10 tips to lead the way
Manufacturers are bombarded with information about lean, yet there is very little practical information on how to implement a transformation and lead the change. Every company’s journey starts under different circumstances, so there is no one recipe or “right way,” but there are many factors to consider before starting the trip.
Based on the successful and not so successful experiences of others, here are 10 lessons that will lead you to a sustainable lean transformation:
1. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Lean is not a one- or two-quarter commitment. It takes one to two years to build the necessary momentum, and from there your journey will last forever. Yes, tools such as kaizens provide very quick and significant improvements, but without taking the time to implement a program that yields sustainable benefits, process improvements gained by applying lean tools will slowly deteriorate and soon you will be back to where you started. The most profitable returns are realized through a two- to five-year plan.
2. It’s not a part-time job. Don’t expect someone to lead the charge in his/her spare time. You need to assign a dedicated leader or team to take on this challenge. It requires daily attention from leaders who fully understand the scope of the project and who won’t get caught up in today’s distractions. These leaders also require continued support from management throughout the implementation.
3. You need leaders, not managers. Managing is maintaining current reality. Leadership is moving people towards the ideal state. And you can’t lead people to where they already are. Lean transformation is about leadership, but it’s not a position or rank. Look for people at every level of the enterprise capable of leading. If lean is about transforming how people think, you must be able to teach.
4. Tools are good, but there’s more to it. Tools focus on physical system changes, but that’s not where the heart of lean beats. Lean thinking must become part of every person in your organization. Sustainable lean change – the kind that builds momentum – comes from the hearts and minds of all employees.
5. The journey never ends. There is a tendency for companies to declare, “We’ve done it. We’ve achieved lean.” The truth is, lean is a never-ending process because there will always be a gap between where you are and your ideal state. Even when success has been achieved, don’t stop. Consider Toyota – no matter how much better it is than the competition, the automaker continues to find more opportunities to improve each year.
6. Be prepared for resistance. When change is proposed, people often feel threatened. Some will think it’s something they did, but most will just be uncomfortable with the unknown. Also, many people think lean means cutting staff, when it’s really about working smarter to preserve heads and even grow the workforce as the market grows. As your company embarks on this journey, you must help people understand why, what and how. Remove the fears – or make NOT moving forward the more fearful choice.