Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Lean Journey: Go Easy on Thyself

"If it was easy, everyone would be doing it."

"If you expect results others don't get, you need to be willing to do things others won't do."
 
Alright, there are your two quotes for the day. When you get the feeling that all of the effort to "be lean" is fruitless and not worth the aggravation, say those two quotes out loud in front of a mirror 14 times each. (No significance to the number, I just estimated).

People who say, "we're doing lean at work, and boy, is it fun" are probably not really doing it. Change management is hard, real hard. You see, the objective is to convince, not coerce people into the value of thinking differently about their jobs. Jobs they have been doing for years, sometimes decades. After the early adopters, you need to go about the work of gaining agreement with folks who just aren't all that convinced of the value of lean. Yet. Doing dozens and then hundreds of improvements via A3 using cross functional work teams definitely helps with the convincing. There is nothing like people making their job better using lean tools in the context of solving real company problems. (Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-essential processing, transport, inventory, motion and un-used employee brainpower... the 8 wastes). 

Even when you do A3 well, please do not expect the journey to go smoothly. There will be turf wars. There will be frustration, and emotion. As lean champion, people may second guess your motives. Sometimes the lean journey will feel like it is being done via burro. Other times, via bullet train. Looking back, most of my frustration on my first lean journey was due to my dissatisfaction with the rate I was capable of convincing everyone. When it is plodding along, remind yourself that the objective is to take what you can get. Frustration (or even worse, anger) will push your journey backward, and you end up wasting time mending fences. Remember too that the speed of your journey is directly proportional to your company's lever (reason to change). 

Therapy during your lean journey consists of spending time with others doing the same thing. Arrange home and away visits with other companies on a journey. You will see that you are farther down the road than they are in some areas, and they are ahead of you in others. Treat yourself to regional lean meetings run by organizations like The Lean Enterprise Institute or your local state funded help agency (manufacturing extension partnerships). It is also important to hold weekly strategy sessions with your hand picked support team. I called mine the Lean Beret. Not only did these 5 people help accelerate the journey, we also talked each other "off the ledge."

There is a point of no return when you can let go and truly enjoy the journey. It doesn't come easily, but if it did, everyone would be doing it.

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