In this phase you will build the foundation of your business management system. The focus here is creating the structure upon which you can apply the variety of tools that support Lean operations. The team will emphasize creating flow and eliminating waste. It will also become extremely accustomed to using Standard Work and other forms of standardization to stabilize processes. Finally, we roll out kaizen events during this phase.
While our approach is linear, we do recognize that there is somewhat of a catch-22 situation here. Kaizen events and Standard Work are not as effective without a range of tools to use to improve processes. But the tools are much harder to implement and sustain without kaizen events and Standard Work. We chose this order because we have found that the gains from starting on the structure first are higher than trying to implement tools independently. We’ve also found that a good mentor can teach some of the tools on a just-in-time basis when the situation warrants. Don’t feel like you can’t coach a team to mistake proof a process because poka yokes are introduced in the next phase.
Leaders also see a significant change during this phase. The most notable is that they will start using daily management to run their operations and monthly operations reviews to keep things on track.
Another significant part of this phase is the establishment of a pilot area. This is simply a production area with a highly motivated team that is willing to be the test bed for new systems.
This timeline has a few factors that affect its duration. If it drags out, it is often an indication that there is a lack of motivation to change. That is not the only reason, though.
Sometimes, a company is extremely thorough, and spends a lot of time becoming proficient at the skills of Phase 4. The difference between this situation and the first is pace. If Lean efforts are widespread, taking your time and building expertise on the fundamentals is not a bad thing.
Of course, a highly motivated company can also move on when it has a solid understanding of Phase 4 skills, as long as they keep using them in subsequent phases and continue to standardize and improve.