Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Just Got Lean Certfied......OK Now What?

I remember it like it was yesterday. Fresh-faced, overly enthusiastic, armed-and ready with a Lean Certification in my hand. Might have slept 3 hours the night before, lean sugar plums dancing in my head. I remember speeding to work., dumping my stuff in my office, grabbed a coffee, and I was all set to start leaning. I had the tools gosh darn it, and I was just the right person to start turning stuff upside down.

The training all seemed so logical and.....easy. Value Stream this, Kanban that. How do you spell fun? T!P!M! or S!M!E!D! I couldn't wait to see the look on everyone's faces when I unlocked the raw, unadulterated beauty of six sigma and the DMAIC, which was going to fix all of their problems and make life perfect. I betcha we could 5S the entire 120,000 square feet by the end of the week. Why not? We had a good team, people seemed to like each other, heck we grew from 11 people to 80 or so in just 12 years or so. We played softball together, hugged at Christmas time, rejoiced when new babies were born and cried together when a family member passed.  

In training they warned us about the way people don't always react "positively" to change. There was some fine print about things like "gaining agreement" and some blah-blah-blah about respect for people. It sounded to me like things that would just get in the way and slow me down. Just because Toyota was slow (took them 50 years or so),  didn't mean we had to let all of that mumbo jumbo slow us down. House of Lean! Ha!! Say hello to the House of Billy!!

Fast forward 1 week. Did our first kaizen event, down in shipping. Couldn't of gone better, lots of fixes. I just wish the guys in the Shipping Department talked more. Surprised they weren't more engaged. We did achieve "flow", but I guess the guys were whining because they couldn't ship stuff fast at all, like before. To think I wasted 3 days of my life trying to fix their problems with my tools, and they don't even say thanks? And now they blame ME, lean grand master, because there are a few problems I didn't even know about.

Fast forward 6 weeks. I am having my doubts about this lean crap. Right now, the entire customer service department is treating me like I don't exist. I say hi, they keep walking. When I enter their new, relocated office in the middle of the plant (us lean people know it makes sense to have them close to the work so they don't have to walk so much to get questions from pesky customers (motion is one of the 8 wastes)), they suddenly go silent. If I didn't know better, I think they were just talking about me!

Fast forward six months, to the Holiday Party. Usually, when I get introduced, everyone claps. Nothing but crickets. And to think I clapped when they were introduced. That 60 foot walk to the front felt like The Green Mile. Not a sound. Maybe a few whispers. Doesn't lean **CHAMPION** mean popular hero? Guess they didn't fully appreciate being forced to read Lean Thinking and The Toyota Way and take all those quizzes.

If I knew then what I know now: The answer, in retrospect, is to go out and try to get some improvement suggestions from people. Eventually introduce the tools in the context of solving one of their problems. Practice Heijunka! Slow and steady, drip, drip, drip. Make it your intention to convince one person at a time that lean is valuable, and fun. To do that, make sure you show up, show respect, ask questions. Wait alittle while before introducing the Japanese words. When you find yourself getting frustrated because you feel like things are going too slow, go meditate. TAKE WHAT YOU CAN GET. If you are deliberate and respectful, one day you will come to work and people will be making improvements without you!

Just cool the jets. I just don't think that will happen on day one.


  1. Bill - This blog really hit home for me. Glad to hear that I'm not the only one that went through the lows and almost rock bottom feelings I had on my way to this Lean journey. Thanks for writing this.

  2. Thank you for reading it Wayne, I knew you would relate. Hope you are well my friend!