waste is hidden. Do not hide it. Make problems visible.
From the time we are born till the time we die, we are punished for mistakes, so it comes as no surprise when something goes wrong at work. We are very quick to find someone else to blame, to sweep it under the rug and hope no one notices. Mistakes will happen no matter how hard we try. The key is how do we handle them and avoid them in the future. My favorite story about this comes from a friend of mine, Glenn Bostock at Snap Cab manufacturing. They build elevator interiors, and one job went so bad they had to redo the whole thing. The catch was the job got shipped to Hawaii. So, you can imagine the expense to rectify the situation. Glenn, being one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, pulls the guy who made the mistake aside and gave him airplane tickets and accommodation for him and his whole family to spend two weeks in Hawaii, he only asked that while they were there, perhaps he could fix the elevator job. WOW! Now I’m not saying write everybody a check every time there’s a mistake, but create a culture of no fear in admitting when something goes wrong so you can collectively fix the problem to not happen again.  

8. Valueless motions are equal to shortening one’s life. 
This one could be my favorite. It sounds simple at first and then when you let it sink in it is probably one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard. If the average person lives 70 years and 95% of everything that we do is waste, this means we actually spend only 3 1/2 years doing things we love. If that doesn’t blow your hair back, nothing will. How does this apply to your work and your life? It should light a fire under your waste-reduction efforts so you can get back to what you really enjoy.

9. Re-improve what was improved for further improvement.
One of my favorite analogies when it comes to improvements is to imagine you’re in a dark room with a flashlight. You can see only 10 feet in front of you. But as soon as you take one step, you can see a bit farther, another step, a bit farther again. Improvements are the same; the more you can revisit something you have improved, the better it will get. Improvements are not a one-and-done activity.

10. Wisdom is given equally to everybody. The point is whether one can exercise it.
I’m not sure what the secret sauce is to help everyone tap into this one. I think it’s part and parcel with being motivated and having discipline. The reality is no one is coming to save us, no one is going to show up and drop knowledge or bags of money on your doorstep. Anything worth having is like climbing a hill. And never in the history of man has there been a scenario where someone accidentally fell up hill. Wisdom is out there for the taking, but it’s up to us to seek it and more importantly use it. 

Let’s go improve! 


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About the author
Brad Cairns | President/Owner/C-Level

Brad Cairns is the senior principal at Quantum Lean and is dedicated to improving the woodworking industry in North America using lean methods. He also owns Best Damn Doors, a cabinet door manufacturing business in St. Thomas, Ontario. You can reach Brad at 519-494-2883 or [email protected].