Avoiding Groupthink by Eliminating the 8 Wastes in Lean

Avoid the 8 potential wastes of lean manufacturingThe Eight Wastes in lean manufacturing processes provide a mental model to assist companies and teams to increase production by avoiding waste. Groupthink is a documented cause of workplace failure and indicates a crisis within a corporation that requires immediate action for both a profitable but a safe work environment.

A Brief Review of the Eight Wastes in Lean Manufacturing

The model now known as the Eight Wastes in lean manufacturing was originally presented as seven areas of potential waste that could be avoided by Toyota in their manufacturing. The Eighth Waste was later added by LEAN team leaders.

The acronym DOWNTIME has been a useful mnemonic for remembering the following eight areas of potential manufacturing process waste:

  • D:  Damages
  • O:  Overproduction
  • W:  Waiting.
  • N:  Not-utilizing talent
  • T:  Transportation
  • I:  Inventory
  • M:  Motion
  • E:  Excess processing

Case Study: Bruce Power (BP), Alpha and Groupthink

In 2010, a study was completed after an event at the Bruce Nuclear Power plant in Tiverton, Canada. The Final Report, published in June of 2010, attempted to present conclusions based on the root cause of the event that would explain to readers what had happened and also make recommendations to avoid this fault in future plant operations.

There were two root causes identified by BP:  groupthink and inadequate understanding of a ratio related to alpha particles. The ratio misunderstanding led to the lack of adequate equipment for detecting the presence of damaging radiation in an area where over 800 people had been working.

This event and the Root Cause Report and Final Report published about it caused a great deal of confusion as people were challenged by the concept of groupthink on record as a root cause for a manufacturing safety crisis.

There are 8 Wastes in Lean ProductionWhat is Groupthink in the Context of Lean Manufacturing?

Defining “groupthink” requires a situational context for the term to be useful. Groupthink is an Orwellian term, a term that may seem far out of context for corporate communications and manufacturing processes.

Clearly, though, groupthink is a part of today’s corporate and manufacturing dialogue.

As the case study shows, groupthink can be the cause of tremendous waste in manufacturing systems. In addition to the waste of time, there are transportation delays, excessive processing, waiting, and under-utilization of talent. Staff communications must be reviewed, paperwork is copious, and human resources has to implement strategies to avoid this type of manufacturing failure root cause in the future.

In the context of lean manufacturing, groupthink can pose as a tremendous threat to the talents of employees and an overall corporate opportunity to calibrate systems towards success.

Corporate and manufacturing teams suffering from groupthink exhibit specific measurable behaviors that can allow for early intervention if the situation is acknowledged and strategies for change are implemented across the corporation.

From Wasting the Talent of Others to Lean Success

It is certainly possible to transform your manufacturing system to avoid wasting the talent of others and achieve success in lean manufacturing processes. A review of communication and training systems can indicate areas for improvement. These finds can help to guide managers in transforming the corporate culture.

A variety of different ways to communicate at all levels of the process must be available:

  • Face to face
  • Electronic communication options
  • Scheduled meetings
  • Conferences
  • Dialogue with stakeholders and investors
  • Regular corporate and industry updates
  • Mentorship and team building activities

Training opportunities must exist that engage and motivate employees to learn new strategies and skill sets. When employees are learning they are motivated, curious and engaged.

Avoiding groupthink errors means lean production manufacturing success that is evident in the curiosity and creative approach of all corporate employees.

Groupthink results in a stagnation in all corporate processes and perhaps most measurably in manufacturing. Focusing on the Eighth Waste allows corporations to acknowledge, respect and value the individual talents of every employee.

 

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