Non-utilized Talent & Ideas – all talent, ideas, and capabilities that are not effectively applied to facilitate execution. In this series titled “The 8 Lean Wastes and Their Potentially Disastrous Effects”, we examine case studies for when companies, government organizations, or entire industries have allowed a specific type of waste to escalate to a disastrous effect. In this post, we review the waste of Non-utilized Talent & Ideas to better understand what causes it, how to see it, and how to eliminate it. Goleansixsigma.com defines Non-utilized Talent & Ideas as “the concept that employees are not being utilized to their full capability or, conversely that they are engaged in tasks that would be more efficiently done by someone else. Non-Utilized Talent is one of the 8 Wastes which is also known as the waste of intellectual capital.”
The 8 Wastes and Their Potentially Disastrous Effects:
On a particularly cool day in Cape Canaveral, FL in 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger was scheduled to launch. A few days before the launch, the team of the engineers who were working on the mission had advised the program’s management team that launching at 30 degrees would be very risky. The data that they had collected on the wax-based O-ring performance showed that significant integrity was lost under lower temperatures. The management team decided to launch anyway despite the warning of their engineers and the result was catastrophic. 73 seconds into the space shuttle’s flight, the O-rings failed and it exploded in mid-air. The price tag on this disastrous decision was 7 lives (one of which was supposed to be the first teacher in space) and about $1.5B including the flight mission, search and recovery, and the investigation.
NPR recently did a great story on Bob Ebeling, the engineer who came forward (risking his career) and tried to warn NASA of the danger associated with this launch. You can find the podcast at the link below:
In response to this tragic incident, NASA re-designed the O-ring joints and implement an astronaut bail-out system in later space shuttle models. Evidence reveals that some of the passengers may have survived the explosion, until the shuttle crashed with the ocean after descent. Thus, lives may have been spared by allowing the astronauts to “bail out” prior to coming in contact with the earth.
After the Challenger explosion, there were several changes put in place to prevent this type of issue from reoccurring. Unfortunately, many of these changes did not sustain in operation. In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia also exploded soon after launch, ending the lives of 7 more astronauts. The Columbia explosion occurred for reasons that would have been prevented by the changes that were put in place after the Challenger mission. This highlights the importance of operational discipline and ensuring that improvements are sustained.
For more details on this case study, check out the Wikipedia article at the following link:
Non-utilized Talent & Ideas is possibly the most abundant type of waste. It is the only one of the 8 wastes that is not directly a process waste but one of managment or intellectual capital. It is often caused by destructive internal politics and a general lack of respect for people. This type of waste is greatly reduced by practicing a true meritocracy; promoting highly competent people and systematically vetting improvement ideas, regardless of their source. I’ve created and used several great Idea Management and Execution Systems, all of which include regular idea review schedules, rigorous idea vetting, excellent feedback and communication loops, and incentives for submitting or executing improvement projects.
Impruver also helps you see waste from non-utilized talent & ideas in the form of lost efficiency. In Impruver, this type of waste could either show up as downtime, rate, or yield losses. The great thing about Impruver is that it promotes a culture of getting better everyday by highlighting personal bests, record breaking weeks, raising the bar (outperforming the standard) and other great achievements. This motivates your team to most effectively apply their talent and ideas to drive manufacturing execution.
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