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Communication. Lean Depends on It.

I have spent the majority of my waking hours for the last three weeks or so staring at my computer screen. My bloodshot eyes have gotten to really dislike re-doing any work I have already done once.

To prevent the waste of this rework, we at Velaction use a process to go over page designs before making any changes on the website.

So, we followed our standard steps, and I made some changes to the appearance of the entries in The Continuous Improvement Companion.  

After much work, my coworker asked why I didn’t do make the changes we agreed on. I immediately got frustrated, since I had just spent an hour getting the layout perfect.

The problem? I did not interpret a comment she made during the layout design step of the process in the same way that she intended. I thought I did what she suggested. From her perspective, I hadn’t done something that she had asked for.

As it turns out, in retrospect, the problem was in our communication. Lean requires clear transmissions of instructions to be successful.

So, I got to do the work all over again. Despite the waste involved in the rework, it provided an opportunity to make the process more robust, and avoid even bigger problems in the future.

How could this have been avoided?

By using a briefback. It’s a communication tool in Lean that is far too underused. Basically, one person repeats back what the other person just said.

Had I used the tool with my coworker, it would have sounded something like this:

“If I am hearing you correctly, you want me to change the image on that page so it…”

She would have immediately clarified what she said.

A briefback is just a quick way to confirm that the message sent is the message received. If the briefback doesn’t match what the person had in mind, the rework is done on the communication, not on the work itself.

The added bonus: your communication gets better when you use briefbacks. You get immediate feedback on your words, and can put a countermeasure in place as soon as you identify an abnormal condition.

That communication sounds pretty Lean to me.

 

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