Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Finance Kaizen

This week we are working outside the traditional lean domain of manufacturing to apply the lean principles in our finance area on a small process improvement. Transactional work processes are different from manufacturing processes however the lean principles and problem solving approach remain constant.

After our initial kaizen training session, our team started talking solutions within 8 minutes of collecting data on the current state. Some human tendencies are hard to change. It took a little redirecting to get the team to focus only on understanding the current state before jumping to solutions. And it came as no surprise either that we learned many new aspects and details about our problem to consider before we think in terms of countermeasures.

Some of the discoveries so far include:
Incomplete information
Information is inconsistent in format
Information passes through several hands
We have to hunt and search for information
Information spends more time idle than actual processing time
Batch processes are firmly entrenched in the finance world

But probably the most enlightened discovery by our kaizen team is the fact this particular finance process should be thought of as non-valued added from our paying customer’s point of view.

Our lean journey in the corporate office has begun.


Anonymous said...

In your post you mention people coming up with solutions right off the bat. I was wondering what is a good way to deal with these suggestions without discouraging the people giving them. It seems like it would be easy to just shoot down a solution. It seems like it would be east to put the person making the suggestion off of participating in the future. Any thoughts?


Mike Wroblewski said...

Hi Jon,

Excellent question! We put any suggestions or potential solutions in a "Parking Lot" list written on a whiteboard or flip chart until after we complete our current state analysis. We don't want to lose any thoughts or ideas and certainly don't want to discourage people.

Anonymous said...


I agree with Mike on the Parking Lot.

What I often do is positively acknowledge the team's desire to fix the problems - this is certainly admirable, then re-emphasize to them that this early in the process we need to keep probing to understand the issues, analyze the root causes, then start with our solution approach. They'll get better solutions with more thorough analysis. Since we use the A3 format where I work I'll often point to our visually noted areas of the A3 on our walls and assure them that we'll get to the solutions but to be patient.

Best of success to you!