One of the challenges for lean in services is the assumption that service processes are harder to ‘see’. There’s no product visibly going down a line, decisions take place in people’s heads and the inventory of customer work is often hidden in email in-bins behind computer screens. “We can’t ‘see’ what people are thinking!” is one of the common refrains I hear. “And if we can’t ‘see’, we don’t know how work is progressing”. “Of course we can!” I say. We can sit with people and ‘see’ what they are doing. We can ask them questions about ‘how’ they are making decisions to make their ‘thought’ processes and customer work visible. Then we can go one step further and challenge people to find creative ways to ‘make their work visible’ – could be visual tracking boards, or different colored files moving to different spots in a filing cabinet, or pictures and flow charts. Finding simple, creative ways to ‘see’ in services are endless… assuming there’s no way is just another in the long list of ‘I can’ts’.

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