Podcast transcript 0022: A field guide to learning from failure

Link to podcast episode.


This is a free, short little guide I put together and I’d love for you to download a copy and kick the tires a bit. Let me give you the intro. 

If you google around you will find various of sets of “wastes” that lean consultants, trainers, and other folks will use to help make problems visible. The closest you can get to a timeless classic in this genre is DOWNTIME, a set of wastes some of the old school lean shops use. DOWNTIME stands for: defects, overproduction, waiting, not using everybody’s skills, transportation, inventory, motion, errors. I presented the “DOWNTIME” wastes back in episode 9, and you could do worse than start from here. It’s what we used at my old gig.

However, I enjoy working with groups who do complex knowledge work and service work. In that kind of setting, some of the DOWNTIME wastes can seem redundant or a stretch. 

The best example, the one I’m most tired of having to explain, would be transportation as waste versus motion as waste. They’re different things, but the distinction becomes less meaningful once continuous improvement left the shop floor and came into the office.

For me, when it comes to continuous improvement,

  • half of the game is about people, and
  • half of the game is about process.

So I mapped out a set of 6 wastes, which roll up into the acronym MISSED. After all, what is waste but a MISSED opportunity for improvement? The first three have to do with people—memory, inconsistency, and stress. The second three have to with process—work started but not finished, errors, and delays.

It doesn’t take a lot of specialized training or complicated systems to get started with continuous improvement. (Although there’s a place for both down the road!) I wanted to have something I could share and use to help folks practice looking for waste with a drop-dead simple method—a simplified waste walk—and a set of wastes that really points to what happens in knowledge work and service work.

Once again, I encourage you to get a copy of this field guide and work through it. I’ve also started a twice-monthly email newsletter which you might like to sign up for. You get both of these things – either for yourself or for a colleague, friend, or nerd who you might want to share them with – at the link in this episode’s description, or by hitting your ol’ web browser and going over to improvesomething.today/field-guide.

Thanks for listening. Have a great day.