Small Steps Large Gains

Lean principles are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry and often referred too as a set of "tools" that assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste.


Lean Management often works alongside Six Sigma which is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement, introduced by a Motorola engineer and made central to GE's business strategy in 1995.


But what does this all actually mean?


In short the principles look to reduce and/or eliminate waste; wasted time, actions, processes and costs therefore improving time savings, benefits, customer satisfaction and profits. Individual tiny wins and small adjustments may not make much difference but if you add multiple small adjustments together or the improvement relates to a highly repetitive task, then suddenly economies of scale kick and hey presto, we have ourselves some large gains.


Think of a bricklayer building a wall. Imagine a stack of bricks on the ground. As the wall gets higher, the distance between the stack of bricks on the ground and the top of the wall will increase, as will the time it actually takes the bricklayer to repeatedly reach down to the ground level bricks. If the bricks were placed on a platform, in line with the bricklayers' reach, he would save a couple of seconds for each brick. Multiply a couple of seconds across multiple walls and multiple bricklayers and you have yourself a considerable saving both in time and physical strain.


These are the principles of Lean Management and Six Sigma... and in the context of learning these are very insightful.


It's good to challenge a concept. Take the Rubik Cube approach, as I like to call it and look at things differently. Twist and turn a concept, topic, subject, idea or instruction, flip it on its head and see if there is another way to improve, teach or learn.


This, in my humble opinion, is so important for education. If a child is struggling to truly understand a concept, remember a Maths process, learn a spelling or how to start a story - merely repeating the instruction probably isn't going to help.


Be creative, twist things up a little, aim for process improvements and small gains, as they will make a huge difference. If a young student continually forgets a spelling or particular sound, spend time to draw, discuss, break down the word or sound. Twist things around, find a different approach.. one small tweak could be all it needs. Maybe by reducing the amount of words in an instruction, it will help students to understand the instruction.


Small adjustments = large gains.


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