How to Accelerate a Lean Transformation

Joe Dager

When you are attempting to accelerate a lean turnaround or for that matter any implementation, the first item on your list should be to stop running on overload. Remember, it’s not a matter of time but rather a matter of priorities. Define your goals and needs correctly, and create realistic completion dates as well as clear-cut plans. Time will take care of itself. Running by the seat of your pants creates numerous project breakdowns and a constant firefighting effort that will propagate throughout the organization.

A lean transformation in your company may be the best way to create the scenario you need for success. You need to instill processes and culture, manage events, and work at warp speed. Lean has a structure that is well-defined — a proven commodity that you can follow in a step-by-step basis. Don’t let poor planning be your downfall.

Develop Culture

Lean is about people. The culture you need to develop is about bringing the decision down to the individual level. This is an important part of working at warp speed. It will also readily identify those who are not on the team and not willing to make the commitments that you need to survive. People who don’t care will not commit. On-boarding is extremely important in a turnaround, and working at warp speed will only magnify those who are not committed.

Maps and Metrics

The lean tools of current state, value stream and future state mapping, along with the metrics you determine, will provide the realistic guidelines you need to stop the constant firefighting and running on overload. Using these tools will also identify your customer needs and eliminate waste within your organization quickly and efficiently.

Inject Kaizen

Holding regular kaizen events that are well-structured will actually reduce the amount of meetings needed and provide clarity to the entire organization. So many times when firefighting is taking place, there seems to be a constant flow of meetings that accomplish nothing. A kaizen event incorporating the lean principles of continuous improvement creates the feeling that there is always room for improvement. Meetings gain a much higher level of importance.

Lean will produce higher quality, reduce waste and generate greater efficiencies. As a result, improved profitability will be achieved. This sounds like a pretty good formula for a turnaround. Can it be done quick enough to survive?

The way you accelerate any process is to do things concurrently, so segment your business and employ the lean principles as identified above in each of them. Use the four key areas of the balanced scorecard as a guideline for segmentation in a small business:

1) Financial: How do we look to shareholders? (Include bankers, vendors, etc.)

2) Customers: How do customers see us? (Sales and marketing)

3) Internal Process: What must we excel at? (Operations)

4) Innovation and Learning: Can we continue to improve and create value? (Training)

Theoretically, utilizing these four areas and the tools described above should allow you to accelerate your turnaround four times faster. There are a couple of keys to this type of deployment:

First, create a balanced scorecard for the organization in order to provide clarity. I use the one-page business plan as my tool of choice, and I would utilize it for each segment that is created.

Second, training is extremely important but seldom incorporated in a turnaround. The reason most often given is that there’s not enough time or money. However, without the skillset to drive decision-making downward in the organization, much of what you are trying to accomplish will fail. Think of the adage that you must give in order to get.

Finally, lean experience is another critical factor. Few people have ever experienced a turnaround or the amount of slowness in the economy that we are experiencing now. It will be much easier to find a lean practitioner or consultant. This person or organization must participate with each of the segments to ensure that the overall objectives are compatible. In the beginning, there will be quite a bit of involvement. Soon, that participation will be reduced to training and the kaizen events.

Lean transformation can be done very effectively and efficiently. I did not even touch on the tools of 5-S and numerous others that can effectively reduce vast amounts of waste. If you were in this situation, what tools would you use?

Subscribe to Machinery Lubrication

About the Author