What is Critical to Being Lean?

When analyzing specific processes during a lean initiative, the primary goal is to eliminate all waste and streamline all the activities and subprocesses. But documenting process maps and product flows can be overwhelming – the focus often becomes blurred and the mass of information generates more confusion than insight. Ultimately, the improvement plan fails or just achieves marginal results.

I asked Marvin Howell (author of Critical Success Factors Simplified: Implementing the Powerful Drivers of Dramatic Business Improvement) to explain where practitioners should begin and what questions should be asked to keep the plan on course. He replied:

"First, they need to define the existing process. Then they must know what waste is and what is not. If not waste, it must add value to the process; otherwise get rid of it. What are the inputs to the process? Are they all required and how do we ensure they are quality? What is the product we are producing? Do we know what the customer’s requirements are? How satisfied were the customers with past products or services provided to them? Have their expectations changed? If yes, why? What are the desired outcomes such as cost, quality level, time to market, efficiency or productivity, sales and market share? Do we need to retrain the process participants in the new process? How do we ensure that the new lean process will be operational in time to gain the market share we desire? Is there a tool or technique that will help us ensure what is critical is achieved? Can we use it to measure progress and have time to take corrective action if something goes wrong? Is the technique complicated requiring engineers or scientists to accomplish? The answer is critical success factors (CSFs).

Define your goal, purpose, or objective. Then ask what is critical to achieve the goal or objective. Next, measure the progress. Monitor the progress, check and take corrective action if needed. In other words, use the plan-do-check-act method (the Deming Wheel). Anyone can use the technique to help achieve success. Will you know what is critical? Ask anyone that has an unsuccessful or has a failed project or objective why it happened? You can bet they know. Of course, their answer will be one or more of the CSFs that should have been identified prior to starting the effort, measured, and checked along the implementation path to make sure it would be achieved. The CSFs method should be used on any improvement effort and, yes, on every lean initiative."

1 comment:

KaizenSensei said...

Understanding "Lean" is a cultural change, a paradigm shift. The culture is changed so Continuous Improvement becomes a way of life; "By the People, With the People, For the People". Where decisions are made at the lowest level with workers who are trained to identify and eliminate the 10 forms of waste; they have applicable metrics and are held accountable to maintain a culture of Continuous Improvement.