I have had multiple presentations with clients and companies that want to improve and better understand continuous improvement. Whether it is TOC, lean, Six Sigma or just plain do while down or just do it, they ask similar questions. How long does it take? When will it hit the bottom line? How many resources will be needed? Are there guarantees? What are the risks? All good questions. In fact, very good if not great questions. I usually answer these as we go through the presentation. As a side note, my presentations are usually less than ten (10) slides so that there is room for conversation, discussion and dissection of the process. At the end of this and I have asked every one at the table whether they have any other questions, I ask a few of my own:

How many extra hours do you currently have in a day or week?

How much time are you planning on spending on this project per day/week?

Usually, there are a couple of snickers and sheepish looks around the table. No one makes eye contact with the highest pay grade in the room. The math almost never works out. So then my next question is either a game changer or a game ender:

What are you planning to stop doing so that you can work on this project?

If guys aren’t throwing up in the waste basket or slapping the table, we may have a chance. I have found that most organizations want to get better. They like the methodology and the standard work process. It’s all good. The issue is that saying yes to continuous improvement, it is saying no to something they already do. This in itself can be a continuous improvement exercise. Developing an initial value stream or at least a day in the life and then force ranking / 2 to 3 level reverse Pareto analysis to get to that point. After that finding, which may be you throw in for free, if you are getting your foot in the door, the leadership can then say, yes we are going to move forward and we have taken three (3) items / reports / processes that are not value added so that we can commit seven (7) hours per week from our VP of Supply Chain and approximately 60 hours / week from 2 direct reports for data gathering. From this, one can make a foothold and move forward with their quest. I do realize that there are situations that there is more work initially but it doesn’t have to be that way and without saying no and removing what is currently being done, it will be hard to grow. Who are these guys kidding. Does every move they make create value from the eyes of their customers? Stop the reports that create no action and stop two (2) meetings that are just updates and vocabulary quizzes and focus on moving forward.