6 critical success factors for imbedding a Lean Culture

One of the hardest challenges for the executive team and senior management within successful and growing organisations, is to look beyond the profits, look beyond the order book or customer demand for their product and service and to evaluate if what they do, could be done better.

Could the organisation as a whole and the individual departments within it, be more efficient, more effective, provide more value to the end client and thus be more profitable?

The answer is of course always 'Yes'.

Identifying where these areas of inefficiency are happening is within the capability of most senior teams.....delivering the sustained answer to them, is often only achieved by a smaller %.

Developing a Lean Culture that exists through the core of the organisation and the teams within it, is a huge challenge BUT far from impossible.

Some of the beautiful elements of successful Lean Management when undertaken correctly, are the polar opposite to many people's perception of it being a complicated, expensive science.....the focus should always be on visualisation, simplicity and team work.

So let's look at the 6 critical success factors always present within those organisations, most famously pioneered by Toyota all those years ago, that have developed Lean Cultures:

#1 The senior team are 100% 'bought in' to delivering a Lean Culture
Naturally this goes well beyond simply agreeing it's the right thing to do. The reason this sits at Number 1 in the list, is simply because successful Lean Management and the ultimate goal of developing a Lean Culture will fail 100% of the time, without the hands-on input from key senior stake-holders from the Executive team driving, developing and supporting the plan, throughout.
#2 Commit to the lean strategy

It is beyond question that practitioners think that managerial commitment is the most important success factor—irrespective of differences in plant size, corporation, location and other factors. But it is not enough to just “lead from the office;” the operational managers (much like the Executive team) must also participate personally on the shop-floor. This involves ongoing communication, listening to suggestions and questions from employees, and explaining why lean means change for the better. Let's not forget, Lean is a mindset, not a process.

#3 Train the workforce

A third critical success factor is to provide training and education in lean behaviour for the whole workforce. Without knowledge in lean, an organisation is not likely to succeed with its implementation. Importantly, managers are the first who need training and education. Learning by doing is a superior way to learn, and in the medium/long-term requires local coaching by trained managers and staff. In the early stages of lean implementation, external consultancy firms are a fast-track solution to help build the needed internal knowledge. Another quick way to learn is to benchmark other organisations that have implemented lean. On the whole, accumulating local knowledge is considered much more important than the continued use of consultants.

#4 Have a plan and follow it up

A fifth critical success factor is to have a plan and follow it up. Initially, any Lean transformation is driven by the central business strategy and a vision of where you want your organisation to be. The plan should be broken down into defined steps. Clearly defined performance targets should be set and monitored. Regular meetings must be held in order to follow-up the implementation of specific projects. Managers must seek to integrate lean in everyday business and most certainly NOT run it as a separate, temporary project on the side of operations.

#5 Allocate resources and share the gains

Allocating the necessary resources to assist implementation and then share the gains with all employees is also critical for success. It is difficult for organisations to turn Lean without a coaching and supporting local “Lean team,” or a distributed task force in the organisation. It is also necessary to dedicate a budget for the transformation. Gains won through improvements should be shared. Reward and recognition schemes can be effective method of engagement too.

#6 Use lean tools and methods

Finally, the application of lean tools and methods is important. The specific lean tools and methods most frequently adopted within Lean Cultures are; Waste Reduction, Visualisation, Problem Solving, Team Concept, Continuous Improvement, Daily Management, Value Stream Mapping, and 5S. These are all well-known, tried and tested methods from the Lean production philosophy. But whilst tools and methods are effective and necessary for succeeding with the implementation of Lean in a plant, but they are not sufficient on their own; the five other success factors must complement the tools and methods.

For help on understanding the returns and benefits that your organisation can unlock through effective and engaging Lean management and team development, contact us today on: jon.wall@valuestreamexperts.com

and we'd be delighted to chat through and provide testimonials from your sector.


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