Boots on the Ground

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“Boots on the ground” was a phrase I used in the oil fields borrowed from the military exercise, when soldiers, with heavy packs and guns loaded, marched in combat cadence.   One of my jobs was to maximize value to the customer by reducing waste, cycle time and defects. As Lean Six Sigma and the concept of Continuous Improvement were relatively new at the workplace; along came with it, a distinct vocabulary and hard to grasp concept.  To reach common ground, I had to modify terminology and substitute metaphors so that I can work with management and rank-and-file.  Without common ground, it was next to impossible to have a conversation.  The phrase “boots on the ground” was synonymous to “value added.”

A major task to determine efficiency required the implementation of the Value stream Map or VSM. Takt and time and motion studies were conducted to isolate value added, non-value-added, non-value-added but necessary, and waste associated with jobs at the workplace. Since time and motion studies were not conducted prior to my assignment, I relegated hours with a stopwatch in my hands. Time-consuming, yes, but necessary.
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Discussions without data provided inconclusive but anecdotal evidence that reflected upon inconclusive methodology. Once the information was gathered measured and analyzed, I offered a worksheet, chart and report for review.  Since I was the only one qualified to perform this function, I dedicated time to come up with the appropriate conclusions, thereby establishing the, all too important, baseline. Cost was determined by segregating and itemizing per hour cost on labor, equipment and material. By separating and itemizing, I was able to provide a basis for analysis.

With  data and baseline accomplished, benchmarking was based upon International Standards Organization (ISO) 9001 and customer demands.

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What I just explained appeared complex and almost hard to follow with thoughts of fancy algorithms, complicated routines, equipment, or technology. 

But what it boils down to in a nutshell is how much time is actually spent with boots on the ground against time doing nothing?

Is it that difficult to manage and engage employees to focus on doing and providing the best job, products, service and transaction possible by simply asking them to keep their "boots on the ground?" 

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