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How to focus on flow of work, not waste reduction

This might seem like a funny question to ask: How to focus on flow of work, not waste reduction. Because-not only is waste reduction all the rage these days, usually when you're reducing waste you're increasing work as well. But notice how the question was worded. It's not asking that you not think about waste, or that you focus on the amount of work being done, or the fruits of that work-it's talking about flow of work.
What is flow? Flow means continual movement. Flow means continual, smooth movement. Streams flow. Air flows. Music flows. And so on. It's this idea of an element moving on and on, unimpeded, unstoppable, and-undestructive. And that's the idea of the ideal business, right? It moves like clockwork, it's as natural as the air, it's always going forward-but it's not wasting anything, hurting anybody.
If you get too focused on waste reduction, you could begin slipping in other areas. If you think that Stan uses to much paper, and you begin focusing on how much paper Stan is using everyday, soon Stan will get so paranoid that he'll stop producing altogether. But you need Stan, Stan is useful. It's better, then, to focus on the flow of Stan's work than on how much paper he's wasting. Is it important that Sam's wasting paper? Sure it is, it's costing the company money and it's bad for the environment. It's only a question of how you approach the problem, negatively or positively. A stream, the air, music-these things are positive. They're creative, they don't harm.

You might go to Stan and say, Stan, you're one of the team. You're one of our best. In fact, you're so good that we'd like to think of ways to make you even better. We've noticed that you go through a lot of paper when thinking of ideas and things. How can we help you [remember! you're not there to talk about the paper] feel more comfortable, feel more at east, feel like you can come up with your ideas without the sort of agitation that causes you to be crumpling paper all the time?
Now, Stan may say something as simple as, I'm having troubles at home and it's hard to concentrate. This is a personal matter, not one that the company can do a lot about. It's between Stan and his wife. But what the company can do is relieve stress from Stan in whatever way it can. Maybe Stan needs a little time off. Maybe Stan needs a little longer lunch break. Maybe Stan needs-whatever. You figure out. But if you can figure something out that has Sam both working better than ever and not wasting all that paper, you've struck gold. This is what it means to focus on the flow of work and not on waste reduction.
If you had gone to Sam and simply complained about the amount of paper being used, you might have rendered Sam ineffective altogether. Instead, you tried to find out just why Stan was balling up that paper and hurling it across the room with loud cries of anguish and tears of mighty regret.
Focusing on the flow of work will inevitably lead to waste reduction. The smoother a place flows, the less it works. The smoother the streambed, the faster the water will flow, the more water will flow down it. Think of your company as a streambed. How can you make it flow better? Let's say part of the stream is rushing over the edge of the bank and dribbling down into the forest, a complete waste of water. Investigate. Don't just stand over the pool of wasted water shaking your heads. Find out what's causing the stream to make that leap. If there's a particularly large rock right at that spot, dig out the rock. The stream will move smoothly forward again, problem solved.

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