Bleeding to Death from a Thousand Paper Cuts

You get a paper cut. It hurts and bleeds a little, you clean it off, maybe put a bandage on it and it’s done. Easy enough.

Until you get another paper cut. And another. And yet another… Suddenly there’s more pain, more blood, more trouble. You’re spending more money on more bandages, but the bleeding continues. Bandages alone won’t do the trick; you need to find out what’s causing these paper cuts and what you can do to stop them.

This is what happens when you have many smaller problems in a process but choose to consider them as little more than minor inconveniences. In most cases, such issues are often left unresolved or perhaps you simply “stick a bandage” on each. And since no red flags are raised for them, you don’t realize how many you actually have until it’s too late.

A minor problem on its own might not be critical, but the damage that many of them create collectively can really add up. If you disregard them instead of addressing their underlying causes, you’ll get the same symptoms again and again. The next thing you know, your company is bleeding money from a multitude of places—and these figurative paper cuts are impacting your bottom line.

Don’t just stop the bleeding; stop the cause. Taking a close look at your processes will help you get to the heart of the matter, so you can make changes that fix issues from the inside out instead of spending more money and time on quick-fixes (or ignoring the problems altogether).

About the Authors

Mike Sibley and Katie Davis are passionate about creating thorough and sustainable systems to help organizations become Lean Enterprises. In addition to writing and speaking on Lean Six Sigma, Mike and Katie work directly with an organization’s members to evaluate an existing process and identify solutions that eliminate waste, as well as build efficiency and quality into the process. Mike and Katie have applied these approaches for manufacturing, construction, professional services, and governmental entities.