Brad Osborne, Director of Supply Chain, Cogmedix

Shigeo Shingo, a Pioneer in Lean Thinking and the namesake for the Shingo prize, is quoted as saying, “There are four purposes of improvement: easier, better, faster, and cheaper. These four goals appear in the order of priority.”  When I read the above quote, I was reminded that the best approaches to any issue or problem are those that are simple and elegant…and this certainly seemed to meet that criterion. When approaching opportunities for improvement, I can now ask myself the following simple questions as a litmus test and an aid in prioritizing the opportunity:

Does this improvement opportunity make things easier? Any improvement should help make a process easier to execute, a procedure easier to follow, or a job easier to do.

Does this improvement opportunity make things better? Any improvement should support processes being made better…think in terms of improved compliance, improved output (metrics/data), improved morale…all of these things make our processes better!

Does this improvement opportunity make things faster? This is a simple, but often overlooked question…have we reduced the time from the moment a process started to the moment it is complete? Don’t just think in terms of massive time reductions (although that is important) but also think of every little way a job or a process can be performed more quickly each day. The seconds add up!

Does this improvement opportunity make things cheaper? If you’ll notice, this is the last question asked. At first I thought this was a little counterintuitive. Wouldn’t we want the top priority to be making things more affordable for both our organization’s bottom line and for our customers? The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. Of course this is last, because if we are making things easier, better and faster, the answer to this final question will always be a resounding “YES!”

So remember, when faced with an opportunity for improvement, always think “easier, better, faster, cheaper”!