All The Junk We Cannot See
Updated: Jan 13
A few years ago, when we were in the middle of babies and toddlers, we decided to try to refinance our home. Part of that process was having a complete home appraisal where someone actually comes in and documents your home and then decides how much it’s worth, or at least how much they think it’s worth. We prepared as best we could for this: we cleaned, we organized, we picked up everything we could see. We wanted to present our home in the best light possible, and we were pretty proud of what we’d accomplished.
Once complete, we received a copy of the appraisal report - which was several thousand dollars below what we needed. While the results of the appraisal were disappointing, nothing prepared us for what we saw when we looked at that report. When we looked at the pictures he had taken and finally saw our home through someone else’s eyes, we were shocked. There was stuff EVERYWHERE. Piles we had ceased to see years ago, clutter we had failed to notice for a VERY long time. To be totally honest, it was REALLY embarrassing. It was also eye opening.
How in the world could we not SEE what was sitting right there in front of us?
I set out at that point to try and tackle all the seen and unseen junk in our home. After 5 years, I think I’m finally rounding home on that front.
In retrospect, as I thought about this experience, I realized that this unseeing of junk (or waste) is what the entire Lean process is all about: trying to identify and eliminate waste in manufacturing processes. Just like those piles of clutter around my house, most of this waste becomes so ingrained in what the workers are doing every day that they don’t even notice them anymore, much less identify them as junk. What Lean set out to do was identify and eliminate that junk so that workers can focus on the pieces of the process that do matter and stop wasting time, money and resources on activities that don’t add value to the product.
Sounds pretty easy and straightforward.
So WHY is it so hard to implement? Why has it taken nearly 100 years since Deming and Toyota started developing these tools and processes for some people to understand how to implement them?
It’s because we can’t see the waste unless we train ourselves to look at everything differently. Just like those piles and all the clutter that we had stopped ‘seeing’ in our home, everything we do at home and in business is defined by a process that we’ve done over and over and over again. We are so used to how it ‘is’ that we don’t question ‘why’ we do it that way or if we really ‘should’ do it that way. Every one of these processes have steps and pieces that make no sense or could be done better if they need to be done at all -- steps that are just ‘junk’ getting in our way to being more productive.
However, unless we look at those processes in a different light -- we have no hope of ever seeing the junk that is there.
This is the heart of Lean thinking: Evaluate your process, actually see and acknowledge the non-value-added parts of it, then get rid of those wasteful parts. This makes the entire process smoother, and generally more time efficient. This applies in a factory, in a restaurant, in a department store, in a pet grooming facility, and in our homes and personal lives.
I know you are thinking ‘that’s all fine and good for your manufacturing processes, and maybe even businesses, but I don’t have any processes in my life’.
Sorry friends, but you do. Your home is cleaned by a process, your bills come into your home and are paid with a process, your food is obtained, prepped and eaten with a process, your laundry is completed with a process. I will admit that some of those luckier than I might outsource some if not all of these processes -- but I would bet that the majority of us can’t afford to do that. How you get up and get ready in the morning, how your kids get ready in the morning, how they do their homework once they get home. These are all processes, and if you truly looked at them, I can almost guarantee you there is ‘junk’ in all of them. It’s a human thing to do.
But here’s my hypothesis: If we look at all of these processes in a different light and in a different way and find and eliminate all the ‘junk’ in them, we will find time and freedom we never thought possible.
How do we do that? I’m so glad you asked. This is exactly what I’m setting out to do with this blog. I’m hoping to help us all see the ‘junk’ in our lives and figure out how to free ourselves from it.
This applies to the physical junk all around us that we can see, but it also applies to all that ‘junk’ we cannot see.