Cure cuts while they’re small!

Lean operating systems unlock the value in business by working hard to solve problems while they are small. They avoid the slow demise of many operations cursed with “Death by a Thousand Cuts”. It is rarely one big event that causes a good operation to slowly drift into chaos. It is more likely an endless stream of tiny variables that break down the systems. The cure for death by a thousand cuts starts by seeing and curing a cut.

Seeing the cut

The Consulting 101 course starts by teaching new consultants to help organizations set an expectation and then learn by observing what happens. It is a simple concept, but very hard to implement.

For example, a company struggles with shipping on-time. There are several theories as to why from everyone. The approach of the consultant was to list on a dry erase board the planned shipments for the day, in sequence, and then observe and learn from the actual events of the day.

First, the truck loader looks at the schedule and shows the consultant that the orders are not on his schedule…. Cut #1

After looking into it they discover the scheduler had not added them yet. It was 6:AM and scheduled did not arrive until 8:00.

Second, a service technician shows up and tells the truck loader he has to take the yard truck for an inspection which will prevent the truck loader from bringing in the trailers he needs to load. …. Cut #2.

The management team reschedules the inspection for off hours.

Third, the shipping department calls and tells the truck loader that the driver for the load he is building has arrived and he will need to cut it off and send what he has. …. Cut #3

The management team asks the driver to wait while the load is finished.

Forth, as the truck loader is finishing the load the quality department notices a bundle at the bottom of the load that has not been released by quality. … Cut #4.

Management looks into it and finds out it was released just not updated in the system.

Death by a thousand cuts……

Curing the cut?

At the end of the day the consultant organizes a review meeting for the day. The purpose is simply to learn from the observation and put countermeasures in place to make sure they don’t happen again.

First, the schedule was not updated for the day until 8:00am and the truck loader starts at 6:00 am. The countermeasure was to have the first few loads scheduled the night before.

Second, the service technician tried to take the yard truck while it was being used, to pulling trailers. The countermeasure was to schedule inspections on off hours.

Third, the truck loader was told to cut off the load because the driver had arrived. The countermeasure was to have the drivers wait until the loads are complete.

Forth, a bundle was not released by the quality department. The countermeasure was to have the scheduler verify all bundles are released before they are placed on the schedule.

The cure for a 1,000 cuts

The cure for a 1,000 cuts is to set an expectation that will allow you see each cut, capture the cause and how it was solved, meet to review the actual events and put countermeasures in place to make sure they never happen again.

Help your organization see that most organizations die from a thousand small problems rather than one giant event that no one saw coming. Curing the problem is a simple process, but very hard work.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.


Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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