Mura and Muri – so critical, so forgotten

David Kasprzak is Lean Thinker, practitioner, a new MBA, and a blogger. His blog is named My Flexible Pencil.  David is determined to change cultures. He found passions in Project Management & Continuous Improvement. David blogs about work, life, and other stuff.  I find his blog to be very interesting and am pleased that his is contributing to the Lean Leadership blog today.  The following was written by David.


A quick Google search for Mura and Muri pulls up just a small handful of writings, and the top-ranking result is still a 5-year-old article from Jim Womack in which he indicates that the root cause of Muda is now Mura and Muri:

“in most companies we still see the mura of trying to “make the numbers” at the end of reporting periods. (Which are themselves completely arbitrary batches of time.) This causes sales to write too many orders toward the end of the period and production managers to go too fast in trying to fill them, leaving undone the routine tasks necessary to sustain long-term performance. This wave of orders — causing equipment and employees to work too hard as the finish line approaches — creates the “overburden” of muri. This in turn leads to downtime, mistakes, and backflows – the muda of waiting, correction, and conveyance. The inevitable result is that mura creates muri that undercuts previous efforts to eliminate muda.

In short, mura and muri are now the root causes of muda in many organizations. Even worse they put muda back that managers and operations teams have already eliminated once.”

At the root of any improvement effort, whether it is founded in Lean principles and associated concepts like the Shingo Model, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, or other paradigms such as CMMi or Business Process Re-engineering, etc. (for the moment, I’m casting aside debates over which ones are better or more effective) is not the ability to manipulate business processes to achieve greater efficiency or, ultimately, profitability.  Those are, quite simply, outcomes – and they are fleeting without a focus on something else entirely.

To truly improve, it must be remembered that organizations don’t act.  Typically, we speak and write of what “the company” does, or “the government.”  We often even talk about subsets of the organization such as “purchasing” or “operations” or “management.”    But none of these things are capable of any kind of behavior whatsoever.  It is the people within these organizations that act, and it is upon the people we must focus our attention if we want to improve.

[tweetmeme]The key to improvement?  Genuine concern.  Begin with the premise that, “I will not cause anyone to work any harder than is necessary – mentally or physically – to accomplish the goals of the organization.”  That is the foundational key – more than just “Respect for People” but honest “Concern for each other’s well-being.”  If you have that, you do not subject people to long, boring tedious tasks doing work no one really wants just to appear busy.  You do not pursue contracts so far beyond the core competency of your organization that profits evaporate as customer satisfaction also wanes, bonuses dwindle and morale disappears.  Safety becomes a priority.  Profitability becomes critical to make sure people are financially sound in the personal lives, not just for investors’ sake.  You invest in people to do more than develop their skills – but to keep them interested, growing and alert.

Shingo told us that it is more important to know why than to know what.  The “Know Why” of process improvement?  Because human beings deserve to live lives free from worry, and we each have an obligation to give that to each other.

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You can see more of David’s work at My Flexible Pencil.

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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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3 Responses to Mura and Muri – so critical, so forgotten

  1. Pingback: Lean principles for knowledge workers (and everyone else) | My Flexible Pencil

  2. Pingback: More Mura Muri? (or, the reasons behind changing everything) | My Flexible Pencil

  3. Pingback: The Get Shit Done Theory | My Flexible Pencil

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