Invest in Employees And Make Them The Center of Your Lean Transformation

Posted by on Oct 4, 2019 in Culture, Lean | 0 comments

Much has been written about why few organizations succeed in making a lean transformation.  Some have stated the number to be less than 10% and when compared with Toyota the number becomes even worse and as low as 1%.  What is the reason for this?  What’s missing?

I think it centers on employee involvement and not making employees the center of the lean transformation.  Companies that invest in their employees and challenge them to experiment and learn are far more likely to succeed than those who don’t.  Here are six actions that companies can take to enable success:

  1. Employees must understand what a lean culture is, how to identify and eliminate waste, and the basics of lean thinking.  This isn’t accomplished by having them attend one seminar, taking a lean overview or participating in a couple of kaizen events.  It comes with investing in them and developing a lean and learning organization.
  2. Employees must actively participate in continuous improvement efforts.  They are the ones who bring the system to life: working, communicating, resolving issues, and growing together.  Actively seek their suggestions and implement their ideas.
  3. Demand employee involvement.  Your lean process must be designed to provide the tools for people to continually improve their work, placing more dependence on them, not less.
  4. Management must commit to continually invest in its people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.
  5. Develop a culture of lean thinking.  Lean thinking is not a particular set of tools or doing a few lean projects.  It is the creation of a technical system with a continuous improvement culture at its center.
  6. Challenge people to use their initiative and creativity to experiment and learn.  Staff your departments with carefully selected employees and give them the directive to improve their processes and find innovative ways to satisfy their customers.

None of the actions above are a quick fix.  But your goal isn’t a quick fix, it’s sustainability!  Just as a point of reference, Toyota has stated that it takes about a three year investment to develop a first-class engineer who can do the basic work it expects.  The reason for the three year investment is that Toyota is teaching its employees to think, solve problems, communicate, and do things the Toyota way.  It is not a matter of learning basic technical skills and turning people loose to use their new acquired tools!

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