Home > Lean > Are you too busy to improve?

Are you too busy to improve?

Are you too busy to improve

This illustration is inspired by and in part derived from the work by Scott Simmerman, “The
Square Wheels Guy” http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/

For translated versions of this image and terms of use please see this page

Are you just keeping yourself busy and not taking the time to improve how you do work?

Are you too busy to innovate

If you want to innovate and improve you must make time for continuous improvements.

Planning for lower utilization

If we plan for less than 100% utilization you can create the time and space for improvements and innovation. When you have the time to improve and innovate you can increase your capability and do even more.

An added bonus is that planning for less than 100% utilization is also very good for the flow in your system.

Small batches

Just like in flow, small batches is good when it comes to doing improvements. Doing improvement work in big batches every other week or once a month is not optimal. Plan for it to be part of your daily work. Your daily work should really be both delivering value AND improving the work.

The added bonus of small batches is that they will reduce variation in your processes, which will improve your flow.

Small batches and high repetition will also help you build the habits of continuous improvements and innovation.

See yourself as a gardener

You should really see yourself as a gardener, the gardener of your processes. Processes are just like gardens; if you don’t keep them up the weeds, the bad habits, will grow back.

If you don’t keep up and continuously improve your processes their capability will dwindle.

Excellence is a habit

This is one of my favorite quotes and I think is really sums up what continuous improvement and innovation is all about. We have to build the daily habits of improving and innovate if we want to strive for perfection.

How do you get started? I think Toyota Kata is a great way.

Also take a look Dr. Scott Simmerman work with Square Wheels® Performance Improvement Tools and Dynamic Team Building Games at http://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/

You can read more about Toyota Kata here

Square Wheels® is a registered servicemark of Performance Management Company

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  1. 2014-03-12 at 17:43

    The article is great, but the two first pictures are absolutly brilliant!

    • 2014-03-12 at 21:25

      Thank you Boris.
      Those two pictures are LEGO recreations of hand drawn originals with unknown authors. The main credit should go the unknown authors.

    • 2014-03-12 at 21:32

      Recreation of a recreation.

      I’m happy to translate the text on the image for anyone who asks.

  2. 2014-03-17 at 19:40

    Reblogged this on Raimon Pedemonte.

    • 2014-03-17 at 20:04

      Ah. Well, the reality is that the Square Wheels are really everywhere, but so are the Round ones. Hakan and I are now in the process of plotting and planning an overthrow of the world using cartoons and LEGO and you can expect a Battle of the Ideas shortly, one where we take on all sorts of people and performance-related issues and opportunities, for the FUN of It!

  3. Sachin Bakshi
    2014-03-22 at 19:18

    Amazing way to differentiate between effort and improvement. . Its not always proportional. Toys have been used to highlight the basics…

    • 2014-03-24 at 17:30

      More than toys, I think that the metaphors around business works is what help people to dissociate from their position inside to see things from another viewpoint. It is one of the main reason why jokes work so well, since they twist the expected in unexpected directions. Cartoons have that same ability.

      I play with MUD and Square Wheels and Leadership in this little cartoon on my poems blog, for example:


      A key to innovation is perspective, what I call “stepping back from the wagon.”

      Another is to have fun out there!

  4. Brigitte-Louise Lessard
    2014-03-28 at 20:24


    Il would like to get your permission to translate it in french and share, whit your name and all. I could sent it to you when translated. Thanks!

    • 2014-03-29 at 08:14

      Hi Brigitte-Louise,
      I’m happy to post a translated version on my blog if you send me the text.

  5. 2014-04-14 at 15:56

    I read this article is very like.
    I found everyday.
    Can I translate in Thai version and share or not?
    Thank you very good article.

    • 2014-04-14 at 16:28

      Please send me the translation of the text on the images you like to have translated and I will post them here on my blog. You are free to translate the text of this post as long as you link back and give attribution.

  6. 2014-05-25 at 16:52

    Reblogged this on Muhammad Hassan Nasr and commented:
    Very insightful…

  7. 2014-06-25 at 18:43

    Hakan, I really like the use of the LEGO figures. It gets the message across in such a memorable fashion. I particularly like the “are you too busy to improve?” one with the wheel barrow which has the square wheels!

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