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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Three Simple Questions All Managers Should Ask Everywhere

A Lean implementation can not be sustained without Lean management. Our management system must change as our production system changes in Lean to maintain the integrity of technical changes over time. A Lean management system comprises of the practices and tools used to monitor, measure, and sustain the operation of Lean production operations. Lean management practices identify where actual performance fails to meet expected performance; assigns and follows up improvement activities to bring actual in line with the expected, or to raise the level of performance. The four principal elements of Lean management are standard work for leaders, visual controls, a daily accountability process, and leadership discipline.

Management must go to the Gemba to practice Lean management. Gemba is roughly translated from the Japanese as the real place. The idea of the Gemba is simple: go to the place, look at the process, and talk with the people. Gemba walking teaches us to see in new ways what we have failed to see before. So what do you look for and how do you see it? All management should learn to ask these three simple questions:

       1) What is the process?

       2) How can you tell it is working?

       3) What are you doing to improve it (if it is working)?

Nothing sustains itself, certainly not Lean manufacturing or Lean management. So, establish and stick to a routine including regular visits to the Gemba, check the status of visual controls, follow-up on daily accountability assignments, and ask the three simple questions everywhere. Lean management is, as much as anything, a way of thinking.

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