Part 2: How would you define a lean culture?
Cheryl Jekiel, CEO, Lean Leadership Center, Inc., (Lean Leadership Center, Inc.) she asked the questions, “How would you define culture?” and “How would you define a lean culture?
I would like to make an attempt to answer her questions. (See Part 1: How would you define culture?)
Cheryl offers the following seven characteristics of a lean culture:
“As a starting point, here is a list of seven common elements of lean cultures that represent observed practices of lean enterprises.
1. Customer focus 2. Measurable Continuous Improvement 3. Broad participation 4. Process orientation 5. Team-based problem-solving 6. Visual management 7. Inspirational leadership
The key to remember is this: if you want to strengthen a culture, increase the number of times you see a desired behavior.”
I would like to offer a different approach, starting with my preferred definition of Lean. The definition that I prefer is: “Lean is engaging the workforce to solve problems and make improvements for the benefit of the customer, the employees and the company (in that order)”. In other words, Lean is all about “Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement”.
What better conditions could exist than having a fully engaged workforce to solve problems and provide a continuous flow of improving ideas?
But how do we get there? Two questions that I like to ask the workforce, the people on the floor that do the Value-Add work, are: “What are the overall Goals and Objectives of the company?” and “How does your job or your work help the Company achieve those Goals and Objectives?” These two questions provide a good insight into the depth of the Lean efforts throughout the company. In a fully engaged workforce, each employee at all levels of the company should be able to answer the two questions without hesitation.
The first step would be to establish Goals and Objectives for the entire company, including overall Company goals and Objectives, and then Goals and Objectives for each level in the organization. This can be accomplished using the Lean Tool of Hoshin Kanri, or Policy Deployment. In this process, a Vision, Mission Statement, Strategy, and Plan are developed. Once established all work, all projects, all consumption of resources both human and capital should be directed to the accomplishment of these Goals and Objectives. When properly communicated throughout the company, each employee should be able to answer the above two questions.
Other elements directed at engaging the workforce in order to create the Culture of Continuous Improvement would include:
• Treating people with dignity and respect • Training • Reward and Recognition Program • Creating a blame free/shame free environment • Gemba walks • Use of the 8 – step problem solving method • Empowerment • System to encourage improving ideas • Not accepting the status quo • Innovation