Top 5 Lean culture implementation challenges addressed

Lean culture

Watch Peter Hines address top challenges senior executives struggle with on their journey to Lean culture implementation: 

 Lean culture change

Q1: What are the necessary steps needed to create a new sustainable culture where Lean principles and tools become part of company DNA?

If you want to create a lean culture in your organisation usually the starting point is with the senior management team. It’s not something you delegate to the HR professionals, it's not something you outsource. It really needs to start with the leaders. The leaders need to understand what is the culture you’re trying to create, and the culture you need to create one of continuous improvement. The role of the leader is the major culture change agent. What they need to do is act and behave as if they're trying to create a continuous improvement culture, so their all is to encourage people to take part, to ask questions, to coach people and develop them in their way forward. What they don't do it delegate this to HR or the Lean people. It has to start with the senior management team.

Q2: What do executives struggle with the most when attempting to make continuous improvement part of the company culture? What’s your best advice on how to address it?

I suppose some of the most important things that people struggle with is that the senior people don't see a culture change as part of their role. They get someone else to do it, they don't focus it on themselves. What they need to do is understand that, if I'm the Head of Engineering, or the Head of Purchasing, or Head of Marketing that doesn't mean I'm the smartest engineer or marketeer. It means that they’ve got to think about how they’re going to motivate their people, how are they going to share their strategy, how are they going to make that meaningful, how are they going to engage people and how are they going to create an environment where people can thrive and have ideas.

Q3: What to do when there is no sense of urgency to change within an organisation?

In organisations that I work, some have a real burning platform. You go in, there is some sort of crisis. Maybe the price of the product has gone up or the market has changed or the UK Brexit environment is happening or something like that, so there's a real sense of urgency and then it's much easier to galvanise people and start making improvement happen. The really smart organisations are those that actually do this when they don’t have to, when there is no sense of urgency or a burning platform. In order to do that, as a senior manager, what you have to do  is

To create an environment where everyone can be highly focused on going for some goal. That could be along the lines of “let’s reach the moon”, it could be let’s achieve better lead time. But actually that’s thinking about the head, common sense. What really inspires people is more often a “heart statement,” something that people can get passionate about. So one organisation that I work with, they use the phrase of “we save lives.” They actually create products like airbags and safety belts but everything they do is about saving lives, so on the wall, next to meeting and improvement activities, it would say “what are you doing today to save more lives?” So you create a passion, you create an environment where people really want to achieve this goal. So that’s one of the tricks: if there isn't a burning platform, make one and get to the heart if you can.

Q4: What are some good examples of Lean transformations you could share?

Let me give you a simple example. As a senior manager often what we do is we spend the majority of our time sitting in our own meeting room, perhaps we invite colleagues to come and have meetings with us, we sit at a desk, have conversations etc. In other words, it’s done very remotely from where the work is actually happening. What we encourage is that the senior managers go out to the Gemba, go and talk to people where the work is happening, explain to them in a way that's meaningful what they need to do, why they need to do it and check their understanding and then perhaps once a day they spend half an hour, an hour, depends on the size of the organisation, going around talking to people on the Gemba walk, in the actual work environment, asking: What  are you trying to achieve in your workspace? How's it going? What's the biggest obstacle that you're trying to overcome? What are you going to do next and when can I come and talk to you again? And when can I come and talk to you again is not next month or in 6 months time. It is tomorrow or the next day. In other words, senior people are there, encouraging, coaching and really getting people to be highly engaged and actually achieve what they’re trying to do and create this continuous improvement culture.

Q5: What does the future hold for Lean in light of Industry 4.0 developments? Can they work together?

In today’s environment, there are probably two major imperatives for an organisations. The first is this Lean agenda in terms of creating continuous improvement environment. Maybe you can increase productivity by 5%, 10%, 15% or 20% a year. That's absolutely critical to make organisations work. I think the other important thing is the Industry 4.0, which is obviously looking at the more technical side of bringing in AI, robotics and so on. I don't see these as different agendas. They’re part of one holistic way of running the organization. We need the technology and we need the management and leadership. Some of what we’re now trying to do is to bring these two together so that you actually develop the organisation of the future. The enterprise of the future is by doing Lean and the Industry of the future is by implementing the Industry 4.0.

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