5. CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVING
You are here in your Lean journey:
Picture this: you are finally a Lean Manager. You have worked hard to implement many improvements. You now know the value you deliver. You have every step of your value stream mapped. Processes are flowing. Pull Systems are established and working perfectly. Life is good.
And then things start to go back to the old ways. Processes are messy, waste is generated, people are overburdened and the quality of your delivery starts to drop.
That is a common scenario in organizations that are becoming Lean. And that happens when managers forget the fifth part of the Lean transformation: Continuous Improvement, also known as Kaizen.
KAIZEN: a philosophy, a mindset of continuous improvement. A culture with management systems that allows the organization to generate and review improvements in a cyclical way.
For example, if a client complains that they received an improper charge:
- Why is he/she complaining? Because of the improper charge
- Why was there an improper charge? Because there was a flaw in the charging process
- Why was there a flaw in the charging process? Because it’s manually done
- Why is it manually done? Because we didn’t prioritize its automation
- Why didn’t we prioritize its automation? I don’t know.
Here we can see that the root of the problem that generated the complaint is something that was hidden way below: the fact that automation wasn’t prioritized. That is the real problem.
All you need here is a piece of paper size A3 and the ability to work collaboratively.
The idea is to involve people from every hierarchical level in the problem-solving process. That is great because more diversity means more different ideas and more different ideas mean more innovative solutions. And, as a bonus, you get a more engaged team.
Have a focus and a plan: don’t just get there. Know what you should pay attention to
Prepare the team: those being observed should know what’s going on and why that is important, otherwise they won’t collaborate
Follow the Value Stream: take the walk following the steps necessary to generate value so that you can get a clearer view
Focus on process, not people: the idea is not to check who’s doing good work or not. The idea is to find opportunities to improve processes
QUALITY BUILD IN: HOW TO DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME EVERY TIME
It’s a lot easier to submit your car to a periodic inspection than to deal with the stress of being stuck in the road because of an unexpected technical flaw, right? It’s better to do the right thing at first than to deal with the damage after.
That’s why one important aspect of Lean and of the Continuous Improvement culture is that it’s easier, cheaper, more productive and less wasteful to build quality into the products, services and processes since the very beginning rather than fixing things along the way after the damage is already done.
So the goal for the Lean manager here is to have a high quality in every single step of the value stream in order to get it right the first time, no mistakes.
That’s what we call Quality Build In.
QUALITY BUILD IN:a proactive style of management that seeks to make sure every step of every process will have the best possible quality in order to minimize mistakes.
Since it’s a proactive style of management, there are some actions and standards that must be observed when building quality into your delivery:
- It all starts with the people: the team must take proactive action whenever an issue appears. That can even mean stop the work until the problem is fixed in order to preserve quality
- The team must also feel free to make suggestions, no matter their hierarchical status. Lean managers should encourage that
- Defects are not acceptable because they are a waste of time and resources. Seek to establish mistake-proofing devices (Poka-Yokes, in Lean language) and other ways to make sure every step of the process is completed perfectly
POKA-YOKES: error-proofing mechanisms and practices to make human errors difficult, or even impossible, to happen.
- That means that if by accident, a defect appears, it should never be able to move to the next step of the stream. It must be corrected immediately
- The more standardized and clear the work is, the better. If everyone knows what is expected and how things should be done, the chances of mistakes appearing are reduced
And we’re almost there! Now that you know each one of the 5 core principles of Lean management, let’s see how you can put all of that in motion.
BEFORE YOU GO ON, IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
- To only implement the steps of Lean is not enough to have a Lean organization. It is vital to have a culture of Kaizen and to seek opportunities to improve processes in a cyclical way
- One way to do that is by planning what you need to do, doing it and checking the results, then acting to improve the plan. A good tool for planning this is the A3 technique
- Always investigate the root causes of your problems so that you don’t fix only the problem, but also its root. For that, use the 5 Whys
- Get to the Gemba, listen to the team, make notes and find opportunities to improve all kinds if processes with the Gemba Wal
- Lean is about doing it right the first time to avoid waste, so make sure you have the right standards and policies to help the team to achieve that
FLY, LEAN MANAGER!
That was the very first step in your Lean journey. Congratulations!
You are now ready to say goodbye to waste, to delight your customers with all the value you will deliver and to become an even better Lean manager every day.
Since this is only the beginning, here’s some advice: be ready to read this hands-on Lean implementation guide, then get to the Gemba and Lean it!Go to Implementation guide