Time and again, I have spoken about the need for efficient processes and systems to enable employees to do their best. It’s not enough to do something right once and then forget about it. If the process or system isn’t set up to sustain efficient activity in the first place, then waste is (and will be) prevalent.
Based on a survey of 10,000 individuals in more than 400 companies, as reported by Bill Jensen, author of Simplicity, individuals rated their company’s ability to compete on clarity (helping individuals work smarter, not harder), navigation (helping individuals find who or what they need), fulfillment of basics (such as communication and knowledge management), usability (company’s effectiveness in all that it designs to help people get tasks done), speed (helping employees to work in a 24/7 ever-faster world), and their respect for employees’ time. Overall, four or more of these elements were reported as unfavourable by 67% of respondents, while only 19% reported four or more as favourable.
To put this into perspective, Jensen says that if you are an executive in a company of 100 employees, then:
52 employees have to go back to their manager again and again to figure out what they’re supposed to do
72 can’t find what they need for them to do their best
75 are filling in the blanks for themselves on task/goal communication
81 think their son’s computer game console works better than the tools you supply
86 think you are like email when it comes to pushing speed down the chain of command, but you’re snail mail when it comes to acting on employee feedback
88 have been trained by the company to guard their time, or at least to be dubious and have second thoughts, or hang back when asked to give more of it
Improving efficiency and effectiveness in organizations can improve employee engagement as well as speed of delivery of products/service to customers. By improving efficiency, all of the above numbers will decrease dramatically, usually by as much as 20% first time through the process. But it’s not all about process.
Being a Lean organization means much more than being efficient and effective. It means that the organization is healthy, responsive, focused, and transforming. A Lean organization exudes power and not merely a set of tools and techniques. But without the baseline tools and techniques to support the organization, getting to power is an impossible feat. It’s like trying to boil the ocean without any heat.