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Tried and True Strategies for Leading Lean Practice

by Art Byrne
June 4, 2015

Tried and True Strategies for Leading Lean Practice

by Art Byrne
June 4, 2015 | Comments (4)

In my 30 plus years of leading Lean in a wide range of companies, I’ve learned common practices that work in virtually every setting. Here’s a list of implementation tips that for me continues to grow with more experience. I welcome you to share suggestions.

But first, for an informal list such as this to have any value, you must first organize for Lean. This means changing your organizational structure from a functional batch approach to a lean value stream approach. The value stream leader and team members are then responsible for servicing the customer directly as opposed to the traditional approach of "making the forecast." They make the product based on the direct pull of the customer. This makes everyone in the company focus on the customer.

Eliminating waste in order to deliver value to the customer is always the priority. In manufacturing, this means creating a structure where you can drop the customer’s incoming orders directly on the shop floor at the cell level. In any other setting, it means linking the work of the front-line worker directly to customer demand, which helps every employee make the connection with the customer. This in turn helps everyone understand why removing the internal waste in order to better serve the customer is so important. Another chance at learning how to do everything better.

Once you have this structure in place, I recommend that you:

  • Start with multiple kaizen events to shift from batch to flow physically. Use these kaizen events as a great source of hands-on training and get everyone on as many kaizen events as possible.
  • Have the Kaizen Promotion Office (or whatever you call your lean leaders) and team leaders do weekly gemba walks to follow up on kaizen results and implementation lists.
  • Establish visual controls and daily management with each cell or work team that is created.
  • Train supervisors and team leaders in problem-solving methods such as Five Why, A3, DMAIC, and similar methods so that everyone adopts this approach. Teach all team members these same problem-solving methods, keeping in mind that the best way to learn this approach is by doing.
  • Create a suggestion program on ways to eliminate waste for all employees. Ask each cell or team leader to come up with one waste-eliminating idea per week.
  • In manufacturing, ensure that team leaders, managers, and all leaders (middle and top management) are on the shop floor constantly, checking the production control boards, observing the work, talking to people and understanding how to help and support them. In other settings, make sure leaders visit the places where real value-creating work is being done, talking with front line workers and coaching problem solving there.
  • Make sure hour-by-hour production control boards are kept up to date and that countermeasures are in place to get back on track. Hold weekly update meetings for the value stream leaders to present their progress on the five or six key operational excellence measurements.
  • Create standard work and insist that standard work be constantly improved upon. Provide quality circle time for each team to discuss improvements.
  • Conduct an annual employee survey and follow up on it with every team.
  • Establish profit sharing so everyone can share in the gains.
  • Set stretch targets that challenge people and make them think and learn. Constantly raise the targets to foster more learning and waste elimination.
  • Never blame anyone for failure. In fact, encourage failure as a means of learning to get better.
  • Always look for and be willing to take the “leaps of faith” required to get better. Never retreat, solve the problems, and move forward.

 

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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4 Comments | Post a Comment
slawomir switek June 04, 2015
1 Person AGREES with this comment

Changing the org structure to the value stream chart cannot be the first action to be taken. Production managers will not become value stream leaders in one day just because name of their position has been changed. Employees have to prepared first to play new roles acc. To value stream assumptions and leave their current habits which do not vit the lean enterprise model. Assigning interim change manager would be probably one of strategic steps to get the change organized and prepared without elevated risk of stresses, frustration etc. Lots to be done before!

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Ken Hunt June 04, 2015
3 People AGREE with this reply

Art is spot on about the org structure. Many things need to change with a Lean transformation, and it starts at the top. It is very helpful to look at the org to make sure that, as Art said, we concentrate on the customer, not the forecast. Titles have little to do with it, but rather RAA's do.

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Dave Hogg June 14, 2015
2 People AGREE with this comment

Can't think of a better summary than Art's Post.  Especially for the 600+ manufacturers who read this after the AME/CME Lean Conference in Winnipeg June 1-4 they attended where Art was a keynoter and got a big buzz started - Everyone would gain benefit by reading this message from Art to re-enforce what they heard.  This needs to be read several times!  One attendee said 'I know what Art means now when he says 'Lean provides an unfair competitive advantage.'

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Mark Farrell July 11, 2015
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I've read your book The Lean Turnaround, and thought it was the best book on lean.  Ever.  And that says a lot since I've read a few others, including Masaaki Imai.  (And his is pretty darn good too.) 

What I liked from yours is your involvement in the processes, which I think many leaders neglect, delegating the tasks to others.  And that's a big mistake. I wish that P&G would bring you in, as it's current management seems more interested in selling off parts to gain stockholder interest instead of improving the bureaucracy within.

I really liked the fact that your book didn't have a lot of fluff -- stuff just to take up space -- like so many other books.  It wasn't self-promoting but, rather, served as a guideline of how a company can truly improve.

I'm actually writing a paper about you for one of my Master of Engineering Management classes, as you're sort of my "lean hero." ;-)  Along with your book and that of Imai, I bought Creating a Kaizen Culture too since it mentioned you, for research purposes.

Please consider making an audio book too!  I enjoy reading, but seldom have time for personal reading right now.  Accordingly, I frequently listen to Amazon/Audible audio books to deal with such, streaming the audio through my car's speakers.  And I'd like to add your book - even though I've read it - to my list so that I could enjoy it again and keep the concepts current in my thoughts.

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