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So much talk but just how much understanding of how? But what falls under the Lean umbrella and how do you get there? And how do we avoid initiative overload? This article will run through at strategic level how to approach Lean, and will also provide a proven path approach to implementation that can be used across the whole of a business, not just the manufacturing area which the term Lean Manufacturing suggests.
To most of us the term Lean would hopefully suggest no fat or a minimum level of fat and applying this to business would imply minimum levels of waste.
Clearly this would then suggest that to become lean we must remove that fat or waste from the business processes to leave, wherever possible, just that activity that lean business planning value to either the external or internal customer. Whilst this would appear logical, actually understanding that which is of value versus that which is not, and then applying this to all aspects of a business is difficult.
And often the answers do not lie within the grasp of management running the business, but with people who are actually closest to the process and hence better placed to see the value and waste.
This tool when used correctly enables us to create a map of both value and waste in a given process. This map can then be used to understand the waste and its causes before moving on to remove it so that value flows without interruption of waste.
Clearly, whilst value stream mapping is a key tool it is not just the tools of Lean which need to be understood and used, but the implementation approach to adopt and the issues that arise whilst implementing Lean. This article will discuss the Oliver Wight unique approach, which broadly falls into five steps.
Step 1 - Lean Business Philosophy. Clearly, for the senior members of a business to support any type of business improvement methodology or, for that matter, change, there needs to be a vision of what the business would look like after adoption and implementation of that philosophy.
For Lean this is no different, and one of the first lean business planning to be avoided is jumping onto the Lean bandwagon through fear of being left behind. First, the senior board must grasp what is meant by Lean, where are the opportunities, where are the dangers, what level of commitment will be required, how should the management of the business support the implementation, and finally what the benefits will be.
This first step needs to take senior members and key decision makers through the above issues in some detail so that they gain a good understanding of how to create Lean. It is preferable for them to gain this understanding by visiting Lean through an action-based learning simulation to give them first hand experience of the key issues.
The purpose of this first step is to a decide whether Lean is an approach that can be supported by them and the business, b to define a vision of lean for the business, c to create an implementation plan, d to decide on the key sponsor, e to ensure that Lean will deliver the businesses strategic objectives, f to fully understand the management and culture change that needs to take place in order to deliver a truly Lean business, g to assign a budget and analyse the benefits and h to create a top level value stream map of the business.
Actually, the opposite can be true as most businesses have been focused on manufacturing for some years and may well find to improve support parts of the process actually unlock more potential in manufacturing as a result. Clearly, the vision and plans then need to be communicated to the workforce.
Step 2 - Culture and Organisational change programme As with all philosophies which require business change in order to implement we have to take great care of our most important assets - people. Lean is certainly no different but has as big an impact on management as it does on the workforce, but in completely different ways.
In step 1 senior management will have gained an understanding of the impact that Lean can have on people, culture and the changes that will be required.
With Lean, the people who can most easily get to grips with value-adding and non-value adding activities are the workforce. It is for this reason that for Lean to work we need to adopt a bottom- up approach which is led and supported by a visionary senior group and facilitated by middle management.
The main reason for this is that waste is far easier to understand and remove as close to where it is created in the process i. Therefore, in order to make this approach work we need to consider the ability of the process operators to work in process related teams, rather than their current functional ones, because to develop Lean correctly requires teams to become truly self directed, allowing problems to pick the people required to solve them from within the teams rather than management to pick the problems.
In conjunction, middle management need to adopt a different approach which is clearly heavily biased towards facilitation and being the key motivators to help create the passion and relentlessness required in the pursuit of Lean.
There are a couple of other key changes for middle management to contend with. The first of these is the inevitable move away from strong functional ownership to ownership of the process.
This is essential if we are to unlock the waste which is a function of the process or which has been caused by the functional boundaries existing.
The second change is one of understanding and behaviour which relates to the way that over years management has focused their improvement activity around the value-adding areas in the process, along with the people in it.
This approach has led to a poor culture between the workforce and management with the workforce tending to be wary of change due to feeling victims of it. With this stage it is essential to have a co-ordinated people and teams programme which runs alongside the lean activity and education to ensure that all members of staff are correctly coached.
This avoids conflict and delivers a management group that can facilitate change with the teams working for them and so remove waste efficiently. The people and change programme can be co-ordinated by the HR director at the senior levels but as much as possible be part of the deliverable learning activity of Lean.
This is to ensure that education can be followed directly by application to the work environment. Step 3 - Applying Lean to Your Business This stage whilst not as involved from a time point of view is clearly an essential factor in success It involves educating middle management and the change agents in the Lean business philosophy, create understanding of how this can be applied and re-focus them to move from a hands-on improvement role of management to a facilitation role.
At this stage we begin to deal with the cultural and behavioural issues that can exist between the management and workforce, and also with management releasing some of the ownership of improvement to put belief into the Lean process as a way of driving the business forward.
Step 4 - Transformation to Lean The transformation process can now begin.Digitising entrepreneurship. Based on experiences from more than startup cases, we help public business support organisations to develop, structure and implement digital entrepreneurship journeys.
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