We have all heard the term "Lean Culture" and there are many different ways to define this unique sort of culture that everyone dreams about. But first let's start off by addressing the question "why is culture so important?"
Culture does many things in the environment it overlays, one of the main reasons we speak so often about Culture is that it assists us in Survival. You see Culture makes us unique and with out it everyone acts and behaves rather differently. Now we all know that we have our unique personalities and skills which make us who we are but Culture helps us to understand why someone behaves the way they do. Often times when the culture is not defined a company's performance would be rather "lumpy".
Now, please don't misinterpret the "defined culture" infact it is rather important that the culture of a company is flexible and adaptable, why you ask? When a Culture is adaptable it is better able to change. If the environment changes the culture to must change to meet the needs of the environment it is now in. Now this sort of change is not a guarantee to any organization's survival what it is though is a much better chance at your survival.
Let me focus in a bit more on some aspects of a lean culture, although this may sound odd or unrealistic but the traditional "Plant Manager" may have a general idea of what is going on in his plant, but general ideas do not really define the culture of lean. The fact is the traditional Plant manger is usually troubled by:
1. Poorly defined Goals and objectives
2. Changing philosophies
3. Almost no time on the floor
4. Poor Quality, Capacity, and On Time Delivery
These are problems that need to be solved, true, but the environment that they create is reactive which then creates a culture of the famous "firefighting." In a Lean Culture it seems odd but the goal is awareness. That awareness is around many different things, such as problems, waste, solutions, and performance. You can pick the measure but the concept is aware. Taiichi Ohno once said; "The work place is motivated by; Mutual survival, appreciation for excellent work in itself."
In a Lean environment that is what people do they support one another in surviving. That support is focused on both internal and external customers but none the less it is support. A truly lean culture focuses not just on the elimination of waste but on the survival of each other.
Here are a few things you can do help each other Survive;
1. Put the Customer first, We have all heard the saying "the customer is always right" but what we are talking about is putting the customer first. There is no specifics to putting the customer first just simply understanding their needs, doing everything you can to meet those needs and understanding there is often times more than one customer.
2. Create and Support Kaizen.
3. As a Leader Support appropriate Culture, Now don't mistake this statement, leaders come at many different levels of an organization..... We are all leaders in one way or another, but notice it does not say "define" culture only "Support" or drive appropriate culture. This can be done through clearly defining roles, responsibilities, expectations and set through examples and recognition of those who stand out. As a side note be aware that how you reward and punish people will impact the company culture too. When you support appropriate culture you understand the environment and what the people need to survive; their values, their traits and what is important to them. At times you may need to pivot but supporting appropriate behaviors can in turn support appropriate cultures.
As you travel along in your own personal Journey, whether in life or a lean strategy remember to help another survive and be a constant example of what it means to help and support the culture you hope for. This in turn will allow you and your Organization to survive in any environment, even if the seas get a little stormy.