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“Muda” Be Gone

May 13, 2010

Frequently the edges of my life bleed into one another, today is one of those days.  heads down this week writing a paper on Toyota Production Systems (TPS).  Fascinating subject.  Toyota Production System is the lean manufacturing methodology used by Toyota.  While based on manufacturing, most of the TPS principles can be used in any organization.

Muda, is the Japanese term for activities that are wasteful or do not add value.  Muda can occur in many forms and at many levels in the organization.  The relevance of Muda to Project Management is that there are many activities and tasks that are performed on projects that add little or no value to the final product(s), service(s) or output(s).  It is our job as project managers to get out the industrial drum of “Muda” Be Gone and eliminate that waste.

Activities that are wasteful or do not add value increase the cost, schedule and scope of doing projects while adding no value to the customer.  Our goal is to make every activity and task valuable to the final product.  If it does not add value, why are you doing it?

Examples of waste include waiting (goodness, we can always reduce that one), overprocessing or incorrect processing (too much paperwork or bureaucracy to wade through), unnecessary movement (teams scattered in different locations vs. sitting together) defects (incorrect requirements, data, etc.) unused employee creativity ( “tribal knowledge” that is in your team’s head that is not being shared).  So what are we going to do about it?

I urge my teams to look for, find and cut waste wherever it occurs.  I look for ways to streamline my processes and avoid rework.  If it does not add value, I question whether I need to do it or have my teams do it.

A couple of questions to point us all in the right direction:

What are you trying to do?  Are you doing the right things to achieve your goals?  What areas of your work could be improved, eliminated or streamlined?  Where is the waste in your professional and personal life?  How can you remove it?


Duvall, M (2006, September 5). What’s Driving Toyota? Baseline Magazine

Liker, J.K. (2004) The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer. McGraw-Hill.  New York.

David John Lu, Nihon Nōritsu Kyōkai (1989) Kanban just-in-time at Toyota: management begins at the workplace. Productivity Press. Productivity Inc. Portland, Oregon.

Toyota Production System Terms. (2010) (TMMK)

Toyota Production System (TPS) Terminology (2009)

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