Sunday, July 28, 2013

LEAN Tip of the Day: Ignore the Noise

As leaders, can we agree on one thing? If we keep everything exactly the same as it has always been and stay with the status quo, there will probably be little to no reaction from employees. Unfortunately, part of the role of leadership is to take a team of people to places they might not necessarily want to go. Staying still is comfortable. All hell breaks loose when you shake things up some. And, if you want results others don't get, you need to be willing to do things others won't do.

We all understand the benefits of a lean strategy. There is nothing exotic about it. Instead of spending our time doing the 8 wastes, we'll focus on doing the things our customers will gladly pay for. The "tools" merely help us identify the wastes. Simple enough. Instead of throwing bodies at demand or problems, we can do more value-added, customer focused work with the same number of people.

Why is it then, when we start, the NOISE starts. As soon as the word lean is uttered, the NOISE starts. In the cafeteria. At the coffee machine. "My friend Joe's company tried lean, and it almost shut them down." Or, "Lean is nothing more than another word for layoffs." Or, "Lean will never work here, we don't make cars." Or, "A lot of good lean did for Toyota-recalls". 

As we then begin to teach lean, all we do is fuel the NOISE, since many of the concepts make absolutely no sense. For example, if we keep less on hand, we can ship faster. Or if we make smaller batches, we can be more responsive. Or, we need to be less dependent on MRP and much more visual. Or, forecasting is a waste of time. Or cost accounting is the devil. Or, if anyone spots a defect, just stop the line. 

People will buy in when they understand the benefit to them. If they haven't bought in, you simply haven't done enough to convince them that lean is worth buying into. You can't force anyone to buy in. You need to have the patience of a statue, and not give up on anyone. If you read "Lean Thinking" by Womack & Jones, most of the companies featured simply got rid of the "concrete heads", the people who don't buy in. I did NOT do that. There were people in the company that were making a TON of noise. I remember complaining to Michael Balle (The Gold Mine) about the concrete heads in my company. He looked me in the eye and said, "You're not good enough. You haven't given them any reason to buy in." I didn't like his "advice" at the time, but unfortunately for my ego, he was right. 

By doing occasional 3 day kaizan events, it was going to take a long time to convince most of the people. So, I started teaching people to make improvements using A3 and self-directed work teams. Instead of 6-10 kaizan events in a year, people did 300+ A3s in a year. As people were making these small, incremental, reversible (if  necessary) steps toward flow in THEIR OWN processes, the noise died down. There is definitely a critical mass you have to reach to become a culture of continuous improvement, a3 just gets you there a lot faster.

As we were going through it, I can remember reminding myself over and over, it's just NOISE. I'm not asking people to dig a trench in 95F heat. The NOISE is just people working through and coming to an understanding of new ideas. It is said that >95% of the things we worry about never happen. People will begin to see the benefits to their lives, and the things they were worried about weren't going to happen.

So, be patient with the NOISE. Don't flip out. Don't defend anything. Don't confront anyone. Just work at  LEAN every day. Go spend time with people every day. Day in and day out. Nice and slow. Celebrate your hits and learn from your misses. I promise you, if you stay with it, the NOISE will die down! 

1 comment:

  1. Good blog today Bill. I like your examples of the "No Sense Comments"