The philosophy and tools of lean manufacturing | So Good News


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This is the second of a three-part series where we’ll ask you a basic question and explore that topic. These questions are highly relevant as we emerge from a time of disruption and enter a period of fundamental change in the way companies and consumers consume.

This month’s question Are you balancing your focus on lean tools with a focus on lean philosophy? Both are important, and the balance may shift at different points along your journey.

The uniqueness of the question

Whether you are a startup or a well-developed and mature lean organization; The question is important. Think of the philosophy as the “what” and the tools as the “how” parts of your overall lean system. Both are necessary.

Understanding and effectively applying the lean philosophy provides advanced leadership from the top floor to the shop floor. By defining and clarifying the philosophy for your company; It can help people begin to see direction and direction. If that philosophy is undefined (no evidence) or misunderstood. You run the risk that people and functions will work at cross purposes. If we assume that everyone understands philosophy, They simply talk to each other and you may wonder why they seem so chaotic. A soft philosophy, consistently understood and appropriately applied, will go a long way toward answering the “what” question.

Knowing how to use the tools of Lean is essential to achieving anything. Lean ideas apply to any organization or industry, but the exact way they are implemented may differ from instance to instance. It may be a matter of changing the terminology or focus.

Even within your own company, there may be differences. for example, A welder and a production supervisor are likely to focus differently on how to implement smooth flow than order entry or accounts-payable employees. One deals directly with the physical product (tangible) and the other deals with information (intangible). However, on both sides, People use casual knowledge and tools to tackle invaluable tasks. It helps you get to the details and solve the “how” question.

A firm grasp of both the tools and the philosophy is critical to getting the most from your resources and satisfying your customers. If tools or philosophies are missing, or if you have a large imbalance between the two. You will probably get a bad lean. At this time, The lean journey has backfired or disappeared—and you know how hard it is to restart the effort.

Implications of inequality

What are the symptoms if the tools and philosophy are not balanced? Three examples will help illustrate what you might see or experience.

Let’s start with the case where your organization has become tool-centric. Put 5S on the shop floor because people want to clean the place. Maybe you can implement some team structure and a little training. Some self-starters may try to introduce some lighter tools and methods.

All of this creates a very bottom-up approach with little higher-level direction or support. There is no governance structure for the effort: no steering committee; No soft strategy; There is no explanation as to why you are doing this. You can start off like a bottle rocket with a lot of energy and a lot of energy, but you can’t get away with some tools and unphilosophical effort.

Let’s build the first example. Suppose you use an entire portfolio of lean tools. People have been trained and the speed, quality You see significant results in customer satisfaction and financial performance. All this is good; But if you fail to provide the larger context, improve your understanding of leadership and articulate why this is important, and you’re in for the long haul, the time will come when the next bright thing comes along. Your lean journey trembles. Again, not all tools and ideas are there.

Finally, Think of a case where leadership expresses grandiosity—perhaps your company is making grandiose statements about a lean, feel-good organization. But people need tools, If you don’t see that you have time to put the training and improvements into practice. Attitudes will fall short, along with measures to track their impact. Frontline employees will see these and get on with their business. You say it’s a great game, but you fail to create a sustainable progression system. No ideas and no tools.

These examples may seem harsh, but upon honest reflection they can be valid. What is equity in your organization?

How to achieve balance.

So what is a good balance between tools and philosophy? Usually it’s somewhere between 40% tools / 60% philosophy and 60% tools / 40% philosophy. The balance shifts depending on the situation and the forces at play in your organization.

What does a balanced organization look like? First, leaders must clearly understand and build on the lean philosophy. Respecting people and supporting their decisions and investments. a focus on rhythm and flow; Key concepts such as understanding customer needs and using performance measures.

Leaders in the workplace customers, It communicates the meaning of casual travel to all stakeholders, including owners and the community. They project a soft philosophy to the audience. frontline individuals; Their messages to customers and communities are different, but they all draw from an ideological foundation.

Leaders develop operating principles that articulate what is important to successful operations. These principles outline the topics that answer the “what matters” question. It takes time to understand the entire workforce. Operating principles are highly visible and typically communicated and reinforced. Employees are given the opportunity to speak up when the principles are not being followed and input to improve operations. This kind of “catch-ball” interaction creates alignment from upstairs to the shop floor.

In terms of tools, the company has invested in different lean methods and techniques as well as (for more advanced organizations) developing deep knowledge in the Six Sigma body of knowledge. Six Sigma is about learning and eliminating variation, quantitatively. It brings a scientific approach. Knowledge is not concentrated in a few people but is spread and shared everywhere.

The organization deploys tools in targeted ways that link to advanced strategies. This is possible. kaizen festivals, reorganization of the shop floor; Every day kaizenIt empowers people to find ways to improve their processes. People who use tools to make improvements understand the connection to the bigger picture—that is, the philosophy.

Lead with purpose.

The reason to follow your lean journey and invest in continuous improvement is to make your business more successful. By doing so, you can improve the lives of all your employees and their families—a noble responsibility.

Lean journeys test leaders. to postpone a project; It can sometimes be easier to avoid training or skip an all-hands meeting that reinforces the idea. not to worry I will do it later.. But the latter never came, and people could see through the facade.

Finding the balance between tools and philosophy takes hard work and determination. A successful journey does not happen by accident. It comes from a purposeful effort across the organization. Lead with purpose.

If you lose the right balance between tools and philosophy. You should expect mediocre results and a disappointing return on your investment. strike a balance The sky is the limit.


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