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Essential Elements of Effective Lean Training

Posted by Matt Banna

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Oct 10, 2017 7:40:00 AM

business woman  with her staff,  people group in background at modern bright office indoors.jpegThe Lean methodology offers a very different approach to work than most people have experienced. It requires both a change in mindset and the use of various tools and techniques. Organizations that successfully adopt Lean and reap the many benefits have a number of things in common. They embrace the approach wholeheartedly, creating a Lean culture. They deploy software to support the practice, and they effectively train employees when it is introduced, when new employees join the organization, and when needed to refresh and improve the team’s understanding of lean.  

Any thorough Lean training curriculum should include these critical elements.

A General Introduction to Lean and Continuous Improvement

Although an extensive history of Lean and related business improvement methodologies is not required for most employees, it is useful for everyone to understand the basics of how it evolved and why it is such a popular approach. A brief history of how the Japanese automotive industry was transformed after World War II will help team members understand how transformative it can be. It is also important to layout the vision for Lean within your particular organization. People should know why it was selected, how it will be supported, and what benefits are expected or have already been achieved.

Giving people this background to Lean helps garner enthusiasim and engagement for the changes because you're respecting them enough to share why the decision was made and why their participation is important rather than just telling them what they need to do differently.

The Principles of Lean

We’ve noticed that too often Lean training focuses on the techniques and tools, but neglects the principles behind the methodology. This is a mistake because people are better decision makers when they understand the “why” behind a tactic. The principles of Lean are:

  • The value of each product is defined by the customer
  • Value flows across the production stream to the customer
  • The value should flow without interruption
  • The value is pulled across the stream by the customer
  • The organization strives for perfection through continuous improvement

The Eight Wastes of Lean

Achieving perfection and establishing an unimpeded flow of value means eliminating waste. Lean training should introduce the eight defined wastes of Lean and include examples specific to your industry and products. The eight wastes include:

  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Over-processing
  • Defects
  • Waiting
  • Overproduction
  • Human Potential

The "Waste of Human Potential" (sometimes called the "Waste of Talent") was not in the initial Toyota list of the types of waste. But, this list evoves over time. You can even tweak the list of different terms fit your environment better (although there are benefits to using the standardized terms). 

This eBook, which covers the "seven wastes" is a good place to start in teaching people about the wastes of Lean:

The 7 Wastes of Lean [Free eBook]

We'll have to update the eBook or write another that focuses on that eighth type of waste.

Lean Tools

Once someone has a good grasp of the principles of Lean and understands the wastes to be rooted out, they are ready to learn about the Lean tools that will be deployed toward that end. Depending on the tools you plan to use, training should be provided on:

Rapid Improvement Events:  Sometimes called Kaizen events, these short, intense projects are used to implement improvements in a three to five-day time span. They are often used when cross-functional collaboration is required.

DMAIC: DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. It is one of the improvement cycles used extensively by Lean Practitioners.

PDSA: The other popular improvement cycle is PDSA – Plan, Do, Study, Act.

The 5 S’s: The 5 S’s include the Japanese words seiri (sort), seiton (set), seiso (shine), seiketsu (standardize), and shitsuke (sustain). 5 S is used to create a workplace conducive to improvement.

Standard Work: Improvement is impossible without a baseline upon which to build. Standard work is the documentation of the best practices for any process or task.

The 5 Whys: The 5 Whys is a technique for finding the root cause of a problem. Users of this method start out with a statement, then ask “why” until the underlying issue is revealed.

Value Stream Mapping: Value Stream Mapping is a Lean method for documenting and analyzing the steps of the end-to-end process that takes a service or product from its request to its delivery to the customer.

Kanban: Kanban is an inventory or workflow visualization method that aims to maximize the flow of goods and work.

Hoshin Kanri: Hoshin Kanri (also called Policy Deployment) is a strategic planning method that ensures everyone in an organization is driving toward the same goals. It balances the need to achieve long-term goals and address daily improvement opportunities at the same time.

Gemba Walks: The Gemba walk technique involves managers or supervisors going to the place where work gets done to observe and identify opportunities for improvement.

Catchball: The idea of catchball is quite simple. Someone starts a rapid improvement or planning project. They define the purpose, goals, background, and challenges, and then “throw” them to other stakeholders for opinions, help, and action.

The best programs include specific examples and offer plenty of time for open discussion and questions. A Lean training curriculum that covers all of these bases will put your team on the path to improvement.


Topics: Lean

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