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Overcoming Poor Judgment

By AICC Staff

December 1, 2020

“Broadcaster Mike Krukow has called so many close San Francisco Giants games in recent years that he has subtitled the team’s play, “Giants baseball—torture.” He meant: We’re winning, but why does it have to hurt? Well, it may be time to subtitle 2020 as well. One consequence of these tumultuous times is a nexus of untrained workers, welcome large backlogs, and shrinking lead times. The potential impacts on quality and on-time delivery are short-term consequences. The willing but incapable workers are worthy of a long-term investment in the development of the critical-thinking skills that will serve your company and their careers. If ever there was a time when life experience equipped most workers with judgment, this is not that time.

Poor judgment is incredibly wasteful. It is time to declare war on waste and to equip everyone in the building to recognize and remove loss of time, money, effort, and creativity. Waste is defined in the eyes of your customer. It includes many good things—and many necessary things—that you need to do. Your customer would not want to do business with you if they knew that you did not allow people to take breaks or lunches, that you didn’t train your people, or that you never took time to maintain your machines. They want you to do all of that, but they don’t want to pay for it.

Your customer sees value as anything that improves the form or function of a product or service; they see everything else as waste. The authors of The Machine That Changed the World defined waste as “anything your customer would not gladly pay for if you were to bill them for it separately.” The point is that we need to do many of these valuable things, but we need to do them in such a way that we minimize their impact on the flow of product and service.


Recognizing and removing waste is a learned skill. In most cases judgment can be learned through guided experience with tools. The TIMWOOD chart on the next page is one such tool for seeing waste that is hidden in plain sight. It is very difficult for most of us to spot waste in the areas where we live and work. When safety, quality, or speed issues point out a need for improvement, this tool may be used as an observation guide.

We are looking for causes of waste, not for someone to blame the waste upon, so it is best treated as a search. In this case, we are not looking for Waldo, but for TIM WOOD, an acronym for seven categories of waste. Once you have gone through the exercise, it will be easy to remember what each of the letters represents. Then you will be able to remind team members in the normal course of their workday to be on the lookout for waste.

When your team is guided through disciplined observation, they find waste related to:

  • Transportation to and from the process.
  • Inventory imbalances in raw materials, WIP, or finished goods.
  • Movement within the process that may be unnecessary.
  • Waiting for materials, tooling, or information.
  • Overproduction by making more than is currently needed right now.
  • Overprocessing by adding excessive steps or materials.
  • Defects and rework.

Prioritization Chart

This is another helpful tool that shows a group what actions should be taken next. By discussing the level of payoff and the level of difficulty, the group decides what items have a high enough priority and become action items. This is a remarkable process to watch. Inevitably, groups begin in an us-them mode. What I mean by this is that we begin with a silly mindset that looks for simple solutions that are made doubly simple by the use of other people’s resources. For example, each time a machine crew is asked what would be needed to go faster, the answer will include “buy us a new machine.” However, when that solution is considered and then placed on the prioritization chart, it is most often the person who suggested it who says it belongs on the top right quadrant (high payoff, hard to do). What happened in the interim is that the person was invited into the decision process and then adopted an owner’s perspective. Once the prioritization is complete, an action item list can be populated.

One blessing of troubled times is the creation of so many teachable moments. Repeated use of tools such as those described here provides a model for observation and decision-making that improves the work and the judgment of the worker. Who knows, it may even improve our communities.


Scott Ellis, Ed.D., delivers training, coaching, and resources that develop the ability to eliminate obstacles and sustain more effective and profitable results. He recently published Dammit, Learning Judgment Through Experience. His books are available on Amazon. Scott can be reached at 425-985-8508 or



Sidebar: TIMWOOD Buy-In Builder

Have everyone write their observations on sticky notes. As each person places their ideas on the TIMWOOD board, some will be nervous about standing up there talking about their observation, but they will be proud they did.

Step by step:

  1. Go to the area; being there is different than speaking from memory.
  2. Working alone or in pairs; look for examples of each type of waste.
  3. List the observations, along with the category of waste.
  4. When you return to the war room, put the observations on the TIMWOOD board.
  5. Have each person explain the waste they observed.

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