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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Worst Waste of All: Lack of Employee Involvement

Taiichi Ohno (considered by many to be the father of Lean) highlighted overproduction as the worst of all the 7 Wastes. Overproduction includes in essence all others wastes so it could be considered the most problematic. However, many have missed one of the biggest opportunities for quick improvement by overlooking one of the deadliest wastes, right under their noses.

The worst kind of waste is the lack of employee involvement and creativity. Lean doesn’t work unless everyone is involved and has input. We must involve employees in the continuous improvement process because the people actually carrying out the job know how to do that job better. The best companies in the world tap the creativity and talent of the whole organization and not just a select few.

The lack of ongoing employee involvement at the shop-floor level has been identified as a major reason for the non-sustainability of Lean in the organization. When there is a lack of staff involvement, and management fails to seek employee input on critical decisions, employees may feel dejected and detached from the organization.

The worst part of this form of Muda is “thinking you can't.” This of course guarantees you can't. Henry Ford probably said it best when he noted, "You can think you can achieve something or you can think you can't and you will be right." Thinking you can't is the worst form of waste because it thwarts your tackling the other, more-familiar forms of waste.

Employee engagement also affects the mindset of people. Engaged employees believe that they can make a difference in the organizations they work for. Confidence in the knowledge, skills, and abilities that people possess – in both themselves and others – is a powerful predictor of behavior and subsequent performance.

If you never try, you can not fail, except fail to try. However, if you never try, you can never succeed.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Employee involvement cultivates an atmosphere of collaboration, increases retention of talented staff, and intensifies dedication and commitment. Employees develop a sense of ownership over proposed changes when they are involved.  Employee engagement can not only make a real difference, it can set the great organizations apart from the merely good ones.

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  1. Engaged employees feel a personal responsibility for the company, and will reduce waste on their own initiative - reducing overhead and wasted cost worries overall. Disengaged employees will result in an organization struggling significantly, whether its goals are Lean or not. Unfortunately, too many organizations do not look to their employees for support when there are organizational problems, but instead look at their employees as problems to be solved.

    1. I agree. Employees are the fuel (energy) behind a company. You would think you would want this to work for you than against you.