Continuous Improvement

You know your role as foreman, you have the right mindset, and you’re really understanding the concepts Schroeder’s been talking about.

Now’s the time to talk about “lean heaven.”

“I call it ‘lean heaven,’” Schroeder said, “but it’s totally non-denominational. So here’s the secret. If we get to heaven, we’re not going to be just sitting around. Heaven’s about progress. It’s about giving, and learning, and serving, and being with others. And that’s continuous improvement. Which means continuous improvement is heaven. It’s heaven on Earth. And that’s why it’s such an exciting concept.”

So are you ready to make your work environment “heavenly?” In this lesson, Schroeder outlined the secrets to how you can implement continuous improvement in your work life.

Two seconds every day.

You might be worried about the time it will take you to implement continuous improvement. After all, you’re already juggling so much at work. How can you find the time to commit to continuous improvement?

The good news? You only need two seconds of improvement every day. “”I recommend Paul Akers’s 2 Second Lean,” Schroeder said. “In this book, Akers says all we need is to take daily incremental steps towards fixing the things that need fixing. And this is what he tells his people: just two seconds. Take two seconds every day to fix what bugs you.”

Culture will eat strategy every time.

So you’re taking those two seconds to improve every day. But what about your strategy for continuously improving? According to Schroeder, it doesn’t matter what your strategy is. What matters is your culture — the common beliefs and actions of your group. Because culture will always trump strategy.

“Can you imagine if everyone was making improvements as part of their work every day?” he asked. “That’s what a continuous improvement culture is all about. And it’s going to be hard to implement. But look at all the things you’re already doing. You’re keeping your project clean, you’re keeping your crew organized, you’re keeping everyone safe. And if you can do all that, you can create a culture of continuous improvement.”

How to implement continuous improvement.

Learn the eight wastes, and let these wastes piss you off

The key to making full use of your two seconds of improvement a day? First, you have to know and understand the eight wastes:

  1. Defects
  2. Overproduction
  3. Waiting time
  4. Underutilization of manpower
  5. Unnecessary transportation
  6. Excess inventory
  7. Unnecessary motion
  8. Overprocessing

And once you’ve memorized and know these wastes? “You’ve got to really let it piss you off,” Schroeder said. “That’s how you should feel about waste. So you learn the wastes and let these wastes piss you off, and then you take your two seconds every day, and you improve on whatever’s bugging you.”

Use the 3S concept.

The 3S concept is another useful method for implementing continuous improvement. Translated from the Japanese, the three S words are sort, straighten — sometimes translated as "standardize" — and sweep.

Schroeder described how to apply 3S to the dirt world: “Get everyone to take time in the mornings to organize or straighten their work area. And when that’s done, have them clean their spaces. And then sweep or shine the area. They’re getting things ready for the day. That’s 3S. And when you do this, you’ll find problems. And you let them piss you off, and then you fix them. It’s a culture where everyone is fixing problems as part of their work.”

And continue improving

One thing about continuous improvement is, it never stops.

“Once you’ve reached your production targets, why stop there?” Schroeder pointed out. “Most people, when they hit their targets, they stop. But why stop? Let’s continue making it better. Let’s strive for perfection. You want to be like, ‘it’s never good enough.’ Because we’re always shooting for the remarkable, right?”

Set your set point to perfect

The final way to implement continuous improvement? “You set your set point to perfect,” Schroeder said. “What’s a set point? Let’s say your thermostat is set to 76 degrees. You’re in Phoenix, and you open the door, so it gets really hot inside. But when you shut the door, what does the thermostat do? It goes back to 76 degrees. Why? Because it’s a set point.”

Most of us are taught to have mediocre set points. And as a result, we take our growth set points and our expectations set points, and we set them to mediocre so we don’t rock the boat. But you need to leave the mediocre behind. You need to set your set point to perfect.

Why? When your set point is high, it drives you to continuously improve. “That’s when life gets remarkable,” Schroeder said. “That’s when you start enjoying your work. That’s when the time it takes to do your work reduces, and you can take time for your career. You can learn and continuously improve, and still get home on time to your families.”


Continuous improvement can be like a slice of heaven on earth. And while it can seem challenging to create a culture of continuous improvement, you can do it with just a few seconds of improvement a day.

Here’s how:

  • Know the 8 wastes of lean. Once you know these wastes, let it make you mad when you see waste happening.
  • Apply the 3S concept. Sort, straighten, and sweep or shine. Every morning, get things ready for the day.
  • Don’t stop improving. Met your production targets? Don’t stop there. Keep improving.
  • Set your set point to perfect. There’s no such thing as a set point that’s too high. Get it up to perfect, and it will drive you to continuously improve.

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