After a seemingly normal kaizen event to improve workstation design in a machining area, the operation’s manager expressed his gratitude to the team. He went on to ask, “what’s next?” This simple question sparked a movement in an area where he was struggling to gain traction in engaging a senior tenured team on the lean journey.
You might be wondering, well so what.
While, it is indeed a simple question, in this case he observed passion, drive, and leadership skills from two of the machine operators on the kaizen team. These guys were so amazed at the results. They could see the waste and possibilities for improvement in the machine shop. They admitted, they weren’t excited in the beginning to participate and thought there was not much to be improved. With a little prodding from the lean coach, they remained active participants in the kaizen. To their amazement, observing a recording of their work and a spaghetti diagram created a WOW moment for them. These simple, yet effective tools, allowed them to see the waste still happening in their latest redesign. Follow that with a little coaching and humble inquiry, to lead them to think outside of the box. Their results were amazing.
The operation’s manager had witnessed this shift over the few of days of the kaizen. He was able to see their spark, enthusiasm, and fulfillment as they engaged in this meaningful work. However, the most important element he observed was their influence with the other machinists, especially the most tenured. You see these two guys were newbies in the area, they had only been in the area for a little over a year.
If you are seeking to increase engagement in your organization, here are few lessons learned from this case study that might help you to gain some traction.
- Coach the supervisors and managers to observe positive behaviors that support the desired culture for improvement. In this example, the ops manager scheduled in his leader standard work to add a Gemba stop to the kaizen team.
- It pays to have some early adaptors on the team. In this case, the supervisor was aware that while that these guys were trying to ‘fit in’ with the culture of the more senior machinists, they had potential and a positive attitude. He recommended them for the kaizen team.
- There are lots of hidden leaders within the organization. Make room for them to shine via a kaizen, special project, etc. Make sure they are coached during the process.
- Ask, don’t tell. In this case, the supervisor and manager had a pretty good idea of the improvements needed in the area. Although slow and frustrating at times, they allowed these guys to discover it for themselves with coaching.
As it turns out, these two machinists were permitted to lead the transformation of their entire machining area. Their influence spread like a wild fire with their senior team machinists. Since that time, both have been promoted to team leads. A happy ending from a simple kaizen!
Engaging the employees at all levels with a clear and realistic understanding of how they inspire, drive and support getting people involved in meaningful work is the best way to show respect!