The comments people have posted so far, responding to my request yesterday for examples of roadblocks to lean caused by management, certainly reveal some of the difficulties and frustrations in the workplace.
One theme I see in several of the comments has to do with management engaging in the wrong kinds of behavior because they focus on the wrong metrics or on incorrect beliefs about performance. Some have to do with managers simply not understanding what lean is all about.
Here and in future posts, I’ll discuss specific comments. I encourage others to do so as well, adding to what I say, offering alternative suggestions, and letting me know if you think my ideas are all wet.
(I’ll intersperse these with other posts of news, research and trends about lean, the main focus of this blog.)
The first comment comes from chess000, who writes:
My biggest challenge with my middle manager is trying to agree on the conditions that make up a product family. It is difficult to have someone change their mindset on what has traditionally been classified as a family. Many times, we have determined this by size or function rather than by the process steps and cycle times. Our facility makes nearly 2000 different products and determining which of those fit into what families has proven extremely difficult.
Often, it helps to go back to the fundamental reasons for a lean practice. Why do we classify products into families? By grouping products with similar process steps and cycle times, we can create manufacturing cells capable of performing those process steps, and therefore capable of producing all products in that group or family.
I don’t know whether chess000’s company already has cells or is trying to create them. And I certainly don’t know whether the middle manager can be persuaded to see the light.
But here’s one thought: Often, I find that HOW an issue is communicated has a significant impact on how that issue is addressed.
One communication strategy here might be to forget about discussing product families. Simply speak with management about cells – ‘I’m creating this manufacturing cell to produce this product, and I believe it could also be used to produce these products because they involve similar process steps.’ Highlight the benefits of being able to produce numerous products in a single cell.
That’s a small suggestion, and while it may not be the solution to this problem, I hope it might help.