For a successful lean implementation, focus intently on planning, communication and training before beginning implementation.
That appears to be the conclusion of a recent study of U.K. manufacturing companies, conducted as part of a Ph.D. research program.
All of the companies involved in the study were at various stages of lean implementations, and all of them were dissatisfied with the results of those implementations.
The researchers conducted what are described as organizational culture assessments. From these assessments, they identified three problem areas:
- Communication: “Employees saw the type and level of communications as being inadequate in engaging them with Lean, often inconsistent and contradictory.”
- Training and Development of Employees: “Insufficient training and development of staff before and after the initial implementation of Lean made left employees not knowing what it was all about, and how to operate in the new ways of working. This extended to managers also.”
- Planning: “Overall, employees felt that there was a lack of coherent planning and direction, which led them to doubt the ability of the management to manage, as well as to lead?the implementation of Lean.”
This reinforces the idea that lean is not just a set of tools you start throwing at problems, but a broad, strategic approach to business that requires high-level planning and coordination, as well as extensive communication and training.
I can’t help thinking of the home-repair television program “This Old House,” whose slogan is “measure twice, cut once.” Perhaps the equivalent slogan here would be “plan twice, implement once.”