By Ted Smith on 5/15/12
The foundation of Lean Construction and Lean thinking is the elimination of everything that does not add value to products and processes. This seems at face value to be a “truism.” I define a truism as something that is so obvious in practicality that it cannot be disputed. An example of a truism that we can all relate to is ” A crew cannot complete an installation 100 percent unless they have 100 percent of the materials necessary to complete:” This statement is impossible to refute with any sincerity; however, the same cannot be said of the first statement concerning the elimination of everything that does not add value.
In fact there are numerous arguments that may spring to mind immediately to this proposition and many arguments can be found in the worldwide, ongoing discussion concerning lean thinking. I believe the root of these arguments is the understanding of the word “value.” This is word that is used often in daily life and yet , as with many words we use, we find the exact definition to be somewhat elusive. We can look it up in the dictionary and find a clear cut definition such as this one from Webster’s Dictionary:
1: A fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged
2: The monetary worth of something
3: Relative worth, utility, or importance <a good value at the price> <the value of base stealing in baseball> <had nothing of value to say>
4: A numerical quantity that is assigned or is determined by calculation or measurement <let x take on positive values> <a value for the age of the earth>
5: The relative duration of a musical note
6 a : Relative lightness or darkness of a color : luminosity b : the relation of one part in a picture to another with respect to lightness and darkness
7: Something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable
Of course that can be a little misleading also because here are listed seven possible definitions and many of them differ greatly and these do not include the verb and other uses of the term.
One of the great difficulties in the English language is our propensity to use the same word for many different meanings. The problem with this is that only the person using the word truly understands what the word is intended to mean. The person that is hearing or reading the word may place a completely different interpretation on it and therefore change completely the message.
In the next few segments of the blog we are going to explore the word value as it relates to lean thinking and hopefully when we are done we can come to an agreement on what it means to eliminate everything that does not add value to products and processes.
I encourage your help with this exploration by adding your comments and thoughts concerning value.
Ted “Smitty” Smith