Tim Ferriss, author of one of my favorite books The Four-Hour Workweek, recently had a post titled "Push vs. Pull Processes" on his blog. Of course it only makes sense, as his book describes how to do more with less by eliminating the unimportant.
Waste is a constraint. Reducing waste in your organization is one the easiest ways of reducing constraints.
And here’s a surprise—waste in offices is usually greater than in
factories, especially because it’s easy to hide waste in cumbersome or
non-existent processes. Creating unnecessary information inventory is
another common waste in offices. Doing too many tasks “in anticipation”
of a possible client, for example…
No surprise to those of us already in the lean world. He (the guest author, Michael Port, not Tim Ferriss) goes on to describe pull systems.
One way to think about waste is in terms of push and pull systems. A
push system, like much of traditional manufacturing, produces as much
product as the company can and/or wants to produce and then gets it out
to the customer. The result is usually large inventories.
A pull system only produces what a customer needs and has asked for.
You want to have as much “pull” in your systems as you can. Toyota has
very little excess inventory. That’s why when the Prius was so
unexpectedly popular, people found themselves on waiting lists for the
car. Seems like a problem, but Toyota is much more profitable as a
result of being so lean. You might also hear this concept referred to
as “just-in-time production” or JIT (remember?—it came from the
The rest of the article expands a bit on the concept, with a tangential commentary on kanban and incinerator toilets (no comment…). Several people, including some known in the lean world, commented on the post and the author then added some information from Liker’s recent book.
In manufacturing, it’s often argued that overproduction is the greatest
of all waste, since it causes most of the other wastes. I think the
same could hold true for a service-based business. Not only
overproduction of your services, but doing too much of everything that
is not valuable to the internal or external customer. Overproduction
waste, as Liker points out, “…leads to other suboptimal behavior, like
reducing your motivation to continuously improve your operations.”