4 Brutal Truths from the Lean Journey

Wall Street, Manhattan, New York, USA

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[tweetmeme]Millikan & Co. is a company consisting of multinational textile and chemical companies.  They have been a leader in Lean Manufacturing since the 1990’s and were recently featured in Industry Week.  Millikan customized the Toyota Production System to fit their culture and embraced the Deming PDCA.  They have become a learning organization with 100 years of manufacturing experience.  Laurie Haughey, Millikan & Co.’s Director Education Services and Marketing, describes four brutal truths that can derail your Continuous Improvement initiative:

  • The majority of performance improvement initiatives fail – it is no surprise that Millikan’s success is rooted in organizational commitment and instilling a learning culture.  We have recently explored organizational commitment.  This is a well-known phenomena that we recently explored (Can you avoid Lean Failure).  The trick is to do it.  Millikan found the need for a daily management system to provide the structure needed to sustain success.
  • Organizations will flounder unless they cultivate the trusting environment needed to perform honest self-analysis – many organizations say they want to learn from their mistakes.  Few create an environment where managers and teams feel safe to admit mistakes.  Millikan’s view became that no problem is a problem encouraging their teams to expose problems in search for root causes.
  • Organizations often count the wrong things – Millikan focuses first on safety rather than Wall Street driven metrics like shareholder value or other bottom line metrics.  Their focus shows with an industry leading injury rate (TIIR = 0.50).  This focus also enables them to engage and empower their employees.
  • Facts don’t lie; but they don’t drive change either – there is little value in collecting data that upon which there is no action.  In fact, the Ms. Haughey notes that data without analysis is even worse than meaningless.  It adds another layer of wasted effort.  I recall my first walk through a particular food manufacturing plant.  There were so many graphs in the main hallway that I didn’t know where to start and certainly could not digest but a few.  This was a plant that has always made a high quality product and had a dedicated team.  They cleared out that hallway and streamlined their key performance indicators when they got serious about going Lean.  This team removed millions of dollars in waste over the next few years.

[tweetmeme]Millikan and Co. has been able to overcome the many obstacles companies face while on the Lean journey.  Where is your organization on their Continuous Improvement journey?  Have you seen these truths?  What other obstacles have you encountered?  What are you doing to sustain the journey?

Best regards,

Christian Paulsen

Lean Leadership Blog

Written for http://www.consumergoodsclub.com


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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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2 Responses to 4 Brutal Truths from the Lean Journey

  1. Matt Wrye says:

    I like how they focus on safety and then it allows engage to drive other types of improvement and change. It is something this is overlooked. When I met the Safelite CEO, he says they focus on customer delight first and foremost which will drive higher revenues and better financial performance.

    • Matt,

      That is a very interesting point of the article. The safety focus seems to get people involved and I would think show that management cares. It’s really interesting that the article seems to say that safety is one of the primary company goals and not just a manufacturing goal. Thanks for your comments.


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