Phase 3 is where the journey starts. And make no mistake. Creating a business management system built around a continuous improvement culture is a lengthy journey. Starting out right is critical.
There are a few different schools of thought about how to go about making early changes. Some people advocate for the ‘deep end of the pool’ approach and throw a lot of tools at teams. Others like to slowly get acclimated.
Our approach is somewhat unique, not in terms of how fast we launch, but in what we recommend you start with. We have the leadership team make some pretty substantial changes, so they are thrown in the deep end. Why? If they are unwilling to change the way they do business, they won’t be able to get their teams to do things in a new way. We ask leaders to dive headfirst into policy deployment, and use a healthy dose of metrics to stay on track.
As for the frontline teams, you may recall from an earlier statistic that about three quarters of improvement initiatives come up short. With that high of a risk, we want your team to walk away with value regardless of how your efforts play out. Because of that, we focus heavily on problem solving for them during this phase. Individual value is not the only benefit, though. At their heart, continuous improvement is all about problem solving. You identify something that isn’t working as you want it to, and then apply a solution to close the gap between reality and the desired state. Most of the Lean tools, in fact, are simply pre-packaged solutions to common problem. As your company moves on to later phases, wide-spread problem solving skills will come in extremely useful.
We don’t want this to be entirely lacking in Lean tools, though. We do recommend getting started on 5S at this point. Generally, we want 5S to be tied to projects instead of treated like a separate activity, but in this phase, it is a learning activity. We want people to be comfortable with 5S early on so they will understand how to integrate it into other tools later.
There are two time consuming tasks in this phase. The first is the need to proceed through a few cycles of policy deployment so the leadership team is fully on board. You don’t want them still cutting their teeth on how they will be leading when people are making big changes of their own.
The second is training. You need a critical mass of problem solvers to seed project teams. It takes time to roll out that training.
In addition, it is good to get people used to seeing metrics posted up on the walls so they get used to them before the big changes start happening.