Lean Thinker Challenge #8

By Ron Pereira Updated on March 9th, 2015

startBy Ron Pereira

Welcome to another edition of the Lean Thinker Challenge!

The Situation

You’re an experienced lean thinker who recently joined a 75 person company that’s brand new to any sort of continuous improvement.

Your boss, the president, hired you to help them improve all aspects of their business including profitability and employee morale which, she hypothesizes, are highly correlated.

The Challenge

Upon walking into the facility you immediately notice how much basic 5S would help.  To call the place unorganized and chaotic is an understatement.

But, you also know the front office processes – specifically planning and scheduling – are in shambles so perhaps you should start there?

Then again, perhaps you should take a deep breath, do some basic lean awareness training, and then perform an extensive lean assessment before making a start.

All you do know, for sure, is you need to do something!

What should you do?

  1. Joe

    March 10, 2015 - 7:02 am

    You have to start with a vision – where are we going and why do we need to get there. With the vision in hand you can clarify the results expected for the organization. Then you can ask people what needs to change today to reach the results. Asking these questions and listening to the answers will determine what to focus on next and where to start first. Lean tools will help get to the results but they make most sense when presented in the context of results needed.

  2. Dale Savage

    March 10, 2015 - 10:00 am

    I agree with Joe. You need to understand where management see their problems occurring based on their vision and then tackle that first. You can’t just go in and apply Lean tools where you think they need applied first. After your initial success based on the vision provided, you will have the “right” to make further suggestions based on your own knowledge and past experiences. Otherwise, you will not necessarily have the buy-in from those you need support from the most. This is especially true if you inadvertantly start working in an area that is a “sacred cow” to someone at the management level.

  3. Kevin

    March 11, 2015 - 8:25 am

    Agree with the above. I’ve come across cases where a traditional quick jump to 5S or VSM created the wrong results because there wasn’t a good understanding of the situation. As one example that has stuck in my head, I know of one research lab where the organization rearranged offices and labs to minimize time that researchers needed to walk between buildings and facilities. They minimized the time, but then later realized that that time spent walking was when the creative juices flowed in the minds of the researchers. They hurt themselves by minimizing “waste.” First take the time to truly understand the situation, problem, opportunity.

  4. Greg Hershman

    March 12, 2015 - 11:58 am

    There is no ‘one step’ answer but the problem is – where to start? With any change in culture for and business, the head of the business has to back the change and Lean is no different.

    I would talk to the President telling her what Lean is, what it will do for the company and what her involvement will be. That involvement includes backing Lean and making her presence known throughout the company – selling this new change to Lean.

    Margret and I would then take a tour of the shop and meet all of the employees. Margret would explain to everyone – on an individual or small group basis – what is taking place and she will explain to the folks that she is fully committed to this new culture; it is not a program or an experiment, it is the way we will conduct business from now on.

    Margret will explain to folks that I will be implementing new ways of doing business in the coming weeks, we will be getting some training on who the business works, and we will pull together to make all of the work easier.

    When the tour of the shop is finished, we will walk through the entire office to do the same. From this day forward, Margret will spend at least one hour each day wandering the shop to see what is changing, offering encouragement, and congratulating people on a job well done.

    This is only the start.

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