This is a very common question for companies that are new to Lean. Many ask: What can it do for my business? How should I go about implementing the tools? Where should I start?

I wanted to give you some input as to how to effectively help your organization adopt Lean. First, let’s get one thing out of the way: Lean is not a program it’s a philosophy. As such, first and foremost, requires management commitment or the implementation will be dead before it starts. Why, you ask? Because if people feel that there is no commitment they will assume that Lean is another fad and will eventually go away. You may end up with pockets of improvement, from early adopters, only to realize you are scratching the surface. The true benefits of adopting Lean will become nothing more than a loss opportunity.

There is a famous quote that says: “The culture of an organization is shaped by its leaders.” This is very much applicable here. Early in the implementation business leaders need to evaluate their leadership and ensure they are reinforcing the right behaviors. Expectations should be clear and accountability should be prevalent. Here is a recent blog that will give you an idea of the leadership principles that would help in your transformation.

As you learn about Lean, as most people, you might be delighted by all the tools. Yes, it’s important to standardize processes and remove waste. The reality is that relatively few understand that the cultural aspect far outweighs the application of the tools. Understand that the intent is to create an empowered and enabled workforce that will constantly be applying the tools, coaching and learning from each other.

Let’s move onto the actual application of the tools. Using a basic tool such as 5S is recommended to get early wins and for people to start seeing the benefits.

Introductory workshops to the fundamental concepts (the 7 wastes, continuous improvement, and standard work) will give your team a sense of where things are going. Some clients have found success in starting a book reading club among managers and staff to learn together. Here is a list of recommended readings and here is a Lean glossary to help you in your journey.

You will eventually realize that you will have early and late adopters, but more concerning there will be those that will not be accepting; regardless of what you do to help. I recommend you give these people the opportunity to be engaged in the process; often times they don’t see the value or don’t understand the benefit to them. Help them see it, beyond that you will have to make a larger decision: Do they still belong in the organization? Here is what to expect during your transformation.

Finally, you should move on to A3 problem solving, creating flow, and value stream mapping. This last one will help you create a plan to go from localized improvements to systemic operational changes. I know that consultants carry a stigma; my advice, consider engaging one that will help you implement strategic level changes and serve as a guide, trainer, and coach. Ensure you are aligned and that there is a good fit. More importantly, that he/she helps develop a network of problem solvers in your organization.

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