Show Your Work

Remember back when your math teacher told you to "show your work"? There were good reasons for that, not the least of which was the fact that your teacher wanted to know if you were thinking, what you were thinking, and how you were thinking. The teacher wanted insight into whether you were grasping the concepts...and not just dropping a number or two on the paper. Ostensibly, showing your work assists in the learning process. It also keeps the student honest and should help them determine themselves whether their "logic" holds water.

The same holds true in business and continuous improvement. Kaizen activity rigorously employs PDCA. The "P" within PDCA represents the act of planning, which is founded upon a rather firm understanding of the current reality. The current reality, when compared (implicitly or explicitly) to an envisioned leaner state, should manifest the gaps, problems, issues and opportunities. From this perspective, the lean practitioner can then move on and gain an understanding of the root causes and ultimately a "plan" as embodied in countermeasures. Do, check and act appropriately follow.

So, how do you show your work within the plan phase? Put another way, how do you understand the pre-kaizen situation? There are AT LEAST ten basic waste identification tools and eight basic root cause analysis and supporting tools.

Waste Identification Tools:

  1. Current state value stream map
  2. Process map
  3. 5S audit sheet
  4. Time observation form
  5. Standard work sheet
  6. Standard work combination sheet
  7. % Load chart
  8. Process capacity sheet
  9. Setup observation analysis work sheet
  10. Operations analysis table

Basic Root Cause Analysis and Supporting Tools:

  1. 5 Whys
  2. Cause and effect diagrams
  3. Check sheets
  4. Concentration diagrams
  5. Scatter diagrams
  6. Histograms
  7. Pareto charts
  8. Process failure modes and effects analysis

These  different tools, to which we can certainly add the left side of the A3 form, are part of the work of the planning process. They help facilitate the process of grasping the current reality and identifying root causes. They hone the practitioner's thinking, shares his thinking, engages others in the process, invites constructive feedback, etc...and forces him to show his work, not only for his benefit, but also for the benefit of other lean learners. No cause jumping. No sloppy shortcuts.

So, just like in school, if you don't show your work, you should get points taken off!

Related posts: CSI Kaizen – When Forensics Supplement Direct Observation, Time Observations – 10 Common Mistakes, The Truth Will Set You Free!

There are 2 Comments

markrhamel's picture


Thanks for the comment. I think you said it better and more concisely than I did! I get worried when folks do what seems like the "I did some analysis (mumble, mumble...) and then presto, a miracle came out." Not very transparent, really hard to coach and rarely effective.

Best regards,

Dale Savage's picture

Thanks, Mark, for another needed reminder. By demonstrating through the various tools available that one understands the current situation serves two purposes. First, it shows that those doing the kaizen activity are not "shooting from the hip" or working on pre-conceived ideas as to what the root cause of the problem is. The second purpose follows on the heels of the first - those effected by any changes can have more confidence in those making the changes. Also, a story can be told through the tools which helps everyone understand the current situation, suggested improvement ideas, and the future state. This can be particularly important when dealing with those of different language and cultural backgrounds.