Competing – Networks


What’s the big deal about networks?

Why should we join a network of companies with common interests? What’s in it for me and my company?

Let’s suppose your company is interesting in pursuing “lean” or the Toyota Production and Management System. Maybe you are working with an “external consultant” or have used your own internal resources. External consultants often bring a broad understand of concepts and practices learned through working in multiple situations and multiple companies and cultures, but alas…..I am one of “them”, so I bring little objectivity to that subject. Internal consultants can be successful as well.

Anyway……. you are on the road to creating a Lean/Continuous Improvement organization. Congratulations, that is great stuff…..but unless your company is in a position to win a Shingo Prize, perhaps you could learn something helpful for your Lean journey if you continue to listen.

Late in 2004 I founded a network of 4 client companies, all manufacturers. I was pushed to do so by my clients who always wanted to visit other companies who were also on the Lean journey to “go see” and compare their progress with the host company and learn. My initial plan was to meet at a host company (one of the four) each quarter or four times per year. After the first meeting the group decided they would like to get together more frequently. We now have 10 members and meet six to eight times per year.

The Lean Thinking Network’s objective is to leverage the collective knowledge, experience and motivation of the network to significantly improve the competitiveness and profitability of all member companies.

Some of the benefits network members have mentioned over the years:

1. Opportunity to see how others are implementing Lean
2. Opportunity to see other industries approach to Lean
3. Opportunity to see and listen to different cultures with the same objectives in mind
4. Opportunity to ask questions of peers
5. Opportunity to discuss problems with peers
6. Opportunity share forms, cards, tickets, photos, processes and concepts with peers
7. Opportunity to get support from peers when you cannot find the answer to a problem
8. Opportunity to exchange culture, visit peers and invite them to visit your facility
9. Opportunity to leverage special events such as presenters, tours etc.

We are located in the South Eastern portion of Pennsylvania (Lancaster-Reading-York-Harrisburg-Philadelphia). If you are not, maybe your local Chamber of Commerce has networks or your local MEP. Networks with competing companies typically have diminished value (little to no sharing). If possible, avoid this situation. In addition, don’t allow passive members. Active membership is necessary including hosting meetings.

Ok……why not? Get some help, support and opportunity. Join the community of Lean. You will be better for it.

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