Avoid Roots and Vines in Your Operation

Avoid Roots and Vines in Your Operation

Organizations that seek to continually improve understand the value they unlock in their business when they maximize their flexibility. They understand that change is an inevitable part of always getting better. There are two important reasons you want to avoid roots and vines in your operations:  they prevent rapid improvement and they crush  creativity.

They prevent rapid improvement

The phrase roots and vines is a metaphor for elements of your operation that are difficult to change. The analogy is comparing an operation to a tree in the jungle. Imagine wanting to move a banana tree three feet to the right in the jungle. Not only would you have to untangle all of the vines wrapped in the branches, but you would have the roots to deal with as well.

In many operations, we set up similar situations. Take a quick walk through a production facility and you can see power cables hanging from the ceiling and equipment bolted to the floor, making the obvious analogy. But thinking about your business’ processes and how they are structured, we can see similar barriers that are not as obvious.

“We can’t group the shop floor equip into value streams because the accounting system assigns cost by department.”  Or “we cannot assign a manager to the value stream because they would overlap with the department managers and who would be responsible?” Or “our job classifications do not allow those positions to do that task.”

These types of roots and vines have been a part of operations for a long time. The responsibility of today’s leader is not to create anymore!!

They crush creativity

Several craft shops sell paint by number kits. The idea is to duplicate the Mona Lisa by placing the corresponding color in the outlined space to the number in that space. If followed correctly the result will likely be a picture very much like the Mona Lisa. It will not be much different, and certainly not better, than the original.

When a group asks its people to improve a process, but places lines with numbers and specific criteria, like “we have to make it work with the existing scheduling system,” we limit creativity greatly. We are more likely to end up with a system that duplicates the original – and less likely to be better.

Companies that understand this principle not only try to remove these barriers, but they spend an equal amount of time avoiding them. The ask can “we move that assembly table over there and can we put it on wheels?”

Put your improvements on wheels. As great as an idea can be today, there will be a better one tomorrow that will cause you to want to rapidly change again.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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