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The mistake many make, perhaps believing in the superhuman qualities of their leaders, is to leave strategy formulation in the C-suite, in corporate strategy departments, or with high-end consulting firms. The far better approach is to harness the creativity and sense of purpose of employees and develop strategic thinking across the organization.
You may be thinking about implementing a Lean Strategy in your organization. Or maybe you just you haven't heard much about lean and you want to find out what everyone is talking about.
Wherever you are on your journey here are a few of the most common reasons organizations and individuals embark on the "lean journey".
Some of the small and medium sized organizations have realized that in today's global market it is not only tough to compete but very hard to survive. With the internet now reaching all around the world our competitors can research and access information with the click of a button. Along with the digital power of the internet many markets have been forced to be cheaper and quicker with no spared expense of quality. This means long lead times, safety stock, batches of inventory and excessive queue times must be eliminated. Whether you're in manufacturing or service the solution is lean. Lean is a continuous improvement strategy that a company embarks on to maximize customer value and minimize waste. The term "Lean" was first used in the book The Machine That Changed the World by James Womack. A lean organization focuses on providing complete value or Value added activities to their customers. Lean truly enables a company to focus on what customers want, while increasing satisfaction, improving a company's competitive market and ultimately enabling anybody to change for the better. What are those changes that we refer to as better?
Here are four changes you can expect as a result of a lean implementation:
1. The first and most obvious reason we will list is that a Lean Strategy Removes waste. Lean places a strong focus on what is known as Muda and the elimination of the 8 forms of waste. Those 8 forms of waste are Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over Processing, Over Production, Defects and underutilized Skills. By eliminating waste a company spends more time creating value and less time on wasteful activities. Let's look at an example. Valentine's day you're looking to go out to dinner with your family. When you place your wallet in your pocket do you put it their to wait in line? probably not. How about for the restaurant to rework your food? Hopefully not. No you probably put your wallet in your pocket to purchase food that you're going to eat and contribute to the transformation of the ingredients into the food you're going to eat. Those activities that you the customer are not willing to pay for are what we call waste. Lean works to drive these hidden costs out of processes.
2. Lean Brings People together. In order to build a lean organization a company must recognize the need for change. The strategy requires buy in from every level of an organization and asks that all team members are focused on doing their part. Principle number 10 in The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles, Dr. Jeffrey Liker writes: "use cross-functional teams to improve quality and productivity and enhance flow by solving difficult technical problems." He goes on to say: "empowerment occurs when people use the company's tools to improve the company." While it's true individuals create value the simple idea that lean tools require interaction and teamwork helps us begin to understand why the development of people and healthy culture is so important to the strategies success.
3. The Pursuit of Perfection. One of the best part about a continuous improvement strategy like lean is the continued focus on improving. The term kaizen suggests that it is through small incremental improvements that breakthrough results are created. If we look into the North American definition of kaizen we see the word "continuous" used alongside the word improvement. One synonym for the word continuous is constant. Constant means to happened all the time or very often over a period of time. By understanding this definition, we understand that Kaizen or continuous improvement is not so much an activity or a project as it is a part of our work ethic and culture that helps us to pursuit perfection and never give up.
4. Streamlines Processes, implementing lean helps companies dramatically streamline their processes. This includes office functions, manufacturing tasks, educational organizations and healthcare environments. If you have a process it can be improved, if you don’t it can be created and standardized. This enables companies to work to their full potential which results in a reduced operational expenditure along with increased speed and service to the market.
In Short a Lean Strategy really is the improvement strategy. Although these are only four reasons a company might embark on a lean journey, there really is no question that if you are looking to grow, transform and survive in today's global market lean must be a part of your organization or skill set.
What reasons can you think of that may cause a company or an individual to shy away from lean?
By: Steve Murphy
Mr. Murphy frequently writes about "Six Sigma in the real world." Mr. Murphy can be contacted via email by clicking here: Steve Murphy To submit your post on listen to the gemba visit: Submit a Post on Listen to the Gemba.
Like a lot of university students of my era when I wasn’t “working on the post at Christmas” I worked on factory production lines. One local factory used excess yeast produced by Burton’s brewing industry to produce stock cubes. No not OXO another brand using a modern technique to produce a crumbly cube. The production machines were modified sweet making machines and operating one was a black art. The correct process depended on getting the right balance of gloop and water to produce cubes of the right weight and strength to allow the wrapping machine to individually foil wrap them.
The term yokoten refers to the sharing of best practices and learning laterally throughout an organization. Could you imagine if the news did not report anything they learned? What if the radio never shared insights based on experience and what if the internet was controlled by one brain? Well we probably would not know about a lot of things.
While the term yokoten is mostly associated with "horizontal deployment" it is a much broader sharing than just strategically. The term can also be interpreted in a technical, methodical and philosophical way. When the principle of yokoten is effectively embraced by many, yokoten can transform a process, organization, online community and the world. Let's use 5S as a simplified example. It is quite common for areas of an organization to take a "liking" to 5S, at least in the early stages. As teams, departments and employees mimic and improve upon the original 5S (first performed internally) they not only gain the same benefits, but they gather new and innovative ways of improving the way the 5S system is executed. Now let's imagine some areas of an organization decided that they were not going to wait for others to notice the successful implementation of their 5S and so, like good students of an art, they shared what they did with other areas of the organization. Knowledge would then spread far and wide... Fast.
Of course we all want the positive benefits of improved performance but yokoten also contributes to a positive open culture. Here are a few ways you can begin using the powerful principle of yokoten in your organization: