In a previous post, we offered a basic look at lean methodology, Six Sigma’s role, and Argon & Co’s take on the keys to success to implementing both.

But one of the biggest challenges to lean operations realization is ensuring everyone—from top to bottom, sponsors and stakeholders, management to workers—understands that lean isn’t a project. That it doesn’t have a defined start and finish. That lean is a never-ending journey.

Never-Ending? Seriously?
In a project-management world, how do you plan for a never-ending journey? Liken the lean-operations adventure to a long car trip with a young child that keeps asking, “When will we get there?” Your answer? “We’re no closer than when we started.”

Really? Yes, really.

But don’t let that reality turn you off of lean methodology. Eliminating waste and streamlining processes isn’t a quick, short-term fix. There is always a way to get better, always something new to learn, always someone else to involve and never a point where you attain perfect service.

You can’t go into it with definable end goals. It’s constant assessment… ongoing implementation… continuous improvement.

In other words, lean operations is not a destination. It’s a journey.

Lean Is For Everybody
Lean is great because of its simplicity. Anyone can participate in the methodology, and it can be applied almost anywhere within the enterprise without a huge capital outlay. Although lean thinking isn’t anti-capital, it normally offers many and varied improvements long before relying on capital.

For example, before lean thinking, improvements generally required capital investment for building and/or expanding. Now this methodology rarely necessitates capital investment. A lean mindset done ahead of capital projects will avoid spending excessive money to automate waste.

How To Take It Further
When introducing lean thinking to people within your enterprise, think simple and don’t overcomplicate. Recruit, teach, and produce lean disciples to the cause from all areas. (Remember the top to bottom, from sponsors and stakeholders, from management to workers we talked about earlier?) Pass out books and basic reading on the necessary terms of the lean trade to ensure you don’t lose anybody as the discussion evolves.

Driven top down or bottom up, either can work. Be sure to start basic and slow. Weeks and/or months of training is a turnoff. Beginning with formalities is a showstopper. Don’t fall victim to the irony of lean-thinking implementation. If lean thinking is about simplicity and streamlining, make sure learning about it is, too.

Learn enough to be dangerous, take a few sips of the magic potion, identify some lean thinking opportunities, and than plan, execute, assess, expand, and repeat. A room of Black Belts not required.

Help Is Available
Sometimes an outside facilitator can help you set your journey on the right path. Through the years, The Progress Group has learned that understanding the needs of downstream internal and external customers is a prerequisite to beginning then navigating the lean-operations adventure. That starting with the end in mind is the first step to embracing and implementing lean thinking.

Next week… Lean Operations: Making The Leap.

As of September 8, 2020, Crimson & Co (formerly The Progress Group/TPG) has rebranded as Argon & Co following the successful merger with Argon Consulting in April 2018. 

Bruce Strahan

[email protected]

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