Ep. 003: Four Steps to a Successful Lean Transformation

Four steps to a Successful Lean Transformation

Is your organization beginning their Lean transformation, but you don’t know where to start?  Have you been at it for years, but you appear to be stalled?  Have you recently been assigned to be your organization’s Lean Coordinator?

Over the thirty years that I have been honored to work with companies, I have seen companies have fantastic, mind-blowing results from their Lean efforts and I have seen companies lose interest after a short period of time.  They treat their Lean transformation like a book of the month club or are frustrated from an apparent lack of results.  There are also organizations who are paralyzed with fear and never begin their Lean Transformation.  To me, that is the worst situation of all.

I would like to share with you some watch-outs that I have learned over time.

  1. People and companies make their Lean Transformation way more complicated than it needs to be. They gather too much data.  They struggle with analysis paralysis.  They confuse the workforce with Lean terminology.  None of this helps the company move forward to begin getting better.
  2. They put the success of the transformation in the hands of a few individuals. Leadership hands the effort over to a few “Lean coordinators “and expects them to produce impact to the bottom line.  How can you have real culture change if everything is left to a few people?  There won’t be any employee engagement if only a few employees are involved in the transformation.
  3. The number of Kaizen or Rapid Improvement Events (RIE’s) held is a key measure to success. This can lead to RIE fatigue.  People are scheduled into events that they know nothing about.  They are included in events just to “check the box” that they were in a Rapid Improvement Event.

I believe there is a much better way to ensure you will have a successful Lean Transformation- one that involves true culture change.

  1. Define your championship (Vision)– It is important for leadership to come together and agree upon what the True North is for the organization. This translates into a Lean Management System.  It’s important that they agree upon a few Key Performance Indicators that will move the needle in the business and focus upon improving those.  I had a client whose mantra was to measure what matters.  They went from measuring thirty KPI’s to about six.  Guess what?  They gained much more clarity in their business decision making and they made rapid gains in a short period of time.
  1. Employee training camps– This should go without saying, but I’ve seen many organizations skip this step or try to take shortcuts. I believe it is important to train everyone in the organization on basic lean concepts.  You aren’t trying to make them experts but expose them to Lean terminology and concepts so that everyone can speak the same language.
  2. Follow the game plan– Using Value Stream Mapping as your backbone, identify waste in your processes and focus on removing it by using Rapid Improvement Events or Kaizen. Schedule the events a quarter at a time and make sure that they occur.  Ensure teams have a report-out after every event.  Record the report-out in case members of leadership can’t attend in person.  They can watch the recording and provide positive feedback to the participants after the report out.  This is the key ingredient to generating employee engagement and culture change.
  3. Half time adjustments– Review your Rapid Improvement Event library quarterly. After you have been conducting Rapid Improvement Events for a while, you will develop a library of events that have been completed.  Have a monthly review meeting to review the events, formally close events and ensure you are sustaining the gains.  If you are not seeing improvements to your KPI’s after two quarters, don’t be afraid to make changes.  Sports teams often make half-time course corrections and you should do the same!

The organizations that I have worked with and coached over the years that adopt this simple framework by far have the best results compared to organizations that don’t.

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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