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Lean Basics, Issue #001 -- Why Lean Doesn't Work !
July 01, 2006
Hope you are all well,

Here's the real truth behind ALL failed Lean Transformation attempts.........

A lean transformation can enable operations to drive the overall business strategy, through the creation of many tangible business benefits. Quality may increase through improved process yields and reduce scrap and rectification costs. Cost improves through reduced conversion costs, improved cash flow, and higher return on assets. Delivery can improve through shortened production lead times which more flexible operations that can respond quickly to changes in customer demand.

Despite attempts, most businesses have not been able to capture or sustain the benefits of a lean transformation. Lean manufacturing represents a fundamental change and most businesses have pursued change in tactical, rather than a strategic manner. Most failed lean transformations can be attributed to lack of true senior management commitment and understanding of the change process. Moreover, the methodology of many companies is to rely on a series of quick-hit approaches that deliver short term benefits, but aren’t sustainable in the longer term. Add to this the reluctance of many companies to consider the business as a whole rather than just concentrating on operations or manufacturing and you have a recipe for failure.

The ultimate responsibility of the success of ANY change program, whether it is Lean Manufacturing or Six Sigma or any other, falls squarely on the shoulders of the most senior person on site – Not the Change Manager, Change Team, Consultants or anyone else. The Senior Manager is the ‘Change Champion’, whether he accepts this role or not. The speed of success of the change program is directly proportionate to the speed he accepts this responsibility and begins to walk the walk. The ‘Change Champion’ must change his behaviour in line with what he is asking the rest of the organisation to do. Failure to do this will result in mistrust and inevitably cause the program to falter and possibly fail.

A common reason for this not happening is that the Change Champion does not know this is the case, or more commonly does not know how to do this and fears admitting it.

So how do he do this?

Firstly, ensure the basics are in place as detailed in the ‘Stability Phase’ of the ‘Standard Business Roadmap’. A solid Performance Measurement System at shop floor level is one of the key building blocks to any change initiative. This system must have metrics aligned with the companies long term strategy and site metrics and have clear targets for acceptable performance.

A good point to start would be for the ‘Change Champion’ to set aside a block of time every day (1 Hour may be sufficient) to go to the ‘Gemba’ or shop floor and carry out ‘Go, Look, See’ or Process Confirmation on these shop floor measures to ensure they are being updated regularly, hitting targets, ensure understanding of everyone affected by these measures and take the appropriate action if the process of completing these measures isn’t being followed.

This may sound extremely simplistic but try it for yourself and see the change in attitudes and eventually, the change in the whole culture. It is this cultural change that, when it comes will provide the ‘Critical Mass’ in the whole change program.

An organisation is a shadow of its leader It’s up to you as the ‘Change Champion’ to demonstrate the behaviours you wish to see in your organisation. It is not enough to simply talk about them.

More than just anecdotal evidence exists that change initiatives fail more often than they succeed. A Harvard Business Review article by Nohia and Berkley cites a survey showing that 75 percent of the managers polled were unhappy with change initiatives underway. Since the current business environment warrants these initiatives, why do they fail? The answer is clear. Most change initiatives focus on the operational and technical side. What they too often ignore, or, at best, give lip service to, is the human side-the behavioral side of change. Anyone who has ever attempted to implement a change of any kind has experienced the phenomenon of resistance to change by people and institutions. It is easier to decide on change than to get people to change! People and organizations are creatures of habit, and changing habits is much harder than changing structures or systems. It seems that organizations, like people, had personalities, and to ignore or not deal with an organization's personality trails could be fatal to your change efforts. Today, people recognize those personality traits as Corporate Culture, and the business world is slowly beginning to appreciate the power of cultural habits. Most change initiatives have at least token elements of "change management." Unfortunately, most organizations don't address cultural barriers as vigorously or systematically as needed. It has long been known that the only way to ensure the maximum success of any broad-based change initiative is to systematically deal with the corporate culture. To truly change the corporation, you need to change the culture. The first step of doing this, as the ‘Change Champion’ is to change the way YOU behave, lead by example and SHOW your people HOW you expect them to behave.

If, as the most senior person on site, you are not able or willing to change your behaviour in order to engender the required changes in others and the systems and processes they work with, then think about stepping aside and letting someone take the reins who will.

In any Lean Transformation we have only two options: Either, change the people or change the people.

If you are a senior manager or CEO reading this and thinking that any of the above isn't true, or would only apply to other people - Please don't contact us, we can't help you. Nor can anyone else!

The team at Beyondlean have recognised and experienced these potential pitfalls and have created a programme that can help lead a business through the change process. The Standard Business Roadmap (SBR) takes a narrow and deep approach by focusing on a model value stream. The SBR programme creates the lean manufacturing infrastructure to maximise the chance of sustainability. Ultimately, the SBR cannot guarantee the sustainability of the system if the Business is not willing to invest the required time, resource, and commitment to the change process. If a business is ready to embark on this lean manufacturing journey, then manufacturing operations can not only become a competitive advantage, but also deliver new strategic opportunities.

Wishing you all prosperity in everything you do,

Warm Regards,

Paul Swift. 07843 577771

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