Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lean in 3 Easy

OK. I admit it. On a scale of 1-10, lean as a business strategy is like a 45. That said, here are the 3 steps toward actually putting your lean training/certification to really good use.

1. Kaizen First-everyone who works with me understands that I always work hard to develop a spirit of kaizen before teaching any lean tools. This first step is most difficult because there so many management obstacles. The goal is a culture where nothing is good enough and there are perpetual strides toward flow by steadily attacking the 8 wastes. 5 of the 8 companies I work in right now have achieved this healthy disrespect for the current condition. Just imagine a suggestion box with at least one or two suggestions in it every day. Obviously I do not consider a spirit of kaizen to be the 3-5 day event. Instead, I consider real kaizen to be improvements being made by 3-5 person self directed work teams (using A3 to work through the DMAIC). Don't consider calling yourself lean if you are not capable of continuous improvement. This stage is hard because it will not happen without a flip in management responsibility from boss to coach. The 2 pillars of TPS, "Continuous Improvement" and "Respect for People" are 1000% inter-dependent. Also, busy-ness is a huge hurdle.....who has time to get better? It requires developing new routines (kata) where people get used to spending time working on the business as well as in it. 
2. Dashboard development-once you are on your way to a spirit of kaizen, it's time to consider what 3 or 4 dashboard metrics need to become visible. Many companies I work with use Productivity (measured in $$ shipped/hours worked, on-time delivery or customer lead time, and inventory (raw or finished goods) in dollars. Notice I said dashboard metrics-that means right now, real time. Productivity is why we do lean in the first place....since we are doing less non-value added work, we can grow our business without overtime or throwing bodies at problems or increased demand. We measure on-time delivery until we hot 100%, then we start to reduce lead time to become market disruptive. Inventory is measured because we need to understand if we are getting closer to "just-in-time". Job shops with very short, dependable lead times are very difficult to keep with. Keep in mind that even people who do lean half fast see huge improvements in cash flow due to inventory reduction!
3. Policy Deployment-don't even think about PD until you are capable of continuous improvement and have well developed dashboards. Policy deployment is about using the strategic weapon of kaizen to engage every single person in your company in achieving new heights of value to your customer. To best understand PD, just walk up to any employee and ask, "what's important right now around here?" If you're doing it right, you get the same answer no matter who you ask. 

Depending on how important lean is to ownership or senior leadership, as well as the size of your lever (reason to change), these 3 steps can take months, a few years or never. Trust me, the game plan is not complicated. I previous blogs I have compared the journey to building a garden and I have also talked about a slow, steady march. 

In the world's of legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, "YOU CAN DO IT!!!"

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