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Friday, April 16, 2021

Lean Quote: Lean as a Habit

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"The fact that lean methods and practices are too often seen as “events” rather than “habits” is a common cause of program failure.  —  Rick Bohan

Lean is not about the destination but the direction or path you take toward this idealistic place. Lean is not something you check off your "To Do List". It is about the constant, persistent, even relentless pursuit of improving your current situation. Usually, it means doing something you haven’t done before because your old habits will not work in your new system. Lean is not technique you apply to your business system but rather a methodology that replaces your business system.

Every organization, company, assembly plant, cell and team is a reflection of its leadership. To create real change in a manufacturing enterprise, managers must first understand what drives the business. The source of power is people and their behaviors.

The sum of these behaviors is the culture. All business results are driven from the behaviors of people. When you change the culture, you change the business. Teaching people how to think and act differently is the key. The culture of your business can be your most powerful strategic advantage.

Creating a continuous improvement culture requires changing people’s habits. Habits are the set of things that people do subconsciously on a daily basis. They are in fact very difficult to change. Part of the challenge of starting and sustaining a continuous improvement program is identifying a set of desired behaviors and continuously reinforce them. This can include training and retraining employees, helping people understand when their behaviors are misaligned with the continuous improvement efforts, and giving positive feedback to those who exemplifies the desired behaviors.

Culture is like a healthy lifestyle. There are no quick fixes. You have to commit to a long, everyday push to get the behaviors right. It’s easy to take one step forward and two steps back. Changing culture requires extensive discipline for managers / supervisors as well as the front line worker. Without the internal transformation we rely on our old tricks for fooling the system. The paradox is that most Lean implementations fail because Lean is too easy. It is easy to do the practical stuff, but very difficult to change behaviors and habits.

Lean culture is not something that you can implement and forget about; it requires daily feeding. Even Toyota lost its way a few years ago and learned how tenuous lean culture can be after the company went through a period of significant growth.

When there's a plan for making Lean an ongoing effort and not just a one-time event, it can be sustained over time.

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