Want to start a lean consortium or gain more from your participation? Here are “lessons learned” from experienced lean consortium folks.
Julie Simmons, Northwest High Performance Enterprise Consortium (NWHPEC):
- For a startup, begin with three to five companies. Identify common needs, fill those needs as fast as possible, and then keep asking questions such as, “How do I know what I need to learn?”
- Think creatively about facilitation and administrative needs, not hiring staff right away. Perhaps a resource is available several hours a week to facilitate planning, events, and other activities.
- Be cautious about applying for grants or government funding; don’t get bogged down with bureaucracy.
- Don’t expect a consortium to solve all your problems. Be open to different ways of learning, from a foundry or other organizations and industries.
Joe Krall, finance manager, Jacksonville Lean Consortium (JLC):
- People need to see a compelling reason, or value proposition, to participate. Find out what they are passionate about, what keeps them awake at night. Push the envelope; for example, brainstorm ways to apply lean concepts in sales.
- Participation is a must for senior leadership and others in member organizations.
- Develop realistic goals for the consortium. Mature lean organizations can help lean beginners by sharing their passion and learnings about creating and sustaining successes.
- Reach out to other resources and consortia, ask for feedback about challenges.
Teresa Hay McMahon and Gina Singer of the Iowa Lean Consortium (ILC):
- Develop the consortium’s purpose, vision, and mission – but don’t take forever. At some point, just get started, test programs, and learn more about members’ appetites for shared learning.
- Create your own particular lean consortium spin designed to serve your members; ensure that you are filling a need that is not already served.
- Recruit a cadre of dedicated volunteers when you’re starting from scratch, then nurture broader participation over time.
- Benchmark against other organizations; they are willing to share.
Debra Levantrosser Setman and Julianne Leigh of the Michigan Lean Consortium:
- For a startup, develop a core nucleus of dedicated volunteers who will get the group up and running, then prepare for future resource needs.
- Create a shared vision, a financial plan, and bylaws.
- Link with other existing groups – educational, economic development, professional, etc. for broader perspectives.
- Recognizing that members represent many levels of lean understanding, provide a range of collaborative, fun learning and participation opportunities.
- Avoid mission creep. Collaborate with other groups when shared initiatives support your group’s mission and goals.
- Develop a plan for running an all-volunteer organization. Rewards, recognition, and motivation are critical elements.
Peg Pennington, Ohio State University (OSU) Center for Operational Excellence (COE), Fisher College of Business:
- To start a lean consortium: Begin with a plant tour, asking people what they saw and learned. Based on feedback, plan your next meetings, developing a monthly or quarterly cadence. Involve senior leadership in participant organizations.
- Keep a lid on costs, remembering your mission, and that people come to meetings for learning.
- Ultimately the consortium is about having a relationship with people. Continue to attract and retain dedicated people, then plan programs focused on their needs. Sustainability, for example, draws increasing member interest.
Ian Marshall, Manitoba Consortium for Manufacturing Excellence (MCME), Manitoba Consortium for Operational Excellence (MCOE), Manitoba Consortium for Sustainable Improvement (MCSI), and Southern Manitoba Lean Consortium (SMLC):
- As a consortium member, be committed to continuous improvement in your operation, and understand that you will gain the most value by sharing, not just receiving from others.
- Designate one primary representative (preferably senior leadership) and someone as backup, to keep participation flowing. At least twice a year, hold a consortium senior leadership meeting – their involvement is critical.
- Volunteer for facilitator and meeting coordinator roles.
- A coordinator (possibly part-time) can shepherd event planning and other tasks. Each Manitoba consortium also hired a part-time mentor/facilitator who visits member companies, sharing counsel and problem-solving expertise.
- Consortia are not for the faint-hearted. Like lean, you can dabble or you can be serious. Successful consortia require significant effort and continuing, customer-focused improvement.
Links with related information:
- Join the Lean Community at the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) or access to more articles, case studies, webinars, newsletters, lean management columns, e-letters, and many other resources for starting and sustaining your lean transformation.