#3 – Procedures?

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Follow through is critical. Image by familymwr via Flickr

Our march through the top 10 Lean Leadership blogs of 2011 continues with #3, Why Don’t People Follow Procedures:

It’s a cold and rainy morning as John, a new Production Manager, is driving to the plant.  He implemented a new procedure yesterday and he wants to follow-up with his team to ensure everything is going as planned.  It’s an important change since it should resolve a nagging quality issue.  John is hit with a major issue as soon as he walks in the front door.  Before he knows it, it’s been a 12 hour day and John all but forgot about following up on the new procedure.  That’s OK, follow-up will wait until tomorrow, right?  When John finally gets around to asking his operators about the procedure, he finds that they are not following it at all and each operator seems to be doing his own thing.  Sound familiar?

Cover of

Cover of The Toyota Way Fieldbook

Why wouldn’t the team follow the new procedure since there are such clear benefits?  You probably have a theory or two if this experience sounds familiar to you.  The Toyota Way Fieldbook states that when people deviate from the original plan, it’s a strong indication that there is a flaw in the plan.  This was also one of the main points of Implementing Change – Get It Done! There are reasons why people are not following a new procedure.  You need to find out what those reasons are and figure out what to do about it.

Sustaining the improvements can be the most difficult part of the change process. It can be very tempting to move on to the next project in today’s busy manufacturing environment. But don’t let up just yet because you are likely to see everyone drift away from your new best practices if you do not have the right systems in place. There are a few important points if you are to Sustain the Gain:

a) You will need to follow-up with the key players to see what issues they may be encountering. You will often find that you would benefit by making modifications to the new Best Practice. Reserve the right to learn, get smarter, and to continuously improve.

b) You will need to establish systems to support the change. Data may need to be collected for Leaders to review. Data would be helpful if the change involved process set point changes or other measurable parameters. Forms will need to be created to document that the new procedures are being followed for new Quality inspections and other similar changes.

c) Leadership must ensure that there are robust systems in place and follow-up at the right level of the organization to ensure the change becomes a reality. Follow up will be needed to ensure that the change is implemented as intended. Proper follow-up will enable you to work through those unforeseen issues instead of ignoring them or being blissfully unaware.

John learned the value of following up with his team through this experience.  He also learned that there valid reasons why his new procedure needed modification.  What about you?  Have you seen similar examples?  Are there other reasons why operators may not follow standardized work?  Are you ready to engage your team to get the most out of your standard operating procedures?


Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via e-mail (right side bar), retweet, digg, or stumble this article. Please check out my Facebook page and continue the discussion there too. Your feedback is appreciated.

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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