6 Tips for a successful Lean Implementation

For Lean implantation to be successful, there must be a balance between two important components of Lean- the hardware & the software. Hardware refers to the tools & techniques (such as kanban, pull, single minute exchange of dies/ SMED/ quick changeover, poka-yoke, one-piece flow, etc), and software refers to the human side of the implementation.

Common failures of lean implementation

While there is more publicity on the success & power of the tools & techniques of Lean, the devil is actually on the human side. Most lean implementation failures are not due to failure to grasp the tools & techniques but failure in change management. Conversely, most successes in Lean are due to successful change management rather than their widely published tools & techniques implementation.

Some organizations focus their Lean implementation on tools and techniques neglect the people aspect of change management, and are left wondering why their lean implementation is getting the intended results. So if you are considering Lean implementation, please take heed of the following tips:

Tip #1: Prepare and motivate people

  • Widespread orientation to Continuous Improvement, quality, training and recruiting talent with relevant skills
  • Create a common understanding of the need to change to lean
  • In the current economic environment, you can even consider using the difficult market conditions as a burning platform to rally support from the employees for change.

Tip #2: Employee involvement

  • Push decision making and system development down to the “lowest levels”
  • Train and truly empower people
  • Share information and manage expectations

Tip #3: Identify and empower champions, particularly operations managers

  • Remove roadblocks (i.e. people, layout, systems)
  • Make it both directive yet empowering

Tip #4: Atmosphere of experimentation

  • Be tolerant of mistakes
  • Be patient
  • Be willing to take risks
  • Create a blame-free culture

Tips #: Installing “enlightened” and realistic performance measures, evaluation, and reward systems

  • Do away with rigid performance goals during implementation
  • Measure results and not number activities/events
  • Tie improvements, long term, to key macro-level performance targets (i.e. inventory turns, quality, delivery, overall cost reductions)

Tips #: The need to execute pilot projects prior to rolling culture out across the organisation

  • After early wins in operations, extend across to other areas & eventually to the entire company( enterprise) or supply chain.
  • So, remember to strike a balance of your effort in Lean tools and people aspects when you are planning your Lean implementation and soon you will be able to share your success stories.