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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Top 10 Lean Tips of 2015

As 2015 comes to an end and we look toward 2016 I wanted to revisit some tips. The Lean Tips published daily are meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledgeable tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey. Here are the top 10 Lean tips from this past year:

Lean Tip #1100 - Remove Blame Culture – Make Failure Acceptable
Innovation is one of the key ingredients in business success and if you want to create an innovative organization you'll need to motivate your staff to show initiative, think creatively and even take some risks. But, they won't do this in a blame culture environment where employees are castigated for failure and for trying something new; they will become afraid to think creatively and won't be motivated to innovate. Companies with a blame culture are disadvantaged in relation to creativity, learning, innovation and productive risk-taking. Replace a blame culture with one of learning from mistakes. Encourage workers to own up to mistakes but with a focus on what has been learned from it. Senior managers should lead the way by owning up to mistakes to show that it is OK to fail.

Lean Tip #1155 – Build a Customer Focused Team
Today’s best leaders, managers and employees are customer-focused. They understand and anticipate the needs of both internal and external customers. They meet and exceed customer needs with timely, efficient and economical solutions.

Conduct periodic meetings with internal and external customers to discuss their unique challenges and the ways your team can be more supportive. Invite your employees to participate in the meetings. Develop and ask a brief set of questions to assess their satisfaction with your department’s services. Share the results with your team and develop action plans to improve customer relationships.

Lean Tip #1205 - Develop Exceptional People And Teams Who Follow Your Company’s Philosophy.
Exceptional people thrive in environments that promote Continuous Improvement; however, organizations that have a powerful culture of CI are not those that demand that employees practice CI. Instead exceptional people are “developed” within the “system dynamics of an organization” – in other words, they work in a place where Continuous Improvement is second-nature.

People must feel secure; feel as though they are part of a team; feel challenged in their job; have some degree of autonomy and feel like they have some control over their work.
Without a culture of respect, where each person is valued for what they contribute to an organization, the chances of developing exceptional people who strive to improve what they do and how they do it every day becomes nearly impossible.

Lean Tip #1215 - Give Employee the Chance to Fail -- and a Safe Place to Land When They Do.
Not all employees are risk-takers. Fortunately, the willingness to take risks can be taught -- or at least modeled.

First, stomp out micromanagement in your organization. If your employees feel as if they have to seek approval before making every decision, or if their day-to-day routine is filled with monitoring and correction, they’ll never take initiative.

A manager shouldn’t be a babysitter. Encourage every manager to be a mentor, and give employees opportunities to push out of their comfort zone. If employees fail, train your managers to treat those mistakes as teachable moments. Train your managers to help employees try again -- and to give them the tools and motivation to do so.

Lean Tip #1221 - Develop an Environment that will Encourage Continuous Training
Foster an environment that will make your employees see that the future of the company lies within continuous on job training. You should replace the idea of initial training with ability to develop and become a better equipped employee. Coming up with this kind of environment will empower your employees thus giving them the self motivation that will drive them to the need of improving themselves. Your business culture should be built around employee improvement and satisfaction. Integrate continuous on job training in your daily routines so that it can stick. Remember, employees that are encouraged by the fact that there is a good environment within which they can grow have high chances of being loyal to the company hence better productivity in the end.

Lean Tip #1242 - Encourage, Motivate, Reward and Recognize
The employer must ensure that on his part he always has words of encouragement for his staff. Encouraging them helps them move forward and do even better, and makes the worker feel happy. Innovative ways of motivating them spurs them even more. For example, holidays or conferences paid for by the company have been found to motivate employees immensely.
  • Rewarding the hard work put in by employees makes them continue to work in the same fashion, and if the employee feels that his work is not appreciated in words or in material terms, he may gradually stop doing so, since he may feel that others working less are given the same too, so he need not work more.
  • Rewards, and other ways of keeping employees happy makes them feel that their effort is being recognized and that they are needed by the company.
  • Without these, they may soon start looking for greener pastures and new jobs.

Lean Tip #1263 – Stay Away From Unrealistic Targets
Many organizations set targets without any thought to current performance, process stability or process capability. Industry benchmarks are helpful, but before applying these benchmarks to an organization, the team should analyze current process performance to ensure that unrealistic targets are not set. Unrealistic targets create resistance within an organization and impact team and people performance. In some cases, they also lead to data manipulation or incorrect reporting.

Before setting any targets, the metrics team should ensure that processes are stable and that process capability can be measured in a reliable manner. Process capability should be measured from the customer’s perspective. If teams do not consult the customers, they may find that clients are still unhappy even when targets are consistently met. Involving customers at each stage of target setting helps teams set realistic and achievable targets that will meet customer’s expectations.

Lean Tip #1306 – Learn From Your Past Changes
Unless your organization is brand new, it’s unlikely it has not rolled out a change (big or small) before.  You should use the lessons learned from rolling out these changes to form and inform your new change management approach.  This is the easiest and probably most valuable piece of information to shape your tactics and build an even stronger approach.

Key questions to ask about the previous change are:  what worked and what didn’t work?  Why or why not?  If you can get more details, ask for more!  Find out which communication mechanisms had the most impact, which champions were the strongest and which resources were the most helpful.

Lean Tip #1320 - Change Requires Constant Support and Attention.
To get better every day takes knowledge, diligence, effort, focus and resources. It will not work to simply give a team a book about Lean Manufacturing, turn on your heels and walk away, ordering them to implement the process. The result will be 'short-term-improvement' and 'long-term-frustration'. Company leadership must take an active role in steering the efforts of the team. Direction and discipline to keep working on the Model-Line must come from the top. Otherwise sub-optimization and shot gunning will occur. The short-term needs of the manufacturing managers and the finance team will overshadow the long term needs to establish something more than a brittle veneer.

Lean Tip #1322- There is No End to Improvement
There is an old saying that goes “Once you think you have arrived, you have already started your descent.” One must never think they "have arrived." In the US we say "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But the spirit of kaizen suggests that there is always something to learn and ways to improve, and that it is also better to prevent problems than to fix them. So, no matter how good things may seem now, there is always room for improvement, and looking to improve every day is what the spirit of kaizen is all about. It’s not about how far you have come or how far you have yet to go, it is only about this moment and being open to seeing the lessons around you, and possessing the capacity and willingness to learn and improve. There are many small things you can do to increase your design mindfulness and skills over time.

These 10 Lean tips can help you with your journey in 2016. What advice would you share for the new year?

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