MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
July 2017
Lean Leaders

Did you know that companies undergoing Lean initiatives are successful in only five-to-seven percent of cases? If your organization is undergoing a Lean transformation, this figure should give you pause. One of the main reasons for Lean transformation failures is that management engages in the transformation with "lip service" only.
 
There are three ways to ensure a successful Lean transformation. The first is to have top management - i.e., CEOs, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Presidents, etc. - actively demonstrate their support. Showing up for a kaizen meeting is one way to demonstrate support, but a better way is to have top management's offices undergo Lean transformations first. This sets the example for the rest of the organization.
 
The second way is to engage top management in the "walk of shame" in their organization. Most employees are eager to engage in a tour of the organization's offices to identify areas of waste. However, including top management in this walk is essential to change. The walk of shame (it's the "waste walk" in real Lean terms!) helps all staff see the waste in the office - from excess piles of paper in the photocopier room to heaps of empty recycled binders at workstations to sloppily organized employee kitchens. This walk of shame is an eye opener for many, since it identifies the wasted or "sleeping" money in the organization.
 
It is not enough for employees to see the waste. Unless management sees the waste firsthand, Lean cannot succeed, despite employees' best efforts.
 
The third way to success is through policy deployment or "hoshin kanri." While many organizations have strategic plans, policy deployment is not always according to strategy. Hoshin kanri engages employees in "must-do-can't-fail" projects which allows focus on only the top few projects each year. It prevents common mistakes of trying to do all projects at once. The method helps the organization see how their kaizen projects tie back to key hoshin projects (policy deployment) as well as their overall strategy. It allows alignment of resources and complete linkage from strategy to policy to kaizen implementation.
 
The perfect Lean leader is one that does more than sit in his/her office, managing. The perfect Lean leader is part of the team-walking the office or shop floor regularly-engaging staff and monitoring Lean implementations.

Musts for Leading Lean
 
In addition to strategy and being part of the team, Art Byrne claims that Lean leaders must understand key management principles relating to Lean. First, Lean is the strategy. Second, lead from the top. And, third, transform the people.
 
When leaders understand Lean as the strategy, then the organization's entire focus is on "Leaning" the organization, regardless of the strategic options. For example, if product cycle time reduces from weeks to minutes (which is a very common occurrence with Lean!), customer lead time also decreases, but market share increases - all without adding inventory (read: without wasting resources).
 
Leading from the top means exactly that - leaders need to set the example by employing continuous improvement strategies in all their processes. The trickle-down effect is that staff will take notice of executive office improvements and will want to implement similar improvements to help them gain more time in their day, as well.
 
When management leads from the top, people transformation is easy. When staff realize that the boss is serious about Lean and is using Lean in everything, staff will also transform to embrace Lean and implement systems and processes that add value to the organization. People (staff) are the organization's only asset that appreciates over time - they are worth the investment. This is a key strategy inherent in Lean.
 
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
Lean is neither complicated nor a fad - it is about being organized and not wasting your resources. For instance, if you go to Starbucks (plug for Starbucks, I know!), do you buy two or three coffees at the same time because you think you might drink them later? No, you don't. You buy only the one that you will consume at the time. That's the basic Lean principle - only buy/take and use what you need when you need it. This eliminates excess inventory and other waste (e.g., resources required to store the inventory such as people, equipment, and space; not to mention the extra money that's sitting in that excess inventory). It's a very simple concept that you can apply anywhere. Start at home, perhaps with a kitchen drawer, and get organized to reduce your waste footprint. IMHO.
 
"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed."
- A.A. Milne

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Extreme Profits is a monthly electronic newsletter discussing how leaders can be more efficient and areas where organizations can save more money. 

 

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