Wednesday, January 15, 2020

6 Ways Accelerate Your Lean Journey


Leaders in organizations across industries are always looking to “speed-up” a lean transformation. Most organizations prefer to take small incremental steps away from their current business model and target a set of initiatives that still falls close to their existing position.

The challenge with lean is that, despite its attraction to many executives who want to cut costs and increase productivity, a lean process doesn’t happen overnight. There are plenty of obstacles to overcome.

After 20 years of leading manufacturing operations, implementing lean principles and conducting hundreds of kaizens, there are some basic ways to accelerate your Lean journey.

Develop Culture
Lean is about people. All successful and sustainable business change starts with top management (leadership team). Culture by design requires changing the way that people think and work. That’s difficult to do, because people get comfortable with the way they are. You must establish a foundation so that change can happen. The definition of ‘win’ has to be shared and understood by everyone.

A new lean culture will not develop unless the organization’s leadership team is willing to model and be the examples of the new behaviors.

Leaders have to Lead
Relentless commitment from the leader or leadership is the basic requirement if you are going to have a successful lean conversion. It’s the role of Lean leaders to create an environment that fosters continuous improvement, by asking guiding questions, supporting teams as they test hypotheses, and celebrating improvements, in both performance and process.

Practicing Lean management principles requires a shift in mindset: from that of a supervisor, to that of a teacher and coach. Lean leaders must lead gently, by example, ensuring that Lean principles are being applied with the right goal in mind: To sustainably maximize the delivery of value to the customer.

Kaizen – Develop Internal Capability
Kaizen events are a powerful improvement tool because people are empowered to come up with new ideas to help the business. Employees are isolated from their day-to-day responsibilities and allowed to concentrate all their creativity and time on problem-solving and improvement.

The purpose of kaizen is to involve everyone, everywhere, everyday in making simple improvements. These small improvements add up overtime and result in an extraordinary and never-ending transformation of processes. Companies which use Kaizens have found they generate energy among those who work in the area being improved, and produce immediate gains in productivity and quality.

Kaizen also improves people’s capability for thinking, judgment, and making fact-based decisions. Kaizen teaches leaders how to develop other people so they can help to quickly improve the business.

Bias for Action
If you do nothing, nothing changes. The only cure for inactivity is action. That’s why the first step in creating a successful culture of execution is creating a bias toward action. Get your teams out of the conference room and into the gemba. From there, mandate a fast turnaround time, have them quickly do a value stream map and root cause analysis for their actionable items, and post their successes right away.

Teach Lean to Everyone
The key to implementing any new idea or concept is training. It must be top down training so that everyone is on the same page. The more understanding of what lean manufacturing is all about, why you are implementing it and the expected benefits from it, the more likely you are to get buy-in.

It is very important that everyone in the company become committed to lean culture. In order to make the culture successful, managers and employees need to be aware of waste within the company and be prepared to attack and eliminate it. Making sure that the employees are empowered to do this, not just pushing the job off on someone else, is imperative in the proper function of lean culture.

Ensuring everyone is on the same page will help to avoid conflict. At the same time, it is important to ensure people have the space in which to think about what improvements they think need making.

Focus on Problems and a Few Tools
One of the most common mistakes that companies make when embarking on a Lean transformation is trying to do too much at once. These “boil-the-ocean” initiatives are long, costly and often end up stalling under the weight of their own ambition.

Lean manufacturing consists of many different “tools”. There are a few tools that can and should be used with any lean manufacturing initiative. Some of these tools are 5-S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain), value stream mapping, kanban, takt time, continuous flow, cellular manufacturing, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), SMED (single-minute exchange of die), OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), line balancing, standardized operations, seven wastes (muda), error-proofing, kaizen and root cause problem-solving.

The correct approach to implementing lean manufacturing begins with an analysis of the businesses needs, opportunities and challenges. Once these opportunities are identified, the tools are used which will solve the issues.

It simply wouldn’t be prudent to limit the success of a lean initiative to exclude any tool if it was known to solve the problem at hand.


In other words, the problems identify the tools rather than the tools being forced into the organization.

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