I recently finished an assignment with a client whom was fully immersed in developing a LEAN culture. The experience reminded me, how the use of LEAN principles can enhance learning, promote participation and create more value. The spirit of LEAN emphasizes participation at all levels and works because solutions are generated from staff or “bottom up” rather than from management in a “top down.” The following are LEAN tools which can be applied to your setting:
Huddles-Huddles are a great medium to obtain updates from the team, inform staff of changes or obtain suggestions. Huddles can utilize discussion prompts and address a wide variety of areas. Prompts can tie into the departmental metrics or probe further discovery of problems or assess the status of solutions.
Problem Solving– Root cause analysis is an integral step in a LEAN culture. The process begins with identification of the problem or a “Point of Recognition.” During the problem solving phase, it is important to avoid adopting a solution prematurely. One must observe the problem and ask probing questions. This is referred to as “Going to the Gemba.” Once one understands “why” the problem is occurring, the process can move to applying a containment measure, testing a solution and checking the impact of the applied solution. Problem solving activities may include data collection, creating paredo charts, fishbone diagrams or the ranking of ideas.
Value Stream Mapping– This step involves the creation of workflows. Workflows should include the use of standardized symbols to illustrate the process from the start to the end. The first one should illustrate the process or the work as it exists before any intervention. This workflow is referred to as the “current state.” Include “decision points” which may result in different outcomes. Once this is clearly mapped out, the team can envision the “future state” or what it would look like with all of the non-value added steps removed and/or the process working efficiently. The future state can reflect optimization; with changes made to people, process and technology.
Suggestions– Small suggestions can have big results! These can be simple to implement or complex and involve other people/departments or a formal approval process. Encouraging staff members to participate can bring excitement, innovation and can help to transform the work. Suggestions may fall into several phases- Suggestions Identified, Planning to Do, Doing, and Implemented. These can be aligned with the traditional Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle.
SMART GOALS– The old adage, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” can hold true. Focusing the team on a goal and measuring progress can serve as a motivational tool. LEAN is built on the use of SMART objectives. Or Specific (exactly what is to be accomplished), Measureable (concrete criterion, agreed upon (by all stakeholders), Realistic- must be achievable, but better yet; a reach and Time Based (inclusive of a date or timeframe). These goals are tracked and reviewed at huddles.
Tom Carlyle said “The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” The use of LEAN principles can offer an environment of learning, participation and team spirit. Consider adding one or more of these concepts to your management tool box.