Monday, July 11, 2005

Reason #1: Lack of Top Down Management Support

Rubrich writes "Lack of top management support for a WCE (world class enterprise) [or lean] implementation can be an extremely costly, and if left unaccomplished, a fatal mistake."

You can make a very strong case that your lean efforts are doomed without top management support. Sure you might make a lot of progress in the short to mid-term, but your gains will inevitably disappear. When does it happen? The point where management won't let you stay with a level production schedule, forcing you to "pull in" orders from next quarter? Is it the point where management looks for cost "savings" through mass layoffs? Or is when top management never realized that lean is a cultural and management mindset change as much as it is a bunch of tools?

What are your experiences with the role of upper management support for lean? Can you effectively implement lean with only Plant Manager support? Do you need full support involvement of the C-level executives? What examples do you have of failed lean implementation efforts where the failure mode was lack of top management support or inconsistent support?

Click "Comments" to share your experiences and read those of others.


Anonymous said...

I am currently at a large Fortune 500 company that supposedly has a company-wide "lean culture" transformation being defined.

The problem is, it seems like management (like the CEO) is more interested in "saying" they are doing lean than they are in actually doing lean.

Even at a plant level, the energy and enthusiasm for lean just isn't there. I think people are giving lip service to it, but we don't have an environment where people can really go out on a limb and attempt radical change.

That environment is driven by the failings of top management to drive a lean culture. I think this place is just too old, too big, and too driven by Wall St. to really embrace lean.

JB said...

The worst management failure to support Lean that I experienced happened at a client company some years ago. The Chief Officer wanted Lean results but completely ignored the fact that the process took an investment of time and effort.

Before starting the Lean transformation process I told him what would be required of him and his staff. I did some basic training with senior & middle managers and supervisors, and he was present for at least part of every meeting.

On cue at each of these meetings the Chief would give a testimonial about how wonderful Lean was, how it would save the company, and how committed he was to a successful implementation. It seemed like the perfect scenario from a consultant's viewpoint.

I began training and implementing Lean achieving incredible results in several areas of the plant quoting his resolve and promising the good people there that it would be followed-through on. Man was I wrong!

It actually got to the point where I showed up on a Monday (from another state) for a planned Kaizen event and he had changed his mind that morning about having one.

During one training session a very vocal naysayer said "he will never follow though on it" (Lean). To which I said something like "From everything I have heard from the chief and all that we have done so far, I completely believe he will follow through". I added, "and if for some reason he doesn't, I will personally get down on my knees and apologize to you for lying to you."

Some time later he did accept my apology. I'm a little older and wiser and don't make those promises anymore, but I still become one of the greatest cheerleaders and coaches for senior managers. They have to carry the torch even if you have to help them hold on to it with all of your might.

As a side note the chief in this story was summarily dismissed a short time after this fiasco.

If senior management won't commit to Lean I would recommend you improve things anyway. It's hard to argue with success, and your company is in jeopardy if you don't improve.

Karen Wilhelm said...

To quote Gandhi: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

You might not make a difference. You might make a difference and not know it. Or you might see something change.

SysteMental Advisor said...

People know support when they see it. In order for top management to demonstrate convincing support they must be involved. Their involvement must be repetitive, long lasting and highly visible. Top management may find it difficult to find the time required show their support. I suggest implementing processes that make it easier for them. Processes that summarize progress in terms of both activity and results and make it easy for them to be involved. They can show involvement through positve reenforcement, recognition, intervention to assist with resources in areas where the effort is struggling and by linking success to overall business improvement.

Mike T said...

Beware the foxes...

ngaither said...

The hero syndrome coupled with the right-to-authorship
Are two of the top contributing failures of Lean at the executive and upper management level. Buy-in is a must at this level. However, even with that, if a customer insists strongly enough on pull-ins and/or push-outs of their products/services, they can reek Havoc on a Lean leveled system. Why? Because the hero will come to their rescue and damn the schedules…full steam ahead. Least we forget that these are “get it done” people, who seldom look at the ramifications of their actions and often look at the customer praise as justification for their actions –external customer, that is!
In my many years of experience the 2000lb gorilla is the number one reason why Lean and other business philosophies fail. I always remind teams that egos may try to intercede into their process, but tenacity will always win out. Of course I encourage buy-in and cost justification for every Lean or 6 sigma undertaking, but I’m keenly aware of the duplicity of many self aggrandizing Executives. Nonetheless –the big picture remains – do the right thing at all times. Lean just makes good sense as long as the ROI is calculated.
-Norman Gaither, CSSBB, EA