Job security is extremely important to people. One way that people increase their job security is to hold crucial information close to the vest. The thought is that the employee can’t be let go if the information goes with him. The problem, with this belief, though is that in a Lean organization, processes change rapidly. Skills become far more important than specific process knowledge.
I am a big fan of all that Toyota has done for the Lean community. Their contributions have been incalculable, and their willingness to share information is legendary.
Unfortunately, that sort of success has also created a mystique about the company. Some people use Toyota as a trump card in discussions, and blindly follow whatever the company does.
So, my question for this week is about whether that mystique is deserved, or whether the attention Toyota gets is overblown by the Lean community.
Notes from Jeff: I’d like to thank my guest author, Tony Ferraro for his contribution to the Gotta Go Lean Blog.
Lean manufacturing is something many companies strive for but only some attain. Many businesses implement different strategies in order to make processes faster, cheaper, and more efficient. Let’s face it, in this day and age we are either meeting or exceeding the ever-changing customer expectations, or we are simply treading water just trying to stay afloat. The art of continuous improvement has a lot to do with how successful a business is or will become. Some common strategies implemented to embrace continuous improvement include 5S, Kaizen, Six Sigma, and Hoshin Kanri among a few others. Many times, people assume that implementing several types of continuous improvement strategies all at once will create the greatest impact. However, this is usually not the case. When companies try to take on too much at once they often lose sight of the actual end goal. It is easy to get caught up in trying to achieve the “WOW factor” or biggest results, but the truth is that continuous improvement is simple and is about taking small steps towards improvement versus giant leaps.
If there was a quick and easy way to implement huge changes overnight that guarantee the result of success, everyone would be doing it and everyone would experience success. However, there isn’t any known magic remedy capable of doing such. Instead, it is best to take it slow, be decisive, and look for small value driven changes.
One key element often overlooked in creating lean success is employee involvement. Time after time, managers have voiced complaints regarding the results of different lean endeavors, they explain the strategies used and the changes made, but claim that no success was had. However, there is often one vital element missing from their strategies – employee involvement. Employees are truly the life blood within any organization. They are the people who work with the equipment, follow the procedures, and witness the ups and downs in all processes. Employees harbor a treasure trove of helpful information that can be utilized effectively for positive changes. Managers and top business personnel should work with employees to identify areas for improvement. Once areas and process have been identified for change, ongoing communication with employees can help further tweak and adjust changes for the best results possible.
As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest mistakes in Lean is doing TOO much, TOO fast! Don’t overload your vision for lean by starting 5S, Kaizen, and Six Sigma all at once. If you do this you are setting yourself up for disaster. You will be overwhelmed, employees will be overwhelmed, and all business practices will suffer. The key is to choose the strategy that will work best with your business, research the process, and move on from there while still remembering to utilize employees.
Yes, it may be hard to start lean strategies in the beginning. Yes, continuous improvement and lean will take time to yield big results. Yes, success with lean is possible! Don’t be discouraged by the unknown, many great things have been discovered by people venturing out into the unknown. After all, Columbus wouldn’t have discovered America had he decided to stay within the confines of Europe. Make your mark on history and discover the importance of continuous improvement within your business practices.
Author BIO – Antonio Ferraro – On behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). I strive to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. My knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. I believe in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.