Monday, July 9, 2012

The Ten Steps of Starting the Journey Towards Lean Improvement

In recent years, more companies have adopted Lean as a continuous improvement method to improve profitability, enhance customer satisfaction and maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace. Based on a customer-focused view, Lean can provide a strong foundation for any organization that wants to incorporate continuous improvement into its operating philosophy.

Starting the Lean journey can be difficult. It is critical to have alignment and clearly state the need for improvement from the beginning. There are ten key steps that should be taken when starting the journey towards a Lean improvement.

1. Establish a need to improve and obtain management commitment
2. Define the improvement objective
3. Identify and acquire necessary resources
4. Collect information and determine current state
5. Uncover the root cause
6. Identify and test countermeasures that will meet the improvement objectives
7. Develop plans for implementing the countermeasures which ensure buy-in
8. Implement the improvement
9. Standardize the improvement
10. Repeat starting a step 1

Every system should have provision for an improvement cycle. Therefore when an objective has been achieved, work should commence on identifying better ways of doing it. There is no improvement without measurement. An organization must establish current performance before embarking on any improvement. If it does not, it will have no baseline from which to determine if its efforts have yielded any improvement.

Lean improvement is about the entire organization and everything it does. Lean Thinking has to be a prime concern of executive management and its success depends upon commitment from them. Their commitment must also be highly visible. It is not enough to demand improvement. If executive management does not demonstrate its commitment by doing what it says it will do they cannot expect others to be committed either.

These steps can develop a Lean process improvement strategy in any business. As with any process, as lessons are learned, make improvements to the Lean effort. Modify and strengthen the infrastructure; select new tools to add to your "arsenal," develop improved methods to measure and communicate progress; and challenge cells to constantly get better, faster, and more productive.

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