Information practices are incredibly unlean. The 7 wastes from lean production of physical goods are:

  • overproduction
  • inventory
  • motion
  • defects
  • over-processing
  • waiting
  • transport

If you simplistically map each of these wastes to information technology, it is all there. We produce a ton of data, we store a ton of data, we move a lot of data back and forth between devices, we analyze (process) data, we wait for data and finally we transport data into reports and different systems.

The costs of this waste may not be as noticable as the cost of technology decreases over time. However, the real cost of waste in information processing is hard to calculate.

The cost of computer hardware, software and services, pale in comparison to the cost of information malpractice.

Information mistakes are always costly. Yet, information mistakes are everywhere despite massive IT systems designed to minimize the mistakes.

While there were plenty of information mistakes and misdeeds before the information age, it was directly the work of humans plus bureaucracies. Now it is humans, bureaucracies and code, so there is an extra layer of complexity to the process. The goal is rethinking our approach to information.

How do you lean out the information age process?

When attempting to implement lean systems, the first step is to figure out where the value is. Since information is intangible, it is harder to map the creation of value and who it really belongs to.

The same piece of information may have much more value potential in one person’s mind as opposed to another person who has the same exact training and degree.

The next tricky part is that if you design an information system that works for you, does it work for anyone else. With training, some information processes become rote. While this is good at one point, the information is not really teaching you anything so it really becomes a collect and store situation… You might even develop some monitoring reports to make sure that everything is on track.

The basic lifecycle of information looks something like this: discovery, securing, sharing, innovating, implementing, collecting and monitoring. The value of the information goes from completely unknown, to something with potential to something that has lower value

A lot of the effort of information technology is in the collecting and monitoring phases. The information collected from these phases is sometimes fed back as inputs into the discovery phase.

But the value of that still depends on something outside the information system to provide the oxygen to create the spark need for innovation.

While these information processes are incredibly unlean, the system is tolerated because it is hard to envision a better reality.