• Bill Greider

LEAN is Much More Fun When Everyone is Doing It

If lean is NOT your business strategy, turn back. If it is something you do on the side when you have time, stop reading. If you don't view lean as a way to almost recession-proof your company, click x and go do e-mails.

If you, as a leader are determined to do what so many try and fail can't do, keep reading. I'm hoping I can help with a hard-earned piece of advice.

Most times, when you decide lean is for you, someone is delegated as lean champion is some form or another. Sometimes companies go out and find this person, someone with certification and lean experience. Or, in some cases, someone in-house is identified and ordained.

Sometimes people throw out time frames regarding how long it takes to become "lean". "Toyota has been at it for 60 years, it will take us awhile" is what I hear. I don't know about you, but I don't have 60 years. I want to enjoy the peace of mind and prosperity much faster than that!

To shorten this substantially, all you really need are 2 ingredients. First, you need to communicate a "lever". From my own experience, lean goes wicked fast if the ship is sinking. If everything is hunky dory, not so much. Even if you don't have a readily apparent lever, make one up. Nothing like a real good reason to change. The higher the urgency, the faster the change.

The other ingredient is REAL engagement at EVERY level of the organization. Remember that people want to get caught doing what they think is important to leadership. Make sure everyone sees lean as important day in and day out, week after week, month after month. If leaders kick it off strong and then go back to what they were doing, so will everyone else!

Instead of letting things happen, force the issue by insisting that all managers and supervisors become lean zealots. It is so easy to do if you apply heijunka (load leveling) to it. In my company, when we started lean, we picked a lean term or tool of the week. We attached the term to paychecks (when paychecks were paper) and asked people about the term. There are an exponential number of lean articles and videos on line. It was so easy to pick one every week, send it out to everyone, and put together a quiz based on it. Part of my standard work to this day is to read one article and watch one video every day. If everyone does this, it doesn't take long for people to grasp the thinking behind lean concepts, which often don't make sense right away.

If you are one of the growing number of companies using A3 to do steady kaizen, explain which lean concepts have been used at the closing. Did the A3 team use Poka yoke (mistake proofing) without realizing it? Which of the 8 wastes were eliminated? Overprocessing? Waiting? Inventory? Waiting? I recommend that leaders work to coach A3 leaders, and the closings (Yokoten) is a great opportunity to preach the gospel of lean to everyone. The standard work of managers and supervisors has to include some lean every day. Senior leaders need to show up, demonstrate respect and ask questions.

Like all things lean, the learning curve is shortened if everyone gets involved. Telling people getting better is important will get you so is much more important to demonstrate continuously how important it is to you!

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