Written by Stephen
This article first appeared in the Pittsburgh Technology Council PGH Tech Fuse.
The two key Pillars of the Toyota Production System are defined as "Continuous Improvement" and "Respect." Over the years, tools, techniques and principles have been shaped, documented and attempted to be implemented to bring about Continuous Improvement to deliver previously unattainable performance outcomes.
Our workplace environment is so much more than the systems we have in place. The fuel we apply to these systems is what makes them function to the best of their ability or not. If you put the wrong fuel type into an engine - the engine will fail. Does this mean the engine doesn't work? Of course not. Yet, so many organizations approach Lean implementation this way.
So what about "respect?" How does this feature in a systematic implementation of a methodology such as Lean?
Lean is a humanistic approach. That must position respect front and centre, surely? This means we need to work with more than just behavious. Behaviors are the outcome of thinking. Thinking is what creates motivation (values + beliefs) - our motivation determines what we do and don't do - and to close the loop - our selected behaviors ultimately determine our results.
When implementing Lean systems they can transform our environment. This can support us in our day-to-day decision making (by stimulating our thinking differently) and action taking (behaviors) and therefore guide us to success (results). But even the implementation of the well-documented Lean system elements just isn't enough. They don't guarantee respect - the fuel that really makes it work.
In one of our clients - following an intensive Lean training program - they embarked upon trying to systematically implement what they had learned about through training. Policy deployment (Hoshin Kanri, if you prefer) was an obvious place to start as there was a need to set direction, align and engage their people in taking them towards their vision. From this, we supported a sequence of structured conversations and interactions which aimed to create engagement across the entire organization. The aim here was to create higher levels of engagement than what they'd previously achieved before Lean.
The next component of the system was to establish Visual Management Centers (VMC) so that teams could inform themselves of their winning/losing status which enabled them to take the right decisions to ensure they continued to play their part on contribution to organizational success.
Of course as the workplace became more visual, problems became apparent and priorities became clear - this increased the need for an established way to respond, which led to a structured problem solving approach being developed. Some of the environmental building-blocks were starting to go in place for Lean. From this - the priority areas for standardization, workplace organization and other elements became apparent. But still, this wasn't enough. Despite the logic of the system - this alone didn't guarantee the required uptake to make it a success. The engine was assembled, if you like, but all cylinders weren't firing yet.
As the activity rolled-out through the organizational layers, not only did it become more challenging as they got further away from the point of (vision) origin, but the number of people to engage in the activity dramatically increased as they got closer to the teams who execute the value added work - as defined in the eyes of the customer. Resistance increasingly became an obstacle. While some leaders met this challenge, some struggled to overcome it. Some leaders were working with these newly implemented elements, but were doing so in a way that was "controlling" rather than in a way that creates heightened engagement, for example. Others were resisting completely.
To counteract this - the next element, and the client now argues - the most important element of the system has been to provide coaching for leaders. This is the capability to help individuals discover their own way, through their own experience of their environment, to put the right fuel into the engine to make it work. This means helping individuals to work with and develop their own beliefs and values (thinking) and find a way of satisfying or expanding these - yet, ensuring there is minimal/no conflict in what is required of them to make Lean work. By engaging leaders and being prepared to respectfully understand and work with their thinking, we could help them to try something different (new behaviors) which ultimately are aligned to collective improved performance (results).
Notice how the coaching element approach ensures respect?
If the approach was one of not being prepared to understand and work with the individuals in the clients' organization, this human potential opportunity would have been missed.
Remember the 7 "+1" Wastes? The "+1" is there for a reason.
Are you working with the right system elements in your Lean implementation?
About the author - Stephen Manley is the Coaching Director at Spitfire, a consulting firm with a global reach across Europe, North America, Middle East & Africa. Stephen works with individuals, teams and organisations worldwide to achieve transformational change in thinking, behaviours and ultimately results. Get in touch to learn more LinkedIn
"We were very impressed by the quality of the delivered solution, as well as of professionalism of the consultants, their understanding of our complex internal processes and their commitment to quality and respect of deadlines."Global Train Manufacturer
"With Spitfire's support we have been able to identify impressive savings and with the tools and coaching they provided we will be able to identify even greater savings. The Spitfire team were impressive from the start, quickly becoming part of the team and working in a structured way."Material Planning - Ordering Officer Aerospace Company (UK)
"At the end of the project we made quite a few changes to our existing systems. The best outcome is the change to the way we now think within the department whenever we are reviewing even the simplest of procedures, we find ourselves applying the 'lean' way of thinking and continue to make improvements."Cytology Manager NHS – Primary Care Trust Hospital
"A number of excellent pieces of work all delivered with professionalism and a good level of outside best practice knowledge shared and transferred. Good cross-functional connections made with the team at all levels and are very well respected and trusted in the organisation…"Market-leading provider of steam systems and services
"This Programme has revolutionised the way my team delivers its projects. It has enabled personal ownership and commitment from everyone involved. The teams are empowered to remove waste from their own processes and deliver real improvements in a matter of weeks, rather than months."Graeme Shaw | Business Process Improvement Leader Global Metro
"The Spitfire consultants were very knowledgeable and able to relate complicated techniques to us in language we understood. Their experience and expertise gave us a great leap in understanding."BT Manager Leading Energy Saving Group
"The real power of the programme is the empowerment and tangible cultural change it delivers in a short time scale. It releases momentum from every level and silo of the organisation, generating immediate impact and identification and eradication of waste. This is worthy of immediate wider application."Independent Investment Programme Advisory Group to the Mayor of London
"After many months of analysis, planning and effort we have, for the first time, achieved all of our Operational Performance Indicators for defects. This is a great achievement and has been delivered at the same time as working to drastically cut the number of outstanding defects, which have reduced from over 2,000 to about 150 today."Highways & Transport Manager Local authority (UK)
"An excellent piece of work delivered by knowledgeable and experienced logistics experts. Spitfire's packaging design concepts and Lean Logistics approach not only tackle space constraint issues, they also improve ergonomic handling and part quality. The designs ensure reduced handling of sub-assembled material & parts, and reduce costs."Plant Manager, Bremen Major Aircraft Manufacturer
"The turnaround of the fleet has been incredible! Spitfire Consultancy have been instrumental in making this happen. We now have the tools and the knowledge to maintain control and continue to meet our future performance challenges."Fleet Manager Asset Maintenance Company
"A great result, this supplier was one of our biggest concerns in terms of parts supply for the new model and now we're getting parts ahead of the model launch, a very positive outcome, well done…."Quality Director Leading Prestigious Car Manufacturer
"Spitfire have delivered a strategy that is clear and follows all Lean principles to ensure parts are available when required, all without impacting on production. Stakeholders involved have been impressed by Spitfire's knowledge and approach."Head of Supply Chain Logistics Major Aircraft OEM
"During development of the project, we recognised the immediate potential and in a joint activity with the original project team, installed the Body Shop Training Centre into a brand new manufacturing plant being built in the U.S.A. to assist us with the very difficult task of new plant hire and skill-up."Global Lean Centre Manager Global Vehicle Manufacturer
"A stellar performance from a rotating team of consultants achieved all I could have hoped for. A great programme which should be wider applied in my organisation."Head of Delivery Global Metro