How to Engage Employees during your Lean Transformation

Employee engagement is going to make or break you on your Lean transformation. For those that are interested in a successful Lean Transformation, I have a secret for you. Lean is about changing the culture of your organization. Ask yourself, how do I turn my employees into daily problem solvers? One success indicator of employee engagement is having them drive the transformation effort within your company, but how do you get there? Here are five ways to engage employees during your Lean transformation.

First, let’s talk about what the end state looks like. Ideally, you have developed a supportive culture that develops over years. You want a support system driven from the bottom up.

Most organizations are top-down driven. That looks like a typical triangle organization structure. The top leader speaks, and everyone works to carry out those directives.

To truly have culture change, you need to adopt a more supporting servant leadership style of managing. Each level provides support to the one above it, and employees are driving the transformation. It is the leader’s job to provide support and remove roadblocks. This servant-leader culture looks like an inverted triangle.

That’s great, you might say. I can see from the graphic how it is supposed to work, but how does my company get there? How do we drive daily problem solving into the organization and change the culture over time? How do we embed Lean thoughts and processes into our company’s DNA so that this isn’t some flavor of the month program?

Here are five opportunities that you can use during your Lean transformation to get employees engaged and excited about culture change.

1. Have a clear vision and present it to the workforce

This means you have developed a True North vision and your company’s Lean Management System. These two items share with employees which is important to the company. After these are in place, you can reinforce company values and goals during daily stand-up meetings with employees.

2. Have daily stand up meetings

If you aren’t having daily 10 minute stand up meetings, begin having them. This is a perfect time to review 1. Safety issues 2. Quality issues and review elements of the Lean Management System. It will take time, but eventually, employees will open up and share opportunities for things to improve in these meetings.

3. Have all employees attend Lean training

It doesn’t have to be super intense but provide training that introduces employees to Lean terminology and a few key concepts like Value Stream Mapping and Rapid Improvement Events. The key is to have everyone in the company take part in the training. This lets everyone know that you are taking the Lean Transformation seriously and it will not become a book of the month program.

4. Ensure the workforce is involved in Lean activities

Invite employees to develop Value Stream Maps, take part in 6S activities, and be in Rapid Improvement Events that occur within your organization. One of the eight wastes is Not Listening to People’s Ideas. You must include employees in these Lean activities. They are the ones on the front line every day. They know where the waste is in their processes. Engage them to make improvements within their areas.

5. Celebrate!

Make sure that at the end of every 6S event, Rapid Improvement Event, or Value Stream Mapping event you have them report out to the leadership team. As leaders, make sure you support and celebrate their efforts. Thank them for participating. Recognize that they are nervous during the report out. Celebrate the fact that you have gotten 5-8 more people engaged in the process!

If you follow these simple steps, you will engage employees during your Lean transformation!

As always, it is an honor to serve you, and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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