Getting everyone out of their silos is a tough job. Are you up to the challenge? Can you inspire, nudge or otherwise spark the understanding and action needed for collaboratively achieving potential end-to-end organizational excellence? No pressure, just suggestions and observations along these lines were served up by Jim Womack, senior advisor to the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute, in his keynote presentation during AME’s recent conference in Toronto. Accompanying Womack in the session was Todd Wyman, senior vice president, global operations and integrated supply chain for Ingersoll Rand.
Changing the world in a positive way requires breakthrough methods, Womack said. Senior leadership needs to understand the need for new approaches, setting aside the old standbys such as handing down commands to all those who follow as well as suppliers, distributors and retailers. Creating a different model – one that encompasses all parties in the value stream – challenges leadership and others affected by potential changes. “When these worlds come together, the customer can get lost in the thicket,” cautioned Womack. Horizontal management – looking end-to-end in your value stream – is needed, for the customer to prevail.
“You need to have a plan for every value stream,” Womack said. “When you’ve made progress, pick an end-to-end value stream, then take a walk with everyone who touches the value stream.” Start a conversation, ask questions about “what” and “why” and speak respectfully, he suggested. Discuss your learnings with all affected parties, reaching an agreement about findings and possible improvements. Next, tote it all to the COO, aiming to get everyone out of their silos and pave the way for needed changes. “Then monitor the value stream – how it actually works – on a continuing basis,” suggested Womack.
Lessons from Ingersoll Rand
This inclusive approach works well at Ingersoll Rand, reported Wyman. What he termed horizontal leadership – team-based activities engaging plant management, then product marketers and production folks — helps to create a more involved workforce and a more effective organization. Daily management – standard work, takt time monitoring, one-piece flow, visual management, problem solving and gemba walks – supports day-by-day, sustainable progress. Executives previously managed from their offices. Now, going for a walk to see various processes is a more prevalent habit.
These changes reflect the Ingersoll Rand commitment to continuous improvement – its Path to Premier Performance – launched several years ago. Wyman said the company embarked on this journey after benchmarking against other companies and adapting others’ ideas for its own environment. Among the key concepts in this quest for improvement: growth through innovation and operational excellence as well as a progressive, diverse and inclusive culture.
In addition to operational metrics, the company also keeps tabs on engagement through periodic surveys. The most recent survey results show increased engagement by employees, even as the company receives more kudos from customers and suppliers. Despite such progress, “There’s still a long way to go in this journey,” said Wyman. Ingersoll Rand brands range from Schlage to Thermo King, Trane and many others.
New Ways of Working Together
Non-traditional give-and-take between functions and new ways of working together can be uncomfortable and messy. Yet it’s this sort of dialog that leads to sustainable performance improvements, according to Womack. He contrasted this collaborative, more effective approach with the less-successful, traditional method – the senior executive reviews sales and orders, decides to remedy perceived supply chain snafus and then changes the schedule without input from the various affected functions. “When you’re leading from the gemba, you’re asking questions, not just talking about answers,” Womack said.
“Get on your sneakers and go to the gemba,” Womack advised. You’ll start to learn more about what’s actually going on in the gemba – and possibilities for making things better, maybe even changing the world.