Monday, July 11, 2005

Reason #4: Not Understanding That This Is About Your People

This whole topic requires more than one post, the idea that Lean and the Toyota Production System should be about your people. There are many ways to define this idea of "about your people."

In the book, Rubrich highlights first that "equipment alone" won't make any company "World Class." Implementing lean successfully requires the input of your employees. Rubrich says that "80%" of lean is accomplished through people and "20%" is accompished through "techniques, equipment, and automation." He continues to describe cultural characteristics of a lean company and how training is the core of your lean investments.

So what are other ways in which we can define "about your people?"

Just one of them is the idea that lean efforts and methods should be making things EASIER for your employees. How many lean implementations focus on the manager's notion of waste? What if that notion of waste is "my people are standing around too much?" Lean, for that manager, might mean "my people need to work harder." That's not right. That' s not lean. The lean mindset assumes that people want to work -- this requires an environment of trust and other good management characteristics. Assuming that people want to work, lean should look for waste -- things that get in the way of people doing their jobs. Rather than focusing on the "Waste of Waiting" (people standing around), lean needs to focus on other types of waste -- defective parts, unreliable machines, lack of training, etc. I bet your employees are mad that you buy defective parts from a supplier because it was "cheaper." No wonder they get frustrated and "don't want to work." Fix problems and allow people to take pride in their work and their company. That will motivate people to contribute more, for themselves and for the company (the employees need to share in company success).

When a lean implementation has gone well, your employees should say "my day has far fewer frustrations, we're not fighting the same fires every day, I'm proud to work here." If people view lean as just an additional burden on them (e.g, they still have all the same waste as before, but management makes them put tape around everything), that's not a good lean implementation.

Other ways that lean should be about your people:
  • Making sure that lean is about developing people and their skills. This is something that Toyota excels at and makes a huge priority for the company. Toyota doesn't just build cars, they build people, they like to say. That's a very powerful message.
  • Lean should lead to new management and leadership styles -- less directive and less dictatorial, more coaching and more supportive. Lean leadership is demanding at the same time -- it's about having "respect for people" in the way you treat employees and in the way you manage them.
What are other ways that lean needs to be about people? Have you been in a lean implementation where management failed to realize it was "about their people?" What happened? Click on "Comments" to share your experiences and advice.

1 comment:

SysteMental Advisor said...

I could not agree more. I hope you write an article for publication detailing your thoughts.
You can make more progress, faster, by selecting initial Lean projects to improve points in the operation where frustration is high. Parterning with the people in those areas to improve their worklife using lean concepts will act as a catalyst for the Lean effort.
Nothing will remove the cynicism or turn the tide of resistance faster than demonstrating that Lean is about eliminating the "things that get in the way of people doing their jobs".