While spending the week in Guatemala, I was watching how things get done and thinking about “lean.” In some respects, they aren’t lean at all. In others, we could learn some things.
A short statement about what “lean” is: eliminating wasted time, wasted motion and wasted material. Underlying assumptions are that time, energy for motion and materials are scarce. Being scarce, they are relatively expensive. Thus, if you waste any of them, you are incurring too much cost. Your customer doesn’t want to pay for costs associated with waste that can be avoided.
In Guatemala, people are relatively cheap. There is a premium on keeping them busy. Thus, they sweep up leaves where we might blow them. They hand wash clothes where we might wash them in a machine. They hang them on a clothes line where we like a clothes dryer.
In America (and at PalletOne), we place a value on people. There is a premium on education, skill development, effective performance. As those things grow, value increases. As value increases, wasted time and wasted motion become an increasing cost. Thus, a premium is placed on saving it.
In Guatemala, material is scarce. Thus, it is expensive. People reuse stuff. Wood we routinely dispose of is held on to, as are discarded soft drink bottles.
Gas is expensive. While they make way less than we do, gas is more expensive than what we pay. Thus, people walk, bike, ride big buses, ride four to a motor scooter. It takes longer to get there but, time is cheap, so who cares.
Here’s another reason I am growing to love “lean”: it places a premium on people getting better and getting the most out of life.
It challenges each of us to think about the value we bring to the world.
It has a longer, richer perspective that says that while resources appear plentiful now, it probably won’t remain so. Thus, we are wise to think about how to preserve them and get the most out of them.
“Lean” builds strength. “Lean” has staying power. It starts with having a high regard for people and their capabilities. It produces a better life for all who embrace it.
PalletOne CEO Howe Wallace
Since 2005, he has been sharing his thoughts on the organization, leadership, and communication in an online daily note to teammates called Daily with HQ.