Sunday, March 30, 2014

LEAN Obstacle #1: Complacency


We can all agree that complacency is the enemy. It is so easy to get lulled asleep because things seem to be hunky dory. We're not losing money and customers seem satisfied-they usually get what they want when they want it. "I suppose there is always room for some improvement, but we're just so dang busy, there doesn't seem to be time to get better." Like a hamster on a wheel.

Time for a reality check. MOST of the things that impact our business negatively are completely out of our control. We can't control the weather (does severe weather impact our business?). We can't control Wall Street (think 2008). We have no control of world events, like terrorism. We have little control of commodity pricing, or energy costs. We have zero control of what are competitors are charging people, or how well (and how fast) they are servicing them. Any of these things, alone or in combination, can turn hunky dory into a really crummy year very quickly.

One of my Sensei once asked me what the goal of a LEAN strategy is. Like a knucklehead, I went on to spout the systematic elimination of the eight wastes to move toward flow in every process in my company. He looked at me with sad eyes and shook his head, like he actually felt sorry for me.

The goal of a TPS strategy, he said, is to leverage operational excellence to create market disruption. I liked that alot! This sounds like something I can control. How good can we get at DELIGHTING (not satisfying) our customers?   Delighting them so much, that we disrupt the marketplace.

I'll give you an example. LL Bean. Can we all agree that millions of people gladly pay more to buy boots from LL Bean? I believe their level of customer service is market disruptive. Let's say you have a pair of boots you bought in 1981. If you call them and tell them you are not satisfied with them, they will send you a new pair, because they never want you to own anything from LL Bean that you are not 100% happy with. What does this "little policy" mean to you if you are a competitor of LL Bean? How does this little policy compare to your policy when your customers are not 100% happy? 

Don't force your customers to take what you got. Work tirelessly to delight them. Much of what delights them is how fast they can get what they need from you-products, answers, samples, quotes, etc. When people call in, how fast do they get to exactly the right person and exactly the right answer?  When they order from you, how fast does it show up? 

Let's apply some heijunka to this thinking. Instead of occasional 3 day "kaizan events", work to get every single person in your business to spend 15-20 minutes thinking and working steadily toward delighting their customer-the person who gets their work next. This is the basis of A3 thinking. To achieve market disruption, I need to engage every single brain, leverage diversity and gain consensus.

If you work at it, you will have a team devoid of complacency. You will wake up one day and realize you have a team of people who don't think anything is ever "good enough", and the enemy, hunky dory, will be defeated.

 



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