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Monday, March 27, 2023

Lean Tips Edition #201 (#3226 - #3240)

For my Facebook fans you already know about this great feature. But for those of you that are not connected to A Lean Journey on Facebook or Twitter I post daily a feature I call Lean Tips.  It is meant to be advice, things I learned from experience, and some knowledge tidbits about Lean to help you along your journey.  Another great reason to like A Lean Journey on Facebook.

Here is the next addition of tips from the Facebook page:

Lean Tip #3226 – Don’t Make Perfection the Goal

One of the hardest parts of using the continuous improvement model is the desire to strive toward perfection. This is an impossible feat, and the philosophy behind kaizen is to make small changes to be better than you were the day before. Focusing on perfection can lead your team to make changes that aren’t actually necessary.

Lean Tip #3227 – Include Everyone In Continuous Improvement

Everyone means everyone. One key element of Kaizen, which was famously foundational to the ‘Toyota Way’, is to involve every employee, from the CEO all the way down. Everyone needs to be part of this communal and combined effort in order for it to succeed and for it to become commonplace in the workplace.

If your goal is to improve together as a team, making sure that you are working as a team is important. When embarking on a journey to improve your team you should focus on some team-building exercises or even conduct some kind of social activity to help your team get to know each other.

Lean Tip #3228 – Encourage Encouragement

People need to be encouraged and inspired to improve, it won’t come with fear or intimidation. If you trust your hiring process then your workplace will likely feature people who have the drive and ambition to produce strong and high-quality work. Providing them with the support and backing they need to reach their own personal goals will be crucial in ensuring continuous improvement. 

Lean Tip #3229 – Invest in Training People

Business process improvement is a skill like any other. It doesn’t have to be expensive to train your teams to have the right skills, knowledge, and mindset and the return on investment will far exceed the training cost. Having a Lean Six Sigma training provider deliver the training at your workplace can also save valuable time.

Lean Tip #3230 – Spread and Scale Up Improvement

Once the idea has transformed into an innovative improvement, explore further opportunities to apply, spread or scale up. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. If you already have it, see where else it might make a difference. The training investment is precious, since staff will apply the improvement mindset and their knowledge to other areas.

Lean Tip #3231 – Give Employees the Time to Work on Improvements

Too often, Managers or Support Staff are trained in improvements, but then they return to their full-time job and don’t have the mandate to make the required changes. They’re expected to create time to work on special projects whilst still managing all their usual work.

I always advise companies to schedule specific hours, goals and plan projects in detail to create a culture of continuous improvement.

Lean Tip #3232 – Give Employees the Autonomy to Make Changes 

So, your team has enjoyed some Lean methodology training and you’ve made the time available for them to work on improvement projects – but have you given them the opportunity to make changes?

Do they have the autonomy to make decisions? Or is there an unfortunate approval bottleneck which is creating an obstacle?

If your employees are not senior enough to check and approve their own process improvement implementation, a rapid approval/decision-making process should be put in place, so they can move their improvements forward at pace.

I’ve seen many good projects fail through a war of attrition while getting through the internal approvals process.

Lean Tip #3233 – Give Them a Budget for Improvements

If you want improvement work to happen, it will usually require budget. When it comes to making meaningful changes within an organization, it will usually cost money upfront before you see return on investment (ROI) from the process improvement.

Ensure that you clear a dedicated budget for continuous improvement and treat it as a long-term line item in your balance sheet. Many organizations want to prove an ROI before work has even started, but preliminary assessments (which can cost money) are necessary to determine what the ROI will be.

A good Lean Six Sigma project will set out what your business expectations are for the process, project or company-wide improvements, but usually, there is no real way of proving this will occur, as it’s only a well-formed hypothesis until you actually start operating a process differently.

Lean Tip #3234 – Make it Safe For Employees to Fail

Iterative work and experimental work always come with a large volume of experimentation, learning and optimization which means some degree of failure. Because failure is an inherent aspect of any change management project, where processes will be reviewed and altered, it’s important to accept failure as part of the improvement process.

Without open and well-communicated acceptance of failure, a fear of failure can stunt the appetite for change. Growth requires risk – look at any investment portfolio. The same goes for continuous improvement within businesses – growth always requires risk.

The leaders of an organization must work hard to instill an attitude where failure is accepted and learned from.

Lean Tip #3235 – Ask the 5 Whys to Improve Your Corporate Culture

Ready to get to the root cause of whatever ails your process, with your whole team on board? Start by asking why. In fact, plan to ask it a solid four more times as part of the 5 Whys, a Lean Six Sigma strategy that will move you past the symptoms to the heart of the problem. When you include coworkers and other stakeholders in offering alternative answers to the stream of whys, the collaborative effort can go a long way in fostering a corporate culture that embraces change and values input from all.

Lean Tip #3236 – Follow-Through on People’s Ideas

As employees see leadership acting on their ideas, it can create a buzz of excitement about the change process. It also builds trust in leadership and shows a commitment to the new Kaizen culture. Make sure that the processes you have in place for acting upon ideas are clearly understood.

Moreover, make sure you follow-up after ideas are implemented. It’s easy to be caught up in the excitement of a Kaizen event, only to let the improvements achieved peter out over time. Keep a presence in the gemba so that employees can see you’re committed to supporting their ideas a part of the company culture.

Lean Tip #3237 – Communicate Consistently and Predictably

If you truly want to drive a continuous improvement culture, then you need to keep that goal front and center in messaging to employees. Consistently communicate about improvement goals, whether that’s through emails, during meetings or through training opportunities. But don’t let the communication stop there. Publicly share the results of Kaizen projects as well. Celebrate the successes and discuss lessons learned from failures. Let employees see what they’re working toward to encourage them to keep driving improvement forward.

Lean Tip #3238 – Respect That People React Differently to Change

Kaizen is all about respect. When you respect people as individuals with different learning styles and reactions to change, you will get farther in your goals. Remember the Toyota formula: “Go see, ask why, show respect.” If you’re not getting anywhere on your own, reach out to your workforce. Make their resistance to change the first problem to solve on your continuous improvement journey. 

Lean Tip #3239 – Make Changes That Bring Maximum Impact

There are hundreds of improvements you can make to the process. But everything cannot be done in one shot. Be smart at choosing which improvements to execute. The Pareto principle comes in handy.

The pareto principle states that 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes. It also means that if you act on 20% of the causes you bring 80% improvement. Instead of doing pointless busy work, concentrate on making improvements that bring more impact.

You need not break your head calculating the percentage of impact. Remember and apply the principle theoretically when you have multiple improvements to make.

Lean Tip #3240 – Encourage Proactive Communication

A lot of errors can be prevented by proactive communication. If an employee foresees an error or inefficiency in the process, coworkers should realize the impact and act on it quickly. Nurture a work culture that encourages team members to identify and solve problems. Announce incentives to employees for increasing the efficiency of the process.

Proactive communication does not mean restlessly seeking problems and solving them. It is acting on a problem immediately after you identify one.

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