This month Dr. Suresh Gettala writes about the Talking To the C-Suite About Quality in the monthly ASQ Influential Voices post. Management commitment is a “must” to any initiative. In fact, it is the driving force. Procedures, tools, and database are all useless if the management does not want to see an improvement culture in the organization. The employees of the organization will not care, if the management themselves do not show the attitude to follow the right path.
Getting executives in your company to want to support and then adopt Lean Thinking may be difficult but not impossible. We would all like to work at a company where the top people in the organization don’t just do Lean but live Lean but many of us work at a place where they don’t even necessarily do Lean. Since every company culture is different the way to get executive buy-in will be different. Here is a list of ideas to help you convince your management to start thinking Lean:
• Show benefits
If you can demonstrate how the approach will help the organization and the kind of benefits you can obtain, then you will catch the attention of your Senior Managers. To do this, Deployment Champions run a few improvement projects under no name in particular. They can then calculate the benefits using the finance community to validate them. Some benchmarking can also be done, showing what has been achieved in other similar organizations. Lastly you can highlight where your current problems are and then explain how Lean will help to address these issues.
• Explain the concept and how to ensure success
If you understand the concepts, then you have the knowledge to explain how Lean can benefit a company and how to set up for success. If you don't, then you could ask an expert to come and talk to your Senior Management group.
• Understand where it can help
Identifying where to run your projects is vital in any deployment and even more so in the early stages. You must pick projects which are not so easy that any attention would have solved them, or projects which are so big it would be like solving world hunger. If you pick a meaningful project which brings great results both monitory and other wise then you can usually gain the attention of Senior Management and then move to a full deployment in your organization. Another problem we have been encountering is that businesses don't really know where there real problems are. They work on solving symptoms and putting out fires, they don't actually know where the root causes are. In this instance then, we would suggest obtaining a diagnostic of your business which would then tell you where to start in your program deployment.
• Understand what motivates your Managers
If you understand the motivations of your management team then you will know what buttons to press to get the concepts accepted. This might require some work and research and would include things like how they are measured, how their bonuses are made up, where they wish to take the company, what they believe the current issues are, what they know about the concepts and what they have tried in the past. If you work on these areas, your pitch to your Managers will be considered, have the right detail and will have a chance of working.
Gaining senior management buy-in is really about finding the right balance between the soft skills (knowing how to listen to them, how to anticipate their reactions) and hard skills (rock solid analysis, irrefutable facts, etc.). You may have to try different approaches and borrow from what has worked in other organizations or disciplines. It is the key to the survival of your role in the organization as ultimately without that buy-in, you will be limited in your tasks and responsibilities. At the end of the day, you run little risk in applying principles highlighted above so... go for it!