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Get Lean in 5 Steps

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Paring down the clutter in your workspaces makes you more efficient and productive.

Stephanie Northcott on Canva

I like efficiency and when I came across this book The Lean Farm - How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work by Ben Hartman I got excited. Oooh, we can get our dream farm lean and efficient. But as you will see it can apply to any business. Ben's farm works now on the lean philosophy, also known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), a management philosophy and manufacturing methodology developed by the Japanese automaker Toyota. It is widely regarded as one of the most effective production systems in the world and has been influential in shaping the field of lean manufacturing. This does not mean bare-bones production or meager products and services. Instead, lean makes work easier to do and more meaningful. As Ben Hartman says, "It pivots your farm (business) toward value - trimming away activities and things that do not contribute to value creation so that all efforts count." Your business can thrive and be sustainable. A lean small business, whether it is a farm, manufacturer, or service provider, is more creative, productive, abundant, and sustainable. There are 5 steps or the 5S system corresponding to the following Japanese words - seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke. Each step will be covered over the next several issues (yay for content). Step 1 - Seiri - Sort Time to get a bit ruthless. Physical or digital items that are absolutely unnecessary need to go. These are items you have not used in months, if not years, and may be recycled, sold, given away, etc. These are things you may have even tolerated in your workspace because you haven't figured out what to do with them yet and were only storing them. It's time to take inventory of what you really need. This can also include stuff on your computer. Apps you don't use, subscriptions you no longer read, other digital tools you long-ago abandoned. You may have put money into these physical or digital items but are they part of your system to be productive, efficient, and profitable? Perhaps they are nothing but a reminder of the past. They may have been great but if they are not in constant use they are an energy suck if not a proverbial dust collector. Going forward use the tool that is right for the job. This might take time as lots of shiny and flashy new tools are always coming out. However, they may not be the right fit for you. Find the right tools if you don't have them; use the right tools that you do have. "But Stephanie, I have things that I really don't know if I will need or not." Ok, let's find a spot and red-tag these to determine if useful or not. Find an area that you will see regularly and not the back of a drawer or closet. Then, Question yourself

  1. Is it needed?

  2. How often do I use this?

  3. Will I use it in the current location?

Answer those to the best of your ability and either discard them appropriately or relocate to a more suitable location. You can do it on a schedule that works for you such as spring and fall. Hey, you will still have items that you harbor for various reasons but this habit is a great one.

By the way, this is not sorting to squirrel away, aka keep forever. This type of sorting is to keep what is necessary and remove what needs to go away permanently. You have got to be ruthless. Everything you have costs you space, either physically or mentally. Don't hold back for the right time, the right buyer, the right market. Just move it out (see the last issue for a refresher on the 5,4,3,2,1, get it done.)

Next issue I will discuss Seiton - Setting in Order. Stay tuned.

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