The management philosophy titled Lean has been in practice for 20 years and yet many or most companies who have attempted to make it a core principal in their business operations have struggled or failed in their attempts. Before we explore why that is the case, we must first understand the foundation, or building blocks of Lean. By knowing the definition and intent of Lean we will be able to quickly see which parts have been neglected, misunderstood or ignored by business leaders.
A very simple and broadly accepted definition of Lean is to reduce the cycle time of delivery to customer by eliminating waste. If this definition is accepted then it is obvious that the primary benefactors of a business’s Lean efforts are the customers of the business. It is the responsibility of business leaders to clearly state the definition and the purpose of the Lean effort to ensure it is understood by everyone in their business. It is also their responsibility to define a Lean implementation path that gives focus to all three pillars of Lean as defined by the Toyota Production System. It is these three pillars, or focal points, that are the underlying foundation of Lean. They are:
1. Delivery – Reducing the cycle times of every business processes
2. Quality – Ensuring the delivery of quality products and services
3. Respect for People – Trust building
So why is such a seemingly simple concept so difficult to successfully implement? I believe it is because leaders deliver a very confusing message concerning the intent, focus and purpose of their Lean efforts. Or to state it another way, their purpose motive is not, intentionally or unintentionally, clearly stated. They have too often focused their reports on one of the outcomes of Lean rather than true north target of reducing cycle times to customers. That outcome is cost savings. Leaders understand that by reducing business process cycle-times labor hours can be dramatically reduced which will in turn reduce their operating costs. There is no denying that Lean can accomplish this, but that is an outcome rather than the goal of Lean. When it becomes the stated goal of Lean both the communications and actions of management destroys trust in the workplace and that is problematic, for Lean is a trust building cultural change journey. These same leaders think Lean is a program rather than a philosophy and fail to see the need, or have the inner desire to spend the time, to earn the trust of their workforce. They fail to recognize or care about the critical importance of the third pillar of Lean – respect for people. This alone is responsible for most Lean implementation failures.
The focus of leadership in this scenario is clearly on financial results rather than on their people who if empowered and engaged could have a dramatic impact on the financial results. They are dollar centric rather than people centric leaders. The cost savings purpose motive, when delivered by management, makes little or no sense to the workforce for they envision the expected reduction is operating costs to result in layoffs or redundancies. No one will give their heart and mind to an effort that will result in the loss of their employment. Without trust, Lean is a bust. Eventually management tires of pushing Lean on an unreceptive fearful workforce and their program dies. But it is not Lean that fails; it is management that fails for they have failed to impact their workplace culture by earning the trust of their employees.
Australian & New Zealand Workshops – September 2019
Lean Safety – Building a Continuous Improvement Safety Culture
A common requirement to attain either world-class lean or world-class safety is ongoing engagement of the workforce. Lean thinkers agree that culturally impacting employee engagement leads to long-term lean success. Too often lean has been used as a cost savings methodology by management and as a result gaining employee interest and buy-in can be difficult.
This workshop suggests a different path to lean success – a safe path. By using some of the common tools in a lean thinker’s tool box and focusing on safety instead of cycle time, you can easily start to build an understanding and acceptance of lean while you improve safety in your facility.
The workshop will engage attendees in activities that will enable them to have a direct impact on employee safety and operational continuous improvement when they return to their facility.
Attendees will leave with an understanding of ergonomic related injury risks and how eliminating them can reduce operational process cycle times.
Attendees will leave with a methodology they can use to engage their workforce.
Event Details – Dates
VIC – Monday 9 & Tuesday 10 September 2019 – DuluxGroup, Merrifield – Register VIC
WA – Thursday 12 & Friday 13 September 2019 – Mrs Macs, Morley – Register WA
NSW – Monday 16 & Tuesday 17 September 2019 – Gilbarco Veeder Root, Auburn – Register NSW
QLD – Thursday 19 & Friday 20 September 2019 – EGR Brisbane – Register QLD
NZ – Monday 23 & Tuesday 24 September 2019 – Host TBC – Register NZ
“This type of thinking builds the foundation for an engaged work force and a positive safety culture.”
Alice Lee TOYOTA – Australia