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How to Explain Your Lean Culture to a New Hire

Posted by Jeff Roussel

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Jun 17, 2015 8:14:00 AM

lean cultureI was chatting with a colleague about customer success in enterprise software companies and the conversation turned to the onboarding process. She said, “If you look at the most unhappy customers of any software company, even those that have been customers for a long time, you are bound to find that most of them had a terrible onboarding experience.”

She has an excellent point. Those early interactions with your company set the tone for the relationship that can last for years to come. The same is true for your new hires. The employee’s level of engagement over the long term can be impacted by how they are welcomed to the team. A graceful introduction of your Lean culture can make all the difference.

Communicate What You Value

When people join new organizations, they seek to quickly understand the norms and motivations of the other employees. They want to know how someone succeeds in your organization, so this is the perfect opportunity to discuss the importance that the company places on continuous improvement and innovation. You want the new employee to understand that, in a competitive market place, only companies that are constantly achieving new levels of efficiency, customer satisfaction, and waste reduction will thrive (or, sometimes, even just survive). Most importantly, the employee must come away with the understanding that their ideas and participation are welcome, expected, and rewarded.

Tell Them How You Talk About It

Let’s be honest, Lean organizations have a lingo that can sometimes make us sound like wackos to outsiders. If you want your new employee to absorb the Lean culture, you need to teach her the language. Perhaps a link to this blog will help. Taking the time to explain all of the acronyms, Japanese words, and process improvement tools will help your new hire feel like less of a tourist.  

Set Expectations

Setting expectations will never be easier than during the first few days of an employee’s tenure. In fact, clear expectations are exactly what employees want. This is the optimal time to talk about the fact that the execution of Lean principles is every person’s job. Introduce your new colleague to the tools that you use to structure your improvement initiatives right off the bat. This signals how seriously the organization is committed to the Lean methodology.

Emphasize What’s In It For Them

Of course you want the new employee to come away energized and excited about finding their place in your Lean culture. Be sure to emphasize that employees in your organization are recognized and rewarded for their contributions to positive change and innovation. Be clear that the path to advancement and success is the path of Kaizen.

One More Thing

Your new employee will be keenly observing what goes on around him. He’ll notice the attire of the other team members and will likely model his own wardrobe accordingly. If most people eat at their desks, he’ll probably do that too. It is natural to modify one’s own behavior somewhat to fit in. Keep this in mind as you introduce Lean. New employees will quickly be able to determine how important it is by what they see. This means that, like improvement itself, bringing a new person up to speed on Lean culture is everyone’s job.

25 Leadership Behaviors That Create A Culture of Continuous Improvement

Topics: Lean, Improvement Culture, Collaboration

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