Monday, April 24, 2017

Four Essential Elements for Creating a Lean Culture or Management System


Culture is the sum of people’s habits in doing their work. Changing culture should not be targeted per se, instead target the management system and the culture change will follow. 20% of a Lean transformation is covered by physical changes and the other 80% is more difficult because it involves deeply ingrained work habits. A robust Lean culture grows from a Lean Management System, which describes a way of working for Lean Managers and must replace the old management approach.

So if we really want to create a truly Lean culture we need to tackle the culture change problem head on. A basic outline for creating a Lean culture or management system is quite simple. But, keep in mind that, even simple systems require close attention and maintenance to run smoothly. You should build your Lean culture on the following essential elements: make the customer everyone’s business, standardize work for managers, have daily accountability and require discipline.

1. Make the customer everyone’s business: The customer is the very reason for an organization to exist. There is no need for Lean process management without customers, because there would not be any processes to manage, right? So, make the customer everyone’s business, because if their wage is paid by the customer, they should think how what they do contributes to successful customer outcomes that their organization should be producing. Getting rid of useless processes is more effective than tweaking them.

2. Standardize work for managers: People are not machines, so it is impossible to standardize everything. Managers and especially leaders should have sensitive ears and eyes for what is going on around them. However, it is possible to standardize some aspects of managers’ work to make sure that everyone delivers within same levels. Standardized work (for example task list) presents a clearly stated recipe for management, making it easier to evaluate managers’ effectiveness. That standard should not be solely build on internal tasks; it should also include evaluating processes from an Outside-In perspective.

3. Have daily accountability: Having brief accountability meetings every day is a great way to concentrate your efforts on active improvement (for example compare to daily Scrum meetings). In these meetings you can go through shortly what happened yesterday and what you can do today to make things better. Do not hold accountability meetings to share information of low relevance, or to have long discussions. While having these meetings remember to assign responsibility for the necessary tasks. And it is not forbidden to have customers join the meeting if that serves the purpose.

4. Require discipline: you can think of your Lean management system using a motorcycle metaphor. Standardized work is its ‘engine’ and your daily accountability process represents its ‘gas throttle and steering rod’.  Discipline is the ‘fuel’ that keeps the motorcycle running and the customer is ‘the driver’. Having all the elements of your Lean management system in place is not enough, because each has to be observed individually for the system as a whole to work.

The Lean culture is critical for sustainability; and to change it, you have to change your management system. If you stop following through Lean practices because things seem stable and in control, it is certain that you will soon face unstable and out-of-control processes. Lean management culture is crucial to the success of Lean production, because it both sustains and extends the gains from establishing Lean procedures.

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2 comments:

  1. Lean done right can be very contagious.See http://planet-lean.com/thinking-lean-is-like-playing-music-meet-the-lean-fiddler

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