Ten Tips to Lean

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Lean can be applied to all types of businesses and spans across all facets within your current business.  A lean culture recognizes that waste is everywhere.  A focus on Value Added activities become the norm as waste continues to be identified and eliminated throughout the organization.

  1. It’s not just a manufacturing tool.
    • A true lean strategy will lead to the transformation of the entire enterprise, not just a single department or facility.  If it doesn’t, then it wasn’t lean.
  2. Engage employees from all disciplines and levels of the company.
    • Creating a vision is great for strategy, but engagement is key to successful execution of that strategy.   Encourage active participation at all levels to instill the need, create the drive, and develop the collective mindset to assure success.
  3. Provide the time and resources necessary.
    • Too often companies go Lean on Lean – there are no shortcuts to success.  The results that can be achieved, with the right strategy, are significant.  Involving the right people at the right time can lead to rewards that extend far beyond the bottom line including a team that really understands the business.
  4. Assign the right people to the right tasks.
    • Credibility and integrity are quickly lost when the “results” don’t make it to the bottom line.  This leads to the typical abandonment of what should be a core process and integral part of your culture.
  5. Keep it real.
    • Rushing to failure is never fun and multiple attempts to achieve success can quickly become frustrating, momentum is lost, and people start to wonder if anyone has a clue on how to do it right.
  6. Measure What Matters
    • What gets measured gets managed:  No Measurement – No Metrics – No Results.
  7. Inconsistent management policy and strategy versus real lean practices.
    • Lean is the result of our thinking process.
  8. Lack of Training.
    • Even your best employees may require additional or refresher training.
  9. Lean is NOT a cost savings program
    • The goal is to improve your competitive position and grow your business.  The people who are working hard to help the business become more efficient, trust that the management is looking to grow the business to avoid layoffs and massive labour reductions.  If the goal is simply to cut costs and reduce labour without a business growth strategy, your new LEAN successes will be short lived.
  10. Leadership must be visible throughout the LEAN Journey, constantly communicating and reinforcing (through action) their commitment to LEAN.

Every book or text on Lean emphasizes Value from the customer’s perspective.  Most companies still have the tendency to focus on savings and improving the bottom line.  In other words, since the customer is already paying for this waste, rather than reduce our piece price to improve our competitive position, the improvements will be reflected through increased profitability.

Be warned

While the results of your lean initiatives will greatly improve your value margin, a competitor will eventually appear.  This could be good or bad for business.  How you handle this situation depends on your entrepreneurial abilities, marketing strategy, and negotiating skills.  You are either the leader in your industry, or perceived as the follower.  If you follow (and perhaps even to quickly), you may be perceived as having been greedy in the past, taking advantage of your loyal customers – violating their TRUST.

Gas companies have been good destroying trust and loyalty.  When the price of gas goes up too much – we call it gouging, when the price goes up or down a little, we accept it as normal market fluctuation if the reasoning provided makes sense.  They are quite clever at justifying every price move they make – USUALLY.

Now that the economy has literally spiraled into a recessionary crash, your customers, the “consumer”, is looking fast and hard for alternatives.  In this case, the oil companies have created the need for new energy sources.  Betrayed, bewildered, and literally crushed, we, the consumer and those who design and develop the technologies requiring oil (car companies), are left with no alternative but to pursue new and innovative technologies.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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