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Applying Lean to Personal Goals

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Applying Lean to Personal Goals

Scott Miker

One of the benefits to the systems and habits approach to improvement is that you are able to identify areas of inefficiency.  You can see when you are wasting time, energy, resources etc.

In the various Lean business process improvement strategies, waste is used to describe areas that can be destructive to the business process and are unnecessary.  But looking at waste through the Lean mindset is beneficial to our personal goals as well. 

In Lean Solutions – How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, the authors give an example of a situation where time is wasted.

“Just look at queues.  Any time you find consumers waiting in a line – at the airport, at any service desk, on any help line, at any healthcare organization, and of course, at the post office, which is truly the global benchmark – ask two simple questions: Is the amount of work to be done by the provider reduced by having customers wait?”  and “Would there be a queue if the providers had to pay customers for waiting time?”

To me this is the essential way to evaluate waste.  I notice this same principle when I look at the dirty dishes in my kitchen.  If I do them right away or wait to do them until later, I have to do the same number of dishes.  The work required is the same.  But the difference is that the time that passes as I wait to do them means the kitchen is not clean.  So the only real difference is whether or not I want the kitchen to be clean or dirty during that time. 

By looking at various aspects of our lives – specifically our habits – we can start to see where there is waste.  Then we can take the systems and habits approach to start to clean those things up. 

Years ago, when I evaluated my morning routine in order to improve it, I noticed a lot of these areas of waste.  I would hit snooze several times.  I would sit and eat breakfast while the TV was on.  I would stumble into my closet in the dark to pick out clothes to wear etc. 

This allowed me to make changes.  I would change how early I set my alarm since I knew I wasn’t getting up at the time I initially set.  I would stop watching TV in the morning and I would get my clothes ready the night before – when I could have the lights on without disturbing my wife or struggling to see!

These small improvements don’t seem significant at all.  But when you do this over and over again you start to become significantly more efficient.  You get more done, you waste less time and you are quicker to act. 

These changes then become habit.  Once they are habits you stop thinking about them and just go through the motions.  The only difference is that going through the motions now means doing things more efficiently and effectively!