• Bill Greider

LEAN is Inexplicable-Just Do It

Let me start with the fact that without a doubt, I am the world's absolute worst golfer. This guy is better than me. I am an embarrassment to myself and all of my ancestors.

Having said that, if I make up my mind to get good at it, I doubt I'll do it by watching Power Points or by reading books. Just have to go do it.

Looking back at my own first lean journey (Green Mile), I often think to myself, "self, what is the one big thing I know now that I wish I knew then?" Now keep in mind, ultimately, the journey was definitely worth the trip, based on productivity alone (almost doubling sales without adding another person over 3 years or so. That means people could be paid more money).

The one thing I wish I knew was the fact that you can't inspire or study your way to a culture of continuous improvement! You kind of have to perspire your way.

Now in my business, we ran things pretty much the same way for decades. It wasn't until we lost money one year did I realize we needed to shift gears and employ a different game plan. After some research, I thought this LEAN thing might be the answer. I went and got myself certified, and it all seemed to make sense (to me) and seemed simple enough (to me). I had a vision of a pep rally at work when I introduce this thing, music blaring, people getting so excited they carry me off the field on their shoulders.

I do think I got everyone excited for the first 20 minutes. Then I guess they started to digest what I was selling. I watched grins turn into far away gazes.

"We're about to embark on our LEAN JOURNEY!!) (I heard lean embarked Zippy Manufacturing right out of business).

"We will be able to produce more work with the same number of people!!!" (sounds like Bill wants us to work faster)

"We will stop throwing labor at spikes in demand and at problems!!!!" (sounds like layoffs are coming?)

"We will lower our inventory levels so our customers can get their orders faster!!" (somebody better check to see what's in Bill's coffee cup).

"The people who actually DO the work are most qualified to FIX the work!!!! (Oh great, Bill thinks my job is broke)

And on and on it goes. Most of the concepts defy common sense. I learned the hard way to stop using Japanese words and Power Points and get to the business of learn by doing by implementing employee suggestions. By doing this, it was less about the improvements and more about winning people over. Nothing will convince people faster that lean is worth the time and effort than seeing it WORK in their own job. By using the A3 process, these improvements become more and more visible, and maybe another person will get on board.

Keep doing this until you get to what I call the point of no return, where continuous improvement is what we do every shift, every day. It goes much faster if you have 2 things going in your favor: a sense of urgency (like losing money) and the hands on involvement of every manager. Nothing will retard progress more than a management team that is not all in. Once you get to the point of no return, now you can point this strategic weapon at policy deployment.

People are not slow to buy in. They buy in when they are good and ready and are convinced of the value of what you and the management team are doing.....not saying!

Next challenge, break 120.

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