I was at a neighborhood gathering the other day when I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years. She asked me what I had been up to, so I told her a bit about my role at KaiNexus and mentioned that we have software that helps companies achieve success with business methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma.
“Oh,” she said. “I figured they just used spreadsheets and email.”
I didn’t want to hog the conversation or turn a social event into a business lecture, so I just responded that there are a lot of reasons that organizations are more successful if they use software to support improvement efforts.
I was trying to be chill then, I’m not now. You’ve come to this blog for a reason, so hopefully (unlike my friend) you are interested in the gritty details about how a Lean management system can act as a booster rocket for positive organizational change. Here are nine ways that spring to mind.
#1 – One System of Record, One Version of the Truth
A Lean management system becomes a unified platform for all improvement work. Everyone has just a single place to go to report or act on opportunities for improvement. Documents, photos, and other artifacts can be stored right along with data about improvement projects. This allows for transparency and removes barriers to information, such as disparate systems for different teams or departments.
#2 – Anytime, Anywhere Access
It isn’t uncommon to list ideas for improvements on a spreadsheet, but if inspiration strikes and the spreadsheet isn’t readily available, the opportunity might be lost. The best Lean management platforms are hosted in the cloud, so they are available from anywhere at any time, on the mobile devices that employees love.
#3 – A Systemized Way to Talk About Improvement
One of the keys to culture is language. If you want to cultivate a Lean business culture, it is important to get everyone talking about improvement work with the same vocabulary. Using software to support Lean efforts is a good way to establish a consistent set of terms with clear meanings.
#4 – Proof of Commitment
Employees know that budgets are a window into what is valued and what has priority. You wouldn’t say that a project or new product is essential to the company’s survival and then fail to fund it. Likewise, when employees see leaders investing in something like a Lean management system, they know that executives are committed to making the approach successful and willing to spend some cash to give team members the tools to make it work.
#5 – Improvements that Cross the Finish Line Faster
One of the big drawbacks of spreadsheets as improvement management tools is that they are passive. They only get opened and worked on when someone remembers to do it. Lean management systems, on the other hand, provide alerts and notifications that keep employees and supervisors engaged and aware of upcoming tasks. It is easy for supervisors to determine when forward progress has stopped and work to remove barriers to improvement.
#6 – Access to Best Practices
Lean management solutions become a repository for all of the collective wisdom of the organization. Because all of the information is kept in one easily accessible place, today’s improvement project can begin with a search for similar work done in the past. Staff can see what has worked well and what is failed so that they can replicate effective tactics and pass along their own learnings.
#7 – Actionable Insight
Setting forth on the Lean journey is not something that most executives take lightly. It is usually an important part of the strategic plan for accelerating business momentum. Ensuring its success is a lot easier if management has a view into the health of Lean across the origination.
#8 – Aligned Goals
Lean is often used in conjunction with strategy deployment, in which all individual and group goals are aligned with the overall objectives of the organization. When improvement work is supported by technology, it is easy to cascade goals down from the boardroom all the way to the front lines. It ensures that everyone is rowing in the same direction and that priorities are well understood.
#9 – Impact Reporting
I’ve listed this one last for no particular reason, but it might be one of the most important advantages of a Lean management system. We said before that Lean is a major commitment for any business, but unfortunately too many try to undertake it without a way to determine whether or not it has been successful in moving the needle on key business metrics. In other words, they fail to show the money. A Lean management system helps track the economic impact of waste elimination, quality improvement, risk mitigation, and so on. It gives leaders an objective way to prove that Lean is working and how much it is worth.
These days, if it is important, there is technology to manage it. That’s why companies of all sizes and types recognize the need for a Lean management system. If you decide to implement one, folks at the block party might not be impressed, but your customers, investors, and employees will be and your results will be out of this world.