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Lean a 3 Pronged Approach

In the last LEAN to be GREEN article, "What’s in it for me” we explored the idea that it will take two types of GREEN to motivate the industry for wide spread adoption of Lean Project Delivery.

The first GREEN being the higher purpose sustainable GREEN that companies like Interface Carpets adopt that helps to motivate their people to do great work. The working for a higher purpose GREEN helps to create a sustainable advantage that was measured to be 38% higher profit in a study by Bob Willard.

The second type of GREEN is the pure profitability that comes with creating a lean culture and the production efficiencies that enable companies like Toyota to become 2x more profitable than their next closest competitor.

In this article we want to discuss WHY lean is easy to say but hard to do and what it takes to build a successful lean company.

Why 3 Prongs?

When we look at an electrical receptacle the left slot is slightly larger than the right. The left slot is called "neutral," the right slot is called "hot," and the hole below them is called "ground." The prongs on a plug fit into these slots in the outlet. When we look around the house some appliances have 2 prongs and some have 3, what is the difference? The purpose of the third prong is to prevent electrical shock in the event that a wire comes loose in a receptacle. The devices will work with 2, but are you going to RISK it?

Similarly, we could try and take a two pronged approach implementing lean and green strategies, but do you want to run the risk of not achieving a safe and reliable return on investment?

The reality is that lean implementation needs to be a 3 pronged approach or you could be shocked by the lack of commitment for lean. To achieve a lean transformation requires the time and effort required to to build from the bottom up and should be the starting point, as this part takes the longest. Lean needs to be applied to how you manage your business, how people work with-in the business and how you deliver services. The bottom line is that lean only works when it is adopted completely with an all for one and one for all approach with partners that are interested in pursuing business excellence.

How to Build the Team from Top Down, Bottom Up and Inside Out?

Providing hands on workshops and practicing lean concepts on a daily basis is key for building lean capabilities with-in your organization. Getting commitment to implementing a lean transformation and putting in place the discipline and accountability is required to achieve rapid results. Leaning forward this will involve developing a lean mindset in the way you work, the work that you do and how you interface with business partners.

From the Top Down, it is recommended that the leadership team include a lean champion and that lean practices become the operations strategy. The company’s metrics/scorecard should include challenging targets, measuring adoption of lean principles and practices and hold the team accountable for continuous improvement. At Integrated Designs, we are in the process of integrating lean principles into the DNA of the company by making lean practices a requirement of the companies operating system.

One way is to adopt a system like the Entrepreneur Operating System to help get the leadership team on the same page and rowing in the same direction. You will also want to establish a team of advisors that can provide mentorship and guidance for the lean journey. We also recommend adopting the 14 business principles that are outlined in “The Toyota Way” as a key measures of lean leadership and capabilities.

From the Bottom Up, nobody that I know has been as successful in building a lean culture as rapidly as Paul Akers the CEO and President of Fast Cap. The key to their success has been to make lean fun and everyone’s responsibility to continually improve the business everyday by making a two second improvement every day. By holding a short first thing in the morning daily team meeting, Paul has been able to build and sustain a lean culture that has brought his business huge success, just like his hero’s and mentors at Toyota. This process works well in a manufacturing environment.

For knowledge based work, Darren Becks at St. Jerome’s University recommends using Personal Kanban Boards as a good starting point. Kanban is a method for visually managing the delivery of work with a focus on creating work flow while not over burdening the the team. It also ensures that individuals focus on the three most important tasks that as a collective, will enable the delivery of services just in time for the internal or external customers. Like the 2 Second lean approach, Kanban requires short weekly and daily coordination huddles to ensure the team is fully coordinated for work to flow.

Bringing in a lean champion to run a product system boot camp using simulations like the airplane game is also a good way to ramp up the team on lean. The hands on simulations are effective in demonstrating the effectiveness of small batch or single piece flow and why we need to deliver what the market is pulling just in time for the customer. It is also good to build a tool box by experimenting with methods like Choosing by Advantages to help with decision making, Value Stream Mapping to map out processes and A3 Problem Solving to analyze and systematically develop the business case for improvements.

From the Inside Out, organizations need to work with there customers and the supply chain to create integrated, transparent and trustful business relationships. For project work this involves the careful selection of teams, the adoption of Lean Project Delivery Systems including the Last Planner System and Target Value Delivery. For project work there often in not a lot of time to build from the Bottom up so a Boot Camp approach that involves full day workshops and simulations can be a good way to ramp a team.

In summary, organizations need to implement a business operating systems that includes challenging targets and lean principles and practices as a measure for business success. Your business needs to go to war on waste from the bottom up and build lean thinking and capabilities. Finally, you will need to select business partners that have a lean mindset and are committed to striving for excellence and developing mutually beneficial business relationships.

If you take a three pronged approach you will not be shocked by a lack of commitment from your leadership team or employees or external business partners.

In the next article we will explore why building TRUST is key for high performance.

Murray Guy, @Lean_tobe_Green

Integrated Designs, EcoSmart Developments & Shift2Lean

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