Sunday, January 11, 2015
To Make LEAN Work: Gain Agreement!
We know that the two pillars and the true foundation of the Toyota Production System are Continuous Improvement and Respect for People. We didn't really need to dig much deeper than these two "goals" because we can spend the rest of our careers striving to give them both justice. Continuous improvement means continuous continuous improvement (not just when we aren't "busy") and respect for people means a completely new way to manage and coach that needs to be very steady and consistent. Both pillars are easy to say and very difficult to do. It is easy to talk the talk, VERY difficult to walk the talk.
In this post, I would like to give you some food for thought about just one (of many) components of "respect for people" that need to be consistently demonstrated........"GAIN AGREEMENT".
Doing the work,and taking the time necessary to gain agreement is critical to building a culture capable of achieving and sustaining astronomical productivity gains. Lean tools like 5S and Kanban are surprisingly difficult because they really are all about a group of people gaining agreement. If you fail to truly gain agreement doing 5S, you may find yourself doing 5S over and over again in the same work area. If you fail to take the time to gain agreement in Kanban, you may find yourself running out or overproducing. Standard work is also largely about gaining agreement......our "best way so far" vs. my way or his way.
The power of A3 thinking is in a 3-5 person team's ability to leverage their diversity and gain agreement to make improvements or solve a problem. A basic concept of lean product and process of development is to proceed slowly, consider many options, GAIN AGREEMENT, then implement rapidly. Even the concept of nemawashi is about doing some preliminary work to gain agreement so nobody is blindsided before major changes or improvements are discussed.
One shortcut to sabotage gaining agreement is to pull out the boss card. It is fairly easy to gain agreement if everyone subconsciously believes they need to do what the boss wants. Sometimes you might see this during A3 meetings when a supervisor or manager is on the A3 team. The other team members seem to give special "weight" to the observations and ideas of the boss, laugh loud at his jokes, and ultimately the proposed countermeasure is steered the way the boss wants it to go. Trust me (because I was the boss) when I say you have to be very aware of this phenomena, and make sure that most of what comes out of your mouth is questions, not answers (humble inquiry). People just might be so used to you being the boss that it might take some time for them to get used to the new, humble, respectful you.
In the course of making hundreds (hopefully thousands) of improvements, try to be aware of the need to work hard to gain agreement. When we talk about making sure we use every brain cell in the business to truly delight (not satisfy) our customers, let's make sure some of those brains aren't just going with the flow. Good, healthy conflict to challenge everything and gain agreement beats "I just work here" every time!