Clicky Web Analytics Kerry Walters Shares Accounting Expertise: DEVELOPING A MANAGEMENT TEAM WHO CREATES A LEAN CULTURE

Saturday, January 3, 2009


In general terms, Lean is an improvement process that involves the concept of “continuous improvement” meaning that the purpose of Lean is to be improving some process or processes all the time. The continuous improvements are designed to eliminate processes that waste company time or resources and that a customer is not willing to pay for. It is not a one time process improvement event nor is it a technology-driven solution. “Continuous improvement” involves a fresh look at company processes all the time and a culture that embraces the needed for continuous change.

Implementation of Lean is successful when management initiates and sustains a lean culture. I found that it is difficult for management who has operated their business the same way for years to accept and be comfortable with an improvement process such as Lean. Studies have shown that some managers have even taken actions that have disrupted or undermined the implementation of Lean. The company never enjoys the profitable success that comes from using the tools found in Lean. The major difference between Lean success and failure is management’s attitude in creating and sustaining a continuous improvement culture and their knowledge of the tools used in Lean. If the implementation of Lean fails, it is not because of the staff but because of the lack of management’s sustained leadership.

The major change necessary for Lean success is management developing a culture where there is a sustained positive attitude of change. This means that some old company practices must stop and new practices start. The Lean culture has no room for managers who like to point their finger in blame when something does not appear to work properly. Management has to remove territory ownership or this is my turf attitudes.

There are principles of Lean that require the above culture to be eliminated which include some of the following:

• Continuous lean improvements will find process waste that lead to the discovery of another process waste. It becomes easy for a manager to blame the second process waste as the cause of the first process waste. The goal is to eliminate waste. Therefore, all improvements in processes should be praised where ever it is found or when ever it is found.

• To correct process waste in one department may require correcting a process waste in another department. Cooperation between department managers is critical to the success of Lean implementation.

• Lean is not just a quick fix to a problem. It is continuous improvement. If management wants lean to succeed they are obligated to embrace the cultural changes required to develop an atmosphere that encourages all employees and managers to look for way to eliminate process waste. This culture change will remove employee fear that their suggestions will end their employment or demote them to lesser positions.

• Lean is about people. Management will need to increase employee training.

• Employees will need to be empowered to make changes as the find process waste.

• Lean is eliminating processing waste which can lead to increased manufacturing capacity. It does not mean leaning out employees. Management has the responsibility of increasing sales that will lead to increased production to maintain their employees as lean increases capacity.

There are a couple of things that you can do to help management become successful at lean implementation.

One step would be to properly educate the management team on the benefits of Lean. This can come from showing how other businesses have successfully implemented Lean. It would be especially useful if a competitor has been successful with Lean. Nothing gets management in a bigger uproar than seeing a process that has help make their competition more successful, specifically a process that your management team could have implemented years ago.

Visit companies that are not competitors that have successfully implemented lean. Let management see how Lean was implemented, how it is maintained and learn how successful it has been. This may require some work to find company that will allow an extensive look into the benefits of Lean, but it would greatly aid in getting management’s buy in. Management can actually see the culture that is needed to implement lean.

Seek assistance of a consultant that is thoroughly trained in Lean and can aid in the implementation of Lean. Care should be taken when looking for a consultant trained in Lean. There are many people professing to understand but ultimately do not. Remember that after working so hard at selling Lean to management you do not want to lose the momentum to an ill informed trainer. You should thoroughly check the references of the trainer and ensure that the companies they have trained truly have seen sustained successes.

Management is the foundation of the successful implementation of Lean. Management controls change. They invite change to incur in the business, initiate change or they allow continuous change to be an integral part of their business environment. Management’s leadership and the use of the Lean tool set will lead their company into the next successful era of the company.

No comments: