Don’t let a few rocks end your Lean journey

Unanticipated circumstances test organization's leadership and resilience during the Lean journey. Here is a list of common challenges faced by organizations.

08/22/2014


Shawn Casemore is the president and founder of Casemore and Company. Courtesy: AME

I'm fortunate to live on a large bay off Lake Erie. Despite the appeal of living near the water, recent years have resulted in slowly diminishing water levels. Homeowners with waterfront property have had to invest money and time in building longer docks and extending their drainage in order to meet with the subsiding water level.

Despite these countermeasures, other not-so-desirable challenges have become apparent. Rocks, garbage and newfound plant life have emerged, no longer sheltered by high water levels. Many homeowners have responded by building longer decks and investing in waterfront improvements. Others have decided to sell their homes, finding the comfort and practicality of their property no longer appealing.

This past weekend, while watching various boats sail by, I realized that the response of these homeowners is similar to the response I see by organizations when they embark upon and progress through their Lean journeys.

New challenges, obstacles and opportunities invariably emerge as incremental improvements are made to improve workflow, align and strengthen leadership and empower employees to continuously improve. These unanticipated circumstances test both leadership and organizational resilience.

Below, I've categorized the typical responses I've witnessed from organizations, more specifically the individuals within:

Big hat, no cattle: These are the companies that believe that training in Lean, or a single facilitated Kaizen event, constitutes having completed a Lean journey. In my experience, this covers about 35% of all companies that have dabbled in Lean.

Low pain threshold: Let's face it, Lean can cause discomfort, particularly for less adaptive leaders who prefer to "manage" rather than "engage with" employees. These are the organizations that give up at the first sign of negative feedback as it relates to the changes emerging from Lean. You can recognize these companies by their framing of Lean as something that was "just not right for their culture."

The fervent few: I would estimate that only 15 to 20% of organizations that have fully engaged in Lean are committed for the long-term. Despite the energy and excitement that comes from initial results, these are the organizations that rise above emerging and unexpected challenges to continue to progress - even if it kills them.

Lean is a "journey"
Lean isn't for the faint of heart. Just as small successes arise and obstacles are overcome, new and unplanned challenges will arise. It's not a matter of if, but when. To be Lean, to commit to continuous improvement means that you stay the course, regardless of circumstances. There is no reason to turn back, only to periodically regroup and assess your position, approach and next steps. You may need to take a breath, but that doesn't mean you stop moving. From those organizations that are part of the "fervent few," I have found the following characteristics are common:

1. The owner, president or CEO is committed to sustaining the journey regardless of how it might impact the organizational structure, leadership, morale or the physical layout of the business.

2. Several "drivers" exist in key positions that are as committed (if not more so) than the owner or president. They drive forward, supporting and encouraging everyone to move toward progress, rather than away from it.

3. Discomfort comes naturally. Lean transformation can often appear and feel chaotic. With multiple processes and responsibility shifts under way, in combination with a new vision for achieving customer value, even the most engaged employee or leader can become uncomfortable. The fervent few accept, adapt and respond quickly to change.

Many of the homeowners I mentioned earlier are currently enjoying a newfound appreciation for living along the waterfront, proud of their efforts and basking in the appreciation for all that nature offers us. Are you prepared to put forth the effort and energy to sustain your Lean journey, or will a shifting tide and unexpected rocks be the end to your progress?

Shawn Casemore is the president and founder of Casemore and Company, Incorporated, a management consultancy helping organizations globally to improve organizational performance and build financial strength. This content originally appeared on Target Online. Edited by Joy Chang, Digital Project Manager, CFE Media, jchang(at)cfemedia.com.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Your leaks start here: Take a disciplined approach with your hydraulic system; U.S. presence at Hannover Messe a rousing success
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me