LEAN is simply people LEARNING together
When you break it right down, LEAN is REALLY about PEOPLE learning together!! It really doesn't have to be much more complicated than that. I also think the most important word in that sentence is together. I get it. Nobody has time for organizational learning. People have never been busier. Multi-tasking, wearing lots of hats, working all kinds of hours.
Lean isn't about tools. Lean isn't about events once in a while. Lean isn't about a department. Lean isn't trying to be just like Toyota. People Learning Together. Let's take a look at each word and what it means.
PEOPLE-how do you engage every single brain cell in the entire organization in making improvements every day? Not just the certified black belts or the lean department. Every single person, including temps (a few of my clients do this to learn which might be great permanent players). Some may worry that not everyone is "certified" or trained in lean yet. Lean is about learn by doing. Let's solve some problems together, and we'll teach you some tools along the way. The point is, include everyone. if everyone isn't quite "bought in" yet, keep working to convince them. Nobody said it was easy!
LEARNING-the 2nd of thee 4Ps is "continuously develop your people and partners". What if you had an entire population of people capable of really good problem solving? An entire population of people capable of root cause analysis? An entire population of people capable of working seamlessly on cross-functional teams, both as members and leaders? What if you could create an entire population of people capable of standing up and presenting what they've learned to everyone else? These are all of the outcomes of a lean strategy using A3 (temporary self-directed work teams). People are constantly, slowly and steadily learning about your product offering, about your technology. People are learning about customer complaints (and what is important to your customers). People are learning just how valuable and incredibly smart their peers are. And they are learning that they themselves are pretty darn smart too. Lean is about everyone learning to truly appreciate the special talents and wisdom the entire team brings and how limitless we are when we truly work together.
Which brings us to.....TOGETHER- how often are people from different "departments" together? How often are the people from the office and the people from the factory together? One thing I learned in my own business is that when people are together a lot, respect for people goes up. People learn to that people they thought "don't care" or "don't get it" actually care deeply and "get it" as well as they do. When people are together, communication improves immensely. One of the biggest complaints employees have is "nobody tells me anything". When A3 "closings" are a weekly routine, leaders have a great opportunity to keep their #1 asset in the loop. Morale improves. The other cool thing about people being together is that humans always seem to figure out how to bring fun to the get-togethers.
Show me a company where every single person is engaged to solve problems (vs. I just work here), where people learn (and teach) from the day they are hired till the day they retire, are true experts of their processes, and where people are together a lot, and I'll show you a company with an incredible competitive advantage.