You can observe a lot by just watching.
– Yogi Berra
Mindful observation takes effort and practice. Watch the process in action and look for the small nuances and opportunities for improvement. The wait staff at top tier hotels do this every day. One waiter is always just standing and watching – looking for the shift in a customer’s eyes that he might need something, a line growing with people waiting to be seated, or food that needs to be delivered. Then action is taken.
Taiichi Ohno had an exercise for his engineers and students where he’d draw a circle on the factory floor and tell them to stand in it and simply observe for a half hour. If they came back and reported that they didn’t see anything to improve, he’d send them back out.
The Ohno Circle exercise is very powerful and can be used on the factory floor, in the finance department, or even at home with the kids. In fact, it’s probably even more powerful in areas where processes are not visible or visibly defined. Just stand and watch. Resist the temptation to immediately jump into action. Think about and record what you’ve observed. Then improve.