If you’ve decided to set your organization on the path to Lean, that decision will likely be one of many that will bring measurable benefits in terms of profitability, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. Leaders who have taken this journey before have told us that getting started with Lean can be somewhat overwhelming. We thought it might be helpful to share, step-by-step, how some of the most successful organizations have launched their Lean programs. Hopefully, you’ll see that it isn’t as daunting as you might think.
We should note that every organization and every Lean program is different. Organizations can go all in or take an incremental approach. There’s no one “right” way to do Lean, so you’ll have to find the path that works best for your team. But whatever route you take, these elements are vital to success and should be included in your Lean deployment plan.
Set Goals and Objectives
The first step is to define what success looks like. The more specific you can be about what you are trying to achieve with Lean, the more likely you are to do so. You might have goals related to:
- Employee engagement with Lean
- Cost reduction
- Number of improvements implemented
- Customer satisfaction
- Employee retention
- Time to market
Your goals should be ambitious, but attainable. They should be relevant to the core business strategy, and they should have
Commit and Communicate
Lean management is not a project or a program. It is a different way of thinking and working. It is vital that everyone in the organization understand the philosophy behind it and its potential to transform the organization. Employees tend to be wary of new business paradigms, so it is necessary to offer frequent and clear communications about the reasons for the shift. Employees also need to see that leaders are genuinely committed and ready to make changes that will last over the long term.
Lean will become part of everyone’s job description. However, enlisting the early help of a few influential employees within the organization is a smart way to gain momentum. These team members can be the first to suggest opportunities for improvement and show by example that the rewards of engagement outweigh any perceived risk. They will become your Lean ambassadors and help spread the improvement mindset.
Assemble Your Lean Toolkit
There are numerous tools and techniques associated with Lean. Your organization might use a bunch of them or focus on a few. The essentials include:
Standard Work – Standard work is the documentation of the current best practice for every task or process. It sets the baseline for improvement.
PDSA or DMAIC – PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) and DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) are data-driven improvement cycles that organize Lean improvement projects and help achieve consistency.
Value Stream Mapping – The ultimate goal of Lean is to eliminate any activity or resource that does not add value from the customer’s point of view. A value stream map looks at the current state and helps identify opportunities for improvement.
Digital Huddle Boards – Visualization is an integral part of the Lean experience. Digital huddle boards show the current state of improvement projects and help manage the flow of work in progress.
To make Lean as effective as possible,
Map Out First Projects
It’s a good idea to plan for a few quick wins to get everyone excited about the possibilities that Lean unleashes. Focus on a few small improvements that can have a swift and noticeable impact, rather than tackling a huge challenge right off the bat. Early successes will give staff confidence in the Lean method.
Embracing Lean is a big deal, but with a good Lean deployment plan and the right tools, you’ll be on your way to improvement and waste reduction in short order.