Competing November 2005 Edition

Examining “Phase II” of your lean transition

Perhaps your company has had some initial success with lean. Possibly, you have successfully addressed the first four Lean Principles (1 Specify Value, 2. Identify the Value Stream(s), 3. Create Flow, 4. Pull to Customer Demand) and are making progress with the fifth Lean Principle, (5. Continuously Improving towards Perfection).

Many of my clients are immersed in Principle 5, “Continuously Improving towards Perfection”. I have taken the liberty to refer to this as “Phase II” of their lean transition. At this point in the transition, several issues frequently appear:

1. Not noticing the “new rocks” created by the lower water (elimination or reduction of waste)

a. Symptom: It’s “good enough”

b. Possible root cause: No means to regularly monitor your lean system’s competitiveness……..

Plan, Do, Act, Check

2. Inability to effectively drive “lean initiative” down throughout the organization.

a. Symptom: Kaizen becomes weak and/or diminished

b. Possible root cause: Insufficient training and exposure of lean to all employees, and/or inconsistent application of lean tools and philosophy by leadership/management.

3. Inability to remove obstacles from the value stream

a. Symptom: No progress is being made and undocumented or inappropriate excuses are the cause.

b. Possible root cause: Chapter 8 of Womack & Jones “Lean Thinking” states “Remove the Anchor-Draggers………The general manager and his deputies….promised to work on a long-term plan, but it was apparent that nothing would happen soon; shortly afterward they were asked to leave Pratt.”. With a new general manager measurable progress was soon attained.

***People are not the enemy. We all need to do everything within reason to allow a teammate to be successful, but when all else fails…………remove them from the value stream. You owe it to the company and the rest of your teammates.

Is your performance improved over last year, last month, last week? If you do not know or have not begun to identify and apply countermeasures, you are not actively seeking perfection through continuous improvement. Your lean program is likely stagnant. In today’s hypercompetitive markets, stagnant all too often means death.

Take a look at the three simple examples listed above and see if any apply to your situation. If so, become proactive ……Plan…Do…Check…Act. Focus on rekindling the excitement present during the beginning of your lean transition. What gets measured gets done and performance will improve.

Don’t forget: You are a lean enterprise, every minute of every day from now on.

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