Removing waste increases profits

In June of 2007 I posted about the mis-application of 6-Sigma to innovation and creativity. However, the idea of removing waste that does not add value can still be applied to so-called creative processes. To wit, Partners & Napier, a Rochester, NY ad agency.

Like many ad agencies today, they are being pushed by their clients to cut prices. If you don’t figure out how to cut costs along with those prices, your profits suffer. (Now there’s a shocker.) When their #1 client, Kodak, demanded that they cut prices, the firm was worried creative would suffer, since “… no one understands how long it takes to get a great idea.” Like most companies that are looking to reduce costs, they started looking in the wrong place.

However, by going through a rigorous process improvement methodology, Partners and Napier found that the real waste occurred outside the creative process. They confirmed, among other things, one of the key ideas we teach in our Lean Marketing/Sales Workshops: Most approval processes are waste. They are classic re-work created because the first effort was not correct. At Partners and Napier they found a lot of waste in the back-and-forth for approvals of briefs, concepts, and ideas. Re-work is waste, no matter the process.

If you work in a creative endeavor and are beset by re-work you think is unavoidable, consider that is what classic manufacturers thought about their re-work as well. That is also what product development and project people thought. And, that is what Partners and Napier thought.

To quote Apple: Think different(ly).