"Using Lean as only a tool will leave you disappointed. It is much more than that." — Paul A. Akers, Author of 2 Second Lean
While reading Paul Akers book, 2 Second Lean, I came across this quote that really struck me. We all have stories of those you try to use lean as a tool to improve their business but fail. Those of us who have experienced the true power of Lean understand that it is more than that. My good friend Bruce Hamilton, aka Mr. Toast, says that “Lean it 10% Tools and 90% People.”
The most important thing for Toyota is people – teaching and training people in a culture of continuous improvement. Domo Arigoto, Vice President of LexusTools do not solve problem but rather people do. It is not about the tools it’s how they are applied. A large number of organizations have failed to produce the desired results from the direct and prescriptive application of Lean tools. The tools themselves have been proven to work in many situations. The difference must then be in how the tools were applied, their appropriateness, but not the tools themselves.
Lean is a system of tools and people that need to work together. A single tool by itself, like 5s or value stream mapping, is likely to fail because its benefits are likely to be marginal or even negative.
Developing people means challenging people. But just issuing challenges isn’t enough. It would be disrespectful to not also teach a systematic, common means of developing solutions and meeting those challenges.
The best way to encourage employees is not to manage them. You need to coach them to success. This is a process of developing their skills and providing them specific feedback to meet high standards. Employees want to be on the same team with their bosses.
To get people across an organization to systematically work on improvement every day requires teaching the skills behind the solution. And for that to happen, their leaders and mangers also need to practice and learn those skills. Be their coach and lead the team to success!