drmike's blog

Neil always used to confound and shock me. He was always pursuing perfection. And I would always retort something like, “But, the real world isn’t perfect.”

Over the years, I slowly realized the value and wisdom of Neil’s mindset. It is consistent with traditional lean thinking (as long as it does not paralyze the PDCA cycle), and it helps drive innovation and the right thought process. I have found that lean thinkers not only benchmark themselves against the competition, they also benchmark themselves against perfection. This is where math can help.

Value stream analysis is conducted typically for one specific product or service family at a time. In order to identify and distinguish families, lean practitioners use what is called a product family analysis matrix (a.k.a. product quantity process matrix (PQPr)). Many times the families can be easily discerned once the matrix is populated, other times, it is more difficult. The application of a dendogram or binary sort, can be helpful in these situations. Value stream analysis and, with it, flow kaizen, is central to any lean transformation and is specific to product or service families.

Combinations and Permutations How many different poker hands are there? How many different pizza orders can be made? How many different ways can this work schedule be filled out? How many different ways are there to arrange your books in a bookshelf? These are all examples of combinations and permutations. And knowing how to calculate them is a helpful tool for decision making.  The basic equations are: .

Flow is a key lean principle. We should relentlessly pursue a state in which value flows smoothly, without interruption to the customer. But how can this be achieved? Assuming that we have adequate system stability, repeatability, and other important "ilities," as well as a design and culture that facilitates continuous flow (admittedly, really difficult stuff), the answer is amazingly simple – match capacity to demand. So, if you have 10 customer requests your capacity should be 10 customer requests, and if the demand is 1,172 customer requests the capacity should be 1,172 requests.


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