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If you are familiar with Lean, you may have heard of Muda, or The 8 Wastes of Lean. These types of waste are often underpinned by other root causes: Muri (overburden) or Mura (unevenness). Instead of fixing the symptoms, we looked at the underlying problems. In this session, we spoke about what Muri and Mura are and why knowing about them is important in the context of process improvement.
Getting to the root cause defining the 3 m's of lean for process improvement (NYBPP Meetup)
Getting to the Root Cause: Defining the
3 M's of Lean for Process Improvement
Highlights and Q&A - NYBPP Meetup 1/24/18
SAM CHIN | CAVI CONSULTING
● Getting to the Root Cause: Defining the 3 M's of Lean for Process Improvement
■ The Three Layers and the Three M’s
■ Identifying Muri and Mura as Muda Complexes
■ Pattern Recognition: Getting to the Root Cause
■ What’s the relationship between each layer in a process?
■ How does HR measure the cost of MURI, i.e., quantify risk due to overburdening?
■ In an effort to minimize MURA, i.e., diminish uncontrolled variance, how do organizations tackle
‘customized evenness’ for clients?
■ Do you follow a particular pattern to identify the root cause of MUDA in an organization (eg. 5 whys)?
■ Does the Lean methodology follow through with Agile and Waterfall methodologies?
The Three Layers and the Three M’s
Waste can only be seen in the workflow
layer (like everything physical). Mura
and Muri represent design level waste
concepts that manifest themselves as
complicated combinations of muda in
the workflow layer.
This literally means “waste” and refers to any
activity that consumes energy without
creating value. This is the simplest type of
waste to learn. There are 8 types, summarized
in the table pictured to the right.
Muda is the easiest to understand because it is
the type of waste present in the workflow
layer and “visible” to the naked eye. Simple
muda can be removed by identifying it and
physically changing the 1:1 behavior causing it.
S Staff-Utilization Waste
This means “overburden,” and refers to the type of
waste that occurs when over utilizing resources -
in the business context (meaning machines or
people). This type of risk can’t be seen or observed,
but can be measured in the design layer.
The actual waste here could take many forms, but
conceptually it is the cost of realizing a process
risk where the chance of occurrence is increased
due to resources being used in excess of their ideal
operating state (“ideal” being the perfect balance
of benefits production against cost consumption,
based on the physical configuration of a given
This means “Unevenness” or the waste
associated with variation in processes.
Variation can refer to any process element (e.g.
process inputs or outputs) that shows
uncontrolled value changes over time.
Variation can sometimes lead to increased
muda, or sometimes not. It, like muri, is a root
cause for complex muda in some cases, and
must be qualified as such.
Identifying Muri and Mura as
Because muda is the only thing observable, muri and
mura can be confusing to “remove” from a process.
In reality, muri and mura typically form the root causes
for large associated complexes of muda, such that
identifying and removing the source of muri or mura,
will remove large amounts of muda at the same time.
In order to be efficient in waste identification and
removal, it is necessary to identify mura and muri waste
complexes and remove them in bulk, versus addressing
the muda one by one.
Pattern Definition: Getting to the Root Cause
Waste (muda) can only be seen in the
workflow layer (like everything
physical). Mura and Muri represent
design level waste concepts that
manifest themselves as complicated
combinations of muda in the workflow
Recognizing patterns of muda that
indicate underlying muri or mura will
facilitate the removal of muda
complexes in an efficient manner.
In the example here, an experienced professional could see unevenness (mura) as a result of the
complex series of role handoffs embedded in the process. Instead of addressing the muda at the
process step level, reorganizing the distribution of work could alleviate all the muda in one action.
● Muda is the only waste that can be observed in the workflow layer, Muri and Mura are
measured only in the theoretical design layer of process
● Muda is activity that doesn’t lead to value creation. There are 8 types that encompass all
kinds of physical waste that can occur
● Muri represents that waste created when ignoring risk and overburdening resources
● Mura represents the waste created when there is variation , or unevenness, within variables
used to describe a process. Example process variables, such as unit inputs/time, or expected
product specs or quality expectations, are some of many instances where unevenness could
result in process waste
● Muri and Mura typically manifest themselves in processes as groupings of associated muda
● Identifying muda and process patterns will help target mura and muri in a way to
streamline and make process improvement more effective
SAM CHIN | CAVI CONSULTING
Answering questions from the meetup
What’s the relationship between each layer in a
All three layers exist simultaneously in a process. The
workflow layer is the visible layer that suggests the current
obstacles or inefficiencies in a process. Behind every
workflow is an underlying theoretical design layer. The
design layer depicts the process map that kicks off the
workflow. Lastly, the value chain layer sheds light on the
actual value creation for customers - It’s the driving force
that synchronizes the workflow and design layers.
Summarizing the above, from a consulting standpoint, the
value chain layer highlights a need in the market that
stimulates the creation of the design layer and
consequently, an eventual ‘efficient’ workflow layer.
How does HR measure the cost of Muri, i.e.,
quantify risk due to overburdening?
Calculating the cost of a risk profile is challenging
especially when dealing with intangible risk factors.
However, the cost of attrition via data analysis on
retention, is a valuable indicator of the cost of Muri. This
heavily relies on appropriate historical data collection and
translates into factors affecting profitability in the long
In an effort to minimize MURA, i.e., diminish
uncontrolled variance, how do organizations
tackle ‘customized evenness’ for clients?
Custom configuration of standard units. For example, Lego
- Lego creates standardized building blocks that can be
used to build thousands of customized products. Similarly,
organizations should take an approach to create
products/services that can be used as is, or tailored with
Do you follow a particular pattern to identify
the root cause of MUDA in an organization
(eg. 5 whys)?
There is no definitive pattern, however, the most
commonly used pattern by a CAVI process consultant is
summarized below. The objective is to identify the current
inefficiencies and create a process that eliminates such
inefficiencies, and generates maximum value.
A CAVI process consultant assesses the current workflow
and design (As-Is), derives the underlying value chain and
builds up (design) to the desired (To-Be) workflow. When
assessing the current workflow, the consultant is
capturing ‘MUDA’, or ‘waste’ due to process inefficiencies.
MUDA is further broken down into MURI (overburden)
and MURA (unevenness). Once outlined, he/she asks the ‘5
whys’ to determine the root cause, i.e., the flaw(s) in the
As-Is design. The next step is deriving the optimal value,
based on market demand. Lastly, the consultant maps out
the To-Be state, and derives the deltas (variations)
between the As-Is and To-Be states. These variations help
build the eventual design to kick off the To-Be workflow.
Does the Lean methodology follow through
with Agile and Waterfall methodologies?
Selectively, depending on the scope. Agile follows a system
of smaller projects for rapid application development, and
Waterfall makes use of a larger, more sequential design for
larger projects. Lean could be applied in any project,
keeping in mind the optimal value generation.
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