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Where does the baton get dropped?

One of the common discussions I end up in is around lead time reduction, reducing the total amount of time it takes for an order (or a project, or an enquiry, or a complaint etc...) to move through a business. Obviously a faster and slicker turnaround can be of significant interest to your customers and can help to reduce the costs associated with that process.

A simple way of looking at this problem is to think of your business process as being similar to a relay race. Can you remember those from your school days? If you do, you will remember that in order to win you had to avoid dropping the baton, have smooth changeovers and run quickly in-between changeovers.

There we go then, a perfect recipe for lead time reduction.

In my experience, for businesses with multiple departments, the fastest way to improve overall lead time is to find out where the baton is being dropped. This might take the form of in trays that hide work, unclear specifications in different departments leading to reworking of the information that is passed over (but never discussed!) and meetings that stall decision making.

On top of these issues is the problem of leaders changing their minds about what is the current priority for the team. Whether this becomes a schedule change in a production environment, or a project change in an office team, this is akin to knocking the baton out of your team’s hands. Priorities do and must change over time, but I see too many forced changes out of indecision taking place too.

So, I ask you to consider; where does your business drop the baton?

Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer