Difficulties With Changing To A Lean Culture Part 05 By Mike Thelen


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Difficulties With Changing To A Lean Culture Part 05 By Mike Thelen

  1. 1. Difficulties with Changing to a Lean Culture: Part VI Reflection – Why are we doing this? Where will the “human-side” of Lean hit you? Mike Thelen shares experiences with the guiding principles for Lean in Part V. As is the case with any Lean implementation in a Traditional environment, culture (or more specifically culture change) will be the most difficult obstacle to success. While a company can hire consultants, develop work teams, and even begin Lean initiatives, if the company only "talks the talk", the initiative soon becomes just that, talk. Why do we do Lean? Often we get so focused on making improvements that we forget why we are making improvements. It becomes a “make an improvement for improvement’s sake” mentality. We should not forget the guiding principles of our actions, Meeting Customer Needs (Internal/External, Shareholders and Community) and Respect for People. The improvements should be following the Rules in Use (1. Highly Defined Activities. 2. Clear and Binary Customer/Supplier Connections. 3. Simple and Direct Flowpaths. 4. Continuous Improvement using the Scientific Method). Meeting Customer Needs Our motiviation should always be to meet a customer’s expectation. At one time, there was a definition of quality that can be summarized as make exactly what the customer wants. Why should I make a watch that is water-resistant to depths of 300 feet, when my target customer will never use the watch in more than a sink full of dishes? How much extra is that customer willing to pay for a feature they do not see as value-added? Seeing the value to our end-use customer and shareholders has never been difficult. However, seeing the value to our internal customers is the most overlooked aspect of Lean in modern history. What are the value-added features our employees desire? We can all quote psychology books and label the basic needs, but what do our employees REALLY want? Is the healthcare system desirable? Is a wellness plan offered? Is there a pension, retirement, or investment plan that is easy to understand and truly desirable? Are people proud to say they work for the company? You may think you know they answers to some of the above questions. You may even know that some answers you are given are only “lip service”. The real question is what are you doing about those answers? How does the workforce respond when they get a 2% salary increase and the Executive gets millions in salary and bonuses? At a previous employer, I recall seeing a newspaper headline taped to a worker’s bench announcing the million-dollar “bonuses” two corporate presidents received when the two companies merged. Meanwhile, operator pay was “stabilized” to bring the two companies together. The last ‘customer’, our community, is also neglected on a regular basis. In Part III, Toyota’s mission statement was quoted and reviewed. If we have no plans to give back to our community, why would any community want us to set up shop? Providing jobs is no longer the only necessary commitment from a business looking to relocate. Questions have to be answered here also, such as: what are we bringing to the community? How are we making it safer for our children? What future benefits will our company provide? Over time, will we be considered an asset or a liability to our community? As with any industry, gear and gearbox manufacturing facilities like my current employer have cleaning agents, oils and other solid/liquid wastes. From the community’s perspective, how are we handling these wastes? A recent visit to a furniture manufacturer in the local industrial park revealed that they use excess sawdust and chips to heat their facility. Their energy consumption is significantly reduced and they provide materials to several local horse ranches for bedding. In addition, they also provide free wood scraps for people who need wood to burn. Another local manufacturer is evaluating methods of recycling heat from exhaust systems to reduce their “energy footprint” within the community. Respect for People Beware the foxes… One of my favorite reminders comes from a mentor and friend: there are three types of Lean participants - Rabbits, Turtles and Foxes. It is our job as Lean leaders to recognize and handle each accordingly.
  2. 2. Rabbits Those who buy in and hit the ground running. Rabbits see immediate benefit from Lean and want to get started yesterday. With a little education on the tools and concepts, they are ready to lead the rest of the facility on this journey. The challenge they present is keeping them motivated and moving forward. If improvements don't come fast enough, they'll loose focus. Then you have wild rabbits running all over the farm. However, they can be fantastic assistance in the early phases of your project, adding necessary fuel to the fire. I have found rabbits in salaried, hourly, support, direct and even Union labor. Even today, some of my most valuable Lean leaders are informal, direct and hourly labor employees. These are the people who get pulled from their “regular” jobs to lead kaizen events and other continuous improvement projects throughout the entire business, not just their department. Turtles Those who don't buy in for a long time. However, when they are converted, Turtles are often more valuable than Rabbits. They are often your sustain agents, where Rabbits are your change agents. The challenge they present is not to judge them too early (often as Foxes). Keep showing them results until they convert. Once they convert, they will often be your staunchest supporters. They provide excellent leaders [at times called Lend-Forwards] to other areas of the facility that may be slow to convert. Traditionally, they are also indirect leaders, those others quietly look to for direction. During a conversation recently, a direct labor employee (now one of our “turtles”) informed us that he wasn’t very convinced when we installed the cell, but now he really loves the fact that he knows exactly what he has to do “now” and “next”. Foxes Those who talk like they buy in, but their actions will [eventually] give them away as non-believers. These 'rascals' can either make decisions which countermand Lean or they can be so bold as to speak out against Lean to the lower ranks (behind your back), destroying any culture you attempt to build. Foxes are difficult to convert, and are often those who are moved to better fitting positions or "choose" to move into a different career. There is one other significant problem with Foxes, some are 'sleeper' foxes. Think of someone hypnotized who doesn't remember doing something. These 'sleepers' are often making ‘unlean’ decisions daily and don't realize what they are doing is counter-productive [some desicions are so natural that we don't really see how negatively they impact the cultural change potential.] For Lean Leaders, it's not enough merely to be a good leader, but to recognize who in your facility (or more importantly, who - above you) is a Leader and who is a Fox. It's all about the respect for people. You may, but if others in leadership positions don't, they can destroy your Lean implementation..no matter how good your leadership skills are. That's why Toyota is so selective on their hiring process. They are looking for people who fit the mold (standardized work?) for leadership positions. There is no magic pill for Lean initiatives. The Lean process requires time, commitment, and determination. Companies that cannot envision the long-term commitment to Lean, and only use the tools for short-term gain, will achieve some limited success. However, without the culture supporting those tools, the Lean initiative will fail, becoming the "flavor of the week" that everyone knew would not last. “Why not make the work easier and more interesting so that people do not have to sweat? The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity. People don’t go to Toyota to ‘work’ they go there to ‘think’” - Taiichi Ohno Mike Thelen is Lean Facilitator at Aberdeen, SD based Hub City, Inc., a subsidiary of the Regal-Beloit Corporation, Beloit, WI. He has led Lean Initiatives in positions from Front-Line Supervisor to System Facilitator in various corporations since 2001. Mike can be reached at mike.thelen@regalbeloit.com.