I’m fortunate to work with a group whose primarily objective is to learn about your business, in particular about your supply chain. As a group we’ve conducted discovery sessions for literally hundreds of companies. In many cases the discovery sessions ultimately lead to supply chain improvements that resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of value, new business, excited customers, reduced costs and even promotions among the supply chain group. These discovery sessions can be challenging. Many times it feels like a war as there are barrages of questions launched at the participants.
Much like a doctor you have to ensure you’re asking the right questions and hope your audience can articulate their complex problems in a manner that you can digest them. It may or may not include all stakeholders. Multiple sessions sometimes have to happen to ensure all inputs are gathered. The struggle then becomes making sense of the pages of notes and then confirming that you’ve got it right. Often when confirming you’re findings you’ve missed something in the translation so getting it right can often take some time. Recently a colleague of mine, Carol, took a different approach to discovery. Let’s call it the “Post-It Note Revolution”. Calling it “Value Stream Mapping” was already taken.
Before I continue, many Lean-Six Sigma practitioners will say this is nothing new and I’ll be the first to agree. The Lean folks have been doing this for years. Unfortunately, at least in Supply Chain, what we’ve observed in the hundreds of discovery sessions we’ve conducted is that lean tools for process improvement aren’t as widely used as one would hope or expect. So for approximately $2.99, the price of a package of post it notes, Carol lead a collaborative session involving all stakeholders where they were able to easily map out the current state of key supply chain processes. A highlight was the visual of the finished “post-it note” process which leant itself to consensus on the current state.
Process owners used the post-it notes to document each step along with identifying obvious opportunities for improvement. Every single person in the room had their say and an opportunity to provide input. Carol used some specific “lean brainstorming” techniques to ensure that happened. The visual representation made it easier for the owners to map the processes and much easier for Carol to learn about their business and understand where to take them in the next steps of improving their supply chain. Identifying the problem in a clear, concise method is half the battle. For $2.99 this company is on its way to making a substantial difference in their supply chain. I’m sure the Lean folks reading this are rolling their eyes at us in Supply Chain but better late than never. There are tons of great Lean improvement tools to identifying and reducing waste, typically associated with manufacturing but other groups including Supply Chain should not forget about them. Just imagine adding millions of dollars’ worth of value to your Supply Chain for only $2.99.
Do you have any improvements you’ve made in your Supply Chain using Lean tools and methods? Would you like to experience the “Post-It Note Revolution”? Let us know.
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