Lean and Human Resources

I first met Cheryl Jekiel -- vice president of Human Resources for the Flying Food Group -- at an annual Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) conference a few years ago, and she recently published a book titled Lean Human Resources: Redesigning HR Processes for a Culture of Continuous Improvement.

I asked Cheryl to succinctly explain just how organizations can achieve greater success by applying what's now called "Lean Human Resources." Here is her response:

Better performance requires knowing where you are, followed by setting the right goals and then taking effective steps to achieve them. Your goal achievement process works best when business managers and HR Managers partner together to involve everyone in the workplace -- which for many of us is a significant challenge. Many (if not most) attempts to improve results fail when your management team tries to go it alone. Applying Lean to the Human Resources (HR)function can provide a roadmap for how your organization can avoid the common mistake of leaving HR on the sidelines while you develop and execute your strategies. Building performance based strategies into all your people-related processes, such as recruitment, training, performance management and rewards, is not only the best way you can achieve new levels of success, but it prevents failure from leaving the HR out of the equation.

In addition, the positive impact of involving employees in the daily goals of your organization and understanding the needs of your customers generates noticeably more motivated employees. This enthusiasm creates a positive momentum that generates even more productivity and better customer service on all levels. In addition, more involved employees are great candidates for enlarging their job content to include more of their skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, and process improvement (which are often left untapped). Lean HR provides methods for putting more into job responsibilities in a step-by-step manner, including what processes must be changed to allow employees to participate more fully on a daily basis.

Lean HR is not a program to run through your organization, but a whole new way to utilize the talents inside your organization. Your customers will be quickly able to see that your organization is one where everyone is involved and on the same page about 'the customer comes first.' The results will also reflect satisfied customers who are willing to pay more for products and services from an organization that accesses their people more effectively

Do any of you work in organization in which the Lean initiative has Incorporated the Human Resources department? Were there any initial barriers? Did it ultimately enhance success?


Anonymous said...

We recently conducted a Rapid Process Improvment Workshop (RPIW) in our organization. The focus was around the hiring process, hiring the right person, for the right job, the first time. Through this process our goal is to reduce the inherent cost around continually hiring the wrong person or someone that was unwilling or able to commit to at least 3 years of service and also by hiring the right person adding great amonts of quality to our system. During the Value Stream Map phase there was a recognition that there was completely no Standard Work around the hiring process. So in the great words of Taiichi Ohno,"without standards there can be no improvment"! After long days and hard work, standard processes were created and audit criteria were recognized. This was a wide focus that emcompassed the entire hospital. Keeping the gains have continually been a challenge.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100% about the need to focus on the right person for the right job the first time. How else can an organization even begin to think about heijunka and load leveling? This is often a pain-staking problem inherent with stick tallies and weighted average cycle times and countless hours on the gemba observing the work (genchi genbutsu). Without it, however, we will never understand who really is the right role for the work, what work can be redistributed or kaizen-ed. Instead we will keep hiring the warm bodies of the wrong roles and wonder why things haven't changed. If you don't have the right people in the right seat, don't bother boarding the bus.

Peter Klym said...

I'm taking the opportunity of the post to say that Cheryl's book should be obligatory reading for all HR professionals and Lean Leaders. It is not just about leaning HR processes - it looks essentially at the key role of HR in developing Lean thinking and culture.

As Cheryl points out, too often HR find themselves isolated, not really knowing how they should contribute. This book provides the answers, and shows that HR have an absolutely key role.

I have read hundreds of Lean books over the years. When I finished this one, it was like I'd finally found the 'missing link'.

Dwane Lay said...

I work specifically on Lean HR initiatives. One of the biggest issues I see is the idea of having to "do Lean" on top of normal work.

From the sound of the quote, our focus is a bit different, though. It sounds as if she is more engaged in having HR involved in leaning out operations processes, where my focus is on the HR processes themselves. Two sides of the same coin, I suppose, but a slightly different take. I look forward to reading her work.

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