Lean Management System – The Key to Sustainability
Lean has wonderful elements. Two important ones about which we have written on many occasions are that lean projects can be implemented quickly and the tools can be disseminated broadly within your employee population. The result is that you can get traction and a payback the organization can see and measure. Every level of management and line personnel love those properties.
But like any sort of change initiative, it is still difficult to get true cultural change. In other words, just because it can be more easily understood and applied more easily than say Six Sigma and the payback is shorter, doesn’t mean its guaranteed to be successful. Implementation and sustainability are quite different. So how can it be done?
Well let’s first define how sustainability appears. A lean culture of continuous improvement is characterized by:
- Daily Application – Ability to apply the tools to improve operational performance on a daily basis
- Proper Application – Knowledge of where to apply the tools, or a process for continuously refocusing on problems and opportunities.
- Demonstrated Successes – Extensive knowledge of, and success with, the tools.
To achieve this, organizations need a change model. It should be a structured process for achieving the discipline and focus needed for any successful change. This process is a Lean Management System, which doesn’t guarantee lean success, but build the foundation skills.
A lean management system is focused on work groups of five to ten people. It provides an integrated set of planning, measurement and problem solving tools to help the work group:
- Focus on daily performance measurement and improvement
- Improve effectiveness of supervisory communication
- Solicit and evaluate employee improvement ideas
- Assess lean status and define improvement objectives
A Lean Management System is meant to build the new “habits” necessary to develop a culture of continuous improvement with four key elements:
- Primary Visual Display (PVD) serves as a central communication point for a work group. The work group members themselves maintain performance metrics, schedules and improvement actions.
- Huddles of ten minutes in length which serve as a meeting place to review performance to date, communicate critical next steps, plan progress and solicit solutions to problems.
- Performance Metrics which are essential to instill the discipline necessary for standard work and other lean practices to be sustained.
- Kaizen Events structured to systematically collect and evaluate employee improvement. Kaizen events provide a process to capture the ideas, evaluate them and ultimately implement them for operational improvement.
A Lean Management System seeks to build new work habits. And, like any new habit-building program, it must be practiced diligently until the new processes gradually become “business as usual.” Day-to-day, hands-on coaching of work groups and team leaders is essential to ensure acceptance. Initially this is accomplished through process compliance, but ultimately through knowledgeable use of the tools. And finally, through a deep enough understanding that you achieve process innovation.
A lean management system is focused on improving work group performance. It is part of a broad-based lean deployment, not a substitute for value stream mapping, kaizen events and other methods to identify and implement lean improvements. Think of a lean management system as the glue that will hold lean improvements in place and gradually broaden the application of lean tools within your organization.
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A lean management system must be linked to higher-level operational management activities within an organization to ensure seamless communication of expectations, feedback on results and review of improvement ideas. As teams and organizations gain experience with a lean management system, work groups become more empowered and the freedom to act increases dramatically. A lean management system will help bind lean changes to the process and build lean thinking into the culture at the intact work group level. A lean management system is the missing link to a achieving a lean culture. A lean management system is the missing link to a achieving a lean culture. If you wish to discuss this post, feel free to contact me.