Sunday, September 30, 2012

How to Do Lean Right When Things Seem Good!

When is the easiest time to get real traction in a lean journey? When the ship is going down, obviously. You will have all hands on deck, and you can bypass all of the gradual buy-in stuff. All you need to do is pull your troops together and rally them. I know for a fact that this is the case because that was how I became a lean zealot-the ship wasn't sinking but it was taking on water! With the exception of a few doubters, our people learned quickly and went about the business of making improvements toward flow. Cash flow quickly improved, lead times decreased, and morale was sky high.

So what do you do when everything seems to be hunky dory? Things are going great, or so it seems. Everybody is getting paid every week, everybody seems busy.  You're making money. But YOU know you could be doing much, much better. So how do you create a sense of urgency? I think the more accurate way of thinking about this is how do you communicate a real sense of urgency that, on the surface, doesn't SEEM to exist?

What if you got up in front of your entire organization, and said, "in order for us to survive, we need to decrease our process times by at least 50%, and we will be the fastest and easiest company to deal with in our marketplace!" Which process times you ask? Every single process in your company-hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Processes on the production floor, in quality, research, accounts payable, customer service, sales, marketing, etc etc. This ALONE will give you a huge competitive advantage. This alone will be market disruptive.

All you want is for every person to spend 15 minutes per day improving their  processes. Leading their own or attending someone else's A3 meeting. Make a commitment to each other to close at least one A3 (rapid kaizan) each week. If everyone did 15 minutes of improvement each day, and there are 50 people in the company, in one year you will have spent 3000 hours removing the 8 wastes from your processes and working toward nirvana, FLOW!

Does this sound difficult? I promise you that if you walk around for 30 minutes every day asking different people what they're working on, making active A3s visible, and recruiting people to attend A3 closings, you will find out the real meaning of hunky dory!

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