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Lean Tools Do Not Come With…

By Robert Baird posted Jun 07, 2014 9:53 AM


LEan toolsLean tools do not come with leadership. Transformation is a big word and it means change.

Leaders of the organization might realize the benefits of a lean transformation but the mistake that is usually made is they delegate this effort to the lower levels of the organization. The effort might realize in some early and positive improvements but without the support of the leaders these early improvements will start to be challenged and the momentum is diminished.

Culture is the responsibility of the leaders and lean tools, by themselves, will not provide this essential culture change. The transformation momentum creation, building, and sustainment will not come from the implementation of the tools.

Lean tools do not come with organization structure. How you are structured is a key component for an organization that is seeking a faster pace in knowledge sharing, mentoring, strategy support, resulting in achievement of meeting business targets with fewer required resources. Establishing this culture is next to impossible with a traditional hierarchal organization structure. This traditional structure, by itself, is conducive to establishing departmental cultures which can be completely different from the expected organizational culture. Recently this hierarchy was the main cause of critical business failures by General Motors, Veteran Affairs, and Chris Christie’s Administration. Because of their hierarchy structures they were not able to develop their expected culture or values throughout the organization.

Lean tools do not come with knowledge sharing ability. Even if there is widespread use of lean tools within an organization it will not create an organizational capacity for knowledge sharing. The organization has to plan for and create a structure of people wanting to share critical knowledge. In promoting this sharing organizational leaders must look for opportunities to reward people for sharing and obtaining critical business knowledge. Critical business knowledge must be identified first, a structure for sharing and evolving this knowledge second, and lastly a system for gaining valuable knowledge.

Lean tools do not come with engaged employees. How many people have started a 5S program, obtained some results, and then to find, three months later, there are very few signs of the improvements? Some people will be inspired by working with the tools but there is never enough of this self-motivation to engage the workforce. When starting with a restricted tool implementation it is immediately seen as a change in work methods and this begins resistance. To achieve engagement leaders must be able to move people from resistance to satisfaction. If people clearly understand the strategy and know how their efforts are contributing towards the achievement of the strategy, they will move from resistance to satisfaction. Leaders must be able to demonstrate how the application of lean tools are connected to achieving strategy targets. As results do not come immediately, the effort to maintain this connection and maintain momentum is a daily effort by the leaders.

Lean tools do not come with an effective process design. A lean value stream design is developed from staying focused on strategy deployment. This strategy comes from understanding and defining customer value so that everyone understands and can contribute towards improving value. To design a lean value stream lean tools will have a significant contribution but if the tools are working on the wrong areas or parts of the process, strategy deployment takes too long and momentum is lost to the daily firefighting.

Lean tools do not come with a mentor. Tool training is usually conducted with value stream workers who will be executing them within their work areas. There is also a Facilitator who supports the application of these tools. This lack lean tool knowledge penetration and support structure is insufficient for maintaining the required momentum. We take our queue’s from our leaders, if they lack lean tool knowledge (the how of strategy deployment), then they are unable to provide the required mentoring and coaching. Without this, the executers of the lean tools will soon lose the connection to strategy deployment and the old firefighting methods will soon take precedence. If the leaders are in the Gemba, Supporting, Teaching, and Promoting strategy deployment, momentum is created and maintained.

Implementing lean tools, on their own, will only bring short term results. It will cause the organization to use up more improvement resources and the short term results will not only be indiscernible to leaders but also to the customers. Leaders must have a clear understanding of lean tools in the how of strategy deployment. They must be the mentors and coaches.

The starting point is in planning of strategy deployment and if the methods are in the application of lean tools then leaders must be prepared to Support, Teach, and Promote.

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