Sunday, February 24, 2019

Don't Make LEAN the Company Hobby!

There's certain things worth doing in life that we need to just need to put our heads down, get a running start, and tackle head on.

One of those worth doing things is lean in our businesses. Coached well and executed well, a culture of kaizen (continuous improvement) is really hard to beat. For one, morale is high because people feel they can make an impact instead of just punching the clock and trying to make it through the week. Second, continuous improvements in productivity allows the business to grow without throwing people and money at spikes in demand and at problems. This translates to the ability to pay better and retain people. In a real lean company, turnover is non-existent. Finally, when the unknown happens (Wall Street 2008-9 for example), I can continue to inch forward without having to worry about layoffs (this happened to me in my company in 2008-sales were off 21% during the Wall Street fiasco, and nobody was laid off. In fact, we were able to pay a small bonus at the end of the year!). This is where I think of a well executed lean strategy as life insurance for the business.

So those are just three benefits to executing a lean strategy, taken right off the top of my head.  

Unfortunately, on a scale of 1-10 of difficulty, building a real lean strategy is a 58. The 3 benefits above don't come free. It takes perseverance, stick-to-it-iveness, and working to gain agreement with everyone in the whole place. Think a few years, not months. Gaining agreement is easier and CAN go faster when you have a crisis or a "lever" (a compelling reason to change long embraced behaviors). People are much more likely to buy in fast when the ship is taking on water.  Even then, you need to work to make sure everyone sees results and the benefits of converting. You can't PowerPoint your way to it. Just start working with people to help them improve their jobs, and do it routinely. In fact, do it like it's your job, not your hobby!!

If lean is delegated to a department, or something we do every once in a while when we have time, it is like having an expensive, bad hobby. It can be like owning a boat you use once a year or like collecting pythons or collecting Santa Clauses. It might feel satisfying at times, but the people around you are probably less than giddy.

Don't make lean your company hobby!!! Go in head down full speed. It is worth the effort!!


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