A reader asked a great question in response to a recent Lean Leadership Blog post at the Consumer Goods Club. His question was in essence how do you keep Lean initiatives moving ahead and not going the way of another flavor of the month program. We have all seen managers with the best intentions launch new initiatives that were supposed to be the wave of the future only to see them fizzle out after a few weeks or months. Lean initiatives are no different. Many organizations have tried Lean and either abandon it completely or don’t take it very far. So what makes the difference between companies that tried Lean and those that are leading the pack?
A successful launch of Lean is in some respects like getting lean with one’s weight. There are no quick fixes. There are no easy solutions and it takes work. You cannot make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight then go back to your old habits after a few weeks or months and expect to stay Lean. It takes discipline over the long haul.
Successful Lean organizations will have several characteristics:
- First and foremost, organizations embarking on a Lean transformation must have someone who is passionately committed to the process and can keep others on board. According to Industry Week Magazine, 70% of all organizational change initiatives fail because there is a lack of lasting commitment. With this in mind, the higher in the organization this committed leader is, the better. This Lean leader must be someone who has the authority to set direction for the long-term.
- There also needs to be accountability up and down the chain of command. Lean will need to bring results if it is to survive. I doubt it will work if it’s not part of everyone’s annual goals and bonuses. Your company needs a way to keep Lean on the radar.
- Thirdly, these organizations need to have a core group that truly thinks Lean. This group can be developed over time while on the Lean journey. Lean is a way of thinking and not just a box of tools. The journey is more than learning the tools. It is a culture change. Your organization will fall into the Lean toolbox mentality without a core group of people who can keep reminding everyone that it’s a process.
- Successful Lean organizations have a culture of employee engagement. This culture will need to be quickly cultivated if it is not already there. The average line operator will need to see how Lean benefits them.
- Finally, there needs to be structure to facilitate and support the process.
This has certainly been an important topic in recent years and is very relevant today. You can find many references to what causes Lean to fail and what is required for success. There are many discussions in several LinkedIn groups, blogs, and books documenting successful Lean organizations. The successful organizations are the ones who are willing to invest for the long-term. Which describes your organization? Does your team keep an eye on the long-term goals even when dealing with today’s issues or do they drop everything for the weekly or even daily crisis? Is your organization ready for Lean?
Lean Leadership Blog
Written for http://www.consumergoodsclub.com
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