Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lean Diaper Changing

Ok, I threatened a couple of days ago to talk about changing diapers and something called Lean.

A little history. Professionally, I am what's known as a Black Belt leader in Six Sigma and Lean, two approaches for improving quality and performance in organizations. For simplicity sake, a new-era efficiency expert. Since being steeped in analyzing processes for the last couple of years, I can't help but see processes everywhere, and occasionally, ways to improve them.

I mentioned the other day that Sean generally gets changed 8-10 times a day. Did I mention that he pretty much hates it? Anyway, in Lean there are five principles:
  • Customer defines what's important
  • Get organized around what provides value to the customer
  • Streamline the delivery of that value
  • Let the customer "pull" the value
  • Pursue perfection continuously
Sean is our customer. What's valuable to him is a clean diaper change as fast as possible. As we organize the changing table and process, it should all be designed to deliver that clean diaper efficiently. Change Sean when he needs to be changed. Keep trying to do it better.

My first attempts were clumsy, at best, as I figured out the process. Undress, open diaper, cover Sean with a cloth, apply baby wipe, apply clean diaper, re-dress, calm screaming infant. It took a few tries to learn that:
  • Sean really only complains when he is getting undressed. Try to minimize the amount of time that he is undressed, i.e. arrange all materials before undressing him
  • Sometimes the cold air has an effect on him - cover him with a cloth to prevent an unpleasant accident.
  • Those baby wipes are cold! Heat them up, will ya? (Best $23 we've spent so far)
  • Get that diaper closed properly (one blow-out brought this error to my attention)
Without getting out the stopwatch, I think we're down to about 60 seconds for the whole process. Take that NASCAR pit crew (another excellent example of Lean).

I thought Lean diaper changing was pretty clever, until I Googled it and found out that others have made the connection.

Lean is fascinating, and extremely powerful. Toyota is poised to become the world's #1 car company because of it. Here's a great blog on using Lean in everyday life.

- James


Mark Graban said...

Thanks for the link, great story. I don't have a baby, but if that's in my future, I hope to approach with as much kaizen gusto as you appear to.

I love it how you've tried to define value in Sean Michael's terms. Although he can't speak them, you're sensing what he values, that's great!

Anonymous said...

James -- your blogs have been great -- going back to work is hard. It has been so wonderful that you have been able to spend so much quality time with Sean.

Popi C said...

Hi Sean, Joy, and James:
You guys are doing a great job blogging. James, I really liked your approach to organizing the diaper change. I'm sure Sean feels better already. Look forward to seeing you guys soon. Dad

Ron Pereira said...

Hi Sean, I left a comment over on leanblog.org regarding your Lean situation. Seriously, congrats on the kiddo! I have 3 and they are the best.