Imagine the following Venn diagram with three circles that represents your business: One circle is customer needs, another is business needs, and the final one is what you need.

Flip your focus

Normally, we focus on the part of the Venn diagram where the circles intersect. After all, that’s where the interesting stuff happens, and that’s the place we’re trying to get to.

But I want you to flip your focus and look outside the intersections of your “what you need” circle. That is, look at the part of the “what you need” circle that intersects with nothing else.

Think about what that section means for a moment. That section contains all the things you do that don’t address customer needs and don’t address business needs. If they don’t address those needs, then what are they accomplishing?

This type of no-value-add activity is called MUDA, from the Japanese. I like to describe it as “corporate cholesterol” – it builds up over time and you don’t realize it’s there until it’s causing damage.

Examples of MUDA

Toyota executive Tailcho Ohno identified “7 Deadly Wastes” – a.k.a. MUDA – as follows:

1. Defects
2. Overproduction of things that customers don’t actually want
3. Overblown or under-processed inventories
4. Unnecessary extra processes
5. Unnecessary employee motion
6. Unnecessary transport and handling of goods
7. Waiting for the step before you in the chain to complete their work so you can complete yours

Additional examples include:
– Underutilized human potential
– Unsafe or non-ergonomic work conditions
– Confusion over the right thing to do

Can you think of examples of any of these types of activities in your organization?

The Solution: MUDA PRIME

In response to this, we talk about the MUDA PRIME, which is about clearing away the activity that doesn’t add value and instead focus on the activity that directly relates to your core mission.

One thing I hear often when trying to affect large-scale transformation in organizations is: “We have no resources to make that happen.” The people saying this believe they are speaking the truth, but I know that they are not.

I know because they have invariably have resources that are being tied up in MUDA. Once that’s identified and the activity ceases, the time, talent, effort, money, and other resources that once were spent on MUDA can be redirected towards activities that help grow the areas we want, i.e., the intersection of the Venn diagram.

Knowing when to stop

Stopping an activity can be extremely hard for an individual, a department, or an organization as a whole. Some activity continues because that’s the way things have always been done. Other activity may continue because too much money has been invested into it so far that it would be a career misstep to stop, even if that’s the most prudent thing to do. There are many reasons why activity may continue long past time it brings value to the organization.

If you encounter resistance over stopping a particular activity that is clearly MUDA, consider highlighting where those resources could be better used within the department or organization.

Putting the MUDA PRIME in action, step by step

1. List all the business needs
2. List all the customer needs
3. List all the things you do
4. Look at where they overlap
5. Look more closely where they don’t overlap, then:
STOP spending resources on those things.
START investing those resources in business needs and customer needs.

The result: the overlap section on your Venn diagram will grow, and you’ll see greater transformation in the areas of your business where it counts!

For more information about putting the MUDA PRIME in action, check out my book, The Primes: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem.