• Donald Davis

Difference Between Thunder and Lightning

Storms have always fascinated me. I like the cool breeze in summer that comes with a good rain. I also like hearing the distant thunder and seeing dramatic shows of lightning.

  1. I remember the first time that I was told that I could count the seconds between seeing lightning and hearing the thunder to figure out how far a storm was away from you.

  2. My wife often jumps at the big boom of a thunderclap. From my perspective, although the thunder may sometimes be surprising or loud, it is not the thing to fear. The real thing to fear would be the lightning because thats where we find all of the energy that it has to electrocute you, start a fire, or destroy things.

Thunder may be loud or provide a long report of the damage that was completed from the impact of the lightning. But at the end of the day, the thunder is not the thing to fear, it is the energy in the lightning that is doing all of the work.

With Lean and Six Sigma I often get started talking to the people who are in the process that is being reviewed. Next, I would like to see the data that demonstrates the process. Finally, I would like to observe the process in action at each step if possible from raw material through product out the door.

Occasionally, there will be one or two individuals who say that they can point to the problem that exists in the process. Sometimes they are right but oftentimes they are similar to the thunder, they make a lot of noise but they can be miles away from where the real problem is. I would rather form my own conclusions then validate my thoughts based on observation and data (the lightning).

The problem with paying attention to those who make the most noise (the thunder) is that they are not where the problem happens and they may not fully understand the root cause of the problem. They only know how to make a lot of noise about what has happened or how something may impact their part of the process.

Go and see for yourself watch the process happen and look for where inventory and people are slowed. One of the best lean tricks I have ever seen is to video tape someone working on a manufacturing line then fast forward the video playback. You will see where the person stops for any significant time these areas are the lightning. Observation and reading the data should not be replaced by the loudest comments.

Be observant. Listen but then use the data and your own observation before making a decision. Where the lightning strikes is critical.

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