After some time applying and tailoring the different Lean tools to the very little applied world of music making, I found myself in a situation that for me was confusing yet familiar.
The confusing part was that, even though I was improving my processes day after day, and feeling the wonders and empowerment of taking more and more waste out of the equation, when you looked to the bottom line, the amount of stuff I put out there, the general swiftness of things, wasn't improving that much.
Why was that? I knew I was in the right path, Lean after all is nothing but "common sense that is not that common", and once you recognize it there's no turning back; the way I see it, you're not choosing between good option and bad option, but between having an option you can now work on, or get back to the chaos you used to live in. And yet, I still wasn't getting the desired results; there was something missing.
The "familiar" part of the situation was that I recognized this kind of state in other people's narration of their Lean journeys. Someone once called this period the "random access lean" or "random access kaizen" stage. It took me some time to recognize the pattern, but eventually I did.
Here is the thing: Lean changes your worldview, it's like the road of Damascus. Simultaneously, it opens your eyes forever to the reality of waste, and gives you the tools to combat it. And you're a newcomer, and combating waste feels good, a brand new field of action opens where you can develop yourself and your creativity (and this is probably even more truth in the personal sphere, where you don't have to juggle corporate factors, other people's resistance to change, etc...) So you get down to it like a trooper.
That exploration period is perhaps necessary, and you learn a lot out of it. However, waste is everywhere, so declaring a generic "war on waste", in the end, is a sure ticket to frustration and exhaustion. You'd be better off trying to boil the ocean. The ocean, after all, would stay boiled once you've finished it, but waste regenerates itself at every moment, so even if you could cope with all of it, there is always more on the way already. Time and energies are finite, so the conclusion is we have to get strategical and decide where we apply the tools, which waste we go for. The best tool I've found to do that selection turned out to be Theory of Constraints, which I'll discuss in further posts.
Note: "Waste" is a negative term and I'd have preferred to address first its opposite, "value", which I intend to focus on for the most in the future; this is one of the necessary concessions you have to make as you use very broad strokes to get quickly to a first whole picture.